Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anne in Chair - 2nd sitting

The first session with paint, just blocking in and adjusting some proportions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Still Life Monoprint

I wanted to try a monoprint using the slow dryng Open Acrylics. I used a rectangle of white perspex as my plate. Being white this made it easier to see what I was doing.  I spent quite a while working on the plate, probably as long as I would on a regular painting. Regular acrylics would not allow you to do this as they dry too quickly.

Here is the image I pulled off it, printing on a small ethching press. The image is of course reversed.  I wasn't too happy with it really. I thought it looked better o the perspex plate!  However, regarding it as a learning process I perservered. There is usually a ghost of the image left on the plate after printing, so I reworked the image more loosely this time and produced the two further prints below. They are a bit more lively, but I still wasn't happy with them.

I was wiping the plate clean when I thought I'd give it one more chance.  I like this one the best of the lot. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anne Sat in a Chair - 1st Sitting

I have made an initial start on the large portrait of Anne Sitting.  As is usual when painting, your present work will spawn new ideas for further work and exploration.  While I was painting Anne's portrait last year, I realised that a more complete picture with her sitting in the chair would be a truer and more compelling portrait.  She habitually wears many layers of dark clothes and has these lurid orange plastic shoes. The shoes became a problem for me on the last portrait as they kept distracting my eye, and I asked her to wear different ones.  It became something of a joke between us, and we both agreed that for this painting she should wear them.

I began our first sitting by making a few preliminary drawings.  Drawing is always a good way to get to know a subject.  It doesn't matter that they are rough or crude; they are not intended to be finished artworks.  They are working drawings and you start to get a feel for where potential problems are going to be.  With this painting, the multiple layers of clothing with collars and zips, and the complex folds will be challenging to paint.

I also took a few photographs.  Even though I find photo's difficult to work from, I find them potentially usefull for recording different positioning and changing light effects.

Quite often in the past, I haven't bothered with drawing onto the canvas before jumping straight in with the paints.  Maybe because it has been so long since I have worked on a canvas this size, but I seem to have lost confidence in that approach.  So this time, I sketched in a rough drawing, using charcoal and a large brush dipped in water to correct my many mistakes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stretching Linen Canvas

I have been stretching a large linen canvas canvas for a new painting of Anne Holiday.  It's the largest canvas I've prepared for some time and I'd forgotten what a difficult and time consuming job it is!  I construct my own stretcher frames using timber that I've had beveled on one side. This is necessary so that the stretcher bars will not touch and show through on the surface of the painting. I cross-brace the frame for strength, otherwise it will warp. 

Stretching linen is always difficult. It's harder to stretch than cotton and in spite of what the experts say, in my experience I have found that it fluctuates more with humidty changes than cotton does.  In fact you have to be very carefull not to overstretch it if it is raw unprimed canvas like I am using. Once the linen is primed with acrylic gesso it shrinks and goes tight as a drum, often distorting the frame and even tearing.  I have often read that it is easier to stretch whilst wet, so this time I thought I'd try this method.  I found however, that while it was indeed easier to stretch, once it had dried out it went very slack.  I thought it might improve once I'd gessoed it, but it was still as limp as a flag in the breeze and useless for painting on.

There was nothing for it other than to pull the staples out and restretch it. The photo below shows how much more it stretched, the gessoed line being at the original edge of the stretcher.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Recently I was playing around with trying out some monoprinting.  A monoprint or monotype is essentially a simple transfer print from glass,plastic or metal plate. The plate is painted or inked and drawn into and wiped and smudged to produce various results, and then printed onto paper. I used a small press, but it's also possible to simply rub the back of the paper with the back of a spoon,or use a print roller.  The image prints in reverse and you only get one print. Hence "mono" print. However, usually there is still the ghost of the image left on the surface of the plate, and this can then be reworked to produce another print.  It encourages working in series and can be quite addictive! 

 The use of myself as subject matter was incidental really, and I hardly even looked in the mirror. I just wanted to experiment, and the first ones above were done with etching ink and oil paint onto a copper plate.  Then I tryed using acrylic paint. Because of it's fast drying time I had to work very fast and they were executed in about a minute or less. There is a new type of slow drying acrylic available - Golden's Open Acrylic - and I have just ordered some to try out.  I also discovered, much to my surprise that if I drew directly into the paint with a soft graphite pencil, the marks were transferred perfectly. 

I was using various small samples of fine paper and I was rather pleased with the serendipity of this one on a paper called "Husk".

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Recently I had the opportunity to do some painting from life.  Inna is a young woman from Jeruselum, traveling New Zealand.  She saw my exhibition in New Plymouth and emailed to ask if I knew of any artists requiring a professional model. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss so we ended up working together for about ten days.  As well as being beautiful and charming, I found Inna very intelligent and good company and I learned a lot about Israel and the sensitive political situation there, a subject I'm all too ignorant of.

Here are a couple of oil sketchs on paper we did.  I started two larger paintings, however, Inna's time in Taranaki was limited and so they remain uncompleted.  I have got photographs and a few drawings, so I may be able to do some more work on them in the near future. But it's never the same for me, not having the sitter's phisical presence.  I'm coming to the realisation that for me, at least, the interaction with the subject is everything and the painting is only a secondary record.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dale Sitting on the Edge of a Bed

Two Self Portraits on Gessoed Paper

A couple of self portraits I did while experimenting with gessoed paper as the support.  It seems to encourage a fresher and more free approach.  I also like the torn edges of the paper.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Portrait of Anne (Completed version)

Oil on linen on MDF

Finaly! This is the finished version of the portrait of Anne Holiday. It was a finalist in the 2010 Adam's Portraiture Award. A somewhat dubious honour.