Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Charcoal On Canvas

The weather has been unpredictable here in Dorset over the last few weeks.

Readers of my earlier posts here will know that I am not put off by 'bad' weather. But when conditions are so changeable that painting becomes impossible with little warning, then the effort of getting to an isolated spot can be wasted. It is disheartening to have to just turn round and come back because of, for example, torrential rain.

So earlier this week I identified a spot very near my home where I could easily manage a large canvas. I am out of the wind, and there is shelter nearby if I need it. This view of the fields of sheep is one which I've been wanting to paint since I moved here. It's years since I last painted sheep.

Painting on this scale is something I really enjoy. In fact I feel that I need to do it. A canvas of this size seems to suit the scale of my marks. It seems natural to me that a big landscape should be painted on a big canvas. It is only the practicalities that stop me from painting even larger - but I'm determined to find ways around this in the future.

My friend Ben took these photographs of me starting work on this canvas.

I began to explain to him what I intended to do. I picked up a stick on the ground, from the remnants of a bonfire, using it to demonstrate how useful it would be to me to have a paintbrush with a  l o n g  handle so that I could stand back and make marks at arms length.

I didn't mean to start drawing on the canvas at that moment. But once I realised that the burnt wood provided me with a piece of superb quality charcoal it was too good an opportunity to waste. I continued to work out my placing while Ben took more photos.

Normally I don't use charcoal or pencil in the preliminary stages of a painting. I do the sketching using paint, brush and rag.

I'll post more later this week to show how the painting progresses.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Challenging Pose

This week I've been painting from the model in the studio.

We started a new pose, which I could tell from the outset was going to be challenging for the model. So, we discussed this at the start - and made plans to ensure that she would be comfortable. It is easy to forget that weight placement (for example, having one leg resting on the other) can quickly cause discomfort, pins-and-needles, cramps and aches.

The pose was a really good one, which inspired me. But we had to face the reality of more regular breaks to ensure we avoided the above maladies.

My model is very professional, and keen to work to the limit of her abilities. I wouldn't quite go along with Euan Uglow's rather extreme categorisation of life models in this article from the Telegraph.

It may be the case that we decide to work on two poses during the same session. The more challenging one in the morning - and a different one in the afternoon.

I've made a promising start, and am looking forward to our next session. The top photograph here shows the painting at the end of the first session.

Following my last post, my order for new paint arrived, and in the second photograph above you can see my freshly-opened large tube of cadmium yellow.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Scraps Of Colour

One of the first things I was taught at the Slade was to bin my 'student quality' paints, and to buy only artist quality. My tutor Euan Uglow was intolerant of the use anything other than the best quality paint - as well as brushes, linen and primer.

Such a lesson is hard for a student on a limited budget, but no matter how tempting the price I could never return now to the poorer quality paints that I used throughout my time at Manchester.

Although they are considerably cheaper, student quality paints really restrict the range of your palette. This is particularly noticeable when painting with darker colours. Poorer quality paint is incapable of being both dark and rich in intensity.

Now I use Old Holland artist quality paint. This gives me the scope to paint with a full palette.

But it doesn't come cheap. The larger tubes of certain colours can cost £100 or more.

With such an investment I have to ensure that I don't leave any paint unused in the tube.

As I come to the end of a tube I'll open it up with a pair of sharp scissors to use the remaining colour. This is clearly impractical when painting outdoors, so I tend to save the 'tube ends' for the studio.