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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Out of the Shadows - Eastern Reef Egret

I chose medium-rough 300gsm Saunders Waterford watercolour paper for this painting and coated it with acrylic sealer after I'd completed the preparatory drawing. I enjoy the feel of painting on a sealed surface but I also like the underlying texture of the watercolour paper - the combination of both seems to suit the way I work.

Out of the Shadows - Eastern Reef Egret
Acrylic 20" x 20"

I thin the paint with a 50/50 mix of water and binder medium and, for objects like the rocks in this painting, apply it with a scrubbing action, vigorously pushing the brush bristle-first rather than drawing it across the surface smoothly in the normal manner. This results in a stippled appearance which helps to establish texture and contributes to the illusion of detail. It usually takes several applications of these transparent washes, allowing each to dry completely, before I'm approaching the tonal value and density of colour I'm looking for. As I apply each overlapping layer, I tend to notice shapes emerging in the paint which are suggestive of the texture of the pock-marked limestone rocks. Left undisturbed to dry, I can then begin to enhance the rock texture more deliberately, using the same thin paint mix. I don't feel the need to use white in my colour mixes as the paint is thin enough that the paper shines through, much as it does when using watercolours. I use a hairdryer to speed things up between each layer, being careful not to move the paint around in the process.

Because the paint is heavily diluted, I work with my painting laid flat rather than using an easel. If I have a problem with this arrangement, it's that the horizontal painting surface tends to accumulate the usual painting paraphernalia and I need to tidy up a little before I can step back to assess how things are progressing. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing!

Cheers
Pete

Motion and Stillness

Motion & Stillness - Blackwood River
Acrylic on 640gsm Arches paper
8 1/4" x 19 1/2"

Another lost painting from the vault sees daylight.

For me, this painting is all about the contrast between the solidity and timelessness of the rock wall and the relentless motion of the water and the fleeting, ever-changing shapes within it. Or, when I'm not in as poetic a mood, it's just a picture of a river somewhere. You choose!

I discovered shapes in the rocks which tend to echo the flow of water and I accentuated these curves to unify and strengthen the overall design. I want to refine the broken water and foam in the foreground slightly as it's a little unclear what's going on, but essentially the painting is ready to go - preferably to a new home somewhere.

Cheers
Pete

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spring Flow - Blackwood River

I rediscovered this old painting in the spare room as I rummaged through my paper supplies and thought it was time it saw the light of day. Please excuse the photograph (I must find that polarising filter).

Sandi and I spent a wonderful week in a riverside cabin close to Bridgetown in Western Australia's south-west a few years ago. We wandered aimlessly along the river on most days and took many, many photographs along the way. Thank goodness for digital cameras!

Spring Flow - Blackwood River
Acrylic 20 1/4" x 7 3/4"

The reference photo from which it was painted was taken in autumn, but "Spring Flow" sounds better to me - it's called artists' prerogative!

I completed the painting - on rough 640gsm Arches paper - over the remainder of that week. Perhaps because of the relaxed holiday atmosphere, it's a little looser in style than many of my other paintings which serves to remind me of the benefits of getting out of the city - as if I need reminding!





Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emerging Egret

For me, the appeal of my chosen subject is in the way the egret stands out in stark contrast as it emerges into the sunlight from the dark shadows of the rock wall.


I'm painting the rocks with muted colours, using dark shades of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna, tending towards cooler mixes of the two colours in the background. I may warm up the foreground with some glazes of Burnt Sienna to accentuate the coolness of the background rocks, but I'll deal with adjustments such as this in the final stages. There's a way to go yet and the photograph leaves a lot to be desired, but you can get an idea of where I'm at and hopefully a feel for what I'm trying to achieve.

Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eastern Reef Egret - With Rocks!

It was interesting to read Linda Besse's recent blog post in which she discusses how her ideas for a painting evolve. In the example she's chosen, she talks about her plans to superimpose some bighorn rams onto a dramatic mountain background which bears no resemblance to the one in her photo of the rams. She also mentions flipping the intended background image horizontally and rearranging the group of rams for a more dramatic effect. These are skills I'm yet to develop fully and I know I'll have to work on this aspect of my art if I'm to succeed as a painter of wildlife.


In the subject I've chosen for my next painting, I'm relying to a large extent on a single photograph once again, but I've given a good deal of thought to the placement of the various elements within the image. With the work of Robert Bateman in mind (as it often is!), I've drawn up some thumbnail sketches in which I've echoed the shapes defined by the egret's wings in the foreground rocks. I've also suggested some linear flows through the rock to the left of the egret which continue on through the bird and into the rocks in the background. It'll be an interesting exercise; the trick will be in implementing these ideas with enough subtlety so as not to have the finished painting look too contrived.

Cheers
Pete

Monday, July 13, 2009

Life on the Edge

In calling this painting "Life on the Edge - Black-Footed Rock Wallaby", I'm most obviously describing this individual's vantage point on the cliffs. More significantly, the title reflects the species' delicate conservation status. Although I've been lucky enough to observe them in reasonable numbers at a couple of locations, their populations are scattered and they face serious threats from habitat destruction by sheep and feral goats, competition for food from rabbits as well as predation by foxes and feral cats. Let's hope captive breeding programs and fox baiting can go some way towards resurrecting their numbers and restoring them to their former range.

Life on the Edge - Black-Footed Rock Wallaby
Acrylic 28 1/2" x 14 1/4"

Experience has taught me that there'll never be a painting I'm completely happy with in every respect. This one is no exception, and I know I'll have to banish it to the back room for a couple of weeks before I'm able to look at it with any degree of objectivity. Verdict notwithstanding, it's the first painting I've completed in many years and I'm greatly relieved to have broken the drought at last.

However I feel about this painting after I've recovered from painting all those rocks, I know I learned a lot from it. I learned that I need to put more time into preliminary sketches to establish a pleasing overall design - my overreliance on photographic reference has got to change! I learned that sticking to a limited palette will help my paintings gel as a whole until I've gained more experience or been able to seek guidance from a more knowledgeable artist. I learned that I need to guard against rushing, particularly when the painting is large and I'm not progressing as quickly as I'd like; the best approach I've found with any formidable project is to break it into bite-sized chunks and treat the completion of each stage as a mini-milestone.

Now, it's on to something smaller with NO rocks!

Cheers
Pete

Postscript:
As I began this blog, I must say I wondered whether it could be of any real value. Now that I've posted for a few months, I've come to feel in some small way that I'm an active part of a community of online artists, all facing similar challenges and asking the same questions of themselves. I've sincerely appreciated the support and encouragement so freely given, and I've come to regard those who provide regular comments and feedback as part of a circle of friends, without whom the task would be that much harder and certainly more solitary. So, with painting #1 finished, it seems an opportune time to say "thank you one and all!"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Progress - At a Snail's Pace

You can see what slow progress I'm making when you compare the previous image with this one, taken after yet another day's work!


Cheers
Pete

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Finish Line

I think I can see the finish line. Isn't it that faint object off in the distance?



Cheers
Pete