Category Archives: Alkyds

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!

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Peeking behind the Cow – a painting in alkyds

Commissions. To be honest, I rarely take commissions. In fact I’ve only ever accepted five I think (can’t rightly remember now, awful memory; combination of lazy brain cells and all that fine sippin’ whisky…) And all have been animal portraits; hmmm, there may be a pattern there…

For me , commissions inevitably bring mixed feelings.  On the one hand there’s an intense buzz – the intellectual and artistic challenge of successfully translating a client’s wishes into tangible and desirable reality. On the other there’s something darker, something a whisper away from mind-numbing, confidence-sapping terror! Boy, do I find it stressful.

While I can’t share these feelings with you I can give you a peek of some of the stages behind a commission from 2008.

The Cow in my gallery was for a client who wanted a large piece with presence.  They were very clear on the style and subject, and supplied a photograph from which I made the painting. We agreed on 40″  by 30″.  This made it the largest painting I’d ever tackled by a long chalk- no pressure.

My preference was firmly for alkyds – so many of the advantages of oil with increased drying and stability. I started with a carefully drawn outline in marker pen:

Cow outline drawing
Cow – outline drawing

To enrich the dark blue background and pretty much orange cow I thinly under-painted in reverse – orange under blue, blue under orange:

Cow under painting
Cow under painting

Once dry I roughly blocked in the approximate colours.  I wasn’t too worried about nailing the final tones at this stage:

Cow alkyd painting blocking in
Cow – blocking in

Then it was just a case of gradually working all over the painting to bring everything to a similar density. At this stage I went through those mid-point blues. I just knew it would never work…

Cow painting alkyd building up
Cow – building up

…but I persisted. The tones were built up using successive thin glazes to model the head enlivened with thicker, lighter passages to bring the painting to completion:

Cow painting in alkyds
Cow in alkyds on canvas 40″ by 30″

To my relief my clients were very pleased – bye bye terror, hello buzz and huge sigh of relief 🙂