Monday, October 19, 2009

First Steps - Again

After becoming disheartened recently with my approach to painting with acrylics, I've stepped back a little and reassessed my materials and my methods. As I've described in earlier posts, my technique previously relied on applying layer after transparent layer of heavily diluted paint to sealed watercolour paper, gradually working up to the intensity of colour and tonal value I wanted. I like the textures I'm able to achieve using this technique and have generally been happy with the results unless I've been careless with the application of paint and have overshot the mark. Without the means to "undo" a layer or two, I've often been left with nowhere to go.

Something about Kelly Singleton's recent post of a work-in-progress featuring a pronghorn antelope provided the spark to rethink my approach and, after re-acquainting myself with the methods described by my idol Robert Bateman, I was inspired to return to gessoed masonite and opaque acrylic paint - Bateman says he mixes white even with his darkest colours to achieve this opacity.

My first day with this painting was extremely frustrating as I struggled to find a technique which worked for me. Initially, I diluted my paint as I have in the past but it was as if the gessoed surface repelled the paint, forcing it to clump uncontrollably. Once I'd experimented with a thicker consistency, the paint behaved more predictably and I began to feel I was making headway. After several days work, progress has been slow, but I'm really enjoying the luxury of being able to paint over any areas requiring adjustment. Without the pressure to get it right the first time, it's as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The painting measures 36" x 18" and, at my current pace, might be finished by Christmas! My aim now is to develop a faster method of working without compromising the results. Most obviously, I need to modify my process and begin by blocking in to establish form and tone before I begin to refine the painting and add detail. In my defence, I was keen to bring at least a small part of the painting to something approaching a completed state just to prove to myself that I could apply these unfamiliar techniques successfully.

I'll be making good use of artistic license and will insert a dingo into the lower right foreground. I've not seen one at this spot yet, but their tracks are commonplace and I don't think I'm stretching the truth too much. With an abundance of wildlife in the area I'm sure a dingo has stood in this spot at some time, or will at some point in the future!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Roodly Interrupted

Conte and pastel pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper
12" x 16 1/2"

At the risk of being labelled "the roo guy", here's a new drawing I completed over the weekend. Once again, the reference photograph was taken among the spinifex grass and stunted shrubs along the coastal fringe adjoining Western Australia's Cape Range.

I seem to be able to complete these Conte drawings in days rather than the weeks required by my larger acrylic paintings. Apart from adding a little variety to the work I have available for sale, they provide some welcome relief from the more challenging and time consuming paintings and help me feel I'm actually achieving something!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If It's Signed, It's Finished!

Dining Out
Conte pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper
16" x 16"

I've made a few subtle changes and sharpened some of the spaces between the foreground grasses. I could go on and on fiddling with the grass stalks, but I doubt that the drawing would be improved as a whole. I remind myself that the viewers' focus will be on the 'roo anyway!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Grass Hopper

Conte pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper 16" x 16"

Until I'm more comfortable with my acrylic paintings in terms of process and technique, larger pieces such as one I'm struggling through at present will take several weeks to complete. I accept that producing a good painting demands a significant investment of time, but there's a sense of frustration and urgency which creeps into my thinking when I consider my dismal output of late and the limited number of works I have for sale. I'm sure negative thoughts like these reduce my level of enjoyment and have a detrimental effect on the standard of my work. With that in mind, I plan to begin the working week with a drawing such as the one shown. Of course, my paintings will now take even longer to complete, but at least I'll be adding to my collection of work for sale more frequently.

The reference photograph I used for this drawing was taken earlier in the year during our annual pilgrimage to the Cape Range National Park in Western Australia's north-west. Kangaroo watching is a favourite evening pastime while we're there and I've written about it on my web site here.

I'll spend an hour tomorrow morning refining the foreground grasses, darkening the spaces between the grass stalks, then sign it and breath a sigh of relief.

Thanks for visiting!