I was asked to paint the portrait of a lady, who loves reading, as a birthday present. As she is someone I`ve never met good photos are very important. Fortunately one image had some decent lighting on it. The other was flat and featureless. One issue is that the lady had changed hair styles between photos and I subsequently found out she had lost some weight. All making life interesting.
We are getting there, but slowly, as other members of the family are viewing the image and adding their imput.
Last Sunday was a fine day and we walked along the beach towards Crosby – the north end of Liverpool, where Gormley`s Another Place is sited. Coming up to the old Coast Guard Station you could see past Gormley’s statues on the beach and, over, across the Mersey, just spot the mist shrouded forms of Birkenhead. I took a few photos of the activity on the coastal path and decided to paint people enjoying a sunny January day.
I did a sketch and decided on a normal landscape format and started the painting on a half imperial sheet, which is my big size for watercolour. When I completed it I put a mat around it to see what it looked like framed. Then, on impulse, I tried a quarter imperial, long mount.
I realised my mistake. I should have done it as a long format painting.
The original is shown below.
What I have shown at the top is the truncated form of this lower painting. I have lost the dog and the front couple`s feet but also a lot of superfluous grass and sky.
I could do the long version again and push the people and dogs back, but at the moment I am deciding whether this is necessary.
When we went for a walk along the canal the other week I looked over the bridge at the start and saw that there was a fishing competition going on in one direction. In the other direction there wasnt anyone, so we headed off on the deserted tow-path. As soon as we rounded the first bend, there they were. It was almost as if they had prepared a trap for the unwary.
The trouble with walking along the canal with a fishing competition, apart from losing the sense of solitude, is the fact that their long poles, which stretch right across the canal, can block your path when they pull them back and put more bait on the hook. Fortunately this branch only spread a mile down the canal and after that all was clear, quiet and unimpeded.
On the way back they repaid me for their intrusion with this view into the low winter sun. Let’s call it quits.
I decided to return to watercolours and build up some canal paintings. This was a contra jour scene I spotted recently. I loved the weeds and rushes at the canal edge in the foreground. I decided to add a narrowboat, mainly to upset troll. Then, dropping some white gouache onto the wet paper gives the satisfying illusion of smoke. I’m easily pleased.
Still messing about with pastels. I cut down a sheet into 3 long formats and did a few sketches on each portion. This, above, is a spring scene looking away from the Leeds to Liverpool canal in Burscough Lancashire. The Lancashire plane spread out before you and the new growth pushing upward into the warm, still, morning air.
At the other end of the seasons – harvest time and more of the Lancashire plane, but this time around Little Crosby which is on the northern outskirts of Liverpool, for the second painting in the series.
And finally, one regulars might recognise. I posted a watercolour of this a few weeks back with the sun momentarily glimpsing the rain sodden fields. I must admit the tonal contrasts were easier with the pastel.
Other landscapes are available for sale on my new website ( getting there -though still under construction) grahammcquadefineart.com
I got the pastels out for the last blog and thought I could do with having a stock check. This entails doing a few paintings and seeing what hues and tones I am short of. I found a shop in Liverpool which sells Unison pastels. Normally I buy them over the internet, but it is far better making sure that you get the right ones by seeing them in the flesh and trying them out. So here’s a scene of thistle seed heads in the sun. I was sat waiting for someone on a park bench this autumn when the sun came out and I was caught by the brightness of the seed heads and the way they seemed to glow against the shadows. So I snapped a few photos and here we are and I’ve got my list for a shopping trip.
I received a set of Unison portrait pastels for Christmas and thought I’d find a subject where I could give them a road test. I had some images from my trip to South East Asia which caught some figures in the light – always a favourite subject of mine.
This is a compilation of a number of those images – ones of Buddhist monks and their initiates – and reflects a mindset I certainly get into myself, of being absorbed into activities which take away all sense of time. On talking to one Laotian monk in particular ( who engaged me in conversation just to practise his English) I came to the conclusion that they passed their life absorbed in worship, following rituals and were comforted by that routine. He did also say that many were monks for a short duration only and then activated the ejector seat to return to the secular world.
I was taken by the variety of colours in my grapes as they were ripening and with the light picking out highlights and creating shadows I thought that it might make a good subject
The wine production here in Lancashire was rather small on account of the fact that I ate all of the grapes. I have a habit of nipping into my greenhouse and thinning out the bunches, to prevent them getting tightly packed and bursting. Sometimes I over do it.
In this painting I was unsure about the foliage, but a fairly loose rendition seems to have worked. The leaves proliferate and constantly need thinning out, so you get this busy green background which I feel I have portrayed.
This painting recalls summer days when I saw these horses beside the canal. I like drawing and painting horses, just for their shapes – rather like boats and the challenge they give when they are at different angles or huddled together.
I gathered up the images I had of the day and arranged the horses to get a selection of orientations and hopefully provide a pleasing arrangement.
Its good to get back painting with the first one of the year, though I am still moving materials back to the studio and at the same time doing a bit of sorting out and culling as I go – it all takes time.
My painting has been disrupted by moving all my stuff to accommodate Christmas guests. I am in the process of moving back, but taking the opportunity to clear stuff out. So painting is a bit slow and this isnt helped by trying to update my website at the same time.
In the process of sorting and binning, I came across these sketches done at various life sessions during last year, so I thought I might post a few.
As you can see most are people sat in chairs – the favoured pose in these parts. Looking through the work has made me resolving to do more pen and ink. Once the mark is down theres no going back, so you paint by the seat of your pants, whereas charcoal can be corrected.