Monday 23 November 2009

Cambridge Visit

My friend, Maggie, and I went over to Cambridge on a shopping visit last week so I thought I'd post a little visual record of our time there.  Cambridge sits on the River Cam and, aside from being famed as the place where clever people go to get educated, it is a really pleasant town steeped in history and lovely little shops.  I didn't know quite how many colleges there are in Cambridge - 31 to be precise.  6 of them date back to the 15th Century, 4 of them were founded in the 14th Century and the mother of them all, Peterhouse College was founded in the year 1284!  Wow!  Shame we didn't take some pics of these but that would have been too much like a history lesson perhaps.

 Here's the central quayside area where you can hop on a punt and mozey off down the river.....only today, as it was quite blustery and cold, that didn't seem like a wise option.

This view was down river a little.......

This is one of the typical cobbled streets full of olde worlde little shops which we had fun dipping in and out of - you felt like you might see a horse and carriage at any moment!  The most common mode of transport, however, was the bicycle........and lots of them!  No cars, at least not in the centre of town,
just lots of students, and dons, flying around all over the place on bikes.

Maggie and I were on a mission.  We knew there was a decent art shop somewhere in town but we just couldn't find it.   We asked many
people who tried their best to guide us in the right direction.  We also had a map which turned out to be grossly unhelpful.....partly because it didn't have all the side roads on it, but mostly because neither of us has the slightest modicum of a sense of direction.  We can't help it, we are just both extremely handicapped in the spatial awareness department!

Anyway eventually we found it, so here I am posing outside Tindalls - that elusive art shop.  I don't know why I am pointing innanely at the sign - I think I was just so thrilled to have actually found the shop!   

And....what a shop, it was great!  These days, at least in my part of the world, there are fewer and fewer good art shops on our high streets.  They are slowly disappearing probably because of the economic downturn but also, I think, because more and more people are choosing to shop online now for their art materials.  It's good, though, to go to a real, live shop sometimes, wander around and see and feel things 'in the flesh', so to speak, isn't it?  For example, I love the feel of papers........and this was an Aladdin's cave of papers. 

I bought some Sennelier La Carte sanded paper - heaven!  It was expensive though, £25.95 for an A3 pad (gulp!), but worth it I think.   I also re-stocked my diminishing supplies of Art Spectrum Colourfix, although they didn't have all the colours I wanted.  The Colourfix was available only in large sheets but I was able to use the (very large) guillotine to cut them down to the size I wanted.   The shop assistant said she wasn't allowed to do this for me but I could do it myself.  I think then if mistakes are made, the customer is responsible, rather than the shop.  Also, rather more pertinently, if the assistant happened to cut off a finger or two in the process, the shop would have been up the creek without a paddle don't you think?  If I had mutilated my own hand.....well that's just tough I suppose. 

Anyhow, I emerged from the shop laden down with luscious papers, a few coloured pencils and eight fingers and two thumbs intact - phew!  Incidentally, we could have done with borrowing that bicycle with basket, someone left temptingly parked outside the shop, to carry everything back to the coach park....sigh!  All in all, a great day out.    

Friday 20 November 2009

Another Keith Portrait

Approx. 8" x 10" on Black Art Spectrum Colourfix paper

I started this one yesterday and I think it's about finished now so it hardly constitutes a "work in progress" in my usual fashion.  I wanted a subject suitable for the sheet of black Colourfix paper I had left over and Keith, seen posing in my previous post, seemed appropriate.  The paper drove me batty because it was a bit like wearing a black jumper, it attracted and showed up every bit of dust and debris going and I was forever blotting it with 'Blu Tack'!  It does, however, give a picture a degree of drama which I like.

This drawing was a tricky one to get right in that the cat is backlit - he was standing on a window sill on a bright day - and so his face and most of his body is in shadow.  I decided not to attempt a background because I think that would have killed the drama of the pose (plus I'm pretty rubbish at them!).  I like drawing pictures with high contrast in them and exploiting the effects of light against dark, and vice versa to suggest form.  The chiaroscuro tradition in art is one which interests me, mainly because I like a bit of drama!, and I'd like to do some more drawings along these lines.

I've used Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolor pencils on this one.    

Thursday 12 November 2009

Portrait of a Cat, done and dusted!

So here is my final version of Keith.  I have added more white to the fur, emphasizing the highlights, using a Derwent Drawing Chinese White pencil.  The fur needed more definition generally, I think, so I waded in with more Prismacolor Warm Greys, Indigo and Greyed Lavender.  I also refined the pink ear and the nose a little more.  The dark grey paper helped a lot in providing a foundation colour for the subject and speeded up the drawing process no end.      

I prefer the way the Derwent Coloursoft lay down on this paper (Colorfix) as they are chalkier than Prismacolor and also, they never break on me - unlike the Prismas which tend to break a lot.  The Prisma Indigo kept breaking in the sharpener so I put it in the microwave oven for 30 seconds - worked a treat!  The waxy colour strip melts just enough to reform in the pencil shaft as an unbroken pencil once again - clever stuff huh?!  You just have to remember not to 'over-cook' it though or it might explode!  The only reason I persevere with the Prismacolor pencils is that they come in a much wider range of colours than the Derwent Coloursoft.

So what will I draw next then?  I daren't make another 'statement of intent' because whenever I do that my plan always seems to turn to mush!

Monday 9 November 2009

Portrait of a Cat, almost finished

8" x 10" Coloured Pencil on Dark Grey Colorfix sanded paper

I started this pic yesterday and continued today - about 8 hours work so far.  Prior to this I had been struggling with a still-life set up which was driving me nuts so I gave up on it to preserve my sanity.  I then reminded myself of the old adage that when you become bereft of inspiration for your art, it's good to draw something you love.  So that is what I've done!

This is a picture of Keith, one of my beloved cats.  Keith is the quietest one of the bunch, he is very serene and good-natured and this is a typical pose of him.  Poor Keith - I spent a long time staring at his face to get a better idea of the detail and his eye colours, I think he thinks I've flipped my lid!

He has one pink ear and a very pink nose which I've tried to capture.  I'm out of practice with cat portraits and on screen it's looking rather too 'photographic' for my liking.  Never mind, I shall put it away for a couple of days and then do some tweaking when the flaws in it will no doubt become more glaringly obvious.  I'm using Prismacolor, all the lovely warm greys, and Derwent Coloursoft pencils.      

Monday 2 November 2009

Autumn in the Park Finished - ish

Well it's all done bar the tweaking. I've strengthened the colours using the same pencils as before and laying down the colours side by side, especially on the foliage, rather than on top of one another. I did not want a saturated 'painted' look, there are probably no more than 3 or 4 layers of colour in any one spot. All I'll do now is put it aside for a while and then tweak as necessary. It was interesting to do a landscape but they are not really my favourite topic. And......I'm so glad that cyclist was not in the foreground, I would have had to pay more serious attention to detailing him - Cripes!


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