Last August , I wrote about a painting I had found unfinished after reorganising my studio. I was struggling to re-engage with my former painting self, and , although doing a watercolour of the scene helped a bit, it still didn’t sort things out.
Finally, I have finished it – and am delighted with the result. (That’s two delights in a row, last week and this week, – I’m beginning to feel nervous). The crux of the matter was the shadow of the nearest building. Since this building is an addition from another picture with different lighting, I had to re-construct how far the shadow would stretch across the road – not a serious problem. However, I had quite forgotten what colours I had used to indicate the shadow on the sunny building. I found myself trying very hard to achieve the right tone and colour using Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Violet to no avail. I had used Burnt Sienna in the watercolour, of course. All was resolved when I remembered I had used Raw Sienna in the oil. The moral of the story is, “Don’t wait so long before you finish a painting”.
It’s a pleasing composition too, the active diagonal lines leading the eye to the old dilapidated building in the centre of the picture, while the trudging fellow anchors everything there too. People in pictures always draw themselves to our attention, self-centred beings that we are!
I had so enjoyed painting this scene that it seemed imperative to finish it. There was not a lot to do – half an hour might do it. In the event it took three half hours but I am pleased enough to sign it.
I love the way the sunlight brightens the fells. It looks like the rain has just passed over towards the right of the picture and the little yachts are enjoying light breezes. Autumn is fast approaching – the colour in the trees tells you that.
It works as a composition too. The clouds seem to come together in the middle, then the eye follows the distant hills down to the fells which dip into a tiny valley. Then the break in the trees takes you to the water. The sails are just enough to break the horizontal line of the shore. I just noticed that the whole picture divides into approximate thirds! Boats and dip in the trees on the vertical ones and shoreline and the bottom of the clouds on the horizontal ones. Serendipity rules!
You may remember I showed it at an intermediate stage. I have made the picture smaller because it was beginning to get too busy. This is something I must guard against – it’s so easy using this method to get too detailed too early, so I’m thinking of trying other ways of using the pencils. Having spent years trying to loosen up, I don’t want undo all my hard work!
As far as this painting is concerned, the greens have been the most difficult to achieve (tell me something new!), and it is not an issue that I have resolved yet. Successes have been the actual drawing which is reasonably accurate (!), the bushes on the top near the wall, and the boat in the water. The steps are a bit wooden (no pun intended). The paint moves with water very quickly so some care is needed with brush strokes. Not every false move can be corrected.
I’m going to try using the black and white watercolour pencils as if they were chalk and charcoal. I have done one or two portraits using this method and got a good likeness, better than when using colour. I think this relates to tonal value. My other thought was to try line and wash.
Looking back at last January’s post, I found things I’d forgotten about(!), things still on the “to do” list, and two completed.
I did finish the portrait, though I am less than thrilled with it, – competent but uninspired. I thought that I could reprise it using mixed media, and I still intend to do so. In fact I have chosen the canvas and collect potential collage papers. I have even brooded about colour palette.
But the real success of the year has been the improvement in my drawing skills. This is something that I am truly pleased (and surprised) about, and it is so liberating. I’ve been intimidated about drawing all my life and now I fear no more. That has got to be a result!
This year I am going to continue working with watercolour pencils, but try to use them more freely. I’ve got one or two thoughts on how to achieve this but they are still hazy so I will feel my way slowly and hope something clicks!
Oh joy! Oh rapture! Oil painting again – and I think my burgeoning drawing skills are freeing up my painting arm once more. This painting is a delight; everything is falling into place, (my happy place!). I do hope I find the time to finish it soon.
I love the rain cloud approaching from the right, the sunlight hillside, the woods bordering the lake. It’s the lower half of the painting that needs more attention. It looks like a pine forest at the moment, and most of those trees are deciduous – they would have to be otherwise no dancing daffodils!
The two smudges in the water will be boats soon, I hope, with their white masts bridging the line where land and water meet, then some work on the lake in the foreground, and we are done.
You remember my Meander Book with the elephant theme. It has gone through many changes since I first thought of the idea and it is, quite definitely, not going to be ready this Christmas, maybe not even next Christmas.
Printing with the lino cut as the background is not an option given the size of the paper and the sheer mechanics of printing neatly so many rectangles so near to each other. I may yet make a small lino cut of the elephant himself which would be altogether more manageable. What I have done is to make a template of the elephant, using it as a mask while painting the background in watercolour.
Now to dress The Elephant Of No Distinction But Infinite Charm. This proved to be more difficult than I first imagined. There is a considerable amount shown on my model so I had a starting point. I wanted it to be colourful, (naturally) not a restricted palette, then. On the other hand some co-ordination seemed appropriate. Decisions! Decisions! Do I dress his ear, or not? TEONDBIC has a cover of some sort on his ears but whether that is paint of fabric is a moot point. His saddle cloth is huge, giving an area which invites decoration, but if it’s too busy …..
I have drawn and “excavated” my image of The Elephant Of No Distinction But Infinite Charm. I decided to leave the elephant white and print the background. This gives me greater printed area which is easier to manage while the unprinted elephant allows for more colourful decoration.
But the printing is not as easy as it sounds. I had hoped to use acrylic inks, but they gave a very patchy response.
lino printing paints did better, but I now remember that I used a press to achieve a good print when I did the Christmas card last year. I can’t do that with this set of consecutive prints on a large sheet of paper. So, I have cut out my elephant shape in thick card, attached a handle for lifting neatly, and am going to use it to mask the shape while I paint the background of each rectangle of my Meander Book. I’m not going to complete this in time for this Christmas! Maybe next year!
I have been using my watercolour pencils again. This is a much more complex drawing, and the fact that I even attempted it freehand speaks volumes about my new found confidence in line drawing.
The little garden is full of different levels, plants, and pots, with the reflecting water as an added complication. It is also very green and I am having some difficulty with the varying greens, so I shall have to alter my approach. To this point, I have used the watercolour pencils dry only adding water when I felt happy with the dry work. This has had some splendid results – I love the potted bushes on the top level, and the accidental “cauliflower” on the left which gives a perfect bush shape to work into – and the steps are acceptable. But the plants to the left of the steps are poorly shaped and too uniformly bright.
I am going to try mixing my colours on a scrap of paper then lifting them with a wet brush to see if I can find a subtle way to do this area. Then again, the “cauliflower” reminds me of one way that Zoltan Szabo paints trees, so maybe I can explore this idea as well.
I was so pleased with the pencil work results that I finished the painting! In fact, I liked it so much that I signed it.
I am enjoying the quiet, steady, progress of the painting technique – I can’t believe I wrote that – it fits so well with the time and place in which I can paint and I am discovering new aspects of myself. I had not thought that the prejudices I had overcome when painting for “The Bridges of Dee” would be followed so quickly by the collapse, the total collapse, of my fear of pencil drawing. Looking back, I see that “fear” is the right word. I am only in the foothills but this is a mountain worth conquering. Finally I can lay out in free hand a preparatory sketch before painting, and I am sure that as I practise this new skill, that freedom will translate to my brush and pastel.
What have I learnt so far ? If a pale wash is wanted, certainly on hot pressed paper, scrubbing the pencil on a spare bit of paper and lifting the colour on a wet brush is working satisfactorily (the sky); texture and detail can be indicated at will and either left to speak for itself or melded with the painting by a wash of water (the distant hill and the hay field); more graduation of tone came be achieved by mixing the wet paint on the paper (the bushes); this can then be worked on to introduce more texture; very deep tones have come by working directly into wetted paper with the pencil.