Wednesday 30 March 2016

Magnolia Diptych - tracking the process

During one of the recent workshops in my studio , I showed the artists how to transfer a drawing to a canvas without using a grid. Since I planned to do a couple in a series, and hadn't photographed the first steps, when I started the second painting I decided to document the process more carefully.

There are two approaches depending on the image. If the subject is complex then a careful line drawing is required. 

If the painting will be loose and gestural, there's no need to be too precise, the oil line transfer can be rough. In the case of the Magnolia Diptych I used the second option.

Sketch to establish the basic composition. If the drawing isn't large enough for your canvas, the main sections can be scanned and enlarged to fit. If I don't want to visit an office supply shop for larger photocopies, I print cropped sections, enlarge these and join them together.
Turn the drawing over and using oil paint directly from the tube, paint over all the lines with a round brush - #4 or #6, leaving a generous amount of paint on either side of the lines so if you want to change the position of the lines you can. Choose a colour that will be featured in the painting.
Place your drawing on the canvas with the painted lines facing down (the canvas is already primed with gesso and completely dry) and fix in position with some tape. If you're using a deep edge canvas some magazines can be placed under the canvas to provide a support for the transfer of the image. This gives a firm base to draw on.
Using a coloured ballpoint pen draw over the drawing firmly, altering any lines if necessary. The paper can be lifted occasionally to check that the drawing is correct.

The images below show the process of transferring the drawing to the canvas.

Now the painting can begin - these four photos show how the painting progressed.
Once each separate canvas was almost finished I place them on adjoining easels to work on them as a whole. Some adjustments were needed to allow colours to flow from one side to the other. A single twig connects the two halves.

Here's a photograph of the completed Diptych:

Magnolia Diptych - oil on canvas 2 x 500mm x 500mm

NOTE: This method is suitable for use with oil paint, acrylics will dry far too quickly for the process to work.

Carbon paper can be used instead but I enjoy the flexibilty of being able to wash out any unwanted lines with solvent.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Monochromatic Portraits

One of my favourite mediums for portraits is graphite. I enjoy the meditative time spent hatching the lines, building up the values slowly working in tones of grey and black, and leaving the white of the paper as the highlights..

Valeria Panova - photo from Sktchy - graphite in Canson Cachet Sketchbook

Over the previous few weeks, the artists coming to my studio have been working on monochromatic portraits. They worked small - 8" x  8" canvas panels, using black and white photos as reference. I painted along with them - I started off with a rough outline in paint with a smallish round brush, adding a few brushstrokes in between helping the group. I didn't spend much time on each of these, working on them a little more after each class was over, refining the features.

The emphasis was on working in value areas - establishing the dark values first along with basic indication of placement of the features. This was done using a brush with no laborious pencil drawing first. Medium values went on next and then finally the lightest areas, trying not to think of features but rather looking for shapes.

When beginning a portrait it's important to check: 
  • the tilt of the head i.e the angle of the eyes and mouth; 
  • if the face is facing directly forwards or if there if it's a 3/4 view. Here it's useful to establish the line that runs down from the forehead, down the nose and ending at the chin.
The natural tendency is for our brain to want to view the face straight on, full frontal, upright and symmetrical. More often than not we see the eye as a symbol, rather like the way the Egyptians painted eyes. We draw the whole iris - round and bold, the pupil centre stage. In reality, the lid usually covers quite a bit of the iris so the top is flat. Usually the lids casts a shadow on the eyeball as well.

Detail: Raul Novleo photo from Sktchy - ink

Mykhel Simone photo from Sktchy - oil on panel 8" x 8"

This portrait below, also a class demo, was done on a panel that had been wiped. (The previous painting had been a failure so was wiped) The surface was toned with a wash of Burnt Sienna. It's useful to make a coloured ground thin and without a lot of solvent so that it dries quickly. Then you can get on with painting and the surface isn't too slippery. If you're working in acrylics the paint will dry quickly.
T.Lawrence Valentine - photo from Sktchy 8' x 10" oil on panel 

This collage of portraits below were done by the artists who attend my weekly Studio classes. I'm very proud of them, they all achieved a high standard. Most were completed in a single three hour session, with a few adjustments later.

Portraits by artists attending my Hamilton Road Studio 

Tuesday 8 March 2016

A watercolour portrait of Thithi - documenting the process

I started this portrait for Sktchy last weekend while staying with my grandchildren. Jess offered to video the process. We decided to try using Hyperlapse. Now this short video was done with no tripod so there's a limit to how long arms want to hold the phone! And I need to experiment a little more and perhaps turn the phone for a better format. 

Anyway, it's fun to see a quick start to a watercolour portrait. 
This portrait was part of last week's #WAXwhatyougot. It was painted in an A4 Zeta sketchbook; I did a light graphite drawing first then watercolour washes were added.

It was a chance to show the tools used. This is my initial set up with the iPad for reference; Zeta sketchbook and a simple Bic retractable 2B pencil. 

WIP after the video stopped

Completed portrait with all my tools: Left to right - iPad, Zeta sketchbook; Schmincke watercolour travel box; Neef mop brush; W&N series #7 sable; cellulose sponge; kneadable eraser, water jar.

Thithi Exfi - reference from Sktchy

Friday 4 March 2016

Sophia - a Portrait

My portrait of Sophia graphite on watercolour paper with digital layers

Portraits - analogue and digital

Ten months ago I first started using the Sktchy app and so far I've created 80 portraits. Some of them I've shared here as well as on Instagram. It's been a wonderful way to experiment with different mediums and techniques. I've played with ink, graphite, collage, watercolour, gouache and watercolour markers as well as oil on canvas panel. 

The colouring craze is everywhere. Some of the Sktchy artists are collaborating to publish colouring books featuring members of the  Sktchy community. This portrait from a reference photo uploaded on Sktchy as a line drawing was printed on to watercolour paper. Since the ink jet ink is water-soluble, I used gouache and ink.

Portrait with Roses - inspiration from Daniel DePeuter - inkjet print with Gouache and ink

I've had digital art apps on my phone and iPad for a long time and have fiddled around with them, never really coming to grips with the process. Finally about two months ago I decided it was time to learn. Working slowly through the manual for Procreate, I took baby steps discovering how to work in layers and exploring the many, many, tools that are available. It helped to limit myself to one or two tools at a time, trying out different widths of brushstroke and varying the opacity. 

This portrait of Ginnie Chen was done using Procreate for #WAXcubism. The different #WAX Weekend Art Extravaganza prompts are posted each weekend.  

 Ginnie Chen - Procreate digital drawing 

I love drawing in graphite so I thought, why not combine the two mediums? Sophia Olsen's portrait started as a graphite drawing which I scanned. I created a mask in Superimpose which eliminated the background completely, then uploaded the mask into Procreate. This provided the opportunity to play around while preserving the original drawing. New backgrounds and textures were added to various layers in Procreate.

Sophia Olsen - graphite and carbon pencil 

One of the features in Procreate is the video function. each brush stoke is recorded and can be played back. This video is posted in a separate post - Sophia.

Sophia - graphite on watercolour paper with digital layers