Tag Archives: painting

Neuroscience update

dsc_0547_29011559801_oI hung my paper pulp girl on the living room wall and she looked good, but really needed a frame. I decided to make one, as professional framing is slow and really expensive.

Two lengths of wood glued together gave the basic rebate. I cut the mitres on a bandsaw and they gaped terribly, so quite a bit of polyfilla needed on all corners.A trial fit looked good, with about 1/4 inch shadow gap all round. I painted about five layers of acrylic over the whole frame, looking for a suitable finish. Ended with a slightly dulled metallic bronze, which nearly matches some of the colour in the painting, but not too close as to be drab.


Very pleased with the result. I have worked for hours on minor changes. A slight shadow under her bottom so that she is not totally lost in space. I thought there was something wrong with her head. I had painted it right up to the edge of the canvas. This looked odd, so I used white paint to re-establish the canvas, where it wasn’t covered in the coloured paper. This worked, so I went over the whole picture, painting out her body where there was a gap between sheets of paper. She looks as if she was assembled from the paper onto the canvas. She is finished, and looks fine in her glitzy frame.


Views of Dorset

I managed to get down to my boat in Poole harbour at last a couple of weeks ago, coinciding with hot, sunny weather. A very rare coincidence this year. I also managed to do some simple pen sketches from the boat and whilst out walking over the heathland. I have tried turning a few of these into small acrylic paintings, with varying success.


This very simple sketch was quite tricky, as the boat was at anchor and swinging around in the breeze. What I wanted to show in the painting is that the sandy peninsula was caught in bright evening sunlight, whilst the background was quite shadowed. Only partly achieved.

wp-1471009380720.jpgA sketch of a chalk stack called Old Harry’s Wife. (Old Harry himself is far bigger and just out of sight around the corner). Very bouncy anchorage, with the Isle of wight on the horizon. The painting is on a very smooth art board, which I didn’t like all that much. The paint tended to drag off too easily.


The ink sketch was from the same anchorage as Old Harry’s Wife, looking towards Studland village. I coloured the ink sketch in at home, and then produced the acrylic based on that. More an impression rather than an accurate representation.


A quick sketch on Studland beach, which I worked up a couple of weeks later.I find the sea and sand really hard to paint. Once I had the basic layout laid down, I realised I had my viewpoint far too high, so I added the dune in the foreground to make it look balanced. There were far more people on the beach than I show, and I left off all the little tents and windbreaks as I think they are just ugly. It is a most beautiful beach, especially on a hot sunny day.

New from old and getting down to some real work

I’ve  done a lot of work recently, which doesn’t mean god work necessarily. I have taken two old life drawings and produce acrylic paintings based on them. The first, a rear view I drew at least 20 years ago, was from a class a Cirencester College. Nearly every proportion is wrong, but it is still one of my favourite drawings. If I remember correctly, that evening the tutor didn’t turn up and the model ran the session herself. A bit lie conducting the orchestra from the piano. I’ve sat her on some rich fabrics I copied from a Jack Morrocco painting, with a Japanese vase from the Ashmolean alongside her, and Manet’s Berthe Morisot on the wall. Why not?

The other is a drawing I did in a class at the Kendrick Street Gallery in Stroud about 10 years ago. A standing nude and again, every thing is wrong with it, but I still love it. It is charcoal on really cheap newsprint and is starting to crumble away. I’ve done a straight acrylic version, using just one, wide fairly derelict brush, which gives it a nice soft quality. Curiously, I have had to correct the proportions in both paintings. What looks fine in a drawing, even if wrong, just looks wrong in a painting.


I am exploring diptychs. Basically hinging two paintings together.It gives an immediate structure to to the composition, and makes displaying the work dead easy. They just stand up on a table. This is the first that I have planned, rather than just sticking two existing paintings together. Basically the view from our garden, looking out over the Golden Valley towards Minchinhampton. I’m pleased with the clouds, not so sure about the tree.

And finally, I am back in a life class, run by my friend Mark Kelland at the New Brewery Arts in Cirencester (where I am now a trustee). First proper class I have been to for nearly two years. Starting out with some multiple image warming up exercises, and then two single poses on a rubbed pastel background. I’m very rusty.

More Manet

I need to start looking at another artist, but it is true that if you try to carefully copy another artist’s work, you really start to see things you couldn’t notice before. These four small portraits will do for now.


The one of Berthe Morisot (top right) is by far the best. Also the quickest, taking less than an hour and no reworking at all. The soldier was very hard, and I still can’t figure out what is wrong with him. I have repainted the bar maid’s face completely, but she is still awkward. Olympia looks a little harsh. I have reworked her face two or three times and it is OK. Interestingly, my phone camera recognises Olympia and Berthe as faces, but not the other two. Not sure what a mark of quality that is.

Semi-reclining nude


Makes her sound like a piece of furniture. I think she’s done. I like the composition and the figure is fair. I have managed to get some colour into her skin in places which always looks good when it works. The vase on the table is the “waterfall” vase I saw in the Ashmolean.. I’ve popped an Olympian necklace on her so that she’s not totally naked of visitors call. dsc_0039.jpg

To see the pedestal of the table, you’ll need to look around the edge of the frame.

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.


Updating a boat girl

So my first two acrylic jobs have been to do with painting red hair.

I’ve had an acrylic hanging in my boat for a couple of years, based on a life sketch I did a few years ago.

I love the picture, but I’ve always known it wasn’t quite right. The line of her back is far too hunched up. So I brought her indoors and started doing something about it (one of the beauties of acrylics and oils is that you can keep on working on them almost indefinitely.)

I’m pleased with the altered back and shoulder. She looks much more human now. I also worked a bit on her hands abs twisted her bottom around slightly.


This all required some adjustment to her hair. The model had very red hair so I stuck with that, and thought it would be nice to make more of the hair. Much more. I got a bit carried away.


I realised at this point that red hair is really hard to paint. For a start, it isn’t red, but it is very hard to say what it is. So I thought I would digress and do a little study of just a swatheof red hair. An old friend who has moved to New Zealand has red hair, so I copied one of her Facebook photos. Initially I was just going to do the hair, so I started with a green background, to emphasise the colour, whatever it is.


I really liked how that looked and decided to carry on with it as a full portrait. It seemed a shame just to stop at the hair. The first portrait I have painted for many, many years and I’m very pleased with it, even though she is tiny.


I’m still little wiser as to what colour Red hair really is, but I’ve given my boat girl even more, and I shall put her back on board later this week.



Acrylic nudes

I’ve had a busy of productivity, partly linked to getting a new acrylic “stay-wet ” palette. Makes it easy to just pick up a brush for a few minutes at any time. This is in fact the third thing I have worked on in the last few days. I’ll comment on the other two layer.

I’ve taken a life class drawing from about a year ago, and started working out up on a canvas. No especial idea, but starting out by colouring the canvas, drawing on the figure outline and then blocking in the negative shapes around her.


I’mnot sure of the context yet, but I’ve added the cloth she was sitting on, which may become a towel.


Table Easel

Drawing and painting has been on hold for a while due to a variety of “events, dear boy, events”. Hope to get back to it soon. In the mean time I have got myself a table easel. A very cheap one from an art discount shop, It was too short to hold anything other than a small landscape board, but whilst I was busy gluing up bits of boat, I glued a plywood panel to it to extend it.


This seems to work quite well and should stand up to use if I don’t bash away at it too hard, which I tend to do.

I find increasingly that I prefer to paint with the board upright. Looking down at something which is going to be viewed horizontally just seems a distraction. I also bought a few new cheap brushes, which are excellent for acrylic. I need to be a bit more professional in using different brushes for different colours. It will save a lot of cleaning time and getting the wrong colour situations. Hope to get back to my two girls and their boat sometime soon.