I posted a version of this before, but on further reflection, felt I had pulled back too far from the subject and allowed other distractions into the first version. This time I have focussed on the figure – getting him to fill the frame and even truncating the legs to fully take in the twisting of the upper body. I like the movement of the pose and the sense of optimism it suggests – which for this glass half empty person is a feat in itself.
Coupled with the English announcement of the start of the lifting of Covid restrictions then this may have a further resonance – though as every kite flyer knows, a change of wind and the kite is soon back down around your feet – leopards and spots…
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.
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.
Going through photos of family members I inherited from my mother I was saddened because there were many people I didnt recognise. The few remaining relatives were unable or unwilling to help and I was left with a sea of faces I couldnt fit a story to. This made me ponder on the fickleness of memory and how the solidity of the present so quickly crumbles.
I suppose this feeling was heightened by the fact that my father (my parents were divorced) had annotated most of his photos and so, when I inherited these, I had a rich narrative of the life of family members on his side of the family.
I decided to explore ways to express this feeling of loss and the attrition of memory in painting. The painting above was my first go and I do like the feeling of the palimpsest that this painting creates – the image is caged behind bars of paint – receding into obscurity.
This second painting isnt as successful, I feel.
This self portrait expressing the same idea uses a technique I have tried in life paintings before. I feel that it lacks the visual impact of the first.
I will try out further versions when I can work out how to proceed, though I wanted to show these, if nothing else, but to ponder on possible ways forward.
Other life drawings and figurative paintings are available for sale on my website: grahammcquadefineart.com
I suppose this is an essay on optimism and was taken from a trip we recently made and which I documented in an earlier blog. Someone had brought a kite along and we sat on a hill and in the breeze a few of the group had a go at flying the stunt kite.
I had left my sketchbook in the car so I took a few photos, and this is of Rob having a go. I actually liked the movement and arching in his body as he fought to keep the kite aloft – a triumph on this blustery day. I painted it in a blocky expressive way to convey the energy of the scene.
It reminded me of a statue on the canal close to where I live to commemorate the cutting of the first sods of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal and shows a Navvy bursting out the ground into the sunlight as if he was coming up for air.
Influenced by some bloggers resuming their life sessions I have resorted to flicking through my sketchbooks and playing around with the old drawings. This painting is derived from one such sketchbook page – see below. It looks like these were a set of 3 or 5 minute sketches. I show 2 of the 3 sketches below, along with an image by Crawfurd Adamson, on my sketchbook page. These sketches were done fast without any measurement so don’t stand up to too close inspection when you come to enlarging and combining as I have done here.
However, I do like the main pose and I must have been sitting on the floor to get this angle.
I didnt have a clue what I was doing when I started this except the notion of attempting a figurative piece. I had a photo of the top part of the figure and I liked the compact pose; the rest just sprung from there.
Playing with washes and colour, with a bit of drawing, and who knows where I have landed. Out of the proverbial and into the fire. Well, having said that, there are aspects I could take and use to better effect. You build up this thing intuitively and then you stand back and think that would be better there, and if only I had used a redder blue here, or lost that line there.
I do miss the life sessions I used to go to, as it was painting on the fly – no time to really think things through – just crash on, and this painting was similar in that respect. I do have sketchbooks full of figures that might be worth developing and applying some of these approaches to. We’ll see. I did have plans to do some life drawing at the start of this shutdown and apart from some sketches this is only the second figurative painting I have managed – I get sidetracked too easily.
Back in June 2014 I did a couple of pastels on the isolation of the individual. I was never happy with the outcome. These first two took a high viewpoint and recently when playing around I decided that a low angle might be more effective. But it wasnt plain sailing, as I found the detail I required was difficult in pastel.
So I changed to acrylic and am happier with the result. Though it may not be the final resolution, I feel I have made progress – and that is all that one can hope for, I guess. I may even revisit the first two paintings I did and see if acrylics would also suit them.
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.