Showing posts with label work in progress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work in progress. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Another Tack... Ready About!

As some of you may, or may not, know my "day job" is the most enjoyable one of being an illustrator.  I have done this for about 15 years now.  Before that the "day job" was a muralist until I muraled my way out of Cornwall, as my five kids were quite small I decided that something more home based was a good plan, found myself an agent and started illustrating.  Very soon it became necessary for my partner in crime to become the "house husband" as the illustration work grew.  I learned how to work with a graphics tablet using a great programme called Corel Painter.  So the illustration became created on a computer. 
I still painted when I could but not nearly enough.  Flash forward a few years and the youngest child flew the nest so I started really painting, quite fast and obsessively.  It was a distraction from that dreadful empty nest.  So then I had two sides, like a split personality, illustration and painting. 
Now for the exciting bit... Just recently, through a chance meeting over one of my paintings I have had the chance to do some illustration work that is much more like painting.  It might well develop into quite a big thing.  I have always earned my living, somehow, using my skills as an artist and I must say that there is, for me, a great pleasure in selling work!  I think in my head it allows me to work, it is such a nice way to live you see that I think I must feel guilty!!  Anyway as a result of going slightly off piste with both the illustration and the painting I seem to have found yet another personality that wants to get out.  I am planning a trip around all the little ports of Cornwall to make plen air paintings in a most illustrative style, so watch this space for paintings that are beside the sea, but not what I usually do.  I expect they will be a bit like the one below but with harbours and cottages like the ones above.  I will keep you posted as to how it all progresses.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Singapore Boats

Singapore Boats
(23" x 17") coloured pencils on black Canson Mi Teintes

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Sometimes you have an image which takes quite some time to come to fruition. This is the tale of one such image.

Back in 1987 I went to Singapore for the overseas field trip for my MBA so we could find out how business works in a completely different environment to the UK.

I wasn't even drawing at the time. My art had been left behind at school a long time ago and doing a 'full-on' MBA part-time at the London Business School at same time as holding down a management job meant virtually all my 'spare' time was accounted for. I remember I actually qualified for an NUS card as a full time student because of the number of contact hours we managed each month in School!

However on one evening we went down to the harbour and I saw the fishing boats at dusk. Something about them made me take a photograph. When I got the photographs back, it looked like a painting. I was amazed. I'd not really taken 'arty' photos before and I was very struck by the strength of the image - particularly of the boats in the foreground. However it got filed away along with the rest of my MBA studies and I got on with what was now a senior management job!


Some time later, I decided to try my art again as a completely different activity which would balance out the type of job I was doing at the time - artistic instead of numerical, solitary and peaceful instead of a regular round of meetings. It worked and that's when I started to get back into my art - starting with watercolour.

I subsequently realised that I really enjoyed drawing and in the early 90s started using coloured pencils again. Then joined an art forum in the middle of the last decade.

Eighteen years later I finally got round to drawing the boats. I'd had them in my head for a long time and went searching for them while I was leading a project about drawing water.

Now you've heard the back story, here's the whole sequence of images of how this drawing came about - plus an explanation of what I said back in 2005 when I did it.
Probably the most important thing I did was crop the photo so I started with something manageable from my perspective - the large photo is nice but I'd be doing boats forever as opposed to the water.


Next I printed off a colour print of the cropped photo onto A4 matte photo paper and a greyscale onto plain paper. I then gridded the greyscale and the black Canson into thirds. This is really just a guide for me - I eyeballed the drawing from there using a celadon green (background colour of the water) - not being too precious about super accuracy but enough that the boats don't look too silly and I'm keeping the proportions on the page which I designed into the crop.

This is a slightly smaller version of the image as I got my initial scans wrong and couldn't be bothered to do them again - so there's a bit more at both the top and bottom!



So far as the boats are concerned I'm only focusing on the big shapes at this stage - detail is not allowed until a lot further on when the decision gets made as to which bits get the detail. So there's a nod in the direction of tyres around the boat - but they're not carefully drawn nor will they be for the time being.

Then I started to get a layer down all over the area of water. I started by finding the right colour for the reflections of the boats and then worked on the lighter areas. Bear in mind I'm really scouring the photo for slight changes in colour and looking hard for what the colours are. There's a ton of hues between very dark green (which hasn't made an appearance yet) moving through beep blue greens and mid greens and sky blue and yellow greens through to an awful lot of tints of grey green and just a smidgen of white. (Do you want to know the colours?) I worked colours from both into the boats as I went to help the unity of the painting.

I'm working quite hard at this stage in getting the shape of both the reflections and the negative shapes inbetween them right - as in my experience this is what gives the painting the feeling that the water is 'real'. I'm also working over the edges of the reflections a bit so they don't get too hard (but without losing sight of the underlying shape) - they should be a tad blurry at this stage. I decide where to go for hard edges later.

I'm using the pencils on their side and cover vast amounts of paper really fast this way - plus it stops me being too pernickety about it and helps to merge colours in a pleasing way. I'm not too fussed about which direction I'm doing this in but broadly speaking it's a lateral movement. They're basically quite light layers - I'm not pressing hard at all.

I picked out a few colours to start the boats off - one or two brights hatched onto boat roofs and tarpaulins in the background (as generally this is going to be quite muted and I wanted to see what the brights looked like) plus I wanted to try and find the right colour for the weather beaten wood

Subsequently I included the drawing in a portfolio of work for admission to an art society and worked on it some more to get to the drawing at the top. I do remember adding in a tiny bit more red on the boats. Unfortunately I have to tell you that coloured pencils have an unhappy habit of sinking into black Canson paper over time so although this looked good at the time it had to be 'rescued' to produce the image at the top of the post for the portfolio.

I daren't look at it one more time.......the boats may have sunk yet again!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Koi in progress




You don't know how hard it is for me to show unfinished work! As I've said before, it goes against my very private artist's nature and my training, too, BUT this blog is about all the aspects of the making of art about water and the processes involved, so here we are.

What I love about koi as subject matter is that, in painting them, I can give free play to my love for calligraphic shapes, my attempts to render movement and energy, and my passion for the physical qualities of paint and painting surface.

Painting koi in water is a revelatory experience. It is a meditative experience. It is challenging, and it is, above all, and shockingly, fun! Since I am not a natural painter in the way I am a natural draftsman, I don't often feel that painting IS fun. But when it is going well, there's nothing so gratifying to me.

In the first two paintings above, you'll see my struggles with opacity and transparency in rendering water using acrylic paints. This struggle will be ongoing over the next months as I continue this series. But I welcome the struggle. I'm learning from it. This is what I mean about the revelatory nature of this project.
I've begun a series of small studies (about 5" x 7") to give me quick ways to explore various palettes, various acrylic mediums to add for texture and flow and transparency, various compositions, and to help me define the shape, form, movement inherent in MY approach to this subject. I'll make 30 of these, one daily when I can, in addition to continuing to work on my large pieces. I have 6 or 7 larger pieces going right now!. Here are the first three studies. They are VERY loose, very coarse. They're exactly what I need!


These issues of transparency, opacity, texture, and wateriness have been with me for a long while. Here is (a very bad photo of) one of a series of paintings I made around a lotus theme in 2005. It may be that I'll move back to a more abstracted style such as this. It may not. I trust the koi to show me the way.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Wave WIP - update

I've added more layers to the water, but its still not doing quite what I want yet. I have a broader base of colours now in the water and rocks and have blocked in the water behind the wave. However, I want the water behind to read flatter and calmer and its not that right now.


The close ups here show more of the detail of the development of the rocks and the water moving over them, leaving pools and rivulets in its wake.

The crest of the wave and the foam on top of it is basic and will be refined more, modeling the form of the wave as I progress.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Sketching rocks in mixed media - stages

Rocks between Sennen Cove and Lands End finished, watercolour, biro and coloured pencil in the moleskine folio watercolour book, approximately 10x11 inches, Vivien Blackburn




Rocks between Sennen Cove and Lands End stage 2, watercolour added loosely, biro and watercolour, approximately 10x11 inches, Vivien Blackburn


Rocks between Sennen Cove and Lands End prelininary biro sketch, approximately 10x11 inches, Vivien Blackburn

Jeanette has issued a Paint/Sketch Rocks challenge on her blog and this was done in response.

Unfortunately it's from a photo, as Sennen Cove is 320 south and west of me right now so popping over wasn't an option - but I'd wanted to sketch the fantastic rocks there and thought this was my chance. I also like the figure perched precariously, though confidently, on the edge, giving the rocks scale and adding a little drama - well I don't 'do' heights so someone standing above that drop is drama to me!

I first sketched it freely in biro (Parker - they don't blob as much as some others) and then sloshed some watercolour on it quite loosely. Next I added some scribbles of coloured pencil and some more biro.

You can see a slide show of previous paintings/sketches of rocks here - they are something that fascinates me with their shapes, cracks, facets, crevices, ledges, colour changes and general complexity, not to mention trying to get the feeling of hardness, jaggedness or smoothness and their innate dangerousness.

This is the first time I've used the moleskine folio watercolour book, other than the try-out doodles in various media on the first page. I quite like it.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Canvas and Paint Process 4

Final touches. The details need to be brought to life, minute touches of paint describe the form of ropes and canvas. The blue vinyl cover of the front boat must be "shinied" up and the water needs its sparkle added...

This is when I start nearly closing my eyes to see what to do, that and rushing to the mirror to "see" it all fresh and spot the glaring mistakes. I also try to dredge up the smells and sounds of the place, I want to give it that and I know of no other way other that intense concentration. If I get interrupted at this stage I am horrible!
Sometimes, right at the end of a painting I might make glazes of colour to adjust tones. To do this I use Liquin, you can also use Linseed oil. When you have used Liquin it will dry shiny but that can be sorted out by the final varnishing when all is dry.

So here it is, finished and dry. I will seal it with a matt varnish, two coats carefully applied with a soft brush. After that it is off to the framers. I use Sully's in Penryn. I was totally amazed at his work, a frame makes a huge difference and when I get this back I will take a picture and show you.
For this painting I have used small brushes, mostly flats, I have a couple of cats tongue shaped ones, nothing above a size 4. I tend to but packs of soft brushes, ones that say they are suitable for oil and acrylic, I find hogs hair too scratchy for my style. I will also use pieces of card or paper to almost print lines and little shapes onto the painting.
Finally I do try to spend some time really cleaning the brushes well with brush cleaning soap and then rinsing well and letting them dry flat on a tea towel.
You can see the EXACT location of this painting if you go here: Paintmap

I hope that you have enjoyed this sneaky peek into how I work and also that you have found it useful and informative.




Thursday, 7 May 2009

Canvas and Paint Process 3

Now I am starting to block in colours. Each layer is slightly transparent so it is still possible to see the white under painting which will serve as a guide to the more fiddly bits.

Even though the sea beyond the boats will be very light in the finished painting I begin to block in the darkest of the colour that I can see in the sea! For most of the time with oil painting I like to work from the dark towards the light, this however, is only a general rule, I often break it.
And here I have done just that, painting in the lightest areas on the rowing boat and the covered boat. Painting what appear to be white areas is difficult and involves a lot of colour soul searching... when is white white... not very often in my experience. I tend to keep "tube white" (i.e. straight from the tube) to the very last moment, to give that final flourish. The tiny dabs of paint that make a painting spring to life. I have also begun to work into the blues. You can make a blue almost luminous by glazing one blue over another, for example a curealean blue first with a glaze of ultramarine, try it and see. It is important to mess around with colours to see what they do to each other, watercolours especially have different effects.



Every day I have a new pallet. I believe that this keeps my colour mixing up to the minute. If there is a grey mixed I might be tempted to use it rather than bother to think and make a judgement for each tone and hue.

Now I seem to have gone right back to a pale blue on the water. Indecision of just a change of heart? Not sure. I think the most important thing to remember is to keep an open mind, try things out, experiment, even right up to the last minute. Sometimes the wash or glaze that you sweep on at the last sitting is the one that transforms the painting.
The next and final post will include a paint map link to the site of these boats. See you soon.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Canvas and Paint Process 2

The next step is to create the support that I shall be using, I like painting on a smooth surface so I will use either a wooden block or board. I use a good quality mounting board which I can cut to size and then gesso.
Most of the time, nearly always I suppose, I use black gesso primer. I think that using black helps with the intensity of colour that I am always after, it lets me see where I have been lazy and not used enough paint (yes that happens a lot) it also helps you to move towards the light as you paint.
So the primer is applied, usually about four or five coats and sanded down between each coat, this gives a really good painting surface. I try to do quite a lot of supports at once, have a priming day. I put the primer onto a lid of a jam jar and then screw the jar on top when it is not in use, this keeps it usable for a long time.

When the support is ready I transfer the line drawing onto the black surface using white chalk then

start to fill in all the areas that are very light. This stage is when you can begin to see how the painting will work tonally before the colour comes along to confuse things!

But soon the colours begin to sing and shout to me and I have to dive in. As the rusty red hull is quite an important part of the painting I will get this blocked in first. Although this is a very early stage of the painting it is important to me to remember the direction of surfaces and try to reflect that in the application of the paint. So the strokes of the brush describe the shape of the objects as well, this is just one of my foibles, not law, nothing is law as far as I am concerned, you just work out the way you like to work. For example the only black I ever use is the gesso primer, the dark areas on my paintings are all made of colours, but that is my personal rule.
I like them because they dry fast but not impossibly fast like acrylic does. They have all the properties of oil paints, smell, workability etc and can be mixed with oil paints too. I am an impatient and fast working artist, I want results and I want them fast so these paints are perfect for me. All the rules of oils apply, fat over lean etc. I love them.






Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Canvas and Paint Process 1

To start at the very beginning I pull on my boots, grab my little camera, my little pack of moleskine sketchbook, tiny paint box and water brushes, then a scrappy sketchbook and something to draw with in my pocket and the dog.
Then we set off down the lane to the sea...
The first thing I do when I have arrived at my destination is to take a little time just to look and listen, I am not here to make the finished painting but rather to try and absorb as much information that I can. After my zen like standing and staring I get the scrappy sketchbook out. It is a collection of rubbish scraps of paper and cardboard, it is designed so that I really don't care about it at all, so that I will never be precious about any drawing in it, they will never go anywhere or be shown to anyone (ha ha, here I am doing just that!) The point of this sketchbook is exercise, like stretching before a run, warming up.


Here are a couple of the warm ups, I left the rest on the boat the other day so I cant show them all to you. This should give you an idea of what I am talking about. In doing these I am also realising what it is that I particularly like about what I am looking at.


Light, line, shadow and texture.




After that I will take a huge bunch of snaps, not photographs, just snaps which will help with colours and other information.


If I have time and it is not too cold I might get out my Moleskine sketchbook and do a much longer sketch like this: "Masking Tape"

After all that I go home and work out my painting plan, the size and a very detailed line drawing. It feels like this is the longest part of the whole thing but it is necessary because I want to be certain that everything is just right and I want it all locked firmly in my mind!

The next post will be about preparing the support and beginning the painting.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Studio Boat Of My Own

Recently my painting activity has been water themed, sort of, with a big brush and a roller.
The sun is shining down here in Cornwall and we have made the most of the fine spring weather to sort out our new (to us) boat.

My half century is to be celebrated this summer and this is my present to myself, my very own studio boat. She was a bit shabby when we brought her but mostly sound, just in need of a little sprucing up.

Here she is at the top of the beach having all the "sheets and halyards" replaced with colour coded ropes so that I can literally "learn the ropes"


Her bottom has been scrubbed and de-barnacled ready for a distinctive new paint job, a studio boat must look the business.


The little cabin has been cleaned and painted out, there will be new cushions made so that "camping out" and catching the dawn light on the creeks and inlets will be a definite activity this summer. There are plenty of spaces to stow painting equipment as well.



The front (sorry bow, I must remember, pointy bit at the front is called the bow) is being decorated with a Celtic sea-horse, it is only in undercoat stage here, it will be cream and burgundy soon. The deck and cockpit have been painted creme to reduce the glare in the bright summer sun that we will have all summer.






And I plan to sit, Monet like, with my big hat and my painter smock, on the deck painting Cornwall from the sea, sipping a gin and tonic, watching the sun set, watching the heat of the day leave the land and thanking my lucky stars that I am old enough to have a studio boat of my own!




Thursday, 26 February 2009

Stormy Waters - trouble with composition

Some progress from the abstract camp!

Back in this January post I began my adventure in trying to paint a rougher sea for the first time - trying to capture more threatening moods in the sky, more crashing waves, but with my usual soft minimal look. My preliminary sketches were more freeform, and the canvas itself has been more exploratory. Unlike most of my paintings I decided to just dive into this one and see what happened, allow myself experimentation.

It all started well. Some dark layers, bringing tones and composition upwards, over the eye-line of the viewer. At an early point I liked the underpainting so much and felt I wanted to capture some of it in the early stage for "light" lines to indicate, perhaps, foam on the waves. So I put down masking tape that I could glaze over and remove later to bring back those elements.

Painting, painting, darkening, lightening the crashing waves, and got stuck. But of course there's that very misleading tape that actually isn't an indication of what's underneath - distracting me from what the whole looks like. So I removed it to reveal... well, something interesting. Interesting isn't necessarily a good thing!

So now I'm really frustrated. I have to keep reminded myself that this canvas is meant to be an experiment, but it's all to easy to get caught on in the drive to "finish" something after so many hours of investment.

The problems?
  1. Composition. I've said it to myself, on my blog and probably on Watermarks too - composition is the number one thing that cannot be overlooked. If I don't sketch, don't think about a composition it's inevitable that the painting 90% of the time doesn't work and has to be recovered with a new stage of composition. Yet foolishly thought that I could ignore it in the name of creativity.

  2. Working on pieces and not the whole. Yes, we all fall in love with parts of our pictures - little passages of wonderful colour or brushwork. But it is at the peril of neglecting the whole, the balance, how the picture works as a single effect. I was taught to always work on the whole - not do an object then fill in the background for example - progress on one part, then go work on another part to the same degree. Step back and look. The masking tape in this painting misled me and I should have planned more (error 1) and kept better awareness of the tones and colours underneath.
Trapped in the storm for now...
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Thursday, 1 January 2009

artists books


I fell for this leather bound sketchbook with hand made paper inside, and scruffy deckle edges - it just looked so appealing - I was hunting for Christmas presents for others at the time but who could resist it? :>D

I love it and rather than use it as a sketchbook I plan to make it an artists book - with finished pieces rather than a my normal sketchbook mix of anything and everything. It's 7x5 inches and I found it on ebay uk if anyone fancies one.

That little leather thong winds round and effortlessly catches against the stitching, holding the book closed and protecting the pages with that wrap around flap :>)


The first page in a book is always slightly daunting and I decided to experment with a lino I'd cut.

I hadn't got the proper inks handy to try it out. I suspect they will be dried out anyway, it's so long since I used them.

So, I painted some luscious pearlescent lavender acrylic ink over the lino printing block and printed quickly - it was fairly successful. The larger areas didn't have a consistent coverage but it printed quite a lot of it.

I then worked on it with pastel pencils, biro and gel pens.

The lino was stylised and quite graphic - you can see it on my blog here. Working into it created something different. I love that pearlescent acrylic ink - one of my Christmas presents :>)

This is going to be an ongoing project, adding small paintings to it regularly on a water theme.

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UPDATE: As a result of the comments on this post, I've now created two posts on my blog which are about lino printing and how this lino print was produced.