Self Portrait in coloured pencil

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. 

Monday, 31 July 2017

Studio changes

Studio Changes

I live in a small Victorian terrace house, known originally as a two up, two down. There is a front room and a kitchen downstairs and, when it was first built, there were two bedrooms upstairs. The toilet was in an outhouse. It wasn't even in the garden, but two houses down the hill. Near the toilet was the coalshed. 
By the time I bought the house, the back bedroom had been divided to make a bathroom. It was badly designed and I changed it the moment I had some money to spare. 

But I am really writing about my studio. The whole house is 11ft wide inside. In the photo above, you can see most of the width of the front room which is my studio. The door on the left leads to the kitchen and the stairs go up on the right. The length of the room is 13ft from the front window to the wall under the stairs, so it is 10ft free space. You can't use under the stairs for anything but storage without banging your head. 
Originally the front door was next to the window, but a former owner built a (very) little vestibule to help keep the draughts out. I added a stable door which is wonderful for talking to people at the door with no chance of the dogs getting out. (Jasper tends to toss a ball over the door for visitors.) Below is a photo of Jasper in front of the stable door. The dogs' leads are hanging on the wall by the front door. My front door is very yellow. 
The drawers to the right of Jasper, hold my paper and other art related stuff. The cupboard on the left of Jasper is my Butsudan. I am a Buddhist and chant every morning and evening. 

The dark coloured wall is recently tiled with cork floor tiles to protect my paintings from condensation. I have bought some picture shelves so I can change my art quickly and easily. They arrived today and I haven't put them up yet. I have to get the drill out from the tiny cupboard under the bottom stairsI also bought a new, smaller sofa to replace the one in the top photo. It is an IKEA one, and it is the smallest sofa I can find. 
One of the nicest things about this house, is that the front window is nearly north facing so I have great light for painting until the sun creeps round on midsummer late evenings. 
An even nicer thing is my lovely neighbours. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dufton Art in the Hills exhibition.

Dufton Art in the Hills exhibition
As promised, I am writing this week about my visit to the Dufton Art in the Hills exhibition. 
But first I must tell you that I solved the problems that I had last week. I stopped the cats keeping me up at night, and I found out why my knee wasn't getting better. I had slightly dislocated my kneecap. I popped back when I kneeled down on the floor and now it is getting better steadily. However it is a bit weak so I got very tired at the exhibition and I haven't done much today. 

Back to the exhibition, I went with my friend Barbara and she was enthusiastic about the quality of the art. There were examples of all mediums. We both loved these sculptures made out of cutlery. 

I hope you can see the humming bird on the left. 
I must apologise that I didn't write down the names of the artists. I apologise to the artists in particular. 
If anyone wants to know who they are I can find out for you. 

Pencil on the left and a photograph on the right. Both are equally full of atmosphere. 

This lady works in all mediums. I like the pastel of the dog's eye. 

This is brilliantly done, enhanced with stitching. 

Finally two of my portraits, and a painting by my friend which I like so much that I voted it as my favourite artwork. 

I have a pastel and an oils. The portrait in oils isn't quite finished. She asked me to fluff out her hair. It was rather flat on the day we took the photos. Of course I agreed, saying that I am better than Photoshop. I am pleased at how vivid the portrait looks. Remember it's my first attempt in oils. 

I love this painting of Jean's granddaughter in Dufton Ghyll. 

I wasn't able to finish the portrait of Gucci, the gypsy dog, in time for the exhibition. It is nearly finished except for the grass in front of her. I chose a photo that had been cut off at the bottom because I was holding the camera very low to get the photo at Gucci's eye level, and I couldn't look through the lens. I have used some of the other photos to see what I lost, including the grass she is lying on. 
My new camera can connect with my new iPad by wifi so I spent some time this afternoon trying to make it work. Next time I want a very low angle for a photo, I will be able to see what the camera is looking at on my iPad screen. What an amazingly useful thing. I also uploaded the photos above, into the iPad by the wifi. It was very slow. I won't use it for a lot of photos but it is useful for small numbers. 

Friday, 14 July 2017



It has been another difficult week. 

There is a belief that when one tries to do something valuable or important, obstacles arise. 
I thought that my badly bruised knee was bad enough but it has not healed as quickly as I expected because of misbehaving cats. 

Life normally has a gentle routine of painting and drawing during the day, interspersed with taking care of the animals. I have two dogs and three cats. 
The dogs are well behaved except when our friend Annette, visits. Then it is playtime and treat time. Annette thinks they are badly behaved with visitors but they know she is the only person with a pocket full of treats. 
Cat number one, Pumpkin, is best described as a "gentleman". He has impeccable manners and has the run of the house. I don't let him out. He is old now 
Cat number two, Fliss, is in the photo above with Bryn. I had her from a kitten and taught her to pay attention to me but I don't trust her to be left loose unsupervised, so she is shut in the spare room when I am working and at night.
Cat number three, Jet, is a rescue. He is feisty. He is opinionated. He has teeth and claws and is willing to use them. I can't work with him around. He sits on anything I am doing. This week he decided he will go to bed when he wants to and I have been kept busy stroking him for hours which has been stressful for my knee. And tiring. I have been getting to bed very late and I haven't got much work done. 

Last night Jet refused to be put to bed at all. I don't know where he decided to sleep eventually. He certainly spent hours outside my bedroom door making strange noises. As I expected, when I got up he was desperate for the litter tray which is in the spare room. He was probably very hungry too. I took the opportunity to shut him in for the day. 
Fliss was loose in the studio today. She was interested in the palette of oil paint. I was interested in keeping her tail out of the paint but I did get some work done. I had to scrape some cat hair off the painting. Luckily it wasn't a delicate piece of brushwork. 

This week I bought myself two more ceramic palettes with lids so I could work on three paintings at once. I like ceramic palettes more than any other kind. The paint doesn't dry so quickly or hard on them and they are very easy to clean. They each live in their own air tight food storage box. These boxes are also cat proof. 

Next Friday is the Private View of the Dufton "Art in the Hills" exhibition so I will be late writing my blog. I will take photos. The three portraits that I am struggling to finish despite knee and cats are to be in the exhibition. I have to finish them by Wednesday morning when a fellow exhibitor (and good friend) will pick them up from me to deliver them to the Dufton village hall. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Cat in the Studio

Cat in the Studio

I haven't been able to do as much painting as I hoped this week. I had a fall on Monday and landed heavily on my right knee. I was in so much pain and I couldn't walk never mind sit at the easel. By Wednesday I was able to do some drawing while sitting in my easy chair in the kitchen. That evening I was able to stand and transfer a new portrait onto a canvas. I paid for it yesterday though. My knee became so uncomfortable.
This morning I was able to get back to the portrait of my friend. I was playing with the colours. I am getting a skin tone that I am happy with, by mixing a lot of white with a small amount of gold ocre and a hint of light oxide red to take the yellow out of it. I am using water mixable oil paints, but the gold ochre that I want is an ordinary oil paint. Luckily you can mix small amounts of oil paint with a greater quantity of water-mixable oil paint without losing the water mixable aspect.
After lunch, I got back to my easel raring to go, to find Pumpkin asleep on the lid of the palette. I hope you can see him in the photo. So I went upstairs to fetch a ceramic palette. I had been using it for acrylics so I had to clean it. 
I like to use ceramic palettes. I like the ones with round dimples. The paint doesn't dry so fast and stick so tight on ceramic. When I'm not painting I keep each one in an airtight food storage tub. 
I want to mention my favourite brushes as well. I have a couple in the pot on the window sill. The ones with a white handle are made of memory hair. The brand name is KUM. I buy them from CultPens. I don't know if anyone else sells them in the UK.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Getting on with the Portrait

Getting on with the Portrait

I have continued to experiment with the skin colour as painted in water mixable oils.
I read that I could add conventional oil paint and it would still be water mixable as long as I only used a small quantity. I bought a small number of oil paints including gold ochre which I used to find very useful for skin. The new paints arrived today and they worked well. 

Portrait painters prefer that their subjects don't see the portrait until it is finished. My friend turned up unexpectedly on Sunday afternoon. I would have hidden the painting if I had known. She was worried about the "wrinkles". I was thinking about the lines on her forehead and it was later that I realised she probably meant the construction lines round her eyes. The portrait won't look anything like that when it is finished. Her mouth is tight in the reference photo but I will soften her expression a lot. 

I like the paint to dry off between painting sessions. So I have started another portrait, but because I was struggling with skin colour at the time, I chose to paint a black and white dog. The dog is a crossbred Jack Russell terrier and I caught a lovely smiling moment from her. 
You won't be able to see it clearly but she is pencilled into the hole in the middle of the painting. I paint the surroundings first because the fur/hair has to be brushed over the grass. 

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.