Christmas preparations

Virgin and Child
Virgin and Child

Over the years since my daughter, Rachel, was born, I have always included a mock stained glass window among the Christmas decorations.  The first window was  small, just enough room for the Virgin and her Child, but moving house meant I needed a new design for a bigger window.

The first one was a straightforward representation of the Holy Family, but it was only made of paper and soon disintegrated.  I wanted something a little more sophisticated, more mature, less Victorian.  I was doodling design ideas, looking for something pleasing to the eye, using circles to indicate the haloed heads and sweeping lines for the robes,  when I suddenly realised that I had my design.

The Holy Family
The Holy Family

Careful arrangement of the “glazing bars” created the star, and there it was.    This time I made the frame and those glazing bars out of heavy card and the window is still with us, coming out every Christmas.  The sunlight coming through the “glass”  throws beautiful patterns on the carpet, and the house light illuminates the design for the outside world after dark.

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A few years ago, I was asked to paint a picture for a themed exhibition celebrating any special day,  I chose December 25th and used my window design as inspiration.  The picture took over as I painted and instead of the protective impression of the original design, I found myself painting a great burst of light emanating from the Child, The Light of the World.

Christus natus est
Christus natus est

Then Rachel took the design and explored it in her embroidery world, – blog.virtuosewadventures.co.uk.  Again an different ambience appeared, a sense of quietude,strength, and purpose  – this was all getting very interesting!

Now I need to introduce another strand in our Christmas preparations – Christmas cards.  For some years now Rachel and I have been using our work as designs for these cards, she with embroidery – and myself with paint.  These two interpretations were among the first – others have included a Christmas Tree angel and a chorus of angels.  This year we have nearly enough from past years to send to our friends this year but are short of a dozen or so.  I’ll tell you what we did next week!

Alford in the snow – third stage

Alford in the Snow 03
Alford in the Snow 03
Alford - after some thought!
Alford – after some thought!

When I really looked at my source, I discovered that my original drawing had wandered.  This happens when I am working exuberantly  with a palette knife as the photo on the left shows.

Now I have quietened a bit, and am working more thoughtfully with a brush, I have seen the error of my ways.  (I do paint carefully with a palette knife sometimes – promise!)

The wall and railings on the left were at the wrong angle, so that the road was too wide, and focus was lost thereby. The same was true of the wall and hedge on the right!  Oh, Steve!  Concentrate, girl!  But see what those simple changes have wrought, for the composition of the painting is greatly improved, the atmosphere more friendly, the whole painting welcomes you in.

Those points corrected, I added more colour and texture to the tall trees, making them less dense at the same time, brightened the twiggy hedges, and added some snow, that had been melting too fast.  The shadows cast on the snowy lane brighten the atmosphere – just the day for a good, brisk walk.  I feel altogether happier about progress and have reached that happy stage of refining the detail – and I am pleased with the finished painting.

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Alford in the Snow.

 

SAA postcard partners

The SAA (Society for All Artists) are running a challenge, which is great fun, called “Postcard Partners” .  The idea is that two artists share a postcard and paint half each.  It’s the sort of thing that friends can do,  and since the winners of the prizes are picked at random, it doesn’t matter if you have any talent or none!

My painting group thought we would “have a go!”  Not that any of us thought we would win a prize, we did it for fun.  We were painting in watercolour at the time so most of this set of entries are in that medium, but I think we may try again, later in the term, now we have experience, maybe in different media.   The halves can be divided in any way suitable, straight, wavy, background and foreground, etc.  We were rather conservative this time but that may change when we try again.

So, here are our efforts.  Some of the group have been painting for years, and some are beginners, and at this scale it is hard to tell the difference!

SAA Postcard Partners
SAA Postcard Partners

My thanks to Judy, Jill, Benedetta, Julie, Harry, Ann, Margaret, Lorna, Pam, and Frieda, for an enjoyable afternoon.  The surface of the postcards supplied by the SAA was truly excellent, though you can make your own as long as they are the right size. My friends achieved some subtle effects, blending delicate washes on elephants, turbaned sages, Venetian scenes,  seascapes, pussycats and flowers; yet it also responded well to more precise work as in the party food and the landscape; it took line and wash very well, vide the enchanting pigeon at the top;  but pride of place must to the mixed media view of Venice (the dark one in the left hand corner).  Well done, everyone!

The Gates of Chester – third stage

I’ve drawn much more with the wax crayons characterising the stonework, suggesting the undergrowth behind the tree and finishing the wrought iron gates.  I added Viridian to the tree both as paint and as crayon together with some brown and black.  I also intensified the colour washes on the wall but I was working in electric light, and may have been too enthusiastic.  The colours seem to be working better now.

Wolfgate 03
Wolfgate 03

I think I like the effect of the crayon, but the curvy tree trunk needs attention and something – but what? – needs to be done to join the “Brusho” part to the rest of the picture.  I seem to have painted myself into a corner.  Time to sleep on it, maybe.

I returned to my source photograph.  I have missed out the grass edge at the front of the picture, thinking that yet another horizontal line right across the picture is unhelpful.  But there is the ghost of neatly cut grass at the extreme right hand side of the flower border which might break up the horizontal I do have, at least suggesting why we have that edge.  Maybe a little more “Brusho”to take the yellow and purples over the line in places?

Wolfgate Complete
Wolfgate Complete

It doesn’t look very different, but I have straightened the wavy trunk, extended the roots to imply some continuity with the pansies in front, and added more “Brusho” yellow, lemon this time to  suggest distance,to the upper edge of that section.

This is as far as I want to take it in this picture, but I do like the different effect the wax crayon makes.  Contrary to my prejudiced expectations, the crayon has given a delicacy and airiness to the finished picture.  I shall certainly try this combination on media again!