Over Christmas I had the urge to do something creative, but a little less demanding. Back in February 2014 I wrote about a small sculpture I’d created of Allosaurus fragilis, a Jurassic Theropod dinosaur. Frankly this had been lurking in a box ever since I made it, so I decided it was high time to get it out, dust it off, give it a decent paint job and finish it.
I tackle painting a sculpture like this with some of the same sensibilities reserved for making a traditional painting on canvas. The tools and paints may differ, but there are parallels, with careful control of hue and tone used to suggest texture, form and distance. However, I have to say I find this sort of task easier than painting because in some ways it feels a little like 3D colouring-in with clearly defined areas to tackle, the mouth, teeth, hands etc.
I’d spent a lot of time trying to ensure the sculpt was as accurate as I could achieve, and I also wanted to make sure my colour scheme was plausible. Allosaurus was a hunter, and as a rule of thumb standing out from your surroundings really isn’t helpful when stalking prey. So I decided on a muted palette with soft stripes and a counter change of lightish undersides and darker upper body to break up the dinosaur’s profile against the tree line. I originally intended to go quite light and sandy for the main colourway, but it evolved into what became a pleasant dusty, warm green.
I used Tamiya liquid acrylic paints in an Iwata Eclipse airbrush for the bulk of the work. Detail was added over the top using Liquitex Heavy Body acrylics and tiny brushes; my poor eyes! This dinosaur is at 1/30th scale, less than 12” from snout to tail, and in common with other small models or sculpts I started by applying a dark purple pre-shading layer over the primer. This informed both the position of the stripes, and helped to define shadowed areas under its limbs. This pre-shading is needed because the effect of ‘real’ light on something so small simply doesn’t always give a convincing ‘weight’ and presence.
Colour too has to be modified. When you view a 12” sculpt of a dinosaur from three or four feet away, it’s the equivalent of looking at the real thing at a considerable distance. At full size the atmosphere between the viewer and subject reduces contrast and makes things appear lighter and bluer. To replicate this in miniature the colours I used were deliberately lightened and toned down to achieve a more convincing reconstruction.
Dinosaurs, and all manner of prehistoric life, have been a constant passion of mine since I was a very wee person, and now as I plod merrily out of middle age, my interest still shows no signs of dwindling. While I’ll be getting back to painting with a new commission very soon, don’t be surprised if I start work on yet another dinosaur sculpture. Watch this space…
Hello everyone. I’ve recently returned refreshed from a brilliant two week holiday in East Devon. The weather was phenomenal, sunny and dry with only one day being washed out. And we watched Bottlenose Dolphins for a whole 20 minutes as they swam in the looking- glass sea!! Sorry, just had to get that out now because, well, because… DOLPHINS! YAY!!
It’s been over six months now since my dad died, and given how I’ve been feeling I’d reined back any artistic expectations for the holiday. My life approach at the moment is to take each day as it comes. If I feel like painting or drawing I will, if I don’t, then I won’t. The muse will come back when it’s ready, and judging by this holiday that’s not going to be long.
To keep things simple I just took my 6” by 8” Guerrilla pochade box with a few basic acrylics and my trusty Saunders Waterford watercolour sketchbook and Herring compact palette. I surprised myself by how soon into the holiday I actually wanted to paint – I was positively itching on some days. By the end of the fortnight I’d knocked out four acrylics and a few watercolour sketches. Doesn’t sound like much, but believe me this has been a big step forward.
I’m most pleased with a couple of the watercolour sketches. My wife Carole was painting fossils on Monmouth beach in Lyme Regis in Dorset. The light around her head was wonderful, and I worked quickly to establish her in as few brushstrokes as possible. I think the sense of strong sunlight really comes through don’t you?
My second is a view from Lyme over the bay towards Charmouth, an iconic spot for wonderful Jurassic fossils. I’ve not got the tonal depth quite right to big up the sunlight falling on the cliffs, but it’s sparked a desire to work this into a larger piece. Fortunately I bought a bunch of panoramic canvases while I was in Sidmouth. My thought is to work it completely in oils or alykds. It’s been a while, but I do miss using them and want to start the switch back, at least for some paintings.
So, rather unexpectedly, I seem to have come back with my head full of ideas and with a generally creative buzz. All manner of projects and fancies are popping into my head, and not all are painting related. There’s the painting above of course, but I also rather fancy having a crack at making a moody painting of The Batman. I’m sure some people might raise an eyebrow or two – surely not a ‘proper’ subject for a painter? ‘Tish’ and ‘Phooey’ I say to that – in the nicest possible way of course. It’s the scope for creating a dark brooding atmosphere by playing with the light that attracts – so many levels of black; besides he’s such an iconic character.
I also fancy breaking out the Sculpey this winter to reconstruct another dinosaur, possibly a Scelidosaurus. I sculpted an Allosaurus fragilis a few years ago, something else which I’m determined to paint and finish it in the next month or two. Scelidosaurus is very much a ‘British’ dinosaur with many of its remains being found at Charmouth –now there’s a happy coincidence J
But above all these I’ve just accepted a commission! It’s going to be in alkyds, it will be big at 40″ by 30″ and will feature an Italian Spinone called Jo-Jo – a gorgeous, slobbery hairball of a dog; she’s so lovely.
My immediate issue with all this returning enthusiasm is limited time. I know I can only do so much, and I’ve been putting off clearing my dad’s house for sale, a huge, emotionally draining job. It contains the sole remaining physical traces of the lives of my dad, my mum, nan and grandad. Everything I throw away, recycle or sell dismantles a little more of the fabric of their lives, fraying their memory. It’s truly heart rending.
So, watch keep watching this space, ‘Follow’ me on Twitter or ‘Like’ my Facebook page. Progress may be sporadic, but bear with me.
Well, that’s it then, I’ve definitely had a big creativity crash. I find it difficult to understand how I can go on holiday to the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall with great weather, drop-dead gorgeous coastline, and so much to inspire and enthuse and come back with virtually nothing; just a couple of ill-judged watercolour sketches and a forced plein air beachscape.
I wrote about how much I was looking forward to this holiday in my last post, and I’d packed loads of plein air gear and panels along with high hopes of knocking out a painting or six. The reality is, once I was there, I simply couldn’t get enthused. I tried to force myself, thinking that simply pitching in would break the deadlock, but no. Don’t get me wrong, the holiday itself was a very welcome break away from everything, and yes I did enjoy the time with my wife Carole, all the walking, the wildlife and in particular the long periods of staring aimlessly out to sea on my evening walks. I got quite good at that.
There was one special highlight too: meeting talented Helston based artist Alice Hole. I’ve known Alice as a digital friend on Twitter for quite some time, and it was so nice to actually meet up over a real life coffee. You can visit Alice’s Facebook page here. Besides reinforcing my long held desire to move to Cornwall, Alice also encouraged me to start actively using my dormant Facebook account. She told me that as a professional artist she finds Facebook a very useful tool, and more effective than Twitter for encouraging sales.
Although I’m very familiar with Twitter, this was new territory for me. So, over one rainy day in our cottage I did my research and went live. You can see, and ‘Like’, my ‘Ade Turner: Artist’ page here. I have to say, Facebook really isn’t as intuitive as it could be, and there are many areas of confusion and potential for privacy slips.
For me, the main difficulty was getting my head around the relationship and differences between my personal account, and my artist ‘Page’. Naturally I would like to encourage people to ‘Follow’ my page, but you can only add a ‘Follow’ button onto your personal page.
Now, my personal timeline is filling up with the usual banter between friends, which will be of little interest to anyone looking for my artwork. So I thought, not unreasonably, I’d start a new Facebook account specifically for Ade the artist. Nope, can’t do that. Apparently it’s a big Facebook no-no, and they will challenge and close multiple accounts held by one person. That is so dumb.
The ‘business me’ is a very different entity to the ‘private me’ with distinct needs and expectations. Why shouldn’t I be able to separate and manage both while retaining useful Facebook functions across both? As long as I can prove I’m a genuine individual responsible for the content of each account, where’s the problem? I can run as many Twitter accounts as I like. Facebook really needs to sort this, as it sounds like it’s a common gripe on forums.
While I’m talking of online things, I succumbed to a spot of art-based retail therapy while I was away and bought this Guerrilla Thumbox2 pochade from Dick Blick art supplies. There’s nothing like the anticipation of new kit to cheer me up, and I’d had my eye on one of these for a while.
The American art market seems spoiled for choice when it comes to plein air gear, and their service was brilliant. We ordered on a Sunday, had an email to confirm the shipping cost was OK on the Thursday and it arrived on the following Monday morning. Just over a week from order to delivery. I’ve had longer waits from some UK suppliers!
It arrived well packed, and the quality is what you’d expect of a mass produced item. The finish is a little rough here and there, and I’ve a few little gripes like the palette extension doesn’t sit flat at 90 degrees as described and the nuts holding the tripod plate are a little intrusive in the box cavity, but these really are minor things and I love it.
Of course, now it’s arrived, I can’t summon up the enthusiasm to get out and use it…
You know, I’m pretty sure this creativity crash is all part of my grieving. It’s only just been over a couple of months since my dad died. Odd thing is, if you ask me how I’m coping I’ll probably say OK. In truth, deep down, all is not as well as it would seem on the surface. There’s an underlying numbness and disassociation which I just can’t shake. Some days even getting out of bed is a struggle.
And now here I am, back home, trying to reignite the spark. These pages may be painting free for a while, please bear with me.
This post isn’t going to be about my art. You see, a couple of weeks back on the 13th April my dad, William James, died. Although he’d been frail for a very long time it was still a huge shock. It was all over in one awful morning.
At eighty nine he’d been plagued by a raft of medical problems. He had many bouts of illness, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentally prepared to say my goodbyes. But each time he rallied, recovered, smiled and stoically pressed forward, rarely complaining. Latterly we joked that we should call him Lazarus, and he told me he’d promised his mum he’d keep going until he was a hundred. I believed him.
What I have learned is that, no matter what you believe, you are never truly prepared for the loss of a parent. I wasn’t with my mum, and I’ve not been with dad.
I’ve looked after him since the first of the mini-strokes which started his slow decline in 2001. We lived a few doors apart on the same road, so it was natural to check up pretty much every day. I think it’s true to say that there hasn’t been a week gone by where I’ve not seen him or at least spoken him on the phone.
Prior to getting married, I’d lived together with dad, mum and, in the sixties and seventies, both maternal grandparents too. Sounds like a bit of a crush, but when I was growing up it all seemed very normal to me, and it’s definitely left a mark; a very good mark. As an extended family we were always close, loving and inseparable.
Dad was a very straightforward bloke with simple tastes and outlook. The things which gave him greatest pleasure included visiting steam railways and family holidays in Seaton in East Devon. He loved comedy, Tommy Cooper and Morecombe and Wise made him cry with laughter. I need to mention drink here too. He loved his real ale, whisky and port, sometimes all in the same glass, and all at the same time – I kid you not! That’s my dad.
Most of his working life he maintained aircraft, steam and diesel locos and other clanking things. I’ll never know whether he was ever disappointed I didn’t follow in his engineering footsteps, but he was always very supportive. In any event, I’d have been a rubbish engineer, but to this day I too love the sight, sound and smells of steam engines; I get that from him.
Despite money always being tight, he didn’t think twice about helping to fund me through three years of Polytechnic to get my biology degree, and then my post grad teacher training. I do remember he was mystified when I decided not to become a teacher having spent a year getting qualified, but there was never any fuss or reproach. He was only ever a low paid man, and I shudder to think how much in real terms he spent to support me.
Like many dads, he spent a lot of his time ferrying the younger me about to and from friends and such like. And do you know what? I don’t ever recall him complaining about being ‘dad’s taxi service’. When you’re younger you seldom appreciate how much your parents do for you. I know I probably didn’t at the time. Maybe it’s the role of teenagers not to notice such things.
Like all families, we weren’t always cheery and smiling. When I was a younger man dad and I had our share of animated spats, like most sons and fathers the world over I guess, but there was never anything serious or long lasting. Whenever I was in trouble or need he was always there for me, even when I was doing things he didn’t agree with or simply didn’t ‘get’. I hope over the past years I’ve been there for him too whenever it counted.
I think everyone who knew dad well would probably agree he had a couple of stand-out character traits: a gentle curmudgeonliness tempered with a daft sense of humour sometimes so dry it would wither a desert. I’m so proud to have inherited both, and in my later years I intend to become a fully paid up ‘grumpy old man’. Who am I kidding? Heck, I’m starting right now; dad would be so proud.
There’s so much more to my dad of course than this quick jumble of words, but this is at least a quick snapshot with which I can both remember and honour him.
I buried my dad on Thursday 23rd April and now, so suddenly, he’s dead and gone forever. I’ll never again see his face or hear his voice, or be able to give him a big sloppy man-hug and kiss. For me this is the end of an era, my closest blood-family is now all gone. I have a very large, very raw, dad shaped hole in my life.
Goodbye dad. ‘Best Dad Ever’ doesn’t even come close.
Boy, I’m so easily side-tracked. I’d originally planned that this post would be a review of Jackson’s Eco 560lb watercolour paper. It isn’t. I had good intentions, but while trialling the paper, I somehow got side-tracked and tried out time lapse photography. Now I’m hooked, and thought I’d share my experience.
Painters often document their work in a sequence of photos. Time lapse photography is just an extension of this. It’s achieved by setting up a static camera to automatically take a sequence of photos at short intervals, typically around a second or two. When played back as a video, time is apparently compressed and a long painting session can be condensed into a watchable minute or two. The results are always compelling and a lot of fun.
Fancy trying it? If you already own a smartphone you need surprisingly little to get started:
1) A smart phone
The cameras on any smartphone are very capable. I use an iPhone 4 (and yes, that is a Spider-man case …)
2) Time lapse App
I used an App called Lapse it, and can highly recommend it. Costs about £3, and is worth every penny. It’s also available for Android phones.
There are all sorts of settings to tinker with including frame rate, resolution, render quality, interval between shots, a filming timer, and more to play around with.
3) Video editing App
Once you’ve recorded your film you will need to press the ‘render’ button within Lapse it. This converts the footage into a format (mp4) you can watch or upload to YouTube etc.
If it turns out well, you can use this rendered file without any further editing. You’ll only need a video editor if you want to ‘weld’ various clips together. I use iMovie.
4) A support for your phone
The success of your time lapse will depend on how steady you can support your camera. Propping it up somewhere convenient, a passing table or chair, will work, and you might be able to hold it steady with books or BluTak. Unfortunately, this gives you little control to frame your shots, and with nothing very much holding your phone, you are risking an expensive tumble.
For me, a tripod is the only sensible option. I’m fortunate as I have several left over from a foray into photography back in the early nineties. My favourites are both made by Benbo: the lightweight Trekker and their back-breaking, but extremely sturdy Benbo One. These particular tripods have an astonishing range of movement and flexibility; you can adapt them to almost any situation.
A heavy tripod will be more stable than a lightweight.
5) A phone adaptor
You’ll need an adaptor to secure your phone to the tripod. These are readily available, and several types are available on Amazon.
I chose this one at around £12. It seems well made and grips the phone gently but securely in landscape format.
The rubber jaws isolate the phone from the tripod and absorb any wee wobbles. This evens out any visual jarring caused by minor knocks. Be aware, in portrait mode the phone can slowly slide out of this mount…
6) A ball joint
Not essential, but you may find a joint like this between the tripod and the phone adaptor will give you more flexibility when positioning your phone. Again, search for one on Amazon or online photography store.
Working the math
Once you have your kit set up you can just plunge in and tinker randomly with Lapse it until you get a result you like; fun, but time consuming. Or you can be more methodical and plan your timings.
You’ll need to calculate how fast your phone’s camera needs to take individual photos/frames when it’s filming. For a mathematical bone-head like me this made my eye twitch a bit, but it is straightforward.
For the following I’ve assumed I want to compress 1 hour of real time video into 30s of time lapse (good length for Twitter):
Decide how long you want your final time lapse clip to last e.g. 30s.
Decide how many frames per second (fps) you want your final clip to run at. 30fps is a good default if you want to edit your clip into real time video at a later date. Plug this figure into Lapse it.
Calculate how many frames you’ll need to take to make up your final clip e.g. 30s x 30fps = 900 frames.
Decide how long you will need to film your ‘real life’ event e.g. 1h, and pop this into Lapse it in the settings menu under ‘Limit value’ as 60m.
Calculate how many seconds are in your event e.g. 1h equates to 60m x 60s = 3,600s
Calculate the interval in seconds you’ll need to leave between taking frames. e.g. 3,600s/900 frames = 4 seconds in between frames. Plug this figure into Lapse it’s interval settings.
If you set up Lapse it with the numbers above, your smartphone will take 1 frame every four seconds for an hour. There will be a certain amount of ‘fudging’ depending on the speed of your smartphone meaning your final video might lose a second two overall. Don’t worry if this happens, it will still look great.
For consistency, your camera and work position need to remain absolutely fixed throughout filming. This is particularly important if you intend to work over several sessions. Worth marking your set positions in case something gets nudged. I used masking tape.
Make sure your camera has a clear shot of your work. Take time to have a dry run, rehearse your movements and think: where will you put your palette, your brushes, your paints, your mediums? Are you likely to obscure or knock the camera when painting?
When I set up for my video of ‘Chun Quoit Glow 2’ I made the mistake of setting the phone up too close to my right shoulder. The result was a very awkward painting position, which made me conscious of the presence of the camera and literally gave me a stiff neck.
You will need to control your lighting too. Wild swings in brightness and colour temperature will be very distracting. I set up on a uniformly dull day with white window blinds drawn and an Ottlite daylight lamp pointed at the painting.
Once you’re ready and the camera is rolling, try to forget about it. I was concerned whether quiet times where I had to mix new colours would be noticed in the final film. However, they aren’t noticeable, so don’t worry about this.
Don’t be disappointed should things not work out right away; the best laid plans and all that. I had many false starts. Above all else, enjoy yourself!
I’m a hedgehog. Or a bear perhaps. Either way I’m really feeling the urge to hibernate right now. Dark mornings and even darker nights drive me into torpor and I’ve slowed right down.
The portrait of Ben, once going so well, has just been mothballed. Keen to press on after a short, forced gap brought on by a rasping winter cough I did pick it up again, but in the wrong frame of mind. Now I’ve successfully improved it worse.
The looseness for which I strove has been lost, and Ben’s features are now smoothed out to the point where he resembles the polished plastic face of a TV anchor. Where did the form sneak off to? He also has more than a touch of the livid beetroot about him – damn you Alizarin Crimson! *falls to knees, shakes fist at sky*
Try as I might I simply haven’t been able to rescue it. I know will of course, but now is not the time. Pressing on will just reinforce my depression and knock my confidence which will feed into a negative cycle. Best leave it to ‘rest’ and divert my mind to other things.
The Hulk-Spidey sculpture is on the bench (again) and ready to be tinkered with. That’s different. But it’s also slow and intense work; not sure that’s quite what I need right now.
I do have a notion to paint a seascape, and I’ve been hitting my sketch books for inspiration. I have a nice tight linen canvas I’ve been meaning to christen. It would be rough, wild and magnificent (just like me…) with mist and spray and looming cliffs, towering sea and flying spume (a little less like me…)
Or there’s December’s Twitter challenge: still life under the tag #stilldecember. Have to admit that still life’s never really pushed my buttons, although I can appreciate brilliant examples of the genre by other artists. If I do eventually contribute it may contain fossil or two.
Finally, of course, I could just surrender to all the Christmas ‘busyness’ going on. Not sure I’m ‘with the programme’ at this time of year. To be clear, it’s not Christmas, the holy day, I have an issue with; in fact I rather enjoy Christmas. I find I’m increasingly irritated by the excruciatingly forced, pre-digested bonhomie which schmoozes relentlessly from TV’s and shops from October onwards. Give that a miss then.
So, what to do? What to do…? Hmm. Maybe I’ll just hide under the duvet with a sherry…
And so the second year of Drawing August slips away. For me it really has been a challenge. Despite keeping strictly to my self-imposed time limit of 15 minutes per drawing, getting the time at weekends has still been whisker tight. Honestly, I think I’ve acquitted myself OK with my set of pen portraits of work colleagues. Admittedly there are one or two horrors in there, but by and large all have carried something of the sitter. I was tempted to leave some out of the succession, but that would defeat the object. This has been about exploring an area of drawing which is outside my comfort zone. It’s simply not possible to turn out a corker each time; I’m wide of that goal by a very wide country mile at the moment. By and large I have stuck to my guns and produced only pen line drawings, although on Day 16 I went off piste a little with a set of Winsor and Newton watercolour markers. Well they were sitting in their shiny new box beckoning to me; would have been rude not to use them… Before I leave you with a gallery of all thirty one sketches here’s a summary of the key things I’ve learned:
Warm up first. Coming straight from an intense analytical mind set at work and expecting to produce a great sketch in 15 minutes was never going to be the best work practie. You may be able to spot the days when I was most agitated.
Line up other people to model at weekends. I got a little tired of knocking out selfies.
A thicker pen is both more impactful and encourages greater and more immediate expression.
Maybe a little variation wouldn’t have been a bad thing after all. By sticking rigidly to my brief – the drawings have taken on a similar quality and tend to merge one into the other.
Finally, a bonus side effect of Drawing August is that now several of my sitters are very willing for me to continue beyond August, just to keep my hand in. Thanks everyone for being such willing and accommodating sitters. Without you this page would be blank.
My personal favourites are Days 1, 2, 6, 7, 21 and 23, which are yours?
Difficult to believe it’s been a year since I really started to get into the whole social media lark. Well, Twitter anyway. And one of the first things that got me really involved in the virtual artistic community was ‘Drawing August’.
This was an idea conceived in a Twitter chat between printer Jean Stevens and illustrator Dean Lewis. The idea was simple, for participants to make one drawing every day for the month of August. And it really took off.
For me it forced me to draw everyday, a great challenge. Last year I drew whatever happened to be easiest and to hand – my cats came in for some attention. But this year I have ‘a plan’.
By fair means and foul I’ve cajoled about ten of my work mates into posing for me during lunchtime on every work day (I hope). My idea is to produce a timed 15 min pen portrait of each of them for Drawing August. They’ll end up with a portrait, and I’ll no doubt end up with ulcers. My figure drawing could do with some improvement so this should really help me while scaring my colleagues with the results (methinks: I could lose friends here…)
While I won’t have enough people for every day of the challenge, it will add a new twist and focus. Wish me luck!
So, this is my first ‘official’ art blog post. And I think it’s going to be a bit of a rambler, so bear with me.
It’s been a long road to get here. I don’t mean actually creating this blog, although that continues to be a massive learning cliff, more the personal journey lurking in the background.
From my days as a smallish sproglet right through to my late thirties I was constantly, obsessively creative: painting, drawing, sculpting, wood carving, modelling, silk painting, knitting, sewing – you name it. I worked for around two decades as illustrator, graphic designer and promotions bod for a couple of excellent community countryside projects. And I guess for a while back there I was a professional drawist.
Then something shifted. Time’s tide rolled in and suddenly, or so it seemed, my lovely mum and dad grew older. As their health declined so my own family’s life slipped into limbo as I took on the role of carer.
My art, while still there, lost much of it’s appeal and for many years I think a gnawing, low level depression numbed me despite the best efforts of my ever-patient, talented and gorgeous wife. I did creative stuff, but rarely with my old level of enthusiasm. Then my world of work changed and generally became a far less certain place.
I found it easier to muck about on my Xbox than to actually get my finger out and create something: get home, turn it on, switch brain off, go to bed. Momentarily enjoyable, but ultimately pointless with nothing tangible for hours/days of input.
But last year I took the first step to break out of my malaise. I went cold turkey on the Xbox and set about sculpting the Hulk and Spider-man (yes, I like comic books, and yes, you’ll get to see the sculpt later). It felt good. Then a few months ago my dad had to move into permanent residential care. It’s been a difficult and emotional few months, but to my surprise oddly beneficial for both of us.
For my part I have more time to think, and my creative spark’s starting to come back. I went all digital in August and I joined Twitter and haven’t looked back since. It’s home to a very friendly, talented and buzzing virtual commune of artists in many fields. I’ve jumped into various community activities like #thedailysketch, #drawingaugust, #printoctober, #portraitnovember, #stilldecember and currently #sketchjanuary – really inspiring, like a virtual college.
Now I want to build on this positive experience and keep the momentum going – hence this blog. And what for the future? It’s very early days, but I hope to be able to offer work for direct sale from here, and beyond that maybe even seek gallery representation.
But that’s for the future, for now I hope you’ll stick around, have a natter and enjoy the journey with me; it’s going to be fun!