Self Portrait in coloured pencil

Friday, 31 August 2018

Hogarth to Keene

Hogarth to Keene 

I have been in a reminiscent frame of mind this week. 
The line of Fliss’s tail kept reminding me of Hogarth’s “line of beauty” which is an S shape. So I went looking for my book “From Hogarth to Keene”.

Because I had polio as a baby and couldn’t run around with other children, I learned to read early and I spent all my free time reading. 
In our sitting room, where we entertained visitors, there was a display cabinet. The bottom shelf held books. There was a set of encyclopaedias in eight volumes called the Books of Knowledge and I used to sit on the floor by the display cabinet and read them from cover to cover. I was particularly interested in mythology but I read about everything. 

Another book that was on the bottom shelf was “From Hogarth to Keene” by Henry Reitlinger, published in 1938. I mention the year because I want to quote the first sentence from Chapter 1: Story-Telling. “Our grandparents lived in the belief, which few ever seriously thought of questioning, that a picture ought to tell a story.” 
The author goes on to say that fashions in art have changed, and then he says that drawing in black and white “is clearly the natural and Heaven-sent medium for recording the anecdotal and even the jocular side of life”. 
So the book is about black and white illustration and the artists who had a talent in those mediums. 
I wonder if it was reading this book that gave me the love of pen and ink drawing. I took the book when my parents died. It held such precious memories. I left the encyclopaedia though. The information was so out-of-date.

William Hogarth was trained as a line engraver but his talent lies in his paintings and the social comment in his subjects. I was fascinated. When I was living in London I made a point of visiting Sir John Sloane’s Museum to see The Rake’s Progress set of eight paintings. I recommend a visit. It holds amazing items besides the paintings. 
I photographed pages of the book with illustrations by Hogarth (see above). 

Charles Keene is not so well known. He has a vigorous style which I admire. I thought that as his name was in the title I should take photos of his illustrations from the book to show you. So here they are below. 

Don’t you think that the old woman’s umbrella is delightful!

Friday, 24 August 2018

Workbench Finished

Workbench Finished

Today I screwed the second wall table to the wall in my workroom/spare bedroom. 
I was using a wallpaper pasting table which is still in the room - the black thing by the window. It was a temporary solution. I couldn’t open the trapdoor to the attic and pull down the ladder without heaving the pasting table onto the sofa bed. So clutter piled up. 
I looked for a wall table that would fold down behind the loft ladder, and bought two. 
I used the pasting table to help me make and put up the table near the window. It wasn’t totally successful. You can see in the photo above that there is a gap where it is attached to the wall. Luckily it seems to be strong. But for the nearer table I decided I was going to add glue to make sure. 
I had to close up the wallpaper pasting table for lack of space so I racked my brains for a way of supporting the next table while I screwed it to the wall. I thought “What would Dad have done?” and I remembered the old kitchen stools that I kept because I used to use them for a sawhorse. Luckily they weren’t in the attic. I needed to stack some books on them to get them to the right height but I made it work. 
My Dad was the kind of father who teaches their disabled 4 year old daughter how to point a wall. He was a bricklayer. 

I don’t have my easel in this room. It faces South and I like a North light for painting. But it is out of the way (usually) of cats and dogs so I can dust and feel able to do those jobs that I call setting up without getting hairs stuck on my work. I can prime and gesso the canvas and put in the structural lines before I take it downstairs and put it on the easel. 
I often add the structural lines to the reference photo in Photoshop and print it on plain paper, then I rub 9B crayon on the back of the paper and transfer it by drawing the structural lines keeping them straight with a ruler. It isn’t the same as squaring up. I do it to keep the angles right. I used to measure angles the regular artist’s way by holding up a paintbrush, but when I got post polio syndrome I couldn’t hold my head or my hand steady any more, so I developed a more technical method to keep noses straight!

My easel is in my front room facing the North. I have now got everything that I need to help me sit at the easel and paint. I have my new saddle stool that helps me balance and stops me getting backache. I have have the canvas rotating attachment so I can turn the painting to the right angle to make the strokes of paint easy to line up correctly. I have a brush holder with an assortment of different brushes and a brush cleaning system that is tucked away on the window sill behind the antique block plane that my father taught me to use many years ago. I am near the front door for when visitors or delivery people knock. 
And on the other wall I have my picture shelves where oil paint layers can dry. 
Don’t forget the dog bed and the chair for the dogs to keep out of the way while I am painting. They are very good while I am painting. The rest of the time I am expected to throw squeaky balls. 

Friday, 17 August 2018

Maurice Quentin de la Tour

Maurice Quentin de la Tour
The portrait above is of Marie Fel. She was a popular singer, still performing when she was 65. De la Tour loved her and judging by her expression she loved him too.

When I first started to paint portraits, I tried acrylics but I didn’t get on well. I was going to a weekly evening class and one of the other artists brought in a box of pastels that her grandmother had given her. I took one look and knew I had found my medium.

A few weeks ago a man who is interested in the history of art asked me which artist inspired my portrait style. So I immediately said Maurice Quentin de la Tour. I got my book, “The French Pastellists of the Eighteenth Century” by Haldane Macfall, from the book case, and showed him the images.

I found the book in a second hand bookshop. The prints are tipped onto blank pages in the book and I feel lucky to have found the book with all the prints in place. So many of those old books had the prints removed to hang on the wall. The book includes many Eighteenth Century pastellists, but it is clear that Mr Macfall considered that de la Tour was the star.

I am inspired by Maurice Quentin de la Tour because of the liveliness of the expressions he portrays. Most of his portraits tell me as much about the artist as about the subject. It is obvious from their amused expressions that he was an entertaining and witty man. 

Most Eighteenth Century Portraits by famous oil painters look more like furnishings for their patrons’ mansions (chateaux?) than interesting individuals. I understand the desire of the patrons to want to present an image for posterity, but I don’t feel sad to think that I can never meet them. In de la Tour’s case I feel that I have already met them. So he inspired me to emulate him, not in wit but perhaps in kindness.

A lot of Maurice de la Tour’s portraits are in the Louvre. I haven’t been to Paris to see them but I have seen and appreciated a portrait of a young man in the National Gallery, London. It was in an obscure corner. Pastels are undervalued. 

His most famous portrait is the one of Madame Pompadour (below) but there are many to see at this link which is where I downloaded the images on this page. It is free to download the jpegs and you can buy prints of the portraits from the site.
The site is a wonderful resource for looking at great art: 

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: