Sunday, 28 December 2014

Watercolour Sketches

Following on from the subject of my last few posts, here are two hurried sketches which I painted recently. I am still trying to remind myself of the way that watercolour should be used, I think it is coming back to me, but oh so slowly.

Months, if not years of soft pastels and acrylics (not to mention abstracts, but that's another story) have spoilt my feel for the immediacy and delicacy of watercolour paints.

Soon I will try a reasonable sized painting and see just how it works out, I am almost frightened of committing at the moment, hence all this playing around with small and loose sketches.

But it is beginning to feel right, once more - see what you think:-

A snow scene (#2). 
A very simple application of washes
with the trees, etc, adding detail.

A Stormy Sky
I saw a version of this painting in a magazine tutorial and 
decided to try and get the feeling of an overcast sky in a 
snow setting. I think it has worked quite well.

As I said, I am becoming more confident, the acid test will be the next meeting of my art group on the 6th January next year - or next week as it is onlya few days away now.

I would love to hear any criticisms of my watercolours, I hope those reading the blog are interested in what I am doing at the moment.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

How Easy Is Watercolour?

Most people who take up painting as a hobby remember having paint boxes as children or maybe using water-based poster colours at school and those experiences tend to leave them feeling that watercolours are easy to use. They must be if children use them to start painting! Oils and acrylics are used by "proper artists" and therefore must be much more difficult to use. And pastels (and other dry media) are rarely, if ever, considered as worth bothering with if one aspires to be a painter; an artist.

But once you have experienced those other media, you may well change your mind. Although you may still use watercolour for other reasons such as, lack of smell, rapid drying, general cleanliness or ease of cleaning, it really is easier to paint or create coloured drawings in virtually all other media.

It seems crazy that we afflict ourselves with this difficult to use and almost impossible to correct (yes, there are ways and means ...), But still we persevere.

Of course there are aspects of watercolours which are difficult if not impossible  to achieve in other media. Freshness, simplicity and sheer transparency of the media are reasons why many artists love watercolour. But consider the issues above:-

Smell; Oils are the culprit here, and I have to say that I have never considered this media because I am affected by the solvents traditionally used. But modern water-based oil paints are used by colleagues who find them perfectly adequate and are little different to the traditional paints in their behaviour and appearance. Of course, my colleagues are not "professionals" and some may argue that there is a difference which a real professional artist would notice. All I can say is that more and more water-based oil paints are used by artists in my art group.

Drying time: If this is the issue then acrylic paints are probably faster drying than watercolours, especially if you are using the latter wet-into-wet. We artists no longer have to spend weeks or even months for a painting to dry before we can feel happy about carrying it home.

Cleanliness: Now this can still be an issue for some. If you do not have a studio, or a dedicated area for painting, splashes of paint or pastel dust, etc, can mean that watercolour is less likely to create a problem at home. Plus the fact that there are no issues with additional paraphernalia.

Despite the logical approach, I have to admit that I do love a good watercolour painting and still want to re-learn how to create a "good" painting with this medium. This weeks sketch is another small, 6 X 3.5 inch painting, again I am looking for the use of washes and brushwork rather than being particular about the drawing.

I wasn't quite sure about this piece at first but it is growing on me, any thoughts?

One of the problems I am experiencing is most definitely the lack of time I have to spend painting. Doing only one such sketch each week is obviously very limiting. When I first started painting I remember spending a little time each evening, even if it was only a few minutes, practising some aspect of my new hobby. But that was when I could count on the use of a small, spare bedroom as a studio. My situation has drastically changed and now that room is more like a store room. But One of these days ... , I live in hope.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Watercolour - A Snow Scene

In my last post, I discussed why I did not think much of a recent watercolour. I was intending to repeat it (or at least complete it) with those comments in mind.

I was at my art group last night and saw a painting in a magazine which really caught my eye, thus inspired I decided to try and capture the scene in my own style. Here it is:-

The drawing is a little sloppy but I am not too bothered about that at this stage. I am simply trying to get a decent painting. So am I happy with this? Well no. I believe that one of the issues is that this is a far higher key painting than the one I used as a reference. To investigate this, as I had packed my paints and brushes away, I tried to improve it in photoshop. I played with lightness and contrast and with saturation, the result was:-

I do think that this is much better, although I had to back off a little on the contrast as the bottom right corner was beginning to get far to dark and the differences in the colours was getting lost.

It is surprising how such a minor change can make such a difference to the end product. Of course, I know the importance of tone in a painting but like all amateur artists (well many at any rate) I often forget their importance as I try to get down the colours I want.

With pastels, I would just go over with another shade or tint of pastel, however it is not so easy with watercolour. But these practice sketches are bringing home how important the basics really are. I hope the lessons are sinking in. The next few weeks will tell, I would love to hear what you think about my musings or even about the art itself.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Some You Win, Some others ...

You lose, LOL.

Now after last weeks, what is wrong with this and why?

I think I could have painted this better in pastel, Or more likely, I was painting this as if I was using pastels. I should have left white space for the middle ground trees and foliage for example.

Also there is no real contrasts in tone, yes there is some but I have mixed up recession thru tonal contrast (the hills) with aerial perspective and colour recession. There are no shadows to speak of and the result is flat and uninteresting.

Lastly, I used a small brush for the last painting, I was using a pocket w/c set. I had to use the brush quickly and scrub/move the paint around. Here, I had decided to use tube colours and a larger brush. Maybe too large for the areas of the painting where some texture would have helped  create a feeling of detail.

I am going to try this same subject again and try to improve it based on the above comments. But I will also try to improve this painting by completing it with pastels. See if I can do something with it as a mixed media work.

Watch this space ...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Return To Watercolour Painting

You know how it is, as an artist you want to be able to use all those wonderful media that are available and thrust at you from all directions. However, when you try a different medium, you have to learn how to use it. Of course, all it takes is practice. But to use more than one medium succesfully is difficult.

Moving from one to another often feels difficult. Just as you start to feel happy using say, pastels, you feel compelled to try another. You take out your watercolours, which you may not have used for a few weeks and horrors ... it feels like starting out all over again.

Even swapping more frequently, it feels like one step forward and two steps back. At least that is how I find it.

Now it has been a couple of years, possibly, since I did any real watercolour painting; I did try a little pen and wash but it was a very short experiment. I have been pastelling and even then painting mostly abstract and semi-abstract works. Coming back to watercolours and using a brush rather than my fingers (well thats how I feel with tiny pieces of chalk in my hand) and I am finding it difficult to make the paint do what I want it to.

I hated my first effort so much I actually threw it away - tore it up and put it in the rubbish bin. That is what I felt about it, and I have made a point of keeping almost everything I have done over the years I have been painting. The second was a little better, BUT not much, and I include it here as a point of reference, just to show that I am improving.

Those buildings look awful, and that tree - horrid!!! On the whole though in the background there is something about the brushwork which I felt was moving in the right direction. The next painting is starting to look a little better.

I even felt good after this attempt, and whats more several members of the art group were quite appreciative of it. Just waiting for next week now. Can I keep the improvement on course?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Coloured pencils, Out of my comfort zone?

Last night, my group had a demo/workshop from Carol Gordon, a local artist. Her subject was water colour pencils, what ther are and how to use them.

I must admit that I do have a set of these but have never really gotten into the habit of using them. I did have an enjoyable evening and found out a few techniques which I hope to write about in a future post. Just for my own reference if nothing else. I probably did not spend too much time lisening to Carol, but got really carried away with what I was doing - here is the completed painting. In order to spend time using the water-colour pencils, we were all issued with a line drawing to colour. Here is my effort.

An interesting little piece, and a very well worth while evening. I hope to do more work with this medium. I will talk more about the techniques and textures achieveable using water colour pencils when I have some of my own examples to show. So for now, enjoy and happy painting.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Knowle Art Group exhibition 2014

I have been very busy with my art groups exhibition over the past two weeks but it was all worth while. The exhibition was held over a very sunny holiday weekend and visitors were 30% up on our previous highest figure.

Unfortunately, it seems that money is as tight as ever despite the chancellor talking the economy up. We only sold one painting in the actual exhibition although several items which were on sale (unframed paintings and greeting cards) were sold.

We have discussed the purpose of our exhibtion many times and have always agreed, as a group, that the exhibtion is a chance to show off our work to family and friends and just to see it in a well-presented display. sales are nice but that is not the reason we spend so much time and effort setting up the exhibition. The effort is not worth the money. But let me show you a general shot of the hall after setting up the exhiubtion.

The display boards are the groups own design and made by members, they enable us to hold exhibitions in any locations but we have found the present venue to be a superb choice for our exhibitions.

The design of the boards allows us to display more paintings per foot. We have ten boards altogether which fold away after use.

The main entrance display, showing the Group Name. This year flanked by items for sale for the first time:-

Greeting cards/ post cards and unframed paintings and also a number of miniature canvas paintings which readers of the blog will know are a favourite of mine.

The cards sold well this year and from the discussions going on I can see more artists trying to make a little cash next year by copying this approach, despite the comments above!

Back with more paintings next time.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Start and Run Your Own Art group

I and a few fellow students from an evening watercolour course wanted to start our own art group because the government saw fit some 25 years ago to close eveniing classes as leisure activities. A very backward decision in my opinion.

Anyway, we had no experience of such a venture but we were all confident that we had enough experience in the business world to be able to do this and make a success of it. Of course we made mistakes but by and large we came through. The group has been very successful and we have had to introduce a waiting list for membership.

I have written a book describing some of the experiences from the past 25 years and hope that if you feel you need to start (and run) a similar group, then this will be useful to help you to start without making those silly mistakes/errors which cause some groups to stumble.

How to Start and Run Your Own Art Group by John Dyhouse

Sunday, 20 April 2014

2014 Exhibition Of KNOWLE ART GROUP

I have been a little busy preparing my entries for my art groups annual exhibition in May. Most year I have been prone to have to rush around the day before the hand over day, but this year I have cracked it. All ready for the day except for a little spit and polish of the frames.

I think I have posted all of these on this blog over the last three months or so but if you want a better look at these paintings then you could slip over to my new static web-site, PASTEL LANDSCAPES. Created under my real name, John Dyhouse, although just to be sure the first (home page) states:-


Hope to see you over there, why not post me a message to say hello; that would be great. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible now that the bulk of the effort for the exhibition is complete.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Miniature Acrylic Landscapes

Painting miniature acrylic landscapes. Something I enjoyed last year and had been put aside for my pastels, but with the finalisation of my project Abstract Antics, I decided to get out the acrylic paints and have a little fun. I set up my pitch yesterday at my art group and found myself sitting next to a colleague who often paints quite large canvases, the contrast was stark. Last night he was working on a piece 20 inches by 16inches (quite small for him) and there was I with a pair of canvases 2.5 x 3.5 inches.

But I didn't care, I was there to enjoy myself and found myself working on a couple of favourites which I had recently worked at in pastel. Why waste a good subject?

Here are those two landscapes:


Sunset at Sea

Painting at a small size does bring its own problems and these are approximately actual size, so you can appreciate that a very small brush and a steady hand are necessary. A pity I had neither whilst painting these, :).

You can see more of my earlier work here on this blog, and also here. I have a number of these canvases and so will be working with these for a few weeks. The only issue is that my groups exhibition is very nearly upon us, just a few weeks away so I will be quite busy framing and getting ready for the big day. I sold a pastel last year and am quite upbeat about some of the art work I have on offer this year - all of which have been featured on this blog of course.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Abstract Antics - a game developed for would-be abstract artists

As an artist, have you ever been put off by remarks like the following?
  • "It's easy to paint an abstract, my two year old can do it."
  • "Have you seen that elephant who paints?"
  • "What does it mean, what's it supposed to be?"
Well let me give you another quote, "How difficult it is to be simple". (Vincent van Gogh). It is one of many I have collected in an article on understanding simplicity in art.

The problem is that abstract art seems easy, but it is actually quite difficult. And often an otherwise competent artist can be put off painting abstracts when their first effort does not work out quite as they haad hoped. Many other quite capable artists find difficulty in even beginning to paint non-representational work. Not quite sure how to start, or what to do; always thinking about what it is that they are painting. When of course it isn't anything.

I found this out when I conducted a workshop for my art group, on this very subject. They had all said that what they wanted from the workshop was to leave with an abstract painting. I did not ask them to paint what I was showing them , but rather I gave them a few ideas and suggestions and told them to get on and paint an original abstract design. I was answered with blank faces in the main.

After this experience I wrote an article and a step-by-step tutorial and made these available as a PDF download from scribd, but I often thought about why it was so difficult for my colleagues and I have now developed a game using four decks of "creaativity cards" which gives the prospective abstract artist a set of instruction. Not a full set, but enough to create an abstract painting. I do not expect it to produce a masterpiece; it is merely a way of getting the artist to practice painting without any picture to copy.

Tonight at my art group meeting, I used this game to give me instructions for two paintings:-

I hope it won't surprise you to learn that the instructions for these paintings were the same. My method leaves plenty of scope for the artist to express his own creativity.

The way it works is that there are four creativity packs (of cards) representing three layers of the painting and one, called the style pack which covers colour and compostional factors.

Each pack (or deck) contains a set of suggestions which when dealt out provide the instructions for the abstract painting. So what where the instructions I followed to create the above two paintings?

The packs have different backs (all my own work of course) and are also colour coded. I have a set of instructions which I can interpret in any way I like.Here are thumbnail sketches I made for each painting before I started.

Rather than give any more details here, I would like to invite you to visit an article on Squidoo in which I fully describe the game and the methodology.

Remember it is just a game to help practice painting abstracts. I have found that painting abstracts now and then has helped me to loosen up my art work considerably and I would recommend it to anyone for that purpose alone. It is also fun - and disposable. Why not have a go?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Pastel Painting, A Ray Of Sunshine

BAck to landsscapes this week. I happened to see a piece that I found grabbed me. The cnmposition, and that patch of sunlit just clicked with me. Of course, As ever I have not copied the original but created my own interpretation. The colours especially are my own, although the composition owes a lot to the original. But even the old masters repeated the same images to learn.

A Ray Of Sunshine

I was very pleased with this one, I usually am when I have a strong urge to paint something. Its those times I have to search for inspiration that I turn out the duff pieces.

I thought I would add a couple of images of the work as it progressed, to give an insight into my process.

This was after I had added the "first" colours for the background. As I do, I had built up to this point by layering colours (each layer fixed to avoid disturbing the former) to get that wonderful texture that I love from my pastels. This did not quite feel right though. I had the sunlit grass at thte top of the rise but was not happy with the sky.

Here I had added a darker blue to the top of the sheet and blended it into the very light blue sky to create that recession.

The next step was to put this aside and take out a sketch pad. I selected my colours for the bushes, etc and practiced what I was going to do. Using the side of some very soft pastels I then came back to the background (which had been lightly fixed) and painted in the bushes, as I had done in the sketch book. The last step was to take a few conte sticks and add the linear effects to the foreground.

I work dark to light mostly although some later details may be in dark tones. And I work from hard pastel to soft, again fixing layers as I proceed. The final details are not fixed to maintain their vibrancy.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Abstract Holiday

from time to time my paintings start to become "samey" and I begin to lose my way, creatively speaking. Things stop working for me and I lose interest. It is on these occasions that I allow myself an "abstract holiday".

I can paint what I like, no need to worry about producing a great masterpiece and  it really helps me to find my way again.

This is tonight's result. I did not start with any preconceptions except that I was going to make this a work in two halves, with a large red area on one side, the smaller side of the paper. It is in pastel and is painted on a very rough 200 lb water colour paper; size about 16 x 12 inch.

Of course everyone thought it was an image of buildings but I did not have this in mind at all when in the process of  painting. It was purely geometrical considerations which were uppermost in my mind.

Of course, the magic of digital editing means that once I have the image in digital form, I can play around with the colours to my hearts content. In fact the original has been "re-coloured" so that the larger blue area has been made bluer to hide the purple/violet which I found I did not like. I normally do a series of thumbnail sketches to see if a colour combination works before I start on the actual painting. Unfortunately I did not do this with this painting.

Just to show the effect of different colours and degree of saturation, I include two edited images.

All three are better than the ooriginal unfortunately, c'est la vie!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Watercolour Demonstration night

Knowle Art Group had a wonderful demo from watercolourist Graham Blaine, a member of the Royal Birmingham  Society of Arts, last night. One of the series of professional demos which we have thru the year.

I haven't done any for quite a while, except for a little playing around, but after this I may well put the pastels away for a while and knuckle down to start using watercolours which is the media which turned me on to painting in the first place. Take a look at a couple of my old paintings:-

"Where's Daddy?"

"The Old Lane"

But back to Graham Blain a wonderful artist and a very entertaining evening, even if Graham himself was not altogether happy with the results. It seemed to have conveyed some very useful ideas to all 20 of us who were captivated. See some of Graham's work at one of these sites:-

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A colourful sky, a pastel painting

Painting has been taking a back seat recently as I have been very busy and also decided to start my very first novel. But I still manage to get to my art group, once a week for a couple of hours so it is great that I can usually complete one of my landscapes in that time.

This one for instance, one which I really like and received some very good comments from my colleagues at the art group.

But painting it was more involved than it might appear.

Starting with an A4 sheet of black general purpose art paper (cheap!), I covered the paper with a layer of black pastel. Simple linear strokes with the side of a softish pastel stick (origin unknown). This was then blended all over using circular strokes with the tips of three fingers and then fixed using an inexpensive hair spray.

I repeated this procedure twice using a mid-blue pastel and then a dark violet pastel. This was the background.

The next step was to use a mid-brown, again on its side, to paint in the top of the horizon at the bottom of the painting. below this a dark green was wiped across the painting. These colours were blended where they overlapped, and then grass-like strokes were added at the extreme bottom in a lighter green and other colours.

Cloud shapes were the next step. A light and mid-violet were used to create the main shapes and then a red to top off these shapes. A mid-blue was then added to create texture around the clouds.

Next, a red-brown was used -on its side- to create the colouring on the horizon. This was blended in a single direction (up) using the side of the thumb to create the spiky appearance. More colours were added at the horizon to ground this colour. I am not sure what it represents, make your own mind up but it does help the composition.

And finally, some dark brown was added and blended along the lighter brown of the horizon.

Here is a shot of the original from a book :-

it is in Ron Ranson's Painting School Series, PASTELS by Diana Constance.

Mine is not meant to be a reproduction of the original, I always aim to create a  painting from a reference which inspired me without copying. 

Perhaps this is more involved than you thought after all.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Two new pastel paintings for 2014

Ok its 2014 (well I know I am a little late but it has been a hard month!

So what have I been doing? I had intended to turn my hand to some watercolours after christmas, it has been so long but because it has been such a difficult month for a number of reasons I took the easy way out and have been using my pastels at my weekly art group meetings. And that is getting to be the only time I actually get down to any painting these days. Something else that is going to have to change, what's that? Who said something about New Year Resolutions? Well you are not too far off the mark and that's another that fell by the wayside.

The first is a version of a painting which I first did in watercolour. A hilltop with a road/track going between a line of birch trees.

Here is the original watercolour

Very different, of course the media creates a difference but the compsition is somewhat different as well. The major difference in technique, is that in the watercolour of course the lighter trees were saved when the blue background was washed in. In the pastel, the background is painted first and then the trees are painted over. It certainly makes a difference.

The second pastel is a very simple winter landscape, last week I did not have a lot of time because I had lost the key to the coffee cupboard and spent so long looking for it. We eventually had to manage without a drink that evening. I think it actgually needs a few details finishing off but for now at least it shows that I am working - not a lot, but working.

Apart from these I have completed an abstract but that will have to wait for another post. 

Have you ever thought about visiting my Zazzle store, I have most of my paintings available on stretched canvas. prices start at around $70. Also available on posters, cards and postcards. I would also love it if you would visit my page on Facebook and like it. Yes I know, but I get more information with more likes. Thanks in advance