Self Portrait in coloured pencil

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Well That's Over!


Church Craft Fair

I would have liked a bit more warning about the craft fair, and having set to work on doing a couple of paintings for it, obstacles arose. Don't they always! So I only finished one painting which was design of a cheetah for a new bookmark. I am not happy with the finished result so I won't show you until I have done more painting on it and made it look as I wanted. The other painting I was working on was a portrait of a cat. I am going to get more work done on that one next week. I will share the work in progress of that one.

I set up a folding canvas with samples of my portraits on repositionable posters, and added some colourful small drawings, flyers, business bookmarks and cards.
I also ran a one day raffle in aid of the Church. The prize is a portrait by me. So I have a dog portrait to do. I know the dog. His name is Bentley and he is very cute. So I am a winner too.
The people who didn't win the raffle were not total losers. I included a 25% off voucher with every raffle ticket valid for one year. One lady is very interested in having a portrait of her horse.

It was a good weekend. I added the Conté portrait on the left on Saturday. I am glad I did as it was much admired. It is an old portrait, but I am still proud of it. 
The dog portraits and the baby portrait also got a lot of positive attention. Amateur and professional artists asked about my media.
There were a lot of jokes about my self portrait (on the right hand canvas). I did the self portrait for two reasons, and the relevant reason this weekend was to prove that I am good at getting a likeness. I explained to a few people that I had done more than one portrait from life using a mirror, and how difficult it is to maintain a pleasant expression while one is staring at oneself in a mirror.

One of the most enjoyable things about taking part in a craft fair, is making new creative friends and one had some interesting news for me. Her artist son is starting a gallery in the next town. So I am planning to do some still lifes in hopes that he will show them for me. 

Look out for the next post with an update on the portrait of Freyja, the cat. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Posthumous Portrait of a Lady


A Posthumous Portrait of a Lady

This is the finished portrait of the lady that I was working on during my last post.  
It is drawn in coloured pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes paper. I used the reverse less textured side. Well I call it the reverse. I don't know which side is the official reverse. 
I enjoy working on the textured side but it is hard to get the detail in a portrait that is only 5x7 inches. This portrait is done on that size to match the portrait of her grandson (which I do not intend to publish for my personal reasons). 
There were a couple of difficulties to overcome doing this portrait. One was the quality of the photographs, which I think I wrote about last time. (I may have been oblique about it.) The second difficulty is related. The lady is wearing rimless eyeglasses and it was hard to see where they ended. So if you notice a few unexplained dark patches and shadows, that is the reason. 
It was fun capturing her mischievous smile. At one point I was afraid it had turned into a snarl so I had to take some time away from it so I could get a fresh look and see where I was going wrong. These things can be so subtle. 
I have posted the portrait to the lady's daughter and I planned to include some prints for her sisters. Unfortunately the printer that I use for art prints decided that it couldn't recognise the black cartridge that it was printing with nicely a week earlier. I am hoping that it will work again if I wait. I don't want to replace a cartridge if I don't need to - they are expensive. 


Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Portrait Work in Progress

A Posthumous Portrait Work in Progress 

I have been working on a posthumous portrait of a lady. I am drawing in coloured pencils on my favourite Canson Mi Teintes paper in aurora. 
As it is a posthumous portrait the photos that I am working from are not of the best quality but that is my forte. The first time I did a posthumous portrait was for a friend of mine, a Hindu man. His mother in law had died and the only photo they had of her was a very faded black and white one. His family members had given him the job of getting good copies of the photograph so each branch of the family could have a copy. So he asked me to try and do a portrait from it. This was back in the days before Photoshop. 
It was extremely difficult to see the features. But I did my best for my friend. 
He took a professional photograph of the portrait and sent copies to the family members and I was so surprised to get the message back that I had got a good likeness. After succeeding with that one I have the confidence to believe I can do anything! And as I say on my website, it is when your photographs are poor quality that you really need a portrait drawn or painted. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

King Charles Spaniel


King Charles Spaniel 

It is many years since I last did a portrait in pastel. But pastels have always been my favourite medium.  
I had to stop working in pastels because I had trouble with my hand and I kept dropping them. Dropping pastels is very bad for them and you end up with a colourful floor and pastel crumbs too small to hold. 
In those days pastel pencils were not good quality, in the sense that the pigment had hard bits that scratched the painting. Now there are a number of art material companies that are producing wonderfully smooth consistent pastel pencils. 
It is still easier for me to hold a pencil than a piece of pastel but I did work with both in the portrait. I used the pieces of stick for background colour and rubbed it into the paper then I worked over it with the pencils. 
I use kneadable erasers to blend the colours. I tried stumps once but I quickly discarded them. Once the tip is dirty they are useless to me. But with the eraser I can keep working a new point. 
I wish that I had had longer to work on the portrait. I lost some time because I had a couple of falls, and I took part in a craft fair, but also I had to learn new techniques which takes time. So it isn't as finished as I would have liked. The dog's paws were fluffy and complicated so I left them sketchy. I am not good at sketchy. 
I had a fairly strict deadline with this portrait which I went over by two days. It took 24 hours in total. 
Despite my problems, I am happy that I captured the character of the dog. (I would tell you her name if I knew how to spell it.)

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Yawning Tiger


Yawning Tiger 

I finished two pen and ink drawings this last week despite being distracted by a missing cat. My very old cat got out when I wasn't paying attention properly. Perhaps I did the drawing so efficiently as a distraction to keep from worrying about the cat. He got home on Friday night but he had to be rescued from a high wall in the dark. 
The first drawing I finished was this tiger. It is pen and ink on graphic film with coloured pencil on the reverse. It is more challenging than you would think to get the right tones to show through on the right side. Graphic film is translucent but not clearly transparent. So colours are dulled, and blending one colour over another needs to be done backwards. You have to use brains more than feelings. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Bronze Cat finished


The Bronze Cat finished 

I finished the painting of the bronze cat at last. 
I am pleased with how well I succeeded with the tiger's eye on the left using glazes. The Connemara marble is satisfactorily chunky using a pointillist technique in shades of grey over a green glaze. 
The fool's gold was tricky to paint. I used metallic paint in light gold more for fun than for effect. But the key to capturing it was the dark shadows setting off the highlights. 
I don't know what the other crystals are. 
I am pleased with the light green crystal on the left. It had a white reticulated pattern interspersed with dark green areas and the light reflecting off it bleached the pattern. That took a few glazes to get the light areas the right shade. 
The light blue had a lot of tiny dots of white over blue and then blue glazes to take the white back to the right shade. That was easy as was the large brown crystal on the right. But that one was mainly dots of light shades of ochre glazed with sepia. 
The other crystals were straight forward to paint using glazes.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bronze cat painting 2


Painting of Bronze Cat update

I have had a few disruptions to stop me finishing this painting. Some were minor distractions. For example, today I had an idea about doing sketches from life, and I wondered if anyone made shopping trolleys with a seat, so instead of painting, I researched them. There were a few styles and now I need to decide the best seat height. 

I have finished the Connemara marble and I am happy with what I have done with the tiger's eye. Today I have been working on the fool's gold. I raised the crystals up on small camera tripod so that they would catch the light in the same way as they did in my original composition. You can see two of the crystals on the left. 

If you are wondering what they are sitting on, I set a nut of the right thread for a camera tripod into the back of the piece of wood to make an easel for miniatures. Then recently I converted it so it would hold my iPod Touch for taking special photos. The green stuff is Sugru which is great stuff to play with and make things. I have just adapted another table easel with a drawer to be able to attach it to a larger tripod by sticking a nut to the underneath with Sugru. Sugru is very good for sticking things. I will write a post about it if it works. 

To get back to the artwork, there is less to do than you may think. The main thing is the shadows. They may take a while because of getting the soft edges. 


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Painting of a bronze cat.


Painting of a bronze cat. 

This little bronze statue of an Egyptian cat was given to me by a friend who had treasured it for a long time. I promised her a painting of it in exchange.  
I worked out a still life composition with crystals. I am not sure what the crystals are, except for the lumpy "fool's gold" in the centre and the big grey lump which is unpolished Connemara marble. 
The painting of the cat figure has been done for some time but I am finding the Connemara marble a challenge. I am painting layers upon layers in little dots of greys with hints of green and yellow. It is taking hours. I take as long as I need to get it right. 
I have painted Connemara marble before but that was in pastel on textured paper. This time I am working in Acryl gouache on a very smooth surface so I have to paint the texture rather than letting the materials suggest it for me. 
The texture isn't the biggest challenge. It is hard to describe such an irregular shape. 
The rounded polished stones will be easy. I am a little bit worried about the fool's gold. I don't think it will be as difficult as the Connemara marble. It has flat facets which are easier to depict even if the shape is irregular. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

To the memory of the wonderful "Sheila"

The last portrait of Sheila 

This is so typical of Sheila. She loved cropping grass and always carried some in her mouth. 
This drawing is pen and ink on graphic film. I got the softened look by rubbing the applied ink with either an eraser or a cotton bud depending on the effect I wanted. 
Then I strengthened the darker areas. 
I added shades of green on the reverse of the drawing in coloured pencil. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Horse Communication Drawing update


Horse Communication Drawing update 

I was not happy with the composition of the pen and ink drawing of the man and his horse. There was a nasty empty area by Sheila's shoulder. So I went searching for something to support her so she didn't look as if she was about to fall off the right hand side of the drawing. 
There wasn't much space to fill but I found a small tree from one of the other photos of Sheila. 
I didn't want to add colour in that area. That would not have improved the composition at all. As I had drawn the horse and man on graphic film, I drew the tree on the reverse using a 2B technical pencil. Then I softened it with a cotton bud. 
Soft pencil slithers nicely on graphic film with a little help. I avoid touching graphic film with my hand as any moisture marks it with a white spot. I lay sheets of paper, preferably blotting paper, wherever I may need to rest my hand. 
Finally, on the right side I emphasised the edge of Sheila's neck and shoulder against the tree using pen and ink.
I am happy with it now. I felt this double portrait was worth my best efforts. It would be a lovely depiction of the trust Sheila has for the man, if I could do it justice.  

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Quizzical Mare Communication



It took 34 hours to finish this 7x5 inch pen and ink drawing of a man and horse, which is a lot longer than usual but it was a complex composition. There is so much communication going on between the man and his mare, and she is giving him such a quizzical look. I wonder what she thinks of him. 

It took over a month to complete because I had more cat instigated changes which involved buying a small cupboard to stand my printer in my bedroom, which is the only cat free zone. The problem was that the new cat kept sitting on the printer when it was in the kitchen. Cats have such dirty feet and I worried about cat litter dropping in the mechanism. 
So there has been more furniture being moved around upstairs and downstairs to make space for the new cupboard. 
I also bought a new chair to fit into the small space by my bedroom window where I do my pen and ink drawings now (see last post).

You may wonder if I am regretting rescuing Jet the cat. No. 
I will do a few drawings of him once he has a nice new glossy summer coat. He looks shabby now. Maybe he will get a huge fan club and make my fortune. OK I am joking. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Studio Changes

Studio Changes 

I have been making a few changes to my studio space. 
The changes became necessary when the rescued cat recovered and became more active and demanding of my attention. He soon learned that the certain way to my attention was to sit on my painting. 
I quickly moved my acrylic gouache still life painting to my upstairs easel. I set up a smaller drawing board as you can see above.  
I was able to do some pen and ink drawing for a while, and was able to finish the Wolf Den, but I can't any longer. If I sit at the kitchen table to draw, I soon have a large cat on my lap staring into my eyes. And now the old cat is copying him!
The only solution was to find a table to take upstairs to hold my drawing slope. 
I have a gate leg table, I unscrewed the hinges attached to the flaps to make it easy to carry upstairs. Taking a small gate leg upstairs single handed with the flaps bouncing is no fun. 
Today it has been a question of the best chair to squeeze into the space between my bed and the window. 
I started a new pen and ink today. I am going to have to work hard to catch up. I plan to do some equine art in time for the annual Appleby Horse Fair. 

Upside down gate leg table waiting for its second flap to be screwed on. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


I have finished the coloured pencil portrayal of conkers or horsechestnuts. It is 5x7 inches. 
I did some miniatures in coloured pencil, based on the horsechestnut tree last year and I wanted to do a larger version. I thought I had finished it last year but when I looked at it last week I decided I could do a better job of the shadows. 
I used Zest-it pencil blend to reduce the rough areas of shadow, then I left it to dry until next day. Then I was able to blend fresh shadows on top of the traces. 

I described in early February, how I built a barricade to protect my artwork from the cat. Well it stopped working. The cat insists on sitting on my lap. So I spent the weekend setting up my smaller artwork "studio" in my bedroom/cat-free zone. Now I have the painting of the bronze cat still life set up and I was able to get back to it this afternoon. I also set up two 5x7 inch pen and ink drawings of my favourite horse model. There is no ink on them yet. I will be able to work on them while I am waiting for paint to dry!
I have put the other pen and inks away for a while. They are wolves and big cats so they will wait. 

My downstairs studio has my easel for big paintings. I will stand to work on them so the cat won't be able to sit on my lap. I am waiting for my leg to become stronger before I can do that. I have been having trouble with walking and standing this winter which is one reason I have been concentrating on the small pen and inks. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Wolf with cubs in her den drawn in pen and ink.

I have been moving my art studio downstairs and I had buried my scanner under a heap of paper which is why I have only just been able to scan this 6 x 4 inch pen and ink drawing of a wolf with her cubs in a den under tree roots. 
I have wanted to do this subject for a long time and eventually I decided that I must do it now. It is the one subject that I would regret if I had not done it at the end of my life. Now I can look for another subject to inspire me, but first I am going to do another larger version of the wolf den in colour. 
I love working in pen and ink. I recently bought a second Platinum fountain pen to use with waterproof carbon ink. Yes these pens are designed with a cap that stops them from drying up though it is necessary to use it every day or so with the carbon ink. I bought the pen with the ultra fine nib for my small drawings. I love the feel of the pen in my hand and the delicate lines that it can produce. 
I needed fine lines and control to draw the wolf and her cubs. The cubs in particular were a huddle of legs and noses. It was difficult to sort them out. I think there are four cubs there. It may have helped if I coloured the tongues pink but I thought that would look silly. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Gold Leaf

Gold leaf diversion 
I have finished the wolf den in pen and ink but I have not had time to scan it. I have been finishing a piece of furniture that I built, and tools and other things are still sitting on top of the scanner. 
The furniture was built to hold a Nichiren Buddhist mandala called a Gohonzon. 
I started with an IKEA children's storage system because it was exactly the right size. 
The inner cupboard is made of African mahogany. I don't know what that is but it is a beautiful colour. 
The inner cupboard needed a new back, and for a long time I have dreamed of having the back coated in gold leaf. So I ordered the gold leaf and acrylic size from L. Cornelissen & Son because their website was easier to understand than others I looked at. I chose the extra thick gold leaf in hopes that it would be less fragile. After all this was my first attempt at proper gold leafing. 
I bought a big board of Ampersand Claybord because I thought it would make a great surface to gold leaf. It was. 
I thought I should let you know what I learned in case you are thinking of trying gold leaf yourself. 
I bought transfer gold leaf. The leaf is held on a wax paper, and each leaf is between the pages of a booklet. It is easy to handle and doesn't need any special tools. 
The acrylic size was in a bottle and the instructions said to leave it 15 minutes then it would stay tacky indefinitely. 
My advice, having learned from my mistakes, is: don't apply the size beyond the area that you want gold leafed, and apply the size as smoothly as possible. 
The gold leaf only sticks to the sized area. It doesn't stick to the area that already has gold on it. So you don't need to be too precious about it, and you can touch in any gaps in the gold by applying the left over bits on the wax paper. 
Because of the stickiness that was definitely persistent I had to varnish the gold leaf surface. This brings me to the last crucial lesson. The wax on the paper leaves a trace of itself on the gold and water based acrylic varnish doesn't like wax. I don't know what you can use to clean off the wax without taking off any gold. I just persevered with coats of varnish. One area ended up a bit lumpy but I don't think it will show when the mandala is hanging in place. 
I was left with one entire leaf of gold which I photographed (above). I intend to incorporate it into a miniature in the Nihonga style. I have put it away safely until I am inspired by a subject. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Work in progress: The Wolf Den

The Wolf Den work in progress 6 x 4 inches 
It may be small but there is a lot of work in this pen and ink of a wolf and her cubs in a den under tree roots. So I am showing the work in progress. 
I am drawing it behind the barricade that fends off the cat. But today he peeped round the back of the barricade to see what I was doing. I was getting ready to protect the drawing when he kind of sniffed and went back to sleep. 
I have wanted to do a drawing or painting of the wolf den for many years but I deferred it because I had commissions. Eventually that old question came up: if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you regret not doing. For me the answer was so clear. I would most regret not having done this subject. 
The second thing was that I bought a new "best" pen so I bought some carbon ink cartridges for my old best pen and my hand was itching to draw with it. That is why I have started with a pen and ink of the subject. 
I have also bought an Ampersand claybord to do a painted version. But that will have to wait until the itch to use my pen stops nagging at my hand. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Solving unusual problems

I rescued a cat last November. He had been recovering from his injuries and had mainly been sleeping under the table. Now he is recovering fast and favours sleeping on the table. He is also lively enough to take an inconvenient interest in what I am doing (and eating). 
Yesterday I moved my acrylic painting upstairs out of Jet's way. I thought that using my downstairs easel slope for pen and inks would take up less space with a big cat lying on the table. 
So yesterday I tried to work on a pen and ink drawing that had been put away for a while. 
Jet stepped on it and when I tried to stop him I got scratched and he threatened to bite me. 

Today I had to find a solution that would allow me to draw without a confrontation. I climbed into the attic to try and find materials to make a barricade. I found an old slatted shelf and some bits of wood and the remains of some very old wood glue. 
Here is the result (with cat):

Saturday, 30 January 2016

What I've been doing.

I have been updating my website. 
I made my last website on a computer that died and I hadn't backed up the files. So I had to start again. And this time I have made it responsive down to mobile size. I hope it works. 
It is the same url of course. 
I had the gold and red logo for many years and I felt it was time for a change. I tried my artworks against many different coloured backgrounds and picked the one that set off both the coloured ones as well as the black and white ones. It turned out to be my favourite aqua tone and I was inspired to use toning dark green for the banner and link buttons. 
I would love to know what people think about the new colours. 
I have also added two more galleries. I have added miniatures and the bigger pen and inks that I worked on in 2015. 
It was harder work than I expected and took me much longer so I haven't done as much art as I would have liked to do. 

I have been working on a still life painting of a small statuette reproduction of the Egyptian cat that inspired the portrait of Bastet the cat goddess shown in my Animals gallery. I have added some semi precious stones in shades of blue, green and brown and a chunk of Connemara marble. 
I hope it isn't long before I finish it and show it here.