The enquiry continues

There is a song that goes”I know where I’m going”.  This is not the situation in which I find myself.  I think I’ve stepped off a cliff, and I hope the parachute is going to work ……


……which it has to some extent!  The “warm colours”need more yellows in them and I am losing the luminous effect in that area too.  I may look for more “paper” colours.  I like the effects on her hair.  He is swimming up beside her beautifully.

I think the two sides need to be married together, so maybe touches of warm colours on him and cool greens on her would do it.  I must look at the painting over the next week and cogitate.

A new line of enquiry.

For the next three or four weeks, my students will be wrestling with collage plus.  I hasten to add that this is a new idea for me too,  so how we will all get on is to be revealed as the weeks progress.

I’m taking a double portrait as my theme – part of my plan to know my faces  for “In the sunshine” better. It is also the case that I am using a book I mentioned two years ago “Collage, Colour and Texture in painting” as my guide, and I didn’t want unintentionally to create a copy  of any of the paintings illustrated.   At no point did the artist paint a portrait so I will need to understand his creative thinking rather than lean on what he did in similar situations.

I discussed the layout and how I came to the final design as these line drawing show.  I rejected using portrait orientation as neck and shoulders  would then become part of the design.  The painting  was not seen (in my mind’s eye) as a traditional portrait.  Both images face forward, so my vision was that they will appear at the same level, but he will be darker than her so will seem to recede.

Then we talked of colour, using our recent work on restricted palette as reference.  Again, my thoughts have varied over the two years I have been thinking about the painting.  My first thoughts were to use warm creams and cooler violets, but that seemed a bit sad, so I imagined earth colours with blues and greens.  Finally I settled on earth colours and Viridian as being both friendly and lively.

Tearing shapes of suitably coloured magazine pages I arranged them on the canvas to suggest textures and colours approximately where I expected to find them in the finished painting.  I have no idea how this is going to end …..

More colours

This week we were working with Alizarin Crimson, Viridian, and Ultramarine Blue.  These are big beasts, especially the first two, so the plan was that they would fight each other successfully, ending in a draw!

As you can see, that’s more or less what happened.  Surprisingly, since we all “know” that red and green make brown, Alizarin and Viridian make a beautiful but subdued purple, and of course Alizarin and Blue make a beautiful intense one.  I did the little painting in about 20 minutes, but I enjoyed the result so much that I thought it demanded another go.

I spent a bit more time on this one, and, although no railway buff would applaud the result,  I still like the effect.

I have not forgotten “In the sunshine”, and am quietly drawing trousered legs to achieve a relaxed pose.  Right now his shoes are too big and clumsy, so they will have to come out.  The trouble with improved drawing ability is that last year’s effort isn’t good enough.

Colour mixing

My tutorials for my class this term have started with colour mixing.  This is a perennial request, and trying to devise a way of making the mixes easy to remember or some system of charting that is accessible has been occupying my mind for some time.    It is not something that I, personally, have had many problems with, and, of course, time and practice will solve the matter eventually.  So, “What to Do” –  I find the charts that have 20 colours across the top and down the side, with the appropriate mix where the lines cross, very off putting, but splodges of paint side by side is even less appealing, and not something you would want to return to..  So I have invoked the use of a colour wheel,  reducing the colours under study to three.

This week we are looking at Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue.  I’m being very fussy about clean water, clean brush, freshly squeezed paint, so that the finished pieces tell the truth and shame the devil!

No surprises here, but see how strong Burnt Sienna is, and Ultramarine runs it a good second.  Poor Raw Sienna has a tough time coping with them.

The little sketch was done using just the three colours under study.

Thinking it out again

Returning to my big painting “In the sunshine” after about a year has left me in a bit of a state.  There seems to be so much wrong with it.  When I left it last year, I though it was nearly finished, but now I can see bad drawing and awkward concepts all over.  Still, on the positive side that means I can attack it with gusto, rather than dabbing at the faces with the aim of achieving a likeness.  This time, though, I need to keep the momentum going to the end – I don’t want another period of re-entry like this one!

It’s mainly, but not entirely the figures.  One of those things which happen when you are struggling with a painting is that the area under attack “grows”, so that properly proportioned figures become ridiculously long limbed or large-headed, and the area around grows a halo of mismatched colour are you seek to make correction.  Both the figures and also the pillar beside them have grown in length and halo.

Since correcting her legs,  I have become dissatisfied with her pose, while his arm is miles too long and bent in a funny place.  I don’t like his legs either.   The two pillars are no longer aligned, and the pristine paving has a bad attack of measles.  (All these points may have appeared because I am observing more clearly these days, so maybe that’s a positive too).

Here you can see some of my corrections.  I’ve lifted the whole of the right hand pillar by quite a bit, but it now lines up with the far pillar.  This necessitated altering the ironwork, as well.  I also lifted the belt of his trousers as his torso had grown longer and longer, and changed the bend in his arm.  She is better proportioned too.  However,  her legs are like tree trunks, and his legs look like he wants to go somewhere in a hurry!   The return on the pillar base near the figure is too acute, and I am now wondering if I should have altered the far pillar instead of the near one.  Maybe I should wash off those corrections with turps right now while the paint is wet, and think  again.

Further preparations

We were looking through old photos to do with Rachel’s “100 hearts” needlework ( when I came across a small one of my two friends taken forty years ago with the sunlight in exactly the right place!  OK they were younger but at the size I am painting them, that will not be a problem, and most people don’t mind looking younger, anyway.  So I tried another sketch using this new information.

That’s more like it – not a likeness yet but the shadows and highlights are better.  Her left eye should be a trifle higher, perhaps.   The tilt of the head is characteristic.  It took me two hours to achieve this much, I have so much to learn!  I used a charcoal pencil, which is a new tool to me, so even the medium was an experiment.  I think I have more control over the marks than I do with a charcoal stick, more precision, anyway.   However, I think this could be the basis for painting.  Now to tackle him.

I don’t think the introduction of white has improved his appearance any!  But light and shade, now observed rather than imagined are better,  if rather heavy handed.

If time permits I will try again in pencil to see if I can achieve a likeness.  I remember reading recently that if you don’t achieve a likeness in line, try again, because shading cannot correct an inaccurate drawing.   This is a great incentive to observe more closely.

HGC resplendent

The final leg of this mini epic project to have a dragon wreathed around my lamp is accomplished.  Coping with a dragon, however benign, with five visible legs (and one invisible, of course), and a long neck, and a long tail, required two pairs of hands and a lot of patience.  My thanks to Rachel for invaluable assistance.

Honourable Giver of Contentment comes in three parts (like ancient Gaul), which did make  him easier to assemble.  First we decided exactly where his head should be, marking the place with a tiny cross.  Next his legs were bent appropriately and strengthened with a bracing strip, while the middle part of his body had legs similarly attached.  All four feet were then (PVA) glued in place, four sets of fingers restraining his desire to stray.

So far, so good.  Greater security suggested that his midriff should be glued down, and one whisker strengthened.  At the back of the middle section is a great body curl, designed as the principal place of  attachment,though  before we did that, the tail section, with its strengthened leg,  needed to be placed so as to give the impression of following on.  The fronds at the tip were determined to curl outwards – persistence won out.

Here he is, prowling among the eucalyptus (!) leaves, spreading peace and contentment all round.

P.S.,  I have a spare dragon’s tail if anyone wants one.


Since the Dragon project is in abeyance until I sort out the imperial/metric problem, I’ve returned to my muttons (i.e., painting!)

It’s nearly a year since I did anything on “In the Sunshine”, partly because other things took precedence, and partly because I couldn’t see my way forward with the faces.  Since then, I have discovered new-found confidence in my drawing ability, so I am more willing to try out ideas in pencil or charcoal rather than lift the brush and hope!

I need to alter the lighting on the only good photo I have of my friends – I don’t want to ask them for a different one as they are not 100% aware of what I’m up to, and I can’t photograph them unawares as they live in France.  So I’m going to try a series of charcoal drawings to really get to know the faces and to work out how the different angle of the light will affect things.  Here is the first one.

I can’t say I’ve got a likeness of either of them.  Shifting the light from the their right to their left is an interesting exercise, and, indeed, the primary purpose of these sketches.  I had found pictures of various other people with the appropriate lighting to help me work out what to do but some of the anatomy of these assistants seems to have worked its way on to the paper, I think!   I will try to paint the revised shadows on to the canvas using these sketches then see what I can do about a better likeness later, small bits of elephant, as it were.

I think the end is in sight!

HGC is giving me furiously to think.  I have redrawn his body and painted and cut it out,   He prowls nicely, doesn’t he? 

– but not round the lampshade!  Somehow his curves are in the wrong place, though I had planned them carefully.  Also, even though I have lengthened his body, there is still a large gap between his head and his tail.

So, using small masking tape pieces, I positioned his head and his new body on the actual shade and considered my options.

  •   I could start again.  Ouch!
  • I could make a whole new tail.  Errr, really?
  • I could design more connecting pieces  – will this ever end?!!!

Upon reflection, I feel having him in bits makes for easier prowling.  I arranged two pieces of paper (don’t ask –  we’re on a coolie hat lampshade, remember?)) from the body to behind his head, created a loop of body to hide the first join then a curve to join that to his head part. I’ve a feeling that with this length of body, he should have more legs.   If this goes on, he’ll go twice round the shade and still not be right.   To be more certain that this time I had done it correctly, I cut out the new pattern and tried it on the shade for size.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile, Teshoo is having his moments too.  Being made into a lamp in the 1930s means he doesn’t have anything to do with the metric system.  This is not insuperable, but certainly tedious.  Nil desperandum .


“I think I’d better think it out again!”  I have painted and very carefully cut out my dragon, but ….. – look at him now!

If you remember I had drawn him on the shape of the shade so that I could make him the right size and curve.  Unfortunately,  I forgot that in so doing, I would only be able to curve him on the shade if I laid him down flat.   When I tried to make him rise up and prowl,  his tail rose up with a vengeance and sat over the light bulb!

Desperate situations require desperate remedies – I cut him in half.  By way of compensation for this hurt, I have redrawn his body, lengthening it a little and repositioning his right back foot.   I’ve included his old body so that you can see the image more clearly.   The join can be tucked under his neck, so all is not lost, but I will need to paint – and cut out! – his new part.

The good news is that the shade has worked well, and the various electrical bits, in black instead of white and clear plastic, have arrived.