Sunday, 22 December 2013

Artists' Christmas Cards

I have been blessed with some wonderful cards from artist friends this year.  I thought I would share some with you.

From left to right: Valérie Pirlot and John Berry and their beautiful baby Louisa; Haidee-Jo Summers' 'Sledging At Belmont Park'; Valérie's calendar for 2014 (full of lovely things); Karl Terry's 'Road To Camber';  David Pilgrim's 'Morning Snow, Mill Lane, Stony Stratford'.

What a great idea to put a winter scene on a card.  I used to do a Christmas lino cut each year, hand printed by me  but I got tired of it.  Seeing how well these cards have come out I am tempted to have a go next year.

Well, the tree is up, half of the 48 mincepies I made last week have already been eaten and I have brought in the Yule Log only to discover it won't fit in the fire grate!  I have also found all the decorations in the attic that have not been chewed by mice (my mother's old glass baubles are mouse-proof), practised the reading I am doing at our 'Carols and Claret' service tonight and done a thousand other Christmas jobs.  I love Christmas but actually I can't wait to get back to painting again.  Might have to sneak into the studio while the others are watching Harry Potter repeats.  Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Altarpiece - Almost There

I thought I would put these up to show how the image is developing.  On Friday morning I worked on the image in acrylics.

Yesterday evening I added more German faces, knocked back some of the distant figures and darkened the left foreground.  I developed all the faces a little more and then tried re-adjusting the tones of the big areas to make the snaking composition a little more obvious.

Today The halos need re-gilding and tidying.  Then I will work on the sky in oils - it would be almost impossible to achieve the highly blended 'Raphael sky' in acrylics.  I wanted the shell bursts to look something like those stylised tree-tops you see in many Renaissance paintings.

I feel that the image has now gained in subtlety but at the expense of impact - in other words the usual dilemma applies!  I think it will work well on a larger scale but choice and placing of the transfer images will be crucial. I also have to make and gild a much bigger carcass.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Prototype Altarpiece

I have started a series of pieces that puts WW1 imagery within Renaissance-style altar panels.  One of these will be 48 inches x 24 inches, which will be a big undertaking so I thought that I ought to make a prototype.  This would enable me to make all the mistakes and learn from them before I tackle the big piece.  It is just 12 inches x 24 inches

First I had to make the carcass:

I primed the central panel and applied acrylic transfers to it before starting the carcass, so in this view it is masked off with paper.  The construction is quite crude, with the really rough bits improved with home-made plastic wood. Then I gave the carcass two coats of traditional gesso sottile (rabbit skin glue and whitening), to provide a surface that I could sand and polish before gilding:

After this had dried I applied a reddish acrylic 'bole' - ie something the colour of the real bole used for water-gilding, as a ground for the gilding.  I then applied clear gilder's size' left to dry for two hours, followed by the gold leaf.  I am using imitation leaf as it is thicker than the real thing and much easier to handle.  This picture shows the process at about the halfway stage:

After all the gold leaf was on, I could then strip away the masking to reveal the images already applied.  I was not happy with the composition and so cut out some images and added others.  I also distressed and glazed the gilding and added home-made rottenstone to the crevices, to age the piece.  From here I will start applying paint and maybe a few more images.

I have learned a lot and will no doubt learn more as I finish the piece.  Then I can get on with fabricating the bigger 'production model' for the Armed Forces Art Society's contemporary show next year.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Rejection and Recovery

Life is full of ups and downs.  All 6 of my submissions to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) were rejected this year.  After getting two in last year and one the year before I thought I had a chance but' No!'  I tried to tell myself it did not matter.  I have only ever sold one painting at their annual open show and actually gave up submitting for a while.

Here is one of the rejected pieces:
Divine, 82nd Street Edmonton
9x7 inches.  Oil on board

Over the years I have come to understand that rejection is not the end  - indeed it can be a new beginning.  After coping with the initial disappointment I now go back over recent work and try to analyse where I might do better.  Often it comes down to choice of subject and composition.  Many of my paintings lack impact, mainly because I am too quickly content with a design.  Sometimes I am not quick enough to get down the important elements.  Here is another rejection:

Towards Forest Hill
8x10 inches Oil on board

Rejection tends to strengthen resolve.  More rejections:

River Chess Below Sarratt 
12x8 inches Oil on board

Seville Rooftops
10x8 inches Oil on board

That nagging feeling that there is something very wrong with all my work is then blown away by the next success.  At the Army Arts Society show in November I submitted 10 works - 6 unframed.  One painting was sold immediately it was hung, five more more went at the Private View and two were sold later in the show but the most positive indicator for me was winning one of the two main Chemring Painting Prizes.

Of course the prize money was very welcome but it was the fact that Ken Howard chose my work that really gave me a special boost.  To so many plein air painters in this country Uncle Ken (sorry, Prof Ken Howard OBE RA) is our a hero, so to receive an accolade from him had me reaching for the champagne.

Here are the ones I sold framed.  The prize winner was Old Harry Rocks:

Old Harry Rocks
9x19 inches Oil on Board

Piazza San Marco
10x8 inches Oil on Card

Against The Light, Sennen
14x10 inches Oil on Board