Back to School

Well its back to school now.  I go to art school two mornings a week.  It’s good to go to school so that someone can keep an eye on what you are doing ;).  Everyone needs a little guidance now and then and someone to give you a good critique and get you back to basics if you are straying in the wrong direction.

This week my teacher wanted me to get back to basics again and make sure I knew what was dark and light, making sure I wasn’t being wowed by the colours and getting in a muddle about what was the darkest object and the lightest.  I was only allowed to use charcoal and I brought in with me a pear, apple and a plum.

Pear, apple and plum

Charcoal pear, apple and plum.  I was quite pleased with my charcoal handling which can often be a nightmare!

You can easily get in a muddle when you paint with colour because colours can be so vivid and saturated that you can often be tricked into thinking they are light.  One of the ways to make sure you have the light and dark correct is by using your phone.  Take a picture of the objects in black and white and you will soon realise that a lot of these colours that we see as bright colours we automatically think are light but actually they can be quite dark.  A great example of this is to take a photo of a lemon and an orange.

The other lesson on Wednesday was to decide on edges. Which ones should be blurred and which should be sharp.  Our eyes think we see everything very sharply but actually there is a lot our eyes make up.  As I’ve said before this is something that Singer Sargent does really well.  I love soft edges.

 

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Ruby

This week has been a little difficult as Kea has been really unwell with a stomach bug.  He has been off school all week poor thing feeling rotten.  Luckily in-between looking after him I have had a chance to carrying on painting while he has watched films or slept.

I’ve been concentrating on a portrait I said I would do for someone.  She is called Ruby.  I had to do this portrait from a photo as I don’t actually know Ruby.  I was given a selection of photos to do it from and the one I chose was this one.

Ruby web

I double checked with her mother if there were any of the photos she didn’t like so much or one that she preferred and she assured me that she liked all of them.  I chose this particular pose because I felt out of all the photos this was where she looked the most natural.  I got on with the job.

I finished most of it and decided to send a photo of what I had done so far to Ruby’s mother and sadly I got a response asking if I could paint the arm out.  Sadly it isn’t quite as easy as ‘paint the arm out’ as this would totally change the lighting and shadows etc and it would mean making up half of her face which is never easy to do.  I can understand what she means as I know she would like a clean portrait of her daughter, but then on the other hand I rather like the arm, giving it a much more relaxed feel.  It is more unusual to have a portrait like this but I think it gives it something different, a contemporary felt .  What do you think about it?

I can’t paint out the arm and will give her the painting tonight.  I hear that Ruby likes it with the arm, I just hope her mother won’t be too disappointed.

Wonderful Singer Sargent

Sargent is a hero of mine.   I find his work inspirational, exciting and so beautiful.  Most of the work I have seen are of his oil paintings and its mainly his portraits that really float my boat.  However this last week I have been to see some of his watercolours at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

sergeant crocs web

Yet again I was blown away by his work.  He makes it all look so easy yet you know that if you have a go just how quickly you can muck it up.  His use of colour is incredible and the simplicity to the work was stunning, so effective.  His work really shows you how important it is to remember that everything is a shape and that nothing is a line.  His decision in what to define and what to loosen up is key to the work.  One can be so tempted to define everything as our eyes tend to want to do that.  This takes away the magic.  When you see his work it makes you realise how much of what you see isn’t in detail and that you don’t need to see everything in so much detail, it is not important.

Sergeant fountain web

His composition is also very interesting.  One has a habit of wanting to include everything but instead he chooses very small key areas of the subject which you can see here in the fountain that he did.  The whole fountain is not included but that doesn’t matter, the cherubs are the beautiful part of the fountain – the rest is not so important.  He also shows this with the background.  It can be very easy to get caught up on the background of something you are painting, thinking that it is good to record everything.  Here Sargent paints a really simple and washed out background because what he wants is for you to concentrate on the fountain.  Painting in a really detailed background would just distract you from the main reason for the painting.  This is what I really like about his portraits.  Sargent is so clever at putting detail into the most important part of the portraits – the face.  The rest of the portraits are so loosely done, with huge brush strokes giving the audience an impression. This really draws your eye into their faces just like you are really drawn into this fountain.

This exhibition is on at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  If you are near, I think its a great exhibition and a must see!

Suffolk Landscapes

Suffolk gravestones webIt has been such beautiful weather here in the UK for the last week or two. My mother really kindly invited me for a couple of days away in Suffolk where we could get on with some painting.  I haven’t really been able to use my new art box much yet as its been a busy summer with cousins.  With my son away we had plenty of time to paint.  It was the first time I had ever painted plein air so the whole experience was pretty scary to begin with.  There was a lovely graveyard nearby which we painted first.  The light was lovely on the gravestones creating lovely shadows.

suffolk landscape web

The second day was spent painting a typical view of the fields in Suffolk with wonderful grass in the foreground, stubble fields with bales and lovely trees and hedges.  I decided to use really small canvasses as I really like small paintings at the moment.  They are easy to place on bookshelves and great to put together as a montage on a wall.  I had never painted this small before and wanted to give it a go.  I was quite pleased with the result in the end.  I’m feeling thoroughly inspired now by the countryside and every time I get in the car I’m finding great locations.  If only I had more time.  The art box was a brilliant buy too.  I’m thrilled with it.

The Lady in Blue

 

lady portrait web

For the last couple of weeks I have been painting a portrait of this women in blue.  I thought that it might be a fun thing to show how the process works.  It’s often fun to take photos along the way so you can see the all the mistakes you have made and the progression – hopefully!

It’s important to put a wash on your canvas/board first to knock the white away as it can be distracting.  Then take your time to draw your portrait in a dark colour making sure you double check your proportions.  Then find the shadow shapes and draw them and fill them in thinly.  To get the likeness of someone concentrate on the 5 essential darks which are under the eyebrows, eyes, under the nose, top lip and under the bottom lip. Now add skin tone.  Start painting in the colour that features the most which would be the middle tone.  At this point avoid the shadow shapes as you have already blocked those in.  As you go along its alway good to tweak the lines and shapes making sure that all the way along the process you are getting proportions right.  Start to add in the highlights and make sure you leave all the details to the last sitting.

Good Luck!

Singing for Sharks

Kea busking web

Let me introduce you to another member of my household.  This is my son, and this week for my blog I wanted show just how proud I am of this great little character.  He is seven years old and for the last two weekends he decided to busk in the park with his ukulele to raise money to stop the horrendously cruel killing of sharks for shark fin soup.  He is utterly passionate about sharks and knows anything and everything about them.  He sang and played 7 songs (which he repeated a few times!) and managed to raise £300. His dedication and thought for others and the planet’s welfare is astonishingly humbling.  The world needs people like him.

Mr T

Mr T

Mr T curled up and asleep in his favourite spot – oil on canvas

I thought it might be a good idea to introduce you to one of my cats this week.  Mr T is a big part of this family and hasn’t really been himself.  He went to get some teeth out not long after a nasty cut down his tongue.  Life feels good and normal when he is sitting on the sofa in his place, biting my bottom to wake me up in the morning, but this week he hasn’t been there which was worrying. After an operation earlier this week he has been very wobbly and has been hallucinating.  Goodness knows what he has been seeing but there have definitely been times when I thought he was laughing his head off!

I’m pleased to say though that things are now back to normal and he is now back again sitting in his favourite spot and he bit my bottom to get me up this morning. Phew!