Monday, 5 December 2011

Sketching with John

I have started to write a series of short Squidoo lenses (lens=focused web page) about my sketching techniques. Not quite a tutorial but they do give ideas which any artist may find useful. Basically showing the many different ways of achieving an image to capture the fundamentals, quickly and easily. I start with a rundown of why it is important to sketch and sketch regularly. The skills aquired can only improve your art but also give you an insight and a way of capturing real world images to use as they are or to adapt later in your studio as part of a larger or more thought out work.

 A page from one of my sketch books (watercolour)

Not Another Watercolour painting the overview of why and how I use sketching as a learning tool. So far there are three completed chapters to the set, more will be added as soon as I can get around to the task, time being my enemy at present. EAch contains many example of sketches in several different media.

1. sketching on location (tba)
2. sketching trees
3. sunsets and sunrise
4. finding inspiration (tba)
5. Sketching In The Lake District ( UK) (tba)
6. Choosing colours to paint the seasons
7. Sketching water ( tba)

A pencil sketch, with lines to helpwith redrawing in the studio

I would really love to know if you find any of these guides useful, and to do this you could either leave a comment below or attached to any of the lenses. You do not have to be a member of  Squidoo to leave a comment.

 A charcoal sketch overpainted with watercolour

One of what I call my "turnerisms", very quick sketches of skies, etc. Named after Turner of course.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Learning to paint abstract art

I have for a long time been interested in abstract art and for most of this time have simply been painting very loosely in what may be called a (semi)-realistic-abstract style. Yes, I know a bit of a mouthful and a contadiction in terms , but I never know what to call my paintings. I am now trying to start to paint a series of paintings which do not rely on an imaginary subject - just to see if I can do it. Will it provide me with a satisfactory result, willI be happy to exhibit these paintings in my next exhibition ( with the art group).

I have done this before, that is exhibiting abstracts but although I felt good about them I was very defensive about the paintings for a reason that I could not quite fathom. I guess I hear too much of the, "my two year old could do better than that", crap. Many artists would love to be able to paint with the freedom of a two year old, but that does not necessarily mean the result is a great or even a good painting. Maybe too much "illiterate" art has been put before the public in the name of "freedom of expression".

First of all, I do have a certain amount of drawing skill, maybe not the best but these sketches below show results from life classes which I used to take every week.

I have to admit that I became bored with this sort of art, for some reason I was not attracted by the subject, so I took to landscapes:

This suited me much better, and I have been happy to paint landscape paintings for getting on for 25 years but again I am feeling that there is more. My landscapes have become looser and I have begun to use the descriptive term semi-abstract, but there has always been an element of the subject matter remaining.

Some years ago I did some abstracts for my group's exhibtion, just to be different but as I said above I felt quite defensive about the results although I had spent a long time working out what I was going to do, sketching the ideas and finally committing the work to canvas. This is a short video I mad putting together some photos from that exhibition.

Finally I have decided to bite the bullet and to try and develop my skill with pure abstract painting, so that I can feel confident about the art and proud of putting it into an exhibtion.

I would love to hear what you think of these last two paintings, they are both done in pastel and are approximately A4 in size ( 8.5 x 11.5 inch). You may comment here or on a larger version of the art shown on RedGage:- for the yellow abstract and for the blue abstract.

Thanks in advance and I do hope to be able to post more abstract work in the very near future.

Note: RedGage is a website that pays you for your content and monetizes your social activity. Why not start using it today.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

A new use for an old sketch on Zazzle

Do you keep old paintings and sketches? Apart from those that I have sold, I have always stored away all my paintings and sometimes pull them out and reminisce about the good old days. (good old days because I used to paint much more oten, and although often simple they had a quaint charm). But I have started to find uses for some of these older works, on Zazzle. I have started a Zazzle store and a covering blog, and am looking for interesting images - not just "good" paintings but ones I hope will trigger a purchase. Of course these are the difficult ones to find and wether I am right or not will be answered over the next few months, I guess. One of the newer additions is this apron, with an image of a sketch from one of my first forays into oil paints. A very simple sketch but one I have always liked for several reasons. Will this plus the text ( my attempt at dry humour!!!) set off that trigger. PLease feel free to browse on over to the store and see what I am making of it, in fact I am starting multiple stores to try and develop niche markets, rather than having large department (?) stores. You might also find Artyfaxcards interesting, and they are quite inexpensive for individually designed products, LOL

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Pastel paintings - landscapes

I have been using my pastels at my weekly art group meetings for the past couple of weeks and of course they havae all been landscapes. One of the issues that I have painting at these group meetings is that I always feel I need to complete a painting on the evening. I don't get much time for art at home these days and keeping a painting from one week to the next doesn'r really appeal to me. The first was done very quickly, This was the Tuesday of the riots (in the UK) and we spent a loy of time putting the world to rights before beginning to paint. I did not have much time left and so chose a very quick subject.

From a rerference photo of a barn in the Trossachs ( Scotland). I think it is the colours here that is attractive about this one. Simple and hence quick but quite effective I believe.
This was done on a yellow ( A4 size) paper, which is why the clouds have a slightly green tinge. The paper colour obviously works well for the colours in the rest of the painting.

The second took most of the 1.5 hours that we have on the evening ( plus a half-hour coffee break) and although I was a little unsure of this at first, I now find it very pleasing.

An italian scene, a little licence taken with the reference but I was trying to use a new technique, or at least different from my usual method of working with pastels. Note the many small strokes to get an optical mix ( a la Pointilism) rather than broad strokes with the side of the pastels. This is again approximately A4 size and is on buff card. The many small strokes produce an all-over layering which hides the colour of the ground. I shall be trying this technique out againg soon.

This last piece was anotherfairly quick piece but due to the subject more than the disturbances of friendly chatter. Again the strokes are very broad from the side of the pastel pieces.
Also A4 sized card, actually the back of a writing pad. I find that the surface of this source allows me to work with many layers because I fix each layer as I work throught the painting, a detailed look at my technique is seen in an earlier post basically here a light shade of orange was layered on the ground and a yellow and a red were layered onto this after fixing. The initial layer is thus allowed to be seen through the overpainting. Various earth colours were used for the foreground and for the trees.

As usual larger images can be seen on my Flickr account if you want to try to see how the stroke work affects the textures of the paintings.

I was asked about my pastels on Flickr, and I quote this from my answer on that platform..... "I use artists soft pastels. I have a very large collection of different makes / types and colours. A large part of the collection is of professional quality but I do have lots of artists coloured chalks.
The favourites in my collection are Daler-Rowney or unison ( very soft without being too crumbly) and Caran d'Ache (harder for line work) but I have by no means tried all the many makes available. In between these I have aquired many different sets and odd colours as presents and from browsing in art shops, etc.
I do have oil pastels but rarely use these, possibly because mine are of poor quality, i.e. too waxy and hard"

Sunday, 14 August 2011

New pastel painting, Barn in the Trossachs

MAnaged to get this in last week at my art group, we spent lots of time talking about the recent riots and I couldn't settle down. I hadn't prepared a reference subject so picked something finally which I thought I would finish in the 45 minutes or so which I had left.

I was struck by the colours in this piece and decided as usual to add my own interpretation. Not my usual style as I did not build up the one in layers but just kept painting until I was happy with the result. Lots of texture as usual rather than detail drawing. The size is approx A4.

Oh yes.. it was actually done on a yellow paper which is why the sky thru the clouds seems a littlte greenish - can't get everything right all the time, LOL

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Quick pastel sketches

This week at my art group evening, I couldn't make up my mind what to do.............. procrastination is a killer!! So what was I to do? I really don't paint as much as I ought to and I shopuldn't be wasteing my time there trying to make up my mind. So I stuck in a hypothetical pin and chose two subjects from a handy magazine. I had my pastel box with me so thought I would just do a couple of quick 20 minute sketches and pick one of those for a "proper" painting next week.

This was the result:-

This took my fancy because of the limited range of colours. Basically an analagous colour scheme, if you are not sure check out this page by myself on How To Use The Colour Wheel. The subject was also quite simple, although I admit I  took this to extremes here. A very peaceful scene.

Again this is quite simplistic, but lots of detail for the time allowed. After the last one I kept the colour choices to a restricted palette except for one or two passages to contrast with the blues. The high peak on the right seems a lot darker than it should. It causes the eye to wander to the edge of the painting - not a good compositional choice. However I was rushing to complete in the 20 minutes.

I think that the first of these will be my subject for next week, quite like the vignetting and may incorporate this into the work.

will let you see it when I have finished it, bye for now.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

An approach to painting with artists pastels - layering colours

After the last post, I thought at my art group this week I would prepare an easy demo of the way that I approach my pastel paintings.

I often use several layers, using fixative between each layer. The free use of a fixative is often deprecated in many books and tutorials but I find that by building up a textured layer effect, I can get paintings which I am very pleased with. Of course high-lights, particularly in white should be left for the last layer, which I do not fix as in this case fixing will have a deleterious effect on the colours. However I find that darker colours are not affected and fixing each layer helps to build up a wonderful "tooth" so that subsequent layers do not become "muddy".

I decided to do another very simple beach scene, sky with clouds and sand. There is a suggestion of something at the horizon but no etailed imagery. This demo is about the painterly effects not about drawing.

I started by covering the rough cardboard media with complementary colours where the sky and the beach were to be.

This was quickly followed ( after the fixative had dried) by slashes of colour applied with the side of the pastel stick. I have also rubbed the pastel into the surface using my finger tips.I do not want the colour of the card showing thru at all.

You can see the first layer thru the new layer. Interestingly, I had used this board for drawing practice before I started to do this demo and had wiped off the pastel with a cloth; the remains of the image show thru the applied pastel - see central uper sky area. You can also see that I have left a little gap at the horizon. I sometimes run the colours together depending on the subject, the amount of overlap depends on the effect to be achieved.

Not quite satisfied with the cover at the last stage, I have applied more of the blues and yellows. In fact I used three shades of each colour. It is fairly easy to pick out the shades of blue because of the recession that I am looking for in the sky.

I have now put some clouds in with white and used a reddish shade of brown ( actual colour unknown- I have a large collection of pastels and I now I should remember the colours but I pick out of the box something close to what I want). I have also gone over the whole painting with another layer, again using the sides of the sticks but very lightly. I am now catching the previously applied pastel which gives what I think is a wonderful texture and which is something I always strive for in my pastel landscapes. The purple at the horizon is also beginning to be built to look as if something might just be there.

I was unhappy with the sky at the last stage, the darkest and lightest shades of blue were too obvious, so I have mixed a little of each in this image and sacrificed some of the texture by rubbing them together with my finger tips. I have also applied a little white into the yellow, but maintained the textures here.

A little more texture and a few clouds below the main bank in the distance. I am now happy with this as a painting and will leave it alone, to be viewed later.

Although this is an extremely simple landscape, I find that it does offer something, and this is the texture which I can achieve using this layering technique with fixing between each stage. I started to do this when I first used pastels for abstract work and think of it as something I have developed but would be ready to be proved wrong if you know different.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A simple beach scene in pastel and the effect of minor details.

Following the last post, I took out my pastels again. It had been quite a while since I had used them and I was looking for an idea for simple composition to get my hand in again. I seem to switch between watercolours and pastels regularly with a dabble with acrylics now and again. Nice to keep myself on my toes, but I always seem to need to play around with each media for a little before I try a major painting. re-learning the hand / brush movements because each is so very different to any of the others. Pastels and acrylics allow overpainting whereas watercolour of course is not so forgiving. I always make use of this ability to lay a background colour, often a complementary hue before painting the true colour for an object.

For example, I will colour any grass area red/orange before layering over this with a green/yellow hue. My prefered method of using pastels is to prepare the painting with the complementary colours and then to fix them. I tend to use cheap hairspray for this, it works well and it smells nice. I will then use the pastel on its side to wipe on the second and third colours. I find that this allows the development of a very useful texture. I first found out about this technique when creating abstracts but I now use it for virtually all my pastel paintings.

You can see this effect most clearly in the sky in this WIP image, although it is also used in the foreground and in the hills behind the building. The unfinished appearance of the painting is striking when compared to the completed work although only a few minor details are added.

I have slightly darkened the purple hills and the texture is now almost hidden, but have added shadows to the left of the nearer hills to give a little detail and bring them forward a little. A few minor additions to the buildings and their connection to the ground upon which they stand help to identify and ground them. Further layering of colours to the foreground adds texture to bring it forward. And most importantly, the boat is modelled with shadow. The last addition was the grasses/reeds in the lower left corner to add a touch of balance, without overpowering the very simple composition. Just shows what the addition of a few details can do for a painting, however never go too far. Know when to stop. It is easy to add more but difficult to take it away again.

I have to say that I do in fact like this and will probably frame it. I have already had one or two appreciative comments, which makes it all worthwhile from members of my art group and from contacts on Flickr where you can see a larger image of the finished work.

I will try to post a better explanation of the technique I use in another post, take a few more pictures which show the progress of the painting, as the pastel is applied. I have not seen this written about anywhere else and would be grateful if you have seen a tutorial to perhaps let me know. At the moment, I keep saying that it is a technique I have developed but am open to being shown otherwise.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

On the subject of the past and my old artworks

Whilst thinking about older art works, I came across these two whilst rummaging through some old frames to find one for a particular (and urgent) need.

The first is a landscape executed in pastel on card. This became one of my favourite combinations but strangely I seem to have never really gone as far with this media as I thought I would. I think this is probably because I found collage / mixed media which has taken up most of my time for art. here is the painting.

I think this is a very blue sky, I probably did not have a very large selection of pastels at this stage and wasn't too confident about mixing the colours on the painting itself. But nevertheless, I do like this, and may well use it on my  Zazzle store.

The second I am posting today, is an early experiment with oil paints. This is on card again - not the best gground for this media but I was always very dubious about using these paints. here I was simply looking at the way the paints acted because I was basically a watercolourist looking for some other way to express my creativity. I never really took to oil and finally started to use acrylics. Mostly for larger works on canvas and mostly abstract.

Again though, I seem to have grown attached to this simple painting over the years. My group are painting en plein air on Tuesday, and it looks like rain again. Just realised that we wait for the longest day and this puts us directly in competition with Wimbledon. Of course rain is therefore inevitable, c'est la vie!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A look into the past ( some old ACEO paintings)

Do you ever look back over your old artwork and think, "Did I really do that?"

I was in that sort of a mood just recently. I have been having a little difficulty in getting my act together over painting. I have been doing mostly mixed media art, for example:-

and even when painting I have mostly been doing abstracts or semi-abstracts:-

and whilst I have no problem with these, I am finding that my drawing is getting a little rusty. In fact my ability to create a true to life drawing (especially a figurative drawing) is virtualy nil. This made me start to look over some of my older work with a "jealous eye". Hence the comment, "Did I really do that?"

 Brockhampton, a National Trust property

 The girl with a black hat

Seated Nude

Well, after this wallowing in nostalgia, I am going to have to get myself sorted anad set aside a little more time for simply sketching. Something I used to do regularly and often. there is nothing like it for developing the ability to draw accurately and to capture the essence of a subject. I have even written a page on Squidoo, "Not AnotherWatercolour Tutorial", about my sketching - but the examples I have used have all been very old. Just goes to show I guess, that a return to my old habits ( artistic, LOL) is long overdue.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Demonstration by Stan Kominski

The Knowle Art Group had a demonstration from Stan Kominski a few weeks ago, a wonderful energetic and committed demonstrator. Everybody enjoyed the evening thoroughly.

Stan gave a demo of how to paint using just three colours to paint an amazing landscape and then a portrait of a golden retriever. For the former he used dilute washes of gouache and for the latter he used paint with very little water added and also a white, the result was very much like an acrylic or oil painting. The main thrust of his demo however, was that he used only three colours in his palette. the colours were ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and yellow ochre. he explained that after experimenting with colours he chose these to keep things simple for sketching on-site and that these three colours harmonised well and gave a wide range of colour mixes.

He also staggered most of us by using very inexpensive brushes (or rather a brush), which was subjected to some quite rough treatment to achieve extraordinary textures. We had all been taught that we should buy the best brushes that we could afford to be able to control the marks on the paper, what a revelation. And to cap it he did not change his water at all in the evening. Something again that was the opposite of everything that we had been taught if we wanted our watercolours to look fresh. Stan argued that we rarely use pure pigments anyway and often end up adding small amounts of colour to make the mixes look realistic. His paintings definitely did not seem to suffer because of his technique. Check out some of his work on his web-site.

Stan also runs classes at his Warwickshire home which many of us were keen to find out more about, and if you can't manage that then his book is a must. Lots of demos of both techniques and something which is not too well covered in the litterature; making and using a tracedown sheet to transfer an image from a reference photo to your paper. The book is highly recommended.

This post actually creates a controversy over using colours as I wrote about in my last post and in this article, Painting the Seasons. However if you take things as they come and don't get too uptight, hey its only art - enjoy it!

Thanks for staying with me, see you next time.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Painting The Seasons In Watercolor, How To Select Your Colors

A perennial question to demonstrators at our art group is, "What colour do you use for the sky / grass / trees / water / etc".

Most experienced painters will have a favourite palette of colours which they will use all the time. from the dozens of colours available however it seems that the same few pop up again and again. Often it is better to use a limited palette to achieve a uniform overall appearance rather than selecting one colour for each item painted. It is possible to mix any colour, within reason, from the three promaries which your palette contains. I have written another Squidoo lens on this very topic. Which three primary colours best exemplify the seasons for those of us who prefer to paint landscapes.

The sketches above are used as an example of the main combinations, why not find time to take a quick look?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sketching Sunrise and sunset

Following on from the last post, I have also published a Squidoo lens on the subject of sunrise and sunsets. As before it is not a tutorial as such but does contain a wide ranging set of examples of these subjects which may help you to improve your own paintings. I have included watercolour

and pastel

and acrylic paintings

The images in this blog post are not repeated in the lens and I hope that you can find time to take a quick look at the lens. Or maybe you will even want to take a careful view of the styles and techniques I use.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

My Experiences with Sketching Trees

I have just published a Squidoo Lens on Sketching Trees. It is not a tutorial but serves simply to be a vehicle for showing how I sketch trees and then how I incorporate them into landscape paintings. It is atually one of a series which I am putting together, also included are sunrise /sunset and water. There will be nore but so far not sure of the groupings.

Here are a couple of sketches / paintings which show trees, the second is more about other things but the trees are an important part of the composition.

The first is called, "The Dead Tree" and was inspired by a silver birch which had fallen but was propped at a crazy angle by other trees which were supporting it. Almost poignant, as if they were trying to help it. Gosh what crap! Anyway here is the sketch, it was in soft artists pastels.

The second is in watercolour, my other media and was intended to be a pencil sketch. After I had done it I really liked it and so went on to put colour washes down. You will probably not see where the pencil work is overpowering which is evident when viewing this close up. the trees here frame the lighter coloured building and make that part of the image an important focal point.

The last image is again a pastel, It is a "copy" of a painting I saw in an exhibition - I just wish I could remember the artists name. I was so taken with the whole image I had to try and work it out of my system. The tree here is more of a shrub but who's counting?

The double focal point is from the original but I have not obtained the same satisfactory balance and it seems stilted. However I still like it.

Why not browse over to my lens ( What is a lens? It is simply a single page web-site which focuses on a niche subject) and see what I have to say. The images are not repeated in the lens.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A methodology for painting abstracts

First of all, let me calm your fears, I am not suggesting that abstracts should be mechanically created. But I have found that many of my amateur artist colleagues have a mental block when it comes to abstract art.

When I have been painting an abstract, I always get the same questions; why are you putting that colour there? whats that supposed to be? what does it mean? All the sort of questions that are associated with the statement, a child/chimp/elephant could do better than that! Some of them do say they like abstracts or wished they could do them but there still remains that mental block. By the way, it has been proved that humans can tell the difference between abstracts by professional artists and those by the previously mentioned groups.

Being used to realism and the realistic depiction of subjects, they seem to find difficulty in tackling abstract paintings. Following research for the workshop I devised a simplistic methodology which enables the artist to overcome this mental block and with a little use can provide practice in creating non-representaional art works.

One simple example I painted for the lens was based on a solid colour background, Two large rectangles, three triangles. lines and deformed rectangular grid shapes. It looks something like this:-

Now whilst you are probably never going to get a masterpiece from this method, it does enable a certain measure of ability to create paintingsin this gendre. Read the full article in my Squidoo lens, How to paint abstract art.

a few "how to paint" abstract books from Amazon

Saturday, 12 March 2011

What subjects and styles sell the most paintings?

I realise that I have not been posting for a little while but I have had a total knee replacement. The procedure was considered necessary because the cartilage had worn down to zilch on one side causing me massive problems.

I thought that to get going again I would promote one of my Squidoo lenses ( a lens is a single page web-site focusing in on a niche area)which discusses the best selling subjects for art that sells. The most popular subject is traditional landscapes followed by local views and then surprisingly perhaps modern semi-abstract landscapes.

Not surprisingly, prints of various types are the most popular media. Presumably because they are relatively inexpensive. But oils and acrylics sell better than watercolours and this does not reflect the ratio of costs.

As far as prints of deceased artists go, Lowry and Monet are the top two best sellers.

If yopu would like to read more details then surf over to "Popular subjects for art that sells". 

As I say in the lens, it is an  interesting read, but most artists will paint what they like or are best at, painting simply to sell can be soul destroying although it may pay the bills - sometimes.

Hope to be back more regularly now things are getting back to normal.