Self Portrait in coloured pencil

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



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.