On my easel… Venturing into Oils.

On my easel

After many years working with acrylics (and loving all the possibilities that they allow) I am currently trying to put my fear aside about working with oil paints. Yep, I said fear. It has gone on for far too long. It is bordering on ridiculous. Acrylics I know, almost inside out. I know that used correctly they are one of the most stable painting materials around. They won’t flake, crack, fall off the substrate or discolour unless you do something really silly. Over the years, all the reading I have been doing about oils has put the idea into my head that they are the opposite unless you really know what you are doing. Because I have never known what I was doing with them, (fat over lean anyone? I know what it means but how much and when?) I have let them be. The odd tube I have purchased has taunted me into starting but never enough for me to open that lid. I know that as silly as it sounds, I will never really feel like a ‘painter’ until I can paint in oils. (yep…silly)

I have read and read and read and am currently reading The oil painting book by Bill Greevy and I have eventually decided that all the reading in the world is never going to make me an oil painter – only actually getting the brushes and paints out will give me even half a chance at that. So today I began. Confused, perplexed, trying to let go of doing it ‘right’ and just ‘doing it’. But I made a start and that’s what counts! Here’s to a new journey.

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Progress of a Painting …. part two

Continuing the journey of my latest painting (the inspiration and beginnings as described in this post) after developing an idea from images, places, dreams and sketching them out eventually the idea starts to come together for the first time on the canvas….

As always the light and atmosphere are really important in my work and I wanted to get the balance of establishing an interesting background but without it intruding on the central character and the emotion.

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Lately I have been working using lots and lots of layers of glazes of colour, building them up all over the painting – painting, wiping away, painting, wiping away to give a translucent quality that changes as the light shifts. Painstaking slow but very satisfying when the atmosphere starts to appear.

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Even with all the preparatory sketches, the face changed many times with this piece – painted and repainted over and over. I felt I had a clear idea of how she would look but I am discovering that rather than applying the character to the canvas with the paint, I am using the paint to excavate the character from the canvas (if that makes sense). At many points I probably could have left her as she was but there is always that sense that she is still not who she is supposed to be, so I paint again, changing the profile and this feature and that shadow – I am discovering who she is over many hours. It is the eternal question – how do you know when  a painting is done. There is no formula – you just know

Sometimes when I feel a painting is finished, I keep going anyway, just to see what will happen. More subtle and not so subtle changes, more and more glazes and layering of colours, more rubbing away and the emotion and atmosphere that I am seeking begins to come through.

Then finally I know it is done. I can leave it for a few days and go back to make sure I still feel the same way. But when I know, I know.

So here we have

Seeking Truth behind those Bright, Seeing Eyes

Acrylic on Board 2013

Progress of a Painting …… part one

It always starts with a seed of an idea, something that sparks my interest and a story begins.

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Lately I have been drawn to trying to create a sense of time and place, a certain atmosphere. Something that will draw the viewer in and encourage them to think that they may have been there at some point in the past. These photos are from my recent visit to Calke Abbey, a national trust property that has gone to wrack and ruin over the last decades but that is in a constant process of conservation to keep it as it is rather that restoring it to its former glory. There are lots of dark corridors with peeling layers of wallpaper and paint and it has an incredible beauty and atmosphere.

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Of course there always has to be a character, someone that could be me, could be you or someone you know or have read about or have imagined.

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I never tire of drawing and painting faces. They are a combination of self portraits, images of friends, from inspiration but also from my own imagination.

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With this painting I wanted to create a real sense of light and shade so took lots of self portraits with the light the way I wanted and sketched from those.

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The image started to come together in my large moleskine sketchbook that I use for painting in (someday I will do a slideshow of all the pages). Here I can work big, with no expectation, just enjoying the texture of the page and the feeling of the paint.

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I prepared a lot more for this painting that I ever have before as I wanted to paint big (well bigger than my usual at 60 x 80 cms) and wanted to get the scale and perspective just right so I worked on yet another drawing and played with light and shadow too. Then time to start painting – but that is for another post!

Scattered to the four winds – Progress of a painting

Folks seem to find my progress of a paintings posts interesting so thought I would show you the progress of this painting that I just finished today.

Sketching out progress 1

I started this painting months ago and reached a certain stage with it where I knew I wasn’t happy but just could not progress with it any further at the time. So it has been propped up in my studio all of that time, taunting me, trying to get me to decide whether to trash or rework it.

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I put it behind my mirror and forgot about it for a while (as in the fourth image above).  But yesterday I rediscovered her and thought I would see if she was worth rescuing and on many occasions in the past 2 days I wondered why I was bothering.

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I liked her, then ruined her, many times over. But I think she is finished and I am so glad I returned to see her completed.

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And so it goes with my working process and I am trying to learn to trust myself, to persist, to push through the mess, to excavate what lies beneath and to pause and just look. Sometimes unexpected things happen. I painted the windmill and the poppies appeared last but I then liked the relation between the windmill and the idea of seeds being strewn by the winds and beauty appearing here there and everywhere.

my studio

Speaking of things strewn to the four winds – this is the state of my studio when I am immersed in painting. However my organisation has been much helped by my recent purchase of the Ikea trolley that so many artists have been mentioning – I highly recommend it!

This will be one of the paintings I show at The Art Market in Holmfirth at the end of June.

Gathered at the shore

The weeks fly by and I pootle along oblivious. Just working away as usual in my own wee world.

I have a few projects on the go at the moment and am changing some of my work habits and plans – part of which is continuing to make the best of my studio time, continuing to persevere with oil painting, making plans for future work and keeping painting the days away when I can and learning as I go along… always learning.

Above is another amateur video of a journal page in progress. (Learning… always learning)

Enjoy.

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A new painting from my studio

Progress of a painting 1, originally uploaded by gilfling.

This year has so far been all about working in my studio – lots of drawing, lots of dreaming, re-ordering materials, gathering ideas for new work – it all takes time. I love this process, the flitting between things dreamt, unfinished and in progress. At some point it all starts to come together and from that place I can start painting.

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A strange and unexpected thing has happened since I have had to reduce my studio time due to working extra hours at my part time job. I feel under less pressure to create and finish works that I am not happy with – with less hours, I have more time to just draw and paint the things that are in my imagination and not what I think people are expecting from me. More structure and less time has brought about a sense of freedom and permission to just get on and ‘do’ rather than waste time worrying.

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So with an exhibition deadline looming, and having spent the last 2 months drawing for the love of it, this painting just appeared in a very natural and fluid way. Not much forethought or planning but a quick glance through my sketchbooks and painting journal and then I was on my way.

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I don’t often have a clear idea of an image when I start, I just put pencil to paper (or board in this case) and start creating lines and shapes and I let the composition appear – it is very intuitive even if the final image looks as if a lot of thought has gone into it. I paint in lots of thin layers, the image constantly changing as I go.

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So here is the final painting – thinking of a title is almost the most difficult thing, but again, it comes in its own time. And so ‘The place where you can remember dreaming’ has left my studio today to be photographed and framed. (The title comes from a quote from Peter Pan by J M Barrie – it just seemed to suit)  This painting incorporates lots of lovely warm layers of colour, some sgraffito and a final layer to create depth in the acrylics. A joy to work on and I am pleased with the final piece. It is off to London this weekend to take part in a show called After the Monet – a wee exhibition of artists who took part in last years Show me the Monet on BBC2. I can’t wait to see all the work together!

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Lastly a wee detail shot to show the colours and textures. I have been looking at lots of photos of abandoned buildings lately (something I am really drawn to and would love to have a shot at myself) and wanted this hallway to look as if it had decades of layers of peeling paint and wallpaper. Incidentally this painting originally was going to be set in a narrow street but turned out to be indoors. That is what I love about painting – nothing is set in stone as you are working – it can all change.

Studio days are the best days …

 

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Tis late on a Friday night and I have been in the studio for most of the day. I had been really struggling with painting lately, going through a bit of a low period where although I have plenty of ideas I have been having trouble translating them into paintings.

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But I have just been working through it as I have realised it is common for me to go through these times. I just need to keep sketching, journalling, writing and painting and at some point I come through to the other side.

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 I hope this painting is the start. The other thing I find is that I go through low points in my work usually right before a change and development in my painting style.

 

This girl is an unusual composition for me but I think I like it. A bit more work to do tomorrow but I don’t think she is far from being finished. These photos aren’t in order as I am posting from my phone but I shall edit tomorrow.

Have a great weekend.

PS show me the Monet part 2 is in progress!