Thursday, June 25, 2009

Portrait Of Anne 8th Sitting

Another day and I feel like another futile attempt to achieve what I'm after. I am struggling and getting no further forward. Full of doubt and a deep-seated sense of inadequacy...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Portrait Of Anne 7th and a half Sitting

I wasn't very happy with the painting last session and feeling frustrated I did some work on it from memory afterwards.

Felt a bit more contented but I fear I've given poor Anne a black eye in the process..!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Postcard From MDS - Homage From PJH

Postcard From MDS - Homage From PJH
Oil on gessoed hardboard
This is a small painting I have been working on over the last few days. It is for a calendar and fundraiser auction for the Taranaki Womens Refuge. The theme was to be a Taranaki one and I felt that none of my so called "postcard" paintings - - were suitable. I'd been looking at this postcard reproduction of a rather famous and well known New Zealand painting by my friend and mentor Michael Smither, and I had the idea of doing a painting within a painting kind of thing. I stuck the postcard on my studio wall with bluetac, and put the old bottle with red pencil in front. I've always liked the apparently incongruous, and almost surreal bright red tactor on the skyline, that contrasts so dramaticly with the cold grey Taranaki stones in Michaels painting, and I wanted the red pencil to echo that. The little Walt Disney figurine of Pluto, has already recently found it's way into my paintings. I like the humourous aspect of it, as though he is eagerly awaiting his walk on the beach. Or perhaps it's the faithful hound waiting at his master's feet...? Also, I've always found a slight Disneyish quality in Smither's colours and distinctive hard-edged and stylised forms.

Rocks With Mountain
Michael Smither 1968
Oil on Hardboard

Michael Smither was one of the first real artists I ever met. He came to my very first exhibition I held in the Taranki Society of Arts Brougham Street Gallery in New Plymouth in 1976, and introduced himself, giving me lots of practicle advice and encouragement. For a while in the early 80's I shared studio space with him in King Street and I learned a great deal about painting from watching him working. Never having had the privilidge of going to any art school, I still regard this as the closest thing I've ever had to an art education.

Portrait Of Anne 7th Sitting

Another session yesterday. I started by applying some thin glazes on the left side of Anne's face trying to add a bit of depth to the shadow areas. Then I worked into that, using slightly more impasto paint. Last week I was struggling so much in bad lighting conditions that I turned on an electric light to give a bit more ambient light to her right side, and I quite like it so we've decided to keep it. I've added cadmium orange to my palette. It is a strangely cool orange that I've never been able to duplicate using cadmium yellow and red and as a tint with lots of white it makes a good colour for flesh lit by electric light. The same goes for alizarian crimson or rose madder tints. The left side of her face is picking up the natural light from the windows on that side and I'm using terre vert, raw umber, mars violet and ivory black.
I was still not happy about something and I came to the conclusion I had the eyes too close together. Much to Anne's consternation, I made the decision to scrape out her left eye and shift it over a bit. I'm still not certain it was the right thing to do - I'm not very happy with it at all. Growing pains. In fact, this morning I attempted to do some more work on it, relying simply on memory and I fear I have only succeeded in making it worse. Its very frustrating.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Portrait Of Anne 6th Sitting

The first thing did on commencing our sixth session, was to lower Annes mouth line. I always find proportions the most troublesome aspect of painting from life. I know when there is something not quite right but it takes a while to realise what it is. And of course when you change one thing, something else needs adjusting. The result is that the image grows bigger, (for me, it never seems to reduce in size), and eventually goes off the edge of the canvas in some instances. I recall reading about my favourite artist Lucien Freud, saying that he would rather the forms went off the edges than to have them cramped. In recent paintings I've noticed he even adds another bit of canvas just for a foot or something, resulting in some odd shaped compositions!
It's actually reached the most interesting stage for me, and I really enjoyed this painting session, but I'm still finding it hard going and frustrating. I think it's going well and then at the end of the day I put down my brushes, stand back and I hate it. It is always like this. I walk away miserable with myself. Coming back into the studio is always difficult, and I avoid making eye contact with the painting for as long as possible. But in a perverse way it is motivating. I immediately feel the need to work on it some more. I can see what needs doing. This, in it's turn, is also a source of frustration because of course I can't work on it further until next week when Anne sits again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Anne's Portrait 5th Sitting

The fifth sitting of Anne's portrait. We did another four hours yesterday and I finally feel it's starting to get somewhere. I reworked much of the face, concentrating on the eyes. It's starting to become a painting rather than just an illustrative picture. We start our session in late morning and the sun moves gradually over Anne's face. There is a lot of reflected light coming in from her left side and from off the floor. If I was being more pragmatic about it, I wouldn't have set it up with direct sunlight and in fact when we started, there wasn't any! My studio space has a lot of windows on three sides, and so it's quite difficult to control the lighting. It's becoming more of a problem to me and I'll have to address it at some stage soon.