Wednesday 21 December 2011

Last post for 2011

Preparations for the big day are taking up all of my time and the small amount of painting done isn't in a fit shape to share. I've been battling a very stubborn painting but to no avail and now time has run out. (A lesson learned in not trying to fit too much in methinks.) No matter, 2011 has ended on a high note with a successful exhibition at the Hayloft.

I would like to finish my last post of 2011 with a special message of thanks to everyone who has shown me so much support throughout the year both in and out of the blogosphere. I wish you all a very happy holiday season and a happy, healthy and successful 2012. I look forward to catching up with everyone in the new year.

Best wishes,
Lisa x

Tuesday 13 December 2011

A frozen moment

Frozen Moment
28x28cm acrylic on paper
©2010 Lisa Le Quelenec
Wow! What a storm we had last night! High winds and lashing rain, the kind of night that makes you glad to be home and tucked up in the warm. For the most part it's been a day of sunshine with the odd shower but as I type the rain is making a return and the wind is picking up. This evening will be a time to hunker down with a good book, I recently bought Turner on Tour by Inge Herold ISBN9783791332116
which is making for some interesting reading. For a small book it is nicely illustrated too. At the moment I am exploring the chapter on Venice and dreaming of a return trip..... sigh....

So to spite all of this mucky weather that's around I thought I'd share this painting from the summer. I have relied heavily on photographic reference with the memories of the waves breaking in one particular spot in my head. It was quite a calm day and the sea was flat but right at the last minute the lazy swell would have one last surge of energy before hitting the sand. An almost, '..oh go on then if I must..' half hearted attitude.

I'm in the middle of a battle at the moment with a painting started last week. The pressure is on as I want to have it finished before the Christmas break.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

A treasure trove

Ginkgo study coloured pencil 20x27cm ©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec   
Whelk study ©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

Explorations of some of the treasure I've picked up recently. All of these have been drawn using coloured pencils on buff coloured paper.

A while back after a very windy day I picked up lots of ginkgo leaves but couldn't find the tree. I assumed it must have been in someones back garden. I found it last week when I took a different route. A large area of the street was golden with the leaves that had fallen. A few more specimens came home with me and now I'm thinking of a mini project exploring these lovely shapes.

Feather Study © Lisa Le Quelenec

Thursday 1 December 2011

Light across the bay

Light Across the Bay
acrylic on paper 25x25cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

Stage 2
stage 1
Stage 1&2, blocking in the basic colours using buff titanium, azure blue and indanthrene.  This painting is on HOT PRESS 300lb Arches, my favourite watercolour paper. Then using a lot of dry brushing I built up the tones I needed to give shape to the waves in the bottom section. I made the horizon especially dark using indigo mixes knowing that this would become much lighter at a later stage as more layers were added. I wanted to have tiny, subtle touches of dark in this area that would blend into the haze.

Stage 4
Stage 3
At stage 3 I could add in the silhouette of Old Harry Rocks and the delicious bright light that underlined it. Once dry I added more dry brushing to soften and lighten the dark at the horizon. I used thick blots of paint to suggest the sparkles, a lot of them were pure colour and unmixed titanium white. Touches of phthalo blue were also introduced at this stage. It doesn't really show up in the photo but I lightened the bottom wave shape with patches of the darker blue still showing through but in much smaller amounts.

Stage 4 and more dry brushing and glazing over the the whole of the water adding back some warmth. I am happy with the patina of the surface that is building up now. All the layers gel together each one partially hidden from the next but with dots and dashes showing through for a shimmering surface of colour.  A new wave shape had suggested itself and was painted in, the shadow of both of these two waves was added with glazes of indigo and phthalo. A very pale dilution of the wave glaze was used in the top of the sky.

Finally another layer of a predominantly azure mix over the water to inject a bit more colour and warmth, some dark added into the bottom wave and a few highlights..... and I'm going to call it finished. I think there will be a bit of a crop to take out a little of the sky when it comes to framing, but I won't think about that until I've gotten some distance from it.

I mentioned earlier about the patina of the surface that built up with the layers of paint. This is an aspect that is very important to me in my acrylics. As I started with a completely smooth surface for this painting, the texture that you see is just made from paint giving me more control. Had I used a paper with tooth it would look completely different and more uniform, this is something that I can find quite constricting. I've tried to get a photo of the textural qualities of  the painting - it was hard to get a close up with my camera. ( my camera skills still need improvement - the painting has a straight horizon too ;o) ) In contrast the sky area is completely smooth where it had been built up with glaze.

So this is what I have been up to over the past week or so, the short days we have now make for much shorter painting time. I've never been very good at painting by electric light despite using daylight bulbs. It does mean more drawing is back on the schedule though which is my silver lining.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Light across the bay - beginings of a painting

sunlight on the sea
coloured pencil on mid toned paper

This was a sketch done form memory, I've sketched this view from the beach at Branksome Chine many times. The overwhelming memory that I have from this particular day during the summer was the light. Full cloud over head, small breaks over the sea which cast lines of sparkle and the band of light that seemed to underline the distant silhouette of Old Harry Rocks and at the horizon a clear and hazy sky. I've painted this underlining band of the light before but this time I want to emphasise all of the sparkly light that glitters along the surface water. There wasn't much swell at all just a few lazy little waves close to the shore.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Summer storms

There have been some quite rough seas of late, as there are every autumn. The evidence is left on the shore, lots of broken up driftwood, cuttlefish and quite a few mermaid's purses (sounds prettier than dogfish egg cases) and I've found lots of whelk shells. There's also been quite a lot of seaweed washed up that I'm told is usually only seen in deep water. All of this will I'm sure be subjects for future paintings except that I'm so caught up in skies that it may be some time before I get to them.

Summer Storm I
watercolour on paper 15x15cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

These two paintings have been a continuation of my grey and black experiments, this time mixing up neutral tint, ivory black and weak additions of cobalt turquoise. (there may have been a touch of raw sienna too.) I've been trying to capture the stillness and silence that descends just before a storm breaks. The gulls glide along thermals seeming to anticipate the heavy weather that is about to descend. Summer storms of which we had a few are always stickier, the heat feels oppressive but they are magical as well in the speed in which they build. The relief once the rain has fallen is exhilarating and then just as suddenly as it appeared it's gone and the blue summer skies are back.

Summer Storm II
watercolour on paper 15x15cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

Both of these paintings are for sale in my Etsy store .

Monday 21 November 2011

A big thank you and great news

End of the Day
acrylic on canvas 50x50cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec
Chasing the Light
acrylic on canvas 50x50cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

This weekend was busy with the craft fair at Hobourne, it was a lovely day with lots of visitors. I'd like to say a really big thank you to Margaret and the CADArts team for all their hard work in organising, setting up and advertising such a successful event.

I've also had some good news today, two of my paintings have been accepted in this years Red House Museum Open Exhibition. I am really pleased as I saw when I handed in the work last week just how high the standard of work was going to be from the entries already there.  The theme for the show this year was Daydreams and Brilliant Colours  and the two pieces I entered were End of the Day and Chasing the Light. What a great start to the week.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Speed sketching

Two recent pages from my pocket sketchbook that I use on my walks. Trying to sketch the dogs as they run around and play is a challenge the birds gliding were much easier. The pages are about 13x13cm so each little sketch is really tiny but sometimes it's good to focus on an element rather than the big view all the time.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Busy, busy, busy....

Into the blue
acrylic on card 8x8cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec
Soar! framed in a 10x10inch whitewashed ash
with a double white textured mount

Exhibitions seem to come along like buses and deadlines have been coming thick and fast. (I'm sure I've said that before on this blog...) On top of finishing paintings for shows, time has been taken up with mount cutting, framing, cello wrapping, labeling, stewarding at the Hayloft and preperation for a commission. I love to be busy and I'm not complaining but I do wonder why it is when I'm upto my eyeballs that I have all these ideas racing through my head for new work. I've a few pages of thumbnails and notes just waiting to be explored, if only I could invent a way of gaining just a few hours extra in a day.

Anyhoo, hopefully I've managed to photograph these two peices of work with out too much reflection in the glass. The first is of a tiny study, just 8x8cm. It's painted on bevelled edged mountboard (I used a mountcutter to get the angle after it was painted so the edges would be clean white.) and floated onto a second piece of card. To set the image back in the frame a hidden mount lies under the upper mount raising it to keep the image away from the glass. (I do hope this makes sense?)

The second photo Soar! - which you may remember from a couple of posts ago is now framed in a double mount with a 10x10 inch white washed ash frame. The warmth of the wood coming through the wash fits well with the warm colour in the cloud and keeps everything quite subtle. Both of these pieces will be coming with me to the Christmas Arts & Crafts Fair at Hobourne on Sunday. The venue has been renovated since I was there last year and I can't wait to see the work that has been done - it was lovely before but I'm told it is even better now. If you are in the area do stop by and say hello it would be lovely to see you.

Monday 7 November 2011

10 of my favourite books

Today I thought I'd share some details of my favourite painting/print making books in the hope that you will share with me some of yours. Now the colder, darker and wetter months are well on their way there's nothing better than to curl up with a good art book to read up on skills, methods, techniques and to stay inspired. The following ten are some of my favourites, (although there are many more.... I'm a bookaholic) the ones that I keep returning to. I've included the ISBN numbers of the editions that I have. Should you want to look them up at your bookstore of choice keep in mind that there may be newer editions of some of them. I believe only a couple are out of print. In no particular order....

Raw Colour with Pastels by Mark Leach ISBN 9780713489996 (hardback)
Sadly this artist is no longer with us but he has left us with stunning artwork and this marvelous book about his art, thoughts and techniques. The book has a friendly and accessible feel to it much as I imagine his character was. I love his use of colour and his ability to distill the landscape to it's essence.  Click here to stop by his website where there are further links, one of which is a picasa album of his work which is well worth a visit.

Sketchbooks 2003-2004 Kurt Jackson ISBN 9781850221906 (paperback)
There's nothing I like more than a rootle through other peoples sketchbooks, it's always interesting to see where they get their ideas and inspiration from. Kurt Jackson is a favourite artist of mine, his work can be seen here . This book is a selection of sketchbook pages from 25 sketchbooks through a year from one spring to the next. ( I know - how prolific is that!) It is filled with gestural pencil studies as well as mixed media and watercolours. I really like the notes that he makes in his sketches that become an integral piece of his more finished work.

Realistic Abstracts by Kees van Aalst ISBN 9781844485604 (paperback)
This is a book I have returned to a few times over the last year as I explore some of the concepts discussed in it. A full review that I wrote on it in January can be found here .

Plants and Places by Angie Lewin ISBN 9781858945361 (hardback)
This book is a real feast for the eyes if like me you love print making. Completed works, design development drawings, sketches - it has it all. A link to her website is here . One of the things that I like most about Lewin's work is her palette, the sometimes unusual combinations that she uses. At the back of the book is a list of some of her favourite books which I was interested to find, especially as we share some common ground in books and artists that we admire, for example Eric Ravilious and Robert Gillmor.

Cutting Away by Robert Gillmor ISBN 1904078141 (hardback)
A beautifully presented overview of this popular lino cutters work. I first became aware of his prints when I spotted some greetings cards produced by Art Angels a few years or so ago. I didn't know anything more about his work and then I saw this book in a catalogue and ordered it on a whim. To me it was more than worth the gamble as it really is a beautiful book filled with reproductions of his beautiful natural history, mostly birds, lino prints. Whilst writing this post and looking unsuccessfully for a website I have come across a retrospective exhibition that continues until 29th April 2012 here in Reading. A few of  the gorgeous images are on this page.

The Watercolours of John Singer Sargent by Carl Little ISBN 0520219708
Sargent is one of my favourite artists for his watercolours alone. His lightness of touch, expressiveness and the way he captured the colour of light I find uplifting. There seems to me a real sense of the joy of painting in his watercolours, they speak to me of the immense fun he had painting them. I was lucky enough to see the exhibition Sargent and the Sea at the Royal Academy last year, an exhibition that I enjoyed immensely. At the end of the show was a couple of his Venice watercolours that I spent nearly as much time studying as all of the rest of the exhibition. If I could get just a smidgen of his skill in watercolour I would be immensely happy.

Vibrant Watercolours by Shirley Trevena ISBN 0007225237 (hardback)
A full review of this book that I wrote some time ago is here this is a fantastic book for when the creative block hits. It's a well trusted remedy that I keep on hand to be boosted on, propelled by Shirley's energising enthusiasm.

Composition Understanding Line Notan and color by Arthur Wesley Dow ISBN 9780486460079 (paperback)
A classic and a firm favourite of mine. On days lacking in inspiration I often return to this book to pick where I've left off on exercises to improve composition. I think this is one of the many areas I will spend a lifetime trying to improve. I confess to begin with I stumbled a little on the older style of language but once past that this book really is one of the best.

Rowland Hilder Painter of the English Landscape by John Lewis ISBN 1851490507 (hardback)
A gem that I picked up in a charity shop over the summer for a couple of pounds. There is so much about this artists work that I like, most especially the way he captured light. There are lots of illustrations, quite a few that are black and white, which is an asset in the case of this book as it shows off the strong tonal patterns used in Hilder's work. Really meaty darks in contrast to the brightest of bright lights - very exciting, whilst still portraying the calm tranquility and timelessness of the landscape.

Inspired by Light by Ken Howard ISBN 0715308416 (hardback)
This book is packed with illustrations of his sketches, watercolours and oils. The artist shares his thoughts and ideas and how he sees painting as, 'revelation, communication and celebration..' a wonderful place to come to painting from. If someone mentions the term 'contre jour' Ken Howard is the artist who immediately springs to mind, for me he is the master of it.

I know I said this was going to be 10 of my favourite books but I just couldn't leave this one out so lets make it 11...

Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson ISBN 9780486229270 (paperback)
Another very popular classic that I heard about on Loriann's blog some time back. Where had I been not to have heard of this one before? (-maybe it's better known in the US?) In the last twelve months that I've had a copy of this I have read it in full maybe three or four times and have dipped into it countless times. My copy is rarely on the bookshelf, I prefer it to be either on the bedside table or in the studio. There is a lot of information to absorb, it covers a lot of ground and I only wish I'd heard of it sooner. Chapters can be read here on google books, after reading them here myself first I then had to order my own copy as I wanted to read the missing ones.

The crux of this post is that I have a couple of book vouchers to spend and whilst I have a never ending list of books that I 'need' to get (when does want become need anyway? :o) ) I was just wondering what your favourites are and what you would recommend?

Thursday 3 November 2011

A break in the cloud

rain study
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

Rain and lots of it at the moment here in Dorset. It seems we will have a slight respite this afternoon before the next lot arrives. For now my roof is holding, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it is now fixed. I'm off to hand in some work for the Holly & Hayloft exhibition this afternoon which runs until 21st December. Fingers crossed the rain hold off until after the hand in. Soggy pictures are no fun ;o)

Anyway, a small study of rain over the sea. Distant rain suggested with tone and closer bouts sketched in with a hard pencil and indenting the paper with a finger nail to emboss. The watercolour then ran into the dents drying darker. Something to develop further perhaps...

Monday 31 October 2011


watercolour 15.5x15.5cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

I wonder if looking back on 2011 I'll be thinking about how I went through a grey period? I certainly feel like this has been a recurring theme and I have definitely been falling in love with greys and all the colours they contain. The above is a study from a set of five (so far) that I have painted over the last few days, that seem to be turning into an unexpected series. The intention was to jot down some ideas in watercolour for a series of acrylic paintings but I got drawn in (no pun intended) and they've developed into little paintings.

Ironically after all the black watercolour experiments that I did none of these contain any of those colours. These ones have all been done with Indigo, perylene maroon and touches of raw sienna all Daler Rowney artists range on Saunders (I think) 140lb NOT. Lots of wet in wet and encouraging blooms and runs of paint with some wet on dry. I've also used touches of white gouache for the gulls, I could use masking fluid but I think the look would be too harsh, I've only ever been able to use it semi-successfully in more graphic work.

Do they stand well enough on their own not to become acrylic versions? What do you think? Food for thought perhaps... but for later as I really must get some framing finished in time for a deadline this week (yikes!) for the Christmas show at the Hayloft Gallery in Christchurch. 

Sunday 30 October 2011

Summer sea sketches

I've been looking through some sketchbooks pining for the hot summer days and thought I'd post some sketches. The first sketch is coloured pencil and the last two are watercolour.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

And the trees whisper

And the trees whispered
13.5x13.5cm acrylic on paper
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

We are being treated to some amazing cloud displays here in Dorset. One minute blazing sunshine the next heavy cloud bursting with rain. Celebratory bright sunlight that turns the rain silver and makes the yellow in the trees sparkle against purple/blue skies. Inspiration for the above painting, the wind picks up and the trees whisper, I hold my breath...

Monday 24 October 2011

Walking the dog

Walking the Dog
17x26cm acrylic on paper
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

I have finally finished a painting started last September. The image on the right is where I had gotten to. It was a painting that was put aside into the to do pile.

It felt hemmed in with the cloud and the sand ripples competing for space. By making the sky plainer it feels much more open, I think the mood feels much more relaxed. The addition of the dog and owner (I make lots of really quick sketches when I'm at the beach - random marks that just take a few seconds) helps to give it a better sense of scale.

Clicking here will take you to my Etsy shop where this painting is available for sale.

Thursday 20 October 2011

A trip to the Smoke

I'm back after a stay in London, 'refilling the creative well' visiting exhibitions and museums.  The initial reason for the trip was to attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to see Pink Martini, who describe themselves as a thirteen piece mini orchestra - a fusion of many styles, eras and cultures. Click here to see a recording on YouTube of one of their tracks. I love this band and often have the Cd's playing in the background whilst I paint. The concert was fantastic and I hope I can get to see them play again soon.

The two top of my list exhibitions that I wanted to see were 'Degas and the Ballet - Picturing Movement' at the Royal Academy and The Royal Society of Marine Artists at the Mall Galleries . The Degas exhibition didn't disappoint, I read this in depth review last month and had been really looking forward to it. I am a great admirer of Degas, his use of colour is something that I particularly enjoy. He is also the first name that springs to my mind when someone mentions pastel and I couldn't wait to get up close to examine the marks and methods of application that he used.

There were many drawings on display which I thought made a nice change. Quite often I prefer to look at an artists drawings, sketchbooks and preparatory work than their paintings. I like to see the process behind the end product, which explains just why I do so much blog hopping. Could it be in the future that exhibitions will display blog posts next to paintings? There's a thought.... I guess it's already happening with QR codes on the labels of each picture that take you to a website which I see some places are doing. I wonder what Degas' blog would have looked like...

Also at the Royal Academy is an exhibition by Frank Bowling of works on paper, these are abstract pieces full of sensitive mark making and glorious colour and light.

On the left are some of the colour notes I made. I often make thumbnails of the colours of paintings and their relative proportions to each other. This is something that I picked up after seeing an exhibition of Joesph Albers where I saw lots of studies where he explored not only one colour in relation to another but also the effect proportion played on their relationship. It can be a good exercise to borrow another artist's colours/colour proportions and paint your own subject and style. Making the same image with one done in opposite proportions of the colours can make for interesting comparisons.

The Marine Artists exhibition is also well worth a visit, some of the artists whose work that I particularly liked were Keith Noble, Rowena Wright, Keith Richens and Ian Phillips.  The paintings that attracted me the most were the ones where the artist had painted the light, which might sound odd but a fair few had more of a focus on colour, pattern or composition. It would be hard to pick a favourite out of the show but one that caught my eye was 'Silver Sands, Long Rock' by Keith Noble. The light was delicious and whilst it wasn't a big painting it drew me in with it's sunlight from across the gallery. I spent a long time there looking at all the work (over 300 pieces) and could have spent longer but His Nibbs was in the park waiting. As it turned out I needn't have hurried as he was being entertained by these lovelies...

Thursday 13 October 2011

A moon halo and brown clouds

moon halo and brown cloud
watercolour double page spread sketchbook page 13x26cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec 

Coming home last night from a trip to the supermarket and looking up I saw the most beautiful sight. The sky was an aqua/purple/blue with a full moon that had a many ringed and coloured halo. The most unusual thing, to me, was the edges of the clouds were burnt sienna with the main body a warm chocolatey brown/purple. It looked amazing, I don't think that I have seen  a night sky with so much colour in. By the time I had got home the sky had cleared of cloud and everything was back to normal colours.

It had been raining a very fine misty drizzle earlier and the evening was damp. I'm wondering if some of the warm colours could be explained by the light pollution of orange coloured street lights tinting the moisture in the air? I don't know the science of it but I can really appreciate the beauty, my poor little sketch doesn't come close.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Chasing the light

Chasing the Light
acrylic on box canvas 50x50cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

I've been trying to capture the light as the sun sinks but before sunset and the orangey pink colours start to happen. I've been using layers of glaze again and scumbling/dry brushing lots of pure colour throughout this painting, letting the colour vibrate and mix optically. The sea portion isn't quite as blue in reality - it's knocked back with glazes of the warmer oranges. I really feel like I've loosened up working on these larger paintings and I'm hoping that it will continue when I scale down again.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Summer's dancing light

Summer's Dancing Light
acrylic on board 80x34cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

A great many glazes later and I can finally call this one finished. The land masses have been knocked back and the detail that was starting to creep into them have been faded out which I think has helped the feeling of depth. The water has had so many glazes that the spattered highlights now appear encapsulated into the paintings surface giving it more the appearance of light 'in' as well as 'on' the water. I think the effect is much more subtle.

I really enjoy painting these larger pieces but it is making for much less frequent blog posting.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Unexpected sketching

watercolour and coloured pencil

Last week I took advantage of an unexpected free afternoon to go down to the beach for some sketching. I sat on the sliver of dunes that run between the beach and the land that runs towards Hengistbury Head. There was quite a breeze coming off the sea that day but I found a sheltered little spot and hunkered down for the afternoon.

The first sketch was watercolour and whilst I was happy with the sky and half of the water I just lost it halfway down the page, so I attacked it with coloured pencil.  The second sketch is lightly better, as the sun had moved around it gave some beautiful shadows that just cried out to be done in pastel. Both sketches are slightly smaller than A4.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Drunk on sunshine

Remember this sketch below? It was the light sparkling on the water that had caught my eye and that I wanted to record. The sketch was done in watercolour in my mini moleskine and the memory has been turning over in my mind ever since.

I'm painting on an MDF board that is 80x34cm (the original sketch is 27x8cm) so whilst it is very much bigger I've also played slightly with the ratio which now just feels more comfortable. The colours that I'm using are azure blue, indigo, phthalo turquoise, white and parchment. The phthalo turquoise is a beautiful colour but so very powerful that I'm only using tiny touches in glazes, barely a whisper makes all the difference.

The atmosphere that I want to create is that of a warm summer evening when the light turns mellow and golden... the feeling after a day spent in the sun when you feel drunk and dozy on sunshine as you walk home. I did some experiments with how to vary the size of spatter which I'm making using an old toothbrush (the more fluid the paint the bigger the droplets). It's very surprising the amount of control that you need for this, you can see in the second picture below where I've wiped down some of the spatter in the land toward the right side as it had started to get out of control. I've been painting this one very slowly, there have been layers and layers of glaze laid over spatters of paint. Then more spatters followed by more glaze.  I'm really enjoying the process and gradually the depth and form are starting to emerge.



It's been hard to stay in and paint as we have had a lovely spell of good weather with more forecast for the next few days which makes me want to spend all my time outside. I did have a very last minute whole afternoon of sketching last week which was made all the more special as it was so unexpected. More on that later.

Anyway I'm at the halfway mark, I think, with this painting - lots more glazing to go.

Monday 19 September 2011

Continuing to explore tube grey in watercolour

Getting to know W&N neutral tint on Arches NOT 140lb

A very kind and generous friend, after seeing my last post, has sent me a tube of Winsor & Newton neutral tint to experiment with along with some different paper to test it out on. (Thank you so much!) You can see the first experiments, getting to know the new pigment above. A few of these will, I think, develop into paintings over time.

The repetition of painting variations of the same theme in very quick succession seems to work really well for me in generating ideas. The act of painting becomes much more intuitive and whilst the results of the sketches couldn't be considered finished pieces they do hold little gems that can be developed into further work. (I find mono printing is another lovely technique for this).

My conclusions so far;

* All the paints were much easier to lift out, either with a dry brush or tissue on Arches watercolour paper than the Khadi which is much more absorbent. I think this is due to the differences in the sizing and materials used to make the paper. The Khadi paper is much more fibrous and 'woolly' - characteristics that could be used to advantage with different techniques.

* W&N neutral tint hasn't granulated in any of my experiments, the Daler version did so easily with some very beautiful results as did their ivory black. This will be due to the different pigments used to make the colours. Using these colours in paintings I would consider all the characteristics, possibly using non-granulating W&N neutral tint for skies and Daler neutral tint for granulating textures in the sea.

* W&N neutral tint veers toward purple and the Daler version to a more pinky colour to my eye.

* I would describe ivory black as a warm, soft willow charcoal grey and lamp black as a harder compressed charcoal black. (- hope that makes sense...) I think I would gravitate toward the softness of ivory black for tonal sketching.

from left to right; W&N neutral tint, Daler neutral tint, Daler ivory black, Daler lamp black, Daler sepia W&N Payne's grey (In the test pieces above I painted around the moon rather than lifting the paint out.)

This little dalliance on the dark side has been interesting and is something I will continue to explore. However, with exhibitions fast approaching and deadlines all seeming to come together, as they do, experimenting like this will have to take a back seat for a little while. There will be more posts coming in the future though.

Monday 12 September 2011

In praise of breaking the rules

This post has been inspired by a comment left in my last post. It's quite long but hopefully not too rambling....

'A tangent always leads somewhere... beyond the known and comfortable! Isn't that what making art is all about... ?... Exploring and growing!   - Bruce Sherman

Bruce I couldn't agree more...

For years I didn't used black paint, after all so much better to mix complimentary colours to get harmonising greys in a painting. ....and black in watercolour...perish the thought! Then a very kind person gave me some paint. Nestling in a box of tube pigments were two tubes, Payne's grey and ivory black. I would pass by these two tubes always reaching for the other colours and staunchly ignoring them.

One day my curiosity got the better of me and I took out the Payne's grey. I think as much as anything the name had put me off as I equated it with 'dull' and 'boring'. What a wonderful surprise awaited..... hold the front page.... Payne's grey is actually a wonderful blue! I took a while to experiment and get better acquainted.

For a long time ivory black was still ignored like the wicked witch in a fairytale. Then one of those days when you want/need to paint but don't have anything in mind arrived. I was just about to pass by that little tube of ivory black once more when I thought hold on I'm a grown up now I may have always been taught never to use black in watercolour but since when did I always listen to the rules? Don't the best break throughs come from always asking what if? What if I add a touch of red in there? What if I use a knife for that stroke instead of a brush? What if I use black...? In a spirit of rebellion I tried it out and started to use it in mixes.

Ivory black is interesting, it's warm, it made me think of sepia. It's a fairly weak, single pigment colour and feels soft like willow charcoal. Mixed with yellows it makes some lovely greens and with blue makes for good 'English winter' (in other words greyish) sea colours.

neutral tint experiment
Fast forward to my last post.... Maggie suggested instead of ivory black that I tried neutral tint. This is another colour that I've had in my collection and not used. I tried a little out in my colour notebook. Oh boy..... this colour is a whole new personality to get to know... To start with it felt very black, leaving the wash standing a while I could see a film of red develop on the top....hmmmmm interesting. A quick check on the colour chart told me that neutral tint is made from three pigments, (red iron oxide, mars black and ultramarine blue) so it must be the iron oxide floating to the top, and the reason for the pink tinge.

At Maggie's suggestion I tried another version of a moonlit sea just using neutral tint and water - no other colours and no gouache. What a disaster! As you can see...

I tried to blot out highlights in the moon and sky with not much success.... the pigment seems to be a stainer (due to the red in it?). So I resorted to scraping through with a scalpel... the khadi paper didn't take too well to that kind of treatment, it rebelled by fluffing up and refused to give me back my sparkle. This could be because I was getting pretty impatient by that time and the paper was still a little damp. In it's defense though one of the qualities I liked about it was it's absorbency. This experiment feels very hard, dark and oppressive - completely opposite to to what I am trying to achieve in my moonscapes which is a feeling of softness, light, and sparkle.

Not to be deterred I thought to myself that the best way to get to know a new colour is to go back to basics an make a colour chart. The pigments are mixed roughly half and half and I have used Payne's grey, ivory black and neutral tint so that the mixes can be compared side by side.

There were a few surprises for me at the end of this. The three colours that stand out for me in these mixes with neutral tint are when it is added to cadmium lemon pale, cobalt turquoise and quinacridone magenta. (I may need to do a separate chart and test sketch to try out the variables of mixing these colours..... another tangent for another day... ). Now that I felt better acquainted with neutral tint, it was time to have another go at the moonscape using it mixed with indigo and ultramarine violet as in the first experiment but without the gouache.

I still had the problem of the paint seeming to stain which made blotting and lifting out very difficult. Again I have used a scalpel to lift out some highlights.

I think I would need to spend quite a bit more time with neutral tint to gain experience in how to use it successfully. I'm not sure I like the red in it (I very rarely use red) preferring yellow/orange tones which maybe is why I prefer ivory black. It was interesting to see how the neutral tint made more of the violet. I think there is a lesson it this for me... when choosing to use a pre-made grey to darken colours I need to take into account the other pigments I'm going to use and which tone of grey will suit them best - to treat the grey as a colour in it's own right, rather than a darkener if you see what I mean.

In conclusion, I've really enjoyed taking some time to experiment and it has been a reminder that breaking 'the rules' every now and again can be a healthy way to explore new possibilities. The time spent on these test pieces will I think really help in the next couple of paintings that I have planned (even though they will be in acrylic)

**** EDIT    Brands used;
                 Ivory black Daler Rowney,  Neutral tint Daler Rowney,  Payne's grey Winsor & Newton

**** Maggie Latham a much more experienced watercolourist has posted her take and a repeat of these experiments here her results are a lot different to mine and she raises some really interesting points. She has made the post a part of her Colour Talk Series which I would reccommend reading.