Sunday 10 April 2016

Cambridge Drawing Society Spring Exhibition

The spring exhibition is now well under way for the Cambridge Drawing Society, with the preview on Friday night - which was a bustling event with lots of good comments. The new location works well. The Guildhall, near the Market Square, was the original location - and although well placed for passing trade, was a very dark room which didn't really show off the work to advantage. The new building is the Pitt Building on Trumpington Street. Quite a difference. Another old building (this one owned by the University), but loads of windows and great lighting. This means that even those darker paintings can be appreciated properly.

I submitted four paintings (the maximum allowed). The submission panel have to take one from a member, but I got all four in, so needless to say, was really pleased.

Another great thing was the placing of these two paintings - the tiger is literally opposite the entrance to the exhibition - so prime spot, where the eyes draw you in to the exhibition. Next to it is the caracal (desert lynx).

As I had prime spot for those two, my other two paintings - of an elephant and a secretary bird - were placed at the far end of the aisle. However, all were well displayed with ample room to stand back and look at them (the best way to see them, I think).

Anyway, a great standard of work at this exhibition, as usual. It is really varied in medium and style - so something to please everyone. I noticed a number of red stickers on paintings as I was going around on the preview night, which is always good news!

However, no peace for the wicked..... Once everything was framed and submitted, I got back to the studio to get on with painting, as I have to get ready for the Cambridge Open Studios event, which is coming up in July. This is a cockerel I have nearly finished - just a few more tweaks I think.

I am exhibiting by myself this year, which is slightly scary, but sure I'll manage.  Nina Sage is going to exhibit at her own property - which I think is a good idea. As a printmaker, she wants to be able to demonstrate her technique, which means using the intaglio press - not something she would want to carry over to my house and up the stairs to the exhibition! This means that we have three locations in our village this year, as Kieron Dunk is also exhibiting on the same weekends as Nina and myself. Further information about the Open Studios event can be found here : Cambridge Open Studios

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Last paintings for Cambridge Drawing Society

I needed to get four paintings done for the forthcoming Cambridge Drawing Society exhibition. I managed to do a few more, so I could choose my favourites.

Here is one of them - it is a caracal, which is a desert lynx. I seem to be enjoying painting exotic animals and birds at the moment. I have been on safari a number of times and obviously taken loads of photographs during those holidays.

"Waiting for his prey"
Acrylic ink on Bockingford 1/2 imperial
535gsm NOT watercolour paper

Painting smooth-furred animals is quite difficult with my technique, but I just love the crazy ears and so decided to give it a try....

While in Africa on safari, I came across the secretary bird. It is a very large and totally ludicrous looking bird of prey. I remember thinking at the time that the head feathers were amazing - I don't think I have ever seen another bird with this type of headgear! Anyway, when I asked a friend yesterday what I should call this painting she came up with the following....

"Bad Hair Day"
Acrylic ink on Bockingford1/2 imperial 
535gsm NOT watercolour paper

I think that is very apt!

Anyway, I have now taken my chosen four paintings to the framer. The other ones (shown in previous blog entries) are "The Old Bull" and "Tiger, tiger, burning bright". For this submission I am keeping to exotic birds and animals, although I think for Cambridge Open Studios I might look into painting British wildlife - watch this space.....


Friday 4 March 2016

The Old Bull

Done another painting for the Cambridge Drawing Society spring exhibition. This exhibition has a selection committee - so I have to make sure that my submissions are eye-catching enough!

Have never done an elephant before, even though I have been to Africa on safari a number of times and taken numerous photographs. I suppose that previously I would think - how would I make a totally grey animal interesting? Well - that isn't a problem now, as I add the colours of the rainbow nowadays! Don't get me wrong, I carefully choose the inks I require for a particular painting and don't deviate from those - never going back into the box to add "just another colour" - it would be a recipe for disaster..... I use a tester page if necessary, to see how the colours work together once spritzed with water and mingle.

I don't think I have shown my initial workings before. I do a light sketch in pencil of my subject and then, mostly using tube of Schmincke Aqua watercolour masking fluid in blue. For those of you who haven't come across this - it is brilliant if you want to do continuous lines in masking fluid. I used to use the bottle of W&N masking fluid and of course there was always that nasty blob where there was a join. This does away with that and I get a nice smooth flow, because as long as you lightly press on the tube, then the masking fluid keeps on flowing out of the nozzle. I don't show it here, but I did then use the W&N masking fluid from the bottle to fill in the whole of the tusks - as it was imperative that the tusks remained white while I threw the acrylic inks at the paper!

"The Old Bull"
Acrylic ink on half imperial 525gsm Bockingford NOT watercolour paper

Obviously this paper was flooded with ink - so one of the major things with my technique is patience! The painting has to dry overnight without touching it. I sometimes have a number of boards on the go - all in a different stage of painting, but sometimes up to three covered in wet ink. I don't tend to do more than that, as my youngest dog - she of the beautiful long golden hair - likes coming upstairs and I have to keep everything out of her reach - a) because it is very wet and b) I don't want golden hair encased forever in the ink!
Once completely dry, I can then remove the masking fluid. This can take quite a while, as these inks are, of course, acrylic and therefore cover the masking fluid and make it rather difficult to find! I generally use transparent inks - which are easier, but sometimes there is a colour in all three ranges I use which just doesn't come in anything but opaque. This is the case with the cool grey. Had hoped my discovery of Liquitex and Schminke Aero acrylic inks would help me with this colour, but it appears that the FW range has the best light grey. However, it is much thicker ink and so sometimes rather difficult to remove the masking fluid from those sections.
Even with the Schmincke masking pen I can get areas of revealed white that are too big or uneven. This is when I come in with a dip pen and the same inks - sometimes knocking areas right back with a small watercolour brush. Note: wash the brush immediately afterwards, otherwise you can ruin your nice watercolour brushes!
When I did the tiger recently (see previous post), or the birds of prey etc last year, the eyes are really the most important feature. Get those right and you have a successful painting. This painting threw me a bit. Had an artist friend over when I had nearly finished it and asked her opinion. At the time I had done what was in the photograph - namely just dark areas for the eyes. I checked numerous photos of elephants and it was all the same - the eyes really don't feature much at all. However, with this painting we agreed I needed to do something, but not much. Again with previous paintings I would do the highlights in the eye with opaque white. FW inks do a good one - no good for mixing with other colours as it would turn those colours opaque too - Schmincke Aero do a transparent white for that purpose. Anyway, printed off a photo of the nearly completed work and had a couple of tries with colours. White was too dominant. Most of my colours are transparent, so didn't show up against the FW Purple Lake of the eyes. Then I remembered the opaque FW raw sienna. Haven't used that for ages, having discovered a transparent version with Schmincke, but always worth keeping these bottles, just in case they are useful....! A couple of very subtle lines on the ink dark eyes - hardly noticeable, but there and it really made a difference. 

At last - it was finished....

I am allowed to submit four paintings to the Drawing Society's exhibition this time - now have the tiger and the elephant definitely being submitted. Need two more dynamic ones and I'm there.

Off to the studio....

Thursday 25 February 2016

Cambridge Drawing Society exhibition in April

I have now been a member of the Cambridge Drawing Society for a year - having been voted on last spring. Since then I have also been asked to be on the committee - so I am now in charge of posting information of interest to the members on Facebook and Twitter. How on earth did that happen?

The next Drawing Society exhibition is coming up in April. It is in a different location than last year - not least because the Council, who own the Guildhall, got very greedy and, after many decades of using that location, the club decided to go elsewhere due to spiralling cost! However, the Pitt Building is a brilliant location, just up the road from the famous Kings College and also much brighter to display works. I love the painting (watercolour, I believe) that was used for the poster - very jealous....

I have started painting again, after a bit of a break (too many other things to do....). I want to submit four - and obviously as the spring exhibition has a selection committee I want to make sure they are eye-catching enough for the committee.

So - I have started with one that I must admit is very eye-catching!

"Tiger, tiger, burning bright"
Acrylic ink on 535gsm Bockingford NOT half imperial watercolour paper

Like the lion I did a couple of years ago, this got very scary part way through! Drawing went fine, applying masking fluid - pretty good, although not used to putting on quite so much in one area, so need to find something better to apply it next time.

OK - then added the acrylic ink and sprayed with my bottle of water - help......!

Obviously at this point you can't see the masking fluid, as it is completely hidden behind the ink (even though I am using transparent inks only). You have to leave the whole thing to dry overrnight and keep your fingers crossed.

When I came back to take off the masking fluid (have to say best implement I have for this is my Chinese bamboo pen) I started to think that maybe it would be ok - just. It is only when I start bringing it all together with the dip pen - adding bits, knocking bits back etc that it comes together properly.

I have to say that now I am very happy with the result - but I don't know why I put myself through the trauma with these animals.... I have to say, though, that I love seeing the animal's head emerge from the loose ink - leaving lots to the imagination.

Right - back to the drawing board to see what else I can do for this exhibition.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Slow burner....

I found this last year too - someone who came to the Cambridge Open Studios event in the summer, then contacting me months later with a view to purchasing a painting they had seen before.

"Cocky Cockerel"
Acrylic ink on Bockingford 425gsm NOT watercolour paper

So yesterday I said goodbye to my cockerel. Slightly sad to see it go, as I loved his cheeky face. Definitely going to re-visit this subject again. A few friends keep hens, so I am going to have to take some more photos - that is if they stay still. They are really difficult to get a good shot of, as they move about so much!

Also had some interest in a painting which is being displayed at Scruffs, on Bridge Street, Cambridge. I have nine paintings displayed at this venue, which I put up a couple of weeks ago. Delighted that people are looking at the work while they have their hair done.

Think I need to get back upstairs and paint, as obviously with paintings going, I have to replace them with similar size. Now - what subject shall I choose next....?

Monday 12 October 2015

Cambridge Drawing Society Autumn Exhibition, Cambridge

Having been accepted as a member of this Society, I am now able to exhibit at their two exhibitions each year. The next one is during the October half-term.

It is being held at the Leys School, Fen Causeway, Cambridge. Parking is available at the school.

The dates are from Saturday 24th - Saturday 31st October and is open between 10am - 4pm including Sunday.

I am exhibiting three paintings alongside some of the cards I have of my work.

The latest painting, hot off the press and going to the framer this week, is this one.

"Fierce Gaze from Golden Eyes"
Acrylic ink on Bockingford half imperial 
535gsm NOT watercolour paper

It is a very loose interpretation of a bald eagle, as of course the head of the bird is completely white! The title comes from a poem about an eagle, which I thought was very apt, as I home in on the eyes when I do birds of prey and make them much more detailed.

Looking forward to seeing what all the other members have done. There is a real variety of styles and mediums - it may be called the "Drawing Society", but nowadays people can do most things, including printing. This makes for a fascinating exhibition and hope some of you will be able to visit over the half-term period.

Saturday 5 September 2015

Sketches from Malham Tarn, Yorkshire Moors

Right - think I've now got things working by using another brower, as Microsoft 10 isn't compatible with Blogger ...

I recently had a great four days on the Yorkshire Moors with a great artist - Carole Baker  It was partly sketching out on the moors and then working back in the studio with acrylics (which I am not really sure about - love the effects, but not great at achieving them myself yet...)

The sketches I did were in pen and watercolour. I have changed my sketching kit for this trip. Firstly I am using colour, as opposed to just my pen and also being more adventurous with the use of colour, which is something Carole is exceptionally good at. I took my White Knight watercolours - a Russian make that a friend at the art club introduced me to. These paints are great for sketching - lovely juicy colours (semi-wet) and so much better than the normal pans of colour one can get. The link here shows a larger palette - my one only has three rows, so somewhat neater, but couldn't find that when searching just now.

I also upgraded my sketchbook. A while ago someone gave me a Stillman and Birn Beta Series sketchbook. It's fabulous - not as textured as I usually use, but  wonderful strong paper that can cope with lots of water. Normally I have to paint on one side and not the other in sketchbooks, because the ink/watercolour shows through - not with this paper. Definitely going to use this make again. Also was interested to see that Carole was using a Khadi sketchbook. I have some Khadi loose paper, but not seen the sketchbooks before. The one she was using was wonderfully textured (maybe too much for some people), but again, will look out for that and try it in the near future. I will report back when I have.

This is a quick sketch done just outside where we were staying. Really quiet (just a few walkers and cyclists coming along the road) and a view across to the Tarn (lake). You may notice the colour swatches at the bottom of the page. This is another Carole tip. If you are planning to use the sketch as a basis for a larger painting, this helps you with recognising the colours used, because of course normally they are mixed on the page and it isn't that obvious. When we got back to the studio, we could match the watercolour swatches on the page with the acrylic paints we had - so much easier. She actually has intentionally matched her acrylic colours to her watercolours, so she can get a similar effect with the larger painting.

Another view from outside the centre. Our brief was to find a spot and then do all four views. The Yorkshire Moors have fabulous stone walls, some of which are falling down, which only add to the interest as far as an artist is concerned. Bit of splattering going on here, to add interest to the foreground.

I just used my watercolours and the Rotring Art Pen. However we were watching Carole paint and were interested in another pen she had. She had requested that we brought Indian ink on the course and I had noticed that she uses it on her sketches I had seen on her Facebook page. I thought having an open bottle sitting on the grass was a rather crazy idea (chances of it falling over was very high). I should have known she had a solution.... She uses an Indian ink pen (didn't know there was one, but have just put an order in on Amazon for this!) It is by Pentel and called a brush pen  Rather like the Rotring Art Pen, it has cartridges of ink, so easy to change in situ when you run out. Carole actually refills the cartridges with Indian ink from a bottle, but I would assume that this could get rather messy and the refills aren't that expensive.

 Looking down the road heading into the moors - difficult to get this one to look interesting - and my fingers were getting rather cold.... it can be a bit bleak on the moors!

I didn't manage to finish my fourth side - must learn to speed up my sketching to fit everything in!

We then went down in a couple of cars to the Tarn - first people there in the car park. We walked down a stream that feeds the tarn and set up our kit there. It was such a lovely, peaceful location. Wish I had this sort of scenery where I live, instead of the incredibly boring flatness of north Cambridgeshire.

Moving slightly towards the tarn I did a closer view of the stream.

Our group then walked beside the tarn for a little while. We all stopped to sketch the tarn with the boat house opposite, when our tutor then said how about turning around and doing the view the other way? Interesting thought, as I hadn't really noticed it! Anyway, when there isn't much there, you have to really look. Sky was getting more interesting and there was lots of foliage near us, so used the other end of the paintbrush to score in some marks - always a good trick. One little girl passing us asked her parents why we were all facing away from the view - out of the mouths of babes....

OK - then we were allowed to turn back and do the view we thought we were going to do. Dramatic cliff escarpments above the tree line and building clouds above. Yes - there is a tiny boathouse on the other side of the lake, belonging to a smart house behind it.

On another wander out of the centre, we went down the road and on to a boardwalk above the marshy area heading towards the tarn. This was a great place, lots of moss, interesting trees and streams. I could have stayed in this area for ages, but obviously had to keep up with the group.

As it was a boardwalk, we had to find the places where it was wider, or the ground was strong enough for us to stand on without sinking! Luckily at this place it was wider, although when walkers passed we did have to move our equipment a bit to keep out of the way.

I think Carole got the measure of us on this walk! On the way back along a road and then a footpath, she stopped a few times to take photos, as did I. On the footpath she suddenly said that we were to stop and paint - we looked around and frankly didn't see anything that inspired us and we told her. That was it - she said we were definitely staying there and had to find inspiration.... OK - it is possible. Knarled old dead tree in front of moss-covered stone wall. Only thing is I was a bit liberal with colour, as it was mostly green and brown - although when you look carefully, you really can see some of the other colours - you just accentuate them to make the picture more interesting!

Now you may be asking what happened to my acrylic paintings that were done after all the sketching? Well - sorry - not going to post them, as I wasn't really that happy with them. It is something I hope to build on, so maybe in the future you will see more things in that medium, but not now!

I really enjoyed this trip and Carole was a really warm, friendly tutor, who was very happy to discuss her techniques and tricks, good at demonstrating and giving helpful advice. It has caused me to rethink my sketchbooks. At Open Studios I noticed lots of people looking at my sketchbooks - and being really complimentary - but they were all black and white (Rotring Art Pen and Pentel waterbrush). When I looked at Carole's I was inspired - so much colour and texture. She has the ability to turn a fairly bland view into something inspiring, which I really admire. I thoroughly enjoyed the sketching sessions we had, using colour in a very sketchy way and just giving the impression of a place, rather than a photographic copy. I am looking forward to trying the Pentel brush pen - which is arriving in a couple of days. Up until now the only marks I have been able to make with the Rotring Art Pen are very thin, or cross-hatched, which seems to tighten up the picture too much.

Having discussed the lack of interesting views around here, a colleague of my husband told me about the Great Fen Project. This is just north of me and is an area that, with Lottery funding, is being renovated and made into a series of nature reserves - having looked at the website I think it is definitely somewhere where I need to take my sketchbook and camera - Great Fen Project  Just wish the weather would improve a bit, so I can get out and check it out.