Self Portrait in coloured pencil

Friday, 25 January 2019

Portrait of Young Wolf Finished

Portrait of Young Wolf Finished

I have finished the portrait of the young wolf. The actual drawing took me 47 hours although, as I took the photo in November 1999 you could say it took me 19 years.

When I met this lovely wolf he was 6 months old and he was being held on a lead. I was so honoured that he liked me. He took hold of my wrist very gently in his mouth. It was the highlight of my life. After he was put back into the enclosure with the other wolves he kept jumping against the wire mesh fencing towards me and I got splattered with mud all over my jacket from the wolf enclosure. The result was that when I got home next day my own dog wouldn’t come near me! It was quite a while before the smell wore off my jacket and Trixie got back to normal. 

Back in those days, I had an SLR camera and I had to wait for the film to be developed before I knew if I had any reasonable photos. I tried to paint a portrait in pastel from the above pose but it coincided with the time I went down with post-polio syndrome and I had to give up artwork altogether for a while. 

I have always wanted to get back to doing a portrait from this photo, but it got put away in such a safe place that I couldn’t find it! When I did find it I looked at it and thought how soft focus it is compared to the sharp, see-every-hair photos that I can take with my latest DSLR. It was hard to see his hind feet because they were the same colour as the autumn leaves that he was standing in. That is why the drawing took so long. I did my best. Such a darling animal merited it. 

Because of the poor quality of the photo, I chose to draw a small portrait in graphite using mechanical pencils with different grades of lead from 2B to 3H. I draw on graphic film because it is “dimensionally stable” or, to put it another way, it stays flat in a humid atmosphere. The Eden Valley, where I live, is frequently humid. In fact I remember one day I was out in the rain and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. 

I have two more photos of the wolf that I would like to use as reference for portraits. In one he is lying in the dead leaves so I will have to do that one in colour. Maybe coloured pencils?

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Work in Progress: Young Wolf 2

Work in Progress: Young Wolf 2

I took the above photo yesterday and then I started drawing again instead of writing this artblog. So there is quite a lot more of him done since then. 

I have been struggling to get the texture of his fur right. The reference photo was taken back in  November 1999 on film, so it doesn’t have the detail that I can take today even with my phone! 

I have been going over his head again and again, lifting off dots of the graphite pencil with a kneadable eraser, then re-applying using a 2H mechanical pencil trying to get the impression of soft fur with flecks of highlights. 

I so want to get back to this drawing that I will stop writing now. Watch out for an update. 

Friday, 28 December 2018

Work in Progress: Young Wolf

Work in Progress: Young Wolf

It is a long time since I took the photos of this young wolf. He was 6 months old at the time and absolutely delightful. I started his portrait in pastel at the time but then post polio syndrome hit me and I wasn’t able to continue. It was a few years before I recovered sufficiently to take up drawing again. 
But I have always wanted to do this portrait and have started a couple of attempts at it. Now I am determined to draw him at last. 
I am drawing him in mechanical pencil on graphic film as part of a series for an exhibition. As these drawings are small, I can draw sitting on the sofa of an evening. The only extra equipment that I need is something to quickly protect the current drawing from any cat who suddenly decides that they want to jump onto my lap. I bought a pad in a plastic folder that has 5 extra pockets to hold future drawings ready set up. 
I started this drawing a while ago. I had been using a 4B clutch pencil and, now that I have picked it up again, I see that I had made it too dark. So I have been working hard with putty rubber and the Tombow MONO zero eraser and I am happy now with the ear on the left and nearly happy with the top of his head. I drew Jasper’s portrait mainly with a 0.3 2B mechanical pencil and a 0.3 2H mechanical pencil on the “white” areas, so I am blending in the erased areas of this wolf portrait with the 0.3 2H mechanical pencil. 

The portrait of Jasper is finished but I haven’t scanned it yet. 

My last blog showed a photo of my dreadful tiling. I spent Christmas, with much appreciated help from my son, building a kitchen unit and moving furniture upstairs and downstairs. My kitchen is already working better for me though there are still problems to solve. One is the door to the unit. I found the door took up too much room when it was open and also I had trouble with the hinges. I am thinking of sawing the door in half vertically and hinging it so it will be a bifold door. 
The point of the unit is to hold the cat litter trays away from the dogs. The cats are happy with it so that is promising. The top shelf is holding the cat food and a spare bag of cat litter so it is looking promising. 

It would have been nice to start the New Year with everything organised. But it is much easier to cook my dinner in there and that is great. I was so tired of living on sandwiches!

And you can’t see how bad the tiling is. 
(See Fliss in the cardboard box rather than one of the beds! Typical cat.)

Friday, 21 December 2018

Jasper as a Puppy

Jasper as a Puppy

I have been drawing Jasper from an old photo that I took when he was a puppy. He is still as cute!
I am drawing in pencil on graphic film. I use a mechanical pencil with a 0.3 mm 2B lead so I don’t have to spend all my time sharpening a pencil. The lead that I am enjoying using these days is Uni Nano Dia Lead. It has nano-diamonds in it which make it very smooth to draw with. 
I also spend a lot of time using erasers, both kneadable ones and the Tombow MONO eraser which is a retractable eraser that is only 2.3 mms at the business end. Between the fine pencil and the small erasers I can make delicate pencil marks to suggest puppy fur. 
So far I have spent 5 hours on this portrait. Small drawings are not as quick as you might think. 

As well as drawing most days, I have been getting on with the plan for my kitchen alcove. I was expecting to start tiling last Sunday but I had to scrub a patch of black mould and leave it to dry. I didn’t want black mould trapped behind my tiles. So I did the tiling yesterday. The walls are so uneven that I am not worrying about how bad the tiling looks. Most of it will be hidden behind the unit anyway. I am capable of doing decent if not perfect tiling, but I would have had to replaster first to get the walls flat, and I don’t want to lose the time. The whole point of this is to make my kitchen more efficient so I can spend more time drawing and painting. 
The walls are uneven because this house was built back in the 1870s using sandstone from the local quarry. It is poor quality sandstone with lots of inclusions. I think it is referred to as pudding stone. The general effect is that the walls are built of rubble. There are a couple of internal walls made of lath and plaster with horsehair in it. There are the remnants of the old gas lighting if you do a bit of archaeology under the old plaster! 
So here is a photo of the alcove this morning. I have done grouting since, so it looks worse (until I clean it off).

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Busy Organising

Busy Organising 

This week I collected 2 of my “portraits” from the framers. 
Didn’t he do a wonderful job!? 
On the left is Jasper’s Eye which is a scraperboard. I did it from a kind of selfie. I was sitting on the floor and Jasper was behind me looking over my shoulder. The miniature on the right is a portrait in acrylics on ivorine which is an artificial ivory that isn’t made any more. I have had the two artworks for years because I couldn’t think of the best way to frame them but I knew that Adrian could do it. I have written about him before. If you live in this part of the world check him out:
Adrian Brunskill at Your Life as Art, 13/14 Devonshire Arcade, Penrith, CA11 7SX, telephone 07712569787 

The other thing that I have been busy with - well my iPad broke where the cable plugs in to charge it. Luckily it was charged at 80% when I discovered the problem, so I turned it off and ordered a new one. It was a while before the new one arrived and then I had to spend many hours transferring information to the new iPad. Of course I wasn’t backed up! (I am now except for photos which I always transferred to my laptop.) It took me until today to be set up sufficiently to catch up with my blog - I have an app that makes it easier. 

Finally I have been wishing to make improvements to my kitchen for months but it was quite recently that inspiration struck me. Then I had to work out a plan for the project. The first job was to pull out some drawers and shelves from the alcove. It had been stuck in with expanding foam because I had been getting cooking smells from next door. This is an old house built about 1870 and there are a few cracks. First I tried to use chisel and a knife to cut through the foam but it didn’t work so I had to use a 24 inch saw. That worked. 
I am going to tile the alcove and then I am going to build the corner base unit I bought. I am going to use it to house the cat litter trays so the saw is going to come in handy to cut cat sized holes. One will be in the blank face, and the other one in the door. The alcove is only 75cms wide so there should be space for a slim cat to get in and out. And there will be the hole in the door. 
I will publish an update when the base unit is in place. It won’t be finished then as the work surface is currently acting as a desk in my bedroom and I am waiting for my son to visit and bring it downstairs for me. The desk now in the kitchen will go in my bedroom. 

Here is a photo of how half my kitchen looked this morning. I think that the easel will go upstairs to my bedroom with the desk. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

Pastel Palette Box

Pastel Palette Box

I love my cats but they are a hazard in the studio. They are so fond of sitting on my work table which means trampling my palettes. 
My pencils are safe in boxes, and my oil paint palettes are in air tight food storage tubs. I paint my gouache portraits upstairs in my bedroom on my other easel. And that paint palette is also in a food storage tub. That left my pastels. 
Many years ago my dear brother made me a wonderful storage palette for my pastels. He got a nice chunky piece of wood and routed pastel sized grooves in it. It is brilliant. It keeps all my colours separate so my pastels don’t get dirty. 
I had the palette in a big box which sat on my cupboard. But then I got cats. Actually I got Fliss and Jet. Pumpkin never put a paw wrong. 
Although the box fitted nicely on top of the cupboard and would fit in the cupboard, it wouldn’t fit in the drawer where I could reach the pastels and they would be safe. I had to make a smaller box for it. 
So I bought a sheet of plywood and left it leaning against my bedroom wall for a couple of weeks. Yesterday I got my saw and a ruler and marked out the shapes and sizes that I needed. 
I also cut a piece of wood to hold my reference photos on the downstairs easel. I have one that works fine when I am painting on an A3 canvas in portrait mode but it is too big if I am painting in landscape mode. So I marked that out as well. 
All the pieces fitted beautifully into one end of the plywood. I have a nice tidy piece of plywood left. I may use it for paintings. 

I have my parents to thank for my practical woodwork skills. My wonderful father taught me how to use a saw (you let the saw do the work) and many other skills. My mother encouraged me try everything saying that I could do anything anyone else could do even if it took me longer (referring to paralysis left from my catching polio). So I have more confidence in my skills than many able bodied people. 

My sawing was slow but I got it all done. 

I had two problems with my new box, but they both had the same solution. 
The plywood was thin so my plan was to stick it with “No More Nails” glue. I have the glue but I can’t find the gadget that pushes it out of the nozzle. Maybe it is in the attic? 
The other problem was that the wood isn’t flat. 
So I used Sugru. I am a big fan of Sugru and always have some in. It is a glue that you can shape and it sets to a firm rubbery consistency after 24 hours. I used that to stick the pieces of plywood. I was generous with it because of the gaps with the wood being slightly bent, and the Sugru packets were a number of colours so I have a messy looking box (see above) but I don’t care and it keeps my pastels safe in the drawer. I will paint it one day. 

If you don’t know about Sugru check it out. I am not getting any money for advertising. It is so useful and I just like to be helpful. 

Friday, 16 November 2018

This week’s painting

This week’s painting. 

I was just thinking about what I have done this week. It has been a week of disruptions as usual but I did get on with the portrait of Bentley. However as I have been modifying the sheen on his head I don’t think it will show well in a photo. I also worked on a graphite pencil drawing of Jasper when he was a cute little puppy. It is nice to be able to work on a pencil drawing on these dark evenings when it is hard to judge colour. 
Then I remembered. I have been covering canvases in glitter. I am doing it for Father Christmas. He visits Appleby-in-Westmorland every year on the last Saturday in November so he can find out what the children want for Christmas and he gives them some sweets to take home. 
I didn’t see him last year but I heard that some of his visitors were disappointed by his grotto. So I wondered if I could help. Some years ago I bought 2 triple hinged canvases. They are big. They are 1.5 metres high and the full width adds up to 1.5 metres wide. I had an idea that I could use them, so I bought a lot of red and silver glitter and some blue glitter acrylic paint. 
I tried the blue glitter paint. It was pretty but I souped it up with lots of silver glitter and used it to paint the top halves of the canvases. I used 2 coats. Then I turned the whole thing over and mixed the red glitter in PVA adhesive and blobbed it on the bottom half. I gave that a second coat too. Once it was all dry I gave the whole thing a coat of acrylic gloss varnish. I hope the varnish keeps the glitter where it belongs because I worry that the glitter flakes may get in the river and the fish may eat them thinking that they are food. 
The canvas has been handed over to a man with a big car who can take it to Santa’s Grotto for me.
I still have to paint the second triple canvas with Sparkles this weekend. 
Do you think Father Christmas will like it?