Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Drawing In Preparation For Painting

The 28 Drawings Challenge is about to start again. This is my fourth year and I am really looking forward to it.

The first year got me drawing in a sketchbook for the first time, the second year I concentrated on using watercolour and ink, the third (unofficial) year I wrote here.

This year I have recently started planning my paintings by drawing them out first, so will be sharing these as I go along, starting Saturday.

Above is one I did earlier. The painting is probably not quite done as it only got to this stage today.

First I drew the composition out (the smallest drawing) and liked it enough to decide to paint it. Next I had a little trouble getting the scale right - currently I am working on creating a group of works and consequently want them all to work together well. Consequently I have decided to make them all either a bit smaller than life size or half that size. However, this is not quite as easy as I thought it would be - at the moment it involves guessing, doing the drawing (with inches converted to centimeters) and then comparing it to the other drawings. The second version was too big, then the third just right!

The method of drawing is simple - using the paper as a mid tone, adding the darkest darks, a dark mid tone and then the highlights. This makes it easy for me to adjust the composition. Also, it is fairly similar to my painting method and therefore makes it possible to judge whether the painting is likely to work or not.

Doing the drawings does take time, but does let me explore different possibilities and overall saves time, as I am much less likely to struggle mid-painting - or have to abandon a painting altogether. And it is 28 Drawings Later that I have to thank for getting me to this stage.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

In Praise Of Models

Today I thought I'd take a little time to discuss artist's models - they really are a wonderful group, without whom many of us artists would be unable to work.

Initially the only contact I had with models was in the life room, where the models were booked on a 8 week schedule. Something about the structure of that was rather nice, as it meant the model always seemed to have new gossip to share at tea time. Some of them liked to have a wee nosey at what we were doing, some preferred the chat, some brought in home baking and all were tremendously professional.

Anyway, recently I have progressed to hiring models on my own. They have been an absolutely lovely bunch who have been very inspiring, each in their own, individual way - Dolly Tartan as you can see, was very bouncy - but also quite capable of staying still as required. One model had a hidden dark side, while another had a lot of knowledge of what looks good on camera. Each contribution is unique and therefore each painting becomes a collaborative work - and I feel that this is often unfairly overlooked.

Museworthy is a model who works in New York that unfortunately I never had a chance to meet when I was there. However, her blog highlights the problems and joys of working as an artists model as well as discussing some of the artists models in the past and is well worth reading if you think you might ever either be a model or hire one.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

How To Prepare Linen Canvases

Here's a few I made earlier.

They are various sizes (the smallest one at the front is 8 inches square) as currently I am canabilizing old canvases to get the stretcher bars. However, I am trying to gradually move over to a few standard sizes - 10x12, 12x18, 16x20, 20x24 inches. A gradual process - and a little scary, those bigger ones are bigger than I've painted so far.

However, one of the advantages of stretching your own canvases is that you can decide the proportions yourself. Another is that you can control what kind of surface you have.

So, what do I use? Previously, unprimed fine linen from Jackson's Art but when I was in London I visited Russell and Chapple and am now about to use their portrait linen - it is really lovely and very much recommend a visit to their shop to see their range.

Once stretched, I use GAC 400 rather than rabbit skin glue, then GAC 100 to prevent the oil sinking in, then finally Roberson's Oil Primer. which is just amazing (if smelly) stuff. Unlike acrylic gesso it provides a slippery surface that really lets you push paint around and as it doesn't self level you can create a variety of surfaces - from rough to very smooth. I go for the fairly smooth, using 2 or 3 layers, each one applied with brush, then unified with a roller and then finally sanded, except the last layer. This gives me a fairly uniform surface with a slight "fuzz" to it that I feel is sympathetic to painting flesh - if I was wanting to paint seascapes, I'd maybe leave the brushmarks.

So what do you do?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Roll on 2014

The last time I was this excited about the year to come was back on New Year's Day, 2005, the day after I got engaged.

So, what has got me so excited?

Well, I have chosen a direction, an area, themes, which my paintings are going to explore in future. How long this future will last, who knows, but I suspect it may well be a lifetime.

At the moment I am working on the first few paintings after clarifying matters to myself so have nothing yet to show - and as I have decided to start slowly, not stray too far from my previous work while I gain experience and confidence, when they are done they may not seem like the beginning of something. But I have faith.

Which makes me sound terribly delusional. This is appropriate, as make-believe, the cross over between reality and fantasy, is the ground I wish to investigate. There are many threads to this, but one impetus was being in Rome. There are few really good paintings of women with character and often instead they are portrayed as the artist's fantasy (all those half naked Magdelenes clutching their hair to their bosums.) This got me thinking about how people (especially women) routinely role play and whether I could paint this.

Since then, I have been doing more delving and exploration (from reading old favourites like Alice In Wonderland, Sandman and Shakespeare and watching Disney movies, to infesting the University library and reading books with no pictures covering subjects including feminist theory, film history, comparative theology and the psychology of fashion.) There are more paths than I can follow but boy, the research is fun!

Ambitious, me? Well, what why not try something bigger? There are have been few times in my life I have been more certain something was a good idea (and yes, getting engaged was one of them) and, like marriage, at the moment I have no real idea how things are going to work out and realise there are likely to be bad bits.. But the plan is exciting and everyone I have got involved so far have been fascinated with plenty to contribute and basically it just feels right - there are so many artworks I love, things I own and people I adore that are related in one way or the other that it feels as if I am pulling all the different strands into one place.

So, this year the aim is to put together a body of work of which I am proud, dealing with how people present themselves.