Saturday, June 29, 2013

Poppies - A long time in the making

Poppies with the blues on bird cloth
24X36         Acrylic on board

This painting took a long time to reach completion. I based it of the painting below 'Poppies with lemons on bird cloth', but wanted to give a different color palette to the subject.

Originally I planned a green jug, but found the tone ultimately wrong for the painting. I then  tested and experimented with a white jug, but this didn't seem to work either. Ultimately, I found these nice purple hues. I also went back in and created a lot of rich depth in the blue drop cloth, which really gives a nice 'pop' to the whole scene.

 Poppies with lemons on bird cloth
24X36         Acrylic on board

Saturday, June 22, 2013

the 4 year project - post two.

Here's the second post for the boys double portrait. I wanted to tackle the faces first to set the palette for the rest of the painting. I found it a little challenging keying the darks jsut right with no other frame of tonal reference in the rest of the painting, so obviously will go back at some point to refine and add a richer dark here or there.   I think the lips and particualry the eye colors are very much fist pass.... more soon.

I had a plan to paint this is a very distinctive style that would have required very different brush work from what you see here. All ready I'm deviating from the plan... oh well.


Thought I should add these detail images below, to give a better feel for the work on the faces. Lots of refining still to come, hopefully, that giddy balance of just the right amount of work, but stopping before it becomes overworked. This was about 3.5 hours work.

 My eldest needs a little work on his nose and perhaps mouth.


My youngest here really needs his mouth and cheeks fixed a little.

Embracing the Sun

Here's a little one from the other week! I'm particularly happy with those flowers.

 Embracing the Sun on purple
24X18           Acrylic on board

Thursday, June 13, 2013

the 4 year project - post one!

Well it's that time, every four years or so I paint a double portrait of my kids, to chart their growth and personality (well as best I can). I have a bit of a dream of one day when I'm old and gray hanging all these works together and seeing them all side by side. Who knows if I'll ever get there, but we all need to dream of something!

It's a personal painting, but it can take an unseasonable amount of time to finish since I don't regard myself as a skilled portrait painter. Additionally, I rarely paint the figure , so I need to relearn color ranges and methods as I go. In short the painting can take a while to complete. 

I paint it from photographs over many months, in amongst many other projects.  I thought this time I would post each stage up on my blog, at the end I'll do a big summary post, (but who knows when that will be).... Stay tuned.

The original line work blocked in.
Looking pretty robust, but somethings not quite right in the face of my eldest son (seated), not sure how to fix it yet? Usually he's the one I find easier to paint... Also pondering, if my other son is tilting his head and wearing his glasses squint, should I fix the glasses, so his eyes don't appear too wonky?... Also forgot to add my standing sons foot, oops. He'll fall over unless I put that in!

The color plan
I create these color plans in a similar way to my still life paintings. I photograph the painting of the line work (seen above), I then bring it into photoshop and add some quick colors to get a feel for my proposed palette. This in turn guides me with under painting, as well as the final piece. Sometimes I move away from this plan as I paint, but usually I stick pretty close to it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Revisiting, reworking, adjusting, but not looking back!

Over the last few months there's been a little flurry of 'adjusting' previously finished works. Usually this is for small color adjustments, or the edition of an element to improve and strengthen the composition. This really came to an apex this week, when I grabbed the 'bull by the horns' and stripped the varnish off a couple of older paintings to adjust them.

One was from 2012 and the other from 2011. A fair degree to time and care is required when removing varnish, and it's something I hate to do. I always say 'when a painting's finished it's finished',  and I like to continually move forward, and not look back and 'fiddle'. I'd never get anything 'done', if I spend my life tweeking and refining works. For me the art of growing and developing as an artist is with the process of moving forward. However, having said all that sometimes I'm weak; and these couple of paintings continued to niggle my compositional disposition, until eventually the mineral spirits came out and the varnish came off.

Removing varnish - I mix my own semi-gloss oil based varnish, it can be removed with 100% mineral spirits. Since I do this so infrequently, I forget this aspect, so I began with 'odorless' mineral spirits. After a while I realized this wasn't doing much, so I switched to the real stuff and results were dramatic. (Lesson learned, until I forget again). The method I use is to cover the painting in a clean rag soaked in spirits, I let it sit there for a while and then gentle wipe my way across the work. The trick is to be consistent in your rubbing and application of the spirits, and make sure you don't start to pick up any paint (which can happen if you're not careful). Once I feel the varnish is removed, (use your own judgement here), I then wash the work with water. I'm sure that last step is paranoia, but I like to know all spirits have been removed. Once it's good and dry, it's ready to go! *Also at this final point, it will be pretty clear if any varnish is remaining, if so, just repeat the process.


This post features a few before and after images of paintings that sat in my studio for a while before I  revisited them for compositional reasons - making them better, stronger paintings.

Blue Iris on blue
36X24            Acrylic on board

Removed varnish for this one - Always liked this one, but knew from the moment I finished it, that I'd placed too many objects in the center. I had wanted to create an illusion of height and thinness, but had over killed it with the object placement. I brought a few more recurring fruit into the table arrangement to fix this. I also adjusted a few iris petals on the right hand side to remove the bare diagonal stems.

Delphinium with apricots during Indian summer
24X18                         Acrylic on board

Removed varnish for this one - This painting felt too empty in the lower part of the table cloth. It had been completed as a gallery demo, so time was precious. It had been left blank intentionally to give the eye somewhere 'to rest', where not much was happening. But too much space is a bad thing; now a year and half later, I took the chance to arrange a few elements to fill in that space.

 Tulips, Oranges and limes over blue
24X36                     Acrylic on board

This painting I felt needed a better compositional bridge across the items on the table. My eye got stuck in the middle, and it felt like two parts of a single painting. Adding the lemons helped the composition flow more smoothly and provided an additional color for the eye to react too. Previously the compliment Orange tone had stood out on it's own too much, the yellow saved this issue.

Irises hanging over green
34 X46                    Acrylic on wood

Finally, this painting is an illustration of a minor adjustment. Sometimes the smallest thing, like a single cherry is all that is needed to strengthen the arrangement! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

The instant appeal of portrait painting

There's something both refreshing and engaging about painting a portrait. I do it so rarely, but each time I take on the task I get instant enjoyment and pleasure from the challenge of the task. There's something about mainpulating the likeness and responding to the intimacy of a human face. 

This painting is of my 'muses'- my boys. It's from a photograph taken while we stayed in a hotel, near Disneyland. The boys having to share a bed, my youngest always complains that his brother takes up too much room! I find I know their faces so well that I am the harshest of critics and instantly know if theirs something about the painting that isn't quite right.

Sleeping boys-09
24X36            Oil on canvas

As the painting developed I actually had to reworked the flesh tones throughout, quite a task. I'd originally painting them too warm and red, and it looked as if they'd spent too long in the sun!  Most time however was spent fiddling with the red blanket in the bottom left. It had a sporting design which I tried to capture softly, (so it didn't detract from the focus). However I found the design too strong and it drew the eye. When I painted it softer it just seemed poorly painted, so I went with a plain red instead; but capturing the right tone was a skill. Too strong and the eye was drawn to that corner of the painting, too muted and it looked like a muddy mix. In the end I found a balance between these tones.