Life Classes – 14 December 2016 to 7 March 2017

Life Classes

14/12/16 17.00-19.00

The challenge this week was two models, one male and one female. This gave us an opportunity to explore the differences between muscular and angular and rounded and soft with various media and mark making. Our male model was tall and slim, not unlike Egon Schiele, so I tried to use definite line with felt tip pen in our short poses to achieve strong shapes and almost branch-like limbs.
On the other hand, our female model was voluptuous and curvy, so I changed to the softer medium of conte stick and used more sweeping marks to define her.
Drawing the two models together illustrated the differences even with using the same medium. In the final long pose of 20 minutes, I could use John’s back as the background for more of a portrait of our female model which worked well from the viewpoint I had.

 

20 minute pose - black conte stick on paper

20 minute pose – black conte stick on paper

 

10/01/17 17.00-19.00

This week we had a treat of longer poses to enable us to work into our drawings more. As we have our classes in the sculpture studio, there were several half-finished or rejected cast figures lying around. For the 25 minute pose, our model John was positioned with a child figure, which although incomplete, made quite a touching image. We had to decide whether to make the figure look real or as it was, made of plaster. Although, this was not my intention as such, the boy looks fairly real and had the same treatment as John.

The 40 minute pose was really interesting as, again, a cast figure was included. It was of a woman, about to dive into the sea, however, when laid down on its side looked as if it was reclining. John then draped himself over the figure and as the light was fading, a lamp was shone on them to offer more highlights. For this one, I decided to use brown paper as a mid tone and black conte and white chalk for the darks and lights.

 

40 minute pose black conte stick and white chalk on brown paper

40 minute pose black conte stick and white chalk on brown paper

17/01/17 17.00-19.00

We had a female model this week, Sally was six months pregnant, so a lovely subject to draw. To avoid her having to pose in different positions, this week, the model stayed still and the students moved around her. We found our starting viewpoint and then sketched for 30 seconds and moved on to another view. This really got us warmed up and then we were able to make informed decisions where to stand for the longer poses. Moving up to the three-minute drawings we made more choices of view to decide our 10 minutes posed drawing, up to 15 minutes.

 

15 minute drawing - conte on paper

15 minute drawing – conte on paper

31/01/17 17.00-19.00

We had a new model this week, Reuben. He was able to achieve some quite dynamic shapes for a while, so we could explore more expressive poses. We had the traditional short warm ups and then a couple of longer ones at 15 and 20 minutes.

 

20 minute pose - charcoal, white chalk and putty rubber on charcoal tinted paper

20 minute pose – charcoal, white chalk and putty rubber on charcoal tinted paper

 

07/02/17 17.00-19.00

This week we had Reuben again. Always using our studio location to our advantage, some large geometric shaped pieces of hard board that were lying around made interesting props for our model to use.

The combination of dynamic poses and the geometric shapes made some fantastic short sketches possible. I mostly used black conte on paper but switched to sepia ink on water-colour paper after the break. Although, fun to use, these were not so successful, however, I enjoy trying different media and pushing myself. My favourites of this week were the 1 minute poses.

15 minute pose - sepia ink on watercolour paper

15 minute pose – sepia ink on watercolour paper

21/02/17 17.00-19.00

This week, inspired by the BBC Big Painting Challenge program, we were presented with long bamboo sticks and easels. These were limited in number so we took it in turns to use them, some more cheerfully than others, I have to say. Sticking with charcoal on paper until my turn, then switching to some jumbo, really black charcoal just before to get the feel of it. Once this was taped to the end of the bamboo stick, which was around 2 feet long, it was quite unwieldy to apply it to the paper. However, once I got the measure of distance and pressure, it was good fun and very expressive to use. It also gave me the chance to see both the model, Caroline, and paper at the same time without moving my head. I think this helped with proportions as they were directly comparable. Because of this, I used the stick to map out my composition for the long pose even though I switched to soft pastel to add colour.

25 minute pose - soft pastel on green pastel paper

25 minute pose – soft pastel on green pastel paper

 

28/02/17 17.00-19.00

Our treat this week was one long pose in whatever media we wanted to use. I broke out the oil paints and canvas in anticipation. Of course, we weren’t going to get away with it that easily, another BBC Big Painting Challenge exercise awaiting us first. On scraps of paper with ink and a big brush, we were to follow the rule of looking for 90 seconds and painting for 30. We had a few runs at this and it loosened us up for the long pose, I have no pictures of these as they were left behind. I made a couple of sketches to work out my composition before painting having previously coloured my 24×30″ canvas with a mix of burnt sienna, ultra marine blue and white acrylic to have a neutral ground both in tone and temperature on which to work.

A few reworks at the beginning to get the lean of the pose and positioning and then I was away. However, due to not being to get too far back from the canvas I noted that the proportions were slightly askew when the session came to its end. At home, I made adjustments with charcoal when the bent leg was too long, the forward foot a little misshapen and the head too large,  The head, I realised, because of the carnival mask the model was wearing, had been elongated from the forehead to its top and can be fairly easily rectified. The photo below shows the charcoal reworking and once adjusted in paint will be photographed and posted.

 

07/03/17 17.00-19.00

Our model this week was John. Our main projects were to be a 20 minute portrait and a 40 minute standing pose where John would be hanging on to a wire cable from the ceiling. First of course, a warm up exercise! Using whetted paper, a large brush and diluted ink, we were to paint a series of poses on one sheet. These were quick 1 minute poses where the main lines and gestures should be recorded. It was interesting to see the ink disperse on the wet paper, along with the colours that appeared at the fuzzy edges of the marks, in my case a blue/purple and yellow.

For the portrait I used soft pastels and a buff tinted pastel paper and for the standing pose, soft pastels and a aqua/green tinted paper. Initially, for the portrait, we tried a quick ink sketch in the same method as the warm-up, which was really effective and denoting light and dark areas of the composition.

20 minute portrait - soft pastel on buff tinted pastel paper

20 minute portrait – soft pastel on buff tinted pastel paper

40 minute pose hanging on to cable suspended from the ceiling - soft pastel on aqua/green paper

40 minute pose hanging on to cable suspended from the ceiling – soft pastel on aqua/green paper

 

 

 

 

Portrait: Ann – 28/04/16

28/04/16

Portrait: Ann – 28/04/16 & nn/05/16 – Two Sessions

Ann is to be with us for two sessions which will have about a month in between them. Therefore, this is the story so far…

Ann often wears “costume” for our sittings and this time she is a gardener, complete with hat, gardening gloves and secateurs (which are shiny and red and I can’t wait to add in!). I am tempted to add a couple of pots and a bag of compost to the composition in between Ann’s sittings.

As usual, we didn’t know who was sitting for us in advance, so my canvas board (20 x 24″), was prepared with an acrylic ground in fuchsia pink, blue and white in a random fashion. As I was working, I was imagining Ann surrounded by peonies! It was left up to us how much of the figure we incorporated into the composition, and as it was such a lovely pose, I really wanted to capture the entire figure. At the end of session one, I was pleased with the placement and proportion of the figure. I wiped out the face as it was getting too detailed and will look forward to that challenge next time.

Ann (work in progress) Oil on canvas board (20 x 24")

Ann (work in progress)
Oil on canvas board (20 x 24″)

 

 

Portrait: Volcan – 14 and 21/04/16

21/04/2016

Portrait: Volcan – 14 & 21/04/16 – Two Sessions

Volcan is our Turkish sitter who visits a couple of times a year as his wife is a local girl. We like to think he brings the sun with him and it’s nice to have a Mediterranean complexion to paint.

Volcan Charcoal sketch on A2 paper

Volcan
Charcoal sketch on A2 paper

 

 

Following on from our previous tonal exercises, we were asked to make a tonal sketch of Volcan using charcoal on its side and a rag to blend and manipulate our drawing. Again we were to try to avoid linear marks and just lay tones next to each other. I had some “chunky” charcoal which was extremely dark and didn’t really get around to lifting out any light. However, the object of this exercise was to become used to using the rag as this was to be our tool when painting.

 

 

 

Still within the first session, once we had an idea of what was required of us, we began our painting. I was using oils on an acrylic coated piece of mount board 34 x 43cm. A head and shoulders composition was our brief. Learning from our sketch we had only rags to use and the initial shapes and form was rubbed in and dragged around the support to form an under-painting. I enjoyed this as it was akin to finger painting, and, was a tactile and immediate response without a brush handle breaking the contact. Many of our class struggled greatly with not using a brush as this was their first attempt at this method. Interestingly, it was the ones that struggle with form and proportions that took to this technique, and, have subsequently used it again. It just shows it’s all horses for courses.

In the second session the next week, we continued to use rags (well, some of us did – the brushes did come out in some cases), we continued with our paintings. Volcan has very specific features, particularly his mouth shape, and at the end of the first session, I was pleased that I’d captured it. Unfortunately, as is often the case, this was lost in the second week. It is one of those infuriating things about painting, portraiture in particular, the push and pull of accuracy and likeness. In the end, I was less successful in this than I’d hoped – only the eyes were anywhere close. Maybe on Volcan’s next visit?

Volcan Oil on mount board

Volcan
Oil on mount board

 

Portrait: Annabelle – 10 and 17/03/2016

17/03/16

Portrait: Annabelle – 10 & 17/03/16 – Two Sessions

A nice two-week sitting with Annabelle who has sat before and doesn’t move a muscle! As it was a double session, I had the luxury of having time for almost a full figure portrait. Using a nice sized 20 x 24″ canvas board, with a ground of mixed colours from a left over acrylic palette that included cadmium red, ultramarine, white and various mixes that was randomly brushed on. This gave an exciting and dynamic base that was inspiring to work on. I made a couple of sketches to firm up the composition, deciding on an approximate three-quarter length portrait. The first week, I concentrated on composition, blocking in, establishing colour ranges, tone and loosely establishing the background shapes. At tea break we were fascinated to hear about Annabelle’s exploits at being an extra on the TV drama Mr Selfridge. I spent my lunch hour scanning every second of the episode but, disappointingly,  I couldn’t be sure I saw her – that’s the trouble with a period drama, the costumes and wigs completely disguised her!

The second session was working on the details of the face, clothing etc. I also decided to leave some of the dynamic brush marks from the acrylic ground visible for added interest.

Annabelle Oil on 20 x 24" Canvas Board

Annabelle
Oil on 20 x 24″ Canvas Board

 

 

 

 

Portrait: David – 03/03/16

03/03/16

Portrait: David – 03/03/16 – One Session

It’s been a while since this class so can’t quite remember whether there was a particular theme here other than noticing the shadows under the hat.

David is a regular sitter and therefore keeps very still. I used A3 acrylic paper with a ground of burnt sienna, ultramarine and white acrylic, the portrait itself was oil. I decide to zoom right in and have David fill the page as the composition. As it was one session for this sitter, I worked quickly wet in wet.

Giving the background a nice sky blue, with light coming from the left from the window, gave the impression of David sat outside on a pleasantly sunny day with his hat shielding his eyes from the sun.

David Oil on A3 acrylic papaer

David
Oil on A3 acrylic papaer

Portrait: John – 12/11/15

12/11/15

Portrait: John – Single Session 09.30-12.30

Hats and shadows seem to be the order of the day. As it’s a single session, I chose a small support of approximately 12×14″. This is a recycled oil painting, therefore the ground had to be in oil rather than my usual acrylic. Luckily, this had dried in time for the class.

John, our model, arrived with a jaunty hat in a country/Australian style (minus the corks). It was important to make the head sit inside the hat, which was quite difficult as the hat itself was deceptively taller than expected. It was interesting to note that John’s eyes were not really visible and adding a fairly uniform tone under the hat’s brim modelled them with minimal detail. As it was a single session, the painting has a sketchy style. I was particularly pleased as John had a look at the painting and said “that’s me!”

John in his bush hat 12/11/15 Oil on mount board 12x14"

John in his bush hat
12/11/15
Oil on mount board
12×14″

 

Exercise: Aerial Perspective

09/11/15

Exercise: Aerial Perspective

Paint a simple landscape in which you exploit these three devices of aerial perspective. Which device do you find most effective or is it necessary to combine all three to achieve the desired effect?

Aerial Perspective Oil on board Approx 12x10"

Aerial Perspective
Oil on board
Approx 12×10″

I found it a challenge to take a photograph of my painting above due to my iPad enhancing the colours. I have tried tweaking the settings for the photo and got so confused I reverted back to the original as the best of a bad lot. I had tried overhead artificial lighting, a daylight bulb and fading natural light – all were “enhanced”. Having said that, the photograph is more true to life on my lap top – even more confused.

My thoughts on the three devices of aerial perspective:

  • Controlled loss of focus (in terms of sharp delineation between different tonal areas) and fading outlines are rendered through progressive loss of contrast in the distance.
    This does give a haziness that implies distance as things further away are more blurred.
  • A loss of colour saturation, ie a fading out of bright, saturated colours going into the distance towards more muted, faded shades.
    This also works as generally, things that are not so intense in colour recede.
  • Distance can also be achieved by colour temperature. Warm colours painted in the foreground will automatically achieve a sense of closeness against colder colours in the distance.
    A muted blue/green hue does imply distance too, particularly in a UK light.

Generally, I would think that a combination of these devices is probably required to give an illusion of distance for locations further north. Mediterranean and hotter locations may reduce the need for this combination. I think it really does depend on what atmosphere the artist wants to convey.

Added 23/11/15

Looking at the painting I thought there wasn’t enough contrast in the foreground so just added some splashes of colour.  This worked in the actual painting, yet again, the photograph is so far removed but here goes anyway.

Aerial Perspective Final Painting reworked.

Aerial Perspective Final Painting reworked.