It started as a landscape. I was working out different ways to get texture for a beach scene. I normally work at an angle, occasionally vertically, but to increase granulation I had the paper flat and applied the paint unevenly with various warm and cool colours.
When I paint in life sessions I like to work on toned paper – often I prepare it myself. Now, looking at the paper when it had dried, I saw that it had areas of varying tone which could be orientated differently to capture the tonal contrasts of a figure.
I cut out and keep interesting images of figures and faces, with good tonal contrast, to sketch in my sketchbook. So, from the folder I put them in, I plucked out this contemplative soul. So here is an exploratory sketch, keeping the paper flat as I worked. Perhaps I am missing the life groups. I normally work in anything but watercolour at these sessions, but when and if they do restart here, I might prepare some watercolour paper to take along.
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.
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.
The final life session finished last week, so here are my last live figurative paintings for a while.
I have been alternating between pastel and acrylic of late rather than sticking to one medium and have ground to a halt developmentally. This imposed hiatus might give me time to work up some of these images.
Developing images I have produced at these sessions is something I have always meant to do, but never got around to doing. It might also allow me to explore some different styles as the fast pace at these sessions doesnt leave much time to ponder and I would like to try other approaches to figure painting.
The closing down of these sessions will also leave many of the models without this source of income and some are quite economically vulnerable. There are a number of life groups around where I live so the good models can do two or three sessions a week. The girl depicted in the first sketch, Eve, even runs a group herself, as well as modelling.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been doing a bit of life drawing with pastels. This is of Eve. She liked the painting and at the end of the session wanted to photograph it. I said she could have it if she sent me an back an image.
Arthur, a model in his sixties still runs, though he has stopped the marathons
An interesting angle, though I think I could have made more of this and the highlighting is a bit harsh.
Though dozing off with your mouth open just brings out the worst in me. Again I could have made more of this as the shapes were quite interesting.
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.
I havent been doing much life drawing of late, but last week I turned up to a session taking my acrylics and square brushes.
These sketches were done fairly rapidly. I was after a loose blocky style.
I am still uncertain as to how I proceed with life drawing. As you can see here the poses are very stilted and the subjects flooded with light from all angles.
I do like the pressure and demands these sessions provide, though they give little time for consideration and development. There’s too much focus on speed and I wonder the effect it has on some of the attendees including myself.