Monday, 28 February 2011

Landwash - WIP

12 x 36, acrylic

land·wash [land-wosh, -wawsh]

–noun Newfoundland 
the foreshore, especially that part between high and low tidemarks.
I've been working on my second water painting of the year with this piece called Landwash - perhaps a push for the true meaning of the name as the water features strongly in it rather than the foreshore.  It is a combination of life studies and photographs that I took on an unusually calm day at Middle Cove.  The Atlantic was being gentle and washing the beach quietly with small wavelets such as this one, compared to its usual wildness.  I hope to enter this into an exhibit on water being held locally in April.

I've painted this using acrylics and they can be good and bad to use.  My technique mostly involves glazes of thin paint and sometimes some slow dry blending medium to help the process of keeping edges soft.

This piece is a work in progress on my blog and I thought I'd share what I have to date here.   The canvas is a 3/4 inch gallery canvas 12 x 36" and works well for the format of the wave, leading the viewer's eye across the surface.

There is still work to be done on the water surface, the detail of the wave itself and the texture of the sand/gravel of the foreground.  I usually have a couple of pieces on the go at the same time so that I can go back and forth every day or two between them, giving me a chance to view and adjust with fresh eyes.

Here is the transition of how the piece was built so far, with some detail pieces for those who like to step in closer and see 'how did she do that?'


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

puddles in evening field, sunset

Evening Fields and Puddles, detail, coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

Evening Fields and Puddles, sketchbook page in A4 moleskine, coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

Evening Fields and Puddles, detail, coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

Water may be a small element in this little sketch in an A4 moleskine, but it's very important to the composition and ambience of the cold, damp evening. The puddles add to the muddy coldness of the field, they weren't reflecting the warm colours, low in the sky but the colder white/grey of the clear sky overhead.

It was a subtle sunset, not a dramatic one and this was done at home with memories and photos - coloured pencil is simply too slow (for me) for building the glazes of colour intensely enough within the very very short timeframe of the special light. With oils it would have been possible to work entirely plein air fast enough.

As I said on my blog post today on using coloured pencils, I really like the way they behave on moleskine paper, allowing lots of layering of colour - like getting the warm glow of orangey light onto the grass of the field. Also the ease of drawing back into the image with an eraser. It isn't easy to scan or photograph the softer paler washes of colour though. The pale glow in the sky is a little smoother and has more soft pale colours that aren't picked up well here.

I've decided that this year I'll be juggling 3 main themes - Local Landscape (incorporating the Waterways Project, which is a slow burner), The Coast continuing and a new project on looking at Still Life in a different way for a project with a group of friends I meet up with once a month - we never do still life, so set ourselves a challenge to each find our own angle on it, to make it interesting to us and eventually have a joint exhibition of work done.

A big society I belong to are doing a project and exhibition on War and Peace to tie in with a large exhibition of major works planned of works in the museum's collection. I often take part in these projects but this year I'm feeling that juggling 3 themes is enough and I'm probably going to give it a miss unless some linking theme to my other work occurs to me (and time is short) - any brilliant thoughts on that would be welcome! It doesn't have to be taken absolutely literally but the ideas bounced off the theme.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


 Rennies Mill River in summer
7 x 9   acrylics

Rennies Mill River winds its way through the city of St. John's and became one of the rivers that I have been tracing and recording last summer and producing a small series around.

This more intimate view is a combination of life studies and photographs, capturing the fast flow of this shallow section.  Shimmers of copper and gold reflect off rocks in the river bed and the values changes subtly and dramatically as the water moves around larger rocks or turns in the river.  The hot summer sun makes a glaring reflection in the centre of the river as the water breaks it up and sends off ripples of light.

Studying reflections and how they are created is very helpful to the painting process. When you understand why something looks as it does, it becomes easier to work out how to recreate it on canvas. Wikipedia's section on reflections is a good starting point.

Reflections of sunlight in moving water are seen beautifully in this short video clip.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Yosemite Creek: Frazzle Ice

Yet another reason to visit Yosemite National Park any other time besides summer.

Koi painting in oil.

I finally completed one koi painting in oil.

Although I'm happy that I stuck to it and completed at least one painting of the koi, I definitely plan to go to the koi farm in summer, where I can seat myself for a day and really get to work on some series. Studying the koi here in January/February, felt a bit like eating strawberries in the midst of winter.

..koi, oil on linen, 61x37cm

In step 1, using terpentine, I put down thin washes of burnt sienna for the fish shapes and a thin wash of paynes gray and french ultramarine for the background/water.

....step 1...

In step 2 I added some colour to the fish, cadmium red and yellow to the fish in the foreground and prussian blue to the back fish, to form the shadows. I started using liquin as a medium to have the oi dry quicker, but still have an oil shine.

...step 2...

In step 3 I darkened the water with a mixture of paynes gray and french ultramarine and softened the shadow marks I made on the yellow fish. this was my first mistake, because I made mud. I left it to dry completely, so I could rework it...the oil was still thin enough to redo without removing the paint.

...step 3...

the last stages was all about adding colour and depth to the fish bodies and depth to the water , while using the same colours I've used in the previous steps, with the addition of ochre, raw umber and white.

...koi completed...

When doing the studies for this koi project, I worked mostly from photographs, using about 20 different photos, building my own scenes. I really found it difficult to render the koi in an interesting way. I feel I can do better, which is why I will patiently wait for the koi season to open and I can go and study them in real life.

I also felt that they ask for something a little more abstract or expressive than mere realistic rendering. In the following studies I tried to present them on the page in a little more interesting way. I found it quite exciting and I think I can even push the envelope even further in the expressive domain, which makes me more excited about the series of koi than I was when I started out.

In the meantime, I have a lobster and crab and mussels and oysters and several other shellfish in my freezer, waiting to be sketched and painted and studied. Maybe a new series of sea creatures? So hang around if you're interested in seeing what will surface - it will be a surprise for me too.

...koi study in charcoal on paper, 22x15cm...

...koi study in graphite on paper, 22x15cm...

...koi study in oil pastel on paper, 22x15cm...

..à bientôt...



Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Evening Light, Groby Pool, Leicestershire

I haven't been able to get out much to sketch because of the cold and its effect on my arthritis :>( and life getting in the way. Spring isn't too far away though :>)

But I have been out taking photos and plan to take a lot more. I especially love the light in the early morning and evening - it's so much more interesting, the skies are too.

These were taken at a local pool, a flooded ancient slate quarry. The sunset was subtle rather than dramatic but the light and soft colour was absolutely beautiful, with the skeletal winter trees silhouetted against the soft colour, the sheen on the water luminous.

So my new year resolution is to get on with a series of local landscapes - of course particularly those including water :>) - working from life and occasionally from photos like these.

On the other side of the water is an old 15C manor house with links to the Grey family of Jane Grey the 9 days Queen fame.

I bought a second hand pocket camera from a friend who was upgrading and I'm delighted with it (used for these). It means I can keep it almost permanently in my bag for all those times when the light/colour is special like this. (It's so annoying how often the most spectacular views happen when you are on a fast road with no hope of stopping!) I love my big camera but it can't be carried everywhere, all the time, this will fill that gap nicely and still has aperture priority/manual etc etc options and a 5x zoom for creativity :>)

I've also discovered a place I want to go back to for sketching with a high viewpoint over the canal in rolling countryside. The canal comes up a hill to the market town of Market Harborough via Foxton locks, with its long flight of locks enabling boats to come up a steepish hillside. The view I'd like to work from is further along, though at some point I should work here as well.