The Monet exhibition

I'm in Paris - so I thought I'd try and see the Monet exhibition - it looks so good. Went to the Grand Palais at 2:30 yesterday - foggy, damp, not too cold - but three hours queue - decided to go off and come back at seven - hoping for less queue - came back at 7:30 - attendants reckoned there would still be three hours of queue (don't know what they do when it get towards 9 - the exhibition closes at 10!) Gave up, three hrs queue is too much for me - this is what happened the last time - 20+ years ago. Pity. Big pity. Oh well..


Drawing in oils

Quite a few of the Bargue drawings have huge areas of shadow - which would be OK to do in charcoal - a nice painterly medium - and which the originals were done - but the big darks are a real, real pain in pencil. It's funny, in the book Ackerman says they should be done in charcoal, but that charcoal is too difficult for beginners - who would need tuition - don't know why he didn't add a little guide to using it! Anyway, it dawned on me that drawing in paint (monochromatic) would be very instructive and useful - I did the one above - and it was certainly more enjoyable. Must do some more like this.

What I'm going to do now is a Prud'hon copy - using the info. from Rebecca Alzofon's excellent site. Love Prud'hon -interesting life he had, too!



Good thing it's the holidays - I'm finding so much to do! Reading James Gurney's "Color & Light", found some good stuff on the net (Jeff Freedner, lastt couple of featured artists on "Empty Easel) + trying to do Bargue copies ("mix and match" from parts three (first) and two) - basic figure studies! Above is the last painting I was working on back in October before I stopped painting to concentrate on improving (hmmm) my drawing...


Bargue plates continued

Well, it's funny how some of the Bargue drawings are easier and/or more of a pleasure than others - and not necessarily the ones you'd expect (plate 1, "Eyes" is a  pain!). What I have found is, that my personal bests were plates 30-40 - and from plate 41 on I can't seem to get them even basically right!! I've got a number of questions about this type of master drawing copying - my own basic idea was not to be too obsessive, "eyeball" as much as possible, and spend 2 - 4 hours on each one (which is extremely short for this type of work). Maybe my 'approach' is completely wrong  - mebbe that's why the roaring 40's are not working!


Bounding envelope

My present concern is to get a bounding envelope (often a rectangle) of the form I'm trying to draw that is as close as possible to the size and angles of the subjet. I have this tendency to start going for details. Maybe I should devise a series of exercises for myself...

Two things I have noticed - there usually come a point where you feel it"s not going to work, and, if you've made enough effort at the start (with the foundations) - it usually comes out not too bad...

Measuring tools

 From Harold Speed - The Practice and Science of Drawing

So, I've been messing around using dividers, taut thread and a measuring rod as measuring tools to help me "see" line lengths and angles. We've all used grids to help us reproduce or scale an original - and a grid doesn't have to be regular - its lines can just pass through salient points on the original - and that, in fact, is how, I believe, you create a "visual" grid in your mind - by identifying salient points that align in one way or another - usually vertically or horizontally - (landmarks) and measuring the distance and angles between them (with a tool - initially - or by eye). This had better pay off - it's time-consuming. Line! Just when I'd started to think in terms of masses!

Lines = Scales?

How accurately can I copy these squeaky little lines on another sheet of paper?

From that

To this

Copying these master drawings, at the very most basic level (before we get on to line weight, fluidity, expressiveness and a whole ton of stuff) is just trying to reproduce distances - line lengths, angles and curves  and angles should be straightened to a series of straight lines - so, just line lengths and angles (i.e. training your eye to correct proportion - like playing scales on a musical instrument?).

I have trouble replicating angles.

If I tried to copy the series of little lines in my first picture above, it would be easier if my drawing were the same size as the original (hence the basic concept of the "sight-size" technique - it's easier to draw something the same size as you see it - as a learning technique anyway - and to check your drawing by comparison. It's much more difficult when the drawing and subject are different sizes).

It would also be easier the closer I were to draw the line to the original - I could copy my little lines above no problem by drawing them next to the original lines. I could also imagine axes of symmetry and try to replicate the line across them? Hmmm, why am I having such problems with angles? .


Tête de femme romaine

Roman woman's head from Bargue part 2 - pleased with that - but generally struggling - not sure which/how many reference axes and construction lines to use and how to implement sight-size/measuring techniques - I should write a discussion on this - no time just now.

I tend to follow Bargue's constructs - but even if I develop my eye - afterwards you'd have to be able to abstract to get a "construct"! Well, Ill keep going - I'm on plate 34 in fact - reckon on doing up to about plate 60, then doing about 4 - 8 plates from part 2, then do some from part 3 (outline figure studies) in  red/white carbothello pastel pencils as in the Maugham (spelling?) book. Thus idea inspired by trailers for Robert Liberace's instructional DVDs - really inspirational! Think I'll order the Maughan book and the Tony Ryder book. Funny how I'm getting into portraits/figure. Some of these ideas also come from two French blogs I've found http://blog.art-dessins.fr/ (I really like her drawings of factories) and http://artistes-lorrains.forumactif.net/forum.htm - thanks to Miro and Yann!. I should do my blog in bilingual., arrghh time....


Plugging away

Well, I'm doing a Bargue drawing a day - trying to train my eye - I'll give it four months to a year as a daily discipline (if it seems to start paying off). I set up the Bargue plate (A3 photocopy) on my (big) drawing board - with a sheet of smooth paper next to it. My first problem is I'm not sure how many reference axes and points to use - I think I'll stick to 1 central vertical axis and four points (top, bottom and left and right limits of the model) - but this seems to conflict somewhat with Bargue's constructs - it seems to me? The finished drawings take between 1 to 3 hours (I try do be as accurate as possible, but don't want to bog down in spending huge amounts of time on them - and they look pretty nice! - but the 'shading' in the originals is something to behold. I 'eyeball' to get my my line and then check with dividers (I erase it if it's incorrect). I'll see if this trains my eye - it sure teaches you patience - and that with care you can do some good stuff....



After a Rembrandt self-portrait (in colour)

"The value of graphite was soon realised to be enormous, mainly because it could be used to line the moulds for cannonballs, and the mines were taken over by the Crown and guarded. When sufficient stocks of graphite had been accumulated, the mines were flooded to prevent theft until more was required. Graphite had to be smuggled out for use in pencils. Because graphite is soft, it requires some form of case. Graphite sticks were at first wrapped in string or in sheepskin for stability. The news of the usefulness of these early pencils spread far and wide, attracting the attention of artists all over the known world". - From the excellent Wikpedia article on "Pencil".

We call it a pencil lead - but it's graphite = totally non toxic and a lubricant! - no wonder if flows

Like I said, over the last two years, a number of artists' comments on the foundational  importance of drawing have stuck in my mind (often along the lines of "painting IS drawing") - and following Stapleton Kearn's observation that most people in his workshops had drawing problems, except for those who had done some sort of cast drawing., I've decided to spend a year on drawing. The good news is I've got right into it - the idea of shades of grey has gripped my imagination and will probably give me some "conceptual ideas" - but my basic premise is : YOU CAN TRAIN YOUR EYE. The two basic things - other than the exciting possibilites of the various drawing meda available - dynamic/flowing lines and etc. etc. is to limit meself to proportion and value - the two basics of a good representational image.


Doing a few Bargue plates

You would think, that as far as "eye training" goes, someone would put out a computerized equivalent of the Bargue drawing course for use with an electronic tablette e.g. Wacom - your drawn line would be color coded to show the type of error (length wrong = blue, angle incorrect = red) and you could try again until you got it right (as long as the computer didn't make that horrible "refusal" beep noise - I guess it would be classical music for "cast" drawings!!!) - it would be so much faster than erasing on paper. You could have a value scale on every page too. Oh well, just a thought

Addition - I'm an idiot - its easy to set it up in a good vector drawing program - and I have! - even on paper there's ways to achieve this



This is great, at last I feel like drawing and am enjoying it - I'm "copying" the Bargue plates. Paul Foxton's blog, "Learning to see" is great - I've always followed it, but found his last couple of posts particularly inspiring. I'm going to try to train my eye. I'm doing my best to do accurate drawings (measure) - but just consider them as exercises, not finished works.

"You can only paint as well as you can draw"



Yep, following Stapleton Kearn's comment that the people in his workshops have, above all, drawing problems (and Richard Schmid said the same thing), unless they had done some 'cast' drawing, I'm busy drawing  - there's a number of approaches - or usually some combination thereof:

measuring (using a rod or dividers, etc.) (either absolute, relative or based on a unit (e.g. the head))
sight-size - often combined with a measuring technique and a centerline (plumbline)
geometric forms
bounding envelope

That's some of the approaches to establish placement on the surface and the general proportions - which are checked/found using plumblines/lines of alignment - after that on to the quality of the line, the details, and drawing per se. "Drawing is not for the impatient" - that's my problem

From Wikipedia: Among the artists whose work is based on the study of Bargue's platework, is Vincent van Gogh who copied the complete set in 1880/1881, and (at least a part of it) again in 1890


All these little coincidences

Here's one of them - Matt Innes had an ‘Identify the painting’ competition over on his blog, ‘Underpaintings’ – one of the paintings really spoke to my heart – probably by Bastien Lepage, I thought.

When he gave out the answers, the artist turned out to be an artist I’d never heard of, Daniel Ridgway Knight, and the painting’s title “Hailing the ferry”

– as I looked him up/checked him out (interesting) I found he was an American who lived and worked in France. One of the major reasons his painting appealed to me was the river in it – it reminded me of my rambles all over the area north of Paris – and especially of the hotel perched on an escarpment overlooking the river (Seine) where Sylviane and Thierry had their wedding party – I thought it was such a great place http://www.domainedelacorniche.com/ - then I read that this village – Rolleboise- was the village he lived and worked in! Such strange little coincidences – serendipity – these threads crossing….


Why paint (2)?

There is a brilliant blog entry (as usual - it's a most wonderful blog) on  "Illustration Art" on the transience of life/art and the motivation to do anything - and the comments to it comprise a fabulous discussion. I'd rather read his (David"s)  blog than play Wi in my bathrobe, any day! - highly recommended. (He also shows a picture by the Provensens - a couple who, among other things, illustrated children's books - I've still have my copy of "Myths and Legends" - and the pictures still grip me as much as when I was 7 years old!)

Art videos/DVDS

Yep, well, like I said - there's a real amount of stuff on the net - between 'Look inside" on Amazon and video extracts on YoutTube/free demos put up by painters - it's a wonder anyone buys anything. I've got a few video DVDs - not so many - about 10. I love watching these sort of videos,

There are 3/4 basic types of approach:

1) The artist is extremely well-known (and usually highly personable) - so the video basically consists in 'being with' them while they produce a work and chat to you/the audience about technique, art and anything else that pops into their head - this sort of video is usually not very 'scripted' - the 'off-the-cuff style being preferred - probably because this is felt to make it more natural etc. etc. Either you see pretty well every gesture to make one work, or 2) it's edited and you see them do a number a works

3) The artist has a large amount of teaching experience or a well-defined process/approach and presents it/ 4) part of it ( lesson 1 in a 3 part series)/applied to a certain type of subject (e.g. portraits, skies...)

A link from a reader on Gurney Journey (to a gamut masking tool) took me over to Richard Robinson's site - very  nice - I purchased his videos and they're excellent - for beginner and intermediate levels (yuk, but true), very pleased indeed with them - here's someone who's done the work - this is how it should be done! - hope he does some more


Back to basics

Well, I received and viewed the Ingbretson DVD on drawing. Concidentally, Stapleton Kearns, on his wonderful blog, mentioned that most 'hobbyists' (don't think he used that awful term) don't have the drawing 'chops' (nice term) - not me, of course. Oh no, wait! It is me - I think I'll take some time off painting to draw.

Tomorrow I think I'll review about art videos/DVDs in general - they're fairly expensive, but I love them. Don't know how anyone manages to sell anything with all the great stuff for free on the net! See you, then!



with it here. Got to hang on in there. I tell myself "it's just for fun, take it as it comes"

Anyway, I've ordered the Ingbretson DVD "The Visual Order" - on drawing - and discovered a couple of nice artists on the net: Doug Braithwaite and Rick McClure (the latter thanks to "An Expressive Artist Studio" blog)

Tell myself my motivation is that I do this (painting) for fun (pleasure) and the only goal is to improve - for my own satisfaction


Test: is it a good painting?

We see thousands of images.
Even for an artist we like (and could instantly identify if we saw a picture by them), we have favourite images. And from the artists view point - even the greats have moments of grace - special works.
We can appraise an image pretty quickl - it's all there in front of us, the eye is fast.

But when I ask myself, "How many paintings by artist x (hey, let's say Soralla) can I bring up in my mind?", it can be surprising how few (if any!)

A great image (on a personal level) is, I feel, one that stays forever in your mind.

(see my comments on those 2 Michel De Gallard paintings I've loved so much - because they have a particular meaning for me (induce a dream-like trance!), for one thing and I love the paint surface, for another. Like I said above, once we go past the critical bit - get to lave a painting - it's special to us - well, another one I like is Bryce Cameron Liston's 'In the Stillness' he entered it in the last ARC competition - you can see it e.g. on their site in the entries for the competition)


Thick paint and impatience

I seem to be finding out that you need to paint confidently with decisive, bold stokes (I think the best way to put it, is that they have to have "energy" - and I love the idea of a "juicy" paint surface). But I've noticed that once the paint gets thick, my stokes had better be careful - thick paint can easily go wrong!

- so, what I think I've realised is - 1) I can either leave the painting, just leave it a good while to dry (I hated t do this up till now - some fear of losing the motivation to finish it, I guess)
2) scrape off the thick paint - just scrape it off (sometimes using the knife on it to manipulate it or scrape it off seems to result in the desired effect - Richard Schmid says something about that in his first video).


4 painters (poets, in fact) I really like

 Well painting may need some sort of "narrative", may be a means of expression (= language), but it can be poetry. Check out these 4 artists:


We want to paint

The next thing is to do a drawing (more on doin' the drawing later) of our subject - I prefer to do this in charcoal on a separate piece of parer (i.e. not on my canvas) and transfer it to the canvas by rubbing the back of it with charcoal and "tracing" over it (you can have a second sheet of paper blackened with charcoal to male a "carbon" paper so you don't have to so this every time).

I do this because, if the painting goes wrong, I can start again without having to redo the drawing - I just re-transfer the drawing to a new panel!. Something else to remember is that it a total waste of time to put details in the drawing.

I then spray the faint, transferred charcoal drawing on my canvas with fixative - this has an advantage - if the (oil, not acrylic - acrylic when dry can't be removed!) painting goes wrong you can wipe if off and you've still got the drawing - and a disadvantage - the paint doesn't "eat" (absorb) the lines of the drawing - and they can show through - bad news.

If I have time, I prefer to go over the lines with thinned paint (burnt sienna/TOR) - transform them into painted lines

And now the absolutely crucial stage - the block-in or underpainting or initial layin or whatever you want to call it - 4 possibilities (= for a final painting that will be either acrylic over acrylic or oil over acrylic or oil over oil)

1) Monochrome block-in in acrylic or oil (the reason for using acrylic is that it dries, and when  it does it's "iron" - won't be disturbed by painting over it (the reason for using monochrome is that you can concentrate on the values and work fast with just one colour)

2) A multi-colour block-in in oil or acrylic (the reason for this is that this color under the next layer tends to give a much more interesting final paint surface and you can do things like use complementaries e.g. a pinkish/reddish colour under skies or vegetation to a "vibration"/interesting effects. I'm interested in using a "watercolour" style technique for this block-in (Richard Schmid often seems to work like that). I love watercolour (more on that later, too)



As points of reference (see Bruce MacEvoy's Handprint site (not blog) for a pigment color wheel - great idea  - really useful! Kevin MacPherson's palette is something like   

Cad yellow pale                                
Ult. blue                                           
Permanent alizarin crimson               
Phalo green (I'd prefer viridian)
Titanium white

Mark Carder's (method) palette is pretty much the same with something like burnt umber instead of the green (I'd agree with that - I'd rather have an earth brown than a green - but no problem - even with both, we only have 6 paints )

These are extremely limited palettes - but if you look at the paintings done with them - it's amazing - no problem. Lets see what a more extended palette would look like, Richard Schmid's is (colours not always used in brackets) something like

(Cad lemon yellow)
Cad yellow pale
Cad. yellow deep
(Cad. orange)
Cad. red 
Yellow ochre pale
Terra rosa
Venetian red
Transparent oxide red (same thing as burnt sienna really)
Permanent alizarin Crimson
 (Cobalt violet)
Cobalt blue light
Ult. blue dark
Titanium white

And the more palettes I've read about on the net, the more you see these "classic"/standard colours coming up.  A number of people don't use black (you can mix it) and a number of people try and avoid the umbers - though raw umber can be useful for a number of things, it seems to me. There's a number of "systems" - e.g. a "split" palette with a "warm" and "cool" version of each  color - Gruppe talks about this sort of idea and uses phalo blue. Stape Kearns likes chromium oxide green, Roger Bansemer uses some other green (I forget which) too. But it seems to me that I use my colours in two ways - as mixing colours or as convenience (straight out the tube) colours, so my palette looks like this

Titianium white, naples yellow light, cad yellow pale, yellow ochre light, transparent oxide red (=burnt sienna), permanent alizarin crimson (this is a whole topic), ceruleum blue, ult. blue dark = 8 paints, I think

(plus for rare use - in my box in case I need them: cad. lemon yellow, cad yellow deep, cad. red, terra rosa, indian red (like terra rosa, but cooler), raw umber, phalo blue, viridian)


Choosing subject matter

So you want to do a painting? Yep, we want to make a painting

OK, The first thing is, what shall we paint?

Two approaches here

1)     Find something that "inspires" us – Marc Delassio noted on his blog http://www.marcdalessio.com/ that he's spent hours driving looking for a scene. Toutounov http://www.toutounov.fr/ says you have to be excited about what you're going to paint and, likewise, notes that he drove 100 km until he found a pair of gates that he wanted to paint. Personally, I'm like this – I love it when I find something I really want to paint (though sometimes this doesn't turn out to make a good painting and sometimes an unpromising subject turns out to be great!)

2) "Its what you carry to an object that counts" (Andrew Wyeth) -  Karin Jurick's http://karinjurick.blogspot.com/ motto. Here, the concept is that anything is worth painting - it's how YOU see it that matters - and as the subject of any painting is really the light (painting is the study of light) – this makes sense, especially if you want to practice a regular discipline – the idea of e.g. a daily painting – and Foster Caddell and others strongly recommend still life paintings for skills building.  I feel that if I did do regular paintings I'd want to vary the subject matter – and even try and vary my style.

Now, when I painted pre 1993 (!), I was representational in that I took the drawing from life, BUT, I then tried to interpret it in terms of color, brushwork etc. - the reality was just a jumping-off point. This time round I was quickly instructed that you need to very carefully scrutinize the reality (especially for values, colour and light effects), that only with experience can you "make it up" (in fact, do it from memory/past experience) or "play with it". I got so used to this idea of observing "reality closely as master", that it came as something of a shock to realize that this was true for values, light, etc. but not for composition, content, etc. Foster Caddell has a really good section in his book where he demonstrates how he rearranges and modifies a scene to make it his own - this, of course, means that you are much less limited in your choice of subject  - a subject can be vastly improved by judicious modification and editing. Here, I need some pictures to illustrate my ramblings - not enough time, just now
(Note; If you're just starting, check out the Carder method - Mark Carder sure seems to be  a nice guy and just visiting his website and looking at his free videos presenting his method and reading about it tells you everything - you don't even need to buy it! Some people tried to pooh-pooh him - another "magic" method, but some serious guys said it's sound - and I agree - I didn't buy it - but found it very instructive and inspirational)

OK, so we have a subject (wish I did!) now we need the materials acrylics/oils/watercolours - which gives me the chance to speak about most painters' favourite subject - palettes (I'll keep it to acrylics/oils) and a support - rigid (gesso on panel/canvas on panel) or flexible - canvas. Personally I now always tint my ground with a light wash of burnt sienna - gives a pinkish/orange-ish colour (reasons for this another time)

More resources

I also like the Kevin MacPherson book, "Fill your oil paintings with light and color" – when I first read it I was disappointed – it seemed too brief and simple – but it's stayed in my mind a lot.

Some sections of 2 books from an earlier era, Harold Speed's classics, "Oil painting techniques and materials" and "The practice and science of drawing" are a good read – if you have time – I think maybe these can be downloaded from the net.

An out-of-print book I really like – Foster Caddell's "Keys to Successful Color" (recommended by Stapleton Kearns),
I also enjoyed "Gruppe on painting" - available from the Rockport Art Association
Edgar Payne's "Composition of outdoor painting" didn't do much for me (this could change – when you go back over books they sometimes are more rewarding)
Carlson's "Guide to landscape painting is worth reading – short, simple, solid

I did not like (to be cont'd)


Small is not beautiful

What's with all these tiny paintings? I like a nice size painting -about 4 foot (100 cm +) wide. Hmm, problem is, you need to know what you're doing to work bigger than something like 50 cm wide. Oh well, still like a painting that fills a wall and gives your subject room to breathe. Sigh. (I've had it up to here with paintings called something like "Two plums and silver spoon" too (good job no one does read this blog!)

Is there anyone out there?

No one's reading this blog - that's normal it's new (and probably boring!) - if ever you do read through for some obscure reason - don't hesitate to leave a comment on any entry you like - I've written the entries and would be interested in your reactions/input

A series of wonderful paintings and some nice books

Scott Burdick's got a video slideshow on YouTube called "The Banishment of Beauty" defending representational art. I'd agree with his basic premise that a lot of "modern" art is destined to the footnotes  of history. It's interesting to wonder what will be retained - might be a surprise (for both camps?! The video slideshow is worth watchinng just for the absolutely stunning succession of paintings by varied artists it shows. Wonderful. Wonderful! - and hats off to him too, he's even better than I thought!!!!

For books and videos (art instruction), the ones I've like best are the following (there's 3 price categories for this sort of books: cheap/free -available on internet; normal sort of artbook price; ridiculously expensive because out-of-print, rare and sought after - I don't recommend the latter!)

The best book, for me, is Richard Schmid's "Alla Prima - everything I know about painting" - it's a wonderful book and easy to read with clear expression and lovely humour - and essential (you can get it soft bound for a very reasonable price from his website - 50 bucks). The Andrew Loomis books "Eye of the painter, "Creative illustration" are great too - they are out of print but can be downloaded here (worth printing out they are). A number of books by earlier artists (Birge Harrison, John Collier, etc. can be downloaded like this - you probably need to have some familiarity with basic concepts (seeing, values, etc.) before you can get anything out of them. There are others! - later. There are also some really good (understatement of the year) websites - try reading Gruney Journey by the grouped topics in the sidebar! Bruce Macevoy's Handprint site for the technically minded/geeks. Do not start reading Stapleton Kearn's blogs back entries - your neighbours will be knocking on the door to see if you're dead. Illustration Art - the back entries are an education and very human.

I've not got so many videos, there are two of Richard Schmid's (again!) I really like "November" and "June" (out of the four I have - "May" and "White Pine" being the other two - they're nice but have less info). more later. Watching videos, especially on drawing showed me that one thing you need is patience (I don't have any) - you're going to need to spend hours being careful and concentrating(= working!) to get good drawings - videos really demonstrate this slow, cereful, painstaking build-up, arrggghh; I"m so impatient. There's lots of good videos on the net too - YouTube, various artists - more later - it really isn't at all necessary to spend cash - I've spent a fair amount and don't regret it - but don't make the mistake of thinking that beaause it"s rare/unobtainable/expensive it'll have the SECRET you need. It won't. Believe me, keep your cash, it won't.


What's coming up

I'll put up a list of the best books/videos resources - I've spent hours and hours surfing - and try to give an overview of where my mind's at re drawing - stay tuned. And coherently pick up some of the ideas I've randomly jumbled out! (sorry, I just wanted to get started). The first painting below is a copy of "Fisherman's retreat" by an artist called H. Walters who seems to have had some home deco repros of his work issued in the 60s - there also seems to be one of a gypsy style girl's head - if anyone knows anything about this painter - I'd be interested - please, please leave a comment

Where I'm at

 Another clonky one, clonky oil on board (masonite sounds terrible!)

So, two years ago I saw a JoLoMo painting (mountains  + sea is a powerful subject - I also like Pam Carter - a lot (I don't careif if this sort of painting is too "popular" - I do like it - love it) on the Guardian newspaper -I  jumped to his site - it seemed so free and easy - gave me the desire to start painting again after a 17 year hiatus - content/subject IS important and his painting "Nighfall at Knapfell" spoke to me (can't find that particular one either, now - I seem to be cursed on the retrieval level!) - I started painting again that summer with the kids on holiday in Brittany and soon got right back into it. The internet had made such a difference in the intervening years - remember how it was before - just books, museums, galleries, magazines? I decided to spend a year just learning "technique" - from the net (thank you, America, for your generosity!) and by buying the recommended books - just do "learning" paintings - no pressure. Looking back, I think I should have concentrated on improving my drawing skills. Funny how all the blogs/sites there are devote so little space to drawing - posts on pigments/palettes are sooo popular. Drawing seems to be the "put off". Seems to me that the "secret" of drawing is  that it is "measuring" - and there's different ways of "measuring" (Rebecca Alzofon says she's going to release a DVD in 2011 - in the meantime visit the Carder method and Accurasee sites, read the start of the Deborah Rockman book on drawing + best sections of the Harold Speed 's "The Practice and Science of Drawing", check out Paul Foxton's blog, "Learning to See" and Rousar's sight-size site). I've learned a lot, worked hard, but just now have some major problems.... .... more later.

The following are all big - around 80 cm x 120 cm and are acylic and oil on panel, pre 1993


Most paintings are (intelligent) home decoration

A painting is a physical object (this is somewhat different to music and literature) - can easily be destroyed. And most pantings are going to be "lived with" - hung in a room = decoration - even if it can arouse emotion/thought (know the idea about the little boy that grew up to be a sailor?  - had a picture of a tall ship on his bedroom wall). Some go to be in museums and images circulate in other ways/media - that's where the "wow factor" images I was on about before have a place - they are are less good for this CONTEMPLATIVE use. Idea of painting being a means of expression = language = painting should have some sort of a ""narrative"". Hmmm? Well I can sit and look at my own feeble efforts for a long time (!!). On my wall at university I had two posters by Michel de Gallard - "L'hameau" (The hamlet) and "Toits d'ardoise" (Roofs of slate). How I love those paintings. Sad thing is the posters have been thrown out (arrgghh!). I'd love to make a copy of "L'hameau" - can't find it anywhere on the net - and Michel de Gallard died a few years ago. He'd have been pleased if he'd known the impression he left in my mind. So keep trucking, folks....

The Wow factor

So, when we were young  we wanted to do art that would zap the viewer - a photorealistic snarling tiger maybe - both the image and the artist's skill to just nail the viewer to the spot. There's a lot of it about. Later I went through phases such as bright abstract designs (green and red stripes anyone?), huge formats, bright colours. It took me a while to learn about restraint. "A voice in a quiet room". The problem with the wow factor is it tends to either wear off or be less interesting to live with or just that the intent (I'm going to wow you - look how amazing I am) gets in the way...

This looks better smaller, but it still don't look so good. I can imagine what Stape would say - but that don't seem to help me! No "Wow" in this one!



Just as music is the study, the modulation, of sound,
painting is the study of light, there is nothing but light – from the object/view and from the canvas. Painting is learning to see (and simplify – simplification). Every stroke has 4 properties

(Learning to to observe and to see)

Outline vs form (masses/volume) in fact we apprehend the world more by touch – Speed's example of child's drawing of a face vs reality, Egyptian and Byzantine oultine drawings – dicovery of perspective – discovey of chiaroscuso – discovery of retinal image field

To learn to see is to learn to observe (patient careful looking = painting from life, photos are possible – but need some "correcvtions" – and there's the  problem of interpretation) and to know how we see and what we're looking for – shapes, values, color temperatures, edges, etc.

1 Drawing – first composition – 2/3 placement or golden rectangle etc (Bruce Macevoy's grids) + group masses/group values – white face in a dark room like a quiet voice speaking – an enhancement of the Caraveggio style clair-obscur (chiroscuso). Nothing centered unless deliberately so

Then, draw big shapes (Zbukvic's have faith) no details, no squeaky lines – not like children's coloring books. Looking for volume but even more just for colored shapes – hmm is there a conflict here?

Then we go to masses – 9 values max or even 5 or just 3 – darks, lights, mid-tones – or Macpherson simplified it down to 2 – light family and shadow family))

(close up of a photo shows mosaic surface)

Pure observation = the Carder Method -

Loomis diagram of canvas as a square superimposed on landscape, the "string grid" in the Draughtsman's contract – how the eye works

  • image on retina – two tiny images on the little retinas (rods and cones) – we see in stereo – two closely overlapping circles (or rectangles) and only centre of interest is in focus (sharp edges + strong values/contrast?), in "stereo means we can see "round" edge of an apple or face = 1 reason for soft edges – close up of a photo – blobs = photo "mosiac", Loomis "grid" view of landscape – values are primordial cos they give the light (can use a photo to get grayscale, or a coloured filter or just squint to see them + value strip – you can even buy ones you hold up (with a grid thing to frame subject/identify composition)) – but block in masses cd be said to be a prob 'cos masses don't correspond to photomosiac (or even to light – they're broken up by light!) – it's more like touches/pointillism?
"Wicked stripey one", oil on board, too recent to be comfortable!

Yeah, well, after 10 years or so

Yeah, well after 10 or so years of painting - getting more and more intensive (age 23 - 33) - I stopped in '93 (big personal upheaval) and only started again in 2008 - inspired by seeing JoLoMo's paintings on the internet - such fun - so free + so much other stuff on the net.

"Interesting", oil on wood panel from the hardware store - "interesting" because it makes me think "What if.." I did this or this or this or this..... yeah, right

Between 90 and 93 I did a lot of "paintouts" (= painting in the street festivals/competitions) - that was wonderful. I was using acrylics at the time and I still like them - maybe I should check out e.g. Golden Opens etc. to see if they have the richness to be used as well as oils. I've got Old Holland acrylics and they're expensive, but still don't work as well as oils - it's a pity because you can do nice things with acrylics. I often use them for the my underpainting.

Anyway, I'm searching to transcend myself, discover something within or without myself (who knows?) – produce a painting inspired by the “muse" (“Wow, did I paint that?” - no, it's come from somewhere beyond (or so deep inside me) I wasn't aware) – Picasso so wrong when he said “I do not seek, I discover?hmm was that it – not so good then??. And, it is the works that matter – e.g. Michaelangelo?sp?/Van Gogh – not the artist – the artist becomes subsidiary, irrevelant even, to the work - it's a gift to others (to humanity in high faultin' terms) – and that's the point – to share/give to others – even if ego were necessary – 'tis not the goal – Nick Simmons comment on people working against others so true. At base it is “just for fun”; at the highest level (Levitan is my current fav.) the artist is irrelevant – they have provided a universal experience...


Why paint? (1)

I met Van Gogh on the road to Tarascon, and seized him by the arm, "Vincent", I've come back from the future - they've made you big – one of the greatest artists who ever lived !

He was concentrated, on his idea for a canvas, "The painter on the road to Tarascon”.

I've had the breaks I need – met some impressionists and some other great painters in Paris, came to the South and got the dazzling colour idea, even the failed "Yellow house" community with my friend Gauguin – all served, don't feel sorry for me –  I don't even care about all that - I just want - I've just got to paint."

When we were small – primary school – and loved drawing/art, as most kids do, we drew mainly war scenes – for us a great artist would be someone who could draw a perfect e.g. horse from memory - the idea of drawing from life was unknown to us – I guess renaissance painters and the “pompiers” impressed us most.
My grandchildren paint war scenes - tanks aircraft - and machines - too (boys) or princesses and horses (girls). Hmm, that's interesting – a gender difference in selection of subject matter (don't think there is one in technique?) - probably disappears after adolescence, I think. What did kids draw in previous eras? Do any childhood drawings of famous artists remain? Surely. This mindset seems to continue to adolescence (graphic representation of reality– so mastered it can be done from memory) – and adolesence is when a lot of people stop drawing (percentage of students enrolled in art studies + hobbyists = ?%) 
View from a tower block, acrylic on panel 80 x 120     1992 - a lifetime ago!

When Rich's big brother's friend - who (wow!) was studying at art collge (we were about 11) unrolled the oft-used huge piece of heavy paper and showed us a charcoal drawing of a steam train - more realistic and with darker darks and shading we hadn't even dreamed of with our little HB pencils (and we thought we were so good!) - it blew us away. First in a long line to do so. It's people like that who have affected me more than the "greats" I gradually discovered.

When I went to university (to study science), I felt I wanted to draw and could maybe do some nice stuff in pencil or black wax crayon (!) - I did draw on and off and kept visiting the galleries, etc.

 This is also when I bought those Michel de Gallard posters that had such an impact on me (Waterhouse's "Lady of Shallot" and other Pre-Raphaelite paintings were big at the time too (must say in pasing that this present revival à l'ARC of 19th century art - Bougereau and the pompiers - is deserved from a technical point of view - but the content can easily be maudlin - Zorn, Sorolla, Sargant are a beeter bet - I do like Bastien Lepage a lot).

The other thing was during a period at around age 21 when I was unemployed - the beautiful green of the moss/lichen on a beech tree trunk - I wanted to paint it and so I started painting again - hey, even did evening classes at the art college (they were soooo useless back then - do your own thing, folks!).

Why paint, then? 1) for pleasure - it is such a pleasure! 2) to discover what's "in me" - I just don't know what I'm going to come up with - in fact, when things get good, it seems to come from outside/beyond...

What motivates you to do art? Please leave a comment...