The British Museum has a world class collection of Chinese ceramics, the Sir Percival David Collection. Even I, almost completely ignorant of this art and craft, could see how good some of the pieces are. This vase was one small item that took my interest because of its very subtle painting and glazing. This is a Vase with ‘peach-bloom’ glaze and the museum has a page about it here. Qing dynasty, 1662-1722.
This innovative glaze was technically challenging. Potters covered the vase with a layer of clear glaze, followed by a layer of copper-rich pigment, possibly blown on, and added further layers of clear glaze on top. When fired in a reducing atmosphere, this sandwiched colour developed into soft mottled red and pink with flecks of moss-green.
I took a slightly less well composed and lit photograph of it and thought I'd try doing a painting.Below: Peach Blossom, oil, 6x8"
This is a small painting done as a Christmas present, set in a fancy frame picked up in a charity shop for £1. The painting is oil, on arches paper and depicts a Jane Foster mug, something I picked up in John Lewis. The mug's small but a perfect size for an expresso, or a child.
This is a painting done via a Will Kemp tutorial How to Paint a Copper Pot in Acrylics. I painted it in oils instead of acrylics. Kemp's done a very nice reference photograph that's lovely to paint because it's got such beautiful and strong contrasts, both colour and light.
I got some of the pot wrong for some reason (e.g. handle shape) but that's not a problem. I made the background too blue originally as well, and thought I over-worked it to fix, but that's not a problem either and I think it looks OK. The "pot" itself is the star here and it's turned out quite well. I hesitate to add extra highlights to the surrounding metal/cooker in case it detracts, and it is all too easy to mess things up. When is a painting finished?
The painting is on a wooden panel (Ampersand artists panel) using Winsor&Newton Griffin alkyd oils (faster drying oil paints). I used white spirit as a dilutant but also some liquin later. I don't like complexity in the process, especially worrying about medium concentrations (fat,thin etc.). I think some parts of the painting have too little oil and show as matte areas: probably too much solvent (white spirit). I may investigate fixing this, or perhaps varnish will in a few months.
The photograph of the work above was taken in my kitchen under a light bulb, then white-balanced slightly, so the quality is not the highest. By eye on my monitor it seems to be fairly true however.
Above: The Library Building, oil, 20x20cm
This is a painting from a photograph I took a couple of years ago of the Library Building on Clapham High Street, a (then) recently built residential block on top of a redeveloped library on the ground floor (and an NHS Surgery). A slightly different design to the usual: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm undecided about it. Having said that, I loved the bright blue sky and the single wisp of smoke ascending; a clear, sharp and modern picture I thought.
This version is not quite as rough and ready as the original painting, and a bit more worked. I wanted something simple to test some new Alkyd Oil paints, faster drying types of oil paint. These are the sorts of paint the artist Peter Barker used at the Mall Galleries recently, diluting with white spirit only.
I didn't think that highly of the original painting, but over the last couple of years it has grown on me. Simple but "rustic", and very basic; but sometimes a piece if art is all the better for that.
It's been a while since I've done any painting but I've done one in acrylic for a change, wanting something that dried quickly. Also a change over oil. I'm fairly happy with it, although the usual caveats: I find it hard to take a photograph that represents the actual colours satisfactorily. A little too saturated I think.
I bought some Winsor & Newton Griffin oil paints. These are alkyd based oil paints, so faster drying; perhaps a good compromise between standard oils and acrylics? I've already tested them, painting another version of the old pot, and am quite impressed. This new painting is a little less rough and ready: I'll post a picture I hope.
Above: A Dull Day, Sheringham Beach, Oil, 20x25cm
I am trying to keep the painting simple, but they all have their challenges.
Last September, I visited the little seaside town of Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast. It's almost my namesake, except I seem to have gained an "r" somewhere along the line. It's a lovely little place, though a little bit delapidated in places.
The painting ia based on a photograph I took, and it was a bit of a dull day so the picture reflects that somewhat. There was actually a rainbow over the sea but I was not going to include it because rainbows can make a picture look artificial (or worse). However, maybe it needs a bit of focus. So, rainbow or no rainbow? There's always the risk I ruin everything.
There's quite a bit of charm to the place, even though it has faded from its prime (a long time ago). A market on Saturday is supposed to be busy, and there seem to be a lot of places to eat and browse on the main street. Apparently a long fought battle to keep Tesco out was lost a while ago, but hopefully that doesn't mean the game's up and it's over for the town. Even without great weather, I like the seaside and the North Norfolk seaside at Sheringham is worth a visit, rainbows or not.
I love browsing around the British Museum, especially some of the old "Greek" stuff they have. Not that "Greece" existed back then and not that you could really call the people making this stuff "Greek" really. Some of the early Aegean "Cycladic" artifacts caught my eye and looked interesting enough to file away as a possible artistic reference. I actually got around to painting one this time.
The result is below. A lot easier to paint than the last one I did, and pretty quick; other than having to wait a few days for some of the jug's body to dry before finishing. I'm happy with the result anyway. As I said, a lot simpler to do than last time, and more successful I think.
The museum description is :
High spouted jug with two nipples in relief and dark decoration on a white background. Middle Cycladic , 1800-1550 BC. Perhaps from Melos.
A link to the item itself and, on the right, the real thing.
This painting is from a photograph I took a year or so ago: a bright sunny day on The Mall in London. This was looking towards the Mall Galleries and I liked the dappled light falling through the trees and onto the marble columns. The painting has not turned out as well as I wanted, but that might be the usual state of affairs! Maybe I bit off a bit too much. Having said that, it finished better than it looked when half completed, and I might learn to like it more, which sometimes happens.
This is a small painting I did at the weekend :
The above is a copy of a painting by Christopher Miers, Late Afternoon Light, Venice and is a very impressionistic piece of work. His paintings (see his web site) are often quite simple but very effective. I like them.
I saw Miers' painting at the RBA show this year and I liked its simplicity immediately. In fact, I thought it was simple enough for me to have a go myself. I only spent about 40 minutes on it, painting it in one go.
The original :
A new painting.
It did not turn out quite the way I wanted, but I'm fairly happy. I got the colour wrong for the bowls but decided to "fix" it once touch-dry with a glaze. Still not quite right but acceptable. There are other things wrong, but I won't dwell on it. I like the light and the wood texture.
I was very pleased with the way this came out. It was also the first time I did some glazing. Glazing is using a transparent layer on top of a base colour and it is a way of deepening and enhancing the way the colour appears. I only needed a little for the brownish colour on the sides of the apples but it had to be quite subtle. I waited two weeks to be sure the paint was properly touch dry and took care but I think it worked very well.
The Stanwick Horse Mask is on show at the National Museum of Scotland in the Celts exhibition. I saw it at the British Museum and settled on it as a subject for a test painting. I need a lot of practice ... I am happy enough with it but only so far. More practice definitely required!
Note that this is not really a "mask" but an ornament attached to some sort of container or bucket, perhaps for ale. It is not very big (only about 10cm tall) but has a cartoon quality, well expressing the horse with an economy of style in the copper alloy. Probably from about 50 AD and dug up in Stanwick, North Yorkshire, in 1843. Details.
This is "A Common Tree", a painting from a photograph I took of a tree on Clapham Common a year ago. It was a cold late November day, mid-afternoon but the sun was starting to set and the shadows lengthening. Painted almost a year later, November 2015.
This is my first painting done using oils, a medium I liked but one that will take some getting used to. The slow drying is both a blessing and a curse. But overall, I really enjoyed painting this, even though I had trouble in some places. I like the end result.
Once again, the photograph of the painting leaves a bit to be desired compared to the painting itself though.
Not sure who this is now (perhaps Hadrian) because I didn't get the description, but it's from photograph I took in the British Museum :
I thought it would be a chance to have a go at the "classic" art practice of drawing (or painting) a sculpture, looking for the light and shade. I'm quite happy with it, although the painting is much better in real life.
A new painting from a photograph I took on a bright, sunny morning in December last year. The painting :
This was painted on Fabriano 400g/m2 acrylic paper which is quite thick and heavy and seems to work well, (although I was not painting very thickly). One advantage to using paper like this is that it's easier (and cheaper) to frame if you want to.
On the day, the sun was out and the sky was a nice strong blue against an unusual stone lion sitting on top of the arch of someone's gate. An interesting detail and worth a photograph. Worth a painting? I think so, and I'm quite happy with it.
The photograph :
Some artistic liberties taken of course (a few known as mistakes) ...
It's been a while again (almost 12 weeks!) but I finally sat down to do a bit more painting, again following the path of least resistance and using a Will Kemp tutorial.
Many of these portrait painting tutorials use something called a "Zorn Palette", after the 19th Century Swedish painter Anders Zorn, someone I'd not heard of before. A limited palette using only ivory black, titanium white, yellow ochre and cadmium red (although some raw umber is also used for the ground).
Zorn painted Portrait of Emma Zorn and my small, cropped copy is below.
If you follow the linkt, try to ignore the (probably) great difference in colour you'll see. Colour calibration needed as always.
This is a small painting (6"x8") in acrylic on Daler board.
This is "version 1" - version "2" has turned out much worse unfortunately. It was supposed to be am improvement but it looks like I'll abandon and junk.
Kemp paints this Alla Prima, apparently in one go, under an hour. I took two or three sittings, one about 20 minutes for the greys and base, then a couple more of 20 or 30 minutes each for the skin tones and the completion.
This is my version of a Will Kemp Silver Goblet, painted from following a tutorial video.
Acrylic on board, 2015.
It is also the first painting of 2015 and I'm fairly happy with the way it turned out. Considering I didn't like it at all until very late in the process, a good result. It also proves, once again, you really need a bit of faith to keep going and see things through sometimes.
I painted this on a wooden MDF board, an Ampersand Artist Panel Smooth Primed from Jackson's Art. A very different surface to what I'm used to: very smooth, almost like formica, even with two layers of coloured ground. The paint moved around a bit more than expected, and my rough, spiky no. 6 filbert brush definitely left brushmarks!
I'll use the board again, but perhaps try a canvas textured version. I'm finding it harder to sit down, and sit still, this year so far. Having said that, I still hope to overcome the January deflation and start something new: either another Kemp tutorial, or perhaps something of my own for a change.
My latest painting, from a Will Kemp course once again. This is 26x31cm acrylic on canvas :
It's a dark scene, and I was a bit concerned about how dark it was all going to come out. But I'm fairly happy with it in the end. It looks a lot better in real life though - the JPEG image tends to show up some poor colour quantisation in areas (although this highlights bad painting as well!).
Once again, as usual, it was hard gauging the proper hues and values from a print out of the reference, each printer I've tried produces a very different output, itself very different to what you see on your tablet screen. Colour calibration s a real bane of my life!
This is now varnished (with an isolation coat first) and I'm even thinking of a frame.
I did another smaller painting from the same photograph of just the oranges. Good practice while I'm set up for it. A quarter the size and not bad, although quite dark again.
This time about 16x21cm and acrylic on canvas paper.
I've done another picture based on a Will Kemp tutorial: painting a glass of water. I'd not seen this exercise before but it was referred to in a lesson I downloaded, so I decided to try it before the "real" one.
First version (click for larger) is on "canvas style" oil/acrylic paper :
I wanted to see if I could do better blending on the table top, so this is version 2 (on 140lbs hot pressed watercolour paper) :
The answer was .. not really! It didn't quite work out the way I wanted, but not too bad in the end. I think I prefer version 1 though.
Right now, I'd like to try and get to grips with blending acrylic paint, something hard to do because they dry so quickly. To blend, there (really) needs to be wet paint. There seem to be various ways of dealing with this problem, including drying "retarders", more "open" acrylic paint, "glazing" mediums etc. It all gets a bit much.
So, just now I'm playing around with painting some test spheres in black and white, trying glazing medium, slow-dri blending medium and maybe other things. You don't need to do smooth blends when painting, but it is definitely one of those things I'd like to master for those times they're useful. The alternative is using oils, but that's a whole different can of worms! I think I have a high threshold tolerance for painting test spheres - we'll see.
Another thing that makes a difference to blending (via drying time) is the surface you paint on. I've noticed this after trying oil/acrylic painting canvas paper, watercolour paper, canvas board and proper canvas. Some surfaces absorb the water much more quickly, which means watercolour paper might not be ideal if you want to blend (but adding a gesso surface to it helps I think).
A blend using Watercolour paper (here 140lbs/300gsm, cold-pressed but fine grain) :
That's with plenty wet paint around!
A rougher, textured canvas paper :
People demonstrating how to do acrylic blending (e.g. Youtube) often seem to show the above straight up-and-down rectangular type of example. The easiest to do! You really need to master something a bit harder e.g. spheres ...