Tuesday, February 03, 2015

another in the Harlequin/Columbine series, this time a digital variation

Digital image:  Harlequin and Columbine series

This is another in the series, working out ideas for large paintings.  I see these on 4 or 5 foot canvasses.   Playing digitally with colour and shapes.

These are abstracts based on the costumes of Harlequin and Columbine but about the patched and ragged fabrics, stage lights and time passing in the long history of the Commedia del Arte.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sketching 365 by Katherine Tyrrell

Plein air sketch by Vivien Blackburn in Sketching 365

My friend, Katherine Tyrrell, spent time last year writing this excellent book, now published.  It's packed full of tips, advice and techniques.  Not only suitable for beginners but for those with experience wishing to try other media or develop their work.

There are 55 artists - all good - to show examples of a wide range of approaches.  Several are friends and others known to me as people I admire.

My plein air sketch of Sennen Cove, from the terrace of Rose Cottage, sharing a page with Felicity House

 I had proof read it online but nothing is quite like holding the actual book in my hands, flipping back and forth and seeing images by friends and artists I admire.

It's not one of those 'do as I do' books, producing clones,  but one that sets out to make you think of alternatives, observation, composition, materials to use, tone, marks, pattern and much more - all the kind of things I tell my students to consider. 

As someone who detests those art magazine articles or books that suggest blobbing with a sponge will automatically give you amazing trees - in what universe???????? - examples shown are usually awful! - her insistence on good underlying observation gels with me.  No matter how loosely you work, the observation underpinning it is essential.

Artists shown work in a wide variety of ways and using different materials and they are good.

My sketch of Shilmoor in Northumbria. on a moody day,  sharing a page with Katherines glowing picture of snow and sunlight on trees

It's also a keeper - one to dip back into over time, unlike some books that are a one-time-read only, too shallow to last.  It can't go into great depth on each topic there are so many, but gives  really good concise pointers and enough information for readers to make a good start and to research further, look at other work by the artists shown and carry their own ideas forward.

I will certainly use it in my teaching (adults painting and drawing).  It's just the information students need, backing up nicely what I tell them and packed with advice.   That 'Travel Light' on the page above is one I sadly haven't learned!  being of the 'but I might neeeed it' school ;>)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Drawing over a boring previous sketch and playing with mixed media: Trees

Sketch in acrylic ink, tinted graphite and a touch of coloured pencil

I currently have all my classes looking at trees at the moment - considering the individuality of them, looking at various artists past and contemporary.  Contemporary includes some friends and also artists I don't know but admire , these include Bridget Hunter. Glen Heath, David Parfitt, David Prentice, David Tress, Kurt Jackson, Shirley Trevena, Cheryl Culver and lots more. I don't have time to add links, sorry,  but google them if you are interested?  Past includes Mondrian, Klimt, Van Gogh, Monet etc etc etc  I really like Mondrian's trees and Klimt too.

There was a page in a sketchbook where I had experimented with tinted graphite, doing a moody image of rain approaching across the bay.  It was just a tester and was quite boring.  I decided to work over it, keeping it as background and working in grey and white acrylic ink (plus a little more tinted graphite and a touch of coloured pencil).     The page is a bit more interesting now :>)    

In an S&B Alpha sketchbook.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Year, flu and the Harlequin/Columbine project

Columbine, digital variation

I had flu immediately after Christmas and am only just recovering - I have never been so ill!  it was vicious and in the end needed antibiotics and high dose steroids.  But Christmas itself was lovely :>)

So ..... the blog has been very neglected.  Here is an update on one of the Harlequin/Columbine series.   They are playing with the the idea of time, ragged and patched fabrics and stage lights.  This is a digital variation on the previous monochrome.  I'm thinking of including these prints as something in their own right, apart from them being a sketchbook stage in thinking ideas through.  I've done further work in a variety of media that I will upload, including scratchboard in black over copper, something I don't think I've used since school!  so more to follow .....

And Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

An old one I'm afraid as life has been really really mad.

Merry Christmas everyone :>)

Friday, November 28, 2014

abstracting ... working around ideas

A new project, working around ideas with ink

I'm revisiting an old idea and developing it.   Some time ago I did a couple of abstract paintings based on the idea of the Harlequin costume from the Comedia del Arte.   One shown below is a 30x40 inch canvas.

The one above was also trying out my new Sailor Flude pen - which I really like.  It's odd curved tip allows me to draw with the pen quite upright or tip it to make broad marks- the thickness of the lines in the sketch above were all done with the one pen, just angled differently.

Harlequin.   Mixed media on canvas 30x40inches

This time I'm looking at Columbine as well - her costume sometimes echoed the pattern of Harlequin's.   Costumes - the Comedia company were travelling players - costumes were often ragged and patched, which was the origin of the diamond pattern now seen as traditionally Harlequin.   I have got hooked on the raggedness as well as the patterns of patches in the current series.. 

I'm interested in the idea of stage light on fabrics, the glamour vs the tawdry reality, the fraying edges, stitches and patterns and time, layers of time and history.

I plan to use a variety of painting and drawing media and in some experiment with incorporating actual fabric.  I've been given a fragment of exquisitely embroidered fabric that was £120 a yard - I'd love to work that into something.

On some pieces done so far I've used actually stitching on paper and collage.   Lots of playing and thinking around ideas to go.  I see finished work being on canvas, paper and some digital images too.

And I need time to work from the sketches done in Cornwall and Northumberland .....   I need minions.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Derwemt Inktense website and my image

My commissioned  image on the Derwent website

I was asked to provide an image using Inktense for Derwent, who were revamping their website.  It's now live.  :>)   .... and they forgot to add my name!

It's about flowers rather than being any particular flower.  There are elements of poppies and Queen Anne's Lace and heaven knows what else in there.  Purely imaginary.  It's based on a large canvas I did some time ago.

The original much larger canvas

Inktense is one of my favourite Derwent products (alongside the XL tinted graphite and tinted charcoal).  I love the vibrancy and yet it is also possible to mix them to obtain subtle colours.   They are more transparent and luminous than ordinary watercolour pencils and because they dry waterproof I can build glazes and work over layers below as in my image that they used.   I use the pencils and the blocks.

It was great to be asked - they previously used an image of mine for the first year of the Derwent Art Prize and seeing it in all the art magazines for months before, in full page spreads, was fun!  It still catches me unawares sometimes - like last week when a student had brought in a past magazine and on the back, facing me, there it was again  :>)  That  was done with Artbars.

 I've been incredibly busy with work and family so haven't been updating my blog regularly.   I've got a few projects on the go - an abstract project, developing paintings from the sketchbook filled in Cornwall, a series of drawings and more -  so will show those soon. And Christmas is looming as well ....books for the grandchildren?  card designs?  presents?

to be continued!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Towards St Ives, watercolour and mixed media sketch

St Ives from Gwithian Towans. sketch in S&B Delta sketchbook, watercolour, mixed media

Another plein air sketch from the recent trip down to Cornwall.   Moody days are so much more interesting to paint sometimes than blue skies.

Done in the S&B sketchbook with watercolours and Derwent tinted charcoal pencil, which is water soluble.

I wish I was there now!  There is a grass that grows on the clifftops that goes the most beautiful scarlet at this time of year, I'd so like to be sketching there.

More to follow ......

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dagi Pen Review: sketches using a Dagi pen with Sketch Book App on an ipad

A new 25mm brush drawn  with a Dagi pen, using the Sketch club app on an ipad

When these kind of pens for digital tablets came out they were very very expensive and I didn't feel I could justify one.   The Dagi pen has come down to an affordable, justifiable price now  and I've been playing, seeing how good it is.  Mine is a pretty frosted green :>)  It's good!  I don't know how robust it will be, time will tell.

 The plastic disc is there presumably to protect the screen, it comes with a few spares,  obviously it is easily damaged.  The fine point means precise placement.

The images shown were all drawn in this app on the ipad

For accuracy in placement of the tip of the pen when drawing on the tablet, it feels just like normal pen/pencils - you can see precisely where you are placing the tip, unlike the normal rubber tipped stylus.

The paintbrush was drawn on a single layer, flipping between pen and brush and several shades of grey.

The bottle of gum arabic below was drawn on one layer in pen, then the brush was used on the layer below to add the washes.  Multiply was selected on the pen layer so that the washes come through. 

Then I experimented further, using multiply on this layer and going to the layer below to add washes of colour with a brush tool in the app.  So, the colour shines through.   It's rather like using glazes with paint but with the ability to add them beneath as well as above current work.

And a tea cup below - again using layers and multiply to add colour below a drawing, in which I hadn't originally planned to use colour (so too much pen). 

Adding washes on a different layer means that if I don't like it, I can simply delete the layer, preserving the drawing.  Line also comes through cleanly and isn't smudged or altered by the washes - sometimes that's good, sometimes not.  In the teacup it would have been better done on the same layer I think but it was only an experiment - not fine art :>)  It was the first drawing I tried with this stylus, so feeling my way.

A previous sketch with a normal rubbery tipped stylus - of one of the rubbery tipped styluses (stylii?):

 So, it's perfectly possible to draw without investing in one of these - but placement of the tip is less accurate and the Dagi feels so much more 'real' in its response and use. 

Incidentally as I said previously - I really like the text option, that allows you to draw with text (Sketch Club App)  - speeding up and slowing down alters the size of the text as you draw.  More here and here.

OK back to analogue :>)   I have lots of  'real' paintings on the go or in my head so I need to get back to paint - coast, flowers and mixed media collage all bubbling in the brain and partially on the paper.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flower abstract: watercolour and mixed media

 Abstract flower, A3 on Khadi paper with watercolour and mixed media

Untitled as yet - any ideas?

I went to an artist's talk last week and she demonstrated how she did her large scale flower paintings.  A good talk but  I wasn't keen on her methods or results - too methodical and literal for me, involving tracing photographs and carefully colouring in between the lines with layers of the same colour - but it did make me feel like doing another abstracted flower painting and just playing with colour.  So instead of working on the seascapes, I did this.  It's still subject to change!  there may be updates.

Possible crop?

It's based loosely on a slightly smaller pastel I did some years back.   That was loosely based on some beautiful bearded iris in the garden of a house in France we'd stayed in.

The A3 Khadi paper I used is very absorbent and the paint sinks into it.  It also has a strong woven sort of texture.  The jury is still out - I'm not sure if it's one I'd buy again.  It's heavy and doesn't buckle, a strong plus point.  I'm afraid I never stretch watercolour paper so that's important to me.   The paint does really sink into it though, which for some paintings isn't what I want.

I used watercolour with touches of Caran d'Ache Neocolour II and a little gouache and coloured pencil.  The Caran d'Ache were mostly used dry to draw the opaque lines over paint layers, occasionally edges were softened with water..

So ... to crop or not to crop?  Title?   feedback welcomed!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Revisiting an area in changing light: studies of the cliffs near Hells Mouth in watercolour and mixed media

2 studies from the clifftop between Hells Mouth and Portreath in different light, watercolour/mixed media in S&B Delta sketchbook

I do love the changing light and the different colours and moods.   I could paint along here again and again through the seasons and each image would be different.   Flowers, sea colour, skies always new.

There was a massive cliff fall at Hells Mouth that I didn't know about until I got home - thankfully!   Video here - do watch, it gives an idea of the scale and drama. 

I ended up mostly using my watercolours on this trip for some reason, though I had taken oils and used them  a little.  I made the decision early on to mainly work in the S&B sketchbook and fill it, which I did :>)  rather than try to complete larger works in changing light.   I can work from these sketches at home to produce the larger works, with time to consider format/medium etc at leisure.

Already I'm considering lengthening the format - putting the above sketch through the Etchings app and then adding sketchy continuation to it as an idea for development.

It could be extended on the left as well for a long landscape format.

Decisions, decisions .....

what do you think?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

St Ives sketch, watercolour and mixed media

St Ives.  An illustrational one as a workout for a commission.

I need to do a large one of this beach for my daughter - a very overdue Christmas present!

Keeping track of those buildings and trying to distort it a little to make it wrap around was not the simplest!  The big version won't be identical as it will evolve a life of its own though it will be similar - but she wants the family on the beach 'recognisable and flattering of all of them', while showing all the buildings etc .....!!!  No pressure then.

This is small, in the S&B Delta sketchbook, A5.  On this latest trip to Cornwall I used watercolours, pencil, coloured pencils, oil paint, ink, conte, gouache and more on various pages.   It works with them all :>)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

From Gwithian Towans. Watercolour plein air sketch.

The tip of the headland with St Ives, from Gwithian Towans, watercolour and mixed media in S&B Delta sketchbook

A cloudy day, looking across the estuary. That's the tip of St Ives just showing across the bay.

Done mainly in watercolour with a touch of white gouache and some Derwent tinted charcoal pencils.

Sometimes not-such-good-weather is more interesting to paint.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cornwall sketches July 2014

Godrevey Lighthouse , watercolour/mixed media in S&B Delta sketchbook

A chance to sketch fairly intensively on a trip to Cornwall.  Happy.

I was feeling very rusty, particularly with oils as life has been hectic and I haven't had much time lately for plein air sketching.

There was plenty of passing cloud and the day was windy, the sea intensely blue.  This is a corner of Cornwall I wasn't familiar with, so it was lovely to discover new places.  There were so many beautiful spots to paint within a very small distance from where we were staying.

I was painting from the Towans Cornish for dunes - most of the coast has cliffs but being on an estuary (St Ives is across the bay), there is a large area of high, grassy, shrub and flower covered dunes. the highest in Europe apparently.

More to follow ....

Monday, June 09, 2014

Swithland Woods in Inktense .... and some gouache ... editing update

Swithland Woods, Inktense, a bit of pen and now some gouache and a touch of pastel. in S&B A4 sketchbook

As I said, I wasn't happy with the background foliage (here) - so today I used it as an example of editing/adjusting for my class.   I won't finish the foreground off, it's still just a sketch but I was able to regain the highlights with gouache and intensify some darks, simplifying both but keeping the complexity of the foliage.