Saturday, May 16, 2009

202 guests

Its that time of year and today 200 plus day old chicks were collected this morning. These tiny birds are like little balls of fluff but grow very fast. These are broiler chickens to be grown for food. It took me quite awhile to get over the concept of eating something that I knew personally. But I know they are treated well and have everything they could possibly want to be safe and comfortable while they are here.

When chicks arrive they haven't eaten or drunk anything in their life. They are still getting nutrients from the egg sac that housed them for 3 weeks before they hatched. As soon as they get to the barn, they are placed under heat lamps shown where the food and water is. They have special feeders and water stations that prevent them climbing into them. Chicks can easily fall into a tray of water and get chilled or drown. Sometimes a few get confused and wander out from the heat and get cold, so they need to be monitored closely to make sure they stay warm and are eating and drinking. Most get the idea quickly but there's always a couple who are a little slow on the uptake.

And for those who haven't experienced driving for 40 minutes with a flock of chicks 'singing' in the back of your car, here is what it sounds like. And why the video is appearing sideways, I have no idea. I didn't film it on the side. Ahhh technology, it's a constant mystery to me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Youth - WIP

I made a start tonight on a new portrait in oils. The face of the young man was appealing and challenging too and the hair will prove interesting to create. Its on an 8 x 10 stretched canvas and this is the result of about 90 minutes of work so far. Lots more to go.

I 'drew' the basic shape of the head and face using dilute lamp black and a small brush then started to block in some values.

I keep covering the face with a base colour, refining the drawing as I go along as well as the colours.

I begin blocking in the hair using a scrubbing motion with an old brush to get a soft base value that I will add detail to later. I continue to shape the face, correcting the drawing, and painting and repainting the eye.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Direct purchase savings

Tripod Study in oils
6 x 8 - canvas panel

For Sale
in my Etsy gallery

Yes, I'm still on my Zorn kick and wanted to try it out on animals. This study of Tripod seems to work in terms of colour. Then again, with a limited palette, you can't really go too wrong as the colours do tend to be harmonious. There are no harsh, conflicting contrasts in colour that pull the eye away from the subject. I'm quite liking this little palette...

This is the first animal that I have painted in oils for more years than I care to remember. I like the solidity that the paint gives when applied in thicker strokes, making the fur seem deep and thick. And with Tripod it is that if the layer of hairs floating around the floors every day are anything to go by!

There seems to be a following of cat fanciers who Tripod - or his colouring - appeal to, so I will make this piece available by trying it out as a 'Buy Now' on the blog. Most of my original art work is for sale on Etsy, but I will occasionally put something here that can be purchased direct from the blog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I always find fish interesting. The mere fact that they can breathe underway is fascinating and the play of light and dark in sunlit water as they dart about gives a challenge to capture it.

Koi carp have a long history and were used as a food fish with monks breeding them in moats. I recall in some Somerset canals, huge colourful koi swimming, being caught and released. They were the release of someone's carnival or pet store prize into the local waterway. These fish usually return eventually to the natural brown colour of carp but are often considered a nuisance, stirring up the bottom constantly and making the water useless, even for cattle to drink.

This was a quick sketch of a koi. I wanted a stronger sunlit effect but it didn't really come off. I need to darken the values, especially under the fish to get the effect of dappled sunlight. This could be a warm up for a painting. It has that colour that is appealing to me.

Over the last few months painting is taking a stronger hold in my life. I still love drawing and especially detailed pieces that I can lose myself in. Painting is a completely different side of me where I don't have to be so controlled. In fact, its almost a test to see how loose I can be sometimes and still provide a recognizable piece.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Brushes and portraits

Portrait study 1
oils - 7 x 9 canvas panel

I have kept playing with the limited palette and trying to achieve different skin tones with the colours that I have. This one has gotten a bit chalky and needs brightening. I'm not sure about pale skin tones with the Zorn palette, but perhaps I need more practice with it.

I treated myself to some new flat brushes and have a problem with one already. They are Royal & Langnickel which are usually very good, but in this one, the bristles keep disappearing up the ferrule and I have to grab them and pull them down again. I resorted to taking a hammer to the brush ferrule to flatten it further against the hairs, which seemed to do the trick. I'm presuming its just a fluke brush that left the factory and not a continuing problem.

The majority of the brushes I use for oils are flats with a few filberts as well that give a softer, more rounded edge. The number of brushes that are available are staggering and you do need to do a little research before heading to the art store to find what will best suit your purpose.

Empty Easel has a good article on brushes that takes some of the mystery out of them.