Friday, 21 April 2017

Inspired by the Dorset countryside

I spent a lovely 10 day holiday in Dorset at the beginning of the month. Almost 10 days of sun and blue sky, and often not even a single cloud in the sky. At one time, we were actually saying that it was almost too much sun for taking photos... We took lots of little trips to some favourite places, like Charmouth beach, Brownsea Island, Kingston Maurward, West Bay (probably better know these days as 'Broadchurch'). I dutifully carried my sketchbook and pencil case on each and every one of these outings - and yet again, didn't get a single sketch done. Ah well, the intention was there. And one day, I'll get there...

West Bay with East Cliff

But our strolls around the Dorchester and Dorset countryside and coast has given me lots of inspiration. And of course I had my camera with me. I used photographs for reference and inspiration for the drawings below, done in pencil, after I got home.

The drawing in turn became an inspiration for a little oil painting. It's still a work in progress, and by the weekend it will hopefully be dry enough for a next layer. I still haven't really got a clue what I'm doing with these oil paints, but I'm enjoying it anyway. And I feel quite drawn to landscapes at the moment. It is probably all those lush greens out there right now, the gorgeous blossoms, the colours in the fields everywhere.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The big blue teapot

This is my big blue teapot. It really is quite a big pot, and I haven't used in about 15 years. I bought it when I spent a year studying in Stockholm. Me and my friends used to spend a lot of evenings together, and whenever we met up in my room, I used this pot to make tea for us. So it has huge sentimental value, and that's why I've been hanging on to it. For 15 years. But I never use it, and I've been doing a lot of clearing out in my home, and I've decided that it's time to let it go. But before it goes to the second hand shop, I'm drawing and painting it with different mediums, so I'll still always have it with me, in my sketchbooks. The first one was done in oils. I intended to work some more on it once this first layer was dry, but now I think I'll leave it like this, as a sketch.

For the second one I used coloured pencils, in my Hahnemühle D&S sketchbook that I just finished. It has great paper for dry medium, and I enjoyed working in it, trying out different mediums. But I have to admit I did miss being able to use watercolours.

I started a new sketchbook this week. I'm back to a Seawhite one, the same that I used before the Hahnemühle. The paper takes watercolour well enough to serve as an alround sketchbook, but what I really like about it is, that it quite thin. It only has about 45 pages, which makes it about half as thick as the Stillman and Birns, and about a quarter of the Hahnemühle. With all the notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, books and various pencases I've been carrying around lately, my rucksack has become ridiculously heavy, and as consquence, my shoulder has been aching like mad again. So this thinner, lighter sketchbook comes in very handy.

And after all this blue, here's a bit more colour. I found this Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, that I started in 2014, but only filled four double pages. It's about time to finish it. I just grabbed the first pen that was lying on my desk, a lovely fountain pen filled with brown ink, which I thought was Noodler's Brown, a water resistant ink. As it turned out, it wasn't, but instead a water soluble ink, which created a bit of a mess. Or an interested effect, if you choose to look at it in a more positive way. The radishes were delicious anyway.

Friday, 10 March 2017

More oil painting exploration

There's so much about oil painting to learn. I adore the paintings of the old masters, and I do want to learn how to build up a painting through layers - eventually. But at the moment, I'm trying to concentrate on the Alla Prima, or direct, painting technique first. Which is basically to finish a painting in one go, wet in wet. A technique that, actually, many of the old, as well as more recent, masters used too, for different reasons. It's certainly tricky to add layers to a still wet layer of paint without turning everything into mud. And I'm definitely at the struggling stage. But when you're just starting with oil painting, you want to see some results, a finished picture, quite quickly, without having to wait for weeks and weeks, with each layer having to dry first, before you can continue.

Well, this isn't really an Alla Prima painting, as I intend to work a bit more on it, once this first layer has dried. But I did try to get down as much as possible in the first layer. It's really just play. Seeing what you can do with the paints. How you can move them around, how far you can go. It's entirely done from imagination. Inspired by my upcoming holiday near the sea at the end of the month. And while I want it to be loose and slightly abstract, I do want to give it a bit more definition and depth. But first I have to wait a good week or so. Inspired by this blog post by Lisa Sonora, I started to keep a studio journal at the beginning of the year, at the same time I decided to finally tackle oil painting. With such long drying times in between, it's useful to make notes of the colours used, as well as anything that comes to your mind. In this case, I made some notes about what I want to do with it next time.

To help me learn more and dive deeper into oil painting, I did what I always do in such a case - I bought some books. I just started reading the top one, Alla Prima, and it's fascinating, and very inspiring. All the beautiful images in the book are Alla Prima paintings, and at this stage, I really just can't get my head around how it is possible to achieve that!

I worked a bit more on my still life a couple of weeks ago. It still needs a lot of work, obviously. I made the shadow areas far too green, due to a tinge in the photo I'm using as reference, since I put away the original set up a long time ago. The bright pink in front is completely wrong too, but I'm quite pleased with how parts of the book have turned out so far.

And last but not least a touch of spring. The weather this week is very dull, grey and wet, but these lovely tulips bring a bit of spring into my home. Did I mention that I love the macro feature on my new lens?

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Signs of Spring

What weird weather we're having at the moment. Yesterday, I was walking along the river in mild spring air, with blue sky and the sun shining above my head. Today, I woke up to it snowing vertically. The sky is a dull lead grey and the snow has turned into rain, but the grass in the park around the university campus is still white. And this afternoon, we'll have winds up to a 100 km/h apparently.

But spring is definitely on its way, the signs are unmistakable and everywhere. On Sunday late afternoon, I grabbed my camera and went out to look for the sings around my neighbourhood, and I found some leftovers from past seasons too. I love the macro option on my new lens!

Snowdrops are appearing everywhere. They're such delicate, beautiful heralds of spring. It's always a joy to see - and capture - them.

As are the catkins, with their soft fluffy heads reaching up into the air. You just want to reach out and touch them.

Many signs of the past seasons are still around, and they add to the charm of this time of transition, like these withered dog rose seed pods.

The Chinese Lantern is such a beautiful plant. And it looks good in every state, with its papery husk, but especially in this delicate, filigree state of decay.

I haven't had much to post for the past couple of weeks. It's not that I haven't done any drawing or painting, but there just isn't anything to show, really. But I enjoyed taking my camera out, and doing some photo editing right afterwards for a change, instead of just letting my photos sleep on their hard drive. I should do this more often.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Discovering oil painting

I am so glad I took that introduction to oil painting course last Saturday! It was exactly what I wanted/needed. I just wish I had discovered this course earlier! But hey, better late than never, right? We were a nice and small group of only six plus the teacher, and the atmosphere was relaxed and cheerful. We started with a short introduction and our expectations/wishes for the course. My expectations were simple: I wanted to lose my fear of oils, especially the mediums, by learning about the materials, and how to use them (safely). And that's exactly what I learnt. Plus a whole lot more.

We plunged straight into the matter with an exercise. We each took a sheet of painting paper, squeezed some paints on our palettes, grabbed a couple of brushes, and filled a bit of terpentine substitute into a jar. And then we just had to play. I'm sure we all felt the same: But how? What are we supposed to do? Just do it, said the teacher. Try it out. With solvent, without, mix the colours, on the palette, on the paper, whatever you want to do, just do it, and see what happens. And so we did. And it was a great way to start, it was discovering oil paints.

After that, we talked a bit more theory. My fears of burning down the house are, indeed, not completely unfounded. There have indeed been cases of studio fires, or builder's vans burning, but they were all down to the same cause: linseed oil. When linseed oil has a big enough surface, like those old rags with lots of threads and fibres, that is then scrunched up and thrown away into a container, it can go up in flames. So if you want to use it, it's a good idea to wash out your rags and hang them outside to dry. But to stay on the safe side, just avoid linseed oil altogether. All you need, really, is a solvent like (odourless) terpentine substitute (unless you absolutely want to use the real stuff), which can be used for both painting and cleaning your brushes.

After the lunch break, we looked at and talked a bit about different painting styles and technique, to get an idea of what you can do with oils (basically pretty much everything), and then we each chose a postcard with a motive we liked, took a small canvas, and started painting. I chose a painting of a tea cup by Henri Fantin-Latour, because I like my cup of tea, and I wanted to try a more traditional style with lights and shadows and a dark background. So here it is, my first proper oil painting. I still want to work a bit more on it, maybe letting it dry first, and then add another layer, but I'm quite pleased with how it turned out (despite the rather bent spoon).

I can't believe we did all we did in a one day class! I went home feeling confident about how to use the paints and solvent, and now I just want to play, experiment and practice lots more.

And another funny thing happened too. One I thing I also remembered from my first attempt at oil painting over 3 years ago, and that was the quite strong smell, despite the "odourless" solvent. The same happened when we started with our first exercise. I could not only smell the odourless solvent, I also felt a stinging sensation in my eyes. Would I ever get used to that, or would that mean the end of oil painting for me? But then, in the afternoon, after my fear of the medium had been dissolved, I suddenly realised that I found that the odours didn't bother me anymore, and that in fact, I found them quite pleasant. Isn't it funny, how your perception can change so quickly when your attitude changes?

I didn't do any drawing this week, I started reading The Girl on the Train on Tuesday morning, and I just couldn't stop reading! I finished it yesterday, so now I can go back to my pens and pencils, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with my oil paints at the weekend.

Have a great, creative weekend!

Friday, 27 January 2017

How to avoid burning down the house... Or, know your materials

I haven’t got much to share today, the last couple of weeks have been rather busy in one way or another, and did not always leave as much time and energy for drawing as I would have liked. But now I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as I’ve got something exciting on (well, I hope it’s going to be exciting and meet my expectations, anyway). I’ve been wanting to learn how to paint with oils for ages. Actually, I just found this old blog post from December 2014, about my resolution for 2015 to learn painting with oils. But it started even earlier, in 2013 already. I had bought all the paints and mediums, and even made an attempt at it. That’s how far I got. The underpainting. At least I got two layers done. And It's definitely dry now...

I absolutely can’t believe that that was in 2013 already! Where has the time gone?? Ah well, no point in crying over spilled milk, right? What kept me from actually getting into it were the materials. I learnt about the “fat over lean” principle, about the different mediums involved, but there were so many questions. How exactly do I use the mediums? How much, and which ones (I have a product catalogue that lists over 30 varnishes alone, and that's just one brand)? How many layers can I paint with the “fat over lean” principle? Is there a problem if I have too many layers? And what do I do if I don’t like the result? With acrylics, it’s easy to just paint over everything and start again, but with oils? But what scared me most were some of the mediums themselves. I had read somewhere about instances where rags with some oil painting medium or other on them, had started to catch fire in the bin. Now I realise that that is not something that happens regularly, but living in a rented flat in a 100+ years old house with lots of wood everywhere, I just couldn’t get those thoughts out of my mind. I don’t want to burn down the house. Actually, after having painted the underpainting above and cleaned the brushes (another mystery, in fact), I put the used rag into a bag, went for a walk and threw it into a public bin…
A history programme about ancient Egyptian mummies, that I saw recently, hasn’t helped matters either. The archaeologists were wondering why some of the mummies they had discovered were burnt underneath the wrapped bandages. Eventually they found the answers, and showed the process in a (to me memorable) demonstration. They drenched bandages in linseed oil, like the Egyptians did, wound them into tight balls, and then measured the temperature inside the balls. It didn’t take long for the temperature to rise inside the balls and eventually burst into flames.

But tomorrow, hopefully, all my questions will be answered, and all my fears appeased. I am going to a one day course of introduction to oil painting at my local art supply store and where all the materials and basic techniques will be explained. I’ve already made a list of things I want to know, and hopefully, tomorrow evening I’ll be ready to confidently get those oil paints and mediums out and start painting. And get that still life finished!

I haven't been able to keep up with the homework for this week's A Drawing A Day class, but at least I did it for one day. Draw your feet. It was a bit cold, but I did enjoy it. And I'm going to draw more.

We've had some nice winter weather these past two weeks, with snow and temperature never reaching above 0 degrees Celsius. I loved the beautiful winter scenes, nature transformed by snow and frost, but temperatures are going to rise again in the next days, and all the snow will soon be gone.

Friday, 20 January 2017

More homework, some lunchtime sketches, and a lot more photos

More homework for this week's SBS A Drawing A Day class. I still have to catch up with last week, but I really enjoyed this week's theme: Colour. The main medium for colour was crayons, with some coloured pencils thrown in, and it was a great opportunity to get those Neocolors out again. I have a whole box of them and I haven't used them in ages. As the sketchbook I am using at the moment doesn't take any watercolours, they are perfect for adding vibrant colours to some of the pages.

I've also tried to do some drawing in my lunch breaks. There's not a lot of time, but it's possible to squeeze in five to ten minutes in a quiet corner for a quick pen and ink drawing (and add some colour later at home). And even a two minute drawing is better than no drawing, right?

I have three Art Pens, one of them, the fine one, I bought here, together with cartidges. The other two, including cartridges, I bought in England. They're both the same cartridges, black Rotring ones. But when you add water, the ones I bought here give a greyish tone, while the ones I bought in England are bluish. You can't see it that well on the scan, but isn't that strange?

Some more photos from my Christmas break. The walk across the lake to Rapperswil is always a nice one, in any season. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Rapperswil, our favourite café was closed. We had been looking forward to that hot chocolate with Baileys and a slice of cake!

We started the new year with a trip to the mountains. And what perfect timing it was, as the day before, the snow finally came. We took the train up to Davos, and spent some time up Schatzalp, waking around in the snow and taking in the views.

We then took the bus up the Sertig valley, but by the time we got there, the sun had long disappeared behind the mountain peaks, and it was bitterly cold. Also, the path was practically a solid ice field, so we soon turned round, warmed up in the restaurant and took the next bus back to Davos. But it was still nice to pay a quick visit to these majestic peaks. It is a bit of a special place for me.

Our last day trip was across the border, to Kontanz in Germany. It was a funny day, the weather constantly changed from heavy snow to sun and blue sky and back. Most of the time, when the snow came, we happened to be inside a café or restaurant, but found ourselves caught in the middle of it when we walked along the lake. It didn't last long, though, and soon the sun was back.

There was some really great graffiti art in the pedestrian subway that leads to the lake.

Have a great, creative weekend!