Lucie in penbrush

August 18, 2012

Hot day

Lucie keeps me company up in the studio while I’m working. It is under the roof, and hot on days like today.

Recently I’ve been breaking my brain on an article I need to write, so in between drafts it is a relief to grab my fountain brush and sketch Lucie.
My oil painting has ground to a halt, and I’m generally not very productive right now, so it is a relief to see there’s at least something being produced around here!

Above, relaxed, and below one of Lucie’s’ difficult positions’

When Lucie has her head stretched out like the 2 sketches on the bottom of the page, she is expressing some sort of discontent. It is not a relaxed position like the one above it. Either she thinks I’m spending too much time on the stupid article instead of playing with her (she’s right). Or she wants to be somewhere else but is too polite to leave.

This is similar to when I want to take an afternoon nap and cuddle up with her on the studio bed. If she is not in the mood, she will grudgingly come up on the bed and extend her head in a similar way, with her chin pointedly grinding into my leg, something like the position below. This is a very clear message that she is not at all happy about keeping me company, but for me, she’ll stay – as long as I know it is against her (very  strong) will. Every muscle is tense and the minute I get up, she jumps like a shot and skids down the stairs to find her throwing ring to play.

How she breathes like this I haven’t a clue

my bottle collection 2

The composition is a crop of the first painting in this series.

It was three quarters done before I took the loosening up workshop mentioned in the last post, and is quite smoothly painted,  so I completed it in the same style. Actually, even though I felt I was working looser than number 1 in the series, it looks a lot tighter.

At the last minute I added the metal ring on bottle 2 from the left. That saucy little horizontal line makes it for me. It pulls attention away from the high contrast bit on the left flank of the blue bottle and balances the composition.

I washed my brushes this morning, it is turning into a favorite pastime instead of a dreaded chore. Sun coming in through the kitchen window, morning blackbird song.  And no solvent soaked newspapers or odor, thanks to j.harms who commented on this post.

No blue skies allowed

April 15, 2012

Yesterday I attended an all day workshop on how to loosen up your painting technique.

We were a group of about 15 people at various levels of ability under the instruction of Antje Sonneschein, a German artist living in Holland. Below is a painting of hers. Here is a video of one of her workshops, in Dutch, but you get an idea of the work and atmosphere.

The Red Farm by Antje Sonneschein. Image from Kunst.nu

Her style is reminiscent of the  (founded in 1918) Groningen Expressionistic group called ‘de Ploeg’ which means ‘The Plow’. They used bold forms and bright colours to paint the Groningen countryside and villages. See below, a painting by de Ploeg artist Jan Altink.

Painting by Jan Altink. From the site of JBalvers .

In the morning we selected a landscape photo to work from.

We could do anything we wanted- with one stipulation, we were forbidden to paint the sky blue.

The reason for this was that the sky determines the coloring for the whole painting, so by choosing an alternative color for the sky, you immediately are thrown into a different palette than your familiar one.

First, we made a charcoal sketch on a small piece of matte board, already making decisions about what to leave out, change or add to make a better composition.

Then we went to work, over the charcoal, in acrylics with a relatively large brush and quickly mapped in the colors. We had 20 minutes from start to finish including the sketch. This resulted in the most spontaneous work of the day. Here is mine.

The photo I selected is fairly close to this. I liked the flowing landscape, the road, and the grouping of trees on the right. The yellow is a mass of dandelions which made a very troublesome foreground, and I chose that as a challenge.

Then we started on a large version of our painting. About 18 x 24″ on a thin piece of MDF board coated with a thin layer of neutral grey. We sketched in our composition with white pastel and went to work with thin paint and a large brush.

I liked this underpainting so much for its rhythm and confidence (sound familiar?), I didn’t want to ruin it so I started another one. (We worked from background to foreground, so the trees will be added later).


My epiphany for the day was when I asked the instructor how to progress from the underpainting and keep the same freedom. Whereby she came along, and with my permission, took an inch wide brush, a huge glob of white paint and some ochre, and in a few quick strokes, painted in the sky.

It is difficult to describe my reaction. Read the rest of this entry »

Glass collection painted

March 24, 2012

Sarah's bottle collection,oil on canvas board

Inspired by friend sandi’s collection of glass bottles which I have been painting from photographs the last few months, I began browsing second-hand shops for my own bottles to paint.

They look lovely lined up in the sunny window sill in my studio. I tried photographing them because at this stage it is easier for me to work from photos, but my shots didn’t capture the incredibly beautiful transparent colors.

Enter Rende, the Real photographer, and voila.

photo by Rende Zoutewelle

Some of the bottles are from our kitchen, some from second hand shops. And the lovely amber bottle on the left (just a humble beer bottle) and the small flask with the black cap I found filled with dirt, buried in a field. They cleaned up nicely and are now two of my favorites.

Don’t you just love that jewel-like clear blue!

This was an interesting exercise for me because up until now I’ve not been inspired to paint any of my husband’s beautiful photos. My reasons being that he had already made all the aesthetic decisions and there wasn’t much for me, as a painter to add.

But in this case, it was my vision he photographed, and his expertise made it possible for me to then take it a step further as a painting.

I like the result, I’m still aiming for a less finished, more painterly look.  For me, the amber bottle at the far left comes the closest to that ideal.

charcoal drawing early stage

I was preparing an exercise for my drawing group by doing the assignment myself.  I find that this helps to expose any unclarity or unexpected things that may crop up for my students.

Teaching always inspires me to get drawing myself, and my students’ fresh approaches often open doors of perception for me. Plus it is just a pleasure to see people unfold, take leaps, make discoveries.

I set up a simple still life of a pear on some cloth and covered some paper with a layer of charcoal, rubbed carefully out with some tissue. Then , working between line (using charcoal) and light areas (using a kneaded eraser) , I picked out some contours. The idea in this is to try to see in light and shadowed areas rather than line.  Here is a next stage.

Dark areas worked into and highlights picked out

This was only a demo for my class, so for a change I didn’t overwork it, here is where I left it:

Charcoal pear

Then, I liked it so much I did an oil painting of the same subject:

Pear on cloth, oils