Saturday, October 24, 2009


Work and life have taken up my time over the last few days and there has been little time for painting or drawing.  Spare moments seem to have been spent catching up on sleep more than anything.

I am puttering around in the studio tonight within nothing much inspiring me.  I've pulled out a few prints of a trout and started added some colour to new cards. 


A quick study in watercolour of eyes in preparation for a new portrait possibility.

And a halfhearted dab at a painting that sits waiting to be finished.

All while listening to Leonard Cohen ' A thousand kisses deep'.  In his more current performances he speaks the words to this song and it feels very different, almost personal.  Art in a pure form is this song and this man's voice. Which do you prefer?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Portrait complete

I've tinkered with the portrait and added mroe layers and am calling it done for now. 

I'll let it sit for a week or so then have another look and see if any needs tweaking.  The other portrait is niggling away at me now as this is one of a pair.  I may end up doing the first portrait over again to make a softer, less graphic version to go with this.  Yes, it could go on forever.

This boy has the most amazing eyes and lashes.  They seem almost artificial when painting them but they are unique and people comment on his eyes constantly.  I see a heartbreaker in the future...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ramblings about direction

I have been thinking lately about the artistic direction I want to move in.  I have worked on many subjects for the last few years and while they all appeal to me at various times, what I always fall back to are portraits as my comfort.  There is something exceptionally challenging and satisfying about creating a human face - or an animal - out of a blank sheet of paper or canvas.

So where is the push off point that makes me decide to devote the bulk of my time to portraiture?  I'm not quite sure yet.  Maybe I need to think more about my goals.  Portraiture can take many forms from commissioned pieces to a less personal range of portraits that appeal to a wider audience.  From a financial point of view, portraiture is a hard sell.  It is very much a luxury item and often thought narcissistic by those commissioning works for themselves or a confusing option for those thinking of portraits of family members for gifts or remembrances. 

During the current recession, can portraits still sell? I know in Newfoundland, where they say the recession hasn't hit hard, selling any kind of art can be challenging.  A small population with less disposable income makes it difficult to consider luxuries like commissioned art.  Of course, I do have access to the world through the internet and that increases my options.

There are those who say that it doesn't matter if art sells or not, it is in the process and creation.  Yes, to a degree.  But we create pieces so they can be shared with the world and to be compensated for time and effort to share that product with the world.  I know commissions can get old when they are subjects that don't hold your interest intently and you look upon them as a chore.  But if the subject is one you love, then there shouldn't be a problem.  Each one is a new challenge and pleasure to produce and learn from.

So I sit and think about whether to push into an area that is more speciality or to continue to work on a broader range of subject matter. Meanwhile this little 4 x 12 capelin print, a left over from Saturday's workshop, has received its final washes of colour, ready to swim off to a new home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Portrait update

I've added more layers to the watercolour to define shapes and started adding pastels to block in the hair on top of the watercolour.   This seems to work well over the layer and gives depth with the initial colour and value coming through the layers.

Without the value mapping on the face, I think I prefer it this way and after chatting with the mother of the children we decided to let this one be a softer version.  The other portrait is liked but I may do a softer version of it just for comparison

Adding detail is the fun part of a portrait.  Once I have the main pieces in place then I can add those elements that bring the piece to life.  Highlights, darks, individual hairs all breathe life into a portrait.  The trick is knowing just when to stop.  And that is never an easy call.  I tend to err more on the side of less is more these days, knowing I can always go back and touch up but it is a lot more difficult to take away.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Portrait II - the brother

I figured I'd better make a start on the second portrait piece to go with the original child.  This time her older brother.  I wanted to make them using similar techniques as they would be in the same house and to have two very different styles would seem rather odd in this instance.

The first piece was a bit of an experiment with good and bad aspects but overall I am pleased with it.

I'm using the same format - 12 x 16 140lb watercolour paper.  I mapped out the features and have it filling the space with little or no background. I  want the face to pull in the viewer.

I've blocked in some base values and will add to it tomorrow.  I will add ink and pastel as I did with the previous painting and cross my fingers that it turns out to be what is in my head.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The North Atlantic clown fish


I've been putting my technical skills in watercolour to the test today with this little piece.

It started as a demo for the workshop on Saturday.  I was creating a wild abstract background, then printing over it.  This background was created with undiluted acrylic inks then white block printing ink on the capelin over that.  The print didn't come out as crisp as I wanted it and I was going to abandon it.  However, I started to play around with the print.  As its waterbased prining ink, I could fairly easily lift portions of it up but not disturb the acrylic ink layer beneath.

The colours were rich and deep and and the white printers ink became an almost silvery shade over the inks and with some additions of colour.

Thus the North Atlantic clown fish was born.

This one is about 4 x 12 inches on 90lb watercolour paper.