Monday 31 December 2018

Goodbye 2018 (and good riddance)!

 I wish everybody a Happy and Healthy (and Productive) New Year

As some of my friends will know, the last half of 2018 has been pretty dreadful for us.

We lost my Sister-in-Law to pancreatic cancer (aged 56), my step-daughter's long term partner to Heart failure (totally unexpected - he was just 42 and leaves a 3 year old and 7 year old) - my best friend is battling HER2 breast cancer (nasty one) and now my brother in law is diagnosed with prostate cancer (having just recovered from a bleed on the brain earlier this year).

So I am very happy to say goodbye to 2018.

I've done no artwork for several months but am looking forward to picking up the pencils again in 2019.

.... we are flying to our home in the Canaries tomorrow to start the New Year with some much needed sunshine and happy times.   I'm looking forward to getting back to the drawing board and to Blogging again next year although David (hubby) has itchy feet and has booked us on lots of trips for the first half of 2019 ...

We'll be going to Malaysia/Singapore and to Kenya (another safari) and to and from Fuerteventura in between times.

The last post I made here was of the little dog which I'd been asked to do as a memorial for a client whose horse I'd portrayed before.     I should have completed this in October but it didn't happen.

Yesterday I thought I'd finish it but I realised that if I continued it as a 'portrait orientation' I'd either have to truncate it at the neck or draw in the front legs - the ref shows the dog in a strange position as its body is twisted.

An artist whose opinion I respect once contacted me to say he liked my animal portraits but WHY did I follow the trend of cutting the animal off at the neck and that I should work on bringing the body down to the bottom or the side of the paper.    I've tried to stick to that rule ever since.    With this one it doesn't work - or at least it doesn't work if I want to make it a standard size to fit an 'off the shelf mount/frame'.

So, I wondered about making it landscape orientation - that does fit a standard mount/frame ... but I'm not sure.

Anyway, my plan is to send it as a freebie to the client (who has probably long given up on me ever doing the drawing) as an apology (or a thank you for getting me started back on portraiture).

If its going to be portrait orientation its like this:

I'd need to work something out re. the legs.

If I chop it off to make it landscape orientation (a smaller picture) it'll look like this:  less work but I'm not convinced!

Sunday 26 August 2018

26/08: What dreadful weather today

It has been as wet and gloomy (and cold) as an October day ... yesterday wasn't a lot better so the light hasn't been good enough to do much artwork.

We're travelling to Fuerte at silly hour tomorrow - leaving home at 2.30am for a 5.40am flight so have just been pottering today - cleaning the house ready for daughter's arrival and filling up the birdseed feeders etc.

This is the little dog commission I started - its around halfway done but the muzzle area needs lots of work and her chest hair/fur has to be added.  Once the base colour is down I need to go back and add fine detail and give her eyes a lovely twinkle

Its pastel on pastelmat and a little smaller than I normally do - the image is around A4 size (roughly 8" x 12") so its a challenge keeping the pastel pencils sharp enough for fine detail

Wednesday 22 August 2018

22/08: Practice Piece - Lion in Pastel on Fisher 400 sanded paper

Its a long time since I worked on Fisher 400 - I used to love it but am struggling this time.  I think its probably nothing to do with the paper, more that I've lost a bit of confidence as I'm not getting enough practice these days ...

So I'm treating this as a practice piece.   I will draw more animals from photos taken in Kenya earlier this year and hopefully will soon get back up to speed.

My camera insists on turning the paper white and the lion rather red.   I've tried David's camera and got slightly better results but still had to adjust the image a lot to get it close to 'proper' colours.     I do tend to wait will early evening to take the photos so its probably tied up with the poor light.

Anyway, enough ramblings. .... 

see what I mean about strange hues ... Fisher 400 is sandpaper - sort of yellowy but the camera tries to turn it white or grey.

I've adjusted this but it still not true to life

Another adjusted one - pretty poor really .... the lion isn't finished but I need to start something different tomorrow.    Although Fisher 400 doesn't really need fixative I've sprayed this lightly which will stop me fiddling with it till the fixative dries

I've agreed to portray a dog for a returning client.   I'm not really taking on commissions at the moment but this client provided such wonderful ref. photos for her horse portrait that I assumed the dog photos would be equally good ... they weren't!

Sadly the dog has recently passed away and all ref. photos were taken on a mobile phone and too small for me to work from.    However, the client has now found one photo that is a better size so I'm able to zoom in and get enough detail.     So I need to make a start before we set off on our travels again next week.   

I'll spend a couple of afternoons on it then I'll have to clean the pastel dust from my room (and any other place I trail it) before our house-sitter arrives.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

21/08: A few 'arty' bits

As well as spending days looking for and reworking old family photos, I have done a few arty things

I have a couple of older works on exhibition at a local vineyard.   The owners have decorated an old barn  on their land and painted the walls white in order to display pictures as an additional attraction to visitors.   They only open to the public on Saturdays but the display will be hung there for 6 weeks.    Its a first for them, and for the Canterbury Art Society who organised everything.   Worth a punt I think!

I've submitted 'Senor Molina' and Lulu which are both older works so I won't post them here (again).

Friday evening is the Private View so we'll pop over and take a look.   The vineyard is about 30 minutes drive from us.

I'm also going to have a couple of pictures on display at the Bank Holiday Mini Exhibition staged by the Canterbury Art Society at Blean Village Hall this coming holiday weekend.   Over the last few years I've been fortunate enough to have sales at this little show so am hoping for a repeat this year.     I'm submitting the portrait of the Indian Girl from Olivipe (India).

She was completed in coloured pencil on pastelmat - the picture looks a bit darker here than in real life.

and the 'black on black' labrador in coloured pencil that I was 'playing' with earlier this Summer.   In the end I decided to put more of a background in as the dog just didn't stand out as much as I'd hoped.

I had a big tidy up in my 'studio' in the week and got rid of lots of older works - in some cases I was able to salvage the frames and this is one of them which I think complements the dog nicely.

I've done a few minor tweaks on the portrait of Thierry (man from Sunset Loung beach bar in Corralejo) but have put him to one side for the moment as I've got a bit bored with him.    I know if I leave the portrait alone for a while I'll come back to it with fresh eyes and more enthusiasm.    This is how he has been left:

and for the last couple of afternoons I've been working on something totally different.   I've gone back to pastels on sandpaper (sore fingertip alert) and am tackling a lion that I photographed in Kenya in June.     Its quite refreshing to be working on wildlife again so this has rekindled my enthusiasm a little.

Photos in the next update!

21/08: Old Family Photos

I won't apologise for the long gap in posts (again) ... somehow life keeps getting in the way. 

A couple of years ago (or maybe longer) I 'cleaned up' some old family photographs and framed them to hang on the wall in my Mum's flat.

My brother recently asked me to print copies for him to hang in his house ... but I couldn't find them in my computer files anywhere.   I just can't believe I did all the work on them and didn't save them.   But over the course of 2 afternoons I checked every single photo file on my computer just in case the photos had inadvertently been dragged to the wrong file.  I even check back over FB and Blogger Posts in case I'd posted them there (which I thought I had actually)  Zilch

So I got the originals from Mum and re-worked them.    Here are the Before and After pics.

An old photo of my Mum - faded, torn in places and with my brother's handwriting!

and the cleaned up version - I used Photoshop Elements 12 ... but I'm a bit of a technophobe and just used the simplest tools - but it made a huge difference.

Mum (and little me) in the garden at my maternal Grand-parents' house

and with the background 'blurred' and cropped and the picture sharpened a bit

My maternal Grandparents - Bob and Daisy - original photo

enhanced photo with tears and marks removed, background blurred a bit  and a bit more definition in the foreground

I couldn't do very much with the (small) photos of my Great Grandparents.   The first photo is of my Grandad (Bob's) parents - my Gt Grandparents

Original photo with the shadow of the photographer spoiling it

I've brightened the photo a bit, slightly blurred the background, removed the shadows and cropped the picture to fit a standard photo frame

and then my other Gt Grandparents on the maternal side (Daisy's parents).  The photo is small and faded

I brightened it a bit, removed the 'washing line' and blurred the background a bit

So now I have these safely stored on computer and have printed out copies for my brother to frame and hang ... phew!

Sunday 12 August 2018

12/08 ... Sunset Lounge Man

Since my last post ( a long time ago ) we've been to Kenya and also to our home on Fuerteventura with my brother as our guest following the death of his wife (my Sister in Law).    Life has been a bit 'full-on' so I've not had much time for art but now I need to get my backside into gear as exhibition deadlines are looming.

I have a couple of commissions to undertake in the next few weeks but always at the back of my mind is the need to get some coloured pencil works done.    I've been a member of the UK Coloured Pencil Society for around 13 years.   I've had work accepted into every International Exhibition for 12 years (one year I didn't have any work to submit) so I have earned Gold Status but would really like to get to Platinum status - work accepted into the Annual International Exhibition on 15 different occasions.   Just 3 more to go.

We celebrated my 60th birthday in Kenya this year (June) and I have thousands of photos in my reference files but I think most are suited to pastels rather than coloured pencils so I've fallen back on 'human' portraits for my cps.

This is a lovely guy we encountered in July in Corralejo, Fuerteventura.    We took my brother to a beach bar near our house to listen to a fabulous saxophonist who plays every Friday afternoon - she is stunningly beautiful and manages to play and dance (in heels) on the sandy beach.     As we were watching/listening to her performance this guy came up and started dancing with her.    He has a wonderful smiley face (and dances beautifully) so couldn't resist photographing him (with permission).

I gave up with this halfway through as I couldn't get it past the 'ugly stage' but now I've had a few days break from it I intend to go back and refine it. 

His name is Thierry.   He is portrayed in pure coloured pencil on white pastelmat.

Thursday 14 June 2018

14/06: FRANKIE - Finished (for the moment)

I'm calling this finished for the time being as I need to put the pastels away and clean my workroom which is a REAL mess.

We're flying to Kenya on Sunday for a 3 camp Safari (staying 3 nights at each one).   So I need to get packing and cleaning the house before the 'house-sitter' arrives.   She is family but, even so, don't want her thinking I'm a real slob!

I know that when I next look at Frankie I'll want to change lots of things but I don't want to overwork it.   FB suppresses photo quality so I can't really see all the detail in Frankie's mouth for instance ... but as its going to be a surprise gift I really can't ask Sister-in-law for the original photo.  I guess it was taken on her phone anyway so probably not as clear as I'd like.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

12/06: Frankie. Pastel on white Pastelmat

Its too cold/grey to work in the garden as planned so I've started a small portrait of my ex-Sister-in-Law's little dog, Frankie.

Its S-i-Law's birthday soon so I'll have it ready for then.

Frankie is very cute and I've filched this photo from her FB page showing him with his nice new haircut.    He is about 13 years old now but not doing badly for a pensioner.

Its only a small portrait - slightly bigger than A4 sized (around 10 x 13") so it is going quite quickly although I do prefer to work 'bigger' when using pastelmat to get sharper detail.  I know wall space is tight at her house though.

Tuesday 5 June 2018

05/06: Indian Man Pink Turban and Coloured Shawl

Do you remember this guy?

He was one of the many villagers I photographed in Pali, Rajasthan when we visited India in January.

I drew him in coloured pencil as the first of several I intend to do so I've got a selection of works ready to submit to the jury next year for the UKCPS annual International Exhibition.  Normally I leave this till the last minute and have to do a rush job which isn't a good idea as the standard just gets better each year.   

I'm really trying hard to get Diamond Status with the UKCPS (pictures juried into their annual International Exhibition on 15 occasions)  I'm at Gold Status at the moment having had pictures in the exhibition for 11 years (10 is the Gold benchmark).   I need to 'up the ante' a bit ...

Anyway, I digress.

Canterbury Society of Art staged an early Summer Exhibition last week at a local school in Whitstable whilst it was closed for half-term.    I stewarded the exhibition on the first Saturday and footfall was really slow as this is a new venue for the Society and I think word hadn't really got around ... I don't know how things went later in the week but when I went to collect my two entries I was given just one back ... this one sold on the penultimate day so that was a lovely surprise ... although it means I'm back at square one having no coloured pencil works in the bag!

05\06: Black Lab and Blogger Comments

OK ... firstly apologies to those people who have been kind enough to comment on my posts but then haven't seen their comments posted.

I am no longer receiving emails alerting me to new comments being left and I'm not really in the habit of checking Blogger daily to check whether new comments are awaiting modification.    I've been onto the Blogger Team's own Blog and it seems this is problem for many Blogger users.   

One Blogger has posted this 'temporary' solution so I'll try it with this post and see whether I get email alerts again

OK, folks, I think I've found a work-around that's really easy! After you write a post and publish it, click like you want to write a comment - you could even leave a simple "TEST" comment, then CLICK the NOTIFY ME of followup comments box. You should then start getting all the comments sent to your email box. And apparently, from something I read in the help forum, this is a temporary problem Blogger is trying to fix (but I'm not holding my breath...) Does anyone else wish they'd public a phone number so you could reach someone who works there?

I may have mentioned I wasn't really happy with the way the black lab was turning out and, last night when I was tired and should have known better, I decided to do a sketchy scribbled background.   Ooooopps!   I don't normally touch my pencils/pastels in the evenings but ... seemed like a good idea at the time ..

I spent an hour this morning lifting some of the pencil off with BluTack but I've left some colour there as I think it does 'lift' the dog a little.    Now I really have finished with it ... He's propped up in the corner of my room looking balefully at me ... don't think he likes what I've done!


Friday 1 June 2018

01/06: Black Lab - Coloured Pencil on Dark Pastelmat

I've spent a couple of hours on the black lab drawing this afternoon.     Its approx. 12" x 16" so slow going in coloured pencil - I'm using anthracite coloured pastelmat as the support.

It isn't turning out quite as I wanted but I'm liking it a little better now that more detail is being put in.

The mount is just resting on top so I can see how much further I need to take the chest fur.   Its one I've used for practising with my mount cutter - hence all the cuts and holes in it.

The photos are taken on different camera settings as it was rainy/cloudy earlier.   Looking at them now on screen I think the colour of the first one is more tru to the original but I guess they'll both look different on viewers' different computers/phones anyway

Its a nightmare trying to photograph black isn't it?

01/06: Yorkshire Terrier - Chico. Finished

Its been a busy week but I managed to finish the pastel portrait of Chico.

I've darkened his fur and smoothed out/softened some of his curls.     I've never seen him with his ears raised.    I think my concerns about not having his colouring right are based on the fact I'm normally looking down on him and the fur on his back is black/grey.   He doesn't have any dark hairs on his face or chest.

Because it will be travelling out to the Canaries with me in hand luggage, I've had to put Chico's portrait into a mount/frame that will fit my cabin bag and the only ones I have in the right size are black/white.    I would have preferred to put him in a cream/burgundy mount with a wooden frame but ... if Chico's owner doesn't like the colour scheme he can change the frame later.

Looking at it on the screen, I can see area I'd like to tweak but its staying firmly in the frame or I'll be in danger of overworking it!

Friday 25 May 2018

Yorkshire Terrier... pastel on pastelmat paper

On Wednesday evening we returned to the UK after 5 weeks at our home in the Canaries.    The weather has been strange there - it really hasn't settled into the Canarian Summer you'd expect by end April.  In fact, the temperatures in England have been higher than the Canaries on many days.   But we had a great time.

We have a really busy 3½ weeks here before we travel to Kenya to celebrate my (21st) birthday doing a 3-camp safari.    Well part of that is true anyway!

I made a start on a portrait of a Yorkie (Chico) which I need to take back to the Canaries in July.   I photographed the dog myself but in my photos he appears lighter in colour than how I perceive him in real life so I'm a bit torn ... do I darken the coat or leave it alone?    This is the result of a few hours yesterday and today using pastels on pastelmat.   I work mostly in coloured pencil these days so it was a pleasure to get back to pastels which enable me to work much faster.  Its a 'quick and nasty' photo as I'd lost the light by the time I remembered to take the picture.

He will be 'tweaked' over the next few days but I need a break from all that unruly hair/coat .. there's a bit of artistic license around the eyes as normally its impossible to see them because of his heavy fringe

This evening I dropped off a couple of pictures for inclusion in the Canterbury Society of Art's Exhibition at a local school in Whitstable.    What a great idea to utilise the empty building whilst the kids are on half term.  The school is in the centre of town and opens up its playground area as an overflow carpark during school holidays to generate income.   We're hoping the footfall will be good as lots of people will use the car parking facility and its coming up to holiday season in 'fashionable' Whitstable.     Sadly the forecast is for thunderstorms for the first few days which may inhibit visitors though.

Monday 9 April 2018

09/04: 'Black on Black' Labrador in Coloured Pencil

I've wanted to do another drawing on a black support for a while so I decided to tackle a black lab on Anthracite (very dark grey) pastelmat.

Its not turning out the way I'd hoped, but its something I can pick up and put down easily so I'll stick with it and see what happens ...

Its amazingly difficult to photograph as the camera keeps trying to compensate 

First WIP (work in progress) photo


and today's update:

There are a lot of colours in the 'black' coat - blues, mauves, even reds/greens in places and lots of greys to suggest highlights

Friday 30 March 2018

30/03: Indian Man in Pink Turban. Finished (for now)

I've lost my motivation on this one and plan to start doing something different to rekindle my enthusiasm.  

However, the rain hasn't stopped all day and the light is very poor so I decided not to start anything new today, and to just add another layer or two of colour to his skin, add more 'fluff/bobbles' to the woollen wrap and finish his white shirt.    

Thanks to my Staedtler Lumocolour pencil I was able to add more white whiskers and brighten his beard a little.    Although these pencils work on many surfaces and allow you to add white onto darker coloured pencil shades, they are very greasy/creamy and don't sharpen to a fine point so I try not to use them too often.

I'm finished with him for now.     I hope to get a little stock of 'nearly finished' work like this so I can come back to them with fresh eyes, do whatever tweaking I think is necessary, and submit them for shows/exhibitions over the next 12 months.   One down, half a dozen to go!

Tuesday 27 March 2018

27/03: Indian Man with Pink Turban ... slowly, slowly

Still not really in the mood for drawing but I've had a couple of sessions ding bits on his blanket/shawl as they're not too demanding.    I didn't think I'd made much progress but comparing it with the last update here its coming along faster than I thought ...

Friday 23 March 2018

23/03: Indian Man with Pink Turban ... A little more progress

and it is just 'a little more progress'.   I have a horribly sore throat today which is affecting my ears also.   Feeling  'yucky' and not in the mood for drawing.

I have picked this up, put it down and generally 'flitted' around a bit ... I got bored with the turban so decided to start on his colourful scarf/blanket - its a great way to use up some of my brighter coloured pencils that don't normally get used.

So, not much to show but I've found before that it isn't sensible to draw at times like this as that's when disasters can strike ..

Thursday 22 March 2018

22/03: Another Indian Character

I've decided that this year I must be more organised and get some drawings done in readiness for all the competition/exhibition deadlines which loom early in the year.      As we travel quite a lot, particularly in the Winter months, I'm fed up with having nothing suitable to submit (or having a last minute panic to get some work done) when the calls for entry are sent out.

I have photographed so many Indian characters over the last few years that it took ages to decide which one to tackle next.    I settled on this one as I liked his wrinkles, whiskers and the colourful turban and warm blanket/shawl he's wearing ... lets see if I still like him after working on those textures!

I got off to a bad start.   I found a pad of heavyweight watercolour paper which had no cover.   I guessed it might be some Fabriano Artistico which has been laying around for many years and which is now discontinued.    But having spent several hours carefully indenting the paper to keep all those whiskers white, I realised I'd wrecked the paper surface.   No matter how carefully I applied colour on the indented sections to highlight the indents the surface kept flaking off and just looked unsightly.   So first attempt went in the bin.

My last experience using coloured pencils on Pastelmat wasn't a good one.   The colours seemed to disappear into the cork surface after a couple of hours and the work became dull and lost its vibrancy.   Another artist reported the same problem and I think we came to the conclusion we may have had a rogue batch.     I decided to re-start this drawing using Pastelmat but selecting a different colour/batch and so far, so good, although I haven't got many layers down yet.

Work in Progress 1.
Polychromos pencils on Pastelmat - approx 12" x 16"

and with more colour added today, mainly to the turban but also another layer on his skintones - a long way to go yet ...

Sunday 25 February 2018

New Camera Nikon P900 ... more 'test' photos

Testing the new camera with sunset scenes

and some Moscovy Ducks

and the delightful Barbary Ground Squirrels (known locally as chipmunks).   They are a non-native species so a lot of people frown upon feeding them ... but they are so cute and very gentle.    Who can resist?   They can be found in the hills/rocks in various spots outside the main towns.

I was sitting on a rock and they had no hesitation in clambering onto my lap for special treats of monkey nuts and sunflower seeds.

and a couple of 'moon' shots.    These are hand held with no special equipment and I think the camera has coped pretty well despite not being steadied on a tripod.

I have a nasty cold at the moment so won't be taking the camera out for a few days.     Next Saturday there is a Grand Carnival Procession in Town which is always very colourful/noisy and on Sunday is another procession for the 'burning of the sardine' which ends up on the town beach with fireworks so the camera will really be tested fully then.