Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween is pretty much a non event at my house.  With no small children at home and living pretty far off the beaten track to tempt trick or treaters, Halloween becomes just another night.

However, I had bought some miniature pumpkins a couple of weeks ago as painting material and took one of them to sacrifice as a seasonal decoration.  A little carving and a small tealight and this was the result.  I always find jack o'lanterns appealing and the variety and skill levels of carving that is around, each one out does the last one I've seen. 

Keeping seasonal, this is a small drawing of a lit pumpkin and reflection that I played around with a few weeks ago using coloured pencils on black Artagain paper, about 4 x 8 inches.  It is sooo difficult to photograph anything on black paper!

And what is Halloween without a cat in the mix? After rushing around this afternoon dealing with personal issues, I took some time to start a portrait of Tripod on a last piece of watercolour paper that I had in a pad, 12 x 16.  I've just laid down some washes and will see how the colours and washes work to depict fur without getting too heavily into detail.

And finally, some little stories to spook you before you venture out into the night...

Excerpt from St. John's Haunted Hike website:
This story concerns an odd phenomenon at Coaker's monument in Port Union South, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. The site is the private Coaker graveyard, and to my knowledge only four people "reside" there. As a youth I noticed that on days where not the slightest breeze was blowing, a sudden gusty wind would spring up upon entry through the gates to the graveyard....

Friday, October 30, 2009


The last couple of days have been quite hectic and I haven't had much drawing or painting time, so early mornings and late nights I played a bit more with this portrait and am calling it done for now.  The piece is on a half sheet (15 x 22) of 300lb Arches hot press watercolour paper.  Its fun to work portraits that are larger than life, but challenging too as features become almost abstract when done on a much larger scale until you step back from the painting.

I'm not completely happy with the hair, but will let it sit for awhile and see if it needs tweaking.  Hair is something I don't particularly like doing. Its a complex thing, even when broken down into basic values and shapes.  I don't want to get into too much detail and loose the impressionistic feel of the piece, but it needs to look like hair.

I worked layers of pastel over the watercolour on the hair.  Its forgiving and works well on the paper surface and has the element of quicker coverage.   For some reason, hair in watercolour alone I find particularly difficult, probably why I revert to pastel when I can for it, even if I can get the same speed of coverage with watercolour too.  Just one of my quirks.

With my mother currently in hospital, I'm to-ing and fro-ing to town and to feed her cats while she's not there.  With a hectic work schedule and added trips, it becomes a bit of a juggling act at times.  Hopefully I can have some downtime this weekend and get some more drawing and painting started.

With Halloween tomorrow, it should be fairly quiet here.  The advantage of living in a more isolated spot is that there are rarely kids trick or treating as the road to the house is long and dark and scary.
Perhaps tomorrow its time to tell a ghostly tale or two...

Edit:   I've taken a couple of photos of the piece in daylight.  During the week, I never seem to be around when its light. This gives a truer impression of the reality of colours in this portrait  which are much cooler than under incandescent or florescent lighting.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving ahead

I'm pushing my way through this, taking the good with the bad and trying to both anticipate and resolve problems as they arise.

I've reworked the mouth endless times and in the end the paper, even at 300lb, was protesting so I resorted to watercolour pencils to get some shape and colour down and a wash to blend them.  The mouth still isn't complete, but I'm moving in the right direction now.

The hair still needs a lot of work and although I blocked in a dark background, it may be too stark against the lighter hair.  This image really shows all those earned grey hairs!  I have added some pastel to the hair as a first step, over the watercolour and see where it goes.  The two media seem to work well, as does coloured pencil with watercolour.
I played around with an a painterly approach for the skin tones, laying down colour in an pointillistic way so that the eye blends the colours.

Its heading down the home stretch now.  Keep your fingers crossed and thanks for keeping me company on the journey.

Monday, October 26, 2009

At times like this...

Yep, its officially making me crazy.

I know its early stages, and I know its the ugly phase, and I know I can do this, but I keep going over and over the same sections.  Scrubbing, repainting, scrubbing, repositioning - thanking myself for using 300lb paper that I can actually scrub.

I think -maybe - that I have conquered the eyes. Or mostly.  There's still some deepening of shadows to happen but that's reserved for later.

The mouth is making me really crazy.  I think I've gotten it, then it escapes me again or the colour is wrong.  So for now, I'm speechless. :)  Stepping back from this I see that I need to adjust the hairline and bring it lower.

At times like this I wish I'd just used a pencil...

So why do I post it and share it?  Because it pushes me on and makes me do it right.  Or as right as I can.  The degree of accountability, if only to myself,  gives me momentum.  The perfectionist in me makes me crazily look for exactness in form, colour and likeness. Voice in my head...don't we all have them?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Self portrait start

I'm still working in watercolour and with another self portrait. that I set up today.  This piece is 15  x 22 on 300lb Arches paper.  The skin tone is very pale in this and I'm using a reference image. I wanted to see how I could capture that colouring, yet still have elements that draw the view in. 

I also like the drama of a face that fills the space.  That, in itself, creates impact.

So I'm thinking carefully now about brush strokes and placement.  Watercolours do tend to be a planner's tool as they aren't very forgiving.  I'm still going fairly loose with this but patience isn't often my virtue when it comes to waiting for layers to dry, so there may be some lost edges.  However, part of the appeal of watercolour is not knowing exactly what will happen.

And a couple of closer views for those who like to see technique and detail.