Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Life Of A Painting

My first post this month showed the start of a self portrait. Above is the final version, and you can see some of the stages it went through here.

This painting has been pre-selected for The Royal Society of Portrait Painter's annual show, which is delightful. This is the first time I have entered a London show and is all very prestigious and so on.

So now the painting is beginning to live its own life. It is currently at the proper photographers and will very soon be at the framers. After that it will be delivered to Picture Post, who for a fee will take it down to London to the Mall Galleries. There it will probably sit against a wall with lots of much better work while the hangers decide which paintings will be in the show, and which won't. At the end of this process it will most likely be picked up by Picture Post and returned to me for another few pounds.

If it gets selected, it will be on show in May. It might sell and I will likely never see it again, or even know where it went. If not, back to me.

At which point I'll have my painting back and be a few hundred pounds poorer. And then it'll all begin again with the next show . . .

Still it is worth it. If I get shown, I will be able to see it on the wall with other painters work, which is always a very interesting thing to see - it tends to really highlight the flaws and gives me clues on how to improve next time. Also, I may be able to meet some other artists whom I have only ever met online, or whom I admire from afar. That will be cool.

If not selected I may and go and see the show anyway. The smaller self portrait wasn't pre-selected for the Self show and as the two shows are running together it will be fun to try and guess why they were rejected and therefore do better next year.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

On Creativity

Today I thought I'd write about how I've found this experiment.

It has been knackering. It has made me think more and deeper about art and encouraged me to get out and see stuff while also pushing me to do more actual painting. It has encouraged me to keep going with individual paintings. The feedback has been fantastic and has really helped me post works in progress and ideas that previously I would have been too shy to share. Oddly, this process of sharing as you go along has clarified some issues for me, both with individual paintings and with my methods in general - I really feel I've made a bit of a breakthrough with my painting process which I hope leads to even more creativity. Time will tell.

My confidence both as an artist and as a blogger has increased tremendously - so much so, I am actually beginning to tell people that I blog and am working up to asking artists I admire if I can interview them! (There is one interview in process. You will see it in the next few weeks.)

Did I achieve my aims. Yes - and then some. All I was wanting to do was become better at blogging. I never expected this would feedback so much into the actual artworks - which is a lovely example of the unintended benefits of a creative enterprise. Similar things did happen in the last two 28 days later - so I am open to a challenge for next year!

So once again there is proof that the best way to learn something is to just do it. No more shilly-shallying for me.

What have been the good points for you guys? What did you like, what did you hate, what was boring? If you tell me, I can try harder in the many more blog posts to come.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Top Ten Art Web Resources

Today is a doing things day, rather than a creating day, so thought it wold be appropriate to write about my favourite art-related web pages. In no particular order -

Google Art Project the only fault I have with this is that every painting in every gallery in the world is not available in close-up. I'm sure it is just a matter of time. Meanwhile, the range is spectacular. There are enough details for most paintings to be copied at home - although not as good as setting up an easel in front of an actual masterpiece, most of us don't have the time, energy, confidence or permission to do that so this is an alternative. (note to self - hurry up and start doing this!)

Facebook Yup, there is plenty to not like about facebook, but it does let artists talk to each other, share ideas and info as well as pictures easily and quickly. Without Facebook, there would have been no 28 Drawings Later and I wouldn't have met lots of lovely people, nor been encouraged to start a sketchbook, nor be writing this now.

Making A Mark is the most useful art blog in Britain. She writes about exhibitions (especially London based ones), warns about open competitions coming up, gives advice on various aspects of being a working artist, runs painting recognition competitions (which I've won! twice!) and pretty much anything else you can think of. Always with grace and politeness. I haven't come across an equivalent for the States (or indeed any other country) - do they exist?

Underpaintings Blog may be the closest but is much more focused on representational art. I have first come across many interesting artists here and like below the comments can be illuminating.

Gurney Journey - this page has a stronger bent towards illustration. Both books are an offshoot of the blog (and if you haven't read them, you should) but I actually often find the discussions more interesting than the blog itself.

Daniel Maidman doesn't try and cover anything in particular. Instead, he writes about what he is thinking about art. The starting point can be an exhibition, a conversation, a single drawing, a process, an idea, whatever. Then he thinks about it. Then thinks more. And maybe has a go at producing something using the thoughts. Then thinks again. Then writes about it. Then people argue with him in the comments, and he thinks about it again. So, useful if you want to think about what you are doing and why.

Flickr was a place I got a lot of useful feedback back when I was starting to paint. I use it less these days but that is probably a loss. Going though people's favourites can turn up all sorts of things and keep the imagination fired up - something we all need on occasions. Julia Kay's Portrait Party is a particularly good use of the format - you post some photographs of yourself, and other people draw you. Very simple, but very community forming. Also a potentially terrific way to practice.

Urban Sketchers are another web based group with a very strong presence on flickr and a great but simple idea - see the world, one drawing at a time. Yes please.

Lastly, I should probably mention blogger itself, as so many of my favourites use it. However, other formats have their place, such as wordpress for Museworthy , a delightful blog from a New York based artist's model.

So that is ten, more or less. I have almost certainly forgotten someone, and maybe next year the list will be different - what are your recommendations? Who did I miss? Please leave a comment below and share the knowledge.

EDIT - who I missed was Painting Perceptions which I have only found fairly recently and am still working my way through. The host has a good eye, picking beautiful paintings and talented painters to feature and his interviews with these artists are fascinating. Much recommended for realist painters.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Painting A Chair

Why paint a chair? Why not?

This is one of the guard chairs in the Louvre. While I was there I was struck very much by the windows and the chairs often sitting close to them - almost always empty. The combination of the light being very strong and the suprising range of window/chair combinations in the place made me want to paint at least a few of them.

This is the first layer of the painting - there is a very general drawing underneath in watercolour pencil that I wasn't skilled enough to photograph - which will form a basis for the next layer. It is painted in a fairly neutral ultramarine/burnt sienna mix of three tones. In this particular case I suspect the next layer will be the last one - a fairly thin layer of colour and a couple of highlights should be all that is needed to explain what is happening. The idea is that such a simple subject (chair in light) leads itself to more expressive brushwork.

The painting will therefore succeed or fail on the quality of that brushwork and the harmony of the shapes and colours.

Suddenly this doesn't sound such a good idea!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

A Productive Day

Today I painted.

Generally I have about 3 works in progress - one just started, one nearly finished and maybe one or two somewhere in the middle. They have a tendency to leapfrog one another, though - a work that "just needs a couple of touches" can end up taking weeks, if not months, whereas the just started painting can be done in a day or two.

Some works just seem to stop, though. After a while I either put them aside or destroy them,depending on whether I think the stumbling block can be overcome in time.

So now I have just pretty much finished three so am at a bit of a loose end. One was started and the box of unfinished was looked into.

In there were three landscapes that had possibilities - the above tree that was started in New York being one of them.

And this one dates from early June.

Whereas the woods has been on the go since October.

All three are better. Whether they are good enough I am still not sure - it will take a few days of pondering to decide. But in a way that doesn't matter - the messing about with paint and brushes, the experimenting (as it can't get worse) has taught me stuff that I can use in the next painting. The best way to learn - actually doing.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

50 Years At The Glasgow Art Club : George Devlin

Yesterday I went to a talk by George Devlin, at the Glasgow Art Club.

An exhibition of his work has been in the club since the 7th, when it was opened by Guy Peploe, Director of The Scottish Gallery with Professor Ken Howard as an additional speaker and guest. Last night was less fancy, being labelled as a conversation with Jim Davis.

Over a wee bit more than two hours George talked about his life in art, from Springburn to travelling the world. Either he is naturally quite loud or the acoustics in the hall were much better than I expected - I could hear (almost) every word. They covered growing up in Glasgow in the post-war period, going down to the Kelvingrove to paint on the tram, the conflict between leaving school to get an apprenticeship or staying on, going to Glasgow Art School, arriving at the school and being over-awed by the architecture and the people but finally finding a place - so much so, he was offered a teaching post after graduating, which is round about when he joined the art club.

There was discussion about the differences between Glasgow and Edinburgh art schools (as he had spent a period of time in Edinburgh) and whether the buildings themselves influenced Glasgow folks to become more deep and tonal whereas the east coast seemed to be lighter and more linear.

Then there was talk of travelling the world to paint and also taking his father to France when he was running classes there. His father had been one of eight boys and the only one to come back from the first world war - and had never traveled abroad before this again. Perhaps unsuprisingly for a retrospective communication between the generations was a bit of theme of the night.

But one of the most interesting things for me was when he said he felt like a dinosaur - and clearly had for a long time - he talked about applying for grants in the sixties, which subsequently went to a performance artist. This I actually find hopeful - as this clearly has not stopped him having a rich and productive life so far.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Life Drawing - Oils in 40 Minutes.

Well, today I'm cheating as I painted this at yesterday's life drawing session. But I didn't get the chance to photograph it yesterday so here we are.

It was painted in two twenty minute blocks - a long pose, which this particular group is quite keen on. You may notice it is the same pose as the watercolour, but from a different position - looking down and from behind rather than from the floor and on her right. Long poses are great as they give me time to paint but bad as it tends to lead to static poses, often lying down. As I am mainly sit on the floor (shoulder problems means that using an easel is difficult) this means I often get very foreshortened views. Luckily not yesterday - partly as I got the use of a table, so could paint standing up.

The board was pre-painted with leftovers of the palette - from this painting I suspect - which enables me to go straight in with the darks and the lights - a technique I developed first in watercolours. The mid-tones are then added on and in this one I wanted to exagerrate the difference between neutrals and brights - so pushed the reds. This was an experiment but may well feed back into my other paintings.

Which is why I go to life drawing - to try things out. Success!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Life Drawing - Watercolour

Have I wittered on recently about the importance of life drawing recently? No?

Well, that may be because I haven't actually been to any for more than a couple of months. Ooops.

Having wee break has been actually quite useful - I suppose like how a weight lifter actually gets stronger on rest days. It has let me think about what advantages life drawing has for me.

The biggest thing has always been the people - the class members, for the connection, the chat, the knowing what is going on, the feedback, the standing stunned in front of a brilliant piece of work when during the same time you've just produced a smudge. The model, for their almost unfailing generosity, their tales from a different world, their creativity, their willingness to come and pose for me later.

The actual work has always been less important. At the start this is because it was really really bad. Gradually I improved (as everyone does who does something every week in the company of masters of the craft) but realised there is not much of a market for them and got disheartened a little. Then I improved more and thought of selling them on Etsy. This went well until USPS let me down a few times causing much stress.

Now I think it is back to going to practice and work out methods and to play around, without the expectation of commercial gain.

Possibly most artists need a "play zone" where it doesn't matter. I certainly do. So I will start going again, for that. And the cake.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Ideal vs Real, Abstract vs Photographic

First, let me define my terms.

By ideal, I am meaning that the image is either partly or entirely based on what is inside the mind rather than outside. I'm thinking here of academic ideals, fantasy, dream images and so on. The opposite is the real - so works very heavily based on observation of the real world.

Abstract for me really means painterly - i.e. the emphasis is on the brush stroke, the paint and the surface of the canvas rather than an accurate, illusionistic representation.

So why the graph? How does it help?

It came to me while I was idling in all those Parisian art galleries that it would be helpful if I could summarise what kind of work I really loved. Because I could then make some of my own.

This lead to the thought that I really didn't like most very realistic works - especially all those big mid 18th century academic works in the Musee D'Orsay. Part of what I didn't like about them was the fantasy - shakespearean characters, camels, naked ladies without a thought in their head - rather boring (and, indeed, repulsive in some cases). The browness also wasn't helping.

But I found almost all of the Pompidou equally boring - plenty of colour there and lots of paint splashing, so what was the problem?

So this graph came into my head. As you can see, I've added a few painters - feel free to disagree - although clearly one painter can wander all over the place. What this clarified for me is that I really don't like idealistic art of any sort. My favourites are all biased towards the realistic and towards the painterly.

So I intend to think more of painterly, abstract aspects in planning my next painting, as well as insuring it has a wee bit of fantasy to it.

Would your graph be different? In what way?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Ghost Mirror

A days painting - and there are still little touches to do, thin lines etcetera which will have to wait for the paint to dry again.

But it is very close to done and once again not quite what I wanted. Why not will niggle and niggle at me until I find an answer - probably in a future painting. Guess that's what keeps us going - if I could paint the perfect painting, would I stop?

Before I went I knew I'd be tacking photographs for reference, but did not expect Enki Bilal's The Ghosts of the Louvre exhibition.

The Louvre's ghosts seem particularly near to me, too. Odd, when I live in building that is over a hundred years old. But something about the building as well as the objects now on display brings to mind all those past lives. D'Artagnan, Napoleon, royalty, revolutionaries and artists (amongst others) have all walked these same stairs and maybe paused to look in this mirror. Even film makers have been here, with Goddard setting his threesome runnning through the place in Bande a Part. We could spend all day summarising the works of fiction set at least partially in the place. The list of famous people that have visited is even longer . . .

Some of the ghosts are of the makers rather than visitors - Leonardo coming to die, bringing with him what would become the most famous of all paintings. Rubens painting incredibly skillful and rather boring wallpaper for Marie de Medici. Gericault's frustration at the (initial) rejection of the Raft of the Medusa, echoed later with the Impressionists and Manet's Olympia. Degas drawing Mary Cassatt looking at the works. For some reason I feel the friendly presence of all the creators here more than in other gallery I've been in - maybe partly because I know that most of them would also have stood and admired other's work in much the same place and manner as I do.

And then there is the ghost of me. When I was thirteen and first visited the place, probably as bored as the teenagers lurking around the Nike are today. Sixteen, appreciating both the art and the foreign totty. A big jump to mid twenties and just beginning to awaken again to art making. A couple of years ago, just having started using oils, and eager to see what is possible. Now, when I am more focused in my appreciation and thinking about creating art of my own out of the place.

And so it goes on.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Photographing Paintings (Badly)

A little demonstration of how much photography of art work matters.

The first image I photographed yesterday, looked at it afterwards and decided to change the hairline on the left and the corner of my eye on the right a little bit - which I duly did, then re-photographed today. Nothing else changed.

Some of the difference in colour will be becasue the paint has "sunk" a little but most of it is the photography.

Why is this important? Because most artworks these days are seen by more people online than in real life. So much is therefore missed. Professional photography does make a big difference - but having just been in Paris I can see what is missed from the paintings in Google Art Project, for example. Don't get me wrong - Google Art Project (and the increased availability of images online) is a wonderful thing, better than books which fade or (to go back in time far enough) engravings after the original.

But I worry a little that work that reads well online and photographs easily will push out work that depends more on subtle contrasts. Possibly a needless worry, since everybody is struggling anyway. Also possibly a good thing - things must change, after all. But more open competitions are depending on online submission. This may be a good thing, allowing folks like me who don't live in London a better shot. We'll see.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

More Reflections in the Louvre

More work on the Louvre painting today - a struggle, as the paint wasn't entirely dry so all I could do was vaguely put in some colour and strengthen the tones. Now I will wait for the paint to dry and with a bit of luck there is enough there that I can finish this in one more session.

What I am aiming for is there to be subtle variations of colour within the larger blocks of tone - this should give a balance to the high contrast, brightly coloured area down in the left hand corner.

Against this also is me - almost insignificant amongst the beautiful ancient artifacts in the cases, the lovely Paris building seen in reflection and, of course, the grandeur of the Louvre building itself.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

One Eyed Jane - WIP

Remember my first post this month? Well, I did some more wrk on it, then hated it. The left eye was wonky. So, after fiddling and fiddling and getting no-where, I decided to paint it out and start again.

Teachers do say that one of the secrets of painting is being brave enough to destroy. Sometimes whole paintings, but the more I paint, the more often it is one section that gets the chop. Or the colours are changed, the background tone altered, stuff painted out or in . . . it is rare for me not to make some kind of fairly big change at some point.

Anyway, this is today's effort - the eye repainted, background lightened and made bluer, hair softened, and pretty much everything re-done. Then after the photo I think i did a little more and still don't think it's done yet.

Now it moves into the hall, for me to pass several times a day. Hopefully in a few days I will realise what it is that is bothering me (apart from bits of the hair, that is!). When will it be done? When I don't have that niggle anymore.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Reflections in the Louvre

The last full day in Paris was spent in the Louvre - I was there at nine for the doors opening, and had permission from my husband to stay until closing time.

The place is huge. Mega huge. By four I had seen all the paintings and a few other things on the way past but was absolutely knackered, brain fatigued, and decided to leave. So once again I missed out whole sections - most sculptures, decorative arts and historical areas.

But what I did manage to see! Between here and the other galleries I have visited I really feel I have seen the whole history of painting in a few days. My sketchbook is full of notes, ready to be worked on now I'm back home. But one of the interesting things for me was a clarification of the kind of art I like - simple, often people based, colourful. Big set pieces like in the Rubens room, for example, leave me utterly cold.

One of the ideas I had before going was of using the building in some way as a subject for paintings. So I took my camera - and many, many pictures were taken. All of windows, doors and chairs. The guards were giving me funny looks - but a "je suis artiste" got them nodding!

This is the start of my first painting on the theme - a kind of self portrait, reflected in a very grand mirror which also shows the buildings of Paris behind me. There are also a couple of cases of stuff, which will be clearer later.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Valentine Card

Not much to say today, except that I have a wonderful husband.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Commercial Galleries of Paris

No pictures today, as I am not quite sure of the morality or legality of sharing contemporary work.

Anyway, I had heard that Paris was only good for museum type art work, with no current scene to speak of. So I wasn't hoping for much.

But I had read that Galerie Claude Bernard would be having a show of Giacometti's drawings so I thought I'd have a wander along.

And I'm so glad I did. There are a plethora of galleries within about 5 minutes walk of each other and as they all are clearly visible from the street it is very easy to decide which ones to inspect further. This particular gallery has shown a stunning range of artists in the past - check out the list of previous shows on their webpage.

The Giacometti drawings were in some respects a disappointment, but in an odd way also encouraging - it's always nice to be reminded that the works that end up in museums are the distillation of gazillions of not-quite-as-good work.

Galerie Bayart was showing Christoff Debusschere's lovely paintings of museum interiors - much nicer in the paint than they seem online - they have an amazing sense of light to them, which just doesn't seem to be captured oline. This is a theme I have been thinking about so it was nice to come across a kindred soul.

H Craig Hanna at Laurence Esnol Gallery was colourful and lively, with a real mix of media - interesting to see life drawings given the full gallery treatment. Claire Castagnet at La Galerie du Crous de Paris was showing a whole wall of watercolour pigeons. I was very tempted, but decided that one would not be enough!

Another surprise was the quality of the art magazines - Beaux Arts (especially the special editions), Connaissance des Arts and L'Oeil all stand out, but there were others. Even better, they were not only available in the galleries, but also at the airport and the one kiosk I visited.

Overall, a refreshing change from both the atelier style representational art from America and the ongoing traditions we have here in Britain.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fernand Pelez - Grimaces et Misere

After the Musee D'Orsay and the Orangerie, I went to the Petit Palais. It is a lovely place, empty apart from me, the guards, and a group of primary school kids (who were being taught about the different supports you can paint on. They were about six years old!). The building itself is lovely, with huge ceiling decorations, a japanese garden and cafe as well as a wide ranging collection of artworks.

It has a fascinating (big) room full of portraits painted around 1900 - the stuff that is generally considered a bit boring, but very inspiring and useful to us painters.

But the highlight for me was the above painting. It stopped me in my tracks. It has been quite while since that has happened - partly as I have read a lot of art books, so most things I have seen before. This I never have.

Nor have I heard of Fernand Pelez and judging by his wikipedia page, few other people have, either. His other couple of paintings on show, although well painted, were not as strong - but I will be looking out for his work again.

(Have a look at the google images here for some more close-up looks. Totally worth it.


Monday, 11 February 2013

The Orangerie and the Waterlilies

After the Musee D'Orsay, I went to the Orangerie, where I sat with Monet's Waterlilies for quite some time.

While there, I thought of death and war.

This may seem odd, but I have developed something of an obsession with Monet over the last year, since I have started painting landscapes myself. So I know a little of the history of these paintings and that they were installed in 1922. They were donated by Monet as a monument to World War 1.

They are both incredibly sad and joyful. Life goes on. This too shall pass. Light and darkness co-exist. The willows weep, the clouds pass, the lilies float.

All created by a man in his 80's.

In Praise Of Lautrec's Bed

This is Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's "In Bed", as the Musee D'Orsay calls it.

Since I first saw it (at around 14) this has easily been one of my favourite artworks. Well into the top five. So I went and paid my respects, much as I do to the Botticelli Mars and Venus every time I am in London.

Being in love with a painting is as mysterious as love of anything else, but I will have a go at explaining why I think this is so great.

Firstly, it is fresh in technique, composition and subject matter. Previously I have said that I think originality in painting is over-rated, but a new vision has a place - Lautrec painted what he saw around him (like the Impressionists before him) but the world he created for himself had not been considered a fit subject for painting before. This world has been a favourite of teenagers (who identify with those on the outskirts of society) ever since.

His compositions and colours are unlike those of official art and work hard at looking careless and unposed - a stratagem that is aided, oddly, by the artificial poses that his performers like to strike. This one, however, comes across as a snap-shot - despite taking half an hour minimum to paint (and likely much, much longer) as well s working in various compositional techniques, such as the placement of the center of interest. Much of it is very sketchy - but like all truly great works, nothing could be added or subtracted without lessening the work.

It is nothing less than a painting of love - any two people who have this kind of connection are among the blessed. Here is sex, trust, honesty, familiarity, warmth, joy - all from one and a bit faces and a crumpled bed!

There is ambiguity, too - are they two women, two men, one of each? I don't care and do not think it matters.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Paris Again

This time of year is horrid - so dark and grey, so many competitions coming up I don't have good enough paintings for.

So this year I have decided to go back to Paris.

Paris is fab. I loved it as a teenager (and loved even more having "Paris bought" clothes), loved it as the first holiday my husband and I took together over ten years ago, loved it on honeymoon (when it was 37 degrees most of the time - far too hot for us freckly blonds), when we sat about in the Luxembourg Gardens and watched both the fish and the french

I have even loved it on the very occasioal day trip over on the channel tunnel from London, where I've packed in a visit both to the D'orsay and the Louvre.

This time the plan is to go to lots of museums - the above two, of course, but also the Pompidou (where I've never been), the Orangerie, the Petit Palais and the commercial galleries.

So with luck, an increase in knowledge.

And some lazing about, watching the world go by.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Ability and Knowledge : A Graph

Not original to me, this graph of ability versus knowledge (which has to be felt, rather than passively acquired), but unfortunately I don't have good internet access presently and cannot find where I saw the idea a couple of years ago.

Basically, it illustrates the big long periods where there is no progress, then suddenly there is a big leap forward.

Of course, almost immediately you are unhappy again as your knowledge and taste outstrips your ability quite quickly - again and again and again . . .

Sadly, everyone seems to have to go several of these episodes before producing anything vaguely respectable and the whole process is so disheartening many give up.

But every book that I read and really try and understand, every time I go to a gallery and critically appraise the paintings something changes. It just may not be clear what or how for ages and ages. Trying new stuff has the same effect (but possibly even more so) - the gap between drawing the view from the library and painting it was rather a long one, for example.

So really, just have faith and keep going . . .

Thursday, 7 February 2013

An Artist's Bookcase

There is a little bit of re-assessment going on at the moment, as it seems it is going to be a while before I have a studio and therefore have to make the best of what I have.

Room is a big issue, so I have tidied away almost everything that does not relate directly to oil painting - no more experiments with pastels, paper all tidied away, watercolours accessible but in a drawer and not lying about ready to be picked up

My books have also taken part in this - last year (during 28 drawings later) I was gifted a Kindle and it has occured to me that I don't really need quite so many paperbacks. So there has been a winnowing. Those that bring back memories, are brilliant or difficult to get are staying, the rest off to the charity shop. Which means I can re-arrange my art books out of big piles and into proper bookcases.

Starting with this one. The first layer is mainly books I am reading/plan on reading soon, the second are novels etc to be read, the bottom cookbooks etc along with beautiful, useful, inspirational reference books that I want to be able to consult in seconds.

So, to go through a few of them - The Art Of Urban Sketching speaks for itself, I have flicked through it (not least because the mega talented Wil Freeborn is in it, but haven't actually read very much of it yet.

The Artists Way - Julia Cameron - got about a third of the way through a few years ago, found it in the clear up and thought maybe I should try again. This kinda thing not normally for me, but it seemed to have a few useful ideas in it, not least the idea of having time every week to just do whatever you fancy. But writing every day not for me (but then, why am I writing this?)

The Artists Anatomy of Trees - Rex Vicat Cole - a quarter through this one, borrowed from the university library when I started painting trees. One I plan on finishing quite soon.

Oil Painting Techniques and Materials - Harold Speed - a classic, and always worth a browse when struggling. Gives me someone to argue against . . .

BP Portrait Award books from 2007 - 2011 - need to get 2012 soon. Really want to enter this some day, even if most of the work is photo-realistic. I find there are always a few gems.

The Inner Apprentice - Roger Neighbour - written to help GP trainees and trainers learn, I found this a very good book on learning skills. Another one found again, and never actually finished before.

Landscape Painting - Mitchell Albala - cause now I'm doing some, it might be an idea to read about it. No need to reinvent the wheel - and this book is nicely laid out and clear. about three-quarters in. There is also a blog, which the link will take you to.

Creative Illustration - Andrew Loomis - This is available online for free, but I like books. Started reading it from the library at Vytlacil in New York, got it when I got back as it seems to have a lot to say about composition - an area I need to practice. Unfortunately a little down my too read list presently.

Composition - Arthur Dow - A classic, and very useful when I red it a couple of years ago.

Imaginative Realism - James Gurney another much recommended blog, the book I found less useful. But may find it's place once I start bigger, more complex paintings.

OK, onto the bottom shelf - Velazquez the Technique of Genius - Jonathon Brown and Carmen Garrido - self evident, really. The close-ups are especially useful

Inspired by Light - Ken Howard - inspiring to know that realism is out there, part of the RA etc.

Below these are two books from Ludion's classical art series - Titian and Velazquez's complete works. There is also one for Brueghel and Vermeer, which may be the next purchase.

Any recommendations out there of what I should be adding to the bookcase? There is still a little room . . .

P.S. I'm over at Good Reads if anyone wants to join me. Also, yes I was inspired by James Gurney's post about artist's bookshelves over at Gurney Journey . . .

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Gardiner Building

Another from the University Library series - this time still a WIP (I think).

The Gardiner building was not named after a relative (that I know about, anyway) and is the buildings behind the big brown one with the white stripes (which I think is the lab building - must have a proper name, anyone remember?). It is, of course, The Western as seen from Glasgow University library, and the first in the series that doesn't make entirely clear it is of a view through a window - although all the reflections may give the game away.

The geometry of these reflections in comparison with the intricacy of the view is what made me want to paint this one - zigzags, big shapes leading to small shapes, more orange and blue as well as the ubiquitous grey of a cityscape (especially Glasgow!)

Not quite finished yet, but a fair way along. Feedback would be useful, as I very much feel I am feeling my way with these paintings as I go along - there is very little similar out there and I can't decide whether that's good or bad.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Working In Series

This is my biggest painting to date, at 20 inches square.

It is another view from the eleventh floor at Glasgow University library, worked from photographs taken just as the sun was rising.

It combines three of my favourite things - Glasgow, libraries and just before sunrise - as well as letting me play with my inner abstract artist.

It is very much based around the opposition of blue and orange, using a lot of greys produced by a mix of the two as well as the occasional sneaky yellow umber. And it plays with the grid structure created by the shape of the canvas, the architecture seen through the windows as well as the windows themselves, and the furnishings inside the building - both seen directly and reflected.

There are therefore several distinct layers - the hills in the background, the University buildings, the window structure, the reflection of the floor below and the shelving of the eleventh floor as well as the barrier I'm standing behind both in reflection and edging into view on the right.

Complicated stuff - and would not have been possible if I hadn't painted this one first. And it, in turn, was based on an idea from the first 28 drawings in 2011.

Each painting in a series leads to the next - questions get thrown up, answers arrive that enable more ambitious workings, simpler ways of doing things become evident, colour can be played with as well as scale, technique, medium, you name it.

In landscape painting in particular both Sickert and Monet used pretty much the same drawing to really experiment with colour/mood/paint application - and in doing so created some of my favourite paintings. What better guides are there to follow - I'm a believer at looking at the why, the thinking process behind paintings I adore and letting that guide me in what I do.

Monday, 4 February 2013

A View Of The Studio

Or why I need a proper one.

Pretty cramped. The window is south facing, so provides quite variable light - especially at this time of year. Also, since the sun is so low it shines straight onto the screen.

As it is a room in my flat, I don't feel comfortable inviting models here. Once I did but the light was so bad my reference photographs were next to useless. Also, there is no room to arrange any kind of tableau - not even a blank wall for the model to stand against!

Never mind, something will come up eventually, and I will be able to put all these things I'm planning into action - not least, working from a model more often.

However, I will continue to work mainly from digital photographs for a while yet. My process is a changing thing but I work better if a painting is done in stages over days or even weeks, with me pondering problems as I go along. Having someone else there makes me bashful and less likely to go hang it, lets just paint over all that lovely bit of painting to try something else. Also, most of my paintings get to a stage where I stop looking at the reference material and just make it up. This is much much harder to do with a person in front of you.

The photo's I use are all taken by me and often manipulated before being used. They need to able to blown right up - part of painting has to be selection, which means there has to be enough information to choose from. Sketches (both drawn and painted) are also useful - and I have not yet attempted to paint someone that I have not painted from life in oils at some stage.

Also you can photograph what would be difficult or impossible to paint - smiles, certain postures and expressions, the view from the eleventh floor of a library . . .

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Another Self Portrait - Looking Inwards

Yes, there are two self portraits on the go.

But there are two self portrait competitions (the Royal Society one and the Ruth Borchard one ) as well as the BP portrait award and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters normal show coming up. The light is rarely good enough at the moment for photography (and I will be writing why I normally work from photo's in the next few days) so rather than hire a model I thought it would be a good idea to take some of me, then work partly from the mirror.

Although neither painting is close to finished (and, indeed, may never be) it has been an interesting experiment. It has been a couple of years since I've painted myself and I have made a lot of progress in that time - but there is still far to go. I feel I can experiment much more in the application of paint and colour than I would normally - this one has some very deep blues and bright pinks as well as sour yellows. I am trying to pay more attention to the brush work and not feel I need to cover the painting with an entirely new coat of paint each time - this will become increasingly important as I continue to work bigger.

The Royal Society's Self Portrait competition states it wants to be "Pushing the boundaries of self representation in painting and drawing" which is partially why this one has my eyes closed. Working on the two together - this one how I see myself, the other a more straight representation - has been actually quite healing.

Mirrors have long held a horror for me, as the effects of illness and medication (especially steroids) are visible and are about all I could see. However, I am old enough now that I will never be a pretty young thing so it's about time I became at peace with how I look. My husband has helped - at each stage of the other portrait I have asked him what he thought, and each change suggested by him has actually made me look better (and been closer to the photograph).

So although it looks increasingly unlikely I will be finished in time for the competitions, i am glad I tried - another example of setting yourself a project and seeing where it goes.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

In Praise Of Projects

So, in 2011 Victoria Evans had the really bright idea of setting up 28 Drawings Later which she describes as a drawing challenge and social networking project. The idea was to draw every day in February and post the results on facebook.

It seemed an interesting challenge, especially as I had never tried to draw outside the life room.

An encouraging, friendly and talented group soon formed and checking in every day to see everyone's drawings became a real pleasure. I started keeping a sketchbook and drew everywhere - mainly in ink and watercolour, a new medium. This opened up a whole world for me, the world of scribbling stuff down that doesn't need to be finished, that nobody ever needs to see, that can be done just to pass the time, to figure something out, to doodle, to fix a memory, to, really it is just endlessly useful. I just wish I had known that years ago!

And at the end, there was a book - my first time in print!

In 2012 I signed up to do it all again. This time round it was massive, and much harder to keep track of everybody involved - and ended in a huge party/exhibition.

This year, Victoria finds herself understandably daunted by the prospect of doing it again so has decided to blog 28 days of being a painter instead, with videos of her at work in the studio. (I am very jealous of that studio. Especially the swing in the corner that you can just see on day one.)

So here I am, blogging every day. Both previous years expanded my abilities and outlook as an artist. There is a magic to a public project that can take all sorts of unexpected turns - really all you can do is start walking down the path and see what fairytale places you end up, after overcoming (or succumbing to) various challenges.

Various other folks are also committing themselves to various month long projects. Fiona Wilson has also promised to write about art everyday, starting with a huge head portrait. 28 Tangos has been inspired by the previous years - I can't dance for peanuts, so won't be taking part. Inventing Trees has a really interesting project of making each days art work build from the previous days. Diary of a Printmaker is taking a photo a day, but has already begun to regret it! Neil has decided to draw like he has in previous years and Catherine has also started really strongly.

Karen Kaapcke's project is not limited to february, as she started drawing herself every day for a year back in September. It has been a joy so far every day - and who knew that so much variety was possible in the same subject? Really, check it out - this is a fantastic example of the creative insights and possibilities that a public project can open up, as well as showing that portraiture is at its best when communicating what it is to be human.

Any other projects out there?

Amendment - yes there are. Just found 28 and later . Ooops.

Friday, 1 February 2013

A Self Portrait and a Manifesto

“A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods.”

Robert Henri

Please don't think this is a finished painting - and it is a terrible photo - but I thought if I'm going to write every day as I plan for the rest of the month it would help to re-introduce myself.

So yes, that is meant to be me!

Anyway, I am a contemporary figurative oil painter who lives in Glasgow. My overall aim is to reflect the life around me, filtered through oil paints (using both traditional and modern techniques as appropriate).

Each painting of mine should be loved - which means I am mainly interested in emotions. I believe that good figurative oil painting is a deeply felt response to the external world. An awareness of visual arts, both past and present, adds freedom and depth, while conscious adaptation of the appearance of the outside world can be used to get closer to felt truth.

Everything is affected by my experiences of being a woman in the 20th/21st century. This means that both my thought patterns and the world out there is different from that which almost all museum artists experienced so their techniques and answers can only ever act as guides.

(The greatest paintings, like all great things, transcend their purpose and their maker's intentions.)

Will that do as a manifesto and an explanation of my beliefs? If you argue with any of the above, please comment - I would love to hear other folks viewpoints.

Also, I'm hoping to get some kind of dialogue going over the month. There will be posts of work in progress, travel reports, gallery reviews, general art musings and maybe some interviews with other Glasgow Painters - all instead of a drawing a day! So, please join in!