Friday, 21 April 2017


oil painting of Hound dog on a red cushion

A rare moment of contemplation for this hound dog, reclining in splendour on her red sofa. Warm shadows and cool light on the form of the dog. I enjoyed painting the curve of her body, pretending I was stroking her back as I applied the paint.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Bring Me Sunshine (2) and Happy Easter

painting of hound dog in play bow

Happy Easter! Here is a bonus painting for this weekend. I have been on a bit of a roll for the last week and completed 5 paintings. This one is on A4 MDF board - I bought a multi-pack from a new supplier on eBay and I am very pleased with it. I have gesso'd it myself with 3 coats of acrylic gesso.

Here are the two work-in-progress shots I remembered to take:
work-in-progress hound dog painting

The one on the top is the first stage: a rough drawing of the main features, position etc. Then I did a colour block-in. I am using watery acrylic paint for this: black, ultramarine, quinacridone nickel azo gold, burnt umber and sap green.

Once this was dry I started tidying up and adding a bit more detail. I used cadmium green pale and portrait pink to see if those colours would capture bright sunshine and concluded they did. I am still using acrylics at this point.

Once this had dried I switched to oil paint. For the sunshine I used lemon yellow, transparent oxide red, cadmium green light and a particularly virulent portrait pink from Daler Rowney, as well as white. For the shadows I used burnt umber, dioxine purple and ultramarine blue but pretty thin: lots of liquin.

Hope you like my playful dog -  have a playful Easter weekend yourselves. Thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Bring me Sunshine

This painting of a tortoiseshell cat started off as an experiment. It was an experiment that ended well, a bit to my surprise. 
I used a previously toned board - it was a sort of peach-y colour - and I started drawing in the placement of the cat using a brush and some watery Raw Umber acrylic paint. Then I used some watery white and lemon acrylic to mark the patches of sunlight hitting the cat. 
Then I picked up an old friend I haven't used for a long time: Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, by Golden. This is the most luminous, fiery, coppery gold colour. You can see it in the cat's left eye and cheek in this painting. I have not been able to find a match in oil colour despite trying: much trial, all error thus far.
Anyway, having got to this point I began deeping the colour and adding more colour notes, thinking I would "finish" with oil paint. But I didn't. 
So this is the first acrylic painting I have made since switching to oils 4 years ago. 
I am not sure I could have done this painting in oils, not in a single sitting anyway. The acrylic dried so quickly on what was a very warm Spring day, I could start layering up immediately. Colours could also be placed side-by-side without creating mud. The corollary was that blending was very difficult. I had to either blend on the palette or create the colour I wanted by layering (glazing).
It is apparently possible to buy extenders that stop acrylic paint drying so fast. But since this was the property I actually enjoyed, I probably won't. 

Friday, 7 April 2017


Oil painting of a shepherd and lamb
You have two paintings for the price of one today. This is the second version of a painting I made of Henry in the lambing sheds. I made the setting less abstracted and more realistic, zoomed in on his lovely, hard-working face and totally invented the colour harmony of the lighting. 
I imagined this is what the lambing sheds might look like in early morning sunlight (or late afternoon). At the time I was in the sheds with him, we hadn't seen any sun for weeks and everywhere was dull and olive green.
This painting has just won a Special Merit Award from Light, Space Time Gallery in Florida USA 😊

Here is the first version of the painting. This one is a 12" x 16" on linen:
Oil painting of a shepherd and his lamb
This cool colour harmony is a more realistic rendering of the actual scene. There is more of the figure and also, of course, more of the lamb. In this one, I like the fact you get all the lamb's gangly legs. Bless him.
Maybe what I need to do is paint a 3rd one that brings together the elements of these two that I most like. What do you think?

By the way, if anyone also follows me on Facebook, I am presently taking both a personal and a professional holiday from Facebook, having unpublished both my page and personal profile. 
I might switch them back on, I might not. 
Facebook engulfs both time and mental energy. I was also getting rather too many weird visitors and comments. This, combined with endless demands from FB to hand over money to promote myself, decided me to take a holiday.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Horse study in gold

oil study of a horse
This was an exercise to see what would happen if I used the smallest number of colours and the smallest number of brushstrokes possible. Could I model form without fussing over detail? Could I make something striking with 3 or 4 colours not including white?
I'll leave you to decide. 
Colours used were Rembrandt Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Yellow Deep and Winsor & Newton Cadmium Yellow Medium and Raw Umber.  The depth of darkness in the raw umber was achieved by applying two or three layers of colour, allowing each to dry in between. 
For brush work, I used a small soft angled shader for the fiddly bits (legs, face, ears, whiskers) but for mostly everything else, I used my fingers or a cotton bud/Q-tip.
I did not use white, realising that white is a false friend and often kills the effect I am trying to achieve. 
Like most people, I tend to assume white is the lightest and thus the brightest colour on my palette. In fact, the illusion of brilliance can also be achieved by careful contrast and using high chroma pigments. Adding white to any colour automatically cools and dulls it, which is often the opposite effect to the one you are trying to achieve.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

David Hockney on "Splash"

David Hockney and Splash - a piece of fan art
Here is a portrait of Hockney emerging from a vague copy of one of his more famous paintings from his early Los Angeles period, "Splash". 
There is a large retrospective on at the Tate just now in London of Hockney's work which I should love to see but it isn't really practical or feasible at the moment (train services to London from where I live being poor, lengthy and very expensive). Feeling a bit put out about this, I painted myself a Hockney instead. I enjoyed making this painting hugely.
I learnt how much he worked at this period with flat, pure colours and found this very difficult. I think he painted "Splash" in acrylics and that would have made it a bit easier due to the super-fast drying time. I was working in oils of course and to colour-match Hockney's blue I found I had to use a Pthalo Blue. Pthalo Blue is to a painting what red dye is a to a load of white laundry. I had blue finger-nails as well as fetching strands of blue hair in my fringe. It is a fabulous colour but a pig to work with.
For the vivid peach/pink/orange Hockney used, I struggled to achieve a match. In the end, I used lavish amounts of Portrait Pink - a quite dreadful dolly-mixture pink that I don't normally use - and added some cadmium orange. In real life, these colours are quite eye-ball rotting. Love 'em.

Hockney is my hero among contemporary artists. He follows no fads, he takes no crap from anyone - he just does his own thing and always has. He can also speak fluently about his work and every word is interesting, of value and never, ever pretentious. I love the honesty of his work.

Friday, 24 March 2017


oil portrait of Mahatma Gandhi
Well, I bet this one surprised you. It certainly surprised me.

It started off life as a 10"x8" gessoed MDF board. I laid in a dark background of black, Paynes grey, blue and white and started to add in sheep in lambing pens etc. Unsure how it was going, I left it for a few hours, by which time the alkyd oil paint had partially tacked up. On checking it, I hated it, so wiped off as much of the paint as possible to begin again and left the board - a nasty bruised mess - to dry up in hopes of recycling it.

For some reason, I decided to have a go at doing the sheep again, but this time pretending there was sunshine in the lambing pens, and I wiped over the "bruised" surface a goodly coating of Indian Yellow, a rather transparent and rich yellow paint.

Immediately, it didn't look like the interior of a Devon lambing pen at all, but something else entirely.

I sat there, brooding on whether to toss the entire board into the bin, and reflecting on the mystery of Indian Yellow. It is a strangely beautiful colour, but very hard to work with, as it dislikes being mixed with most other colours. 

Nowadays, it is a chemically created colour. Its name is said to come from its original formulation: the urine of Indian cows fed entirely on mangoes. No idea if that is actually true.

Reflecting on this story, however, I thought of India. Meanwhile, various news outlets were reporting the phrase "an eye for an eye" in various contexts both political and religious.

Mahatma Gandhi said
         an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

and suddenly his face seemed to appear faintly in the colours on the board. So I painted him. 

The colours used, apart from Indian Yellow (and a disastrous prior attempt at sheep pens in blue and black) were: Burnt Umber (the Michael Harding one) and Lead White substitute, also by Michael Harding. This latter is a new one to me: the only downside is it takes forever to dry. Otherwise it is my new favourite tube of paint. Love it.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.