Saturday, 21 July 2012

Brighton Pier Flagpole painting

A couple of days ago - Thursday, in fact - I finished another painting, the one I mentioned at the bottom of my last post.

I decided not to paint the sky all the same shade of blue but stuck with the three bands of colour and kept reworking over the transitions from one shade to another until they blended enough that I was happy with it.

At the last class I'd taken the painting with me to show Kim, the tutor, and to ask for her advice on this particular aspect.  She suggested that I get a Da Vinci pastel brush which is, apparently, like a stencilling brush but less flat on the top and softer.  I should then put some colour on the dry brush, then immediately wipe most of it off onto a cloth.  Then gently use a circular motion over the transitional areas until I get the level of blending that I want.  We looked up the price of Da Vinci pastel brushes online during the class and they were really quite pricey, so I said I already had a couple of stencilling brushes at home and I'd have a go with them first.

So that's what I did and it worked a treat!  Took a lot of circular 'scrubbing' with the brush and made my right shoulder ache like a bastard, and I spent far more time working on this aspect of the painting than any other but I wanted to get it right.  It's not perfect but I'm happy with it.

The next difficulty I had with the painting - although 'difficulty' is a bit strong - is that the building, in reality, is all white, so that meant painting white onto white canvas board, as well as several different shades of grey.  The greys were easy enough to see, but painting white onto white was interesting - the only way I could see where I'd been was to tilt the picture into the light so I could see which parts were shiny from being damp with the acrylic paint.

Anyway, as before, I took a series of photos as I was working on the painting - I find this works as well as standing back to look at it plus it gives me a progress record.  To remind you, this is the photo that I took:

This is the sketch onto the canvas board:

Here I've blocked in the three shades of blue - a pale, sea green colour at the bottom, a more turquoisey sky-blue in the middle, and a darker blue at the top.  I could have used masking fluid to mask off the long thin flagpole itself, as well as the flag, but decided to just be careful:

I decided to start putting in the details of the Union Jack, just to have a break from working in blue:

Then I realised that the white bits on the flag are, in actuality, shades of pale blue-grey because they were mostly in shade, so I was back to working with the blue again!  In the next picture, I've finished the flag, painted the silvery-gold knobble on the top of the flagpole, started painting the flagpole itself as well as starting with some of the grey shading on the building, and also finished blending the transitional blue bits with the stencilling brush:

In this picture I've done more work to the building:

And this is it finally finished off, with all the dark shadows and highlights:

I'm pretty pleased with it, there are some things that aren't quite right but I don't think they're obvious to the casual observer, so now it's time to find the next subject.....

Monday, 16 July 2012

Art Class catch up

I last posted about the art classes I've been taking waaaay back on 1 June, when I discussed facial features and told you that the tutor required us to do a portrait for the last few weeks.  I was thinking about doing one of The Lovely Husband and was umming-and-ahhing over what medium to use.

That was how I left it, yeah?  And then, like I always do, I got a bit slack about keeping y'all updated.  This was because I missed a couple of classes due to life (and hormones, it has to be said) getting in the way, and the tutor postponed another due to her illness.  Also I would just be working on the portrait during the classes and not actually being taught anything specific other than getting general feedback from her about what I was doing.  Which I didn't think would be terribly interesting for anyone else other than me, so I decided not to bore you with it.  Plus it's quite a long time to be working on just one picture and you'd get sick to death with inconsequential updates.  I was, of course, working on it at home in between classes but was having to go slower than I wanted in order to spin it out for the length of the course - I wanted to be able to bring it along to the last class and have a tiny bit left to do so Kim (the tutor) could see how it had gone.

(Does any of that make sense?)

However, because the portrait is now - finally! - finished, I can do one post all about it with the photos that I took at various stages of it.

So, I had to choose a picture of TLH to use.  I was originally thinking that I would get him to pose for a few for me - sleeping on the sofa, standing by the window, that sort of thing - but I knew that was going to be difficult.  I knew he wouldn't really want to do it - even after being with me for 18 years he still gets shy sometimes, and he would've found it excruciatingly embarrassing to have to actually 'pose' for photos even though, bizarrely, he likes having his photo taken.  I thought I'd have a look through my photos of him first to see if there was one that would do.

Very quickly I came across one that I took while trying out my then-new camera, about three years ago.  He was sitting next to me on the sofa and looking sideways at me in a very...I want to use the word 'sardonic' but that's not's the sort of look you give your kid when they're being humorously cheeky.  The sort of look that's a half-grin and might be accompanied with a single raised eyebrow.  Yeah, that sort of look.  It's also an enormous close up, which I liked, basically just showing the centre of the face which is, frankly, the most important part of a face!  This would mean I wouldn't have to get involved with trying to paint hair or clothing thereby making my life easier.  On the other hand, TLH has the face of an almost 50-year old (don't worry, it's his!) and the photo is so large and close up that you see all the different skin tones and discoloration, etc. so I was REALLY going to have to get my head around using colour in order to at least attempt to portray the reality.

I know TLH won't really want me to put the photo up (due to aforementioned shyness) but I can't honestly see how I can discuss the painting of a portrait from a photo without showing you the photo, can I?  (sorry, love....)

The first thing Kim wanted us to do was a preparatory drawing.  This was mine, which I was mightily pleased with:

The photo of the drawing is a little pale so I ran it through a photographic process that makes the darks darker, just so you can see it a little better perhaps:

I have to admit that I liked this pencil picture so much that it got framed and put up on the wall almost immediately!

So, on to the big, colourful version then.  Kim, the tutor, stated that she wanted the pictures to be BIG, at least A3 and, hopefully, even bigger than that.  I rather liked the idea of doing a big painting of a big, closeup photo, so got a piece of canvas board that is 24" x 20", that's 2 foot wide.

I started doing the pencil outline onto the board at class but I didn't take a photo of this.  At home, I continued to sketch in the features, then just decided to go for it and got the acrylic paints out.

First thing I did was to paint the background, which is to the left of the face and was a matt beige colour.  Next I needed to start thinking about skin tone.  The thing with skin tone (and with this photo of TLH in particular) is that there's a lot of yellow-beige in white Western Northern European skin.  So I just added some white to the same beige colour I'd used for the background, and just painted the whole of the face, flat, in that colour as a base.

Next I put in the very dark line of shading down the left hand edge of the face.  In the original photo of TLH, that line is really dark, so I chose the darkest purple I had.  It was a bit alarming after I'd painted it but I decided not to panic - the beauty of acrylic is that you can very easily paint over it once it's dry.

I then lightly painted in the line of the nose, the eyes and the mouth.  I made a BIG mistake in the lip colour and it really looks like he's wearing lipstick but, as with the purple cheek line, I knew I could sort that out a bit better later on.

Starting the eyes came next - I put in the base colour for the iris, and put in the pupil so that I could get the direction of the gaze right.  Eyeballs themselves are never just white, and these were no exception, there was shadow, parts of them were slightly yellow, others very pale bluey-grey and there are tiny veins.  The shadows at the side of the left eye (facing you) I put in by using shades of grey.

Then the skin.  I'd already decided that I was going to use 'pointillism' (i.e., lots of tiny dots - think Seurat), or stippling, to paint the majority of the picture.  Starting with a dark skin shade, I managed to make TLH look like he'd got a particularly disfiguring case of measles.  Plus the fact that I'd not yet done the eyelashes or eyebrows meant he was also suffering alopecia.  Here, see for yourself:

Quite alarming, eh?  And this will give you an idea of the scale of the picture:

Yes, my 'jewellery' room is now my art studio!  I'm using the desk on the right of the picture (which is where I normally do my glass cutting stuff).

I then focused more on the shadows and shading on the left hand side of the painting.  So more beside the eye, down the side of the cheek, under the nose and the corner of the mouth.  Different shades of skin tone were added and the start of creases in the skin (the line leading from the edge of the nose to the corner of the mouth, the filtrum under the nose, the face side of the nostril) were shown by using a denser quantity of dots.  I started tackling the lips by adding highlights and shadows:

I then added the eyebrows, eyelashes, texture and colour of skin in and around the eye sockets and the five-o'clock shadow.  I'm started to add other colours into the skin tone, like ochrey-orange, and places where it's darker red than others:

This is a close up photo of the left eye, you can start to see some of the detail I was putting in, and all the different colours I used:

And that was how it continued, with me adding different skin tone dots, darkening the shadows, adding highlights:

And by finally sorting out the mouth colour and adding the very whitest highlights, the picture was finished earlier this week.  There might not look like a lot of difference between these two pictures and, you'd be right, there isn't but you'll see the mouth is a much better colour now, and the highlights have been added to.  If you click on them, they will embiggen a bit:

Anyway, I'm really glad it all came together in the end and I'm very pleased with the final result as I'd like to think there actually is a bit of a resemblance to my old man.  Kim, the tutor, said she liked it as well, and TLH did too, so, all in all, I'm pretty satisfied.

I've started doing another painting, this time of a photograph I took of a flagpole on Brighton Pier a couple of years ago.  It's a very simple design and quite graphic (in a 'graphic design' sense, not obscenity, I hasten to add!!).  This is the photo:

And this is as far as I've got so far.  Getting the colour to grade nicely from one shade of blue to another is tricky and something I'm working on and am currently wishing I'd just painted the sky all one colour.  I think I might need to take more of the lightest blue right up into the dark blue at the top.  Oh well, I'll see how it goes:

And there we are, the full catch up of my art classes this summer.  I've signed on for the next term's classes which will be on Still Life painting and drawing, and start at the end of September.  I promise I'll keep you posted!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

We can but hope...

St. Swithin's Day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's Day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

Today is St Swithin's Day.  It's sunny here this morning, so let's keep our fingers crossed otherwise we're all going to have to practice growing gills...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Hooray for science! Wooh!

Nasa's Mars rover Opportunity has now been on the surface of Mars for 8000 Martian days (8.5 Earth years) and has recently located a crater.  Today's Guardian has an item about it.  The article talks about how 817 component images have been spliced together, etc., but the picture at the top of the article is so measly that you're inclined to just look at it, shrug your shoulders in a 'meh' sort of way, then click away to read something else.

However, in the comments, some enlightened soul has given the link to the image.  And it's unbelievable.  You can scroll around in the image and enhance it to get detail in the distance.  I'm utterly speechless.

Because I'm sitting on my sofa, at home, looking at the surface of another planet.  The surface of Another Planet.  From my sofa.  By just clicking a few buttons on a keyboard.

We are so living in the future, people, and we don't realise it.

So, my gift to you this endlessly rainy Sunday lunchtime, while waiting for the British Grand Prix to start or Murray to crash out of his first Wimbledon final, is to have your mind blown by clicking on this link and staring in wonder at the surface of another planet.

Hooray for science!  Wooh!