Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Studio/Workshop Progress Report - Stump Holes

I shopped around the local area for someone to dig the 80 stump holes required, but either the quotes I received were prohibitively expensive, or the contractor I contacted was too busy to carry out the work.

I finally tracked down a machinery hire company in the area and, after some anguish and uncertainty, resolved to complete the task myself using a Kanga digger and a 400mm auger, over a couple of days. However, when I went to collect the machine, the 400mm auger I'd asked for wasn't in their collection of attachments.

The machinery hire company was apologetic and recommended a local operator with a Dingo digger. It turns out they did me huge favour; Ron (a real character!) and his Dingo dug the holes in a little over two hours and the cost was so ridiculously low I actually felt guilty when I handed over the cash!


Before I arrange for the building inspector to pay a visit to verify that the holes are of the correct diameter and depth, I need to clean the loose soil from the holes - not an insignificant task!


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Studio/Workshop Progress Report - Making a Start

After many months waiting for architectural and engineering drawings to be finalised, as well as owner/builder registration, Worksafe certification and the processing of various permit applications, I can finally begin construction of our strawbale studio/workshop. In the picture below, I have marked out the ground in readiness for the excavation of more than 80 stump holes. Given the expense of hiring a digging machine, I'm hoping that this can be completed in a couple of days!

Art will most definitely be the furthest thing from my mind in the months ahead, but I'll post the occasional building progress report as a record I can look back on, and for anyone else interested. 


Monday, January 8, 2018

A Learning Experience

I've continued to tweak the background trees and, most obviously, have roughly scrubbed in the remainder of the scene using a mixture of raw umber and white, the rationale being that the foreground vegetation is very light in tone and will be easier to establish over a darker base layer.

I'm a little more satisfied with the most distant grasses after spending some time this morning  experimenting with colours and technique, although I'm sure I'll return to them as I complete other areas of the painting by which time, hopefully, my brushwork will be more confident.

Given my unfamiliarity with oil paints, I'm guarding against disappointment by thinking of this purely as a learning experience, with a focus on paint handling and the development of a more systematic approach. On that basis, it's a case of so far, so good.

As always, constructive criticism and comments are most welcome.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Baby Steps

The fact that I completed a monochromatic underpainting as a first step with this piece is a great leap forward in itself, but I'm afraid I've reverted to type and have spent a lot more time than I meant to on the most distant trees in this scene, fiddling with colour while striving to limit contrast and detail as a means of enhancing the sense of depth.

After something like a 20 year interval since my last attempt using oil paints, I guess it's understandable that I'm feeling like a complete beginner. I'm impatient to find out whether I'll ultimately be able to achieve the look I'd envisaged when I decided to give them another try. At this early stage, the jury is still out.

As always, constructive criticism and comments are welcome.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Background - Keeping It Loose

With so many improvements and maintenance jobs to attend to outside, I've vowed to limit my painting sessions to those dismal days when it's too cold and wet to venture outdoors. Unfortunately for my painting ambitions, our first month of winter has brought little in the way of rain; instead, bitterly cold mornings have given way to mild daytime temperatures and sunshine, and I've been able to accomplish a lot around our little property - as my painting sits neglected!

Thankfully, a reprieve in the form of a grey, rainy day has at last allowed me to devote a few hours to this painting. Although my natural tendencies were calling me to begin work on the lion - the star attraction - it's a great comfort to me that I've been able to ignore that familiar siren song; the lion remains little more than an undeveloped raw sienna blob at this stage - as it should!

In between painting sessions I'm giving a lot of thought to developing a process that will stand me in good stead in the future. Part of that process will involve some pre-planning, so in spare moments, and even when I wake occasionally through the night, I find myself mentally rehearsing how I'll tackle the next stage. Hopefully, a considered and patient approach like this will become the new normal for me; it's certainly more likely to yield satisfactory results than the method I've applied previously, which could best be described as ad-hoc.

As I gradually work my way to the foreground, the shrubs and grasses I'll depict will quite obviously overlap more distant vegetation. It seems logical, therefore, to commence the colour stage of this painting working on the most distant area of the landscape first.

Given my past tendency towards detail and tiny brushes, I've had to have a word with myself occasionally as I strive to keep my brushwork loose, reminding myself that colours and shapes can undergo adjustment once this first pass of colour is dry. As you can see, I've tried to enhance the illusion of distance by reducing contrast, detail and intensity of colour.

As always, constructive criticism, comments and suggestions are welcome.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Boring, but Precious!

As well as bringing home a couple of thousand photos of Botswana's wildlife, I thank my lucky stars that I had the presence of mind to photograph many nondescript bush scenes such as this one that will assist me as I finally knuckle down and attempt to create paintings based on the amazing animals I captured with the camera. 

With the focus quite literally on my animal subjects - most of which were captured with a long lens - the backgrounds are inevitably blurred. While some artists prefer to replicate this out-of-focus look in their paintings to an extreme degree, this isn't my preference, so I'm beginning to appreciate the value of the seemingly random photos taken during lazy afternoons back in camp, or while travelling to new locations.

As I contemplate further work on my current lion painting, I'm sieving through these photos. They're pretty uninteresting in themselves, but I know I'll put them to good use!


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Laying the Foundations

Before I began a second attempt at this subject I had an urge to revise the composition; the lion has been flipped horizontally and more of the surrounding landscape is now visible. Although I'm wary of interpreting my reference photographs too literally, I know I composed the photograph consciously and I'm comfortable not straying too far from the original image. Nevertheless, I will do some gardening here and there as I proceed, and I'll move, remove, prune and plant some of the vegetation in the scene.

Another departure from my photographic reference is in the way I plan to depict the landscape as it recedes towards the horizon. The camera creates the illusion of distance in its own distinctive way, but there are other equally convincing ways to convey aerial perspective that more closely align with reality.

So far, my resolve to develop a painting more methodically than has previously been the case is bearing fruit; the advantages of adopting a more traditional approach have become apparent, with a solid foundation in the form of a tonal underpainting an important first step. I've chosen to render this underpainting in a mixture of raw sienna and raw umber, thinned with a little Liquin. Raw sienna matches the overall hue of the scene, while a dash of raw umber allowed me to establish the darker values. The thinned paint was initially applied evenly to the entire canvas, after which I added or removed paint as the particular value dictated. An important advantage of using a single hue at this stage is that it's not possible to create "mud", which was always a danger in the past when I tried to refine my values at the same time as I applied and adjusted final colours.  

In theory, this "wipe-out" method should allow manipulation of tonal values until I'm completely satisfied with them. In reality, my initial layer of paint may have been thinned a little too much; I had great difficulty adding more paint to areas I wanted to darken and it seemed I was often removing paint as I attempted to add it! I plan to wait for this layer to dry before I continue applying more paint to define the darkest areas. Despite a tentative start and these teething problems, I'm particularly happy to have obscured the stark white canvas and pleased to have gone a long way towards established tonal values that will guide me when I begin applying colour.

Importantly, more than three years after taking the photographs on which the majority of my current painting ideas are based, I find that my enthusiasm for these subjects is undiminished, and in some cases has even grown over the intervening years. Obviously, the photographs themselves are an important visual reference but, critically, if I'm in the right frame of mind they help me to recollect my emotional response to the scenes before me. If, in some intangible way, the emotional element of these memories can manifest itself in paint, my work will almost certainly be the better for it.

Apart from the fact that I'm using oil paints for the first time in perhaps 20 years, this is a totally new way of working for me so it's understandable that although I'm not enjoying instant success, I'm enjoying this fresh approach.

As always, constructive criticism, comments and suggestions are welcome.