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Showing posts from March, 2008

Seascapes by Vivien Blackburn - the book! and the trip to London yesterday

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Draft cover for the book, showing back and front covers and spine.
This is what I'm currently working on instead of painting. I decided a while back that I'd create a book of my seascapes - it's escalating! - when I've finished, I now feel like doing a series of others with my digital images, waterways project, landscapes, sketches and flowers in separate books - over time, not all at once of course! it's fairly time consuming. I would also like to do a story book for Sam and a book for his first birthday full of the best photos and sketches of him.

I've decided to use http://www.blurb.com/ . I saw whilst arranging to meet up with Tina that she had just published 2 books and asked her which company she'd used and was she happy with the quality? she'd used blurb and was delighted with them. She offered to bring them to show us. Seeing them was so helpful, the quality is excellent, her paintings of course beautiful. http://tina-m.blogspot.com/ check here an…

Watercolours, oil sketches, huge paintings of fabric folds and meetng up in London with Katherine and Tina

Today I had a great time in London, going down with a friend, Glen, and meeting up with Katherine Tyrrell http://makingamark.blogspot.com/ and Tina Mammoser http://tina-m.blogspot.com/ and visiting the watercolour exhibition at the Mall galleries and 2 shows at the National Gallery, along with some old favourites.

I'm way too tired to write up the artists tonight but will find time tomorrow.

Another highlight of the day was that Tina had promised to bring her 2 books to show - they are both absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend you zip over to her site and take a look and buy one, you won't regret it. Her work is lovely and the little book really does it justice.

It's an early night for me tonight.

Sketching from life with coloured pencils, an old tree stump

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An old tree stump, A4 size sketch in coloured pencil. Vivien Blackburn
Another sketch done in between teaching - students are finishing off work and there are lulls where they need to feedback so I fetched this tree stump out of the art cupboard - it's about 12 inches high with multiple cut off branches and knobbly bits and a straight side where the saw cut through the major stem. Stem? trunk?? whatever!

I actually got the PIF's posted yesterday Karen, Lyndsay and Jeanette - I either got asked to work extra and couldn't get to the post office before closing time - or when I could I forgot! the attention span of a gnat I'm afraid :>( sorry it's been so long.

The book can't progress yet due to work and a trip to London to some good exhibitions this coming weekend. I'll report back on them later. I'm going down with a friend and meeting up with Katherine Tyrrell and Tina Mammoser which should be great :>) Tina has done 2 impressive lookin…

creating a book

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Ravelled Sleaves, hand made artists book, Vivien Blackburn

I've done artists books that are totally hand made before such as this one http://sitekreator.com/viviensketches/ravelled_sleaves.html but, encouraged by Casey Klahn at the excellent http://pastelsblog.blogspot.com/ , I'm going to do a self published book of my seascapes using Lulu.com.

I have no idea of how good the colour reproduction will be so this is going to be a leap in the dark. Casey's book looked so good and it would be fun to do one of my own. If it works I'll be able to offer it online and at shows. I'm going to try out one small book to see how the quality is.

At the moment I've just spent hours sorting images, sizing and uploading and I'm a zombie who can't quite suss out how to get to the cover design and I have yet to work out the text. This may take some time .......

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why mix media? why not stick to just one as in 'pure' watercolour?

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detail of mixed media painting using watercolour, collage and oil pastel. Vivien Blackburn
During the talk I gave at the sketchclub on sketching and sketchbooks, we also talked about using mixed media. Some people beginning painting imagine that if they use for instance, watercolour, then they must use only watercolour - or at the most pen and wash. There is a perception that this is more 'pure'.

In actual fact using a mix of media can mean far more exciting paintings. There isn't any particular merit in keeping a painting purely to one medium - though there's also no rule against it :>D

I love the extra visual language possible by using another medium - the velvety texture of Unison pastels used with watercolour - the range of marks is so much more varied all those lovely things watercolour can do plus the direct bold marks of pastel :>)

mixed media - from Beacon Hill, plein air sketch in watercolour, charcoal pencil and pastel. Vivien Blackburn
This plein air sketch…

sketching a skull

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a sketch of a goat (?) skull from the art room cupboard, coloured pencils on rough pale grey paper. Vivien Blackburn
Still teaching long hours at the moment and between that and family visits it's tough to find time to paint :>( Last night I'd been invited to talk to a sketchclub about using sketchbooks - after the recent posts here and by others that was easy! They are a nice group, I've talked to them before several times.

This is a sketch I did of a goat skull (I think it must be a goat) from the art cupboard at work, done in between helping students. Not one of my 'best' but good practice anyway.

more paintings over Easter I hope but at the moment it's all work and family!

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This is the reason for the lack of paintings just lately :>) - my lovely little grandson ........
I simply haven't had time to paint or sketch this week - We've been to visit my daughter and husband and Sam who is now 6 months :>) along with my younger daughter, so it was a lovely family get together.I took a sketchbook but didn't manage to draw him at all - he's just too interactive at the moment! I never had my hands free! I took over 100 photos though.


we have plans to see family over Easter but I hope to do some painting as well.

I'm just waiting for the weather to warm up to get back to my waterways project and do some new work on that. There are loads of places I've got lined up to visit.


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Sketching from photos, experimenting with mixed media and working through ideas for a painting.

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Clovelly Harbour, Devon, charcoal and coloured pencil on beige paper. Vivien BlackburnI've said that I only occasionally work from photos - this is one time that I did.The reason is that I would like to do some paintings of Clovelly and I hate painting directly from photographs. Sketching, simplifying and making colour decisions and then working from the sketch, changing things again, is how I tackle the problem. I'm not a photo realist so I don't want to reproduce the painting. The scanner hasn't picked up all the colours very well, there are blues in the stones of the wall at the front, reflecting the colours of the sea and cool misty blue of the sky.The village is built of rocks from the seafront - huge rocks in the harbour walls and smaller rocks for the walls of the houses and gardens - and to stop you tumbling down the steep cliffside the village is built into. Even the road (too steep and bumpy for a car, so purely for pedestrians) is made of cobblestones taken …

Sketchbooks: sketching bits and pieces, everyday objects, simply for practice of observation, doodling and mark making or trying out new media mixes

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I've been working horribly long hours again so the canvasses are on hold :>( - but I'm mulling over ideas on where to go next with them.

So, I thought I'd carry on talking about sketchbooks, this time about using them simply to record interesting things, practice hand eye coordination and mark making, trying out new materials and mixes of media - the equivalent of practising scales on the piano and improvising in jazz all jumbled up together :>D

This first one is just doodling but even so is practice at getting soft colour changes.




I've shown these before, the sketches were done during teaching - the gourd is in the still life store, the jar we keep the erasers and sharpener in. Not objects of be
auty - but they were in front of me on the desk and posed interesting problems with ellipses and reflections, inside/outside and objects half seen or nobbly brittle skin. The lid of the jar was actually bright yellow but I decided to use the Lyra skin tones set and simply dr…

the usefulness of sketchbooks and sketching, plein air and in the studio - they can be a source of information for years to come

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sketches of birch tree bark, done plein air. Vivien Blackburn
How do I use sketchbooks?

Using sketchbooks to work out ideas and sketching plein air are very important to me. The plein air sketches are done simply to study scenes or weather or texture or light ....... whatever has grabbed my interest. They aren't intended to be finished pieces for framing, though sometimes they do become finished and are framed. In that case I scan them and keep a print in the sketchbook, part of a series of linked sketches and ideas. The time spent looking intently and studying colour, form, line and light fixes the subject in your memory.

These sketches were of the bark on some birch trees that fascinated me with the multiple 'eyes' in the bark pattern. I had no thoughts at all as to what I would do with the information in the future. When I was sketching it was pure research.


Developing ideas from sketchbooks

Sketches of Trees

At home I looked at the sketches and the idea of some long thin can…

Painting from photographs - good or bad? should they be your own photographs?

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Orang utan mother and baby, a charcoal sketch done from life, at the zoo. Vivien Blackburn
Working from life and from photographs - mine, other people's and critiques with friends

I don't enjoy working from photographs but on the occasions that I do I like them to be my own - that way it's my own vision, concept and composition. It also needs to be something that I have seen in real life, have maybe sketched but have looked at frequently and know more about than that flat 2D image can show.

The orang utans above and below are a couple of drawings I did at a local zoo on very cold February the one above is about 14-15 ins tall. The orang utans were in a warm indoor enclosure behind glass but the mother was wrapping herself in a sheet like a sari - or a little refugee. The baby rampaged about playing and returned to her shoulder from time to time. During the time I was sketching her she was fascinated by what I was doing and I frequently stopped to show her - it seemed only pol…

sketch of Clovelly, Devon, down the cobbled street to the harbour

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Pencil and coloured pencil sketch, Clovelly, going down the steep cobbled street to the harbour, North Devon, Vivien Blackburn
Working in coloured pencil and graphite, planning a future painting.


I don't normally like working from photos but I've wanted to do some paintings of Clovelly for some time. I took lots of photos when we were there on a misty day - it was very moody and atmospheric and it really suited the village which is built with rocks from the beach, the incredibly steep streets cobbled with smaller rocks.

I liked the composition in which the stone walls frame the view of the harbour and its curving harbour wall made of more of the rocks - huge ones, wrapping around and framing the sand, sea and boats. You can see some photographs here http://sitekreator.com/vivien/coast.htmlNormally I wouldn't go for this 'every stone' approach but the stones are so chunky and so important to the image that I thought I would.

Charcoal with coloured pencil for another, b…

Artist Frank Bowling

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painting by Frank Bowling I was reminded of the work of Frank Bowling when I came across a catalogue I'd bought a few years ago at an exhibition. His canvasses were huge, full of light, colour and texture - utterly beautiful. you can see more of his work on his website: http://www.frankbowling.com/index.html - Casey I'm sure you 'll like his work. :>) .

header and background colours and font - what colours are easiest on the eye? easiest to read? show paintings best?

What colours are easiest to read? which show off my paintings the best? - so it's not just a general preference but related to the work of mine that I'm showing.

Some people find it difficult to read text on a dark background - I find the glare of white tiring - I've been playing with the different templates and though none are quite right, this one still seems to be the best for my work. The white background looked ok but dazzling. The blues killed some of the paintings and the beige and browns didn't work either. A charcoal grey might be nice but I don't know quite how to do it!


What do you think?

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pencil sketch of baby Sam

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Sketch: Baby Sam in his wetsuit, ready for swimming, mechanical pencil in moleskine, Vivien Blackburn
A sketch of Sam from a photo my daughter emailed. She had bought this little wetsuit so he can go swimming, he was trying it on and he looked so delighted with it.

Those chubby, bendy little legs were funny to draw :>D

The computer problems are hopefully solved - it took the online analyst (who was lovely) 3 hours though! lets hope the protection it gives is worth it. It's currently backing up my files for me and is taking forever - but I do have a zillion image files.
I've just changed the banner - what do you think?
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computer problems :(

Norton's name is mud at the moment as it is really messing up my computer - supposedly uninstalling the old version but just hanging and doing ZILCH! I hate it >:>( . If it doesn't sort itself out it's going back for a refund. Updates when I can get online again safely.