Friday, 29 July 2011

For Four Fores

My friend K called to see me this week, and as always it was really good to see him, to have a catch up chat, our usual shared laughter over mugs of hot sweet tea and to hear his interesting and informative latest news.  We'd got so much to say to each other and it was good to sit outside in the fitful summer sunshine whilst we talked. I offered him another,  rhetorical....."more tea", since I know he drinks as much of the beverage as I do,  and he accepted with a grin, and said "Ill have a look at your latest effort whilst you're doing it" I turned back to him "EFFORT?????!" I queried. And he explained patiently to me "It's not a masterpiece until its finished, until then it's an "effort"!" "Ok" I acquiesced with a smile, although he was on iffy ground as far as I was concerned, I've not thought of my art as "efforts" for many years. They invariably turn out as I expect, and are always pieces of art from the first pencil line. I consider the word "effort" in this case to describe amateurish attempts at artwork that may or may not become a finished painting.  So, I don't consider my paintings as "efforts", not at all! It's a good job he's a good friend, for me to let him get away with that comment!!! LOL

But I was more than happy to show him the watercolour painting I'm currently working on for Stuart, of the interior of the Bothy at Calke Abbey. And he agreed with me how detailed the painting is! I'm really pleased with the way it's progressing, and the drawing out that I've done of it. It was always going to be a difficult picture as I'm painting from half a dozen photos to make a whole room, although the photos can't capture the whole room all together. It's half painted, by now, and I may use a fine black sketching pen to pick out the detail afterwards, I'll know for sure when I see how the painting has progressed and see how much it may be needed. And the surprising thing is - I'm loving doing it! Its great fun, and very challenging to draw all the tools, and paraphernalia of an ancient garden shed.

Today, a guy I have only met a couple of brief times before, came to my house on an unrelated to art matter. He and I stood chatting in the kitchen as we drank tea and coffee together (not mixed you understand, that would be the worst of both drinks!), and it was only in passing during the conversation that I mentioned that I'm an artist. "Aaaarrre you an artist?" he asked in wonder, and I nodded at him, and agreed that I was. I went on with the conversation, and skipped over the artist part. It was only when he was leaving the house, that he looked at the artwork on the walls and asked if I'd done it. "Yes!" I said. "What, ALL of it?" he asked, and I agreed with a broad grin that it was indeed all mine. He peered at one of the big cat watercolour paintings that I'd done and asked me how long it had taken. I appraised the picture he was indicating and said "MMMMmmm.. about 12 hours for that one" and he was flabbergasted at that answer and shot back with "Is that all...?" and I answered with a bigger grin "Well, I know what I'm doing!" and he nodded in understanding, especially when I went on to say a bit later on that a painting actually takes "12 hours AND forty years of experience" - THEN, he understood!!!!  :)

And the reason for the strange title for this post...? Well, this is the four hundred and forty fourth blog post...... so I thought it worth a mention....... don't you...?  :)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Look and look again and look some more

It's going to take hours to do this picture. Hours of pencil drawing, hours of pen drawing, hours of watercolour painting, hours of looking at it to get the ambiance right. Hours of studying photos of it before I even start the work I've just described. Hours of peering into tight corners, hours of looking at colours, and shapes, hours of studying texture, and hours trying to put it down on paper.

And I'm gonna love every minute of it!

...and that's exactly what I told Stuart the other day when we finalised what work I would be doing on his painting for him. He wants it "to look interesting to anyone" and to have ambiance and atmosphere in it as well. I explained to him that a photograph only captures a split second in time, but it flattens shapes as it does it. A painting will bring out those shapes, will create more light where it's needed, and more dark to add depth  and interest to the painting. And this one will be about the most complicated thing I've done for an awfully long time. Each drawer in the seed cupboard has to be drawn, each seed word painted on it has to be written out, each plant pot, each shelf, each aspect of the clock and the tools on the wall has to be drawn. And some of the tools have to be moved around as well, just to add to the fun of it! And some of the pieces of gardening equipment have to be removed in the foreground, which will add to the fun again! It's going to be like drawing knitting, or a dish of cooked spaghetti, this hotch-potch of ancient garden implements.  

And looking at the photo here, you can see how much work has got to go into it, to depict it as a watercolour/drawing in pen and wash.

And I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Falling in love with a colour and a memory

The chance to paint some one's memories is always a pleasure. When that someone is my friend Stuart Haywood, and it involves a day out in his company, it makes it even more of one. It also involved a lot of walking, a history lesson, a botanical lesson, a bull, a herd of sheep and some cheekiness! But I'd expect all of that when out with Stuart, who's age certainly doesn't curtail his ability to walk many miles over hill and dale, and to air his considerable knowledge to any willing audience, which was me, this day.

We met at the village of Ticknall, in south Derbyshire and had arranged for us both to walk to the nearby stately home of Calke Abbey. I hadn't realised it would involve passing through a field of cows, who were all lying down chewing the cud, and I noticed one of them was a lot fatter, and fuller than than the rest...."Hey, isn't that a bull?" I asked as we passed by. "Yes" Stuart agreed "He'll be calm if he's with his herd" and I was incredibly pleased and relieved to note that that was indeed the case. We walked through woods and through the beautiful parkland and came out by the large house. It's not a very attractive house, quite square and heavy looking I always think. But we weren't there to look at the house, and passed on and up the hill, towards the little church. But we weren't there for that either. We were heading for something far more interesting.

We past by the newly restored Orangery and stopped before a gate in the high wall. Closed against us. "Do you want to go through?" he asked and I nodded in agreement. I love doors in outside walls, and always imagine they lead into mystical worlds. As indeed did this one. A world of the past, a world of colour and fragrance.

It was the world of Peter Rabbit, and Mr McGregors garden!

Cabbage patches, currant bushes, fruit trees, gourds, and beans, and in the distance a white lean-to greenhouse, and upended clay pots on canes amongst the potato plants. We by-passed the well stuffed scarecrows and passed under Medlar trees, and black Mulberry trees, (both of amazed interest to me since I've never seen either tree before) and on to the next part of the garden. Of flowers and colour and sweet fragrance and Stuart indicated the plain looking building to our left. "That's it!" he said, and I looked with interest at the place we had trailed this far to see.

I walked towards it with him, walking in through the main door and he indicated the greeen painted doorway to my left. I stood in wonder and looked at the scene infront of me.  A vision of metal, wood, brick, pot, hessian, glass, plaster and paint. All of it much handled, aged and worn. This was what he had brought me to see. And more to the point, this was what he wanted me to paint for him! Wow! It was a veritable cornucopia of ancient gardening implements and would be most interesting to sort into some semblance of structure and interest.

For what Stuart wants me to paint is the essence of the spirit of 17 years spent there, in that room, the Bothy, when he was a volunteer working at the gardens at Calke.

I took photos, lots of them, and looked at all the old implements. But the thing I loved most about it was the blue distemper on the walls, all peeling off and faded with age and many summers, and long distant winters. And I knew that I would love doing that painting for him, because the haphazard piles of old clay pots would be set off to perfection against that blue. If you can fall in love with a colour, I fell in love with that one.

We continued the rest of the visit looking in other old buildings, all full of memory and one purpose - the boiler room, the pony lawn mower shed, the ice house, the Orangery. Soaking up the atmosphere, soaking up the memories, the feeling of the place, the ambiance. And I agreed whole heartedly with Stuart as we set off back through the woods that it was indeed important to do that, to see the place for myself, to understand what it is he wants me to paint for him.

The photograph is here, of what he wants me to draw and paint for him in watercolours. And I can't wait to get started! And he can't wait to see it!!!!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The special painting within

My hairdresser talked of an idea for a painting that she would like done, of someone close to her, and asked me if I could do it.

Yes, I can.

I believe everyone has a "special painting" within them. And I love to ask people who I meet what it is. For some, its a racetrack at Silverstone, for others its magical unicorns in a mystical wood, or the scene by a favourite beach,  or their dogs, or their children, or their house. Its different for us all, and is the precious image we hold dear.

And me?

I'd love to paint it for you.

I told my hairdresser that whatever she wanted, it was possible. Even from bad photos, it's possible to create a painting of a beloved one.

So, she's looking through some favourite photos, and will get back to me.

But, in the meantime, I am  busy with other things, again.

The new website updating is limping on, and I'll be far happier when its done.  I feel like I'm juggling again. Trying to set up the new website, whilst painting, and looking for outlets for my art.  Some may work, some may not. But I tend to find, that when I try something, it opens other doors for me.

And I've met some very interesting people, that way.........

Friday, 15 July 2011

It started with the smell of the sea and ended with a happy twist in the tail

The week started with a burst of painting from me. That in itself isn't that unusual, I have bursts of painting sessions quite often. This one was prompted by the fact that I had to get the paperwork completed and returned this week for an exhibition that is taking place at the end of August, and when the questions require such things as "title","medium", "size" and "price" it helps somewhat if the painting actually exists in real life! I couldn't ever just presume a painting would be finished by then, it has to be actually complete, for me to fill the form out. Hence the flurry of paintings, as I particularly wanted to do a couple of the sea, since I've recently been on holiday, and I find it a delightful place to be, as do most people.

I had virtually finished a pretty watercolour of the area I went to in France, at St Palais - and was absolutely delighted with it, as it depicted all that I had hoped for - the view of a sundrenched sandy beach, the tide receeded a little to reveal hidden rock pools full of sealife to explore in their miniature worlds, sand, sea, a large beach curving around to the next headland, pine trees revealing the buildings tucked amongst them, and the feeling of a bright sunny day from the strong shadow to one side, hinting at the steps following the wall down to the beach, and a couple of children playing by the waters edge, paddling and debating whether to have a swim or an icecream. The picture so easily named itself "The summer holidays start here"! And because it had gone so well, it inspired me to start another one, but this one a looser picture, more a hint of the sea crashing in, wet sand, and the curve of a wave as it foamed against the sand, and a couple walking in the distance. But the whole purpose of the painting, indicated by the title itself, is that the sky and sea merge as one as the clouds come in as the wind picks up. So, again, another easy title to name the picture (and I love it when it flows like that, it means it feels right!). But the part I love the best of this painting is actually the wave in the foreground, and the foam itself, it more than anything else in that picture is the part I love the most, the way the water is flowing, the texture and the dedicate colours of water, sand, and foam so difficult to paint, and yet it works so well here, but I know that's because I was on a roll, and all inspired from the other painting I'd done!

So, that was my week, of painting, and it's been a good one, because of these happy holiday paintings.

And then I opened up my my emails.

And found one from Lucy Felthouse.....

.....which said..

Just a very quick message to you to let you know that the Seducing the Myth cover is out in the wild! I just posted a blog post about it, along with the table of contents. You’re fully credited within the manuscript, too. It should be out within a few weeks.

So, go and have a look for yourselves, and see what my painting looks like now that it's a book cover!

And I'm so delighted to see that it has been well received so far, with the comments Lucy's had for it, which is really exciting to hear!

So, all in all,  it's been a good marine week! (I mean, of the salty variety, not the sailor sort!!)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The smell of the greasepaint

My friend the local historian, Stuart, rang me this morning. We chat regularly, every couple of weeks or so about things in general, flowers in particular, and any snippets of news either of us have. He's featured in the local paper next week and wanted to tell me about it, and also wanted to inquire whether I'd be interested in accompanying him at a talk he's been sort of asked to do (but it needs confirmation, it's only a verbal request at the moment) to a local ladies group "sometime next year". It's only for half an hour, and he will talk for half of it, and I could do the other half - like we did a couple of years ago when he did the talk about posing for me, and I accompanied him to tell the group a little more about myself. It's our double act! I said I'd more happy to do it again, whenever the "sometime next year" actually is.

He asked me what I'd been up to, and I told him about updating my new website, which is being created as I speak, although its all behind the scenes stuff at the moment, and not live. I'm enjoying doing it with my webmaster, tweaking and creating, designing and fine tuning.

And the rest of the day has been finishing off a watercolour painting that I'm hoping to exhibit soonish, at the end of August. I finished it off, and started another one, as I was in the momentum of it, and had the fresh idea for the next one forming away as I completed the first. I like it when that happens, it means I'm in the mental flow of it. I won't show the finished one to you yet, but I'll wait until the other one is completed and show them together. They're both the same subject matter, just different aspects of it, done in different styles.  And I'll be interested to know which you like the best.......

Right, now I need to go and wash my hands, which have blue acrylic down two of the nails, and somehow, I've got it in my hair as well, and I didn't even know until my man pointed it out to me when he saw me at the end of the day. That show's its been a good painting day! When I've got so excited and passionate about it, I didn't even know how or when I managed to smear it on me as well as the canvas!!!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Just a bit too good

The watercolour finished, viewed from every which way I could think of, tweaked and adjusted so that I was happy with it, I rang the client to say it was completed. We agreed a date and time for him to come and collect it and I got on with the next painting on my to do list....

He arrived on time, and seemed quietly happy with the painting. Well he had a big grin on his face. I think it had taken him back abit to see himself depicted in a painting. I smiled in understanding, I've seen that reaction before. I know he will spend the next few days looking and looking and looking at it until he grows to know it as well as his own reflection. In a way it is his reflection, but also it isn't. It's the face we all see, not the face he sees. When you look in a mirror it is by definition, and excuse me for stating the bleeding obvious, a mirror image. When you look at a painting of yourself, it's the face the rest of the world sees, and will seem a little disconcerting at first to the person whose face it is, a little out of kilter, well known, but slightly wrong somehow. But gradually, quietly, there is an acceptance that that is the "real me" and the love for it will grow accordingly.

As he was about to go I mentioned that I might put it on my blog, to show my latest painting, and asked the same question that I ask of anyone who has had their portrait painted by me, the "Are you happy with that...?" question. And he said straight away "If you don't show the face" and I laughed in understanding and said "Ah, it's too good isn't it - its too like you, that you don't want anyone down the pub taking the mickey of you posing for this naked".

So, here is the picture, because I want to show it as my latest artwork, because its in watercolours and they're far more difficult to do than oils, to get the nuances of tone right, as its so unforgiving a medium to adjust if anything needs adjusting.

But the face has been blanked out. And he is without name. Without age. Without geographic area.

But, I'm pretty sure that somewhere, some one is quietly sitting looking at this picture in its entirety and smiling gently to himself......

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Massage messages

The naked man who I have spent most of the last couple of days with is almost ready to leave me. I've spent a few hours getting him how I want him, tweaking and adjusting where necessary and viewing him upside down to make sure he's fully there. As you do! :)

An odd thing to do, I'm sure you think, but that's the best way to check when you've painted someone, particularly a nude, that the shades, colours, tones and lines are all correct. When you look at an image to paint, the brain overrides what is actually there to read "what should be" so you have to bypass that bit by putting the image upside down, which doesn't read as any recognisable shape as far as the brain is concerned, and then you can see the ever so slight tiny nuances of changes of colour and tone, and adjust it accordingly. I never paint the whole image upside down, because strangely enough that wouldn't work as a finished picture. No, its just for checking when the image is nine tenths finished, and sharpens up the bits that aren't quite right. And its mainly for when I paint a face or a naked figure, as the adjustments can be so slight that you hardly see that they've been made, and I use my smallest paint brushes to do it with. But if I showed you the nine tenths finished painting, and the totally finished painting you'd notice that the totally finished one just looks better overall, more complete somehow.

So, he's almost ready to go, and I am thinking about my next commission. Or at least I hope very much that it is my next commission, because it's something that is fascinating me as a subject matter. I have had three or four long chats on the phone with the guy who is interested in me doing this painting for him (and I mean long chats - a few hours worth), and we haven't even got to the point of discussing whether its going to be in oils or acrylics or watercolours, on canvas or board, the size of it, the use of colours, the painting style, the price, or even the subject matter fully. But he and I know that we have to have the discussions we have had first, for me to fully understand the subject matter he wants me to paint for him. Its a new subject for me, but one that is certainly erotic, and sensual, two things that I love to put together, although they should always be together as far as I am concerned - erotic and sensual - although it is possible to paint something sensual that is not erotic - enjoying eating a delicious meal by candlelight, or bathing in the sea on a bright sunlit day, are both sensual experiences.

But, his idea as we've discussed so far is certainly very much of the erotic and sensual, but more than that as well. And its something that he knows a lot about, because of his job. And I know a lot about art, because that is my job. So the long conversations so far have been the pair of us brain storming ideas to put together for his special painting. Because I know that the various ideas in his head can be painted, and depicted as the fabulous concepts they are. And I know that there are very few other artists who could do what he is asking for. But I know that I can.

We haven't even met yet, so I don't even know what he looks like, I have no clues other than his age. I will have more ideas I'm sure when we eventually do meet, but so far we've got on really well on the phone, and both find each other really easy to chat to and open up to. But then, its part of my job and character to make people feel easy, and its part of his job to make people feel relaxed and at ease within themselves too.

And the subject matter? Well, lets just say that it involves the work he does, but more so, far more so.......

And the work?

It's massage..................

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Hitting the ground running

Since I've got back from my holiday I've not stopped being on the go, which is great, and I'm really pleased about. Some holidays it takes a while to get going again  with the work momentum after the relaxing break (or maybe that's just the jet lag when you feel like shit because you're wide awake at 3am but half asleep by 4pm!!).  But, I think it helped that on the day that I was travelling back from France there was over 9 hours sitting in a car, and four hours of sitting on a ferry, so I was able to get my mind in gear again, and think of the jobs I needed to do when I got home, so by the time I stepped over the threshold, I was mentally focused and totally tuned into the work in progress.

Which is a lovely job for me to come back to do.

It's a nude.
Of a man.
In watercolours.

Just the sort of thing, that's right up my street! :)

I'm working from a set of photos, that I took of the guy in question, as it's easier for me to do it that way. I know when someone is in a pose, it can be hard work, and the pain, concentration, need for a stretch, or an itch, shows on the face, and in the posture, and in the aching muscles. So, I made the decision to do it from photo, which I can do at my pace, and get it right for the client, so that he will look at it and know instantly its him, that he posed for it, but he won't have the unhappy memories of getting cramp whilst he did it!

I've drawn out the image, and am happy with the drawing, so the rest should follow on easily enough after that. I love the way the colours build up slowly, the highlights of pale colour on the skin, slowly building up the tones of colour to make the darks, and give the figure form and life.

And it's going really well so far...... I can't wait to get on with it!