Thursday 24 September 2009

The National Portrait Gallery - my visit

Yesterday, I went to the National Portrait Gallery in London, a half-hour train journey from my home town, to get me some culture (!) and hopefully, some inspiration. The NPG exhibits portraiture of famous figures from Britain's illustrious (?) past and present. Whilst there are obviously some beautifully executed paintings in there, I must admit to finding the endless stream of paintings of Kings, Queens and Statesmen rather tedious. There seemed to be very few portraits of, or by, women and even fewer of, or by, people from other ethnic origins. Whilst the historical rationale for this is perhaps understandable, IMHO there is really little excuse for such a dearth in the available 20th Century and Contemporary art out there (or am I missing something?).

I'm no expert on the art appreciation front, as you can probably tell, but I do know what I like. A few paintings did catch my imagination. One such is this one of Louise Jane Jopling by Sir John Everett Millais, painted in 1879. I liked the 'no-nonsense', direct look on her face, the masterly colours and detail on her dress and the unsentimental way it was painted. It made a pleasant change from the overly pretty paintings of women by men that I had seen hitherto.

Another painting that struck me was this self portrait by L.S. Lowry. Apparently, he painted those red eyes as an expression of his grief over his mother's recent death. Lowry, famous for his paintings of stick-like figures against ordinary, industrial landscapes, was allegedly not given to expressing himself emotionally and that, for me, makes the painting all the more poignant. I was very moved by it. I love Lowry's work anyway - one of the few examples in British art of a painter depicting working-class people in ordinary, even mundane, settings.

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I really prefer the French and Dutch 'masters' when it comes to portraiture. Especially those who painted the 'common' man and woman, I don't have examples right now but you get the gist. Endless depictions of male statesmen, soldiers, royalty and even famous literary figures really don't cut the mustard for me I'm afraid.

I think I'm a bit of a renegade! Hey ho, might as well go the whole hog and express my horror at a contemporary picture I came across of Sir Ian Botham (cricketer). It stands about 6 feet high and I can honestly say that my own daughter could have painted a more engaging portrait than this at the age of three! What's that all about? I obviously would not make a good art critic - she said unapologetically.

Anyway, to save you any more of my rantings, here is a quick pic I took of Trafalgar Square (just around the corner from the NPG). It was hastily taken before I had to head off to top up my 'carbs' - I am diabetic and need to ensure that my glucose levels don't drop too low. That's my excuse anyway for putting away an enormous clotted cream scone ten minutes after I snapped this photo! Mmmm.

Monday 21 September 2009

Blue Marble Finished

Another couple of hours work on this, having refined it here and there, and I'm calling it finished. I put a layer of Lemon Yellow (Coloursoft) on the background to tone down that gaudy orange background and this is a pretty accurate scan of the original drawing.

It was fun trying to get the 'right' mix of colours on this, especially on this coloured paper. My aim was to produce a drawing of photo rather than an exact replica of a photo and so I have refrained from saturating it with solid colour. There are no more than four layers of colour in any one place. I like the nice fine points you can get with Prismacolor pencils - it really makes a difference with something like this. I'm really quite pleased with it - she said hesitantly!

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Blue Marble WIP 2

About another 2 hours of work completed on this on the marble and shadow only. I've not added to the background as the colour is pretty strong anyway. I've used the same pencils as before to strengthen the colours. I'm liking this paper, its texture allows for lots of blending and easy adjustments. I don't think I could go back to white papers now - I can get good strong colours in much less time on coloured papers.

I see that the shadow needs more work - the marble itself is almost done. I have focused on the shapes I see within the marble - it's only when I stop and step back from the drawing that I actually see it as a marble! I find it fascinating that a different photo shot of the marble, perhaps moving the camera just a fraction and changing the direction of the light, would have produced an entirely different set of colours and patterns to draw. That, for me, is the beauty of glass and why it is such fun to draw it.

Blue Marble WIP 1

7" x 5.5" Prismacolor and Derwent Coloursoft Pencils on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper.

Back to basics with this new drawing - the humble marble. It looks like I've just plonked this marble down and started to draw it but that would be a gross oversimplification! The first thing you have to do is ensure that the surface you place it on is flat and level - the darned thing would not sit still! Of course, you could resort to the 'Blu Tack' remedy which is very effective if you want to position an object in a precise way in order to draw it (I've done this many times!). However, this won't work with a marble because it's see-through and so a blob of sticky tack would ruin the look!

Joking aside though, this simple little still-life set up involved much preparation and many mini decisions. Having chosen the marble, I then had to decide on the type and colour of surface to place it on. Next, I needed to decide about the lighting - natural or artificial. I used my daylight lamp for this one as it was a dull, overcast day. Then, I took about 45 shots of the marble from all sorts of angles and lighting conditions. And no, drawing it from life wouldn't have worked because I wanted to draw it large and would never have got all the detail.

The next stage is sifting through the shots and selecting the best ones. I find this pretty time-consuming because I go back and forth trying to decide which one(s) to use for my planned drawing. I will then crop the photo(s) every which way until I settle upon the one(s) I want to use. Then, I get to choose my pencils and start drawing. I regard all this preparation, prior to putting pencils to paper, as an integral part of the creative process and every bit as challenging as the drawing itself.

For this drawing, I'm using Canson Mi-Teintes paper, a pale orange, on the reverse side where it's not so textured. I've used Prismacolor Orange and Yellowed Orange on the background; Ultramarine, Powder Blue, Lilac, Parma Violet, Blush Pink, Light Aqua and White (Prisma) and Pale Blue (Derwent) on the marble; and....Crimson Red, Crimson Lake, Limepeel, Orange, Yellowed Orange on the shadow. The reds aren't showing up too well on this scan. Sharp pencils and careful attention to detail are the order of the day on this one!

Thursday 10 September 2009

Denzel Washington Portrait

6" x 7.5" Polychromos pencils in brown paper sketchbook.

This is a drawing from a TV programme, the Jonathan Ross Show. Now, I do not normally watch this show because I can't stand Jonathan Ross - he has an ego the size of a small country and I find him shallow and irritating. He tends to use his guests as a platform for his own jokes and ego-boosting rather than allowing them to tell their story in their own way - I don't like that.

Anyway, I made an exception this time because I rather like Denzel Washington - all round good chap, great actor and sooo good looking! Denzel has a rather quizzical expression on his face here - he's probably thinking 'does this man ever stop talking?'!

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Kiwi Fruit WIP 3

Here we are then, more work done and I'm afraid this one's gone belly up! It pains me to upload it but it's important to record the failures as well as the successes. Although there are bits that aren't that bad, basically the colours have been muddied - probably by the application of too many different greens. I don't think it can be rescued. I could blame the paper but that's a cop-out, isn't it? Never mind, I think this was always going to be a tricky one to pull off in coloured pencil. add insult to injury, one of my cats has just sauntered onto my table and plonked himself on the drawing! Mmmm.....

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Kiwi Fruit WIP 2

A few more hours of work done on this, mainly on the right half of the kiwi. It is looking darker now but it needs to go even darker to make that left half pop out more. This scan is pretty accurate and it's helpful to see it on the screen because I can see more clearly where I need to make adjustments. For example the light green areas look too bluish so I shall knock those back a bit.

For the record, I'm using Prismacolor Light Green, Pale Sage, Limepeel, Apple Green, Tuscan Red, Celadon Green, Grass Green, Pink Rose, Rosy Beige and a Dark Green whose name I don't know cos the printed name has rubbed off. And.....Derwent Coloursoft Green, Lime Green, Pea Green, Sea Green and Loganberry. Phew!

NB. I haven't got fed up with it yet...there's still time.....

Saturday 5 September 2009

Kiwi Fruit WIP 1

Good grief, it's over a fortnight since I posted anything here - what a slacker! Well, the 'glass' project I was thinking of doing is now on the back burner, so to speak, until I can come up with an idea for a set-up to draw.

I've started this drawing of a kiwi fruit, cropped from a photo I took some time ago. In fact, this is my fifth attempt to draw this particular photo! Previous attempts at it (not recently) kind of fizzled out - I would get to a certain point and then get bored and lose interest - how weird! I really like the photo though and I need to draw it, obviously!

This effort is on white Colorfix sanded paper and measures about 7" x 9". I'm using Prismacolour and Derwent Coloursoft pencils because of the wide range of greens in these brands. So far, this is about 15 hours work and there's still a fair way to go. I would have done it on green Colorfix but I don't have any left so it had to be white. The white version is much slower to work on than the coloured varieties but I like how this sanded paper forces me to work in a looser way than I would on smooth papers. The kiwi half on the right needs to be much darker so I'll be working on that next - then it's a matter of enriching the colour, especially at the edge, on the left half. I'm having fun with the greens! Fingers crossed I don't get fed up with it before it gets finished.

Note to self: Must cultivate some patience.


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