Tag: dog

On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At

This month has been all about preparing to be an exhibitor at Ilkley Art Show for the first time. I have been holding back some originals from sale for a while, in the hope of this opportunity. I will be displaying two ‘collections’ this August: six paintings from my In Medias Res series and two from a new project, which I am really absorbed by at the moment: a series of palette paintings.

I have described the premise of ‘In Medias Res’ before – these paintings take a section of something long or tall, like a foxglove spire or a tree branch, and depict that section as if it were a chapter of a longer story. To me the meanings of these paintings are clear, but in the exhibition there will be no notes accompanying them, so I will have to see if these ideas come across! I hope that, even in the meaning seems utterly obscure, visitors will still enjoy the rich colours and beautiful flowers. I am adding a couple of new paintings to this group, specially for the Ilkley Show. They are both small, square panels depicting willow. Eventually this will be a set of three, all with a pale pink background but showing the progression from silky grey buds, to green and finally orange leaves. I have painted in the pussy willow panel, though it needs more detail on the buds. I love the simplicity of this composition – it reminds me of Japanese prints in this way. You can see the other Medias Res here.

I think the palette paintings are more self-explanatory. Each painting involves a handful of tiny pictures united by a single colour. So far I have done Amber and Sky Blue. In part I was inspired by an excellent book called The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair, but I also like the idea that an artist’s palette is the world around them, as much as tubes of paint. However, as I’ve been planning and painting different colours, I have been struck by how each colour has a different nature and associations. For example, when I was trying to think of different subjects for the light blue palette, I was surprised by how rare this colour is in nature (apart from the occasional blue sky, of course!). And even where it does exist, it is usually the case that the colour is created by special cells or feathers which refract the sky’s colour. So the colour isn’t really in the bird or butterfly, but an illusion. This maybe has something to do with soft blue’s mystical connotations with distance and memory, which again has a scientific basis, in that the further away something is the bluer it appears. The blue palette is nearly finished, but I will be replacing the forget-me-nots with love-in-the-mist, to create a more solid block of colour:

The colour blocks for the amber palette, meanwhile, all seem to be associated with evening and endings: the crepuscular fox, the autumnal squash and acer leaf, the aged whisky and sunset. The fur of the fox needs some lighter orange tones, but then I can’t wait to mount these up. Each block with be individually mounted and then raised up within a panoramic box mount. I hope it will look like those white artist colour palettes.

I have also just finished another canine commission: this time of a lovely lurcher called Blossom. Apparently she’s quite shy, so I’ve painted her looking to the side, curled up on the sofa. Her mottled fur was such a challenge to paint, but it also helps to convey the shape of her head and body. I originally intended to leave the background plain, but actually the amber and brown hues pick up Blossom’s eye colour, and balance out the composition.

And alongside all that, I have set up a patron scheme and been continuing my miniature work, with a new, ladybird tiny treasure and a new series of 2p animal miniatures in watercolour. I hope to return to these after the Ilkely Art Show. If you can make it to Ilkey on the 10th or 11th of August do come along – I’m told the standard of artwork is very high this year, and it will be an unusual opportunity to see a number of my originals on show together.


Shades of Grey

No, not a reference to any appalling novels, but rather a reflection on the challenges of painting a black labrador! This was my only production during two barren months of painting in August and September. Fortunately, however, it was a very enjoyable and rewarding one. Due to illness, I wasn’t able to spend any time with this lovely black lab and so I was again very grateful for the services of my brother in taking a vast number of photos. Any dog-owners will know how individual are canine temperaments; indeed, anyone not amenable to this assertion had better stop reading now! My family have had three retrievers over my life time, and they have ranged from grouchy but loyal, to gloriously laid-back, to our present, slightly neurotic but adorable attention-seeker! The challenge was to capture something of Buddy’s personality. From the photographs two things were clear: this dog was happiest running around and (on a hot day, admittedly) with his tongue lolling out of his mouth! It might, then, seem odd that I settled on a composition of the dog sitting, mouth closed:

Buddy websiteIn part, this decision was influenced by the medium. Photos are now so good at capturing the action shot, that in being commissioned to paint a picture I feel that I am asked to offer something slightly different: something more lasting and more encapsulating, perhaps. But secondly, there is more than one way to sit still. Although Buddy is, here, sitting, I hope it is quite obvious (to dog-owners at least) that he is alert and focused – ears cocked, jaw tensed. He is looking up and out of the painting, no doubt (in my mind) fixated by a brandished ball. I hope the loose brushwork around the shoulders, becoming more detailed around the muzzle helps to direct the viewer towards Buddy’s purposeful concentration!

In terms of the artistic challenge, painting anything which is nominally black (or white) involves, of course, remarkably little use of that absolutist pigment. Nor is it ever a simple question using a monotone scale of shading. As soon as one tips off the narrow ledge of either pure white or darkest black, all sorts of colours come into play. I felt I was using a remarkable amount of blue in the sunlit highlights, and much more brown around the muzzle. The most interesting passages to paint were those in shadow, where using maroon/violet seemed to convey variations in depth, even though the fur was not being struck directly by the sunlight. It is amazing to me that all that colour is so little in evidence in the finished work, while nevertheless contributing to the effect.

With treatment underway, the outlook is sporadic as I feel my underlying strength increasing, while at times being hit by nasty reactions to the medication. A musical composite of sketches is in progress, and thereafter Christmas already starts to loom large! Where has 2014 gone to? Lastly, I hope very soon to relaunch my online shop and price list. Although this means I will be once again accepting commissions, please think and commission well in advance of wanting the finished item – working around periods of sickness is still proving a considerable challenge!