Saturday, December 19, 2009


I'm sure everyone is becoming tired of seeing the updates on this portrait by now but its approaching completion and I have the bones of another piece in my head, and am anxious to put it on paper.

I'm continuing to build the background for this piece and am at the point where I wonder if I've screwed it up or its simply at the ugly stage and I need to push further ahead and let it come together more.  My initial need to make the background recede is apparent in this update as both it and the portrait are competingn for attention.  I need to address that with out losing the effect that I'm after or compromising the paper's surface.

I really should have thought out the background first on this one then worked it before adding the figure.  It would be the logical way to proceed but I'm not always logical.  The symbolic images are becoming part of the background but I need to fade the hare especially.  Animals or people tend to pull in my focus and I overwork the detail where I should not have. 

Luckily I am using 300lb paper which is pretty forgiving in terms of scrubbing back so I should be able to fade the background images and made them recede more.

One more day and I hope it will be complete.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Symbolism in portraiture

I've made a start on the background of the portrait.  It may well change the overall values of the face, but I'll see once its in place and tweak as I go along.

I like symbolism in portraiture.  It makes a piece personal and gives the viewer a talking point as they try to interpret the symbols.  I rarely explain the symbols to others for exactly those reasons and because they are personal to both the sitter and to me as the artist.  Symbolism has been used in portraiture for hundreds of years.  Some of the most famous portraits of Queen Elizabeth I contained many symbols to represent her view of herself and her power and virtues to the world.

So these are the initial layers for the background which outline the drawings that I have placed there.  I don't want them to be focal points, but almost shadow images that the viewer has to examine closely and to decide if they are really there or just imagination.

This portrait is of my brother in law by the way, who I hope I don't perturb too much during this process.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sales - when to have one

Over at my Etsy shop, I'm having a Half Price Holiday Sale on select necklaces created with semiprecious stones, sterling silver and other natural materials.  The sale will last until December 24th  - or until they all sell, whichever comes first! 

Like most artists, I usually have an inventory of stock, in my case consisting of paintings, drawings and jewelry.  So when do I decide that its time to have a sale to encourage people to buy and to make room for me to produce more? 

Length of exposure is a strong factor.   If a piece has been around for awhile and hasn't generated a lot of interest it can go back into stock or can be reworked into a new piece.

Orphan work.  By this I mean something that isn't part of my general style of work or theme and as a result becomes a stand alone piece.  This can be good or bad depending on whether it catches someone's eye or not.  If not, then off it goes to tempt someone with  a sale price.

Lack of storage space.  When my studio shelves and storage areas are getting full, I know its time to make some things available at a reduced cost.

New projects looming.  When I have ideas for a series of pieces or want to experiment with new media or supports, I need a clean slate to help that happen.  Moving old stock out to make way for new is always a good reason for a sale.

Encourage new clients.  A sale is often the introduction of a new buyer to the purchase of original works and can be the making a long relationship between artist and buyer.

So go and browse.  Perhaps you'll find something there that tempts you or may be the temptation of someone else.

Meanwhile, this little pup is slowly coming together.  Time is against me in the lead up to Christmas, but as of tomorrow I'm off work for two weeks, then I can catch up again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Portrait update

Time for a quick portrait update inbetween turkey sales.

I'm still building layers on this piece and its starting to get some depth now.  The pointillistic approach that I have taken for the last few portraits seems to give more life to the skin tones.  Except in the very young, there is rarely a smooth tone to the skin. Colour variances and shading show the bluish thinner layer of skin over bony areas, while areas with more flesh have pinker tones to them.

I'm still struggling with decisions over a background.  Inspiration isn't happening on this one.  I have ideas rolling around but nothing is gelling right now. Technically I should have completed the background first, as it will likely change the values in the portrait.  However, I'll deal with that when the time comes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Down on the farm...

Last night and today all the Christmas turkeys went to the processor. Tomorrow they will return and be picked up by their new owners. Now there's no one left in the barn except BD and Lucky, the duck who survived a mink and and owl attack.  What else could the poor little fellow be called??

These turkeys are about 15 weeks old and there are some large birds this year.  There is no reliable method of determining the final weight of a bird, only the length of time they are kept and when you can get into the queue at the processor's. Temperature also plays a role and if the weather is colder, the birds expend more energy in heat production and less in growing.  Up until the last week or so, the temperatures have been mild.   There are still a few turkeys available if anyone needs one.  Sorry, no shipping, farm gate only.

The birds are raised as naturally as possible, even if they are inside.  The weather is too harsh and there are too many predators to safely raise Christmas turkeys outside in Newfoundland. I always feel sad when they go, but know they've had as good a life as can be provided with enough food, water, clean pens, radio and ball games. Yes, they are party animals in the true sense...

Meanwhile back in the studio, thoughts of a wintry sea took over inspired by sketches at a local beach then a crop of one of those waves executed in watercolour as twilight settled over the scene.  You can read more about it, see the beach sketch and read a story of shipwrecks and phantom dog heroes at Watermarks.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I've made a little more progress on the portrait that I started the other night.  I've added additional layers, but they are still quite light and I haven't really started pushing the shadows yet.  It seems that the only time I can make progress is very early morning or at night.  The time inbetween, even when I'm not working, is consumed with other tasks that take my time away from creating.

Here's a closer view for those who like to examine the layers in greater detail.  Lots of people have a bit of anxiety when drawing glasses, but I quite enjoy them.  Most eyeglasses these days have non-reflective lenses in them so there isn't a lot of external reflections that mask the eye shape or colour.  If the shape of the glasses is correct, then it all falls into place, very much like a puzzle.

I'm working on a couple of pieces at once as I often do.  I like being able to keep in painting mode so while one dries, I move to the other.  As long as its the same medium, it seems to work out well.  I also have sketchbooks scattered around the house so when I get a moment, I make little thumbnail sketches of things that interest me.

I'm working on a drawing tutorial that I hope to have available by Christmas Eve.  I haven't produced one for awhile and have had the makings of it kicking around for months.  I came across it the other day and thought it was time to complete it and make it available.  Here's a little teaser of where it is so far.

I find the hardest part of creating a tutorial is putting into words what I do without thinking.  And remembering to scan pieces regularly as I get so caught up in the process of drawing, it moves ahead more quickly than I realize.