Self Portrait in coloured pencil

Wednesday, 23 August 2017



At the weekend I wrote a long complex post to introduce the reason why I started the Gypsy Portraits Project. It was to use my talent for painting portraits to combat prejudice and Gypsies and Travellers meet prejudice. Gypsies come to Appleby-in-Westmorland every June for the annual Horse Fair, so I took a lot of photos in June this year and I am going to have an exhibition of the portraits next June during the Horse Fair. 
The reason the post was not published is that I was writing it on my iPad and it froze so I lost everything I had written! 
On Sunday, two Jehovah's witnesses came to the door and I told them about my passionate feelings against prejudice. We had a really nice dialogue on the subject and I told them the story of my cat who I rescued nearly 2 years ago. So I think that if I write that story it will explain my feelings about pre-judging. 

The cat was crying at the front doors in my road but nobody would take him in because they said he was aggressive. He attacked the resident cats and dogs and while he liked to have his head rubbed, if his body was touched he would scratch and bite. 
So I took him in. I already had 2 dogs and 2 cats so I struggled to keep them apart. But I persevered and soon realised that the reason he was "vicious" was that he was badly injured. Perhaps he had been hit by a car, because he clearly had liver damage. 
With food and shelter he healed quickly. I couldn't take him to the vet until I could handle him, but as soon as he had recovered enough he went to be microchipped and castrated. 
I called him Jet after a dog we had who had a lovely kind nature. I hoped that it would rub off. I don't know if it made any difference but he is the loveliest cat now. He is so courteous towards my other cats and he loves the dogs. He is still sensitive to being touched on his body so I am very gentle with him and don't pick him up. 
Misjudging Jet is not the only reason I find he is a powerful example of prejudice. He is a black cat and a few people seem to confuse the colour of his fur with racism. When someone says of a cat "I'm not racist", I think that is odd. 

Meanwhile I had been struggling to sit at the easel and paint. But I am fully recovered from my dislocated kneecap now. I had to take off some time to clean the house. It was so dirty after 6 weeks of not being able to do anything except sit on the sofa. 
So I am back to painting. I have been experimenting with different colours and brands of oil paint. For example, I had assumed that if I bought burnt umber, it would be the same colour no matter which brand it was. It isn't true. 
When I used to paint portraits in pastel, my basic brand was Talens Rembrandt, and they make Rembrandt oils which are not water-mixable but the colours are very close to what I am used to. I have found a great solution to mixing a wide range of skin colours. I have discovered a wonderful product made by Schminke, which is a gel that you can mix with oil paint to make it water-mixable. Schminke also make beautiful pastels so I think that I will add some of their oils to my palette. 
I am relieved to be able to get on with the portraits at last. And I am confident that with the new paint I will catch up the backlog. 
Here is how I am doing with the portrait of Mrs Lucas. I am reworking her skin colour. The standard way to paint in oils is to start dark and add the lighter colour on top, but I chose to paint light to dark in pastels to keep the colours clean and I am staying with the method that I am used to. I am also enjoying painting on canvas so the texture shows. 
I have to add some delicate shading to soften Mrs Lucas's eyes and I haven't even started on correcting the colour of her mouth, chin, and throat. It won't take long. I'm on a roll. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Studio Changed

Studio Changed.
Yesterday my friend, Annette, helped me put up my picture shelves. She was in charge of the level and held the shelves steady while I wielded the carpenter's pen that I had bought. It's a felt tipped marker pen with a very long steel nib to be able to mark screw holes even through wood.

Then I showed off my prowess with a drill. The walls in this house are of very coarse sandstone with pebbles in it. I was very lucky though and only glanced off a pebble in two holes. I suspect that the plastering was done by an apprentice because it is so uneven but it wasn't too bad on the level of the lower shelves which is how we managed to get three shelves in a row.

The wall higher up was more uneven and wavy. There was no way to line up the upper shelves that would look good. So those three are on different levels. Annette chose the positions. She used to be a window dresser in Edinburgh, Scotland, so she is an expert at this kind of design.

There is space at each end of the wall to hang framed portraits using picture hooks. That will be a permanent display so I will take my time planning it. It will include the portrait of Roger and the one of Bryn that can be seen on the wall behind the sofa in the photo below. 

I am so happy to have the picture shelves. I will be able to work on a number of portraits at once and have somewhere safe to put them while the paint dries. 

Gucci is on the top shelf and there is a portrait below her that is only sketched as yet. I have been struggling to work because my paintings were behind obstacles set there to protect the canvases from cat claws. No problem now. I have a lot of catching up to do before the Open Studio weekends starting on Friday 8th September. 

After the shelves were in place it was time to put the sofa out for it to be collected this morning early. When Annette had helped me with that she had to leave. I was tired but determined and I made the new IKEA sofa. It was finished at 9pm and I made myself a coffee and put my feet up. 
I put the green cover on it this morning for some protection from the animals. 
Doesn't it look neat? It is very comfortable and takes up a lot less space even though the seat is actually slightly larger.