How imperceptibly the seasons turn, and suddenly it’s not summer, but autumn. After summer salads we turn to roast dinners and chocolate, after sitting in the sun we cuddle up inside. However, the autumn is also a time of new beginnings as students start a new academic year, and after finishing the Ilkley show over the summer, it has felt like a new beginning for me too. I have been able to take up some new commissions, and plan for a new double-microcosm and self portrait.
Following the hard work preparing for the Ilkley Show, I started with a few fun projects: painting a frog on a stone in acrylics for my local gallery manager, painting a new 2p miniature of a tiny stallion and finally a purple Quality Street as a Tiny Treasure.
Painting in acrylics again was a real challenge – without a special slow-drying medium, the paint drys as soon as it hits the stone, so blending colours is almost impossible. The flip side of this is that it is possible to work really quickly, which is always fun. The image was transformed right at the end by painting shadows under the frog, which suddenly made it sit proud of the stone’s surface. My local gallery manager now uses it as a paperweight! The Quality Street was similarly improved at the last minute by trimming off a gold border, which somehow destroyed the 3D impression of the painting. Doing this Tiny Treasure in watercolour was perfect for the subject, as the transparent layers of paint perfectly mimicked the overlapping sheets of coloured wrapper. The only question is, which colour to do next? Finally, the tiny stallion: it had been drawn out, ready to paint for a couple of months, but I hadn’t found the right moment, and was struggling to decide what to do with the background. Eventually I decided to leave it blank, and I love how unconstrained the stallion appears as a result!
Starting a few new commissions has involved a lot of sketching, which doesn’t come across so well digitally, but is a very liberating and enjoyable part of the creative process for me. One commission is of a sweet little boy, which will be unusual for me as I plan to execute the painting in monochrome oil. These sketches show the challenge of capturing the huge expressions of a little face, and trying to get a likeness from very little reference material. However, I am looking forward to painting the image of him looking down on his birthday candles – there is such a magical sense of calm focus in his face.
The second commission is of a dog breed which is new to me: a Bracco Italiano. These are beautiful, characterful dogs and the individual I’m painting (sadly no longer with us) clearly had a very sweet and gentle personality. After considering a landscape composition, where Pico looks out over fields of barley, we eventually decided on a comfortable view of him sitting on the sofa. This is a lovely composition and allows me to depict his soulful expression, but it will involve the tricky process of painting out one of his owners, whom he was sitting next to and partly on top of! The shadows are also quite dark in the reference photo, which helps to create a strong shape and likeness, but I will need to avoid making the whole painting appear too dark.
Finally, I started a new palette painting inspired by this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness:
These misty greens, pale yellows and blues are lovely, calming colours to work with, and mixing my palette colours at the start of each session is the best bit! The barley in particular needs more detail, which will lighten it up and introduce some lively blue tones, but next I need to move on to the brimstone butterfly, which I might redraw for a better orientation. I love these palette paintings, but with every square being a painting in itself, they do take a while to complete.
My next update will be in my patron newsletter, and will feature my next microcosm drawing. In the meantime, do send me your thoughts – what you would like to see more of, which of my projects you find most interesting – I love the feedback! Wishing everyone a fruitful October!