Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Romantic

This lady I had hoped to have on the card for the show, but unfortunately she took too long to paint and then caused the poor photographer no end of trouble. Still, here she is now.

She is another big painting at four feet high. If I hadn't been doing the show and trying to make sure I filled the walls I'm not sure I would ever have attempted anything like this - but I'm so glad I did. There is just so much more you can do with more space, with including clothing and hands and little hearts and wild hair, that you just can't do with closely cropped head and shoulders.

Maybe there is a fair bit of romantic in me, too - I'm certainly looking forward to the future, meeting you folks at the opening, just as she is looking towards whatever is next - although we do both have a fair bit of trepidation.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Classic

Another painting from the show, another back view, another beautiful lady.

This time I very much wanted to contrast the warm colours of her skin and the background with the cool, reserved pose. The most detail in the painting is in the ear, an area of the body that is entirely receptive and very individual. It was this balance between control/lack of control, natural/done, warm/cool that I found fascinating. Her hair and make-up is very classic, hence the name of the painting, and of course bare skin is the most classical garment of all - especially when worn with poise.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Clown Princess

The Turn was interesting to paint - not least because it is my biggest painting so far, and the only whole body one - but didn't explore the challenge Donna had set me by wearing whiteface to the modelling session.

This particular pose stood out for me as she looked so regal - almost like Queen Elizabeth the First - despite wearing clowns make up. While she was there we did talk about how the same piece of clothing has different meanings and associations depending on what the are combined with, and one of the things I like about Donna's costume is that each individual item has so many possible associations - the tiara is mine, from my wedding, but is very similar to what debutantes would have worn, as well as the plastic variety each little princess has somewhere. The white make-up has a long association with clownery, but originally was used by court ladies (and some men). Ruffs have also a long tradition, especially in art, that they really deserve their own post. Kohl is of course as old as the hills . . . whereas denim is relatively new but has gathered many associations. Dungarees are workwear, but are also often worn by young children - like those in E.T. Oh, and stripey tops do also have a tradition all of their own.

And those are just some of the more obvious clues - I'm sure each of you will think of your own associations.

Altogether, along with Donna's marvelous eyes and hint of a smile, you get a clown that is ready to rule.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Skin Tones Palette

A couple of days ago I had a terrific lunch at Once Upon A Tart with the very talented Cate Iglis - I had the Victoria Sponge, much recommended. Anyway, we talked of many things, including what colours I used - Cate had thought that I might use similar colours to her, as I use greys in a similar way. As it turns out, I don't, and as I struggled a bit in explaining what I do use, I thought I'd write it all down.

The photo above is from this afternoon, at the end of play. Normally it would be a lot messier as this was really a tweaking rather than a laying down large areas of paint day. You can still see the threads I lay out initially - unusual!

At the top is my greys, mixed from Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, both W+N artist's oils. Today the mix was more brown than grey, it changes every time. The advantage of this, rather than pre-mixed grey or raw umber is that I can change the temperature fairly easily and that the darks are pretty transparent. Both Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna get used independently, especially the Sienna for hair. White, of course, adds opaqueness, the degree depending on which white (titanium or lead) I am using.

Next is an Old Holland colour, Italian Earth, which is basically a less greenish yellow ochre. As you can see, it is a mid tone out of the tube and I progressively lighten it to a tone a couple of stops darker than white. Generally if I need a lighter colour, I need very little and can therefore mix as I go.

Next to my yellow (which is easily the most used colour, especially for light tones) is Vasari's Scarlet Sienna - a lovely warm earth red, that gives both great peach tones and deep reds.

All the other colours change depending on the painting, but most have had Mars Violet, a convincing deep purple out of the tube that lightens to a nice lilac colour - I use this a lot in backgrounds and in the darks and it is very useful in cooling/dulling warmer, brighter reds.

Next is Cadmium Red, a little of which goes a very long way but I really, really hope I will be able to continue to buy this - although I suspect the tube I have may well last a decade or so!

Finally today I have some Michael Harding's Kings Blue Deep, as I was using this in the clothes and background - most of my paintings have one or two guest colours and this is one of the commonest ones. Vasari's Video Blue Pale and Cadmium Yellow have also put in appearances on more than one occasion, as has a blue-red, can't remember which one.

So, that's what I've used for the last six months, working on the show. Next maybe is some still lifes, so I will be breaking out some quite different colours. Or maybe not - we'll see!

Thursday, 7 August 2014


Everyone loves butterflies, don't they? Caterpillars not so much.

Which is clearly a wee bit of a shame, as most of us spend an awful lot of time as caterpillars, struggling to grow and change into something beautiful.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Painting The Queen

As soon as I knew I was going to have a solo show I asked Moira Buchanan to be the star of the show.

She was the first person ever to be pose for me, back in the days when I didn't know what I doing and needed at least three hours at a time. Since then I have moved into a studio downstairs from hers, making it awfully easy for me to say "There is this idea I've had, would you mind . . . ?". To her ever lasting credit she has been incredibly patient, being willing to lie on the floor with coins in her eyes, have butterflies pinned to her hair and to wear a paper crown, to list just the successful paintings.

This particular painting was an idea I had after I finished The Fool, as I felt every fool needed someone to serve. I also very much wanted a portrait that felt very Moira, with a sense of her mischievousnous. So I was giving myself a bit of a challenge but thankfully everything worked. So much so, in many ways this is the turning point painting of the exhibition, the portrait that made sense of all the rest, to the point I went back and repainted several of them, including The Fool.

So thank you, Moira!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Hearing Loss And The Artist

This post is a wee reminder to folks that I am a wee bit deaf. By which I mean, of course, profoundly deaf in my right ear and moderately deaf in the left.

Most of the time as an oil painter this is not a problem, indeed can count as a blessing - I don't notice traffic noise and people in other studios being very loud doesn't bother me. When I have someone modelling for me there is little background noise and I can lip read easily so again it doesn't tend to be an issue. Also I rely on body language much more than most, which must help in portraiture.

Openings and (even worse) dinners are another matter.

To recap a little, I have mainly a conductive deafness that I have had since being a toddler. This is different from most peoples deafness - which tends to be sensorineural, comes on much later in life and mainly affects higher pitched noises.

Because I lost most of my hearing on one side when I was very young I find wearing my hearing aid difficult - I am so used to sound coming from the left that I find hearing stuff on the right disorienting. Unfortunately the sound I do get from the aid is not actually enough to understand speech - just enough to be aware that someone is speaking. It also tends to rub, leading to infections. Bah. However, at openings I do try and remember to wear it, because it does seem to be common for people to start talking to you before you can see them and without the aid I am quite likely to entirely unaware that someone is speaking to me. I'm sure I've probably lost many potential friends over the years through perceived rudeness. But if I cannot see your face directly I am unlikely to be able to hear you.

Background noise makes life more difficult as well. If we are in a crowded, noisy space and you are trying to tell me someone's name, especially an unusual one, forget it - what noises I can hear and lip read relatively easy are vowels - consonants are much harder to distinguish. This is one reason I often have a notebook with me and may ask you to write a name or word down - this is much quicker, often, so please be patient.

What else? Dinners - urgh! If you are on my right hand side, you'll notice that I virtually turn round in my seat to talk to you, as I try and get the good ear closer. But this is tiring so I may well end up just talking to the person on my left - much easier. As for those across the table, no way. Just too far away. Which means, of course, that generally at dinner parties I talk to one person all night. Great when it is my husband, but then, why be at a dinner at all?

Towards the end of the night I'll often be tired and prefer to talk to long term friends - this is easier for me as making sense out of the noises I hear is simpler and less exhausting when I am familiar with their turns of speech and body language. So please don't be offended if I don't want to party the night away - maybe next time.

If you are at all interested in reading more (and do remember my kind of hearing loss is unusual, if you know someone bit deaf, the best thing is to ask them what is best for them.) then the Action on Hearing Loss website is generally useful with lots of information on how to communicate, different types of hearing loss and so on - there is even a test to see if you need a hearing aid yourself. If you know any other good webpages, bloggers etc on the subject, please let me know.