Monday, 21 January 2013

Messing About With Atelier Interactive

It is just cold enough for me to get out on our village 'piste' and try a little tobogganing today.  Once the kids have been on it for a day or two and it has re-frozen it is generally pretty fast.  Whilst waiting for the piste to pack down (and getting my brother-in-law into hospital for a heart operation) I have been trying out Atelier Interactive acrylics for the first time.  I thought that they might be just the thing for our trip to my nephew's wedding in Canada this summer.  Last time I took pastels and they were great for quick work but required looking after rather carefully.  They were also bulky.

The idea that one could 're-open' dried acrylics and blend them like oils really appealed to me.  I started with this one:

San Giorgio - Winter dawn 7x8 inches

That was OK but I found that (contrary to the advertising blurb) there is just as much tonal shift when Atelier paints dry as with ordinary acrylics.  In consequence, the more I painted new paint over dried paint the darker everything became.  I then tried a looser, more fluid approach to the Crown Mines:

Crown Mines, Botallack 7x8 inches

This seemed to go better.  The more positive and fluid I was with brushstrokes the easier it was to maintain tonal balance.  Then this morning, I tried a Canada scene from an old pastel:

Bow Lake, Canadian Rockies 6x8 inches

I think this is beginning to work and I could paint on a small scale, en plein air with these paints.  They do stay open longer and can be re-opened after becoming touch dry but the tonal shift that you get with acrylics is still there.  Probably the biggest advantage is that it is much easier to clean up if you are using a dry palette rather than a Staywet type.  I reckon that working really large is much easier with these paints than regular acrylics. I have heard that painting in humid conditions can be difficult because then Atelier is reluctant to dry but in the Rockies in summer I think I will be OK.

As far as quality goes, as with most manufacturers, the pigments used in reds and yellows are the ones to watch.  I would not trust the Carmine in the Atelier starter set (I think it uses PR47:4 which is not very lightfast) so I bought their 'Permanent Alizarine' which uses PR175 and PR122 as my cool red and their Pyrrole Red (PR254) as my hot red.  Both of these are Series 3 so a little more expensive. Otherwise all the pigments in the starter set are reliably permanent and all the paints are reasonably priced.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Manet's Muse in Black

At last I have finished - and submitted - our accounts so we can think about art and music again!  It always hangs over me like a black cloud at the turn of the year.

Talking of black, I am really looking forward to the Manet Portraits exhibition at the RA.  In 1996 we took the children to a massive Manet exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, Switzerland.  There we saw the iconic portrait of Berthe Morisot, Manet's sister-in-law, in black.  It was much smaller than we expected but that is what happens when you only see reproductions in books.  Very few artists can paint with black successfully: maybe just Goya, Sargent and Manet?  Using black often kills a painting (I don't mean mixed 'blacks' of course but the stuff straight from the tube) but Manet always seemed to get away with it.

I have always loved that Morisot portrait.  She was a wonderful artist herself - like Elizabeth Thomson Butler, Mary Cassatt, Gwen John and many other women artists who had to struggle for recognition in a male-dominated profession.  Her sister Edma could perhaps have been just as successful (Paul Guichard evidently thought so) but she married Adolphe Pontillon very young and the rest as they say is history.  It is a pity too that Manet did not live long enough to paint his niece, Julie.  Her wide eyed beauty reminds me of Joanna Hiffernan, Whistler's model for 'Symphony in White' and I am sure Manet would have made his portrait of Julie an equally great example of the genre had he painted it.

All I have is a postcard of the Morisot portrait but in January 2 years ago I found it very handy to place in some small studies I was doing in the early mornings.  Here are three of them.

Still Life with Manet Postcard 8x8 inches

The Shanghai Cup 8x8 inches

Berthe and the Shanghai Cup 8x8 inches

Actually those 'before breakfast' paintings were wonderfully instructive.  I worked in acrylics on a very small scale - these two are only about 6x4 inches each.  This year I am hoping to use the remaining January mornings for something similar unless the call of the wild is too strong:

The First Primroses 6x4 inches

Pomegranate and Pinks 6.5x4.5 inches

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Worthington's New Year Sortie

Drowsy. Slightly sore head.  New Year's Day.  I stagger to the phone and realise that it is already 9.20am.  Michael Worthington sounds bright and breezy.  I ask Management what to do and she says 'paint' so at 1030 we are in his car speeding towards the Oxford Canal at Enslow.

We walk along the tow path for ages, turn round and walk back to a spot we identified earlier.  We are 'with the light' so pin up our coats on the thorn bushes behind us to keep the sun off.  He opens his pochade box: I open the champagne.  Neither of us feels that a masterpiece is necessarily on the way but at least we are out there and the champagne is chilled.

After blocking in my 8x10 I pour Worthington a glass and we wish the passers by a Happy New Year.  He looks rather sheepish:

Ninety minutes later and slightly light-headed we decide that the god of plein air has received due obeisance and retreat to the car.  I thank Mr W for getting me out on the very first day of the year.  'We return to our places' (apologies to TS Eliot).  The plein air rat has been fed; the chicken has been sacrificed and the entrails examined; the omens (albeit seen through all those champagne bubbles) are possibly good but my sketch is not.  I am comforted by a quote from David Curtis that old paintings make good fire-lighters. And there is also tomorrow.

  Oxford Canal at Enslow