Life drawing. Riffing on Patricia Highsmith.

Riffing on Patricia Highsmith (Ph.3). Acrylic, pencil and oil paint on prepared paper. 68 X 97cm.
So, the writer’s books, personality and look are challenging and a great springboard for art. Even her drawings are pretty strong. You can like the work and not the person, though her real for love snails over humans make for some fun stories, not so her self loathing and mean anti-semitism.
Trying not to be too literal (yes, that is a pun) and taking a recent life painting, I loaded the work with extra specific imagery, textures and mediums. Trying to get a feeling of her world. The Ph.3 is a pun as well. You can make of it what you will.

So there’s:
• pretending to be another – the model being changed to the idea of ‘Patricia’
• The intense look
• The angry typewriter
• A lovely snail
• A carpet to hide things under
• The sharp scalpel
• Paperbacks strewn
• An exotic plant
• The rented bare apartment
• Jarring colours
• A blood red sheet cascading down
• A wall of what is real and not real (obviously a painting is not real; or as real as a novel…)
• … is that a body behind that far wall?

See below for details.

Photos of Patricia Highsmith and an old sketchbook page and new sketchbook pages with lists.

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Illustrations for a local magazine.

An article on Food banks.

A dreaded spindley fish for a piece on river danger.

Hedgehogs, loud neighbours, worry, mayonnaise and a photoshop off cut of all the food bank drawings on top of each other.

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Life drawing. Kit the actor.

Kit as French flag. Acrylic and Chinagraph on prepared paper. 72 x 102cm. 30 minutes.
What a pleasure to paint this fine haired fellow. Friday night a St. Lukes. The texture of painting over old work adds to the texture. The dots on his skin were really there, put on by the tutor, John Close, to aid the artists eye. Something of the Edward Fox about the man.

Kit and Kit arguing. Acrylic and Chinagraph on prepared paper. 60 x 80cm. 1 hour.
An entertaining time with the model going between poses, with much talk of Eastenders.

Kit breaks out. Used as an illustration.
Kit playing the Dane. 15 minutes of trying to make all the marks work together.
Kit framed. Something fluent about this. Yes, I could correct the frame but who cares?
Kit portrait. Thought the large painting would work well as a small profile.

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Life drawing. The character actor at rest.

The character actor at rest. Acrylics and Chinagraph on watercolour paper. Around A3.
Such a pleasure drawing Robin. This session was loosely based on some of Francis Bacon’s set ups; I couldn’t seem to come up with anything quite as dark. The palette is good and strong on this painting,

Robin facing himself. Odd how not having the real head to draw means the composition usually gets better.
The unframed version of The character actor at rest. Note the paper.
Robin as a Minator like character. Wow, that was fun.
Robin in a box. I used to do a lot of characters like this around 1987…
Robin framed. 15 minutes, frames make measuring proportion easier.

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Drawing from Rodin.

Going to Rodin at the Tate Modern, was as good as I imagined it could be. Really thought provoking and exciting, a show with ideas on scale, theme, revision, finish, intuition, lack of colour, the body and sexuality. It makes you want to sculpt.
My friend Steve and I had a great time looking, chatting about what it would be like modelling for Rodin and sketching; the work was so overwhelming we needed a gap for coffee and cake.

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Life Drawing. Now and then.

Now and then. Acrylics and pencil on prepared paper. 90 x 70cm.
The painting set up had A Rubens reproduction on the wall, a life model on a chair and a fake fur stole. The mix of textures from the shiny art print, the fur, skin and fabric give the painting variation. Working on a dark ground always makes for drama. Yes, they did have cool light pink hair.

Seated, fabric, red paper, wings and the window. Acrylic, pencils and oil paint.
Made from four fifteen minute poses.
There was talk in the studio about the prop wings from Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s paintings. When I got the work home my daughter thought I should add wings to the figure, so it seemed fate. I kept on adding to the work intermittently over the next week, in-between other paintings. Fun having a small detail of a window.

Stand. Acrylics on paper.
A fifteen minute pose working on slightly at home. It has a questioning atmosphere. For once the white paper is doing something in the painting.

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Life Drawing. Man with red, man with blue.

Man on blue. Acrylic and pencil on prepared paper.
This week I wanted to focus on skin colours. We were in a big room and the model was fairly far away, so no distortions. There were a lot of blue chairs about, which gives the image rhythm.

Man on blue. Acrylic and pencil on prepared paper.
Four 15 minute poses. The room had a bright red walls which added some zing. The hardest thing to do in colour choice is to get the skin tone in shadow correct, as if you look at it with focus your eye will change their aperture to make the colour lighter.

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School fair posters.

I thought it was time to get away from my usual tasteful style and go for eye bleeding pattern and COLOUR.

This bit of the A4 post I found on the ground. You can see how the colour was a touch more subtle after a few weeks on the floor.

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Life Drawing. Lady in grey, red and green

Friday life drawing has started again, this time in a small group of talented artists at St.Lukes, South Islington. I miss friendly The Mary Ward Centre with it’s purpose built life room. The tutor is the same, the great John Close, the room is smaller but interesting and there are different props, including a nice chair.

Lady in grey, red and green. Acrylic and pencil on paper. 95x70cm.
Nice to be using acrylics again, more immediacy and quicker drying time, less worry about paint on my clothes. The paint is mixed from tester pots with names like ‘Scotch grey’, ‘Vineyard and 'de Nimes’. The chair leg really helps the composition, with it echoing the models legs. Note the amount of time spent on the blanket, which in real life is dark magenta.

Some 30 and 15 minute poses.
I felt very calm and just let the work happen. You can see the different techniques used.

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Life Drawing. Here’s Looking At You.

Here’s looking at you. Oil on canvas. 90x90cm.
This probably the last painting I’ll make in the wonderful life room of the Mary Ward Centre, Queens Square, London. Friday nights will never be the same. That large, purpose built space has been one of my favourite places on the planet for the last 8 years. Mary Ward are moving to Stratford, which is understandable but a shame.
This painting is over an old work of mine. I covered the canvas with plaster and coated that with gesso.
There were two live sessions with the model. I found a spot behind a fellow artist, the perspective it gave and the trope of artist painting artist painting model made the composition work harder than normal. On the second session the lady artist didn’t turn up which was a shame, in the last minutes of the time I had an artist quickly take a photo of me in the pose.
In the next few sessions at home, the lady was morphed into a self portrait, colours were changed and the composition tweaked. Finally some art within the painting was added.

Some details.

Previous stages a photo taken outside the Mary Ward Centre and reference material.

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Pencil portraits.

Birthday card. Faber Castell Polychromos Deep Cobalt Green 158. On A4 cartridge paper 400gsm.
So, I had a nice photo of my son, a quick search for an image of the young Napoleon and Viola!

Goodbye Ben. Faber Castell Polychromos pencils. On A3 cartridge paper 400gsm.
An old friend has gone. Lovely guy. Thought this would be a good thing to do for his wife.

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Sketchbooks: Travel.

Gails in South Kensington. Having a coffee. This reminds me of a bus stop picture I made in powder paint circa 1985…

Sketching my son sketching x3. On the Northern line. Showing him differing approaches to starting a drawing.

My son on the train from Bromley. With new basketball.

The Isle of Wight Ferry. For a great party weekend.

On the train from Chesterfield to London. To see my folks. Of course we had to get off half way because of signals.

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Square Sketchbook. Derbyshire landscapes.

The Nine Ladies Stone Circle. Two sketches of a beautiful spot, the end of a fantastic walk.

Bolsover Castle, a saucy fun castle and the rather more haughty and expansive Chatsworth.

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Square sketchbook. London Town.

Here’s the view from: Prom number 20, Monmouth coffee, Chilango’s Brewer Street, A bar in Coal Drop Yard Kings Cross and Buck House lawn!

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Life drawing. In the tree plus other works.

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!

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Balance A.

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.

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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.

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Green, blue, white.

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.
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?

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Good Dogs.

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.

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Cricket art?

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.

They speak for themselves really.

A football game as well.

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