Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pinot Noir charcoal

Pinot Noir grapevine charcoal

I have experimented with making my own charcoal in the past, but haven't had a chance to produce more since. However, some fall burnoffs provided an opportunity to put the trimmings I'd taken from a Pinot Noir grapevine into a tin and let them carbonize to their heart's content.

The results are a medium to soft charcoal that works like a dream. The previous charcoal was made from willow and had a shorter burn time so is a harder charcoal. Burn times are still being experimented with through different fires.

I've decided to share my secret stash with the world and a couple of packages initially are up for sale on Etsy. If they sell well, I'll look at a larger production of charcoal. I have a continuous, well nearly continuous, supply of grapevines in the greenhouse and about 20 willow trees line the back of the house, so I don't think I'll run out of materials for awhile...

Hoar frost

Iris Marsh
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I was up at 6am this morning and it was still too dark to see the world outside, but within half an hour or so light arrived revealing a hard frost. A hoar frost covered pretty much every surface, some places more heavily than others. So fueled by coffee and dressed in a warm fleece and scarf I ventured outside to capture the icy scenes.

I love the marsh photo most of all, it was so peaceful, the sun was just rising over the trees and hitting the grasses. The colours were perfect and everything was, literally, frozen in time.

The long ice crystals that formed on the plants amazed me. It looked as if a confectioner had frosted them with sugar. My hands were freezing cold at this point but I kept going.

The squirrels have taken most of the rose hips this year and put them into storage. Even the few I found on the bushes had been hollowed out by mice or birds already, leaving little red shells that the frost covered.

The pond had a very thin layer of ice on it and the trees trunks were reflected hazily in the ice.

The sun cut a swath through the meadow, hitting the trees on the opposite side and the grass and earth were hard or crunchy as I walked over them.

By this point my hands were too cold to operate the camera well, so it was time to head back inside and warm up. But it was worth getting cold. Early morning light is so perfect, especially when its frosty.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Creating a body of work

graphite 8 x 10

I've been thinking about creating a body of work. Its on my list and I know it has to be done. Not because my list says so, but because I know that to move ahead, I need a number of images that represent me, my style of work. And that makes me think about what my style is.

I've broken it down further to let me analyse what makes my drawing or painting my own and if it is recognizable to others as my style. I've looked at where my comfort zone is and what makes it comfortable. And I've tried to understand the subject matter that draws me to study it and put it on paper.

So what have I learned?

1. My style is 'soft' or 'delicate' realism. I don't use hard lines, bright colours or gimmicks. My work has a softness in terms of values and application. I look around the walls and through my drawing books and see my style coming through, even if I don't realize it at times.

2. My comfort zone is dry media, specifically graphite, charcoal and coloured pencil. I use wet media from time to time and enjoy it, but I know that my technical skill comes through in dry media. I know what to expect from it, how it performs on different media and that it doesn't add stress to me even in deadlines.

3. My subject matter varies, but again that comfort zone comes in the form of portraits, either animal or human. I draw other subject matter, but nothing grips my attention like trying to achieve soft fur or the light in a person's eye.

So I know more or less the makeup of my style, medium and subject matter, now I need to use that knowledge to create a number of drawings in a subject that has appeal, both to me, as I have to produce them, and to a gallery and the public who may like to buy them ultimately.

I know to produce a body of work, I will need likely 15 to 20 pieces before I can approach a gallery to even consider representation. Galleries like to know the style of work you do, that your work is consistant in quality and that you can produce X number of pieces a month/year. As with any other business, galleries create the demand through marketing and need a supplier who can deliver reliably.

I also know that to produce this body of work it will take time. I'm allowing myself a minimum of a year to produce and even that is optimistic, considering other elements of life that I need to deal with at the same time. But I sure will try. Planning is the easy part.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This is a brief interlude while I stop being mesmerized by eyes in oils! I liked the shape of these flamingos and started doodling them. I doubt it will come to anything significant, but its quite soothing to go back to dry media after wet.

We should talk less and draw more. Personally I would like to renounce speech altogether, and like organic nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rediscovering oil portraits

Self portrait 2008 - stage I
oils 16 x 20

Its been awhile since I tackled a portrait in oils. I've dabbled in small oils and acrylics over the last year but nothing larger than 8 x 10. I used to work a lot in oils, then life happened and art was put on a back burner for awhile. Now I'm getting back into paints again, though I think my first love will always be drawing.

This self portrait is 16 x 20 on a gallery canvas. I've laid down the base for it and am now frustrating myself with eyes. Doing them, wiping them, doing them, wiping them. I don't want this to be a smooth, clean portrait. I want a more painterly style, but may have to settle for something down the middle.

I hate showing initial stages of oil paintings as they look so god awful in those early stages, but its a learning process for me - or more to the point, re-learning - so any input anyone has on skin tones, palettes, etc, is more than welcome. There's not strong lighting in the reference, its not bad, but not bright.

I'll keep plugging away at it and it will come together eventually. Or I keep telling myself that!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My studio is a little more 'lived in' now that I have rearranged some furniture and added some paintings and finished pieces.

I've signed up for a portrait swap and have been given the name of my partner. I've sent off my photos and am waiting for hers in return. I'm toying with what medium to do the portrait in and while I wait, I'm starting work on a self portrait in oils that I promised to tackle some months back. I have the bones of it down on canvas today and will work on it during the week.

I'm likely too out of practice in oils to be brave enough to do someone else's portrait, so may end up doing it in graphite or cp. I'll see how the current one develops first before deciding.

I'm also continuing to work on the portrait of Biscuit that I started. I'd forgotten just how much fur he had. He had developed a thick ruff of fur around his neck, almost like a lion's mane or a furry Elizabethan collar. You could sink your fingers into it up to the knuckles. No wonder I was always vacuming!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dog portrait

Biscuit - work in progress
coloured pencil - 9 x 12
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I've been guiding some people through drawing animals in coloured pencil and am using my old dog Biscuit, as the reference guide. I haven't drawn this dog, since just after he died, about 3 years ago at the old age of 16.

I've started this portrait on toned mi-tientes paper, 9 x 12, the smooth side. I liked the warmth of the orange paper and it suits the reddish tones of the dog.