Friday 31 August 2012

The August Challenge

On this occasion my friend Mick Carney chose the subject.

I studied this for quite some time before deciding how to proceed. The obvious feature is the pink Hollyhock, which hits you in the eye and the background is blurred. Various shades of green, from blue-green to yellow-green. Pink and green - compliments. One of the things I have noticed, in studying the array of wonderful artists who display their paintings on Facebook is the use of compliments.

 This was a preliminary experiment with no drawing just to see how the colours worked together.

Version 1

In this one the colours were Quinacridone Coral (DS PR209) and Permanent Magenta (Rowney PV19 violet shade) for the flower and Sap Green, Hookers Green, Green-Gold and Cobalt Teal Blue for the background.

Version 2

Here the flower colours were similar but the background included Translucent Orange (Schminke PO71), Quinacridone Burnt Orange (DS PO48), with Hookers Green omitted. The Schminke Translucent Orange was used on Jean Haines recommendation via her latest book and I also studied one of her most recent paintings (unfinished I think), which includes Hollyhocks. Back to the drawing board?

Jean Haines

Version 3 - The Final One!
16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb (300gsm) Not

This is the third version and I don't think I'll do another - regardless! The Hollyhock colours are mainly Quinacridone Coral (DS PR209), Quinacridone Fuschia (DS PR202), a little Permanent Magenta (Rowney PV19 Violet Shade) and Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19). The background colours are Sap Green (DS PO49/PG7), Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith PG50) and Green Gold (Rowney PY129).

I basically used one brush, The Da Vinci Artissimo 44 Size 2 Kolinsky mop, roughly equivalent to a round 12/14. It has a full body and sharp point.

Note:You may notice that the painting appears square (16" x 16") despite the original being 16" x 12". No matter what I do I'm unable to change this. Yvonne suggested taking the photograph in  landscape format and leaving a margin at either side. This doesn't seem to work either. My two cameras are a Canon SX120 Digital and  a Nikon DSLR with 55mm lens. It makes no difference whichever I use. Has anyone any idea how I can overcome this? The result is that paintings that are in portrait format always look squashed. Landscape format is unaffected. Added 31/08/12: It would seem that my monitor may be the problem.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Another Plein Air Session

Last week I managed to paint outside again. At the weekly `unofficial' AVA session all the other attendees decided not to risk it and remained in the hall. This new idea has worked quite well, as apart from the obstacle of inclement weather, the majority of members prefer to paint indoors.

Yvonne, on the extreme right, taking a break after her exhausting weeks exhibition at Wells, contemplating having to paint another 50 plus to replace those sold! She doesn't just paint, but frames them as well, also cutting her own mounts!. 

 From left to right Kath, Brenda, Helen and Jo

There were ten of us in total and it was a sad occasion due to the death a few days earlier of Alan Coster, a popular and much respected member of the group. Alan will be sorely missed by me personally and other members.

Nevertheless  we painted and I set myself up in the car park next to my car. This is the scene I was contemplating 

The first issue was what to leave out? The wall on the left was one obvious thing and also the large tree and shed on the right. I reduced the scene to the tree in the middle with the cottages in the left distance, and also the fields behind that slope up to a prominent clump of trees at the top. There are also houses behind the tree which you can just glimpse through the branches and leaves.

Fabriano Artistico 20" x 14" Extra White Not 140lb (300gsm)

The actual scene has been greatly simplified. I started with a simple pencil drawing avoiding detail.  I know it is large for a plein air painting but I don't like painting small. Greens were Sap Green, Green-Gold and , Hookers. I added blue to both Sap Green and Hookers for the darker areas. Other colours were Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, Raw Umber and  Raw Sienna. I may have used some Cerulean and Quinacridone Rust. Brushes were the Escoda retractables, mainly size 12. I use these occasions to experiment- at least that's my excuse..

Afterwards the paintings were displayed in our usual manner. The `official' Autumn indoor season starts in two weeks time with the first subject `Summer Holidays'.

That's it folks.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Latest Attempt at Evie

Even prior to the wonderful portrait of Evie painted by Gerard Hendriks, I had started another due to some fair criticism and my own dissatisfaction with my previous study. I had basically only completed the drawing and when I saw Gerards version, it gave considerable food for thought, although I never contemplated attempting to rigidly copy his approach. For one thing I couldn't and another that the Charles Reid way has been my template for developing portraiture. Even here Charles says you shouldn't just try and copy the way he paints. I've learned a lot from Charles and there is a lot to be learned from Gerard . A little bird has told me that there is a possibility Gerard may come to the UK for a workshop(s) in either 2013 or 2014 but this is still at a very early stage. I've expressed an interest and been promised I'll be kept informed. At my age I hope this isn't too long delayed!

 The initial drawing.

I did make some changes as I went along, especially on the left facing side. Often I look at the drawing (and painting) after a few hours and realise some things are not quite right so try and correct.

 Evie - 15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico 90lb Not

I'm not unhappy with this. I realise the `rose' is a little too large compared to the actual photograph. I can see another possible criticism but I'm not going to labour it. Overall I like it. As Charles says faults are part of it.

The features and skin colours were combinations of Cadmium Red Pale, Raw Sienna and Cerulean. Some Cobalt or Ultramarine added to get the darker areas around the eyes.The hair mainly various mixes of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna with some Cyan Blue (Maimeri PB15:3). 

My usual brushes, the Isabeys and Da Vinci's.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

White Calf - Piegan

White Calf is another in the long list of Native Americans photographed by Edward Curtis, a somewhat controversial figure so I am told by an American friend, in the second half of the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th. Interestingly there was a TV programme about him recently, which I have recorded but not yet viewed. Apparently his huge photographic archive was in danger of destruction but was rescued. This happened sometime in the 1930's.

White Calf -

I am intrigued by these old photographs and it is a challenge to convert them from  more or less quite stark sepia images to colour. This is my latest of what is becoming quite a long line, although most of the early ones have been discarded. The Piegans or bloods, better known as the `Blackfeet', were a numerous and warlike tribe that straddled large areas of Canada and the adjacent United States. I don't know anything else about this individual, although I guess the photo was taken around 1900 and he appears quite old.

White Calf - Saunders Waterford (I think) 15" x 11" not.

Corrected Version - added 23/08/12

Added 23/08/12: In view of the critical comments I received over the original painting I have made some corrections that address the main criticism that the jawline gave him a simian appearance. It isn't perfect but does improve the overall effect, although I am conscious, as always, it could be better. I don't object to criticism, although I try not to attract too much! One thing I think the artist must be conscious of and that is not to get into thinking you are better than you actually are.  In the same way that adverse criticism shouldn't depress you too much, equally don't be misled in the opposite direction.

I first made a careful but not over detailed pencil drawing. This was done earlier in the week. I first masked off many of the light areas shown in the photograph using an old brush with Pebeo Drawing Gum. After it was thoroughly dry I commenced painting. I am currently reasessing how I paint and making some changes. Here I wet the background with clear water, some of which leaked into the head. I put some diluted Sap Green (DS PO49/PG7)) and Quinacridone Coral (DS PR209) into the wet areas and let it mix and run down, with, as usual, my board at a fairly steep angle. I painted in the dark areas of the face and left hand facing side, and under the chin with various mixtures of Cadmium Red Pale, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48). To get the darker colours I increased the amount of blue. I tried to avoid lines of `demarcation' since many would be painted over later. The hair was mainly various mixes of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Some magenta also got mixed in. When thoroughly dry I removed the masking fluid and carefully painted over the features, accentuating the shadow shapes. After returning home I later used Galeria Acrylic Titanium White on small highlight areas using a No.2 pointed brush then, rather more vigorously a small bristle brush on the hair. I assumed from the photograph that being quite old he certainly had greying hair.

Brushes used for the main painting were the Escoda Tajmir retractables sizes 10 and 12  plus a Rosemary retractable size 6. The Isabey retractables sizes 4 and 6 were used for the eyes.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Yvonne Harry Exhibition - Wells Cathedral

Yvonne's annual exhibition took place this week in the Chapter House at the famous Wells Cathedral, a major tourist attraction. I visited on Monday the 13th together with my wife and grandaughter Evie.

Yvonne and Evie

Yvonne, who is not a full time professional artist, although I consider her semi-professional, exhibited 91 framed, mostly flower paintings, around 40 unframed plus her own produced boxes of greetings cards. In just over two days she had already sold 13 framed paintngs, several unframed plus a number of boxes of cards.

Yours Truly with Yvonne

The Chapter House is circular, part of the magnificent Cathedral and very famous, although added later than the main structure which goes back many centuries, and took centuries to complete.. It is circular in shape and gets numerous visitors via a tortuous route finally involving climbing  some quite steep well-worn stone stairs. Many come just to look at the ceiling and some even lie on the floor looking upwards! As you can see the paintings are exhibited in two layers all around the walls.

This is a small selection of the paintings which were very difficult to photograph in situ due to reflections from the windows and positioning. I don't think there is any question that Yvonne is at least as good as many professionals. Her blog is  and she also has another website If you like flowers have a look . Yvonne is very open about her painting tecniques and has been trying some other subjects recently, although flowers remain her first love.  

I contacted Yvonne today and she replied that the exhibition had been very successful with many complimentary comments from visitors. Sales of painting  framed and unframed totalled nearly fifty. She also sold all her boxes of cards.

Monday 13 August 2012

Evie by Gerard Hendriks.

My last post but one was a feature on Gerard Hendriks the  Dutch  master watercolourist. In the course of preparing it I contacted Gerard, who was most helpful in answering requests for information.  A few days after publishing the feature I received an e-mail with attached image from Gerard. To my amazement it read " I also tried to paint Evie. I do not know Evie. It is more difficult painting from a photo if I do not know the girl". The photograph used was the recent one on which I based my own poor effort. I immediately replied saying how delighted and astonished - indeed honoured - he had taken the trouble to do this.  Gerard replied that as I liked it he would send it to me but would do some further work first. Another e-mail arrived with the definitive image.

Evie - 57cm x 38cm Hannemuhle Leonardo 300lb (600gsm)

Arriving home this afternoon, after a trip out with Evie, who is with us today and tomorrow, what should have arrived but the parcel, left by the delivery van in the care of a neighbour.

I still find myself somewhat bemused by what has happened and I can't imagine many other artists doing something similar. He has refused any recompense, even for the carriage costs, saying he "likes to make people happy". I was a fan before, an even bigger one now and can only repeat my thanks. What a generous man! The painting will go to a quality framer in Bath and remain a treasured family possession. Thank you once again Gerard. 

Saturday 11 August 2012

More Plein Air

With the weather somewhat better I was able to do some outdoor painting this week. This was at the Thursday morning session of my Avon Valley Artists group. Although the weather was good, of the nine members present I was the only one to opt for painting outside. I was situated just outside the hall - literally feet away - and attempted a subject I've tried before, never very successfully. One of the reasons was that due to later in the day grand parenting duties I didn't want to travel too far. Yvonne Harry, who is second from left has her annual weeks solo exhibition at Wells, starting on Saturday in the Chapter room at the Cathedral. I shall be there next Monday with the wife and grandaughter, another budding artist.

I had no intention of attempting the whole scenario and opted to concentrate on part of the cottage and the tree on the right. The wall at front was to be left well alone!  

I initially made a fairly loose and uncomplicated drawing then began to paint, first splashing water onto the paper. My object was to paint with freedom and avoid any `tightness' by trying to be too close to the actual scene. This is risky. Initially I painted the tree using plenty of water and pigment letting the wet areas blend and using a couple of riggers to draw in the branches. Green used were mainly Sap Green (Daniel Smith (PO49/PG7)) and Hookers Green (Graham PG7/PY110)) with a little Green Gold (Rowney PY129). There is also some Cobalt Teal Blue (DS PG50) at the top of the tree. The trunks and branches are various combination of Raw Umber, Cerulean, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. A little Gold Ochre was added later. I splashed both Hookers and Sap Green onto the tree at various stages. 

 20" x 14" Fabriano Artistico Extra White Not

I experimented on the building using granulating colours, Daniel Smith Lunar Violet, Earth, Red and  Blue. I wet some of the area with W & N granulating medium prior to putting the paint on. Other colours on the cottage included Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Raw Sienna and Gold Ochre. (W & N PY43). There is some Mineral Violet (Graham PV16) at the lower part of the cottage. Diluted Cerulean and Cobalt Blue in the sky with a little Burnt Sienna to grey them.

Brushes used were the Rosemary Kolinsky Mop Size 1, Escoda Tajmir Kolinsky retractable size 10 and a couple of riggers. I think that's it.

On reflection I overworked the tree and when I've subsequently  looked at this painting  my dissatisfaction grew, so it now resides on the reject pile waiting for an opportunity to paint on the reverse side. I'm also beginning to think that my love affair with Grahams Hookers Green is a mistake. It is rather a dull colour and can have a deadening effect. It needs to have another colour added to counteract this. You also have to be careful with the DS Lunar colours. They are on the dull side and can also deaden a painting if not used properly - which I fear is what has happened here. With these colours you need to  think carefully about what other colours to mix with them. I intend to do some serious trial and error work on landscape subjects, especially trees. I've previously noted the way in which the Belgian artist Gerda Mertens draws and paints trees.  I was in two minds whether to post this or not but as I adopt - well almost - a warts and all approach to showing my work it might help others to avoid such frustrating failures. However I've already moved on and have completed a flower painting for the August challenge which - so far - I haven't downgraded!  Today I'm planning two drawings for future works, one of Evie and the other another Indian. As far as Evie is concerned there has been an amazing development. My painting of her has come in for some criticism - rightly - and it has sparked something off. Believe me you couldn't make it up and all will be revealed soon.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Gerard Hendriks - A Master of Watercolour

I continue to discover fabulous new artists - to me -  by the score.  One I have been made aware of in recent months is the Dutch watercolour painter Gerard Hendriks. Gerard is very well-known in Europe and has an enormous following. Although I subscribe to magazines like The Artist, and previously Leisure Painter and International Artist, I've never seen him mentioned, or many of the others, let alone featured. Why is this? Is it a language barrier or does it have deeper implications? Fortunately some changes are taking place and Gerard is highlighted in two of Robin Berrys  2011 books, including the `Compedium of Watercolour Tecniques' which I reviewed recently. Originally he painted in a very `photorealistic' manner in other mediums but gradually moved towards watercolour and his present  highly impressionistic and vivid colourist style.

Gerard Hendriks

I came across Gerard on Facebook, an incredible source of fabulous artists and their paintings. He is truly prolific with a wide range of subject matter that includes Sports, Flowers, Still Lifes, Birds, Wildlife and Landscapes. I have seen many examples of his work and his use of colour, together with a loose and adventurous approach appeals to me very much. We are friends on Facebook and when I contacted him with the idea for this post he was most helpful.

Poppies - Gerards most recent painting 57cm x 76cm although I'm sure this has now been superceded

Gerard at work.

 His Studio

He also paints in a more conventional position

What many artists are interested in are the materials that top artists use. In Gerards case he favours Hahnemuhle Leonardo 600gsm (300lb) rough. The only immediate UK source I knew for this paper was Ken Bromley but then found after some digging that Great Art, Jacksons, the SAA, Heaton Cooper and Artdiscount, all sell it although it isn't exactly prominent on their websites, nor does it appear in either the Great Art or Jacksons catalogues, despite them featuring several other Hahnemuhle papers. Viktoria Prischedko also favours Leonardo. The only reason I can think for this is that, being 300lb, it is expensive and not really a sensible buy for most amateurs so sales are in a niche market. Jacksons are apparently discontinuing this paper and are offering it at a cut price while stocks last.

Gerard only uses tube paints, a mixture of Rembrandt and Old Holland both well-known Dutch makes.

Rembrandt appears to be the main one with some specific colours from Old Holland. His palette is : Alazarin Crimson, Karmijn (Carmine), Perm Kraplak (Permanent Alazarin), Cadmium Red Dark, Cadmium Red Light, Cobalt Violet (Old Holland), Quinacridone Rose, Permanent Red Violet, Cadmium Yellow Dark, Cadmium Yellow Light,  Lemon Yellow, Gamboge (Old Holland), Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Blue/Green, Turquoise Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Deep, Prussian Blue, Neutral Tint, Ivory Black, Chinese White. That makes 23 colours but he only uses a limited number in each painting, depending upon subject. His basic palette is Permanent Kraplak (Alazarin), Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow Dark, Yellow Ochre, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue and Prussian Blue.

As for brushes they are long handled Chinese brushes, which he imports from China, together with cheap flat varnish brushes 2cm and 5cm, several others of which he doesn't know the English name however here we are. 

Gerard does most of his watercolours in the studio but also paints plein air. He says he has no big stack of sketchbooks but draws directly on the board with pencil b4 and "lets all the lines, also the wrong lines, stand on the board". He then begins the painting process, the dry paper sometimes upright, sometimes flat, using lots of water and pigment, splashing paint on and letting it drip off and always retaining the beautiful parts (happy accidents?) that occur. If necessary he uses nails, credit card, the back of a paintbrush or a pencil to draw or scratch in the wet paint, everything to obtain a good result. He admits he does all sorts of things that are supposedly `not allowed'  but doesn't worry about that as he considers only two things matter, painting in a way you enjoy and obtaining a good artistic result. His ethos is that painting is an exciting adventure, a kind of safari behind the easel. 
Now for some of his paintings.

This  painting of the cheetah is actually acrylic all others watercolour

The above selection gives a good coverage of most of the subjects that Gerard paints. I have read that he `specializes' in wildlife, but flowers, still lifes and landscapes appear almost as frequently. I think them stunning.

If you are as taken by the above as I am then you can follow this up by visiting his website where many more paintings are displayed, and also Youtube to view three demonstration videos. Just search on there for `Gerard Hendriks' videos. If you Google `Gerard Hendriks' lots more comes up.