Monthly Archives: May 2010

Curled up in the corner

A large painting of Fiona

This is the largest painting I have done so far.  I caught Fiona just relaxing in the corner of a sofa one day, a view which directly lead to this picture.  The construction of the image naturally fell into place, but I had her pose in this position again because I wanted to experiment with making the overall them one of large, interlocking blocks of colour.  The underpainting, was done in very much that simplified style ( see the second image down on the right).  I tried to keep a large part of that feel in the final painting.


I also experimented in the initial drawing stage, marrying some of the main tones into my usual structural drawing style that generally focuses on the form as expressed by the shapes of plains.


I enjoyed this picture and still do.  It seems to capture a sense of her restfulness combined with the elegance of her limbs.  At the same time to overall image is balanced and the strong colour shapes exciting.

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Minna Stevens – a triptych

An abundance of portraits

The project with Minna Stevens was to produce a triptych of portraits,  in the same pose.  She encourages this approach because of additional learning about form as well as the additional artistic opportunity running between the three images.  She shows herself as a triptych on her website, where she has a range of beautiful pictures,


There were several key things that I took away from the project.  First, is the possibility of finding form through the use of colour temperature, rather than relying on tone.  An increasing number of artists take that approach and it’s a bit of a hallmark of people from Heatherley’s.  I’m not sure that it is really me but its certainly helps create great beauty in subtle images. (Have a look at Tony Rothon’s work as well).  As light falls across the face there are typical temperatures.  In north facing light, the highlight will be cold/blue, light parts of the skin will often be warm, reflecting the local colour of the skin, the half tones where the face turns towards the shadows, cool again and full darks generally warm.  Taking colour as the central focus of this project, it is essential (probably so even in a tonal picture) to use clean colour mixes only as the basis ( ie 2 pigments) for each mix, then to tone down the saturation as needed.  Starting with less saturated colours to mix can lead to colours that are very dirty.  She also takes a useful approach to building up the likeness by focusing on building up the large structures of the head first, allowing the detailed features to naturally come to the right place.


I enjoyed working on these pictures despite the fact that the scale was far smaller than I usually prefer.  I have a tendency to over use cool colours, but this project helped me get away form that.  Theresa held strong and elongated posture throughout which is reflected in the pictures.

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Kahn Holly on musicality

Musical marks in painting

Working with music in paintings for a week with Kahn Holly was the most thought provoking time spent in the course so far.  The project was drawing straight charcoal lines, in one sense simple enough.  The process forced an intense focus on perfection of the marks and the image created.  Somehow that intensity, the debate, digging deep, comes through on paper: it makes art.


Kahn is intensely focused on the language and application of music in art.  Each line a note, rests, rhythm, loudness, passages, voices, made with the whole arm in one committed motion.  The energy in the field, spaces, tangibility and planes interlocking, active and passive, hot or cold, loud and soft. Each side of the line can be hot or cold.  Each area is of the same importance, the object and its surroundings, never dead.  Each line steady/waiving, long short, 2/3 lines as chords, broken, loud and soft.  Think of areas of tone in the same way.  Sides of lines are hot or cold.


(Top tip: Your eyes go up and down and side to side to measure proportion, if one eye is dominant then the brain gets the drawing wrong.  One solution is to see sight sized, another to measure furiously.)


The first exercise was a sight sized drawing of a piece of paper on the wall.   Measuring where dots are, lines of energy running through them vertically, horizontally, between them, creating areas of force.  In turn the task was to create rhythm and music across the image.  Drawing free hand straight lines, feeling them to be musical notes.


The second exercise was to work from an old masterpiece, drawing the energy and music contained in the picture, using freehand lines.


(Top tip: There is great skill of drawing lines freehand, as you want them, curves and 3Dness.  Using a rubber to draw and mould, through and with the lines.  Its worth the effort to learn the skill.)

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