Self Portrait

Friday, 23 June 2017

Studio Changes


Studio Changes

I have been very busy fussing with changes to my studio for the last few months. 
There are two reasons. The most important reason is that I am starting a new project. I am painting a series of portraits in oil on canvas. I will have a solo exhibition of them in June 2018.
The second reason is that I have had a nasty rash on my leg that meant I have had to sit with my leg propped up on a stool since last October. Because of that I haven't been able to use my usual painting table where I paint while sitting on a gas lift bar stool. (I couldn't find a footstool high enough 😉) So I have been painting and drawing small portraits on the kitchen table. But I have commissions for some big portraits and I have my project. I will say more about that in my next post. 
The result was that I spent a lot time online looking at easels that would let me sit with my leg up. I bought a table easel that would hold a bigger canvas but I couldn't get on with it, and l didn't like the idea of painting in oils on the kitchen table. 
So I set up my old easel in the lounge and it was very crowded. This week, I decided that it is no longer a lounge. It is a studio where I entertain guests. I rearranged the furniture. There was a plan chest under the window which I moved to the other wall where there was an easy chair. The chair has been moved to the kitchen (in the way of the oven). The easel is now in the perfect place where it gets the north light. 
The photo shows my new setup with the portrait I am working on. It is my first attempt at an oil painting. I am using water mixable oils. There are a few different brands. The first ones I bought were Duo Aqua Oil and I like them very much except I have been struggling to get the skin colours that used to be so easy in pastels. I bought a few Cobra oil paints to see if that burnt umber was the colour I remembered. It wasn't. The Cobra paints are more oily and don't suit me so well. 
I checked and you can mix normal oils with water mixable ones so I have bought some but it will be ages before they arrive. 
Meanwhile I have managed to mix a nice skin colour with burnt sienna and Quinacridone Gold and lots of white. I thought the Gold was too powerful to be useful but a tiny bit takes the pasty pink out of the burnt sienna.
I have also been experimenting with different brushes. I like KUM Memory Point brushes for my gouache paintings and I bought some in different shapes and sizes to try.
The water mixable paints dry faster than normal oils and it is a good idea to have a palette with a tight lid like for acrylics. I don't imagine that the kind with a reservoir and a semi permeable membrane would work right but you might like to try. Let me know. 
While I was about all this paint shopping, I bought a Daylight bulb for my worklight which is turned on in the photo. It has been a damp dismal day. 

Postscript: my leg is getting much better now. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Drawing of Bryn Finished


Portrait Drawing of Bryn

I finished the portrait drawing of Bryn some time ago and immediately became involved in new exciting projects. And not so exciting problems to solve. So I just now posting the finished result. 

I am calling the portrait of Bryn "Elegance". I once had another dog, a crossbred boxer, who had a similar queenly demeanour. But Juno wasn't able to curl up into such a small neat space with her chin resting on her back. Bryn is such a feminine dainty soul who takes a great interest in hair styles (mine) and manicures (hers). She tells Jasper to stand in the corner while I vacuum, and she keeps the cats in order. She is 14 now and I am making the most of every day I still have her. This is why I wanted to commemorate her in this portrait. 

I worked the portrait in graphite pencil on Bristol board. I used mechanical pencils that have a good grip area for great control. But it still took me 57 hours to get that degree of detail. 

The main problem that I have to find a solution for is that I need an easel that I can sit at with my leg up on a stool because it is not yet fully healed. I have easels. I have a great one set up facing a north light but it is set up on a high table and I use it while sitting on an adjustable height stool. There is no way I can rest my leg on a stool! I have a regular studio easel which I have to stand at. The construction makes it impossible to put my leg on a stool with that one. So I spent hours online shopping for easels. I saw one I liked but it takes up a lot of floor space and my house is small. 
Then I remembered I had seen a thing to attach to the back of a drawing board to set it up on a camera tripod. Plenty of space under a tripod for a footstool. I bought that and a lightweight drawing board and I am going to use it to start my next portrait tomorrow. I will be working A3 size which is uncomfortably big for the table easel. I will be working in Acryl gouache which is a gentle medium so the camera tripod should stand up to it nicely. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

New Portrait of Bryn in Graphite Pencil

It feels like a long time since I did any serious artwork. I have a rash on my left leg that means that I have to sit with my leg on a stool. I found it very difficult to draw with my leg sticking out to the left. It was putting me off balance until I developed some new muscles to compensate!
I also needed to buy a new easel that I could use on the kitchen table. I bought myself an easel that I can tilt and rotate, so that instead of me bending to shade at an angle, I can twist the drawing board round. 
I started drawing this portrait of my old dog, Bryn, last year. She is very grey now so I am using an old photo as reference, but the pose is still so typical of her. She is a very elegant lady. 
I am drawing on Bristol board using mechanical pencils in sizes .3 and .5 in 2B. I love using the pencils which have a special grip area, but, even more, I love using the leads which have nano diamonds so they are blacker than usual because nano diamonds lubricate the lead. 
The piece of card at the bottom of the photo is so I can rest my hand on the surface without getting grease on the drawing. Graphite doesn't stick well to grease. 
Now Bryn's face is drawn, I was thinking that it wouldn't have be long before I finished it, but I forgot about the lovely twirly rosettes of fur on her chest. They will take some time. I am so glad that I bought the new easel!

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.)