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 🙂

Welcome to the blog of Ade Turner artist!

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!

Ade  🙂