Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mixing marketing and fund raising

A while ago, a good friend asked me if I would offer a commissioned portrait as a prize in an auction at a fund raising event. Not only am I still struggling a little with the "look at my work, I'm an artist" approach, but there were to be some well-known, influential people at the event, so this was pushing me way out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it was too good an opportunity for me on so many levels, and for a cause I am happy to align myself with, so last Tuesday I packed up a few paintings, put on my best frock and off I went, my husband offering a supporting hand.

At dinner, (thanks to my friend, who devised the seating plan!), I was seated next to Paddy Ashdown, (for the benefit of non-UK readers, he is, or has in the past been, a spy, a senior politician, a diplomat, a baron, a knight etc etc). He was extremely charming, and is one of the most fascinating and intellegent people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. We chatted a bit about politics, the dire state of the world we live in and about portrait painting. He has been painted several times but, although I felt very comfortable in his presence, I completely bottled out of asking him if I could paint his portrait. I had even left my camera at the other side of the room!

Still, it was a valuable experience, and I had a few enquiries about my services. What more could I ask for?

More revisions

I have been in a frenzied painting mood over the last few days and I have been ripping some older paintings from their frames and "revising" them. Immediately below is my revised pastel painting of my daughter, which is a definite improvement on the 2009 version which is below that.

I have so many paintings on the go at the moment, both pastels and oils, that I can scarcely move. Time to get some of them finished and out of here!

Friday, 4 November 2011

African Beauty 2

Following some very good advice from a valued friend to push the values more and to improve my observation of the effects of the light, I have been working a little more on this pastel.

It feels so good to be working in pastels again but, as I don't yet have a studio and as there is always a fair bit going on in the room in which I paint, I'm getting a bit anxious that something tragic will happen to this painting before it makes it into a frame!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

John Holtam - Finished

I'm calling this one finished. Actually, I'm quite pleased with it, and John is happy. So I have signed it, put a coat of retouch varnish on it and I'm giving myself a pat on the back!

I can't quite get the colours to look the same on my screen as in real life, but it's close enough.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Exhibition - Degas and the Ballet ; Picturing Movement

Last Wednesday evening, I went to see the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy. The exhibition explores Degas' fascination with the figure in movement, and gives some insight into the influences of photography and moving pictures, which were in their infancy at that time.

The Law Society's Art Group, of which I am a member, had arranged for us to have a tour of the exhibition after it had been closed to the general public, which meant we could get up close and personal to the artwork. Even more thrilling, our guide was exhibition co-curator, Ann Dumas, who was a veritable mine of fascinating information about Degas and his paintings. (She also managed to resolve an issue I have about the prenunciation of the name, Degas, which apparently should sound like Dergar).

As a pastelist as well as an oil painter, I was excited at the prospect of seeing Degas' works in real life for the first time. Full credit must go to the curators for their hard work in securing some excellent paintings, sketches and sculptures as well as photographs and moving images. For me, of particular note were the following:-

Two Dancers on the Stage, oil on canvas, for the magnificent portrayal of light. Measuring about 62 x 46cm (24 x 18 ins), this painting was much smaller than I had expected it to be.

The Red Ballet Skirts, for the vibrant colours and superb pastel strokes.

And of course, The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The original was exhibited only once during Degas' lifetime - in Paris in 1881. At the time, it was severely criticised by some, who considered it ugly. As the original was fashioned out of coloured wax topped with a wig of real hair perhaps one can sympathise with that view. Following Degas' death in 1917, 28 bronzes were cast, the majority of which are in museums. The one in this exhibition has been borrowed from the Tate, which acquired it in 1952.

Very few of the bronzes are in private collections but one is due to come under the hammer at Christies in New York in November. However, you will need very deep pockets if you would like to own it; it is expected to fetch between $25 and $35 million!!

The exhibition runs until 11th December and is well worth a visit.

John Holtam WIP / Robin-Lee Hall

I have been working a little more on this portrait. I popped it into a frame so that I could show it at the Ashford Art Club exhibition and, last Thursday, I took it along to the critique evening which follows each exhibition.

The guest artist conducting the critique was Robin-Lee Hall, member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, winner of the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture in 2010, and teacher at the National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery and the Art Academy. Robin's critiques are always insightful and conducted with enthusiasm, kindness and humour.

Robin suggested that I lighten the background to the bottom left of the painting, which I have now done. I had intended to have some lost and found edges, but lightening the background here has pushed the arm forward, and I am pleased with the result. Both the arm and the background need a little more work.

By the way, I have been trying to persuade Robin to hold a portrait workshop. She has ageed to do so, in spite of her busy schedule, provided I organise it. Please drop me a line if you are interested.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Reworking old paintings

Last week, the recent edition of International Artist magazine dropped through my letterbox and, as usual, the first thing I did was flick to the back to read Harley Brown's invaluable insights. Those of you who are familiar with my work will know that I have been greatly influenced by Harley's portraits, and that he has been extremely kind and generous in advising, encouraging and supporting me in my endeavors.

In this edition of IA, he talks about the importance of lighting in art - direct light, reflected light, and how to nail those highlights in portraiture. He also talks about mistakes he made in his early years as an artist and he lists the excuses he made for not taking good advice gleaned from articles, mentors, books and art colleges.

This reminded me about an exchange of e-mails we had a few months ago regarding my pastel painting of an African lady, which had been painted partly from life and partly from my photograph of the model. Harley mentioned that the highlights were too similar in strength and colour and that a little more sensitivity in my handling of these areas would make all the difference. It pains me to confess that although I admire and respect Harley immensely, I felt that I had pushed the painting as far as I could and I called it finished. Looking at it now, I know it is not.

That painting is already framed and I may well pick it apart and have another go at it at a later stage, but I have revisited another pastel painting of the same model, again started from life and developed from a photograph. Here is the painting before I started the reworking:-

And here is the reworked painting.

A more subtle approach to the highlights does indeed make all the difference. I found a few images of traditional African tribal dress to finish it off. I'm reasonably happy with it now, although no doubt there is still much scope for improvement.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Ashford Art Club Exhibition

Ashford Art Club are holding their Autumn Exhibition and Charity Auction today and tomorrow, Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd October, from 10am to 5pm, at St James's School, Church Road, Ashford, Middlesex TW15 3DZ. Parking and Admission are free.

I was helping with the hanging last night, and I truly believe the standard of work gets higher with every exhibition. There is a huge variety of work - something for all tastes and at very reasonable prices. Why would anyone want to buy a print which is exactly the same as hundreds of others when they can have some original art of their walls?

The house move and working on commissions means I don't have a great deal to show, but I shall be exhibiting my portrait of John Holtam, even though it isn't quite finished.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Nat Tate at Sotherby's

This is a fabulous story, isn't it? Wedged between the woeful news items about ministerial misdoings, utility over-charging, and economic meltdown, Radio 4 proved that it can bring a smile to my face at breakfast time.

On 14th November, Sotherby's are to sell by auction this small drawing, one of the few remaining works of the American artist, Nat Tate (1928 - 1960). Nothing was known about Tate, who destroyed the majority of his works, until a biography by William Boyde, published in the late 1990s, was launched at high profile events in Manhattan and London.

However, Tate never existed - the whole thing was an elaborate hoax by Boyde and the pop icon, David Bowie. Boyde himself produced the art work.

You can read what Boyde says about how the idea of Nat Tate was born in today's Guardian.

A Sotherby's spokeswoman suggested that the drawing might achieve a higher price than it would have achieved had Tate been a living breathing artist. What's more, Boyde will be donating the proceeds to the Artists' Benevolent Fund. Good for him!!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

John Holtam WIP

I have progressed a little further with this, thanks to some sound advice from the kind folk from Wetcanvas.com. Although I have brought the values down on the suit and in the background, my camera is making the image significantly lighter than the original painting, so I have tweaked it in order to give a fairer representation.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Developing an artistic "style"

This is a topic which vexes me a fair bit. I know that I do have a style, as people tell me they recognise my portraits. The problem is, whether this is a style I'm happy with or not. Clearly, I'm not entirely happy with it, or I wouldn't waste any of my valuable time thinking about it.

So, in what direction should I be moving? Should I be working towards a more painterly approach, or towards a more photo-realistic approach? The former appeals to me most, as I'm not sure I can see the point in the latter, although I admire the skills of the artists who paint in this way. Having said that, I know that my natural approach is towards realism.

Some time ago, as an educational exercise, I copied a portrait by one of my favourite artists, Daniel Greene. This is his painting "Caroline" - most definitely something to aspire to.

In a recent burst of energy, I threw paint at my version in an attempt to see what I could do with a different approach. It is much darker than my usual palette (which perhaps isn't obvious from this photo), and there is a touch of Harley Brown's influence perhaps. I quite like it, although it isn't very different from what I normally do in all other respects. I need to go further, for experimental purposes, if nothing else. (Just to add that, of course, I can't do anything with my painting, as "Caroline" is still very much in evidence in it.)

At the VivArtist exhibition yesterday, I watched a portrait demo by Surrey artist Roger Dellar. I was captivated by his ability to render an excellent likeness of the model in about 90 minutes or so, without obsessing over small details. If I was anything like a decent blogger, I would be posting an image of Roger and the portrait but, alas, when I pulled out my camera, I found that the battery had died! Here is a link to his website instead.

Roger runs courses at his studio in Surrey and elsewhere, but unfortunately the one I am interested in is fully booked. What a shame. I'm sure Roger would have helped me loosen up a bit.

My first "corporate" portrait - WIP

My first attempt at a corporate style portrait is of my friend and former colleague, Associate Professor John Holtam. I'm fairly happy with the likeness, but I am struggling with the suit somewhat, particularly in the flat areas of material. Still, it's a good learning experience and I am going to take my time in order to get it right.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Blogging - One small fairy step forward

Okay, so I accept that you all know how to do this already and I'm sorry if this is no news at all - but I did say I would chart my progress, and progress this is! I now know how to make a link to a website and just to prove it and to help those who don't know, here is the link to the relevant page on Blogger help.

I have been stewarding at the VivArtist Exhibition today. I noticed things I didn't really take note of when I was there before, and I came away feeling even more impressed. Chatting to a few artists and to the organiser, Evelyn Phillips, gave me a useful insight into how these things work, as did seeing someone buy a £1,800 painting on impulse. She simply fell in love with it. And that's the key, isn't it?

Monday, 3 October 2011

Why, Oh Why..........

....am I not a landscape artist?? Surely the path of a landscape artist is smoother than that of a portrait artist? For starters, a landscape artist doesn't have to stand there staring at a scene that is begging to be painted trying to pluck up courage to go and ask it if it doesn't mind you taking a couple of photos! So to the young woman in Linate Airport last night who was probably thinking the middle aged woman who kept looking at her was simply weird...... no, just too scared to ask! And surely it really doesn't matter if a twig is placed a millimeter too far to the left.

Anyway, my lovely husband took me to Lake Como for the weekend, which was truly wonderful. If I was a landscape artist, I would be busy working on scenes like these


Running an art business - dealing with "blockages"

As part of my voluntary redundancy package, I am entitled to two "one to one tailored support" sessions, and I had the first of these a couple of weeks ago. Usually, these are designed to help people find a new job, but occasionally, as in my case, it is to help them set up their own business. Whilst the facilitator, Mike, was able to come up with a couple of new ideas, in the main, he was able to confirm that I am thinking along the right lines, that I am identifying positive strategies whilst being mindful of the potential pitfalls, and that my modest short term aims are realistic. It sounds such a simple thing, but at least I can now see that I am not flapping about aimlessly, even if sometimes it feels like I am.

Mike and I discussed how to tackle "blockages" - those issues which have a tendency to hinder progress, or even bring everything to a grinding halt.

One recurring problem for me is lack of time, or my perception of a lack of time, for my art. In my own defence, I would argue that three children, a dog, a fair sized house and garden and a job cannot be rolled up and dealt with in a couple of hours a day. One artist friend of mine once gave me a very hard time about this, stressing that I needed to stop making excuses and get on with it. I felt exasperated at the time, but he was right - no-one is interested in excuses and bleating about it doesn't put paint on canvas.

Well, now I have given up my job and I have found myself a cleaner, which has liberated me and has enabled me to put in some serious painting hours. One problem solved. The other blockages need more work.

Pricing my work appropriately is a real conundrum for me, as I imagine it is for most artists when they start to sell. I can see that part of the problem is the connection of pricing to my attitude towards painting. It doesn't much feel like a job, to be honest, and I float so much between wanting people to like what I do and being embarrassed about the whole thing, that it is easier to give the paintings away. I'm going to have to come back to the issue of pricing when I have given it more thought, but for the time being I am trying to focus on the simple truth that if I can make some money from selling paintings, I shall be able to spend more time painting.

The embarrassment factor is a blockage in other areas. I want to promote my business but, as I have mentioned before, giving my business card to people seems too forward. My Vistaprint postcards have arrived now, so I really have no excuse to not carry them at all times and hand them out when opportunities arise.

In the same vein. some time ago, I devised a footer for my emails which comprises a thumbnail of a painting and my website address. As I had to choose whether or not to attach it to each individual e-mail, more often than not, I chose not to. After my talk with Mike, I changed the setting on my e-mails, so that the footer appears automatically. Nevertheless, I am so embarrassed about using it, I usually delete it!

A further blockage is my chronic inability to understand Facebook - which really deserves a seperate posting!!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Life class

I do love going to the Thursday morning life class in Chertsey. I would imagine it's not like most life classes because we all chat throughout the session - the model included. This is Barrie, sketched in pastel pencils, in about two hours.

Monday, 26 September 2011

VivArtist Exhibition - Official Opening and Private View

Yesterday, I took my daughter, Izzy, (aged 9) to the opening of the exhibition. I was mightily impressed with the quality of the work at the exhibition (and with Izzy, who took a great interest in the paintings and sculptures, particularly of anything cute and fluffy, and was keen to look up how much they cost in the brochure). Following the sculpture trail in the beautiful grounds of King Edward's School, basking in the glorious sunshine, was a real pleasure.

Attending the private view was a useful learning experience for me, largely because I could see that people are buying paintings, in spite of the bleak economic climate, that what they buy and how much they are prepared to pay is completely random, due to the subjective nature of art, and that how much art costs has absolutely nothing to do with size, complexity or my untutored opinion on what amounts to "good art". The main thing it taught me about pricing, which is one of my major "blockages", is that there are no obvious rules, and that I need to trust my own instincts and just get on with it. I'm afraid you are going to have to watch this space, as a review of my pricing structure is still a work in progress!

As a networking opportunity, it fell flat on its face. I'm a little puzzled at my ineptitude, to be honest. I'm hardly a shrinking violet, and I did chat to a number of people about the art. It would have been an easy thing to say something like "Are you here to buy or sell?", but I let the moment pass. Note to self - Must do better!

There is some excellent work at the exhibition, but the one piece which stood out for me was a sculpture, Marionette's Conundrum, by Andrew Sinclair.

I hadn't heard of Andrew before the exhibition, but I am certainly taking an interest now. Check out his YouTube offering for a video with a touch of class.

And talking of class, I was very excited to see that Andrew offers a range of classes at a venue not too far away from where I live. Here's hoping I sell another painting soon so that I can justify booking myself a place!!!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

VivArtist Exhibition

One of my paintings has been selected to appear in the VivArtist Autumn Arts Exhibition, which runs from this Sunday, 25th September, to 16th October at King Edward's School, Witley, Godalming.

Some exceptional artists will be exhibiting, so please do go and have a look if you are in the area.

Of course, I am honoured, excited and daunted in equal measure.

The preview would provide me with an ideal opportunity to meet professional artists and obtain a better insight into how to get on in the art world. So I'm girding my loins for some real life networking!

This is the painting - Pink Satin.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Threadneedle Prize

You can see the shortlisted entries here.

I am slightly baffled, which just goes to show how little I understand of the art world!!

Back into the harness

As a result of a family holiday and moving house, I haven't had much of an opportunity to paint for a few weeks, which has been a bit frustrating. Still, it hasn't all been bad. Just as the removal van left our old house, the phone rang and I sold a painting!

Anyway, I'm now focusing on developing my art business. I have ordered some new business cards from Vistaprint, I am seeing a business development adviser tomorrow (provided as part of my voluntary redundancy package), and I am making good progress with a couple of commissions (which I am not at liberty to show here).

Instead, here are a couple of my recent soft pastel pieces from life class.

This one is my first attempt at drawing Claire, who is a fabulous model. Up until this point, I was unhappy with the likeness I was achieving from life but, with Claire, I made a conscious effort to slow myself down and to work on improving my drawing rather than completing a painting. I'm fairly pleased with the result from about a 2 hour session.

This is my second attempt at Claire. Again I worked slowly, and with a lighter touch, but the likeness is not so good. There is about one and a half hours work here.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Quick celebrity pastels - Bob Hoskins

I really enjoyed doing this one, especially as it came together really quickly. It is from a photograph by Neale Haynes (As before, this is for my own educational purposes only & if the photographer wants me to remove it, I shall).

Monday, 15 August 2011

Quick celebrity pastels - Morgan Freeman

Another quick pastel portrait I did some time ago, based on a fantastic photograph by Patrick Fraser (for my own educational purposes only). I lost interest by the time I got to the hands! By the way, I use a mixture of Rembrandt, Unison, Sennelier, Schmincke and Terry Ludwig soft pastels on Sennelier pastel card, which has a toothy texture similar to sandpaper.

And with a more severe crop

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Quick celebrity pastels - Michael Douglas

I love painting famous faces. They are so familiar to us, and watching people's reaction to them enables me to assess whether I have caught a good likeness in a more reliable way than when I am painting other portraits. I like to use these famous faces to test my improvement.

Of course, there are problems with painting celebrites, the biggest one being copyright issues. Whilst the restrictions which copyright laws place on artists might be frustrating, photographers are artists too, and their work should be respected.

These are very quick pastel paintings produced for my own educational purposes and not for any profit whatsoever, so I'm hoping it is okay to show them. I'm giving the original photographers credit here and if any of them want me to remove these images, I shall oblige.

The first one is of Michael Douglas from a photo by Planton. The original photograph looks as if it has been "de-wrinkled" a fair bit, so I'm not sure it gives a true representation of Michael Douglas as he is now. This is another problem with painting celebrities - retouching tends to rob them of their essential character.

However, I'm not going to blame the photographer - the likeness I have achieved leaves a lot to be desired. It was done a while ago, so hopefully you will see some sort of improvement when I post new images.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Pulverize or persevere?

I am going to be movng house soon and I have been looking through some of my half completed paintings and wondering what I should do with them? Should I keep them and try to make something of them, or should I put them in the recycling bin?

Here is one of my experimental pastels, based on a photograph by Steve Evans, but with a few of my own ideas thrown in. I am keen to paint a black madonna in the near future, although I want to pick my own model and setting. This was a fairly quick sketch, which doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and there are some anatomical issues, but there are also bits I quite like.

As I shall be painting with the aim of making some money from it at some stage in the future, I'm thinking that I need to be much more focused and use my time more wisely.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Getting into the Marketing Habit Part 2

So, there I was in the supermarket and the lady at the till commented on the boxes of chocolates I was buying. I explained I was leaving work and they were for my colleagues. Then she asked if I had another job to go to and I took a deep breath and said I was going to paint for a living. Then she said that she and her husband were art lovers and often visited art exhibitions. Now, this is when I should have presented my card to her, with a flourish. Except I didn't have any on me - AGAIN! Hopefully, the penny will drop sometime soon.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Natasha WIP and discovery of the "philtrum"

Natasha let me have her thoughts on my WIP. She was a little concerned about the virtical indented area between her nose and mouth, which she felt was too pronounced. She didn't know what it was called, and neither did I, which is simply not good enough for a portrait painter! So I looked it up and it is called the PHILTRUM - a new word for my portrait painter's dictionary.

Anyway, I hope I can convince Natasha that my depiction of her is reasonably correct in this respect. It was the strong shadow thrown from her nose, rather than the philtrum itself which was causing the problem, and I hadn't painted the underside of her nose at that stage. So here is the updated WIP. I hope Natasha's features look a little clearer now. It's not quite right yet - but progressing in the right direction.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Getting into the Marketing Habit

On a number of occasions over the last few weeks, I have been in a position where handing out my card would have been a perfectly natural thing to do. The opportunities were missed because either I didn't have any cards on me (as I haven't yet got into the habit of carrying them) or I was embarrassed. Clearly, this has to change.

This morning I received an unexpected boost to my confidence and a timely reminder that cards are an important part of my new business. A gentleman who had called to give me a quote relating to my imminent house move expressed an interest in my work. It never occured to me to give him a card, until he asked for one. So thank you, Steve, (just in case you are reading this) for a much required kick up the business backside!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lucian Freud - RIP

I would imagine that many people have strong views about the work of Lucian Freud. It's a bit like Marmite - you either love it or hate it.

I have to say, hand on heart, I'm not in the "love it" camp. I find some of his paintings make for rather uncomfortable viewing, which doesn't mean I think it's bad art, but which means I probably wouldn't want it on my walls. Also (in my extremely humble opinion) he didn't always get a good likeness. I can barely recognise Kate Moss in his "Nude 2002" portrait of her (although it sold for £3.9 million, so what do I know!) and, be honest, would you have recognised Elizabeth I if he hadn't stuck a crown on her head?

Having said all that, I admire the way in which he handled paint and that he approached portrait painting with absolute integrity, and I have no doubt that he was one of the greatest artists of our time.

Paint a portrait, lose a friend?

John Singer Sargent, who knew a thing or two about portraits, was reputed to have said "Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend". You would probably need to be a portait painter to understand that, in all likelihood, he wasn't being flippant.

Most people have an opinion on how they appear to others, and most of us would like to be presented in the best possible way in a portrait, whether that be a painting or a photograph. However, for some sitters, how they appear in a portrait is important for reasons other than personal pride or vanity.

Elizabeth I well understood that how she was portrayed and the use of symbolism could convey essential messages about her reign and the nature of kingship. (I haven't yet worked out how I can show images of paintings without breaching copyright or the rules of the internet, so if you want to see portraits of Elizabeth and other kings and queens, take a look at this fabulous site - http://www.marileecody.com/eliz1-images.html). Oliver Cromwell, on the other hand, wanted to show himself as being a man of the people and is reputed to have told Sir Peter Lely to paint him "warts and all".

So, how does the portrait painter work out whether she is dealing with a Cromwellian sort of client, or a Hello Magazine's photoshop-me-silly sort of client? And how does she deal with a client who has less than realistic expectations of what he or she will look like in the portrait?

To be honest, I don't yet know the answers to these questions. I have been advised to underplay wrinkles, which I suppose makes sense, but which seems a great shame. What can be nicer than laughter lines? A while ago, I painted a lovely lady of a certain age who liked her portrait but asked me to take out some of the wrinkles. When she saw the result, she asked me to put them back in again, as we were in agreement that it no longer looked like her.

This posting has been in draft form for several days but, following the death of Lucian Freud yesterday, I have been trawling the web looking for images of his work and I came across this article written by Neil Tweedie in The Telegraph in 2008, which tells it much better than I could - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3637820/Lucian-Freud-when-your-portrait-is-no-oil-painting.html . Do take a look at what Jonathan Yeo tells potential clients who asks him to paint them looking slimmer!!

Going back to portraits and friends, this is a pastel portrait of Julie, a very close friend of mine. Of course, I didn't have to do anything at all to flatter her, as she is quite lovely as she is!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Meet the Parents

A funny thing happens when I paint someone I know well enough to also know members of their family. At certain stages, I may see a relative making an appearance in the face of the person I am painting. Once, when I was painting a friend's daughter, the face of the girl's father kept popping out at me - very strange! Sometimes, it is just a fleeting experience and this has happened several times when I have been painting my mother in this portrait. I have seen glimpses of her own mother, one of her mother's sisters and even myself.

Something isn't quite right with the features of my father's face. I haven't yet worked out whether it's the eyes or the nose, but I suspect I'll need to move things about a bit, which is always frustrating! However, I have softened the lines a little, so I feel it looks more painterly now and less like a illustration.


This is a fairly quick oil sketch of my goddaughter, Natasha. It seems quite flat to me at the moment. I tend to use thin layers of paint and glazes, but I may use this one to experiment with applying fewer and thicker layers.

I am looking out for high quality oil painting classes and workshops, to help me progress in this medium, so if anyone can recommend any in the UK, please let me know.

Why I need a new studio

Enough said!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Photographing Elizabeth Taylor

One of the tasks I need to master over the coming year is to photograph and present images of my paintings which more accurately reflect what they look like in real life. It is always a problem when people are viewing images on screen, as the colours will inevitably vary. What I would like to achieve is to learn how to take the best possible photos of my work, and also to learn how to check my computers and screens in order to ensure they are not distorting colour or form.

As an example of why all this matters, here are two photographs of my painting of the young Elizabeth Taylor. When I posted the first photograph on Wetcanvas.com a number of people commented that my skin tones were a little on the pasty side. I knew they were not, so I took another photograph. You can clearly see the difference.

By the way, the painting is on a 30x30cm (12 x 12ins) deep edged canvas, which gives it a contemporary look.

Third lesson - Blogging may make you crazy!!

Sooooo, I can now see my followers (waves happily) but, unfortunately, I cannot respond to your comments! The only way I can see that a blogger can respond to comments on Blogger is to make a further comment. Okay, not as easy as I would like, but it worked perfectly well until this morning. Now, it asks me to sign in when I am already signed in, then it asks me to recognise and type a word (so far so good) and then it asks me to sign in again and we are into Groundhog Day territory.

I found an article which supposedly would help me to respond more easily. I was heartened when I read that if I didn't understand Chinese, I could follow this advice rather than the more advanced advice note, but frankly I have more hope of learning Chinese!!

Anyway, enough of this nonsense. I am reading your comments & I'll respond asap. In the meantime, let's concentrate on the art, shall we?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Second Lesson - Making Blogging Work

Yesterday, I received an e-mail telling me that there was no followers button on my blog and, true enough, it had disappeared from my blog and from my own control panel. Apparently, this is a common problem on Blogger. I spent a considerable amount of time, trawling though various bits of advice and, remarkably, I was able to fix it.

But that was yesterday! Today it has disappeared again and no amount of fiddling has made it reappear. I'll have to have another look later. In the meantime, my apologies if you did want to follow this blog and have been scratching your heads trying to fathom how to do it.

The lesson I have learned is that technology is as frustrating for artists as it is for lawyers and lecturers. Google - this problem has been persisting for years. Why on earth haven't you sorted it out??

Saturday, 9 July 2011

I want an i-pad 2!!

I'm not the sort of person who has to have the latest gizmos. I can guarantee that if I am teaching a class of 20 students, I shall be the only one in the room who does not possess an all-singing, all-dancing mobile phone. But...I really, really, really want an i-pad 2. I can just about justify buying one on business grounds. For example, it would be useful when dealing with commissions to show clients the photographs I have taken of them straight away on a larger screen ........although I haven't yet established that the i-pad will let me do that!

The truth is that I want to paint on it. If you haven't see David Kassan's video of him painting a portrait from a model, you must watch it now. His talent is mindblowing!!

Of course, acquiring an i-pad won't make me paint like David Kassan, but I can dream!!

If you have an i-pad 2, do let me know if you love it or not.

Meet the Parents

I have spent just a little more time on this. I'm reasonably content I'm moving in the right direction with the likenesses.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

First lesson - Making Blogging Work

I'm the first to admit that I have little idea about what I'm doing with this blog. I know what I want to achieve, but I am nervous about the technology. What is available out there, how to use it and the potential advantages / disadvantages is something of a mystery to me, and a mystery that I am going to have to get to grips with asap!

I have already made some progress with blogging, in that less than 24 hours after I set up my blog on Artspan, I have jumped ship to Google. I like the format better, there are more options and facilities, and it all seems more straight forward to me. No more trying to size the images correctly, as it is done for me at the push of a button. Brilliant.

Now I need to work out what all the twiddly bits do. Please bear with me...I could be some time!  

Meet the Parents

I am going to be moving house soon, and I would prefer not to move all the partly finished paintings I have hanging around, as there is a high risk of damage. I have an opportunity to put a few in a gallery window and some could go off to their new owners, but I need to finish them first.

Here is a WIP of my parents. I haven't spent long on this one as it came together fairly quickly, but there is still plenty to do. I don't do any preliminary drawing, but rather I prefer to get the paint on the canvas and move it about until it looks right.  

Also, I am breaking one of my own rules about not using reference photos with toothy smiles. It isn't that I have a problem with painting mouths, (in fact, ears are my bugbear), but cheesy grins don't make the best portraits. However, I have truly put myself in the position of someone who commissions portraits here, as I like the two separate photos of my parents and I think they go well together.  

New Life, New Blog

At the end of this month, I am quitting my job as a lecturer to become a full time artist. I took voluntary redundancy, and the pay out means that I have a year or so to see what I can do with this so-called talent of mine, to see if I can make the transfer from hobby artist to professional artist. I have been warned on numerous occasions that it is difficult to make a living as an artist and almost impossible to succeed as a portrait painter, but the deciding factor for me was the prospect of lying on my death bed regretting that I didn’t give my art a fighting chance.

So this is where I am now. I have thrown myself from the belly of a plane and I have no idea as to whether or not I have packed a parachute. I can tell you that from where I am floating at the moment, it all feels terribly exciting, but I know I have limited time, and I have no intention of crash landing.

My main plan for the coming year is to paint as much as possible, as I feel I have the capacity to improve if given enough time, to study the work of past and contemporary master portrait painters, to visit galleries and exhibitions, and to rub shoulders with fellow artists. I also need to get to grips with how the art world works and the ins and outs of running a business. Believe me; I am starting from a pretty low base line of knowledge.

My first challenge is learning how to write a blog (!), but in due course I shall be grappling with issues such as setting up a studio, writing a business plan, keeping accurate records of artwork and sales, tax implications, copyright, marketing, dealing with clients and galleries, maximising website traffic, virtual social networking, real-life networking, IT resources, photography for portrait artists, finding the right models,  entering competitions, getting the pricing right, etc, etc. I shall also need to develop a more robust attitude regarding the value of my work, and a thicker skin to withstand the rejections I know I shall face along the way.

So welcome to The Portrait Painter’s Progress, which will track what I imagine will be a very steep learning curve – my challenges, my successes and my failures. If what I write leaves you a touch uninspired, please feel free to just look at the paintings!