Friday, April 28, 2017

Back to Basics

For anyone who has persevered and followed this blog for any time, it would be quite obvious that it's fairly unusual for me to actually finish a painting.

The lion featured in my last post more than three years ago joins a collection of partially-finished pieces, and I have no plans to resume work on it. However, with some changes to the composition in mind, and a new approach planned, I'm keen to make a start on a second attempt.

I acknowledge that I'm not totally without artistic ability, but it's also true that my usual way of working has typically been undisciplined, with little in the way of preparation in terms of underpainting or blocking in. It's most apparent that too often I find myself lured into applying detail to one area of a painting before I've even roughed in the remainder of the canvas or board. It's perhaps understandable that I've often become disheartened and given up on a painting then, having failed, put my equipment away and sulked for five years before I'm motivated to try again! A new attitude as well a new, more methodical approach seems to be called for if I'm to enjoy not only the finished result, but the process of creating it.

I'm intrigued by the process adopted by Guy Combes which seems to follow a logical progression, with a preliminary stage in the form of a monochromatic underpainting applied over a fairly detailed drawing. If you can spare a few minutes to view the video, you'll see what I mean. The plan is to emulate Guy's process, if not his level of skill.

We'll see where this new resolve takes me - lets hope it's to good places!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More Lion Progress

There's a lot of work left to do, but I'm a little happier now that the lion has been partially incorporated into his surroundings. Overall, the colour of the lion is still a little cool, but I'm warming things up as I revisit and refine each area.

I'm confident now that the lion itself will be a success, but it's the vegetation around him that's posing the main challenge for me. I've roughly scrubbed in some colour and texture below the lion, but the shrubs and grasses I've begun to add detail to are giving me cause for concern. I realise that with very rare exceptions I have not painted vegetation for many years, and I think the lack of practice shows. Give me rocks and water any time!

I have some spare masonite on hand, and I plan to step back from this painting and put in some practice before I return to it next week.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lion Progress

My new A3 printer is proving to be a useful tool, but it was apparent as I compared my first day's progress with the image displayed on my laptop screen that in relying solely on the print, I'd rendered parts of this lion in too dark a tone.

I still have the print within reach as I paint, but I've now made room for my laptop on the nearby bench top, the benefit being that I can better judge tonal values as well as zoom in on particular areas I need a closer look at. This setup isn't foolproof of course; I've found in the past that it pays to be mindful of the screen angle when judging colours and tone; they can vary significantly as the screen is tilted. 

To make amends for my initial misjudgement of tonal values, I overpainted the lion's mane in the area of his chest with lighter tones, and adopted a more traditional approach by blocking in the rest of his body to establish something close to the final tonal values and basic colours. Having done so, I turned my attention today to modelling the lion's body, and attempted to replicate the texture of the creature's short fur. This is unknown territory for me, and I'm finding it very challenging!

I'm afraid the fun is over for another week, and it's back to the day job tomorrow.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Tentative Start

We came across two young male lions late one morning as we continued our exploration of Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve in September. Unlike the older lions we happened upon, these younger lions seemed less comfortable in the presence of our vehicle and, after we'd observed them for a short while, they casually moved off, presumably in search of some tourist-free solitude.

I captured some decent photographs of the pair, including the reference shot on which this painting is based. Other than flipping the photo horizontally and cropping it to create what I feel is a more pleasing image, the painting will replicate the photo to a large degree. I acknowledge that I often rely too heavily on photographic reference, but as the subject in this case is a simple study of a young lion, I felt there was little need for further manipulation.

After I'd contemplated tackling this piece with oil paints, I opted for the more familiar option and have reverted to acrylics. I'm keen to switch to large canvases and oil paints in the near future, but after what's been a long absence from the easel, I felt that acrylics would pose fewer challenges as I strive to rebuild some much-needed confidence.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Destination Africa!

A nine-to-five job has its advantages, the most obvious of which is a predictable income, but unless you're one of the lucky few whose vocation is also a passion, it's simply a means to an end when all is said and done. I know that view will be interpreted as either sad and cynical, or honest and realistic, depending on your own disposition and world view. Or perhaps I just need a change of job! 

My wonderful partner Sandi provides the love and support that forms the bedrock for a happy and fulfilling life, but as those of us with an artistic temperament know, we're also driven by the need to seek out the kind of experiences and inspiration we can transform into something concrete to be shared with others, regardless of the other positive elements present in our lives. I suppose I feel some guilt at feeling this way, knowing that many people the world over would envy my circumstances, but I also acknowledge that the need to create is not something that can be turned on or off - it's part of our DNA. No, this is not news!

Photo by Sandi's daughter, Jane, from her recent African trip.

I've grappled increasingly with this issue in recent years, and live with a constant, gnawing sense that time is running out if I'm to ultimately achieve any of my personal artistic goals. True, I might live for another thirty years, but it would be foolish of me to take good health - and good eyesight especially - for granted. Despite the fact that my output of paintings has come in fits and starts, with years sometimes separating bursts of enthusiasm, I still have an unshakeable belief that by broadening my experiences, and with the right sensory inputs, I can produce the paintings I see in my mind's eye. I'll leave it to others to judge whether this faith has been well-founded.

With the foregoing thoughts in mind, I've finally made up my mind to visit Africa, with Botswana my chosen destination. It's hard to ignore the appeal of the Serengeti and Masai Mara, with the annual mass migration of wildebeest and zebra a huge drawcard, but with a budget to consider, the trip I've selected offers diversity as well as value for money. I'm not terribly fussed about travelling in luxury, and I was careful to seek out a package that wasn't focussed on luxurious accommodation and fine dining, as so many of them seem to be. The basic, grass-roots packages are more appealing, but seemed more difficult to find. 

This is what I can look forward to:

"This trip provides a comprehensive travelling experience throughout Botswana for those with
an adventurous spirit looking to see the wild side of Africa. Few trips can offer such a diverse
and stimulating experience as we traverse the country from the vast and Kalahari, home to
the San Bushmen to the magnificent game reserves in the north. Continuing into the world
famous Okavango Delta we explore this wildlife-rich region by traditional Mokoro canoe and
on foot. Whether you are a wildlife enthusiast or on your first African safari, there are few
places on earth that are as impressive as Moremi Game Reserve and the Chobe National
Park, where huge herds of elephants roam. To conclude this spectacular adventure we cross
into Zambia to visit the thunderous Victoria Falls."


Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Have I Been Up To?

I feel torn between my hobbies at times, and for the past few months art has taken a back seat as I strive to make progress on some guitars, including the one pictured below, which I finally strung up yesterday. This guitar is destined for Tiani, a young local musician, and the daughter of a family friend.

With Tiani's guitar completed, I have two more waiting in the wings, after which I'm sure I'll feel ready to return to the collection of unfinished paintings competing for space in the so-called "spare" room!

Some other recent instruments are pictured below. You can check out my guitar building adventures here if you're so inclined.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Late Nights and Lost Weekends

After enrolling in a science degree mid-year, I've spent the past three months at university on an emotional roller-coaster ride, hanging on for grim death! To stick with the roller-coaster analogy, I've experienced sheer terror, blind panic and adrenalin-fuelled excitement - sometimes within the space of a single day - and have wondered at times whether my tired old brain and my tired old body are up to the task.

If nothing else, enforced abstinence from my woodwork and art hobbies has certainly boosted my motivation levels, and I'm really looking forward to making some sawdust and finally completing some paintings that have languished behind the art room door for months, if not years (take note Colette Therialt!). 

I have a lengthy summer break from university ahead of me and, with the benefit of one semester's study behind me, I'm in a much better position to assess my priorities and think about my future. Studying towards a three-year degree on a part-time basis means I have another five or six years of study ahead of me; after factoring in my heightened stress levels, lost income and the frightening fees I'll incur, my immediate inclination is to accept that I've left it a little late in life to be embarking on such a journey. On the other hand, I've enjoyed the learning process, the opportunity to make new friends, and the satisfaction I've derived from the results all those late nights and lost weekends have earned me. 

Partner Sandi deserves lashings of credit for her unwavering support and patience with this often withdrawn, sometimes grumpy student over the past few months!

Cheers Pete