Learning lines

About two years ago I was getting ready to deliver a watercolour collage workshop; the outcome depended on students preparing varied backgrounds in watercolour. Naturally I created examples to show, but stashed the less successful ones away for another time.

It turns out that this was that ‘other time’. I was at a loss on a Sunday afternoon, wanting to do something creative, but being unable to invest much time. Flicking through a sketchbook I rediscovered the backgrounds, and decided a quick continuous line drawing would be fun, set over the top. A quick look on the internet for a free-to-draw face, and bingo, here he is. I didn’t quite manage one continuous line, but wasn’t far off. My favourite part is the hair, least favourite the beard (let’s be clear, I love beards, just not my rendering of this one).

Continuous line drawing is really great for making you look, and think about using simple shapes to describe what’s in front of you. It promotes creativity, and problem-solving (for example, how to show textures and depth of tone) and I really did enjoy this process. I could imagine stitching into this picture to build up further layers of line…hmmm. Interesting.

continuous-line-man-e1572706099648.jpg

Smiling

This little sketch is an oldie, a quick slice of some watercolour portrait practice I was doing in 2015. I think I pinched the picture from a magazine; I was captured by the look of  spontaneous joy on the boy’s face, and the feeling of cold imparted by his ruddy cheeks and bobble hat. Given how much time has passed since I painted this, this chap probably looks quite different today.

I do remember trying to figure out the flesh tones, and trying to calculate just how dark the darks needed to be under the chin, in the mouth, eyes and nostrils – and how to make them. Interestingly, I think it’s the darks which have been the most helpful in pulling this little sketch together.

Child watercolourAlthough it’s far from perfect, there’s something about this I still like, and it makes me smile.

Bronze Babe

I don’t know much about Jacob Epstein – which could be easily remedied, of course. But I do appreciate the way that he handled bronze. This bust, entitled ‘Third Portrait of Oriel Ross’ is on display in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and principally it was the scrunchy hair textures which attracted me. Epstein had sculpted huge hunks of lively, wavy hair, its dynamism in contrast to the smooth skin of the young model. Her pose is confident, focused, and even slightly assertive. I like it very much.

Bronze has a most beautiful quality once the patina has developed – slightly golden-orange, and yet overall dark, showing the play of light on its surface. It never ceases to make me wonder that something so durable can represent flesh so well.

Epstein bronze.jpeg

I wasn’t carrying much in the way of materials, but did have my Inktense pencils, brush waterpen and a fineliner. A decent kit for such a sketch. I wanted to convey the bronze patina, with its glints of golden light; tricky especially as with the Inktense you are trying to predict how they’ll look when you’ve added the water and let them do their thing. Maybe there should have been more darks in there for a realistic result. Since I didn’t sketch this out in pencil before diving in with pen, I failed to achieve quite the correct proportions, but I feel that the more I take this approach the more I’m forced to look carefully before committing to paper, so I’ll persist with winging it.

In retrospect I quite like the reiteration and correction lines, and the intense streaks of colour, which have saved this from being a slavishly realistic representation and offered up something a bit different. Maybe our errors are where the magic really begins?

Golden girl

Well hello, I’ve missed you!

Life has got in the way this last year, my ‘new’ job as a secondary school art technician has proved to be everything I’d hoped and more. The flip side is that although I’ve continued to make art, blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I’m hoping to redress the balance in 2019, to post on a more regular basis, and catch up with old blogging friends again.

To get the ball rolling, here’s a mixed media picture I did way back in the spring. It came initially out of a concept of using gold leaf with watercolour. The results were not entirely as expected, and the collage element of the girl’s dress came as a surprise, but I felt it fitted somehow with the renegade nature of the experiment. (The source of the patterned paper was a bag I’d saved, thinking it might come in handy sometime. For once I was right!) The salt treatment on the background didn’t quite work as hoped – I suspect that the paint was a bit too dry by the time I sprinkled it. All in all, it’s a strange picture, and I’m not sure what I think about it, even now that some months have passed. I do like the crispness of the profile though.

Golden girl ink & collage

What I do know is that if I were to do this again, I’d be much more careful about where I applied the glue for the gold leaf. Although I stroked in downwards motions, the leaf seems to have its own ideas about where to stick!

Sitwell? Don’t mind if I do.

Wayyyy back in February I had the opportunity to go tho the National Portrait Gallery in London. I was scouting around for something to sketch, when this striking bust caught my eye. It’s Dame Edith Sitwell, by Maurice Lambert. Made in 1926, I think it totally captures the spirit of the age – it’s strongly Deco in feel, and cast in silvery aluminium.

This A5 sketch was made with a fineliner outline, and black Tombow with waterbrush for the shadows.

Edith Sitwell bust tombow

I really enjoyed its clean lines and bold shapes, even if the super-elongated neck does rather remind me of the old Cluedo cards…

Rooms in Spanish for Cluedo game

Wet-in-wet

Trawling the internet, looking for an image for watercolour practice, I came upon a black and white photo with a 60s vibe. It was a good opportunity to have freedom over colour choices without feeling the need to obey colour prompts from the source photo. As you can see, I drew pencil guidelines first, to alleviate the worry of trying to get proportion right in paint. Once again, employing my favourite round brush, I used the pigment still in my palette from a previous portrait. This meant I kept to a handful of colours, mixing happily to get that pistachio.

It’s easy to see where things went well and fluidly, and where the struggles were. I really like the spontaneity, looseness and colour flows of the legs and umbrella, but wish I’d had an easier time with the face. The umbrella handle was lifted out afterwards with a small flat brush, as I forgot to leave it white, but actually I don’t mind, as it’s less stark than it would have been if I’d left the paper blank. All in all, this was a good session.

Umbrella girl watercolour

And again…

Another quick portrait of one of the lovely yoga ladies, this one a bit of a struggle as I was trying to be freer with the paint and strokes of the flat brush. However, I did have fun with her glasses, and the raspberry hue of that snuggly jacket. I like the warmth it gives to the whole.

It turns out that teeth are surprisingly difficult, a fact I’m sure anyone who’s experienced at painting portraits could have told me. I’ll have to remember that, and find some strategies for dealing with them.

Alison watercolour

Warmed up

It’s half term, and I’ve determined to make the most of sketching opportunities and also to get in a bit of much-needed watercolour practice.

Following on from my previous head sketches, here’s one taken from the portrait photo archive the yoga ladies sweetly let me make.

This one’s A5 size, and I used the following colours: Permanent Rose, Winsor Lemon Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Indigo and Payne’s Grey – the aim was to try restricting the palette and see where it got me. That, combined with a 1/2 inch flat brush proved just about sufficient.

Jackie watercolour

Well, for all its faults, I quite like this one; the warmth of the colours, the tranquil look in her eye (post-yoga) and the lights on her hair.

I was astonished by the depth of brown I needed to make to show her fair skin, and relieved I managed to avoid the 5 o’clock shadow effect this time. When painting the background I forgot to leave space for the hair on the right hand side of the picture near her cheek, and so ended up lifting it out – but it worked, thank goodness.

As always, much was learned.

Dark side

Another bit of watercolour portrait practice, this time from a photo of a chap very dramatically lit. I liked the complexity of his wrinkles and bags, and the slight furtiveness of his stare.

Grey face watrecolour

Once again, I know I didn’t spend long enough sketching out the features, wanting to get started on the painting, which was what this was all about for me. So the ‘second eye’ syndrome has struck. But not to worry.

Handling the different textures of hair and skin, was the focus. The dry brushwork came much easier working with tube colour rather than pans, and offered some pleasingly crunchy texture round the edges.

Using dark Indigo, Payne’s Grey (always) and a dark red seemed a little daunting, but is a decision I’m pleased I took. In fact, I wish I’d used a soupçon more of the red. It made a beautiful warm brown and added interesting highlights when unmixed. Maybe next time.

Blue girl

Watercolour practice, long time no see. I didn’t spend long getting the features right (as shows) because I was itching to get into the watercolour. I’ve been looking at Stan Miller’s videos again, and wanted to have a go at something quite dramatic and graphical.

Blue face watercolour

I stuck to just three colours – two blues and a purple – and really enjoyed the process of spilling them into each other. Tubes were my friend here, to achieve the rich darks. I just don’t get this kind of result with pans, which seem to need too much water and lose their intensity.

Can’t believe I’ve left it so long…