Monday 31 January 2011

Realistic Abstracts by Kees van Aalst.... a review

© Search Press
When I buy an art book it's not always the written content that's the clincher for me to part with my pennies. Sometimes it's the amount and quality of the illustrations that it contains. The title and cover of this book were enough for me to know that I needed it. I had it on order from Search Press before it was released and it hasn't disappointed. I confess I hadn't heard of this artist/author/teacher before who is from the Netherlands, after reading this book I would love to attend one of his workshops. To me his paintings portray a sincere love of painting, there is a lot of joy and enthusiastic excitement in the brushstrokes and fluidity of the paint that shines through.

As the book is aimed at more experienced painters to challenge and stretch their working methods, rather than beginners, there is a very short discussion at the beginning about colours and materials that might be needed and some examples of techniques.  It's almost as a reminder rather than one of those long and laborious explanations that take up vast portions of other books, which personally I find frustrating. The book is aimed at those using water based media although in many ways I think it is useful for all mediums.

Rather the majority of the book is used to explain the concepts of seven principles, (unity, contrast, dominance, repetition, variety, balance, and harmony) and seven elements, (line, tone, colour, texture, form, proportion and direction). Each is eloquently explained with lots of illustrations. As a list I would say it is a very useful guideline for analysing and improving your work. The onus of the book is to transform, '...reality by means of elimination and simplification' with reference to these elements and principles.
© Kees van Aalst
The illustration on the right is from page 111 and is the culmination of a step-by-step demonstration showing how using a limited palette and building up the tones leads to a unified painting whilst also re enforcing the other principles and elements.

You are encouraged to, 'Paint what you feel, not what you see.' which is a far cry from the 'paint what you see not what you think you see' often chanted at art school.  It's not a how to paint book as such but more a how to express what you feel, encouraging you to develop you own self expression in a fluid, gestural and impressionistic way. I see this book as an encouraging bridge between the realms of competent amateur and the first steps to becoming an artist.

As well as many examples by van Aalst to illustrate the points made he has also included works by other artists; Xavier Swolfs (one of my favourite watercolourists) Heleen Vriesendorp, Viktoria Prischedko and Cao Bei-An amongst others. I think this makes for an interesting mix of people who use this kind of approach in their painting. The collection of illustrations alone make this book stand out for me and I know it is one I will dip in and out of for inspiration for some time to come.

I'd like to end this post with a big thank you to Search Press especially Mary and Vanessa for allowing me to reproduce the images and a huge thank you to the author Kees Van Aalst for writing such an interesting, inspiring and exciting book.

Friday 28 January 2011

Some exciting news...

Drum roll please.........

I've finally joined the ranks of those lovely people at Etsy and gone and got myself a shop! To have a peek click on the link here. I'm very excited as this will be the first time that I have put work for sale on the web and feel that it is about time I gave it a try. I'll be adding work on a weekly basis and will have some pieces for sale that will have been on this blog and other paintings that won't have been seen before.

 If you haven't heard of Etsy before it's the most wonderful site full of the most amazing and talented artists and makers from across the world, all selling their wares in individual shops under one roof. (I think of it as an arts and craft department store) It's the perfect place for gift buying (and full of lots of lovely treats for yourself too ;o)  )

Please let me know what you think.

Thursday 27 January 2011

The moon is bright tonight

 Four stages of the first painting in a mini series. (I'm working on the second at the moment.) It's painted using acrylic FW ink and acrylic paint. You can get watercolour-like thin washes with the ink and lots of water and still have quite intense colour, although I did build it up in some areas with some glazing.

The area by the moon which on screen is showing as a mustardy brown is diluted gold ink I added this to have a bit of warmth against all the blues and tie in with the trees.

The Moon Is Bright Tonight
acrylic on paper 20x20cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec
I like the contrast between the
fluid loose washes and the hard edges of the trunks which I will explore further in the next painting.

(Apologies for the formatting on this post, I can't seem to get the pictures to go where I want them to.)

In my next post I'm hoping to announce some exciting news.....

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Sketchbook and notan


I've been reading 'Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color' by Arthur Wesley Dow which was first published in 1899. It's very interesting and I'm trying to learn from doing. I've added some photos from my sketchbook - a few ideas that I'm working on at the moment.  There's a link to the book on amazon here.

Friday 21 January 2011

Moon rising

Moon Rising
mixed media on paper 57x37cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

I seem to be on a roll with finishing paintings at the moment. This is another one pulled from the portfolio that was started a while back. I know it sounds odd that I'd forgotten about these paintings but the house move we had took nearly two years it was off and on so many times and we packed and repacked so many times that our heads were spinning by the end of it. Now I've got a few paintings that were packed at the beginning that given just another few hours of work will be complete.

This one started off with a monoprint of the birch trunks, at the time I was very interested in the effect of white on white and how there are so many different coloured/toned whites when you really start to look. As a print it didn't really work out, it was a second take from the plate, so I worked into it with paint. The ink used in the print was oil based and when I washed over with watercolour it repelled the paint leaving the trunks untouched. I kept flooding the paper with watercolour and added FW acrylic ink to the washes to build up colour in some areas and blotting it out in others.

The golden coloured bands in the sky and foreground are gold ink, something I wouldn't normally use, but seemed right with the colour scheme. The mica in the gold diffused and swirled into the wet wash in interesting ways and repelled the colour of further washes. Once dried I added the moon and now the light source was decided on I could work out where all the shadows would be on the birch trunks. The sketches I'd done in the New Forest had been done during the day during bright sunlight so I had to use a little imagination in working out how moonlight would fall.

My favourite passage is the three trunks that are right in front of the moon that become almost a silhouette because of the back lighting. Now I've revisited the subject I can see lots of ideas to develop it as a series. I'll be getting my sketchbook out over the weekend to work out some more compositions.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Storm coming!

Storm Coming!
acrylic on paper 19x29cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

I got caught out in this storm at St. Agnes, Cornwall, a couple of years ago. It really did feel like the sky got this dark, I remember beach combing and exploring rock pools and looking up to this half and half sky. You couldn't see where the sea ended and the sky began. Within not more of five minutes of the rain starting I was soaked to the skin but within half an hour you wouldn't have known a storm had passed. - I love the Cornish weather, you can have everything within the space of a day.

This painting is another one that was started a little while ago and has been picked up and put down. Partly I think because I'm relying on memory and, whilst the memory is still vivid in my mind, I'm sure it is selective in the information I recall.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Lavender light and a moon

Lavender and Light
acrylic on paper 7x13cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

Early Moon
acrylic on paper 12x17cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

A couple of seascapes that I've managed to finish today. I've been working on these on and off for a while and it's nice to get them finished. Although they are only small they've taken a long time to do as I've been working on some bigger paintings in between.

I managed to get out and do a bit of sketching today at the river. It was a beautiful sunny day and the light felt fresh and dare I say it..... spring like. Probably a bit early I know. I saw the kingfisher again flashing by.

Friday 14 January 2011

A colour mixing test

An experiment in colour mixing - I chose a some pebbles from my collection and gave myself ten minutes to mix colour swatches matching them using watercolours. No time to think or worry about tone or shape, just instinctively mix colour.

I quite enjoyed the challenge and I think I might do some more with other collections using different materials.

Monday 10 January 2011

The Risk to Bloom

 My first completed daffodil painting of the year, I'm sure there will be more to come. I'm hoping I'm not tempting fate with this painting's title (thank you Willie for the quote). Yesterday was beautiful blue skies and sunshine. Walking at the river and the trees were showing buds and a few new leaves were tentively thinking about unfurling amongst the dead foliage.

I've looked back at some older paintings that I've done over the years and I'm pleased to see improvement in this subject. I see these paintings as a kind of bench mark to check my progress as painter. I've spent a lot of time over the last year working on my use of tone within a painting and this year I want to get more of a handle on colour. Next years daffodil paintings will show how far I'll have come along in that respect. Do you return to a subject to use as a benchmark in this respect? I've heard that some painter's do an annual self portrait for these ends.

The Risk to Bloom
acrylic on paper 17x18.5cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

Friday 7 January 2011

Daffodils, a work in progress...


Bit by bit I think I might be getting there. There's still a lot more glazing and building up to do, some adjusting to the tones and colours but I am really enjoying this one.

Thursday 6 January 2011

A splash of yellow and sketching


Daffodils! I love them - but they are also my nemesis. I love the structure, colour, the thoughts that spring is just around the corner and the winter is coming to an end that they inspire. They are my nemesis because every year I try to paint them and every year it all goes horribly wrong! I have a dedicated sketchbook for daffodils that has been added to over a number of years, (here's a link to my flickr account showing a few of the pages). One of the problems I have is the conundrum of painting delicate yellows whilst still getting enough tonal variation to show the form. I've tried all sorts of colour combinations and mixes using blues and violets, oranges and hot pinks to make the shadow colours but I never seem to get it quite right. Every year I think this will be the year that I will crack it. 2011 is definitely the one.

Above is a photo of some daffodils I got yesterday - with my favourite little jug - behind is a piece of hand painted silk. I think this will be one of the colour combinations that I will try this year. Today has been spent drawing them and tomorrow I will start the a painting. It makes my heart glad to see these cheerful flowers I hope they brighten your day.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Colourful greys

Funny how things can catch with you and all come at once...... after an unintended break which has come after the Christmas break, I really am back to work now and plans are afoot....

22x25cm watercolour and gouache

On New Years Day I had a lovely walk at the beach at Branksome Chine which has been inspiring me today. It was a brisk but not too cold day and although it was overcast and slightly hazy there was a lot of colour in the greys of the sea and sky. I'm using watercolour and gouache for this painting although I'm not ruling out the addition of acrylic too. I need to do more work on the sea and add in the shapes of Old Harry Rocks on the horizon. I'm hoping I will be able to complete it tomorrow and nothing else will pop up to prevent me from working.

So after my very sloooooow start to the year it was great to see someone who has had just the opposite, talk about make me feel inadequate... ;O) Sherrie over at Brush and Baren has completed a 9 colour reduction lino cut in just 3 (yes that's THREE!) days - the girl is on fire! Pop over and have a look-see it really is lovely.