Thursday, 31 March 2016

Dalmatian with blue wallpaper

dalmatian painting
When I painted my Dogs in Literature mini-series, I papered the board first with book pages then gessoed the papering with clear gesso ready to accept oil paint. I did not like the feel of the clear gesso at all. I think it would be fab for pastels because it created a sort of sandpapery feel but it was most unpleasant to paint on. So for this lovely boy, I experimented with a different approach.
I drew the dog on to layout paper, then traced the outline in reverse on the back of the wallpaper and then cut the head out. Then I flipped the wall paper over, with a dog-shaped hole in it - and "wall-papered" it on to a linen board. This then left me, of course, with a pristine linen surface for the actual painting.
I should say it took four attempts and two ruined boards. I can now offer the Karen Robinson Bespoke ©™methodology for avoiding air bubbles, ripples, ridges, unwanted rips and other wallpapery nuisances. 
1. squirt the paper  with water from a sprayer so it is nice and damp but not actually swimming. Or dissolving. 
2. Wait 5 minutes 
3. Smear Liquitex clear gesso all over the board where you want the wallpaper to go but NOT where the dog is to be painted otherwise this is all a bit of a waste of time 
4. Take some of the gesso off, there is bound to be too much.
5. Wait 5 minutes. 
6. with non-sticky hands - this is very important don't ask me how I know this - carefully lift the fragile paper up and fix it to the board from the centre outwards trying to keep it straight.
7. Put in a warm place to dry for 4 hours. I put mine in the airing cupboard on top of the dog towels.
8. Paint the dog.
If it goes wrong, begin again at Step 1.
I like this painting but I am not sure about the process. I think next time I will actually just paint the wallpaper.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Night patrol

oil painting of young fox at night
This painting was made using only black, transparent oxide red and transparent red ochre. I used no white at all. All the lightest passages are created by wiping back to the gesso'd board or, in the case of highlights in his eyes, whiskers and ear hair, by scraping back. Sgraffito is the technical term. I used the pointy end of a metal skewer confiscated from the kitchen.

Since painting this fox I have had one of those episodes where everything I touch goes wrong. There have been, I think, 5 wipers - including a portrait due to be posted on to my other blog - which I finally lost patience with this morning, after wrestling with it for many hours. So I am going to take the rest of Easter off and wait for better days!

Have a lovely Easter and, if you are in the UK - especially the SW - stay safe and dry. The anticipated storm is arriving as I type.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Golden Series no 3 - Lion

Last one for this week, using the same techniques as previously: mainly transparent colours. For this proud animal I chiefly used Transparent Oxide Red, Raw Sienna and Transparent Red Ochre. 
That last one is a new colour for me, from Winsor & Newton Artists' range. The colour swatch on the sites of most suppliers bears no relationship to the colour in real life: Winsor and Newton's own site has a much better swatch. 
It creates a really luscious, warm, orange-red glow. 
I also used Indian Yellow, a paint I have packed into the cupboard to avoid the temptation of picking it up: it has a fierce pigmenting strength and I have had experiences before of generating 50 shades of cowpat brown the second it hits any other opaque colour. 
But I used it with great care - kept the tube of black well away - and its luminosity can create highlights and punches of colour every bit as effective, I thought, as white.
Have a great weekend and thank you for joining me on my blog this week.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Golden series No 2 - wolf

oil painting of a wolf

This beautiful animal was painted using the same palette and techniques that I described yesterday. Any white on the painting was added last and when the previous layer was almost dry. I find this prevents a muddy appearance which is particularly easy to achieve if you are using thin veils of transparent colour. 
I had blamed the paint for this, but I have now bought one tube of every "type" of white available and each one is completely competent at reducing my painting to mud. 
The common denominator in all this has become unavoidable.. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Golden Series, No 1 - dog

oil painting of a mixed breed dog with golden fur and amber eyes
I am doing a series of little paintings using this technique and having lots of fun. 
It is so exciting when it works. 
The paint is used very thinly and is almost entirely transparent pigments: transparent oxide brown and red, raw umber, raw sienna. Then black (nose, pupils of eyes) and in the case of this lovely little chap, a touch of white for his muzzle and flash. 
But the key thing is NOT to use white. 
As soon as you introduce white the whole thing is inclined to fall apart. I had to wipe this lovely boy twice before he came together and the culprit each time was white.
Apart from his nose, all the other "white" in the painting - the light fur on his ear, for example - is achieved by wiping paint off with whatever comes to hand. My finger, the handle-end of the brush or a cotton bud (Q tip) and allowing the un-toned white of the board to shine through.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Movie Star Horse

Loosely based on an old movie still, this was inspired by Roy Rogers and Trigger and all those other four-legged stars of screen that populated my childhood imagination.
Painted in a limited palette of cobalt blue, vermillion red, black and white I was, like yesterday, experimenting with creating a colour impact. 
I am going to do some more exploring of this. 
It came from an insight that maybe colour is as much in our imagination as it is a visual reality. Van Gogh understood this, of course, so I am hardly saying anything new, but I had a sort of epiphany: 
When a child, I had a "Big Book of Wildlife", that was my most treasured possession. I never forgot the many colourful pictures illustrating the text.
Then one day I re-discovered the book, still lurking at my Mum's house. 
I was completely amazed to discover the entire book was printed in black & white. Those big, colour plates I have recalled all my life? There was no colour at all.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Rodeo Cowboy

oil painting of a rodeo cowboy
This is a limited palette painting. I used Transparent Oxide Red and Cad Yellow Light + black and white for the whole thing except his jeans and checked shirt (a dot of cobalt blue). 
It was an exercise to see if I could make the colour punch. At the very end, I added the horse's blaze and a couple of hoof highlights using white, but otherwise I experimented by painting the horse without using any white at all. 
To do this, I relied on the underlying un-toned, white, gesso'd board. To achieve the lighter values, I either used (a lot) more Cad Yellow, or I wiped paint off with a cotton bud/Q-tip until the right degree of luminous-ness was achieved, from light bouncing off the white surface underneath the paint.
The background was put in at the end, using a palette knife. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Trompe l'oeil horse with brush and hand

Trompe l'oeil horse with brush and hand
I have long been fascinated by trompe l'oeil work and blogged about it once before, here.

Trompe l’oeil is French for “deceive the eye” and is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion that the objects actually exist in 3 dimensions. 

In this painting, everything is - painted. Including the torn paper and the masking tape. 

I started off by setting up a little model scene so that I could shine a bright light on it to judge the shadows. I took some aged-looking note paper and tore it, mounted it onto black card and posed a model horse against it, in front of a bright light. Like so:

set-up for trompe l'oeil painting

The plastic horse is attached to the background with blu-tack.

Then I drew it out with a combination of paint, charcoal and fine, permanent marker (for the lines of the notepaper, so they wouldn't be dissolved by the oil):
set-up for trompe l'oeil painting
As you can see, I started off intending to have a dog peering up at the horse (bottom right). I got as far as painting him in, too. But it didn't work and the optical illusion was broken. It is because the scale was all wrong, I think. So I wiped him off with methylated spirit and painted in my hand holding a brush, instead. The masking tape I just painted by sticking a bit to my drawing board and copying it:


I used Titanium White with Raw Sienna and painted thinly so there was some translucency. My masking tape is the cheap sort and you can see through it!


My favourite trompe l’oeil is this one. The Chatsworth House “violin” - in fact, a painting by Jan Van der Vaart (1653-1727) on the back of a door.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Rostov's dogs (Dog's of Literature No 5)

oil painting of borzoi from War & Peace
This is the last in my Dogs of Literature mini-series, at least for the time being, but it is a big one: Nicholas Rostov's borzoi from the famous hunting scene in Tolstoy's War & Peace.  Two of the borzoi are mentioned by name - Milka and Karay - and in this painting I am imagining they are the two at the front. Here is Tolstoy, setting the scene:
This extract is a screen shot from the Project Gutenberg e-Book edition of the text. In the novel, the borzoi (also known as Russian Wolfhounds) are hunting a wolf and *SPOILER ALERT* they actually succeed in bringing down their quarry. I was upset for two days after reading this.
In my painting, this does not happen. The wolf escapes successfully into the Otradnoe wood. Look closely. You can see the swish of her tail as she slips away.