Friday 29 November 2013

This and That

I went to the AVA session last week but forgot my camera! I actually set out the previous evening to sort myself out and get better organized. I thought I had but when I got there realised I'd left my camera. The pleasures of advancing age!

The subject was Figures or Portraits but this was affected by the proposed model being unable to attend. Basically we then did our own interpretation of the subject. This was the one item (apart from the camera) that I hadn't finalised and I was at a loss  what to do. First of all I raked out an old Amerindian study but in the end attempted a photograph of eldest grandson Harvey taken about a year ago. Quite often at home, with no time or any other pressures, I'll carefully measure and calculate the distances between eyes, nose, mouth etc - if the old masters could use all sorts of mechanical aids why not - and produce a  careful drawing. In this instance I did it the hard way and drew the outline of the head, then put in the features using rough measurements. It worked out roughly right although I didn't quite catch his expression and made him look about fifteen when he is not quite ten.

Harvey 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb (300gsm) not

Not great is it - actually rather poor, eyes too big, face wrong shape etc etc - although the hair isn't bad. Still another step on my return to painting. 


I did a post recently on the demise of PY153 the pigment mostly used in the popular Indian Yellow and Gamboge paints. This was a bit of a blow as the replacements are mixed pigment paints or not identical in colour. However one of the art shops in Bath, F J, Harris in Green Street, has been selling Rowney watercolours at very keen prices for  months. They didn't have the complete range but Indian Yellow was included. When the news broke I  visited the shop, as we live quite close to Bath, but they were out of stock of that colour. On a subsequent visit the same thing occurred so I thought that was it. Last week I called in again and lo and behold the Rowney had been re-stocked and I bought the  two 15ml tubes they had. It says `PY153' on the tubes so I assume this is correct, although some companies have been known to change the pigment without correcting the labels. Price was £5.63p which is almost  £1 cheaper than mail order from Jacksons. This should last a year or more. I wonder how Rowney are fixed with pigment supplies? Added 17/12/13: I called on F.J Harris in Bath at the weekend to buy some art materials for my granddaughter Evie. Checking the Daler Rowney watercolours I spied more Indian Yellow PY153 so purchased another tube ( 15ml at £5.63p). I now have three so that should last a while.


The Spanish company Escoda make a very good range of brushes including Kolinsky sables. From what I have heard they are very nice people to deal with. They are also very good at marketing and have been getting an increasing number of artists to promote their products. The Dutch artist Gerard Hendriks was recently sent an assortment - I gather gratis - and has been testing them. I must admit to being very cynical about the huge, ever growing range, of art products, paints, papers, brushes, you name it, with artists names attached. 

In the case of Escoda, specifically their top of the range Kolinsky series 1212, and retractable series 1214, they have at least two sets, one with Charles Reid's name,  and most recently John Yardley. Up until 2012 Charles Reid always recommended Da Vinci Maestro and indeed this was so on the 2013 workshops, although Escoda retractables were also mentioned and on some demos he used them. He also had a series 1212 Size 14 Escoda, possibly others, and  I subsequently bought one after examining it.  

 On one of his Catalonia workshops Charles was given the royal treatment with a visit to the Escoda factory.  We now have a three brush set of Charles Reid Reserva Series 1214 travel brushes in sizes 6, 8 and 10. Jacksons price is £57.80p but the standard Escoda series 1214 in the same sizes work out at £54.80p.

 I mentioned John Yardley. Escoda have also introduced a John Yardley set of three Reserva 1212 Series, sizes 6/10/12. The price is £49.90p while the same sizes in series 1212 in the basic Escoda name are £60.70! This is really weird, an apparent premium with Charles Reid's name on the brush and a discount if it is John Yardley. I have just checked these prices (Jacksons)  again to make sure I have it right but it is certainly correct as of today. Bromleys appear to be similar although they are only selling some of these special sets and not the standard series. As for John Yardley now recommending Escoda he previously swore by Winsor & Newton Series 7 and used a Size 10, costing over £100, exclusively. In his book about him Ron Ranson commented on the number of series 7 brushes lying about John Yardleys painting room that had been discarded because they had `lost their point'. There is one odd thing. Bromley refer to the Kolinsky sable travel brushes as the `Optimo' range and the 6.8 and 10 come to £45.49p. Is this a different cheaper alternative to the Reserva series? Somewhat bewildering and reinforces the belief that you should take nothing for granted and very carefully check things out before parting with your hard earned money.

If you read the blurb, and the website comments, that refer to these brushes then claims are made that I find difficult to believe. They involve what sizes these artists are said to use and claims that they think they are the `best in the World or best they have ever used'. Well they may be and Escoda do make excellent brushes as I have several, both 1212 and 1214's.  On sizing though they are up to two sizes smaller than Da Vinci and also Raphael, possibly one in some others.  The prices are still very good even taking that into account. Best in the World? I think Rosemary, Da Vinci, Raphael, Isabey and others might dispute that. My current mix of brushes are Isabey and Da Vinci  plus Escoda and Rosemary Travel brushes. I like them all. 


One final item. While playing with my new ipad I came across a website called `'- apparently American. It claimed to `assess' blogs and the following figures were quoted for mine.

World Ranking- 14,335,201 USA 1,970,225
Number of visitors per month: 386
Daily Figure: 0 -17
Average Number of page Reads; 1

If these figures are correct I don't know why I bother. It would be like shouting to oneself in a sound proofed room. According to Blogger stats, this month will hit around 14,000 page reads, which is the highest ever. What should I read into this and which set are correct?

Monday 25 November 2013

The Stork-Billed Kingfisher

This is my latest attempt at a bird for `Painting Colorful Birds for Fun' on Facebook. I first of all made a pencil modified contour drawing using a Pentel  mechanical 07 2B pencil. I painted starting with the head and then moving down the body and finally the tail. After the head was dry I painted the eye using Maimeri Ivory Black leaving a white spot.

 A range of colours reds, Quinacridone Rose, Perylene Maroon and Quinacridone Coral., mostly Daniel Smith. Blues, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72), Turquoise (Lukas PB16) and Prussian Blue (Graham PB27). Yellows Green-Gold (mostly for the background), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49), Gold Ochre (W & N PY43), Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and finally Viridian (Rowney) and Burnt Umber. I think that's it.

Stork-Billed Kingfisher  15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico 90lb Not

I used a lightweight Fabriano paper, mostly because it was handy, quite satisfactory for this kind of subject with very little overpainting. Brushes were the Isabey 6228 Size 8 and the retractable size 4 plus a Rosemary retractable rigger.

The whole thing took about 45 mins. This was my second attempt. I did start a similar study at the AVA meeting yesterday on cheap paper but it wasn't going well so I abandoned it. Too much haste.

Friday 22 November 2013

Animals in Watercolour

Continuing the series of photographic  selections of  paintings I  either like or have found interesting are the following on animals. I believe all are watercolour but I may be mistaken in one or two instances. In several cases I know little or nothing about the specific artist but searching the web may bring more information if you are particularly taken by them. Bear in mind this is just not about animals but illustrates different ways to approach the subject - which may well be applicable to other things - and I would point to the use of colour, which I think is not sufficiently exploited by many artists. Naturally they are only my opinion(s) and you may disagree. I would love to be able to paint like some of those below.

I'll start with this sensational painting from the superb American artist Bev Jozwiak.

Dave White

Frank Ebers

Lars Kruse - a disciple of Gerard Hendriks

Nigel Short - wonderful colours

Nora McPhail - again wonderful colours but in a more delicate manner.

Peng Zigiang - very bold and dynamic

Solveig Rimstad - actually I'm not fond of cats- they kill too many birds.

The delightful Stephie Butler a master of the delicate use of colour.

Peter Williams - amazing but is this watercolour I rather doubt it.?

Both the above are by the wonderful  American artist Morten E Solberg Snr who paints animals in the landscape.

Finally two from the Dutch artist and really delightful person Gerard Hendriks. I think they are both demos. Gerard's reputation continues to rise and he told me he is coming to the UK in 2015. Although this is some way ahead I'll strive to attend his workshop. I regard him in many ways as a European Charles Reid, although there are differences..

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The New Studio

As readers will be aware my house move has involved setting up a new studio. It is more accurately described as my painting room - too modest for a studio. Not for me painting in the kitchen, indeed my wife wouldn't have it so that was a no no from the start. Neither have I the facilities to build a purpose built studio like many top artists have.  Fortunately in my previous home a redundant bedroom, the children having long left, was used for this purpose and proved highly satisfactory. When we moved we downsized and as a result the only space available was  the small third bedroom. This is smaller than my other `studio' and posed a few problems as the `bed' was a permanent wooden structure on which a mattress could be placed to make a bed. Very odd. As several have expressed interest in my `studio', perhaps because they face similar problems in finding somewhere satisfactory to paint, I am showing it as best as I can not in some triumphalist vein but as to what can be achieved with modest resources.   

I promised myself that once the move was concluded - a very traumatic experience - I'd buy myself an Ipad. The grandchildren all have either Ipad minis or Ipod touches so I was feeling I was losing touch with modern technology. I waited until the Ipad air was introduced and here it is. Do I know how to use it? Well the book `Ipad Mini for Dummies' was borrowed from the children but with 360 pages of densely packed diagrams and text is hardly simple! Still I can Facetime them now when I need help!

The two photos above show the partially dismantled structure of the `bed'.  New flooring had to be put down in the middle and some plastering before being painted. The large box-like structure had to remain as the stairs come up underneath it. A new top was put on  and then the whole thing repainted. It serves as a large shelf and  is a repository for paintings both framed and unframed.

This view from the door looking in.

This is on the right hand wall and shows my art books and some storage towers.

Again from the door. There is a large cupboard for more storage. The window is recessed which affects the light. I have a daylight bulb which helps considerably.There is space in the cupboard for another storage shelf.

Still another view. The mirror is temporary and will be replaced by a larger one on the wall which faces the window and should reflect and improve the light.

A final view taken from the recess with the window behind.

Added 26/11/13. This is the room with the mirror now on the wall. The idea, from Zvonimir, is to improve the light and it does, although not to a massive extent. Possibly you would need a really big one. Taken with the smaller camera.

I had to use the lowest 17mm setting on my Nikon DSLR to get everything in so there is some distortion and it tends to make it look larger than it actually is.

That's it then. I now have no excuses not to paint, despite all the conflicting things that involve a new home. The credit card is starting to protest and we're just about to depart on the trail of further necessary (the wife says) purchases!

Sunday 17 November 2013

The Medusa

Whenever I see photographs of this lady, the somewhat notorious Rebekah Brooks, currently on trial for various misdemeanour's involving phone hacking and perverting the course of justice (very serious). I am reminded of the mythical female creature The Medusa. Her shock of red hair and pale features bring this to mind immediately. All that is missing are the snakes and in her previous very powerful role in the Murdoch empire, the object of her displeasure could certainly be turned to stone. Fortunately those days are over (I hope!).

In any event I was taken by a newspaper photograph and decided to attempt my first portrait since relocating to the new abode. This has also christened the new studio.

A closer view

The `Medusa' 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300gsm not

After a loose but careful drawing using a No7 2B mechanical pencil I first painted a wash of Cadmium Red Light and  some Cadmium Yellow light the red predominant, over the face area, not worrying too much about keeping within the boundaries. The hair presented a problem in that this particular shade of red is difficult to emulate but as I was not attempting a super realistic portrayal I didn't worry too much and used various mixtures of Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange and some Burnt Umber added to darken the mix. I partially painted the hair on the left hand side and then concentrated on the features. I soon realised my face mixture was too strong and after completing the eyes, nose, mouth etc - and letting them dry - I added acrylic white in places to lighten the face colour. People with red hair tend to have very pale complexions. I then painted the hair using  bold strokes and not being too finicky. 

Her top was Cerulean Blue and the scarf left the white of the paper with splotches of Burnt Umber in various dilutions. The orange splash is Schminke Translucent Orange. 

Finally I added small shadows on the face with a few final touches. Brushes were the two Isabey retractables sizes 4 and 6 together with the Isabey Kolinsky sables sizes 6 and 8. I also used the Da Vinci Artissimo 44 mop but this is proving a problem as, when cleaning, the head is coming out of the ferrule and has to be put back in. This was an expensive brush so this is annoying and may mean I'll have to retire it soon.

All in all an enjoyable session and I rather like the result, although how it will be received remains to be seen.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Shoes, Hats & Bags

This was the subject at today's AVA session. Only eleven members were present, perhaps a reflection of the popularity of the subject! However the hardcore were there gritting their teeth but ploughing on nevertheless. Actually I'm joking as the subject didn't seem to faze anyone that much and there were a variety of reasons for the low turnout.

Yvonne Harry setup

Pat Walker

Yvonne Harry

Not sure whose this is.

Jo McKenna



 This was my setup

Initial Contour Drawing

Fabriano Schizzi Sketching paper A3 120 gm (56lbs)

I was unsure what I wanted to do so decided to just do a drawing on sketching paper. Once it was finished - by my standards anyway - I had so much time left I decided to add a little paint. On it went and eventually finished as shown above. I did think it was going to be a disaster as my approach was half-baked to say the least but in the end I don't think it finished too badly. The whole thing took about an hour with several breaks. I used two brushes, the Escoda retractable Kolinsky Size 12 and the Rosemary retractable rigger. Colours were, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Cerulean with some Ultramarine Violet and Viridian in the background plus a little Quinacridone Rose. I also added some pen and ink, not something I normally do, to give it a more defined look.

Monday 11 November 2013

Painting Colorful Birds for Fun

As regulars will know I have contributed in the past to the Facebook page `Painting Colorful Birds for Fun'. This was initiated by the artists Robin Berry and Gerard Hendriks. Up to three months ago I made several contributions, some better than others. With all the trauma (I promise I shall stop referring to this as it is becoming tedious) of selling and buying houses, and finally moving to a new home, my painting suffered badly, mostly by not happening. I can't afford to slip back too much as it remains poised on a knife edge. Finally the `studio' is almost complete - just a few things to refine it - so I want to get back to painting and/or drawing at least three sessions per week. The following birds are the result of a drawing I made over three months ago and I can't even remember what species they are, other than being exotic. The subject at the AVA meeting last week was `A Misty Day, and as usual I finished early. As I had brought the bird drawing with me I painted it in the remaining 30 minutes. 

16" x 12" Gerstaeker No.3 90lb Not

The paper is a cheap cellulose one from Great Art but is okay for this type of study, although better quality paper usually improves (not always!) the result. As you can see the birds are very colourful with presumably male and female represented. Blues were Teal Blue (Daniel Smith PG50) and Cerulean (Rowney PB35). The greens are mainly Hookers (Graham) and a little Sap Green also Graham.. Ivory Black features as does Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith) and Raw Sienna (W & N) I'm not sure which red I used but the purple is a mixture of Moonglow (DS) and red. Not great but  a step in my `comeback'.

Brushes were the usual Escoda retractable Kolinskys plus the Isabey retractable Size 6.

Thursday 7 November 2013

A Misty Day

The subject at the Avon Valley Artists session today was `A Misty Day', Not exactly an easy nor - dare I say it - a popular subject. Still many subjects are difficult the idea being to stretch members beyond their comfort zone. Quite a good turnout with 18 members present. Not everyone painted in watercolour with some pastels and also acrylics.

Jan Weeks - I hadn't realised that Jan rarely uses a photographic reference

Kathy Wilkins

Pauline Vowles

Yvonne Harry

The above is my effort with the first stage above it. I used mainly Ultramarine Blue with mainly Burnt Sienna for the greys and darks in various dilutions. The greens are Hookers Green and Sap Green. Brushes were primarily the Escoda retractable Kolinsky Size 12 then switching to the number 10.  The actual painting shows greater contrast than the reproduction above.