Sunday, 23 December 2012

Panorama Studies

Unusual compositions for panels and canvases are often interesting avenues for experimentation. These are a series of small rooftop and hilltop studies done over the summer, a small counter for the grey xmas week!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Sketchbook Drawings and Paintings, Round 2

More sketches and figure drawings. Trying out certain approaches towards construction in figure drawing, i.e. 'less blocky', going for identifying sweeping, gestural statements and then narrowing down to key anatomical aspects. Some orchestral sketches to add to the mix as well.

Finished charcoal drawing for the painting re-try.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Landscape Study, King's Cross

The sun sets, man dies. It is right. But what a pity not to be able to paint anymore.

Mancini, Antonio. (c.1852) In: Heisinger, U. W. (2007). Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-century Italian Master. 


One of the last of a series of major projects attempted for the end of my undergraduate course. The location was the handyside area near the renovated granary square near King's Cross Station. Took about 7 weeks on-off, partly because the study was started in mid-April, but due to a bout of really bad weather and setup for the degree show the study was postponed for most of May, and it was finished at the current state in June (something like 7-8 overall sessions).

(above) The first drawing of the study- many, many, many changes to the drawing, perspective from this initial state.


Halfway through the study- the lay-in was relatively there, but it was time to get more specific and more accurate in the drawing. From this state, had help from a member of the KX Estates people who would stop by and offer crits and point out the mistakes (in the drawing, especially even up until the end!) Many thanks to Aleks for his boss observational skills

This study was counted of sorts as a graduation piece, I am beginning to confidently work on a sustained study with improvements in the overall drawing- the challenge of a long study seems to be being able to tighten the drawing stage, and accurately expressing the visual phenomenon in regards to the amount of information that can be conveyed. 70% of the time unfortunately is a waiting game, having to sit out until the correct lighting situation presents itself. Out of an average 3-4 hour session, there was perhaps only a 1-2 hour window of opportunity for observation of the cast shadows (even then it changes dramatically depending on fluctuating light). So plan the drawing! The perspective was a real pain, and the drawing changed quite a lot throughout the session, partly because every subsequent sessions seemed to present new information.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Poster Studies

A 'poster study', or a quick, small-scale mass sketch is helpful to solve issues in getting the visual impression from a particular composition, scene, pose, etc. It's meant to be the broadest and simplest possible expression of what you see, but also must contain some basic information that you could use in aid of the actual work itself. 

Time taken ideally for a poster study or sketch? Depends, really on what you want to achieve. Most of these were done in various drop-in evening classes, sketching sessions, life drawing sessions, from photographs, etc etc etc. usually when working in mass is more preferable than linework. They usually stop short at the 'block-in' stage, right before attempting to correct/amend drawing and considering edges. It's quite fun doing poster studies, and a goal once set by a tutor was to attempt 50 successful poster studies in the course of a single year to force yourself to think in much broader, simpler terms in mass expression. 

Procedure was like zapping solid blocks of mass in place until the overall impression is reached at, or the entirety of the support is covered. The compromise between accuracy of drawing and the overall vision as defined by the restrictive time limit is something that has to be learnt as well- the broader the overall vision, generally the more accomplished the draftsmanship involved.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Sketches and non-paintings

Something not paint-related... some scans of old and some new-ish sketchbook drawings, a mix of different things, just looser and more gestural work in pencils and some older pen drawings. 

The double studies in charcoal are initial stages in the drawing meant for a painting project started a year ago... having to refine the drawing and with a greater sensitivity for draftsmanship this time round, I felt that the end result this time round will be much better than the first attempt at the painting.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

More Summer Studies

(from top) Boat study done over at Regent's Canal over the Easter break; in-progress shots showing the general approach taken for the study, started from life and finished in the final sessions from photographs as the weather gradually turned from late-spring grey and drizzly to sudden-burst-of-mediterranean-sun over the weeks the study was attempted. The general key and temperature of the study still needs to be improved somehow- perhaps it would be a better idea to revisit and attempt a new study of the boat in summer weather to see how it may look.

Architectural studies- one of the Oxford Natural History Museum, the other a preliminary study for a project near King's Cross, Granary Square. Trying to understand the effects of golden hour lighting and learning to mass-in shapes more efficiently in a quick study. The drawing inevitably slips in a single session attempt though- go as broad as possible in terms of the block-in and don't expect in-depth turning-of-the-form and accurate drawings in one-shot paintings. It's part of the deal with alla prima, not everything is successful on the first try, and you can only attempt so much up to a certain level (it's like stopping short 2-3 steps into finishing a painting, perhaps the best analogy to describe quick studies).

Monday, 11 June 2012

Plein Air Anywhere

Two of the studies done at Occupy London that I was happiest with. Over Oct-Nov, I was working on plein air studies at the Occupy London sites over at St Paul's and Finsbury Square. It was... quite something- on one hand, having to paint with ALL of Square Mile and Central London converging down Temple Bar during lunch hour was... an interesting experience. Also, tents! And protesters! Many studies were lost because they were either: 1) keyed incorrectly (i.e. 'fruit salad and garish tents syndrome'), 2) have bad drawing, or 3) even badder composition (sad trombone sound). Around this time, I was researching on Russian painters of the Wanderers School, and was trying to assimilate and understand what went on in their sketches and studies (boss things, inevitably).

James Gurney in his book, Colour and Light: A Guide to the Realist Painter wrote on the advantages of working in overcast lighting outdoors (you see local colours of objects effectively without that annoying solar glare, sparkling, silvery light and sometimes uncertain weather conditions of this 'outdoors' thing). Using a more restricted and subdued pallette also helps (in these, I premixed a 'not-so-neutral grey' pile using Ultramarine, Trans. Oxide Red and white to neutralise more chromatic colours, and made sure that my darkest darks are still pretty chromatic (they're a mixture of the ultramarine, alizarin, and oxide red in varying amounts according to how cool or warm I want the darks to be). Spending more time on accurately drawing and assessing the shapes that I was applying was very crucial, as was taking the time to look closely and be as broad in terms of application of paint as possible (no small detail brushes just yet!). It was partly thanks to many failed past sessions at the site that these studies were working out okay.


On the subject of studies vs. 'pictures':

It is a mistake to make pictures too soon. The nearest a student is likely to to a picture is a careful study, and he will be as successful with this, if he makes it for the study of it... Imitation is the highest art; but the highest art requires the ability to imitate as a mere power of representation. The mind must not be hampered in its expression by a lack of knowledge and control of materials, and the painter who is constantly occupied with the problems he should have worked out in his student days, is just so far from being a master. He must have all his means perfectly at his command before he can freely express himself.

Parkhurst, Daniel Burleigh. (1903) The Painter in Oils: A Complete Treatise on the Principles and Technique Necessary to the Painting of Pictures in Oil Colours.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Summer Studies

Done last summer, various studies that survived and are hanging around somewhere in the studio. 

Hyde Park summer study. The drawing is quite off, but I learnt something valuable about covering the canvas as efficiently as possible, and learning how to see broad masses instead of individual detail. Will go back to the same location just to see how different a study now is compared to back then.


Regent's park vase study. Oil on card panel. This was interesting, first time working with a set of toned panels and working out-of-doors with supports larger than 5” x 7” (i.e. not a poster study).

 Trees at St James, gouache- messing around with some handling techniques, around this time, trying out certain things with watercolours as well. Recently saw a Newlyn school-ish watercolours at a Sotheby's public viewing- the soft edges and crazy-controlled technique was absolutely staggering, it looked like oils but done all in watercolours. Total boss-like handling, and something I wished to be able to attempt someday. The old adage that 'people who extensively use watercolours are either total amateurs or total masters' is so true. It's a reverse psychology thing- the less toxic the medium and pigments, the more difficult it is to handle!

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Hue Shift Bit, Part II

The real deal. Full pigment range, from left on the top most chart: Cad. Lemon, Cad. Yellow, Cad. Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre Pale, Cad. Red, Terra Rosa, Alizarin, Trans. Oxide Red, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue Deep. Things I missed out (or should've tried out): Cobalt Violet (in place of one of the warm yellows), Quinacridone Rose (instead of Alizarin), maybe branch out into oranges and darker blues like Prussian Blue or some Phthalo-containing blues and greens. This would push it closer towards a pallette approximating Sorolla's. Also, the red-oranges can be consolidated somewhat by using Burnt Sienna instead of the Red Oxide and Terra Rosa (but then again, I will lose the transparent quality of the Red Oxide).

In a way, doing these charts mean that you have to be very disciplined and rigorous with yourself. Clean everything and anything on the palette that could and would stain the mixtures, and always be sure what you are putting on to the chart squares at all times (that bluish green you see there? It's never going to be specific enough- just make sure that one batch leans towards blue, the other leans towards green, it has to be subtle but observable).

I guess the main lesson is to understand your palette of choice, and the nature of the pigments that you are using- here, student paints vs. artist quality (of differing brands) really shows in terms of the handling, tinting strength, and overall vibrancy. Some people will stumble across these same points through constant painting, which is entirely valid as well- the point is not to let these exercises dominate the fundamental skillsets of drawing and painting- they are means to an end, not something you do for 'Achievement Unlocked' street cred. 

'Colour' is technically relative to the lighting situation and even on the support you are using, there will be different factors and permutations affecting the 'local colour'- it's the understanding of subtractive mixing, temperatures of pigments and their mixtures, that is the key to this specific type of exercise. You will encounter the legendary Cadmium Salute and the Viridian Handshake (just don't wear any new clothing in the studio, it'll end in tears), and there will be foul language employed. But at the end of the day, the understanding you'll get will be somewhat worth it. And it will be seen that these colour chart exercises are easy- compare them with, oh, the Munsell colour chip matching exercise. Now that's in a completely different league altogether.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Hue Shift Bit, Part I

These are a series of limited palette colour charts done at the start of the year- they are a simplified version of the legendary Richard Schmid colour mixing exercise. It's a relatively simple means of understanding your pigments- in this case, the charts are meant for figurative and portraiture painting in the studio. Also, I get to learn a lot more about specific characteristics of some of the paints currently floating about in my studio. Gotta do them while I still am young and reckless enough to have free time, I suppose ;)

First chart shows all the colours used in the limited palette- the subsequent charts are each column from the top-most chart (pure colours on the left-most sides of each subsequent charts) mixed with the other colours from the limited set (so the top row on the second chart is Yellow Ochre, then yellow ochre + Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre + Burnt Sienna, etc all lightened down with white). Colours used are (from left) Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Burnt Sienna, Terra Verte, Cobalt Blue, and Mars Black.

Several observations:

  1. Yellow Ochre, or more specifically, the variety that I was using, was too brickish and low value (so by default I cannot get relatively chromatic greens and oranges, even when mixed with Cadmium Red). The remedy to this would be to replace the ochre with a lighter value equivalent, or to use an earth colour like Mars Yellow, giving slightly richer secondaries.
  2. Using a limited set or palette of convenience means that it's more difficult to get vibrant mixtures. You don't have the luxury of selecting a warm/cool set for each colour (something like Cad. Red/Crimson Alizarin, Lemon Yellow/Cad. Yellow Deep, Cobalt Blue/Phthalo Blue Deep), so the pigments you have should be of the highest quality and specific to the task at hand. The Munsell Student Colour Book is pretty helpful in this regard, there's a chapter on practical pigments for successful colour mixing.
  3. Drying times- cadmiums take a relatively long time to dry compared with the earth pigments, so there might be problems with a figure painting pose that is to be continued the day after (you will inevitably smudge the support when oiling it at the start of a new session the next day), so substituting it with a similar red, like Pyrrole-based reds (comparatively faster drying with the same relative chroma, and cheap!), much like using Mars Black instead of Ivory Black. Then again, you can just mix a bit of drying oil or Liquin into your white paint or red mixture (or use lead white instead).

With something as technical as this, it's pretty easy to get caught up with specifics, and mechanically finishing off these charts as part of a 'to do' list. It's no shortcut to becoming a colour boss, but it'll greatly help it if you've got some sort of reference lying about in the studio environment- would be quite handy in the long run and you get to understand the specifics of the pigments you are using. Cuts the time wasted trying paints when painting out in the field. Know your materials!

Will definitely revisit these colour charts several years from now with these points in mind. There's more practical things to do in the meantime (like, actually starting to draw and paint).

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Another Dec post

1 1/2 hours study of trees

...and the riverbank study so far

Lessons learnt over the course of painting?
  1. FIND A KEY (so important-  find the darkest darks and the lightest lights as soon as possible, saves a ton of time in terms of establishing the early landmarks in the painting)
  2. A bit too specific, but find a technique/method suitable to the task at hand (in this case, a darker tone for the canvas would be more suitable in both paintings as to avoid problems with working wet-into-wet, or having your key lost when the canvas cannot be covered in time)
  3. Humidity and high temperatures are another factor in working outdoors (be prepared.)
  4. The study above was unsuccessful because it's too mannered, (i.e. sacrificed good drawing for the sake of fancy brushtrokes). Too fancy, not enough information.
  5. Value problems, still (if I squint, everything seems to blend into a neutral blobby shape, the design wasn't resolved as well as it should)
Round two commences.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Setup and location shots

Painting locations last December

Log sketch
Beach study
Riverbank alla prima setup
Location above... 24 hours later (incentive to get studies done quickly)