31 December 2010

2010 top 10

Well, I've just been over at Crystal Cook's fabulous blog, where she has her top 10 paintings of 2010 - all beautiful paintings! She's suggested we all do the same, so here are my top 10 from what I've managed this year...

In no particular order...

Emily, watercolour, 11 by 15"

Her watchful place, watercolour, 11 by 15"

Charcoal portrait, A4

When I was a child, acrylic, 10 by 14"

If the wind changes direction, acrylic 10 by 14"

That basset look, watercolour, 11 by 15"

The glance, watercolour, 8 by 10"

Tom's old spot, watercolour, 8 by 10"

Faithful, watercolour, 8 by 10"

Best friend, watercolour, 8 by 10"

Have a happy and creative New Year - all the best for 2011!

29 December 2010

Her watchful place

So here's the finish of the WIP posted earlier. I added another couple of thin washes, including a warm yellow to warm up the left hand side of the face, which has a nice glow to it. I think I should probably stop fiddling with it now...

Watercolour, quarter sheet (11" by 15"). Reference by babasteve on Flickr under creative commons - thanks!

26 December 2010


I painted this one for my cousin Emily, 21 years old today :-)

What a great model :-)

Quarter sheet (11 by 15").

Happy birthday Em!

19 December 2010

Her watchful place WIP

Here's a work in progress, another portrait painting for the online portrait group I belong to. I'll post the finished image later (if it ever gets finished, you never know!), but as I remembered to take some pics along the way this time, I thought I'd share them here. Colours used were scarlet lake, new gamboge, lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, payne's grey, sepia, indigo.

 I started off with a drawing, using a grid to help me place the features and to speed up the drawing process. A good drawing is an absolute must I reckon. I then put in some initial washes - a warm yellow on the left, a cool yellow on the right, and a blue wash for some areas of the face, hair and surrounds, all according to what I reckoned I could see in the reference photo.

 I let the washes dry completely (this is where I often run into trouble with watercolour, being impatient and diving in too soon!). I've added some red/orangey and purple tones to the hair and ear shadow.

Again on dry paper, I've put in a reddish wash across the face, defining the areas of shadow and light. For the neck, which is pretty much entirely in shadow and darker than the face, I've gone with a purple wash. For the highlights, I either avoid painting the area altogether, or I use kitchen paper to blot away the colour where it's not needed, which actually produces a nice soft gradation for the edges, good for portraits.

More thin washes and blotting of highlights, and defining of shadows, under the eyes for example.

Yet another thin layer or two on the face, plus I added the background colour.

More layers to deepen the skin tones and blotting of highlights and pale areas on the face, and I've added texture to whatever it is she's hiding behind (something wooden, anyway). At this point it was looking a bit blotchy, but not to worry, it can be fixed with more washes...

 ...so more washes, drying in between, to smooth out the blotchiness a bit. This is the point I've left it at, though I think it still looks a bit blotchy, and I'm wondering whether I can go deeper with the skin tones without it getting overworked. But she does have a bit of a ragamuffin feel as is, so maybe I'll leave it...

Watercolour, 11" by 15". Reference photo by babasteve on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

07 December 2010

portrait sketch

Here's a drawing for a portrait painting I have planned. The ref photo is by babasteve on Flickr. There's a lot going on with light and shadows; I often find it helpful to do a drawing to help me focus on potential sticky areas.

Did this last night while listening to the England cricket team finishing off the Aussies (yay!)

A4 pencil sketch.

Life drawing

Here are a few more from recent weeks:

Not sure how long this pose was for, but I can assure you that the model didn't have a 5 o'clock shadow (such are the perils of using charcoal!)

 This one was a 25-minute pose, pencil.

This was, I think, another 20/25 minute pose. Here, the tutor gave us each a small piece of card, about an inch and a half square, along with a piece of charcoal. We had to load the edge of the card with charcoal, and use this as a drawing implement.  I really like the result.

25 November 2010

Iskamontero in the garden

Here's one I've been working on for a challenge on Redbubble.

Watercolour, 10" by 12" crop from an original size of quarter sheet, on Fabriano Artistico HP paper, which is a rather smooth surface. Was going for a real sunny feel with this one.

The reference photo was supplied by Iskamontero herself, for a portrait challenge on Redbubble (in the Bubbler Portraits group).

15 November 2010

The days darken round me

Back to the watercolours for this portrait. I loved painting the skin tones of this chap - lots of very thin washes, building up some rich tones. The shadows were interesting too - very definite cast shadows along with softer 'form' shadows indicating how the planes of the face turn. I wasn't sure about the title - but he looks like he's contemplating something with a certain amount of worry...

Watercolour, quarter sheet (15" by 11"). Reference photo by chilombiano on morguefile.

12 November 2010

Some more life drawing

Here are a few more from the last few weeks of the life drawing class.

 25 min. Really like this pose, the model looks well comfy!

 ?? not sure how long this pose was, but no longer than 30 minutes.

30 minutes

 30 minutes.

The 2-hour class just flies by it seems! I'm not sure I'm getting any better but I feel more confident about my drawing... I seem to do better at the longer poses (20-30 minutes); I'm not keen on anything I've drawn in the short poses.

18 October 2010

Washed my hair

Many times I've looked in the mirror after I've washed my hair and thought, 'actually, that'd be fun to paint'. So I finally got round to snapping a picture of me with my hair wrapped up in a towel and got the paints out...

Acrylic on Galeria paper, 10" by 14".

This one has turned out pretty much as I had it in my head, so I'm pleased about that. It's fairly high key (ie there's not a huge amount of contrast - no really dark darks), but I reckon that adds to the mood of the piece (the bathroom generally feels and looks like a sauna by the time I've finished!), and it's what I was aiming for :-)

14 October 2010

Life drawing

Here's the pick of my efforts from last night:

35-minute pose, charcoal and white pastel pencil on a mid-tone paper (A2 in size). The idea was to really get looking at the shadows and highlights, using the colour of the paper as the mid-tone for the drawing. This is a brilliant exercise to do, and is just the same as I've done for some of my portraits. Only this is from life and in 35 minutes, rather than from a photo and taking hours ;-)

I'm enjoying this class so much - the 2 hours just flies by. In fact, I'm now kicking myself for not having signed up last year...

11 October 2010

Life drawing

In an attempt to improve my drawing skills I've signed up for a life drawing class at the local college. I'm enjoying it immensely!

All are drawn on A2 paper or newsprint, with charcoal or graphite pencil.

 40 min, pencil

 20 min, charcoal
10 min, charcoal

35 min, charcoal.

23 September 2010

Charcoal portrait

I'm pressing on with the portraits...

This is charcoal on pastel paper, A4 in size. The eye on the right needs moving a smidge, but otherwise this looks not too bad. I may well try this in acrylics at some point.

07 September 2010


Haven't posted anything for a while; I've got a couple of paintings on the go at the moment, but whether either will see the light of day remains to be seen...

Meanwhile here's one from earlier this year.

Watercolour, 8" by 10"

22 August 2010

When I was a child

Here's another acrylic painting (I'm getting to really like these!). This is based on an old photo of me from many years ago. Enjoyed this one, and I'm definitely going to do more acrylics.

Acrylic, 10" by 14"

12 August 2010

If the wind changes direction....

...your face will stick like that! This is what we were told when we were kids, pulling faces...

Here's the result of my acrylic inspiration. I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, and I think I'll be doing more along these lines. I found that the image this is based on had mysteriously appeared on my camera when I got home from visiting my sis...

I had such good fun with this, messing with the colours and generally enjoying my new-found acrylic confidence. Found it hard to get a good pic; there's a bit of glare on the right hand side. Click the picture for a closer look.

Acrylic, 10" by 14", on paper (I'll have to do a biggie sometime soon!)

And here's the work in progress: you really have to have faith that it's going to turn out the way you want it to, it looks pretty grim in the early stages!

JoeDaisy workshop

Thought I'd write a few words about a fab workshop I went on a couple of weekends ago - Get Creative, at the JoeDaisy Studio in Mapledurham, near Reading. If you like the idea of getting stuck in, painting in your own way while enjoying guidance and support from a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic tutor (Cat Croxford, in this case), then this place is for you! Their website says 'Our Philosophy is to Bring Out the Artist in YOU!! and not just getting you painting like the tutor' - this is spot on, and it's what made the weekend so enjoyable.

I went with the aim of doing something completely different to my usual little watercolours, and I ended up painting in acrylic on the biggest canvas I have ever had - great fun! All your materials are provided, so no need to go out buying loads of stuff, I learned loads of tips about working with acrylics, and the whole weekend was very relaxed - a great little studio in a beautiful hamlet. The JoeDaisy guest house, where I stayed, was excellent too (especially for birders - I was watching red kites from the guest house garden - brill).

All in all it was just what I needed to get out of that bit of a rut I'd been in. I'm planning on going back and doing some more of their workshops. And I've been inspired to get the acrylics out (as you'll see in the next post...)

08 August 2010

Garlic and onions

Here's what I've been doing today and yesterday - this is an exercise in values from the Painting Friends forum. First off I did a value sketch using charcoal, trying to identify light, medium and dark values. I then used this as a guide for the watercolour painting. Actually I think I like the sketch better than the painting!

Reference photo was by yabby, from the Wet Canvas image library.

Watercolour: 9" by 12"
Sketch: A4 (just a bit smaller than the painting)

27 July 2010

20 minute sketches

Well, I haven't been doing much painting or drawing over the last few weeks; I've been finding it hard to get inspired. However, last night I did do a couple of 20 minute sketches of a shoulder bag I bought at a local charity shop (I'm planning on concealing a small sketchbook in there, and doing some covert cafe sketching, perhaps, if I'm ever brave enough...) I still haven't learned to get the drawing positioned properly on the paper, as you can see :)

Watercolour and ink, both about 12 by 9"

14 July 2010

Tommy's old spot

Well, here he is again, Tommy the pub cat. I decided to have another go at this one (it's an appealing ref photo!), and I'm happier with the result this time (what do you think? An improvement, or not?). Tommy has now officially retired from the hustle and bustle of pub life and is happily pottering about, away from the temptation of all the tasty snacks that come his way in the pub (yes, he's been to kitty fat camp before now!).

Watercolour 8" by 10", from my own ref photo.

23 June 2010

That basset look

Well, here's my latest, another canine portrait. The reference photo for this one came from the WetCanvas reference image library, courtesy of Artmutt - thanks! What a great expression, and a sweet doggie!

Watercolour, 11" by 15"

21 June 2010

Pumpkins lost and found

It's not often that I paint vegetables! This was painted for an exercise on the Painting Friends forum from a reference provided by Jaytee, to get us all thinking about lost and found edges. I like the foreground pumpkin, not so keen on the other one...

I think controlling lost and found edges in watercolour can be tricky, as it's easy to get a bit carried away and fiddle to much, and end up overworking, or else just be a bit too timid. With enough practice you will get to know the medium, but there are always unanticipated things going on - that's the nature, and the charm I guess, of watercolour!

9" by 12"

06 June 2010

Feather for Drawing Day

Here's a quickie I did for Drawing Day 2010, a feather I picked up while out walking along the river. I did actually do the drawing on drawing day, June 5th, but didn't get it uploaded til today!

Water soluble graphite on watercolour paper
5" by 7"

30 May 2010

The glance

Here's my latest effort for the portrait paintalong on the Painting Friends forum. I especially enjoyed the colour combinations in this one, purples with orangey tones. It's a bit more subtle than the in-your-face man from Halong, anyway!

The original reference photo was by lisilk, and came from the WetCanvas reference image library.

I'm pleased to say that this image was featured on the RedBubble homepage - well chuffed!

Watercolour, 8" by 10"

25 May 2010

There was an old man from Halong

Here's another portrait from the 'portrait paintalong' on the Painting Friends forum. This one is a quarter sheet (a bit bigger than my usual 8" by 10"), and it's on Arches Rough paper, a surface I don't often use (found this piece lurking at the bottom of the drawer, it must have been there forever). Thought it might be ok to use for a nice craggy subject such as this chap, and I really enjoyed painting it. Best viewed from a short distance away, as with an awful lot of my paintings ;)

Watercolour 11" by 15".

Ref photo is by chilombiano from morguefile.

p.s. yes, the title is just begging for a limerick...
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