Self Portrait in coloured pencil

Friday, 10 August 2018

Portrait of Nobu



Portrait of Nobu

I painted the miniature of Nobu a very long time ago when I lived in London. I had a lot of Japanese friends then and Nobu and his wife and baby were particularly delightful. I did a number of portrait drawings of them and when I found some Ivorine (artificial ivory) in an art shop I bought it and tried my first miniature choosing Nobu for my subject. The size is 7 x 5 cms so don’t try and look at it at a bigger scale. 
The portrait has been tucked away for long enough, and as I was going to the framers to collect an artwork I tucked Nobu’s portrait into my purse. The portrait may be small but I want the perfect frame for it. I also found the scraperboard of Jasper’s eye to take to the framer.
The bad news is that the framers was closed for the week so I was in Penrith with nothing to do until the bus home. The bus to Penrith is at 10 o’clock in the morning and the return bus is at 1:40 in the afternoon. So I walked to the cycle shop at the other end of town and asked if they could get me a tricycle. I got a text today to say it is in the shop.
I think that I have mentioned before that I had polio when I was a baby and now I have post-polio syndrome which is when muscles that were a little bit weak get a lot worse. I am planning on strengthening my leg muscles by using the tricycle to “walk” the dogs. I will have a tricycle seat to rest while the dogs sniff so I won’t get into difficulties! My biggest problem is my balance and that won’t be an issue with a tricycle. 
I will even be able to go out and take photos again. Bliss!


Friday, 3 August 2018

Five Portraits in Oils on Canvas


Five Portraits in Oils on Canvas

I haven’t been able to scan these Gypsy portraits because my house has been so untidy that the scanner was buried under clothes and kitchen rolls (unused of course) among other things. But recently I have put a lot of time into organising things to make my household easier to run so that I have more time and energy for painting. 
The scanner and printers are in my bedroom and I have moved a chest of drawers in there so I had somewhere to put the mess which was sitting on the scanner and the two printers. I am still moving things from one place to another but the bedroom is clear. I have moved my acryl gouache paints downstairs leaving just my coloured pencils next to my upstairs easel. 
So today I did a bit of scanning. Having looked at the portraits again after a few weeks I can see many places that they can be improved. I am not the first portrait painter to feel that way. 
Here’s the other four portraits:
















Friday, 27 July 2018

Experimenting



Experimenting 

I have been struggling to paint since the Art in the Hills exhibition at Dufton. I had Boots on the easel but I knew that painting his fur needed flowing brushstrokes and I have been finding that my brushes catch on the canvas threads. I needed to find a solution. 
Then I remembered how I painted the portrait of Queen Elizabeth. 
I painted the portrait for the Golden Jubilee. There were celebrations all over the country. Many towns and villages were having street parties but Appleby-in-Westmorland couldn’t do that because the date coincided with the Horse Fair that year and the town would have been too full of visitors. So, instead, the Mayor read out a loyal address from the balcony of the Moot Hall, and I presented the Town with the portrait of the Queen. It is kept in the Mayor’s parlour. (I sent a print of the portrait to the Queen and asked that it would be kept with the loyal address.)
I started the portrait of the Queen in plenty of time. I was working in acrylics on stretched paper. Unfortunately I made a mess of it and the paper buckled so badly that I had to start again. The second version I painted on Graphic Film which is a “dimensionally stable” translucent polyester. As it is translucent I was able to trace the outlines of the portrait to save time, and dimensionally stable means that it stays flat even in humid conditions. 
I was going to paint the whole portrait in acrylics but I was very short of time by the time I got to her bouquet of flowers. I coated the acrylic surface with clear Colourfix primer where the flowers were to go. Colourfix primer has a tooth so I was able to finish the flowers in coloured pencils on top of the acrylic underpainting. It is much faster for me to paint flowers in pencil than with a brush. 


To get back to the portrait of Boots, I bought some Liquitex clear gesso and a big tub of Colourfix primer. I was puzzled about how to open the tub of primer but I had some left from working on the Queen. I painted the gesso over Boots body, and primer over his head so I could compare them. Next day I painted strokes of sepia paint over both areas. Both sides worked and I could make precise strokes of oil paint on them. The Liquitex gesso was smoother, but the instructions say to paint it on a non-oily surface which suggests that it won’t work so well on an oil painting. The Colourfix can be sanded smooth. 
So, in conclusion, I will coat the new canvases in Liquitex gesso but I will paint Colourfix on areas where I have already painted in oils. 
The only problem left is how to open the big tub of Colourfix. I think I know. 














Friday, 20 July 2018

Art in the Hills, Dufton


Art in the Hills, Dufton 

I have come back from the Private View of the art exhibition in the village hall at Dufton, Cumbria. 
It is a popular exhibition and I enjoy going to the private view and meeting so many artist friends. 
The photo above shows the three portraits that I put in this year: Arthur, Walter and Riley. 
I waited until the crowd was thinner to photograph them and I asked my friend to pose looking at them.

I met a friend, Sarah Reid, there and I took a photo of her by some of her pastels. I admire her pastels very much. Unfortunately my photos have not shown them at their best because of reflections on the glass. I did my best to improve them by playing with the dodge and burn tool in the Artstudio Pro app on my iPad and using the Pencil. So you can get an idea and go and look at her website for a better view. 


Sarah with her paintings 


Friday, 13 July 2018

Arthur


Arthur 

I have finished Arthur except for tidying up the left edge. Because I am painting on canvas, I am taking the paint over the edge so I don't have to frame it. The portrait is resting on that edge while the other three edges dry. I am using quick dry medium but I still have to wait a couple of days for it to dry well.

It is interesting to see a photo of a painting because something often pops out that doesn’t show in the painting. I notice that in this photo, his eye on the right is a bit too light, so I have darkened it since. 

There are a number of ways to get a new look at a painting to see what is wrong with it. An easy one is to look at it upside down. It isn't always convenient to turn a painting upside down of course, but it is easy to look at it in a mirror. I keep a hand mirror nearby. 

My usual fault is getting angles wrong.  The mirror shows if I have got things lined up right. But it isn't perfect for portraits because faces are not symmetrical. If you draw a line through the eyes and another through the mouth, they are not parallel. Everybody has one eye higher than the other. It isn’t usually noticeable and it is common to tidy up portraits and make them symmetrical. I wasn’t satisfied with that. I challenged myself to depict the asymmetry in such a way that the portrait looked more like the person and not as if I had messed up and done a bad drawing.

I mentioned my disability in my last post about buying the saddle stool. One of my problems is that I have no awareness of the angle of my head, which means it is impossible for me to measure angles by holding up a pencil. So I square up my reference photos and my canvas or paper to match. But I don’t square up evenly. I start by taking a line through the eyes, then I draw parallel lines wherever I fancy putting one. It is easy to do on image apps with layers because I just duplicate the layers and move the lines where I think they would be useful. Then I turn a line 90 degrees and add perpendicular lines in the same way. 
If I didn’t have an app that will do it, I could do it with a set square. 

Talking of the saddle stool, it is working out better than I expected. I am no longer in pain when I sit, and I can walk when I stand up. 


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Saddle Stool


Saddle Stool

When I want to concentrate on painting at my easel, the most important thing is what I am sitting on. 
As I am disabled, (I had polio when I was a baby giving me paralysis in my right leg) my gluteus maximus on my left is much bigger than the one on my right. This means that I am lopsided when I sit. Sitting can be very painful, giving me, not backache, but waist ache. So I buy a lot of working chairs, in hopes of finding a comfortable one. My last purchase was a lovely chair but a disaster for me to sit on. I kept tipping sideways and my waist and leg ached with the effort of trying to stay vertical. 
I have been thinking about getting a saddle stool for a long time and yesterday this noble stool arrived (photo above). So far remaining vertical is no problem at all. Getting on it can be awkward because of the hump at the front. Does one call it a pommel on a stool? But I am getting the hang of it and once I am in front of the easel I feel secure and can concentrate on painting and not pain.
The cats are giving the saddle stool dirty looks. It isn’t good for curling up and sleeping. 
I have returned to the painting of Arthur. I am improving four of my portraits in oils on canvas to put into the Art in the Hills exhibition in Dufton Village Hall later this month. The portrait part of the photo has got bleached out by the sunshine so you can’t see what alterations I have made, but I have added a mixture of burnt umber and prussian blue into the shadows and Arthur’s shirt has come to life. I am so pleased with it that I am going to add some prussian blue to the shadows on his face. 
Because the exhibition is coming up soon, I have bought some quick drying mediums. I have 3 different makes to try. First I bought Winsor and Newton Artisan fast drying medium but I didn’t like the smell. So I have bought bottles of Holbein Duo Aqua quick drying liquid, which doesn’t have a smell, and Royal Talens Cobra quick drying medium. I haven’t opened the Cobra one yet because I read that it causes yellowing and also I prefer the consistency of the Duo Aqua paints so it is natural for me to use their medium first. 
You may well prefer the Cobra paints if you come from painting in traditional oil paints. I started by working in dry pastel and the Duo Aqua paints have a drier consistency. I even blend them with my fingers on the canvas sometimes as I would in pastel. 
The reason why I stopped painting in pastel is that I got post polio syndrome and couldn’t grip my pastels. Post polio syndrome is when bits of me that had been working (in this case my right hand) stopped working. I have recovered to the point where I can hold pencils and paintbrushes, and I have tried pastel pencils which have improved a lot since the days when I painted exclusively in pastel, but pastels have to be framed and framing is expensive. Oil on canvas doesn’t need to be framed, which is an important consideration when painting for an exhibition. 



Friday, 29 June 2018

Visiting the Framers


Visiting the Framers

I don’t often buy artwork. My house is so small that I need all the wall space to hang my own art safely out of the way. But I found an artwork that I just had to have. And this week I took it to the framers.
If you live anywhere near Penrith, Cumbria, UK, I recommend “Your Life as Art” if you have any pictures  that need framing. 
Not only is Adrian a very good framer, but he has an art degree and has worked in the arts all his life, so he is the ideal person to help choose which frame and mount board will set off the artwork to advantage. 
So if you have any framing to do, go and see Adrian Brunskill at Your Life as Art, 13/14 Devonshire Arcade, Penrith, CA11 7SX, telephone 07712569787 and see his Facebook Page 

https://www.facebook.com/yourlifeasartpenrith/

The artwork I took to be framed, is a collage by Shawn Marie Hardy. I love all her collages, but this one, “Hoovering”, had to be Mine! Not only does it have that surrealist quirkiness, but the balance and composition is brilliant. And it reminds me that when I have housework to do (especially vacuuming the dog hair off the carpet) at least I don’t have to clean the Milky Way!
Go and view her work and see if you find it as delightful as I do.



Adrian and I looked at lots of combinations of frames and mount boards. Finally we decided on a silver mount to reference NASA, and a slim black aluminium frame. It wouldn’t have looked right in a wide frame. That would have swamped the artwork. 
I am looking forward to seeing it framed.