Thursday, June 29, 2017

Finding my way in other's techniques

Fen - 65 x 46cm, pastel on paper
 Fully realising that I have never attempted to make portraits, I started this week by inviting a friend to sit for me.  I transformed a corner of the studio into a room and primed a large piece of Fabriano paper with a bubblegum pink. I drew Fen for two hours with pastel and then after she left, spent a few more hours working from the set up. This is not finished, but I think it represents an exploration of using the model to create a story, a likeness, something beyond simply a colour study.  I don't know where this will lead but I feel I need to explore some of the things I have learned over the last week.

Feven - 16.5 x 16.5, pastel on paper 
Feven - 13.5 x 20.5, pastel on altered book page

Today I did two small hour studies of Feven in pastel.  The first is in a square sketchbook.  The second is in my altered book.

A Week of tuition and travelling

As part of the New English Art Club scholarship, I am encouraged to attend as many of the NEAC classes as I can. I chose five out of six to attend, the sixth was during my open studio.

Ruth Stage taught her version of egg tempera and gave us each a sized and gessoed MDF panel to use.  Some of us went outside into the stifling heat and drew durng our lunch break, others copied something.  I discovered that the rubbish bins were just the right height to work on. Egg tempera is a fascinating process and it seemed to me that I should try to work the way I do in preparation, with a plein air sketch.  When I met Gabriella the next day she told me she doesn't like egg tempera because she finds it tacky, I sort of understood, as I made a sufficiently tacky painting in my attempt. Working from drawings without changing, inventing, adding to is always problematic for me; doing this with an egg yold and pigment was doubly complex!
Ruth Stage NEAC 

Seeing Ruth's egg tempera paintings after hearing her talk about her process and experimenting myself capped off a fascinating day and made me appreciate her work even more.

We went outdoors with Melissa Scott-Miller to find what makes Carlton Terrace characteristically itself.  Melissa wanted us to find landscape still lives.  Many people brought oil paint, which was what Melissa used.  I brought my tins of pastels and a chair. The light changed throughout the day and was it ever hot! I found I got bogged down by drawing accurately because I was drawing architecture and struggled to keep things open and energised. It was fascinating to see how Melissa works.  First in charcoal then with paint.  She  seems to use the black of the charcoal in her painting.
the start of Melissa Scott Miller's plein air painting of Carlton Terrace

Wednesday was life drawing with Julie Jackson. We started with quick poses in charcoal and then an hour pose where we covered the page in black and worked removing the black to make marks. For various reasons I had trouble making an interesting drawing woring into the black. In the second half of the day we used ink in five cups with different dilutions of ink to create tones. 

Thursday there were no workshops and I went to my portrait group.  I decided to work in ink to see if I could use it to capture something of Feven.

Antony Wilson taught portraiture in black and white to our group. We made 10-15 minute drawings first and then Antony showed us his technique. 

The second half of the day we made a more sustained drawing of the model's head, life-sized.  Antony wanted us to try to take some of his techniques onboard which I tried to do, but with very limited success!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Open Studios 2017

Open Studios Saturday,  pastel on paper 16.5.x 16.5 
It's the second Saturday of Suffolk Open Studios and I've had a few people today. In a break from the trickle of visitors I stood up my plein air easel (that I use as a table for drawing) and got out two trays of pastels I hadn't put away from previous drawings.  I chose seven pastels but ended up with about 16 and tried to make order from the view out of the studio door. 

Yesterday I took a class with Neil Pittaway at The Mall Galleries as part of the NEAC scholarship. His main task was to make thumbnail sketches of various paintings and then to draw them together into something to use as our own art.  In a funny way that's all drawing from life is. I see lots of little vignettes bumping up against each other here and the challenge is to make them into a whole.

When Craig Jefferson was talking about his paintings he talked about how he chooses a different background priming colour.  His very vibrant picture began with yellow so I began with a lime yellow today.

It's a beautiful day and I look forward to a big run at five pm.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A departure - drawing a clothed model

charcoal on paper 17 x 17cm
A few weeks ago a circular went around asking if anyone wanted to share the cost of a clothed model to draw, for portraiture. When I finished my Still Red Room pastel, I thought I might like to set up an interior in the studio and possibly hire a person to sit for me in it.  Then I went to Maine and now it's open studios so I haven't tackled a new big project yet. 

Today I went to this new group.  I was hoping that the model would be in a really inspiring setting, wearing wonderful clothes but she was in a portraiture setting. She has a compelling face and the light was beautiful.

I began with charcoal. I haven't drawn a model in this way in years and years. I thought I'd work tonally. It's a three hour drawing session andI was working on the top of my pastel 'table', a box easel with the easel part taken off so I couldn't work on anything big on that. I had brought a few sketchbooks appropriate for life drawing shorter poses. Never mind.

It turns out it doesn't matter how long the pose is.  I can begin again in a different way when I'm done.  The second drawing was on book pages.  Teven, the model,  liked that one and took a photo of it.  The final drawing was looser and I rearranged the room in my head and thought of Dorothy Eisner.

Pastel on book pages 13.5 x 20 cm

pastel on paper 16 x 16 cm

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sometimes there's no time to look for another colour

16.5  x 16 pastel on paper
Back to the discipline of the ticking clock, the fleeting pose and Sue calling, 'change please' before  I have managed to tie things together sufficiently.  Begin again. Today I forgot me tea.

I love to draw Emily because her poses are so natural and believable, but creating the mood in colour in ten minutes isn't always possible.  In a ten minute pose I need to choose a book to draw in, find a backgrouind colour that feels 'right', choose seven or so colours and begin in a place that will make a strong composition. 

Very often I find I mis-measure as I begin making marks.  I go round and round on the page adjusting with each subsequent mark. Sometimes my figures are not in the right place.  I may choose to rub things out or I may try to find a way of making bad placement work.

Today was a day of feeling like I never had quite enough time to finish, let alone choose colours or think composition.  There were six ten minute poses and one 30 minute pose. Sue had placed Emily in my favourite location, in front of the mirror, so there was plenty of complexity, too much to understand things, which is the way I like it.

With any luck there will be something that interests me in each of the drawings, something that I may be able to use somewhere in something I do later.

17.5 x 17 cm, pastel on paper

17 x 19 cm

13 x 13 cm

13 x 13 cm

17 x 19 cm

17.5 x 17 cm, pastel on paper

Monday, June 5, 2017


Marilyn - 30 min pose, 15 x 16 cm pastel on paper
 We began today's life drawing with three 5 minute poses with Marilyn holding the same pose but at three distances (see last three images). When asked, the person working next to me, Roy Freer, said that he didn't take any notice of the scale issue; Sue had inteded it as a scale exercise. Like Roy, I was just drawing, first in black and white, then in colour. What I noticed was that the light was very different on the figure as she moved forward.  Up close Marilyn was mostly just skin and it all had a similar colour. 

I tried to find the figure today, making lots of marks before I discovered her. although I was drawing straight on and there was nothing behind the model, I looked hard at the background and tried to discover something interesting but 'real'.  

I am excited to be heading to see a Milton Avery exhibit in London next week. I can see that I have been looking at him in at least one of these drawings.
Marilyn - 10 min pose, 10 x 14 cm, pastel on paper

Marilyn - 10 min pose 9 x 8 1/2 cm, pastel on paper 

Marilyn - 5 min pose,  (distant) 12 x 25 cm, charcoal on paper
Marilyn - 5 min pose, (mid distance), 9 1/2 x 14 cm, pastel on paper

Marilyn - 5 min pose (close up) 11 1/2 x 19 1/2 cm, pastel on paper

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Re-using a monotype plate

Rapeseed, Oak and path  10 x 10cm, first version 1/1 monotype: Akua Intaglio
I think that working small can feel claustrophobic, sometimes.  It's tough not to get tight, to get enough distance and to have realistic expectations.  As a result there are instances when the print doesn't live up to my imagination…When that happens what I usually do is to begin again with the ghost still on the plate, trying to address the areas that don't work. The second print can be freeing.  By then I have worked out some problems and I have translated the landscape in some way and that leaves me space to experiment with colour and composition differently  I might work from my imagination in a way I wouldn't in the initial print. The second print usually takes less time. Occasionally I find that making the second print convinces me that the first print is OK.
Rapeseed, Oak and path  10 x 10cm, second version 1/1 monotype: Akua Intaglio
What's interesting when I show people two similar prints, one made directly after the first is that a 'favourite' isn't always universal. Deciding which is better can be difficult. Sometimes I even have to make a third print.  Sometimes I put the prints in the 'not fully realised box'.
Aldeburgh Beach  7.5 x 10cm, first version 1/1 monotype: Akua Intaglio

Aldeburgh Beach  7.5 x 10cm, second version 1/1 monotype: Akua Intaglio
And tonight we had a drink in the field.  I took my new altered sketchbook for UK landscapes. A Bold Venture.
Field with Lime Tree, pastel on book pages (altered sketchbook)