Thursday, 29 January 2009


For some while I have wanted to do a series of paintings based on a geological theme. I came across some images on the web which gave me the idea of treating the subject in an abstract way, looking in particular at cross sections through agate. An example of such images is shown here.

So far I have started on two paintings. The first has been done on an 8" by 10" box canvas. Broad layers of acrylic were painted onto the canvas. I then glued a sheet of Lutradur* (see below for more information on Lutradur) which I had distressed using a heat gun. I added more paint adding some detail. This picture is not finished but I got to a point where I was uncertain where to go next and did not want to add anything for the sake of it. At present, the canvas is standing on my desk where I can look at it and try to work out what I need to do next.

The second
painting is actually done on 4 individual canvases each 3" x 3". My inspiration came from this picture and I did most of the painting on the 4 canvases taped together. Once I had painted the blue background with acrylic paint and glued and painted the raffia using gold and bronze acrylic paint I separated the canvases and did some more work on them individually. Again, these are not yet finished (at least I do not think they are) and like the first canvas I have them displayed on my desk on little easels.


A non-woven spun polyester fabric that can be used for many effects. Its surface takes colour well, cuts easily without fraying (like paper) and can be layered. Colour can be applied by painting, stencilling, printing etc. Bursts of heat can be applied with a heat-gun to create distressed effects. The fibres melt away to look as though the surface has been attacked by the rigours of time.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Feeling old?

The subject for this weeks class was "Something old". Resisting the temptation to look in the mirror or paint the person opposite me (sorry Eileen), I decided to do a Galapagos tortoise as there was a rather nice photograph of one in the new Lonely Planet magazine which I got this morning. As we only had one lesson, ie. 2 hours, to do the picture in I decided the best approach was to do a pen and wash. I did a rough pencil sketch, laid down some watercolour washes in various colours and then drew into this with waterproof sepia pen. I then built up the washes, especially trying to get some dark shadows. I think it still needs some more work so I will put it in my unfinished picture box to play with at a later date.

Not totally unrelated, I have been reading a rather good book called Beneath the Surface - The Making of Paintings by Philippa Abrahams. It looks at the materials and techniques, from illuminated manuscripts and fresco to acrylics. Rather than just deal with the theory, the author actually illstrates the various techniques with her own recreations of various mediums. I can thoroughly recommend this book.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The saga of the mountains continues.....

Second of the two classes devoted to the theme of mountains this afternoon. I had already done as much as I thought needed doing the first picture, although I have put the picture where I see it as I pass by so I may find something else needs doing. On the whole I am quite pleased with it.

I started a second picture working in graphite pencil on black board, a technique I learnt about via an article in American Artist by Sherry Camhy Her pictures using this method can also be seen on her website It is quite a slow process and I have still a fair way to go to build the different tones but I shall certainly use the technique again. I apologise for the quality of the image. Normally I scan images but it does not work with this type of painting as the surface changes with the light so I photographed it, again I had some problems. This is the best of about a dozen attempts!

To go for a hat trick I have started a third picture. In this one the lines outlining the shape of the mountain are actually text done with a 0.05 drawing pen......and it was NOT as fiddly as you might imagine. The text is about Mount Everest, the different names, geology and some of its history. There is also a reference to the fact that on 1st May 1999 they discovered Mallory's body which happened to be the same day that I took a flight over Everest. I can remember getting back to the hotel in Kathmandu and being asked by some wag whether I had seen the body. I used to have a T-shirt which had the motto "I have not climbed Mount Everest but I touched it with my heart." Seeing Everest and the Himalayas from the air was actually a very moving experience and I remember the silence in the plane on the flight back to Kathmandu so I guess the other passengers felt the same.
Still some way to go with this with many more layers of watercolour washes.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Mountains - a bit more

Well, I have added a bit more to the mountain picture I showed in my last blog entry. I glued another layer of tissue over the whole of the picture, added some more watercolour and then added pastel colour. Finally I added some highlights of treasure gold to the highest peak which I do not think will show in the scan.
I am quite pleased with it. I will probably go in with some coloured pencil work to get some fine detail but I do not really want to do too much more.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A New Year and some new ideas

My first blog of the year. I am going to really try to blog on a regular basis and, with this in mind I would included blogs about my work at the weekly painting class that I attend.
I have probably mentioned this before, but I go to a class run by a brilliant local artist, Penny Wilton. She encourages us to try different things and is not at all proscriptive about how we approach our subjects. At the beginning of each term we are given a list of the subjects we will be tackling. Most take up 2 weeks. The class is mixed media so what we use is up to us.....watercolour, acrylic, collage, pencil, ink, the choice is ours.
This week and next the subject is mountains. Normally I spend most of the first week on a subject planning, sketching, trying different media and so on. This week I decided to "go for it" and work "instinctively". I should add at this point, that I went to Tate Modern last Sunday to see the Rothko Exhibition and whilst there also saw an exhibition of conceptual art by an artist whose name escapes me! I am not really sure what conceptual art is but I think working "instinctively" must come into it somewhere.....hence my notion for the current project at class.

So, this is the result of 2 hours work (about three quarters of an hour in reality as the rest of the time was taken up with a demonstration of techniques by Penny and catching up with class mates about "what we did in the holidays." Oh, and a coffee break and cake eating with nourishment provided by Penny and Doreen whose birthday it was. I used a photo of Mount Everest as my source material and basically stuck bits of tissue paper on a piece of mount board. There are about 6 or 7 layers in all. Whilst the glue and water was still wet I dropped watercolour into the tissue paper. I am not sure where I will go next with this but I think I will cover the whole area including the uncovered mount board with a single sheet of either tissue paper or rice paper and see where I go from there.

Incidentally, if you get a chance, go and see the Rothkos. They were mind blowing and you really need to see them in person, rather then look at printed versions, to get the full effect of how stunning they are. And the longer you look at them the more amazing they are.