The life session at the weekend brought back the memories of poor lighting and stiff poses though I was glad of the practise.
I should actively seek other venues, but working in confined spaces for long periods with lots of people doesnt fill me with a great deal of joy at present. Our model was Eve who last time I saw her did a more interesting set of poses. The quick sketch of one of them, below, I converted into a pastel study during lockdown, though I think the pastel lost a bit of vitality in translation. Maybe one to try again as it has some interesting angles.
On Saturday a friend of mine organised a life session and I took the opportunity to get back into the life room. It must be 15 or 16 months since I’ve done a live session with a model and despite the stolid poses it was good to get back. There is something about working under a time pressure – trying to get finished before the session moves on.
You can see the yellow throw served a number of purposes.
In the lockdown I have tried to develop drawings from sketchbooks, but I find that quick sketches lack information that a more developed painting requires, so I did try to focus on key shadow forms in some of my pencil sketches on the day so that I could take them further in the future.
I must see if other local groups have started up as despite all the angst I suffer with poor poses and indifferent lighting the sessions help to speed you up and get an image down quickly and the human form is a great measure of drawing accuracy.
The image of this face reminded me of something you see carved on stone memorials with the sadness of a pieta. I thought that the addition of outstretched arms might convey the wings of this descending spirit and I set it against the bright colour of stained glass to push the spirituality further, though the resulting cruciform seemed enough.
Besides, life sessions are starting around here soon and I thought I needed practice and the different angle of the head appealed. I was going to do so much during this last year on figurative approaches but other things got in the way. Maybe with the pastels out I will have a flick through old sketch books and see if anything appeals.
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.