Tuesday, 30 December 2008

I have more to do on this one. Working alla prima I could see it becoming a mess so decided to stop at this point. Best wishes for the new year to anyone who happens along.

Onion # 17, Garlic, Oil on paper, 160 x 125 mm.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Onion # 16, Leek, Books and Bowl, Oil on canvas, 350 x 250 mm

I seem to have taken forever over this. Having a bad cold all week hasn’t helped. I started by trying to arrange a view which would allow me to fit the elongated shape of the leek into the picture frame. After trying all sorts of angles and lighting I realised that the board I’m using as a shelf, (which is weighted down with books chosen at random), gave me a warm arrangement of colours and some deep shadows. The most challenging thing was all the straight lines. I am now trying to work out how to fit some sort of adjustable straight edge to my easel.
Two weeks off work and as soon as this cold clears I will start on the Munsell exercises.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

It is strange, the obligation one feels to post once you start a blog and I noticed something else about obligation this week. Two years ago I received a commission to paint a series of historical portraits. You can see them at http://nickstoneart.com.
The advice from friends and family was to use this opportunity to launch a portrait painting career. Having been self-employed most of my working life, I understand the need to be commercial and market myself. If you’ve come across Robert Genn you will be familiar with his excellent and realistic appraisal of the conflict between making art and making money from it. Anyway, I think it was a combination of doubt about my abilities and reluctance to start a new business which made me ignore the commercial imperative. Thus the new job. What has struck me this week is that I don’t have to sell anything. I can just paint. I can take my time to absorb the new information the Munsell student book offers, I can take a day to compose a still life composition and, provided I keep putting pencil or something to paper on a regular basis, I can simply relax and enjoy it all. I may have less time to paint but I feel that the time I do have is more productive precisely because I don’t have to produce. Perhaps this blog is just a way to introduce another imperative.
I’ve been working on a still life with a leek. It is a member of the Alliaceae family so related to onions and garlic. I am posting a value study which I’m still tinkering with. I think I’ve put enough time into it to call it onion # 15

Onion # 15, Leek, White bowl and Books, charcoal on paper, 350 x250 mm

Saturday, 6 December 2008

My new job is supporting young people as they follow a motor mechanics course. If you’ve heard the phrase “learning difficulties” but are unsure exactly what it covers, I recommend a quick visit to somewhere like wikipedia. While I’m at work, I find it difficult to think about painting, conversely I realised this week that while I’m painting, the work is still on my mind. Which brings me to this red onion skin.
I’ve had this sitting on a shelf in the studio for two weeks now. I began the painting on Monday and stopped today. Thursday evening I went to a life class so I deliberately ignored the skin. This means that I’ve probably invested ten hours in it, ten hours to produce what is little more than a colour study of an onion skin about 8 x 4½ cms. I underpainted in a grey monotone then glazed alizarin over it. I repainted because I was unhappy with the values. Then I added lights, scraped them back, glazed again, more lights, darks, another glaze….. At the drawing stage I decided against a background because I wanted to focus on the form alone. There is an organic simplicity to it, like a shell or leaf. I can see it anchored by gravity yet about to float away. In my mind I know what it should look like but my hands are unequal to the task. There are nuances of colour here and I long to mix them. I am not trying to make the world draw breath before this onion skin, I am just trying to paint it. I don’t know why this process is so absorbing. I am in love with a piece of onion skin and I want to give it the attention it deserves. Learning to do what you cannot is difficult but this is not the same as a learning difficulty. The students I work with are an inspiration.

Onion # 14, Red Onion Skin, oil on paper, 170 x 120 mm

Sunday, 30 November 2008

I’ve done some more work on this portrait and managed to photograph it a little better in daylight. Some archival repair tape, (left over from my foray into book-binding 25 years ago), seems to have supported the tear on the back and the paint has covered the worst of the damage on the front. The problem I have now is to do with my current learning curve. Some time ago I came across Paul Foxton at http://www.learning-to-see.co.uk
He was embarking on a fascinating journey back to painting which I am following with great interest. He introduced me to the Munsell system. I had always assumed that the main thing to observe when form turned away from light was value. From what I have read so far, changes in hue and chroma are just as vital. So I’ve invested in the Munsell Student Book, (actually my kids invested for my birthday), and am ready to embark on what I think is going to be an exciting and challenging process. Learning something new means you have to abandon, for a little while at least, the familiar and comforting. I happen to like this feeling. I remind myself that tomorrow, I will be someone who didn’t exist yesterday.

onion # 13, red onion skin, graphite on paper, 140 x 100 mm

I mentioned that I had to get a job. One consequence of this is that my time to paint has changed from daylight to evenings, except at the weekends of course. So when I returned to the current painting which is a layer of skin shed by my red onion, (it looks just like an autumn leaf), I had to wait for the day to fade so I could set up the lighting. I passed the time with a pencil version. It turned out to be a useful value study but I couldn't get it as dark as I wanted so I added a wash of ink.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

What do you do when something you work on defeats you? Occasionally, if I’m having a clear up, I’ll throw odd scraps with scribbles on them in the bin but mostly they go into an overflowing box. This second attempt at the spring onions turned out worse than the colour trial I think. I took a lot more time with the drawing and painting. I composed the colours carefully and worked on it over four days, a total of maybe 10 hours. Perhaps the picture is too small for such an amount of work. I was trying to be precise using sable brushes and thinned paint but the result looks like an overworked sketch. I’ve put them side by side on the wall and will look at them for a few days, trying to resolve what I might have done differently. I’ve done with them for now but they can still teach me something. I can already see that I was trying too hard to paint a picture instead of just painting. I haven’t done with that little glass jug yet though. It has some great little surprises hiding in there, the slightest turn of the head and it shows you something new. I’ve called these 11 and 12 by the way because that’s what they are. This process is not about turning out 100 masterworks but about the journey.

Onions # 11 and 12, Spring Onions and Glass Jug, Oil on paper, 200 x 170 mm

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Nathan, Oil on paper, 400 x 305 mm

I've made some progress with this portrait. I made some adjustments to the drawing before I started with the colour because I know it's impossible to alter it later. I repositioned his left eye and reworked the jaw line. I'm happy with the likeness now. I'm keeping to a simple palette of yellow ochre, vermillion and burnt umber with flake white and black for the tee shirt. The apparent tear at the top is just that, a tear. I'm working on paper and tore it as I removed it from the board.

Monday, 17 November 2008

I started a new job today as a teaching assistant. Came home tired but itching to pick up a brush. This is a colour study for something I'd like to take a little more time over. I got the idea for objects behind glass from Taryn Day on her blog at http://awakeandpainting.blogspot.com

onions # 9 and 10, spring onions with jug, oil on paper, 230x180 mmm

Friday, 14 November 2008

I've collected a few fossils over the years. This is part of one I found at Lyme Regis, it's a piece of an Ammonite from the Jurassic and I think that makes it around 150 million years old.

onion # 8, Red Onion and Fossil, oil on board, 180 x 135 mm.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I don't think it was cheating to put nos. 5 and 6 in the same picture was it? I calculated that it would take me almost a year at the rate of two a week. Anyway, I put no. 7 on a red book because I liked the way the colours worked. I'm using a glazing medium from C. Roberson and Co. which makes the paint thin, sticky and quick drying. I had three sessions on this and realised at the end that I have to use smaller brushes. Now that is strange because the rule I've followed up to now is, choose the largest possible brush and then go up one size.

Onion # 7, oil on board, 175 x 130 mm

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Photographing and posting these next onions has made me aware of some interesting difficulties. Not only am I struggling with hue and value changes when the camera and computer screen interfere, but the size is also critical. These are small studies but look much better when viewed from a distance. The first shot is pretty much life-size allowing for a little loss due to cropping, the second one is reduced in size and gives much more the impression when viewed from about four meters away. I constantly step back this distance and more when I'm painting but the blurring this produces is obviously more pronounced in such a small work. I'm not sure yet if this means I have to paint in finer detail at this size.

Onions # 5 and 6, Oil on board, 170x130 mm

Friday, 7 November 2008

Onions 5 and 6 are on the way but in the meantime I thought I'd put up this portrait I'm working on. This is the second stage. Having completed the rough in I am overlaying it with white to establish the planes. There is about six hours work in it so far.

Nathan, Oil on paper, 400 x 305 mm

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

First post

Here are the first onions. I am indebted to Edward Minoff @ www.edwardminoff.com for the composition of these. I also hope to improve the photography as I progress.

onion # 1. Oil on board. 280 x 230 mm

onion # 2. Oil on board. 280 x 230 mm

onion # 3. Oil on board. 280 x 230 mm

onion # 4. Oil on board. 280 x 230 mm