Thursday, 26 July 2012


Waiting   acrylic on paper 16x26cm ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec
This seems a very apt title for this painting. Let me explain.... I visited Venice for five days in 2008. I'd wanted to go for years and was so excited that I spent weeks putting together a sketching kit whittling it down to the essentials then adding more in to the pack then whittling it down again. I bought a new memory card for my camera just in case I ran out of room on the one I had. I had a new sketchbook, new paint, I was so excited counting down the days.

Once there it was everything and more than I expected. In fact it was so 'more' than I expected that I was completely overwhelmed and visually overloaded. I managed a few very poor sketches and took a few hundred photos and did very little else other than trying to absorb as much of what I was seeing as I could. As a holiday it was amazing and I would recommend to everyone to take the time to visit. I would love to visit again and am sure that one day I will. 

At home I tried and tried to paint the Venice that I had seen but in hindsight it was just too fresh in my memory. Whatever I tried came out too literal and didn't express any of the thoughts, feelings or experience. They didn't cut the muster as paintings for me and I felt very frustrated. With a subject that has been painted so many times by so many artists it is difficult sometimes to to paint without emulating someone elses vision resulting in a poor pastiche.

It has been just lately that I feel like I can paint the Venice that I felt and my over riding visual memory of the place; the evening walks, the hustle and bustle slowing down for the day and the softening of the colours and edges of the silhouettes of buildings, bridges and gondolas. The distance of time has filtered out the visual clutter and white noise distilling and refining the experience. It's the distillation that seems to become more and more important to my work.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

On a summer breeze

Swallow sketches on A4ish paper - pentel brush pen ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec

Every day for some weeks I have been treated to the most breath taking aerial display from some fair weather friends whom I eagerly await every year. This year is the first time I have tried to sketch them. Up high and gliding - so far so good. Up close, flying low and zipping across the garden not so good. Wow they are super fast!

I thought I'd 'cut my teeth' on a painting of the swallows gliding
and work my way up to a closer up to a closer view. I think a lot more practice sketching is in order to be able to do them any justice from closer quarters.

Summer Breeze acrylic on paper 15x10cm ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec

Monday, 16 July 2012

Dark as night


Dark as Night   watercolour 16x16cm ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec

A view towards the Isle of Wight and the Needles from the beach at Hengistbury Head. At times with the heavy rain storms that we have been having it feels like twilight and it's the middle of the day. I've been enjoying painting dark watercolours again. There is something in me that likes to get out the blacks, sepia and indigo in watercolour, maybe it's a rebellious streak after being told for so long that you shouldn't use black.

Last week we had a day of sunshine so I headed out to Hengistbury and as I walked along the wooden walkway I saw lots of sand lizards lined up at the edges sunning themselves. It's been a miserable summer for them without much opportunity for a sunbathe so it was nice to see them taking advantage of it.

This painting is available in my Etsy store.

Summer Exhibition

Friday, 13 July 2012

Riding along the shore WIP part 2

Taking a photo and reducing it to black and white is a helpful tool that I use when I'm close to finishing a painting. It helps me to give a last check on the tonal composition. I wanted to make sure that the horse and rider were tonally integrated enough with the rest of the painting. A few colour adjustment glazes later and I was ready to call this painting done.

Comparing the size of the waves on the right to the size of the horse and rider has helped set the sense of scale of the beach. I set the direction of the cloud to help emphasize the depth of field and lead in to the main event of the sun silhouetting the figures.

As you can see from this wip quite a lot of time can pass between initial inspiration and concept to completion of a painting. Sometimes this is due to time constraints and the natural order of things as painting ideas pile up waiting to be explored. Often it's because, for me, time needs to pass before the idea becomes fully formed. The little will-o-the-wisp of an idea will fleetingly tease my memory for a while before fully exposing itself and developing into a fully fledged painting. My sketchbooks are invaluable tools for me to be able to work in this way.

Riding along the shore acrylic on board 20x50cm ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec

Monday, 9 July 2012

Riding along the shore WIP part 1

I selected a piece of board 20x50cm for this painting, not too big and not too small, the ratio feels 'right' for the sense of space that I want to portray. (There is no reason in particular for this size it just feels instinctively right and is proportionate to some of the preparation sketches that I had done.)

I began the under painting on a warm neutral ground and very loosely blocked in the main shapes of sky, sea and sand. The second stage in this painting was about setting my darkest tone in. I did this early on using ivory black in the dark masses of the water. I knew I wouldn't end up seeing the black after the layers of blue were painted on top  but they would quickly give the depth of the shadow that I wanted in this area.

Now the darks were in place I could easily judge how light the lights needed to be. More often I paint the other way around and put my lighter ranges in first but the painting was willing me to work in reverse. I thought I would go with it and let the painting dictate the way it wanted to be painted.

By the end of stage 3 you can see pretty much all of the black has been painted over. (As a side note ivory black mixed with buff titanium is a very useful colour for sand shadow in evening light. - you can see my old fear of tube black has pretty much disappeared over the last year. ;o) ) As usual I have used a number of blues; coeruleum, cobalt, ultramarine (a blue that I very rarely use) and indigo.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Riding along the shore - sketchbook preparation for a painting

I thought I'd share a work in progress as it has been a while since the last one. In the past I have shown a stage by stage progression of the actual painting starting with the under painting and working my way through to the final stage. This time I thought I would show the progression from initial concept.

This piece started back at Christmas, on Boxing Day to be exact, with a walk on the beach at St. Aubin's Bay in Jersey. When I was a child we lived very close but in the last twenty years it has become almost unrecogniseable when you look toward the town side as much land has been reclaimed from the sea and the harbor extended.

The photograph makes it look like a really dull and grey day but it was a beautiful morning and warm, it didn't feel like December. The bright sun reflected in the wet sand has over exposed the photo making it look very dark in comparison to how it was. There was hardly anyone on the beach at all, it felt like His Nibbs and I had the whole bay to ourselves. As we walked halfway around the bay a rider was exercising her horse at the waters edge and the reflections they made in the wet sand were catching my eye. On a large expanse of beach even a large horse can look miniscule.  I took some photos and watched intently trying to memorise what I was seeing as I had come out without a sketchbook.....

Sketchbook studies ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec

It was the sense of scale in particular that I wanted to explore and after sketching square format compositions I thought I would try out a couple of panoramic shapes. It was this format that I decided to focus my attentions on.

You can see that very early on in these planning stages that I have decided to leave out any reference to the actual place. I could have included the shapes of the land or St. Aubin's Fort in the right of the bay or Elizabeth Castle on the right. The reason for this is that by omitting it the painting becomes at once more universal, it could be any beach and the rider could be anyone. I hope for the viewer to be able to put themselves in my paintings with their own memories and experiences.

I practiced getting the shape of the horse and rider, who I planned on showing only in silhouette, first in pencil, paying particular attention to the negative shapes made by the horses legs. (The photographs that I had taken came in very handy here.) Once I felt a little more confident I tried just drawing them with a brush in as few strokes as possible and to the scale that I would need in the painting.

The collage of images above is made from tiny sketches that were originally just a few inches big. Each time a new thumbnail is drawn, the plan for the painting develops, sometimes there are blind alleys but on the whole it is a very useful process for me in developing the essence of a piece. Better to adjust an element in a small thumbnail than to have to adjust something crucial in a large canvas. With preparation done it is time to get on with the painting....

Monday, 2 July 2012

On a summer breeze II

On a Summer Breeze II acrylic on paper 38x38cm ©2012 Lisa Le Quelenec

A partner painting to the one I posted about in February which you can see  here  both of these paintings are included in an exhibition of my work at The Artists Centre, New Milton, Hampshire until 28th July.