This year was always going to be ‘interesting’ and, as the nights draw rapidly in, I’ve been reflecting on my progress so far. You know what, in general I think it’s all been good.
While I’ve not been very prolific, I sense the quality of my paintings has definitely improved. And when I think back to the mental health issues which dragged me down over the past 3 years or so, I’ll take that as a ‘good thing’.
This year I’ve tried not to put myself under pressure to create. I’ve largely done whatever I fancied, and only when I fancied doing it. And if some things have been left hanging, the lino-printing for instance, then so be it. At the moment I’m fortunate in that this is not my prime income and I also have a ‘proper day job’ to pay the bills.
So, over winter I may not paint at all now I’ve finished my latest commission. I don’t even know yet whether I’ll pick up the lino cutting either. It’s an easier option than painting as I hate to paint under artificial light, even using my wonderful OTT-Lites.
I won’t be idle of course. The new website is still on the cards but, hey, who really enjoys putting that stuff together; it might go to the back of the queue.
I will sort out those Giclee prints I mentioned last time.
And I’ve plenty of non-painty things on the boil too, including decorating (which I hate by the way…), figuring out how to use my new 8” telescope, a couple of 1/10th dinosaur sculptures which I want to prepare, modify and paint. Oh, and Red Dead Redemption II for my Xbox – it is gaming season after all, and I can see myself being lost in that for weeks.
Of everything, I’m hoping the dinosaurs will fill my time, and fair warning I will be posting progress. At around 30” in length both are ginormous! In fact they are so big I’m not sure yet where I’ll display them once they’re sorted. Well, what can I say, they looked smaller online…
So, a quiet and hopefully relaxing winter and early New Year coming up. I will still be posting on FaceBook from time to time, so head over there and please Like my page if you want to keep up with any updates.
See what I did there? prints/prince?? Oh, never mind…
Anyway, prints. You will soon be able to buy high quality Giclee prints of a selection of my paintings. First off the mark will be a couple of my latest gouache paintings.
I’ve been working with Sarah at Ironbridge Fine Arts and Framing to colour match the scans of my paintings to be as close as possible to the originals. I’m very impressed! Comparing my paintings and test prints side by side it really is hard to tell at a glance which is the original.
What is a Giclee print?
Giclee prints are made using top-of-the-line inkjet printers. While the technology is similar to your home deskjet printer,Giclee printers can use 12 inks rather than 4. This means they can achieve very subtle colour graduations which closely match those in the original painting.
During printing the size of the spray droplets varies which makes for a less ‘mechanical’ finish. And the ink is archival quality so each print will have a long life with less likelihood of fading.
Once printed onto an acid-free, lightly textured watercolour paper the results are brilliant.
Which paintings will be available?
To kick things off I’ll be offering two recent gouache paintings:
Kynance Cove: The Bellows (featured above)
From Pen Olver to Lloyds Signal Station
I will be offering both unframed without a card mount. Besides giving you the freedom to present them exactly how you want, this also means I can keep the price point affordable.
I’ll post up full details of price, size etc. once I’m ready to go, most likely mid to end of October (I have a holiday coming up very soon).
Meanwhile, if you are already interested, please contact me now and I’ll get in touch when they’re available.
Over the years I’ve used, and dabbled with, all manner of media. Ive tried watercolours, gouache, oils, alkyds, water soluble oils, acrylics, acrylic ‘ink’, traditional inks, silk paints, coloured pencils, charcoal, Conte crayons, graphite sticks and pencils, and pastels. And probably a few others. My art drawers are crammed full of ‘interesting’ tubes of stuff, all are slowly fading away in the darkness, some sit alone and unloved.
What’s your medium?
If you’d asked me a few months ago “which is your medium”, I’d have said oils without hesitation.Today I’m not so sure, because I’m beginning to think it might be actually be gouache. Maybe…
I’ve used gouache on and off for over 20 years, but not in a sustained way. A handful of small monochrome illustrations when I worked as an illustrator and more recently for occasional plein air holiday sketches. I think over time I’ve absorbed a negative notion that gouache paintings are held in low regard as a painting medium. I’ve seen them criticized because they can produce ‘chalky’ work which is over-stylised and too graphic. Not a serious medium for serious artists then…
It was only while confined to our holiday cottage on a drizzly day in June (remember drizzle…?) that I started a ‘proper’ painting in gouache. I’d deliberately left my oils at home, so it was Hobson’s choice – pure watercolour or gouache.
And here is that painting: Towards Lloyd’s Signal Station from Pen Olver’.It’s on 450gsm Hahnemühle 50cm by 20cm NOT watercolour paper. Looking back, I was surprised how much brighter and more colourful my gouache paintings seem compared to my plein air oils.
I roughed in a tonal underpainting using Turner acrylic gouache. Despite its name I don’t see it as a real gouache. It’s basically opaque acrylic paint suspended in a matt binder. For me it doesn’t ‘feel’ like the real deal. However, being acrylic I could paint over it without lifting any colours.
Now I’ve gained a little more experience I’m not sure I’ll use the acrylic gouache again. I’ll probably make my underpainting direct in Winsor & Newton Designer’s gouache. They have a lovely creamy feel, are well saturated with pigment and dry to a velvety matt finish.
However, brushstrokes must be confidently placed and then left well alone. Prodding and poking at a newly laid wash overlying a previously layer can lead to unexpected results. Sometimes this gives rise to ‘happy accidents’, but most often it results in a mucky mess. It’s this need for confident handling which determines the characteristic look of many gouache paintings – think old railway posters.
The more I work with them, I’ve found I can make blends up to a point, but laying a thin glaze over previous layers is asking for trouble.
I am still finding my way. With my latest painting, ‘Ancient Landscape’, I feel I’m pushing against the limits of layering. Some areas sport about 10.
On balance I think I need to try and achieve my goal in as few layers as possible, which means cultivating and maintaining spontaneity and confidence in my brush work. More practice then!
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, here we’re back in what always feels like our second home, Seaton in East Devon and about to start the second week of our holiday.
Sadly, this year, we’re here following a very recent and very close family bereavement. Needless to say our thoughts have been mixed, and of all things our minds haven’t been focussed on making paintings.
However, there have been opportunities to sketch, and I think making the effort has been mentally beneficial for both of us. The weather has been very kind too. So here is a collection of my plein air sketches in watercolour, gouache and pencil. Hope you like them. I’ll update this post with any new sketches after next week.
Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset
A series of plein air sketches in pencil, watercolour and gouache from Devon and Dorset.
You know, I didn’t realise it had been so long since my last post. Rather been letting things slip a bit haven’t I? I had intended to blog during my last week of holiday but, well, you know what it’s like…
To be honest, between getting back to work and navigating some rather challenging bits of ‘real’ life lately I’ve been feeling a bit drained, like my rubber band’s broke. And sadly I don’t always have the luxury of time to devote myself completely to my art.
The holiday was wonderful, such gorgeous weather. The Lizard Peninsular is one of my favourite places in Cornwall and really feels like a second home. It’s unfairly picturesque with a potential painting around each corner and over every rise. I really had to resist the temptation to paint all the time though; it was meant to be a family holiday after all…
Even so, I’ve still managed to bring back a fair bit of reference material, both sketches and paintings which will no doubt will appear on here in due course. And I’ve taken loads of photos too which I intend to use through the year, but with the usual caveat against becoming slavishly fixated. Photos can be a mixed blessing. Great for prodding the memory where it’s lacking, but they can also be flat and deceiving in so many ways, and they sucker you into the details.
Nothing beats sitting outdoors in front of a subject and letting it fill your mind. Observation always pays dividends. Not only does it reflect in the work created on site, regardless of its perceived quality, more importantly it reinforces the memory of a place and time for future reference.
In the week which followed my last post about painting at Church Cove I started to relax and find my feet. By the end of that week I was pretty pleased with my efforts. Besides working up some plein air sketches in both watercolour and acrylic, I also took the plunge and tried gouache.
I’d previously only used gouache in black and white many years ago for some professional illustration work. To keep things simple I decided to use just a handful of colours from Winsor and Newton’s Designer’s Gouache range: Primary Blue, Red and Yellow along with Ivory Black and Permanent White.
For my first attempt I painted a section of a Cornish ‘hedge’ covered in wildflowers including Thrift. It took a bit of experimenting – too much water at first, then too little – but after a while I started to get the hang of it. Working light over dark, letting each layer dry thoroughly before working quickly and lightly over the top. I was impressed by the covering power. While the sketch may have many problems, it was a useful exercise.
For my second attempt I sat in our cottage and quickly sketched the view over the back garden. I kept the paint creamier than my first attempt and started to get the knack of laying paint without disturbing the underlying layer. This contributed towards a more graphic feel to the sketch, and a particular flatness. Although I have to admit that I quite like the poster-like effect, I can see why some artists don’t and avoid gouache. because it can appear ‘dead’ and chalky.
I was determined to push things a bit for my third outing and at Chun Quoit, a stunning Megalithic tomb, I deliberately painted both looser and on a larger scale, 60cm wide, on the ever excellent Saunders Waterford watercolour paper. This time I used a mixture of thick and thin washes. Sometimes I’d let the washes dry, other times I blended and pushed the paint about before scumbling drier paint over the top to catch on the texture of the paper. I was very pleased with the result. Sadly the limitations of the photo don’t reveal the more subtle colour modulations or hue the juicy intensity of the stronger passages, but trust me they are in there.
After making this painting I seriously started to reconsider my plein air approach. I use both watercolours and acrylics, but gouache seems to offer a great, easily portable halfway house without the irreversible drying qualities of acrylics. And, while I can make pure watercolours which use and reserve the white paper, gouache fits more easily with the way I like to work; it still feels a bit like cheating though.
For one more test I added French Ultramarine Blue, Lemon Yellow and Flame Red to my limited palette and spent about three quarters of an hour making this painting from my studio window. I think my gamble might be paying off. I’m going to chuck a few earth colours into the kit and see what happens. Watch this space…