Category Archives: Paintings

All set for watercolour

Annual holidays eh? Such a treat! For me they are increasingly a chance to get some mental breathing room to rein back my long-standing depression and let me paint for a while. Change of location I guess, away from everything. Lovely.

So, in a couple of weeks I’ll be off again to my all-time favourite destination, the Lizard Peninsular in Cornwall.

I love working plein air, usually with a pochade box, a tripod and oils or acrylics. This year however I’m leaving all that malarkey at home so I can concentrate on watercolour.

Must say I’m nervous. I’m far more comfortable painting in oils or acrylics, but on the plus side this is an opportunity to practice. And, as a bonus, the switch will make my kit considerably lighter. My back’s going to thank me for that!

Personally I’ve always found pure watercolour particularly difficult. I really love the luminosity to be had, but struggle so much to keep things clean and ‘pure’. The very act of mentally deconstructing a scene to paint from light to dark makes my brain bend like a banana in a yoga class…

But, when I work on holiday my paintings are usually only intended to be sketches for pleasure, not finished pieces. Does it really matter how I resolve an image as long as it works for me? I guess not. Big plan then: loosen up and to hell with that transparency gig. I’m taking gouache. And pastel pencils too. I can hear the purists screaming; I feel your pain.

In terms of kit, I plan to take:

  • My trusty Frank Herring Dorchester watercolour palette. I’ve tried many through the years and always come back to this one. Lightweight and with plenty of mixing room. And as I’ve had it since the early ‘90s, I guess it’s pretty robust too!
  • W&N and Holbein artists’ gouache, although I’m not too certain about the latter. Probably my lack of experience, but I find the Holbein extremely strongly tinted and difficult to handle.
  • A self-sealing palette specifically for the gouache. Not tried this one before, (pinched it from Carole…), so let’s see if it really does keep the paint moist without an unholy mixture of runny Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson dribbling into my rucksac… Colourful, but it makes a real mess of your butties. Palette for gouache
  • A plastic rosette palette for mixing gouache – I don’t want to mix it with my watercolours, well, not off the page anyway…
  • Da Vinci sable travelling brushes 3, 6 and 10.
  • A selection of synthetic brushes for the gouache.
  • Pastel pencils. Looks like I’m taking a lot, but will edit down each day depending on what I’m doing. Pastel pencil roll
  • Various graphite and carbon pencils for sketching. There’re a few spares in there so again I’ll edit down to essentials once I arrive.
  • Masking tape (broad and narrow). I like to divide my pages, and a white border always looks so good.

As usual I’m going to keep my colour palette simple with warm and cool variants of the primaries: 2 reds, 2 blues and 2 yellows. I’ll supplement these with a few earth colours and darker variants to create denser areas of tone.

For paper I’ll be using my favourite: Saunders Waterford both in a large hard bound book (my Cornwall book) and in a few pads.

Cornish sketchbook

I’ll also take my Stillman and Birn sketch pad and a Moleskine watercolour journal for ‘light’ days.

And that’s it. Hopefully, Wi-Fi willing, I’ll be able to post more when I get down there. In the meantime remember I’m often more active on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts so please check me out there too.

Cornwall in September

I always look forward to my visits to Cornwall, it really feels like a second home now. This time we’re celebrating my wife’s ‘big’ birthday, so we’re here for three whole weeks. We’re about to go into our third week.

It’s not meant to be a painting holiday, but I’ve brought my plein air kit anyway! Oils this time rather than my usual acrylics.

To be honest, since we arrived on the Lizard Peninsular from our first week on the Isles of Scilly the weather hasn’t been exactly clement. A succession of storms have passed through, including a spectacular one at three in the morning which was more than biblical in proportion. Thunder and lightning accompanied by the most severe torrential rain I can recall seeing. Not good.

So in between relaxing as a family and dodging the weather, times to set up and concentrate on painting have been relatively few. I have sketched a little, but not very much.

The paintings

Here are my three 8” by 10” efforts in oils to date. The first is a view from our cottage garden.  I’ve moved a few things round, but I’m still not that happy with the composition. The second is in one of my favourite spots on the Lizard, Poltesco a long abandoned serpentine works. And the third is a roundhouse from the 16th century on the road to Church Cove.

It’s been very restful using oils again. So much more time to think about colour mixes. Acrylics are very unforgiving. Turn your back and they turn into an immovable solid lump of plastic on the palette and brush. It’s nice to be able to take the generous time which oils allow.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance paint some more in the last week of our holiday. If I can, great, if not, oh well, the holiday comes first.

Remember, my FaceBook page is often updated first with snippets and odds and ends.

Of pets and sketches and being unbusy

With my studio still stuffed full with boxes of stuff from my late Dad’s estate, apart from making occasional sketches I’ve not been at all productive over the past 18 months. I completely underestimated the sheer physical amount of personal material I’d have to pick through and the ongoing, negative emotional impact that would have.  In truth, I’ve had neither the time nor inclination to get stuck into anything very much.

A new pet portrait commission…

Before I completely filled the studio, early in the year I started a new commission in alkyds, a pet portrait of a gorgeous Italian Spinone dog. As I needed to work from photos I’ve found my iPadPro remarkably useful, being able to zoom in and adjust the lighting to reveal structural detail at will.

At the moment this is on hold with my client’s blessing, but it is close to completion. Unfortunately at 70cm by 100cm it is rather large, and I’ll only be able to finish it once my studio’s clear again.

…and a Cornish break

At least my June holiday gave me time to settle and sketch. Here are a few 6″ by 8″ acrylic sketches from my visit to the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall.

And I’m off again in September. First to the Isles of Scilly for 1 week and then the lizard again for 2 weeks. A three week holiday! I won’t want to come back! My plein air kit will go with me of course.

I’m still undecided whether to take oils instead of my usual acrylics. So many advantages including extended drying time and retention of brush strokes. But after a few trial runs in the garden I really need to brush up. I seem to be very good at making panels of mud!

With things as they are at the moment it’s a lot less of a faff for me to upload a post to Facebook and Instagram than this blog as I can easily do it on the fly from my phone. So, i
f you’d like to see more frequent updates, please head on over and like my FaceBook page. 

Oil paints are calling again…

Well, here we are on Christmas Eve. You know, it really doesn’t feel like two months have gone by since my last post. These long gaps are getting to be a bit of a habit. I was really on a high when I returned, but once the initial post-holiday buzz wore off and the nights drew in everything’s become, well, bloody depressing again if I’m honest.

That said, I have made a start on my ‘View to Charmouth’ seascape. And one thing I discovered is how much I’ve missed working with oil paints (well, alkyds). Two things above all have struck a chord. First the texture, lovely and buttery with every brush mark preserved. So nice to push it around safe in the knowledge that the brush isn’t going to immediately congeal into an unforgiving, insoluble lump. I do like acrylics but…

Second, and I know it’s not a good thing to be breathing it in, I do so love the smell of turps! They reckon smells are strongly linked to memories and that’s what I’m finding. The warm and heavy resin scent takes me back to when Mum and Dad bought my first set of oil paints when I was about 11; a Christmas present I think. It made me feel dead grown up – a real oil painting set, just like what ‘proper’ artists use! I was really made up, and somewhere my first efforts are still waiting to be discovered round at Dad’s house.

Of course I had absolutely no idea how to use them. My only painting experience was with the hard, gritty slabs of school poster paint. So, I used lots and lots of turps to thin them to within an inch of their life; nice and sloppy. And then I’d mix them; all of them. Whatever I mixed, it usually came out as a bluey shade of brown. Well, I was only 11. Any understanding of colour and tone was still a far distant star… But it was such a joyful experience rubbing my ridiculously dribbly oil paints over tiny rectangles of oil paper. Without the gift of that experience and Mum’s constant encouragement, “never let your painting go”, I probably wouldn’t be painting now.

So I set out an 80cm by 20cm canvas, squared up the drawing and thinly washed in the keynotes before working over in thicker paint.

View to Charmouth gridded up

View to Charmouth underpainting

At this end of the year I tend only work at weekends when I can make use of the daylight. I have some very good Ottlite daylight lamps, which I find great for small scale work, but I don’t find them comfortable for sustained working over a largisih painting.

View to Charmouth underpainting 2View to Charmouth 5

So now the winter weather has turned day into fifty shades of grim and gloomy grey, I’ve stopped painting for the moment.

Fingers crossed though, over the Christmas break, I’m hoping we might get some clear bright weather so I can tinker once more. In the meantime here’s hoping you and yours have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you all on the other side!

Refreshed and buzzing

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.

Thumbox2
Guerrilla pochade box

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.

Carole painting
Carole painting on Monmouth beach

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?

View toward Charmouth
View toward Charmouth

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.

Categorically Acrylic Painting Competition

Gnarled trees on Colmers Hill
Gnarled trees on Colmers Hill

Hello. Well, it’s been a while since my last post. Although I’m still not really painting at the moment, one of my acrylics from earlier in the year has been ticking along nicely, and has now popped up in a county open exhibition and been short listed in a national competition.

In April my 14″ by 10″ ‘Gnarled trees on Colmers Hill’ was accepted for this year’s Staffordshire Open Arts. It was exhibited from May to July at the Shire Hall Gallery in Stafford alongside very stiff competition. The standard, as usual, was high and unfortunately, I didn’t win anything, but having the painting accepted was a very welcome boost.

Ade at Staffordshire Open Arts
Ade at Staffordshire Open Arts

A couple of weeks ago I also entered it into Jackson’s Art Supplies ‘Categorically Acrylic Painting Competition‘. I was chuffed when I found out it has been shortlisted.

In addition to the chance of it being judged by a panel within it’s category (landscape), it’s also open to a public vote. My fingers are well and truly crossed. Do visit the page and check out all the wonderful entries (mine is on page 2).

Gnarled trees on Colmers Hill framed
Gnarled trees on Colmers Hill framed

And if you fancy it for your wall it’s framed and for sale at £140 to UK addresses only (sorry rest of world). See my notes on sales and email me if you’re interested.

Creativity Crash

Kennack sands acrylic painting
Kennack Sands 10″ by 8″ acrylic

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.

Alice Hole and Ade Turner
Great to meet talented painter Alice Hole

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.

Thumbox2
Thumbox2 open for business

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!

Guerrilla packaging
Pristine in packaging

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.

Back to Cornwall

It’s been seven weeks now since my dad died. Funny, it seems much longer somehow. Those weeks have been both awful and hectic.

All packed
All packed

Not surprisingly, my creativity has taken a huge hit. I just can’t get interested in anything much, let alone enthused. Hopefully, that’s about to change. This weekend we’re off to the gorgeous Lizard peninsular in Cornwall for a two week holiday, and I’m packing my plein air gear along with a big parcel of good intentions.

I’m looking forward so much to getting time away from the house and work.  It’s surely going to be therapeutic just being able to have a break to reset my mind, whether or not I actually get round to painting.

Spurred on by my wife’s holiday picks, alongside my standard acrylics and watercolours I’ve also thrown in my Unison pastels. I’ve only ever played about with them, never anything serious, but I do enjoy the colours and feel. Unison pastels are so velvety; from what I remember, using them is a seriously sensuous experience.

So, keep a lookout on my Twitter feed for updates. I know I’m starting to feel better, and this trip should prove just the boost I need.

Review of Jackson’s Eco 560lb watercolour paper

Ever since I was sent samples last year, I’ve been meaning to give Jackson’s Eco watercolour paper a proper trial. The textures are lovely, and I was really attracted by the heaviest extra rough paper. So I ordered a 22″ by 30″ sheet.

Before getting onto the paper, a word about the packaging. My lonely, solitary sheet came flat in a polythene bag in a huge box which was then stuffed with bubble packs. Honestly, it was a shame to unwrap it. Well done Jacksons.

Lovely texture
Lovely texture

When I eventually reached the paper it felt exciting in the hand; so tactile. I could imagine it would work really well as a base for a super large, rough water seascape, especially with the decal edge and warping preserved. Sadly, my watercolour confidence doesn’t stretch quite that far!

About 3mm thick
About 3mm thick

Physically, this has to be the thickest ‘paper’ I’ve ever come across.  It came out fairly consistently between 2.5mm and 3mm thick. To be honest, at 560lb weight, calling it a paper is stretching the description a bit. To my thinking you should be able to fold a piece of paper with ease. That’s really not going to happen with this product. I think it would be fairer to call it a textured watercolour board. Semantics aside, for me the fact that it is so very solid appeals. It should be ideal to take out a set of small boards on a painting trip with no need to stretch or mount.

On delivery the paper is in a naturally ‘wibbly-wobbly’ state. Whether you paint straight onto it and allow the paint run as dictated by the random undulating troughs and peaks, or whether you flatten it is entirely a matter for personal preference. I prefer a flatter surface.  So I sprayed both sides of the paper with water until just damp, sandwiched it between paper towels and laid a heavy slab of granite (a kitchen cutting board) on top.  After a couple of days it had set nice and flat without altering the texture.

According to Jackson’s description the paper is handmade in India, and looking at it, I’m pretty sure it’s unbleached. Comparing it with my favourite watercolour paper, Saunders Waterford, it seems ‘greyer’, a little darker and cooler in tint. I did wonder how any highlights might play out.

It’s not immediately obvious whether the paper is sized both internally and externally. Washes seem to rest on the surface for a while before sinking, and I’m guessing that it is surface sized.

Doesnt survive masking tape
Doesn’t tolerate masking tape

I often use low tack masking tape around my watercolour sketches to leave a clean white border, but I thought the surface of the Eco watercolour paper felt a little  soft.  Ignoring the obvious difficulty of defining any sort of clean edge over such a heavy texture, I tested it anyway.  Sure enough, the paper stuck firmly to the tape and the surface tore free as the tape was removed. Not sure whether the same would be true of masking fluid. As I seldom use it, I didn’t try it here.

Chun quoit in acrylic
Chun quoit in acrylic

For my first painting I recreated an acrylic painting of Chun Quoit in Cornwall which I’d donated to #twitterartexhibit. After an initial coat of orange (Quinacridone Red and Cadmium Yellow) I worked the painting by scumbling undiluted paint across the surface, catching the highlights and sometimes working the paint deeper into the cracks and crevices. I really, really loved the paper for this way of working. So rich and vibrant, I got lost in the process. You can watch a time lapse video of the two hours it took to complete the painting.

watercolour sketch of my cat Ziggy
Sketch of my cat, Ziggy

For my second painting, I made this quick sketch of one of my cats in pure watercolour. I’ll be honest, I didn’t find it as easy as my acrylic effort.  At room temperature (18-20C) heavy washes took a good 20 minutes to dry, and often remained damp beyond this. And, as the painting progressed, I think the sheer thickness of paper acted like a reservoir. If you want to work onto a dry surface this may be worth bearing in mind. Ironically, the texture which so attracted me when using acrylics, proved a little intimidating when I switched to watercolour.

For me, the bare paper highlights appeared rather muted, giving the whole a quiet aspect. Whether you prefer your whites whiter than white, or a tad more dialled down and subtle, is a matter for personal taste and your subject matter.

What I did like was the reaction of granulating colours like Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. The deep texture encouraged separation of the pigments, leading to interesting passages.

Housel Bay with scratches
Waves scratched in with scalpel

My final painting was of a Cornish landscape, the Lizard peninsular as seen across Housel Bay. Again I worked it in pure watercolour, with no attempt to preserve the white surface by masking. Once again, the separation of pigment on this very rough paper was interesting.

Housel Bay close up
Whites by scratching

I wanted to indicate white water and decided to scratch sections away using a scalpel. Personally, I don’t think think this was very effective on this paper. The surface tore away unpredictably under the knife leaving large gouges of fibre exposed.

In conclusion,  I absolutely love this paper for acrylic and I’ll definitely be using it again, but I’m not so sure about for watercolour. However, I appreciate that this has far more to do with my watercolour ability and working style rather than the paper which is excellent.  If you fancy trying  something a little chunkier than normal I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, and at such a reasonable price what have you got to lose?

Time lapse tips for artists

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

iPhone 4 on tripod mount
iPhone 4 on tripod mount

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

iPhone on Benbo Trekker tripod
iPhone on Benbo Trekker tripod

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

iPhone tripod adaptor
iPhone tripod 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

Benbo ball joint
Benbo 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.

Setting up

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?

My set up for Chun Quoit Glow 2 time lapse
My set up for Chun Quoit Glow 2 time lapse

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.

And finally…

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!