Friday, 16 February 2018

Asking nicely...

oil painting of a whippet with a beseeching expression
A little one for this week as I have been working on a commission and a bit pushed for time. These sorts of dogs have a very good line in beseeching expressions, I always think. 
A limited palette painting: black, transparent oxide red, yellow ochre deep and white.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Signs of Spring?

oil painting of two chestnut horses in sunlight

For some time I have been pondering this sweet little scene and wondering how to render it: so few colours, so many tones. Getting the tonal values right would be essential to separating the two horses in the picture frame. 
For some time, I have been following the work of Jeffrey Hayes, an American (mainly) still-life painter and, as luck would have it, he recently blogged on the merits of a grisaille - a black and white under painting. Here he is, explaining the subject Jeff Hayes - grisaille.

I had thought this technique was not for me, as I am trying very hard to be a direct painter - the opposite of the classical layered approach. However, I thought I would give it a shot. Also, as an extra incentive to concentrate on values, I thought I would work upside-down. It was certainly a challenge. Here we are about 40 minutes in:

work-in-progress, grisaille of two horses

This is so hard to do. I had to resist the temptation to twist around until I was almost standing on my head to check that it was beginning to look like a horse. The answer is: paint each individual shape and try not to worry about the overall form. Once I had filled in every "shape" in a different shade of black to pale grey, I swizzled the painting round on the easel to see what I had got:

work-in-progress grisaille of two horses

Looks like horses - phew. For anyone interested, I didn't use tube black but mixed a dark from Burnt Umber and Ultramarine. For some reason, I don't get on with tube black - too many trials and tribulations with 'mud'.

The colour application: well, traditionally, you are supposed to build the colour up with many layers of thin glazes. I did not do that. I glazed all except the brightest bits with Transparent Oxide Orange, Red or Brown, thinned with Liquin, then worked into it with opaque paint until I got it looking how I wanted. The background is white and ultramarine blue applied with a palette knife.

This technique is definitely one I will try again. I am not sure if it would work with an animal that has long or curly fur. Perhaps I might try when I am feeling brave.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

My January Face

oil painting of a resting bassett hound, a pet portrait
Here is a re-post of an old friend, recovering from the dog-days of January and relieved to greet a new month this morning.
Painted using pthalo blue and alizarin, with transparent oxide brown and a touch of cad yellow deep.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Brown Study

oil painting of a brown dog with large, pleading eyes

This painting didn't start out as "Brown Study".  I was going to call it "Watching You, Watching Me" and had laid out a fairly normal colour palette. As the painting progressed, the range of colours I used shrank until in the end it was basically two plus black and white. It was an unintended exercise in managing value and several times I thought it was going to end up in the bin. It turned out alright in the end, though.
This is what my dog does when I am cooking. He sits half in, half out of his bed, watching me.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Safe harbour after the storm

oil painting of a reflective dog

This is my dog, Bilbo Baggins (a sheltie/poodle mix). He was looking reflective, I thought, following an unpleasant spell of illness during which he had to spend time in a veterinary hospital. 
He greeted the vet with much tail-wagging and little kisses at his review appointment, though, so the experience can't have been all negative.
Painted in 3 short sessions, allowing each previous session to dry, in order to build up his thick, curly coat without creating mud.
Bilbo is fully recovered now, by the way, and totally disinterested in his portrait.

Thursday, 11 January 2018


oil painting, pet portrait, Bernese Mountain Dog

Painted in two stages: an underpainting using gouache (so I could work it in the house and not in my studio) then oil. I had expected only to use a little oil paint for highlights etc but in fact I re-worked the whole piece as I found the colours so much richer. I quite like gouache but miss the vibrancy and the texture of oil paint.

A quote to go with this one, by Fred Jungclaus:

Wednesday, 3 January 2018


Watchful - oil painting of a hound dog
First post in a while. It follows a lengthy and complicated house move/relocation, a bout of norovirus and a poorly dog. Trying to get back into the swing of regular painting. Most things have emerged from the packing crates so there really is no excuse. Happy New Year!