Thursday, 14 April 2016

Space Dogs!

 I'm feeling anxious about my new drawing, I'm not convinced that I've grasped the whole shape of the tree in the picture yet, and am certain that I've bitten off far more than I can chew at portraying the millions of tiny blossom and the gauze of twiglets veiling the tree as if the tree is dancing in a veil of twigs and branches.

But then again that was the very thing that attracted me to this subject.

Listening to something while I work helps me concentrate.  Today I've been listening to Black Rabbit Hall as an Ebook from One Click Digital.  I've got a free subscription to this wonderful service (I think it's wonderful anyway) via my library membership of Wolverhampton Libraries.  I believe that many library services are offering this service, another of the myriad reasons to support your local library service by joining up right now! 

That little pencil drawing at the bottom corner is an experimental ACEO.  I'd noticed that lots of people sell drawings inspired by celebrities or cult TV programmes, movies etc... and I had a quick go at starting one last night.  It doesn't look much like the person it's supposed to be though.  When I was a teenager I was good at catching a likeness but I seem to have lost the nack.

Last year a lady in Belgium bought my ACEO Walking The Dog In Space.  She is connected with a dogs charity and asked me if I would mind if she produced a small number of stamps for personal use using my design.  I said okay and today these came through the post.  I think they look really nice and they've really brightened my day.  I love the Belgian postage stamps as well!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Seeing the trees for the trees

I have almost finished my grafitti wall drawing.  I'm still not pleased with the rendering of the trees in the middle distance but happiest with the rooftops in the far distance.  I've got a little more work to do on this and will work in smaller bursts over the next few days, hopefully finishing it by the end of the week.

I've started a new drawing.  But I've not printed off my source material this time, I'm working directly from my photo on my tablet.  This has pros and cons.  One pro is that I can pinch into detail on the photo and indulge my obsessive delight in rendering an endless mess of detail into infinitum.  One con is that I can pinch into detail on the photo and indulge in my obsessive delight in rendering an endless mess of detail into infinitum.

An article in Arists & Illustrators last year mentioned that one of the drawbacks of working from photo's is that it tempts you (perhaps hypnotises would say it better) into rendering more than you would attempt to do if you are sitting directly in front of the subject.  This is true.  Sat infront of this riverside tree with all those tiny white buds just on the verge of bursting into life I would never have been so mesmerised by the detail into actually attempting to render it.  It's easy to get sidetracked into copying rather than capturing what it is about a thing that drew you to render it in whatever medium.

Too much detail = too little magic.  

I ordered some new nibs last week as my stock is running low (due to my habit of accidentally banging them into jars or dropping them when I'm tired).  I ordered some of my favourite Gillott 290 and also the fine Gillott 1290.  When it came I was alarmed as the tip of the nib is turned up and, to my eye, slightly splayed. When I contacted the supplier I was told that the nib is designed to be turned up at the tip.  I have been using it in my new drawing to render the tangle of fine branches at the bottom left of the picture, but I remain to be convinced that this is the shape this nib is intended to be.  The results are scratchy and not as fine as I expected.  I'll give it another try later and see how it progresses.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

It's in the trees

I failed to meet my self-imposed deadline last week, to finish my new pen and ink drawing within a few days.  Which was probably the best outcome for me, in some ways.  I realised that the beauty and the appeal of pen and ink for me is to loose myself in the making of marks, the rendering of texture, chairescuro and solidity through intense mark making.

It does my eyes in.  It kills my back.  It's a pain in so many ways, but the obsessive nature of the process is the main point of my pen and ink drawing.  (Probably because it is a large part of my own personality)

It's not a speedy process.  It can be extremely frustrating.  It can depress the hell out of me. 

But it's as much as part of pen and ink for me as the paper and the ink itself.  And the steel of the nib.

So here is my slower progress for week 2 of my challenge.

I will still finish the piece in a sprint rather than my many previous marathons but the speed of progress is not the purpose of the piece this time.  Rather it is a product of shorter intense bursts of effort.

Short bursts which are necessary because my eyes and my body are not as young as they used to be!!!

I rather enjoyed rendering the rooftops and attempting to solve the puzzle of how do you render the miasma of tiny twigs and branches that fuzz the air between the viewer and those rooftops? 

I do not have the technical ability to render every single branch, so I have to find a way of suggesting the effect of seeing the roftops through those trees.  Areas right at the top of the picture (which is what I have been working on this morning) I am quite pleased with.  But it's not a problem solved entirely.  Far from it.

Another problem Is the foreground.  I've messed up the light/dark contrast of the foreground trees (the middle ground of the drawing).  I've given into my old weakness of trying to render too much.  Those dead leaves (or whatever they are) hanging from the branches like limp seed pods.  They are proving a real nuisance to render.

I hope I don't ruin the whole picture by messing up that area of it.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Pen and ink challenge

Last week I challenged myself to complete a small (a bit smaller than A4) pen and ink drawing based on one of my own photographs.  Usually a pen and ink drawing takes me months to complete, but I challenged myself to complete my drawing in less than a week for a number of reasons, not least a recent disapointment (I had 2 of the watercolours I had been working on rejected for an open exhibition which I have exhibited at for more than 15 years).  As I have mostly exhibited pen and ink drawings at this exhibition in the past, I decided to motivate myself to complete a new pen and ink drawing but to give my return a twist by attempting to complete it in what is for me, the blinking of an eye.

I posted my challenge on Facebook and Twitter and completed my drawing in about 2 days, with an extra day for tweeking. 

I called my drawing 'Beside the Lake.'

After a weekend away (Happy Easter!!) I have decided to challenge myself again.

Another pen and ink drawing.  A little bigger than Beside The Lake this time. 

I have already begun a watercolour of this subject, which I've had hanging around in my 'in progress' pile for several months, this in progress watercolour is slightly different to my pen and ink drawing as it contains a couple of figures which I drew from memory. 

The pen and ink drawing is based solely on a photograph which I took last February while I waited for my train to work.

I used a zoom on my point and shoot digital camera to crop the image I was interested in.  A bit of grafitti on an old wall with some wintry trees behind and hints of houses seen through the trees.

I am using Acrylic Ink and dip pens.  

I penciled in a quick sketch of my design based on my photograph.

And then I began to work on my drawing using dip pens and Acrylic Inks.  I'm using sepia and black for this design.

I might use one coloured pencil in addition to the pen and ink.  But I'll think more about that as I progress.

This is about 2 and something or other hours work. 

Hopefully I will do some more this evening and a little tomorow morning.  I'll post tomorow's progress on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Memories of Skipness

In June I had a lovely holiday in Skipness.  Although the weather wasn't exactly perfection, Skipness is a special place and G and myself were very lucky to spend our week in a lovely cottage overlooking the isle of Arran.  We visited Arran by car and Gigha on foot that week, but the memory which stays with me most vividly is the drive to Skipness via a beautiful long and windy wyndy single track road.

I took a few photographs as G drove and have made a quick watercolour based on one of them.

Here are a couple of stages of a pen and watercolour painting I've made based on a photograph I took of Skipness bus stop.  G & I sat on one of the picnic tables you can see in the distance.  We managed to sit there a few minutes before being chased away by midges.

I've begun another watercolour of this same scene, sketched in with graphite pencil and coloured pencil this time.  I'm not using watercolour pencil but Derwent's Coloursoft pencil, just 2 colours for the line as I don't want the lines to melt too much into the watercolour.

I'm working with real fear on these pieces, I'm quite pleased with the single track lane piece, but I'm terrified to work on it any more in case I ruin it.  I've worked quite a lot on the Skipness Bus Stop watercolour, maybe too long.  Resisting the temptation to work on when I should be leaving alone is one thing I need to work on.  As is resisting the temptation to continue working when my mind and body have slipped into autopilot. 

Autopilot is disaster, in art as well as so many other areas.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Summer Progress

Here are a few new pieces I've been working on over summer.

I wanted to continue introducing colour into my work, and also to build compositions which include some imaginative element and possibly some people in them.  I'm really inspired by art of the past here, and for 3 years or so since I visited a wonderful exhibition of Gainsborough landscapes at Compton Verney, I've been haunted, sometimes possessed, by the atmosphere of quietude and dusk in his landscape work.

I've been struggling with using this sense of wonder into my own work, and also to work at least partially from life, as most of my work until now has been made from photographs.

I've taken my tiny Moleskin or Derwent sketchbooks to work with me and drawn as and when I can, mainly while waiting for my train to and from work, or during my lunchbreak sitting in the sunshine listening to the radio (the Ashes have been a big part of my summer, as they have been in many summers over the past 10 years).

 From these sketches I have worked up a few pieces.  The first were tiny pieces which I made directly from my sketches.  In watercolour, pen and acrylic ink.  Here are a couple of these, sketches and the pieces made from the sketches. 

Wolverhampton Adult Education College
Sketchbook 11.7.13

Wolverhampton Adult Education College 
Drawing made from sketchbook July 2015

Wolverhampton Adult Education College 
Photocopy of drawing draw over and coloured with acrylic ink

Commuter Sketch July 2015

Commuter Watercolor Drawing made from sketch July 2015

But I really wanted to emulate the great art that I love.  I know it's not trendy, but I have to be honest.  Looking at a Gainsborough landscape, a Samuel Palmer, a Turner, a Caspar David Friedrich, fills me with such emotion that I really feel that now, life is too swift and too short to deny any longer that these are the artists I wish to emulate in my tiny way.  I'm not post modern, I don't get anything at all from a great deal of contemporary 'fine art', it just leaves me feeling like I've read a magazine and dumped it in the recycle bin.  I don't feel stained by it, coloured by it, altered by this art in any way. That is not to say that I denigrate it or disagree with it, but that I just does not touch me deeply.

Pencil on Paper

Watercolour (work in progress)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Until last year I worked mostly in dip pen and ink from my own photographs in a very plush, intense style.  The more intense the more I liked it.  These pieces took so long to do, plus I felt that I should be working more from life, so with these 2 combined aims in mind I spent a lot of last summer working directly from life in my garden drawing the flowers (mostly sunflowers) I had grown from seed or young plants from garden centres.

I have continued this practice and now it's more my instinct to see pattern and line and to follow the impulse of a line more than delve deeply into the textural rendering of a piece.

I did say at the end of last year that I would not buy as many plants or seeds as last year as growing them, protecting them, standing them back up after a gale force wind had knocked them over, was so time consuming.

But then instinct again has taken me by the nose and here are this year's fresh crop of nasturtium, which I have grown from seed (a new one for me)...

...and sweet peas and a carrier bag from Wilko (where I bought the seeds).

Inspired by the recent trend for adult colouring books I have toyed with the idea of producing a few images to colour in myself.  I have produced a few of these, but I've not done anything commercial with them yet.  I did have a play with a Ginkgo leaf yesterday, drawing it repeatedly and thinking how to arrange the shape imaginatively on the page.

The Ginkgo leaf fell out of a book where I'd pressed it.  I can't remember where I picked it up from.  If ever I read that there's a Ginkgo tree in a garden I have to find it.  I love the delicate, fluttering leaves of the Ginko tree.