Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A selection of recent self-portraits

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This is my first original acrylic painting. How do you think it compares with the exercise from the book?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The final stage of the painting is technically known as "fannying about". If you have a more delicate sensibility than I do you might prefer to call it "adding the final touches". I repainted various things and applied effects such as sgraffito lines in the leek leaves, pointillist dots on the broccoli, woodgrain, string and so on. It is possible I will do a little bit more fannying about as I look at it and decide to make small changes here and there. But basically this is it. Finished and signed. What do you think?

The latest stage of the painting is all about creating the illusion of depth by adding shadows and highlights, and by painting in the background (the far wall, the tabletop and the dark area under the table). The painting is nearly finished now. Only one more stage to go.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The next stage of the painting is to build up the colours with thicker paint. I add acrylic medium to the paint at this stage but no water. I add titanium white as needed because opacity is no longer an issue. The drawing is beginning to vanish. The paint is no longer watery and runny as it was in the previous stage, but nor is it thick enough to form ridges on the canvas.
The purpose of this stage is to put in the range of colours of the objects. So in the previous stage the carrots were a block of one-tone orange, the tomatoes were a uniform red etc. But now hopefully you can see there are a range of different values on each object, and they are starting to take on a more three-dimensional appearance.

The next stage of the latest canvas - the underpainting. I put in thin washes of block colour. Brown for carrots, red for tomatoes, green for leaves and so on. Not just colours straight out of the tubes, I mix up an approximation of the colour I want. For example you can probably see a range of greens from the bright yellow green of the carrot leaves to the blue-green of the broccoli.
The paint is thinned with lots of matte acrylic medium and water. This is for a number of reasons. The thicker the paint on the canvas the harder it is to paint over it, so I want to start out thin and watery and build up thickness as I go. Also I still want to be able to see my drawing through the paint for a little while yet. For the same reason, I am not adding much titanium white to the paints yet as this always makes the paint opaque.
I need to be able to see the underdrawing because I'm looking critically at it and fiddling with it. I don't want to be simply colouring in the shapes. Instead each stage of the painting refines and improves on the last.

Steph has always asked me to put up pictures of a work in progress, the stages I work in. So here is the first stage of my current canvas - the drawing. You probably can't see it very well though. The photo also shows my rather horrible working area - on top of the chest freezer in the kitchen. It's a bugger when the kids want an ice pop. I have to move everything. And the light is T E R R I B L E.
I had some difficulties with this drawing. It just wasn't coming, the negative spaces were all wrong. So I left it for a few hours. When I came back I held my pencil by the very furthest end, the blunt end. And with massive gestural arm movements I put in shapes - carrots here (I wasn't drawing carrots, just defining the area the carrots occupied), radishes here, a plant pot there, and so on. And it all came together beautifully.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I decided to try to fix "badly deformed onions". How is this version? Still loose, but less chimp-like, hmm?
In the photo the onions now look much better defined than the garlic, which doesn't seem to belong to the same painting. The paint is still wet and it might look different when it is dry. If it is still a problem I can always work up the garlic a little more. This could turn into a neverending painting.

Using different texture pastes. Fun. I especially like the sand texture paste on the background which makes it more interesting, although you probably can't see it in the photo. The lighting was a bit of a bugger.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So what happened to "I am depressed, I can't create art"? Two things:

1) I don't tell people when I feel like shit. I lie down and hide. I only talk to people (face to face, on the phone, via my blog etc) when I am feeling better. All my recent blog posts were made on "better" days. There were horrible days in between, though I do think I am getting better.

2) Despite my flippant comment "painting as an effective, relaxing therapy for people with psychological problems. Bullshit." I have found that if I can get past the initial inability to do ANYTHING, including draw, then creating art actually does help a lot.

It ties in with the book I am reading at the moment, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I know too much about neuroscience to put much faith in the "left brain vs right brain" oversimplifications. But I can get my head around a "verbal-analytical mode of thinking vs non-verbal perceptive mode of thinking" which we can call "left mode/right mode" if you insist. My "left mode" thinking is very unhelpful at the moment. It tells me all sorts of stories all day long about how useless, ugly, incapable, lazy, worthless, despicable and foul I am. That mode wrote the I'm depressed post. But my "right mode" doesn't speak to me in words because it doesn't have words. It can see shapes and forms, light and dark, colours, relationships, and it takes delight in those things. By drawing and painting I can switch on this "right mode" of simple pleasure and simultaneously switch off the self-hating loop tape of "left mode" thinking in my head. The fact that I get something I can hang on my wall at the end of it is just a by-product. The hour or two of peace and self-acceptance is the primary benefit right now.

A year ago I started drawing with the ambition of eventually being able to draw something so that other people would be able to tell what it was. I found that wasn't as hard as I expected, so I upgraded my ambition to being able to draw a person so that other people would be able to tell who it was. Turns out I can do that too. So now I need a new ambition.

I'm not interested in photo realism. When I look at other people's art, I can admire that style of painting, after all it is very technically accomplished. But I don't much enjoy looking at it. I enjoy more expressive, impressionistic art (to use those terms very loosely).

So I want to loosen up. I now want to be able to paint and draw people and things so that other people can tell something about how I feel about the subject. I want to communicate something other than a likeness. I'm deliberately painting looser and looser. How loose can you get before the work starts looking like it was done by a chimp?

When I asked Tom what he thought of this painting he said "I dunno, what is it? Pineapples? Roses? Badly deformed onions?" Perhaps that tells me what I need to know.

View towards Crosby (and Wales beyond) from Formby Point

Sketch of Ed drinking beer

Sketch of Tom playing a computer game

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

As well as learning to paint in acrylics I have also been improving my drawing using the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I am very impressed with this book and I am enjoying working through the exercises in it. I have posted a few of the drawings I have done over the last week or so.

Sketch of my left hand

Self portrait in pencil

The palm of my left hand

Drawing of my left hand holding a pair of scissors

Copy of Winslow Homer's drawing "Child Seated in a Wicker Chair"

The corner of my bedroom

One of my chairs

Monday, July 06, 2009

Impasto radishes. Hmmm - this technique has the potential to be very loose and fun, but this is a horrible example because I was learning as I went along. About halfway through I figured out that it is nothing like painting. You don't brush the paint onto the canvas, you lay it on like plastering a hole. And you don't plan each brushstroke before you put it down, you sort of clag it on then decide if you like it. If not, you move it about a bit more until you do like it.

Pots and string finished. The "glazes over grisaille" technique is interesting. It is a bit like colouring a black-and-white photo. The range of values (black-greys-white) is already there and all you have to do is wash local colour over the top. The result has the same sort of nostalgic effect as a coloured b&w photo I think, and it same strange flatness. Shadows on a terracotta pot aren't terracotta-but-a-bit-darker. They have all sorts of other colours in them, and normally I delight in using strange and unexpected colours to make a painting shimmer. I think this is dull and tight in comparison. I rather like the string, though.

Currently on the easel - acrylic on MDF primed with gesso. Approx 14"x11". The drawing is done and so is the grisaille (tonal underpainting). Today I will apply colour glazes - thin washes of acrylic colour over the grisaille, thinned down to transparency with water and gloss acrylic painting medium.
I'm a bit frustrated by the stop-start pace of some acrylic techniques, where you have to wait for one layer to dry before you apply the next layer. And I don't enjoy the meticulous planning required, where you apply a splodge of random-looking paint (or leave a random-looking unpainted area) because in four more layers it will become a vital shadow or highlight or something. And I'm not wild about using brushes. It feels like an obstacle between me and the work. And I really hate these tiny mini canvases with pokey little tiny gestures. I prefer to work fast and big and loose. But maybe it is good for me to get outside my comfort zone and try something new.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

This is a challenge to my sister Stephanie of A Roker Artist. You haven't painted for far too long. Let's you and me (for one month only) create one piece of art a day - a painting, a linoprint, a sketch, a free contour scribble. 30 pieces of art, one per day, you and me. Do you have Los Ovarios for it, Steph?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Working through a series of exercises in a book about getting started with acrylics. Still lives with vegetables and flower pots. The results are little more than painting by numbers. But I am having lots of fun doing them and have blu-tacked the results up in the kitchen to brighten the place up. Original acrylic paintings coming Real Soon Now.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This is an unusual one for me. The format is small - A4 rather than my preferred A2 or A1. The crop is conventional rather than close. And the colours are naturalistic rather than wacky. But it is a birthday present for my dad, and I thought he would like it better this way - the subject is my mum.

I'm fairly pleased with it, but it has sparked off some thoughts about what directions I'd like to go in next. More on that later.