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Oil painting: chestnut Pegasus

Oil paint on A3 paper.

This one took a while, I am not yet skilled enough with oil paint to use it fast or economically. The front body of the horse took phenomenal amounts of reworking, but I got in the hang of it by the end. I use photos of eagle wings for reference for his wings and I painted his coat chestnut, because I am tired of white horses with wings. Overall a nice, well-executed piece, if a little generic in style and subject matter.

On another note, I am starting to weary of painting from photographs, it feels very amateurish.

Best practical painting advice I’ve received

I got the two following pieces of advice from Ashley Picanco’s lovely blog. To experienced / academically trained painters, I’m sure this is common knowledge. But to someone like me, this was revolutionary to my painting practice.

The best practical painting advice I’ve received is to never paint onto a pure white canvas / paper. This distorts your perception of colour by making all your colours look gloomy by comparison. It becomes incredibly difficult to judge colour relations with the commanding interference of stark white. It is best to begin with a colour wash, called a ‘ground’ in any colour (beige, grey, green, pink, blue … you get the idea) except white. I have wasted much paint and time trying to paint straight onto white paper, only to have the white thwart all my attempts at seeing colour in life-like context.

The second-best painting advice I’ve received is to always lower the saturation of my colours. Very few colours you encounter day to day are highly saturated, so when used in a painting, they make it look like …. a painting, and an unrealistic one at that. It goes without saying that both these pieces of advice apply to traditional representational art styles, ie. if you want your painting to look like a scene from real life seen with the naked human eye. I don’t really think or talk about modern / abstract art since I don’t consider it a discipline per say, I like to think of most but not all modern art as ‘background noise’.

Acrylic painting: Sir Joshua Reynolds Portrait

This A4 acrylic painting took about one hour. It’s based on one of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ self portraits, but I admit there is little likeness between the face in mine and in his. Regardless, securing a ‘likeness’ wasn’t my primary aim when painting this – I just wanted to paint someone, anyone. I didn’t use a pencil sketch, I just went straight in with paint. I’m quite happy with the result.

Pencil sketch: Las Meninas

I know this is a lousy sketch of Velazquez’s Las Meninas, but I drew it more because I wanted to better explore and observe the original painting, rather than create an impressive copy. I like to think about this painting a lot, it is so interesting. The chemistry of characters, postures, body language, genders, faces, social status’, clothing styles, make for a fascinating piece.

2B pencil on A4. In general, I dislike using rulers for quick sketches. This sketch took about 15 minutes.

Oil pastel: sunset in the trees

Oil pastel on A4 paper. It’s been absolutely ages since I used oil pastel. I’m rather heavy-handed with it, but it can look ‘expressive’ I suppose. Reminds me of the Fauvist painters.

I like the parts where the green and red blend to convey a sense of red, sun-bathed foliage. I consider this a successful experiment.

Acrylic painting: The Straw Hat

Acrylic paint on A4 paper. Original composition and design! This was based on my younger sister, Olivia.

I wanted the hat to be the focus of the piece, and I wanted the overall effect to be a ditsy, mellow sunshine day reminiscent of the tropics, with hazy sunbursts through the patio glass, and a scrawny desert plant.

Some brief thoughts on my art approach

I had a realisation today, as I was watching a Chinese woman on YouTube exhibit her personally curated art collection. She kept up a wonderful commentary on her favourite pieces, and through her loving narration their colours and character were enriched.

I realised that although I have always loved art for being non-linguistic, I rarely trouble myself with the visceral ‘effect’ of my artwork. I am instead overly concerned with either technique, verisimilitude, or concept. A scroll down my blog’s gallery gives evidence to this: there are paintings and drawings in generic, illustrative styles. Even in my art hey-days, my final projects always ended up over-intellectualised, and still in the same generic, picture-book art style.

Of course it is not a crime to have a generic art style, but my own standards for my work forbid me remain content with this. I consider this a ‘blockage’ in my art process. They say the first step towards self-improvement is realisation of the faults/errors that one didn’t know of before. So from henceforth I will direct intentional effort towards studying the visceral ‘effect’ of my art.

Pencil drawing: tree in park

Done using a very sharp HB pencil. This took one hour, sitting on a bench in my local park. I’ve been trying to shake up my cross-hatching style and veer away from criss-cross (or at least use it sparingly) and lean in to bent shading lines. In the past I’ve used the criss-cross too much, and homogenised the texture of the subject I was drawing, if that makes sense…

I tried very hard to convey the dappled sunlight on the trunk, and the way some of the branches bent towards the eye, and some twisted away from the eye. Overall really pleased with this piece. The knots and gnarls and lichens on the bark add so much character and visual interest. Looking back on this (I drew it yesterday), I can tell a lot of thought and care was put into observing the tree’s contours and the play on sunlight on the scene. It is the product of careful, considerate observation.

I haven’t done a piece I’m this proud of in a long time 🙂 I feel I’d got into a rut with my pen/pen drawing and had become heavy handed and insensitive to my subject matter. But this piece – I poured attention into it, and didn’t fall into auto-pilot clumsy cross-hatching at any point. This is why I am very happy with the final result.