Sunday, 6 October 2019

Latest Portrait Paintings and Autumn subject

These are my latest attempts at portraits. Three Indians and one famous figure from the same mid- to late 1800s era. All 16" x 12"

A Lakota Sioux Chief circa 1870s

A Pawnee Warrior circa 1870s

" Buffalo Bill" Cody

Famous Frontiersman and Wild West showman.

"Fun" - Member of Geronimo and Naiches band, the last hostile Apaches to surrender in 1886, officially bringing 200 years of strife with the Apaches to an end.  Almost an end to the strife with all the Indian tribes. The Apaches were the last holdouts.There were still small scale incidents for many years but nothing of any size.

Autumn Berries - 16" x 12"

Autumn Leaves 16" x 12"

The above two paintings were done at my most recent AVA session last week. The leaves were painted from a number I collected where I live. There are a lot of trees. 

Friday, 4 October 2019

SAA Watercolours

The SAA - the Society for All Artists - is a one-off in that. as well as being  an artists society,  originally The Society of Amateur Artists,  it's a large mail order artists supplies operation rivalling Jacksons, Bromley and others.  It has a large well illustrated catalogue as well as regular updates and special offers throughout the year. I don't know if it will supply outside the UK. It publishes a magazine 'Paint' for members who pay an annual subscription and get special 'member only " offers. Originally most of the cut prices were members only but this seems to have changed with a larger number available to non members.

Annual Catalogue 169 pages!

 The non member prices were not competitive in most cases. Members enjoy the benefit of free postage even on one item. Artists societies can join on an affiliated basis, get members prices and also purchase things like public liability insurance when they hold exhibitions. My group Avon Valley Artists is affiliated and it is very useful in buying small quantities of supplies. At the moment they seem to be the sole mail order group who have the new Van Gogh watercolour range, and at very keen prices. They are also involved in various other associated activities and have a number of  artists linked with them.

My principal interest here is to examine the range of SAA  watercolours, which have gradually increased in number since being introduced some years ago, as an alternative to the increasingly expensive leading makes. I don't know who currently makes them but was told, not long after their introduction, that someone who had previously worked for Daler Rowney was the producer.

When first introduced there were 40 colours but this has gradually increased to 68 of which 33 are single pigment paints and 10 include white. As in all 'budget' makes the percentage of single pigment paints is lower than that of the majors. Price is a single very competitive £5.40p including Cerulean, the Cadmiums and Cobalts. One thing that did concern me when originally launched was that no pigment details appeared on the tubes. Approaches to them did bring a single A4 sheet with pigment details. When I decided to do this piece I approached them again and was very promptly supplied with an up to date A4 sheet. Due to the larger  number the details are very small so the magnifying glass came into play. You have to do this with many of the majors, although pigment details are normally on the websites as the details on tubes are so small.

Now to the individual colours. I stress I've not yet bought any from the expanded range but certainly am considering doing so. I as always consulted the Pigment Database (Artists Creation) the most comprehensive source of pigment details on the internet. Handprint has still much excellent information on pigments.

Scarlet Lake - PR12/PO31 .This is used with the addition of PO31. PR12 is described by the database as "Permanent Bordeaux - a bluish red synthetic organic. No other information. PO31 is "Bright Red Orange" NR (not rated)
Vermillion Hue - PR112. Napthol Red. Intense bright yellowish red, A synthetic organic "fair lightfastness" . When discussing red pigments Handprint suggested most reds should be treated with caution in this respect.
Poppy Red - PR4/PO13.  PR4 is described as "Bright Yellowish Red, Reddish Orange" - "The classic lipstick red". Now comes the catch "Not recommended for permanent art work". PO13 Benzidine Orange `'bright Yellow Orange"-" impermanent , might be a pigment to avoid". I must admit to surprise and concern when I read this, I stress this is the respected databases words not mine.
Cerulean Blue - PB35 Cerulean Blue.
Permanent Rose -PR48:2. Permanent Red, Yellow to bluish synthetic organic. There are 4 versions of PR48 varying in shade from bright to mid-red.
Cobalt Green : PB50. I suspect this is a misprint and it should be PG50? B is blue, G is green.
Rather than detail every individual paint a general summary: 
I can find no information on Cobalt Blue PB26. I suspect these may be a misprint. Could be PB36?
PBr7 appears in a lot of paints, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber as single pigment paints. This is the same as many majors. PBr7 has many versions ranging from Yellow Brown to brown to dull red.
PR101 Caput Mortem, Light Red, as well as one constituent of several mixed ;paints. Again a standard pigment, a synthetic iron oxide red in various versions with shades from brownish yellow to orange to red shades with yellow or violet undertones.
Prussian Blue is PB27, Tropical Phalo Blue and Phalo Blue Red shade PB15:1,
There appears to be 19 two pigment mixes, many with excellent pigments, and 14 three pigment mixes, again many with excellent pigments, which I'm not so keen on if used for mixing.  Although the majors have a higher single pigment number  they do still have some multi-pigment paints, apart from the Maimeri new range which  offers all 90 as single pigments. At a price naturally.
You could certainly try the Cadmiums, Yellow PY37, Orange PO20. Lemon PY37, Red PR108, Primrose Yellow PY83, Phalo Green PG7, Quinacridone Magenta PR122, Intense Violet PV23, Raw Sienna PY43, Yellow Ochre PY42, Lamp black PBr7, 

The lack of pigment details on the tubes is a problem as far as I'm concerned but may not be to some artists. I've found even many professional artists talk about colours rather than pigments. You can always ask the SAA to send you the pigment details. I did. You could certainly put together a reasonable palette of Yellows, Reds, Blues, Greens and earth colours from what is offered.

Some of the artists associated with the SAA have tested these paints and given them fulsome praise. I haven't as  yet but will try some in due course. Poppy Red? Surprised about this one. Overall there are one or two issues but remember prices are one half to one third of the majors. I recently purchased two 14ml tubes of Winsor & Newton Mars Black and Aureolin for two members of my group. Even at the discounted prices the total still came to just over £25! This is the reality we watercolour artists face.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Watercolour Paintings 59

This months batch are outstanding ( in my opinion) including many new to me.  Some stunning stuff here. It never ceases to amaze me at the wealth of talent spread across the World. I don't comment on every one and this is no reflection on those artists.  Several have featured before. I just comment off the cuff. Hope you like them. After looking at this lot I'm off to trash my paintings! Back to the drawing board. You may notice a few have 'copyright'  or the artists names emblazoned across them. I'm assuming it's alright to feature them as I have no profit or other motives. If objections were received I'll delete them as there are thousands more with no such restrictions.

Dean Crouser -
 I've always liked this American artists work and this is superb,.

Eginta Tarasevich -Wonderful!

Karl Martens.
I like this artists studies of birds very much. He actually paints very large.

Konstantin Sterkhov

Igor Sava

Adisom Pornsirikavn -Wow!

Lian Quan Zhen 
What a stunner this is!

Rick Huang

Charles Reid
Look at the simplicity of this. It's probably a half sheet painting.

Darren Woodhead - Lovely

Claude Buckle - Group of refugees, very effective

Pol Ledent

Chien Chung-Wei

Hitesh Durgani

Arthur Melville

Another from Dean Crouser - I love this one too.

Annemiek Grouenhout

Jen Buckley

Jem Bowden

Eiginta Tarasevich

Just had to put this in.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

This Weeks Paintings

I expect many will be sick of my puny efforts but I'm just a hobby painter folks so there it is. (I'm only half joking!). 

"Green Man" (1) 16" x 12"

Green Man (2) 16" x 12"

I painted another green man a while back, still have the  painting and like it. The 'Green Man' is linked with old religious pagan practices and there are "Green Man'  head sculpted images in many churches and elsewhere. Each year a large music festival takes place at Crickhowell, within the Brecon Beacons,  Wales. The most recent subject at my art group was 'World Culture'. I wasn't enamoured with this and scratched my head as what to do. Then I hit on the 'green man' thing. It isn't just men as women also dress up in these bizarre green costumes, adorned with leaves, ivy and other green vegetation, as well as painting faces etc green.  It must take them hours to arrange this getup. I know many artists shun greens but it doesn't bother me. I used several greens in the paintings as I have many of those available. This probably sounds like a cop out but when I look at them on the blog or Facebook something seems to be lost between being photographed and transposed to the blog and Facebook.

Friday, 20 September 2019

More of My Paintings

These are this weeks batch. The portrait is an experimental approach(!)

"The Sadness of the Amerindian" 16" x 12" Lunar Black (PBk11) & Lunar Earth (PBk11)

I am very interested, although I've done nothing about it yet, in the new product Liquid Charcoal and particularly Stephie Butlers paintings using it with one or two watercolours. Some say you can get the same result by crushing charcoal and mixing it with various fluids - gum  arabic was suggested, and the local art shop said linseed oil. I'll have to experiment. I do like paintings done with charcoal the only real downside it is very messy. 

Sometime ago I bought the Lunar colours made by Daniel Smith which are very granular. I haven't done anything much with them but thought that - maybe - the Lunar Black might, just might, give a similar effect. This paint has gone hard in the tube and this is happening to some of my paints that I've had for a longish time. Previously I've tended to throw them away, but prices are now so extortionate that cutting open the tube and using the hard paint as though it were a pan seems the way to go. I did this with the Lunar Black and it works. I don't however use my newer expensive sable brushes except for the 'small areas of detail', but older ones that have been replaced. The actual painting , it seems in my eyes, to be better than it appears above. Still painting is all about opinion with one mans meat another mans poison.

"Breakfast (1) Approx 16" x 12"

I feel the flowers are overworked on this one.

Breakfast (2) Approx. 16" x 12"

The two paintings above were done as the subject this week at my Art Group was Birds, Butterflies and Insects.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Latest Paintings

I'm completing three or four a week at the moment, admittedly fairly simple subjects.  Here they are.

"Sunflowers" 16" x 12"

"Avocet " 16" x 12"

"Butterfly" approx. 12" x 9"

Black-capped Chikadee" approx. 12" x 9"

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Winslow Homer 1836 - 1910 By John Softly

It wasn’t until he was 37 years old did Winslow Homer apply himself to watercolours a medium of which he later remarked “You will see, in the future I will live by my watercolours”.

His mother Henrietta Benson Homer, herself a talented artist, obviously nurtured the young Winslow in drawing and the arts and he was sufficiently proficient to be employed by John Bufford and Sons in their lithography workshop as an illustrator. His first work there was illustrating  sheet music covers.
Moved to New York in 1859, continues free lance work until 1862 when he was with the Union Army in Virginia illustrating the Civil War for Harpers Weekly.
In 1873 Homer was in Houghton Farm and Gloucester, Massachusetts and painted his first watercolour series. 

Winslow Homer with his 1899 oil "The Gulf Stream"

The Berry Pickers 1873

Watching the Harbour 1873

Sailing the Catboat 1873

Prior to the late 1860’s there was little incentive for artists to paint in watercolour as it was considered a medium for sketching and preparatory work for larger oil works only and rarely attracted the attention of collectors. Watercolours gained respectability with the founding of the  American Society of Painters in Water Colours and more artists started to paint in the medium, their smaller size and cheaper price started to find acceptance with collectors. 
Homers early work was mainly images of local children and the sizes were usually small (8 x14”). He was working as an illustrator and his paintings reflected the techniques required for the wood engraver.
Gouache was used and it allowed him to treat the medium similar to oils - building the painting from dark to light.
Throughout his career Homer used a Whatman paper and Winsor and Newton pigments in a W& N box containing 20 full pans.
His basic palette contained colours that have long since been deleted from the W& N catalogue but some of those used by Homer the names of which remain the same today, although not necessarily their chemical composition , are :-
Burnt Umber
Prussian Blue
Indian Yellow
Cadmium Yellow
Dark Green
Hookers Green

The New Novel 1877

Fresh Air 1878

Harrowing 1879

Homer gravitated to the quieter areas of the planet and throughout his life he visited the Adirondack Mountains fishing, hunting and painting the pioneer characters of the areas eight times for extended stays. In 1875 he paid his first visit to Prout’s  Neck, a small fishing village in southern Main where he eventually settled permanently.
He painted in his studio on the top floor of the building and gone were the figurative studies of the female form but instead nature and the wild Maine Coast .
Had Winslow Homer never picked up a watercolour sable his reputation in the American Art scene would have been assured due to two oil paintings he did in 1884 an 1899.“The  Life Line” and “The Gulf Stream” are two dramatic marine subjects the former of which resulted, in part, to his 20 month stay in Cullercoats in the north of England where he lived among the fisherfolk of the area depicting their every day life in watercolours.

The Lifeline 1884 Oil

The Gulf Stream 1889 Oil

This visit to England and in particular Cullercoats set Homer on the road to a successful career in watercolour.

Why Homer picked the Tyneside village of Cullercoats for his stay in England has never been ascertained, although there  were many artists colonies painting the fishing villages, particularly in  the north of England. The distinctive fishing boats of the area called cobles, a design specific to the area since the sixth century, have attracted artists over the years and still does today.

Afterglow 1883

Mending the Nets 1882

Returning Fishing Boats 1883

Inside the Bar 1883

A Voice from the Cliffs 1883

Another American painter, John Singer Sargent, who was in England at this time was painting portraits of corseted society ladies in their silks and satins, whereas Homer was depicting the robust fisherfolk of Cullercoats their women sans corsets, silks and satin.
Homers palette, at this time, took on a more subdued appearance more in the nature of the English artists and design was more to the forefront than colour.
Some criticism was levelled at the subdued colours of this period. Greys, browns and blacks with an overall cast of purple but in reality the north of England is a place of subdued colours - especially in winter.  
 There were no absence of models and he even purchased manikins, dressing  them in the local attire but it was only locals he was interested never tourists and holidaymakers.
Maggie Jefferson, Homer’s  most important model, was a fifteen year old red head whom he paid one shilling a sitting and was the subject of dozens of watercolours and drawings.

Maggie Jefferson

He sent 51 watercolours to his dealers in Boston. Half the paintings were sold almost immediately and although later works bear little resemblance to the Cullercoats works Homer’s reputation was established.
He initially intended to stay at Cullercoats for three months during the summer but he extended his stay a further 17 months.
Homer had always liked isolation and on his return to America gravitated to Prout’s Neck on the north coast, adjacent to Portland where he had spent several summers with his family. Only a few fishermen and farmers lived there.
His dramatic painting “The Life Line” was completed in 1884 and was a result of seeing a breeches buoy being used in Atlantic City. The atmospheric watercolours produced in Cullercoats would have helped with this monumental oil painting.
Almost every year he took a fishing trip. Adirondacks or Quebec in the summer - Florida in the winter. His oils were worked up in the studio but the trips were for watercolours all produced with speed and spontaneity.
In 1884 Century Magazine commissioned Homer to illustrate an article it was planning on Nassau.
The Bahama natives, although a world apart from those in Cullercoats had similar work ethics. Whereas in Tyneside the men plied the North Sea for cod and other cold water fish, those in the Bahamas searched the Caribbean for sponges. Once the product was landed the women took over with preparing and getting it to market
The seas around Nassau were relatively calm as opposed to Cullecoats, but conditions for the sponge collectors were non the less as arduous for the Bahaman men as they were for the 'Geordies'. Homer ignored the tourists and local hot spots preferring to depict the colourful women and  sponge divers.
He also seemed to have a fixation on sharks and painted several watercolours of the creatures cumulating in the 1899 oil “The Gulf Stream”.
During the year Homer and his father were in Nassau they were entertained by the Colonial Governor, Sir Henry Blake and Lady Blake herself, an amateur watercolourist. At a fancy dress party the Blake children were dressed in Arabian costume and Lady Blake asked Homer to paint the children in costume.
The painting which was not framed eventually ended up in County Cork, Ireland. and was mistakenly considered to be the work of Lady Blake.
Fast foreword to 1987 when a fisherman found the painting along with works by Lady Blake outside a rubbish dump some three miles from the Blake family home, Myrtle Grove in Youghal.
The fisherman gave the painting to his daughter who, in 2008, took it to to a recording of Antiques Roadshow where Phillip Mould identified it as a Homer and valued it at £30,000.
It was then the subject of an episode of the TV programme Fake or Fortune, was flown to New York to be sold by Sotheby’s who, confirmed that it was the work of Homer and valued it at over £100,000.
The day before the sale the great grandson of Sir Henry Blake claimed the painting.  The legal wrangling goes on to this day and is too involved  to relate here but I  refer the reader to Wikipedia under the heading of “Children Under a Palm”. 
 As with the Cullercoats works the Bahama watercolours focus on the local population but the weather conditions couldn’t be different.

Cabins, Nassau 1885

Sponge Fishing 1885

The Coral Divers 1885

The drama of Cullercoats is missing and Homer’s washes are more transparent and the white of the paper he uses to great effect.
During the 1885 Bahama visit Homer did many sketches of derelict boats presumably in 
preparation for “The Gulf Stream”which was completed four years later.
Homer left the Bahamas for a five week stay in Santiago, Cuba and did eighteen watercolours, complained about heat, late breakfasts, scorpions and very bad smells. Returning to Prouts Neck and thence to Florida a State he visited seven times, but only three of these trips working on watercolours.
The main attraction, apart from the warmer weather in winter was the fishing.

Coconut Palms Key West 1886

In a Florida Jungle 1886

A Norther 1886

Back in Prout’s Neck Homer continued to paint watercolours of local subjects seascapes, fishermen, women on the shore and on land and farm boys at work.

Among the Vegetables 1887

With this painting it can be seen the Homer’s palette had become brighter wth less browns and greys. The seascapes, however, are not represented as much as the Atlantic coast scenes were more suited to the heavier medium of oils.
Homer’s Adirondacks visit in 1899 to 1900 combined watercolour, fishing and hunting. His preference for fishing locations and outdoor activities is well documented, but looking at his watercolour output one would think he lead a solitary life when in the backwoods. Nothing could be further from the truth.
He was a part of a group of influential bankers, industrialists, attorneys and judges. Former President Cleveland described the group as “The Fishing Fraternity”. “Nothing to do with those who fish for a livelihood” “those of us who fish in a fair, well bred and reasonable way, for the purpose of recreation and as a means of increasing the table pleasures of ourselves and our friends”.
This fraternity was amongst the most enthusiastic collectors of his watercolours and his depiction of leaping fish (which to me never seemed realistic) and deer being pursued by dogs with their final demise, draped over a log. Of the 87 paintings Homer did of the Adirondacks the depiction of leaping trout and dead deer pale into insignificance against the pioneer , woodsman, fishing and canoe watercolours of the time.

The Woodcutter 1891

Boy Fishing 1892

The Blue Boat 1892

Homer returned to the Bahamas in 1898 of which he said “I think the Bahamas the best place I have ever found”.
The two months he spent in Nassau resulted in 25 watercolours the subjects of which were similar to those he painted in 1885 - 1885.

After the Hurricane 1889

Bermuda Settlers 1901

The last series of watercolours that Winslow Homer did was in Florida.
He was very vocal about the quality of fishing in Key West and Homosassa.
“As many as thirteen different species of salt water fishes have been taken with artificial fly by one rod in a mornings outing”.
1904 saw another trip to Florida and this trip was purely a fishing trip but resulted in his last watercolour - echos of Cullercoats albeit in warmer climes but none the less dramatic.

Diamond Shoal 1905

Homer died in 1910 at the age of 74.
Winslow Homer’s watercolours spanned a period of more than three decades and for good reason he is considered “The Poet of the Sea”. I usually source my articles from various sources but in this instance I have used only one.
The definitive book on Winslow Homers watercolours by Helen A Cooper (ISBN 0-300-0-3695-7) is a book anyone with more than a passing interest in his watercolours should own.

May I give my sincere thanks to my friend John for the time and effort he has put in to produce this excellent article on Winslow Homer