Classic semi reclining nude

I decided I needed a change from town and landscapes so I have turned to one of my favourite drawings, a very relaxed semi reclining pose from a beautiful model. The drawing is a mess, but I think it catches the pose and even the light. As a painting, I’m going to turn her round, as I have a long term plan for a triptych, with her facing in from the left.


The context I’m still working on, but I want red and green to dominate, so I have hung one of the robes my wife brought back from Nagaland behind her. I don’t know what the green rectangle is yet.



A lot of work still needed on the figure, her head is to big for starters and the perspective keeps changing. No idea what she is sitting on yet.



San Vitale Ravenna

Carrying on with my troll through old travel sketches, I have one of Ravenna that I have always liked.


There are some big gaps in the sketch, which I made whilst we were having a coffee in a cafe. I had a look at Google Street view and found almost the same view, which will help me fill in some details. It does seem like cheating a bit, but I didn’t take any photos whilst we were in that spot.


I’m using one of my cheap canvases and I can see why is cheap now. Very thin, and it shows wrinkles easily. But it will do. First I sketched the sketch in pencil. Then I scrubbed burnt sienna over it and then blocked in the sky and the big pine tree.


Latest acrylic experiment

I wanted to try to produce a painting from one of my travel sketches, to see what I could do, long after the event.

I chose this very simple and atmospheric landscape I sketched at the Pakke Jungle Camp in Arunachal Pradesh, where we stayed for three nights.


It was sketched from up in a tree house outlook point, jutting over the valley below. We were being eaten by insects, so couldn’t stay more than a few minutes. That was two years ago.

I thought the vertical format was good, so bought a very narrow canvas and crammed it all in. I meant this to be the acrylic under painting, but I don’t think I can improve on it, so will leave it as it is. Some of the mid -distance yellow looks a bit fierce, so I may tone that down after I have looked at it for a while.

I added a great hornbill in the dead tree as we saw them every day and I love them.


Orvieto in Acrylic

I decided I needed a change from naked women. Well one does after a while. So I’ve tackled a townscape with acrylics. Working from a photograph, which I don’t usually enjoy, but this was largely an experiment. I chose a photo I took in Orvieto in Umbria, to contrast with the watercolour one I did the other week, based on the tutor’s photo. I’m very pleased with the outcome, so thought I would just go through the sequence of painting again as an aide memoire.

First, fresh paints and a decent quality canvas. This I scrubbed with burnt sienna as a mid-tone base to start from. The photo is on the tablet.


Then I sketched in the basic shapes in charcoal. This muddies the  acrylic at first, but it soon disappears. The beauty is that you can just rub it off with a tissue and keep redrawing until you get it right.


Then I started blocking in the negative spaces as I’ve done before. The sky was the obvious one here, and it is a really good way of starting. Beginning with the main subject just leads to unbalance. Then I roughly blocked in the main areas of colour.


I then worked up the main façades in some detail. My verticals tend to lean. I really should measure them and draw them with a ruler. It took me ages to correct some of this. The strong light and shade is challenging. You want colour, not grey. I tended to use thin purple for shadows.  A lot of this will be over-painted later, it is just there to get the structure right



Then a lot of work on the other façades and trying to get the perspective of the lane going away and down into the town. Lots of work means over-painting many times. This is so much easier than watercolour, where you have to get it right first time, or it is wrong. Some of the highlights look a bit fierce, but you need them to give texture and life to teh picture. They tone down when more detail is added.


Finally a bit of a big jump, the light is worked on in the lane to make it look bright and sunny way down the bottom. Figures were added. The two on the left were in the photo and were really catching the sun. They make the whole composition look much more three dimensional. The other groups of figures in the lane were kept very simple, just to aid the perspective. I added a waiter in the door of the cafe to relieve the black space. He also helps to counteract the lean…

The two girls on the right were added to fill the space. They are a couple I have been working on for months in a painting of my newly built boat,  which you can see in the background of the  first picture. I thought they should put some clothes on whilst in town.


I’m very pleased with this as a first townscape. Far from perfect, but it looks jolly in the kitchen.

Development of a painting

It is interesting to see the stages that a painting goes through, where changes are made and ideas come up. I took a series of photos of this one, which shows something of the process.
This was the initial charcoal drawing from a life class, done about a year ago. I’ve always liked it, but it was just an exercise. I like the closed pose.
I bought a cheap square canvas and then wondered what to do with it. First stage was to give it an interesting, non-white base, which is easier to paint on. I used burnt sienna acrylic paint. I dug out the old drawing and thought I would work out up into a painting. I had no idea of the context of the finished painting at all at this stage. I sketched the pose in charcoal, rubbing it out several times, until it was a good copy of the original. Then I started painting the negative space around the image. This often works much better than starting with the subject itself. I just used a dark, purplish colour to give me a background.


Before I completed the background I added the towel the model had be sitting on. I liked the look, so thought a waterside/swimming setting might work.
As the canvas was square, not a conventional rectangular one, I decided to formally split it in half with a waters edge. I was thinking of a beach at first.
I quickly decided it was a boarded pontoon edge, rather than a beach. That meant that the boards’ edges would clearly show the perspective, and it avoided painting the change from sea to sand, which is really difficult.
Having given her a basic location, I worked up the surface of her body. Only some light and shade needed adding to the basic burnt sienna base coat to give her some modelling. This was the first point at which I actually painted her body. It was all background up until now.
I thought she looked a bit forlorn, so gave her something to read. Initially is was a newspaper, stretching both sides of her head. That looked ridiculous, so I overpainted the right hand page and turned the left had page into the corner of a book. I also added a mug of coffee. I worked the towel up to look like one of the Turkish hamam towels I use. I also wanted it to seem that things were going on outside the boundaries of the picture, so I added the mooring rope, going up to a boat which is outside the right hand edge. I blocked in her shadow, so she didn’t seem to be floating over the boards.

The final image, just about. I do tend to keep fiddling with paintings for weeks after they should have been finished. I painted out the white bookmark in her book, as I kept seeing it as a cigarette! I made the edge of the red cover catch the light, as you must have some red somewhere. I’ve added some reflected light on her shaded side, a pair of sandals and someone’s wet footprint. I have also put in some vague reflections of boats, masts, whatever, which are just across the water from her. Again, indicating that things are happening all around.

I thought of adding a pile of clothes on the left, but firstly, that is really hard to paint, and secondly, it is such a lovely sunny day, who would want to wear anything anyway?

Thinking of summer


I’ve finished my acrylic of a girl on the dockside. They are my sandals, my swimming towel and a mug I got for Christmas! I added a book to give her something to be doing and it gave a spot of bright red. My general painting rule is that every picture needs a bit of red in it.

Interestingly the colour of her hair and much of her body comes unchanged from the burnt sienna that I scrubbed onto the canvas to give a working background to start from. Once I had picked her out by painting in the dark surround, she didn’t need much alteration.

She’s come on nicely from the original life class sketch.


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