Paintings that aren’t bad but weren’t finished, got lost or were overlooked.
In the tree. oil on canvas. After the session in the life room, what to make with the image you’ve created? On this painting, I made sketches – at one point she was in a library, another sketch she was a queen on a throne. Eventually a tree came into the image, then suddenly the model was up in the branches, really testing your belief in the painting. A stream in Derbyshire helped give the image some perspective and a misty wood / city on the horizon was added. Reflections from the stream on the branches worked well.
Some of the stages the painting went through.
Here are some works that were good but never really finished.
Three times. Acrylic and oil on paper. This was an experiment in really solid form building with some rich colour.
Yellow nude. Oil on canvas. This painting still has some paint put on it every now and then. The feel of the work is good enough to keep on. Crumpled paper nude. Acrylic on paper. Nice enough, but I do have a lot of work now. Prussian blue is great!
Balance A. Oil on canvas. 40 x 35cm. At the Mary Ward Centre the theme was Red. I had an old canvas stumbled in blue oil paint. This shows through on some of the figure, giving the shadows depth. originally there was a plastic lobster where there now is a white book. The hot and cold colours thick and thin paint, detail and space gives the work the title ‘balance’, the A is for the model’s first name.
Some details showing the amount of paint used. A really varied application of impasto, stumbling and glazes.
Balance. Oil and pencils on canvas board. 42 x 32 cm. A balance of hot and cold colours, detail and blank space. The board was primed with thick acrylic which soaked the oil paint up, making the paint look like dry goache. The composition became a series of right angles. The colours have a fair amount of Naples yellow or Prussian blue.
A detail showing the use of a little pencil, just to give the work more focus.
Green, Blue, White. Acrylic of grey-green then Prussian blue and Zinc white oil paint sometimes thinned with Walnut oil or Liquin on canvas. 76 x 90cm. An exercise in painting two colours onto a third. If I was to start again, I wouldn’t have chosen the white as it is too stark when laid on thickly and when thinned looked frosty. The tritone of colour made other aspects of the painting stand out, such as the brushstokes. Making the most of the paint was interesting. I chose a school palette (which looks like what you bake tarts in) and mixed up different amounts of the paint and the walnut oil and liquin ready to put onto the canvas. Tonal values became where the painting worked. You can see this in the black and white photograph underneath. The model was erudite and everyone had a good chat about the history and current state of the modelling world. They had stayed in the same pose for months on end. Imagine.
Some details showing how its works in black and white, the differing brushstrokes and opacities of the paint.
This work was created on Friday at the Mary Ward Centre, 42 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AQ. Click here for a link. https://www.marywardcentre.ac.uk Doing a regular evening class is one of the best decisions I have ever made. The life room at the top of the building, the tutor and the fellow students mean a lot to me. Each week for 3 hours I am in a different world. Why are these courses not more popular?
Good Dogs. Oil on canvas board. 40cm square. I’m slowly getting the hang of oil paint. This was a secret commission, so was given a photo and a quick deadline.
1. Thumbnail sketches were made of the composition, then the photograph in photoshop was rearranged and colourful bedding added to make the dogs stand out and look opulent. 2. It was a sunny day, so why not start in the garden? Simple colours on a little blue pencil. 3. Oil paint thinned with liquid or walnut oil. 4. A few hours with some smaller brushes and it felt finished. 5 & 6. Details when the paint was still shiny.
So, I now have a son who plays cricket. This involves a fair bit of looking at people playing in cricket matches. Luckily I have a sketch book and some pencils to hand. Cricket has rhythms, perspectives, big skies, trees and if he’s playing in Regent’s Park, the occasional lion’s roar.
Growth. Japanese ink and pencil on old watercolour paper. 22 x 22cm. This was given to an old friend who has been having a time of it lately. I was thinking of how this tree has had branches snap, has been twisted, attacked by the elements and still pushed it’s way towards the light, year after year. Making it’s way to something beautiful and grand. I wanted to keep the movement, energy and life in the tree.
A detail. How I worked, on the ground in the mud, sitting on the bag, meeting lots of dogs. A photograph of the tree. Only taken after the work is finished.
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s treewith sheep, summer 2021. Tester pot acrylic and pencil on 1960’s art paper. Around A3. Probably an old imperial size. Chatsworth is a nice place to spend a few hours, lounging in the grounds, trying not to sit in sheep poo. I had a bit of time, so decided which of the surrounding trees look the most magnificent and proceeded to record it on paper. It has the effect of the strong sunlight and the scale is imposing, once the sheep are seen.
Poppies in a Derbyshire garden. A bit more thought and time than a sketch, less trouble and strife than a finished work. The teeming life – see the snail in one flower, the spider in the other flower and the tumult of colour was quite something to draw. Very intense in the bright sunshine.
These will be framed and put in the house, so the poppies will be in bloom forever.
A slightly more stylised version with concentration on the diagonal.
Even more sparse, plus the mark making is becoming more like handwriting; OK, the flower is not a Poppy! Very these are happy diary entries of being out of London, in a beautiful garden and drawing intently in-between family outings.
These are all made on Saturday mornings when one of my sons is playing football. I have around 90 minutes to myself, which is nice.
Regent’s Park woods(Changeable weather). Acrylics and pencil. A3. Regent’s Park canal (Sweeping view). Pencil. Two pages of a 11″ sketchbook. Regent’s Park Canal (the shy warthog). Pencil. One page of an 11″ sketchbook. Two Giraffes in 30 minutes. Pencils. One page of an 11″ sketchbook. Two Giraffes in 10 minutes. Pencil. One page of an 11″ sketchbook. Regent’s Park walking by. Pencils. One page of an 11″ sketchbook. Photos of the top two artworks, taken just after the works were made.
Den Haag 1. Oil and pencil on gesso / wood. 200 x 450mm. I’m not sure if this will ever be finished. Three poses by the great actor Robin. The light streaming through his door really interested me. How to make this effect the painting and the figures within the space. The paint was thinned with zest (a non-toxic turps) and quickly brushed on.
Den Haag 2. Pencil on paper. 150 x . This was originally in colour but works better as a black and white artwork. This has a strange style to it. A touch warped, like a fish-eye lens. As near as I get to Aubrey Beardsley.
Den Haag sketches. As series of different takes on the scene, some worked on by my youngest son, who is better at shading than me.
Robin the violin. Acrylic and oil paint with a little pencil. Framed A4. What an outfit! I was aiming for Chaïm Soutine style work but the painting failed to progress. Shame, as Robin looked magnificent.
Robin the guitar. Acrylic on paper. 90 x70cm. A very quick and happy work. It didn’t need much more.
Lady of the orange, grey and blue. Acrylic, pencil, and thinned oil paint on paper. 90 x 70 cm. The last pose of the night with a thin blue ribbon draped over the model. It was important to have the line on the floor for the composition. The orange and wash over the figure was added at home, in the studio. There is something nice and simple about the work, with the orange adding some excitement to your retina.
Water Goddess. Acrylic and pencil on sugar paper. 50 x 30 cm. This pose was so reminiscent of ancient sculpture I could treat the work in the most slapdash manner and it would still come out looking like Ancient Greece.
Stormy Weather. Ink, acrylic, pencil, oil pastel, compressed charcoal and thinned oil paint on paper. 90 x 70 cm. This started off at home with some ink I had out and didn’t want to waste. This ink was splatted over the paper with some water and moved about. Then the life drawing session happened, followed at home by the trees, the sky and the rest of the background. An oil wash was put over the figure to make her less like alabaster. The life model has such a strong look there isn’t much need of a story to add. The weather has been changeable and I though of her looking out on the start of a storm. That blue skies and heavy rain time. There’s some interesting experiments going on with bands of colour and line, multiple colours of similar shade but different medium in the red material. The different sorts of marks being made are consciously done than before.
Dancing at night in Tivoli. Acrylic, pencil, compressed charcoal, and oil pastel on paper. 90 x 70 cm. The purple wand black stripes were again put down on the paper for no great reason, something to work against or with. The model looked liked she was dancing. I added the mysterious orb in her hand as I’d been reading about Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi. I was going to use some old sketches of the majestic Tivoli on the Stormy weather painting but just happened to start on this one. The strong purple, greens and greys mean that the work was always going to look strange, so I went with it, adding a Van Gogh manic swirling sky. Pleasingly odd.
Recently I’ve been taking my time on finishing paintings started in the life room (two weeks worth are still needing more work). I decided to make something quickly that would be fine without any adjustment. Out came a bottle of Japanese ink which was used diluted and pure, two brushes and a pencil.
After the show. Japanese ink and pencil, with a little acrylic on paper. 90x70cm.
The actor’s staring into space in the last pose of the day spoke of that feeling of being tired but wired, hence the title. The small amount of light green was to give it a little depth.
Here are 5 portraits made over the last few months. 1. Green Eye 2. Uncomfortable 3. Leaning 4. Laptop 5. Haircut
Three self portraits (I’m now wearing vari-focal glasses, which makes for some fun distortions), my daughter and my sister. All in acrylics and pencil. One with varnish and one with masking tape hair. Most of these works were created with one major session and a few little bits added after as I had some paint on my brush or had a spare minute.
Dryads in Berlin (at the edge of the Grunewald forest). Acrylics and pencil on prepared paper. 90 x 70cm. The same model (‘Y’ from Berlin) posed twice, each pose was for 20 minutes. The figure on the left was originally painted in a more considered, less wild way than the one on the right. Dryads are nymphs of the forest, specifically near oak trees. I’ve added a fig tree as well for various reasons.
The Figures in green reminded me of Matisse’s ‘Bathers by a River‘* and the Expressionist artist Otto Mueller. There is an Expressionist art gallery at the edge of the Grunewald forest in Berlin. *I am obsessed with this painting.