Just for figurative practice I took some newspaper images and played around with my pastels, imagining that I was back in the life room and trying to work at pace – as if I had the time limit of a session. I liked the way this figure gripped their cane, with his bottom hand facing upwards, presumably, around the bulb of the cane.
On this, the melancholic gaze of the subject looking down drew my attention. This pose is accentuated by the top of the eyelid and the underside of the eye socket being illuminated from an elevated light from their left. The right side of her face is completely black in the photo, but I hinted at her eye and the edge of her nose and also put a bit more colour in, to lift the mood perhaps.
I was playing with my pastels, looking at options for an abstract, and turned this pair into something else. Though all the time fighting to keep to the spirit of abstract and not being too descriptive with a view to painting a bigger piece. With the first one I did a similar painting in acrylics some time ago and was pleased with it. The second one, I feel, could be developed by deconstructing it a little and playing the large areas of grey off with the smaller and more intense patches of colour.
I might do a few more, as it happily occupied an hour without any pressure of a result.
Another figurative piece, this time Michael Palin, once part of the Monty Python Team. In the UK he seems to be a permanent fixture of the TV schedules as, after Python, he started making travel documentaries which are being constantly repeated. The number of times I’ve switched on to see him still trying to find Timbuktu – surely it cant be that hard or perhaps the Tuarags have cottoned on to the expenses to be made by leading a TV crew in ever decreasing circles.
Casting around for more figurative practice pieces, I was taken by the good lighting and the way Palin used his hands whilst describing old journeys. So I took some shots of him reminiscing, for once grateful for the repackaging of archive footage – a trick that our programme makers are prone to do to eke out some cheap TV.
As I worked I was taken by the length of his face in relation to its width. It unnerved me that much I had to recheck the measurements.
Last weekend in the UK we had a mini TV Bowie Fest , it being five years since his death and, presumably, a nod to his Ziggy classic. I sat on the sofa with a sketch book idly doodling during one of the programmes. This wasnt one of the doodlings, I`m not that fast. After the lead on my pencil had worn down I got the camera out and, later, worked a few shots up in pastel just to do a portrait – I`m not doing much figurative/portraits these days and I thought that it was a good opportunity.
Five years, that`s all he got – well there was some remission for good behaviour.
Looking over recent output I realised I hadnt done a pastel in a while, so here is another view of the River Wear, in Durham. This one was glimpsed as I was hurrying past to do some painting in fields alongside the river, downstream. I suppose I could have done this scene, but it would have meant sitting in the road – and whenever I do that a lorry or tractor comes along, so I took a few photos and proceeded onwards.
I was struck by the light on the grasses and foliage which made them stand out against the shadows and reflections of the trees. I did some thumbnails of this and decided on a portrait format, but now its done perhaps a landscape format would be better.
In this painting I blocked in the darks with acrylics before starting out on the pastels. It does save a lot of time, and pastel, getting variegated darks in with paint and gives a great base to build up texture.
With the morning light on the dunes the marram grass glows and glistens and cajoled me into working up this view of the beach at Birkdale where I live. I had forgotten I had done a very similar piece before in April and it was only as I was storing this painting that I saw the earlier work. I had forgotten it, probably as I wasnt too taken with the regularly repeating rows of grass I had managed to get on that one. So I got the old painting out again and gave it a dose of reworking and here it is:
On the top painting I blocked in the dark areas with dark acrylic paint before applying the pastels and that saved a lot of time and layers of pastel in achieving the shadows and darker passages, In the lower painting darks were built up with pastel alone.
It’s a while since I last had the pastels out and I wanted to do some paintings of the Sefton Beach, so I thought that they might be just right for the marram grasses.
This is the view where the River Alt empties into the Mersey Estuary and in the distance the Wirral, across the estuary. On a good day you can see the Welsh hills. Just around the near headland is Gormley’s, Another Place, which has the figures looking out into the blue of the distance.
I was trying to capture the essence of the low-lying and fertile area behind our coastal sandy belt and decided to give it a go in pastels. I initially blocked in the dark areas with acrylic paint: a practice I had read about recently and wanted to try.
I am a bit ambivalent about the result, but it made a change from the watercolours.
A change of pace here. With not much life drawing going on, I had to make do with the materials I had at my disposal. Apologies to any startled horses.
Though here in the UK, the BBC presented a life session last week – a few hours of models posing on live TV, though drawing time was curtailed by presenters adding their bit and analysis of studio participants work – including the mandatory celebrity. I suppose it was trying to get people to take up life drawing, rather than pander to my needs, but it was also hindered by the small images they presented – panning back from the model to take in the surrounds. On my TV it looked like the model was in another room, which is another barrier to success. At least they tried and I got a few loose sketches.
On Monday morning I decided to try and lift the lethargy I described in the previous post, by getting out on my bike and seeking out new material. Normally I would have taken my painting gear, as it was a bright, if blustery morning, but I felt that that might upset the locals, so I put a camera in my pocket instead, and headed off along Plex Moss Lane – the lane defined by the posts in the watercolour above, past the farm you can see, and across Halsall Moss. Taking pictures as I went.
The land rises as you come off the Moss and there was a line of trees.
I did this one in pastel, of the trees bursting into leaf.
And I got a few more images that I can work up during lockdown.
As well as collecting images, a trip like this also allows you to pick out some possible places to paint when life does return to normal. I can waste a lot of time finding an interesting subject when I go out. If I have a few possibilities in mind before I set out it can set me off in a much better frame of mind when I settle down to paint.