A painting of pears

Pears for Guilia. Acrylic on card. Around A5.
It’s hard to buy a present of a good quality pear tree this time of year.
So I painted a picture of pears as a substitute until the real thing arrives.

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Fallen trees, Epping forest.

Fallen trees, Epping forest. Acrylics, pencils and pen on gesso’d mdf. Around A3.
Painted in is situ on Saturday amid sun, wind and rain, all in the space of an hour. Once the dynamic composition was chosen this painting happened pretty quickly. I was perched 4 foot up on the fallen tree at the bottom of the painting. The scene had a sense of large heavy objects crashing into each other, things felt like they could change any moment in this stillness.

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Portrait. From mono to blue.

From mono to blue. Acrylics, oil glazes and pencil on prepared yellow 1960’s canvas paper. 40 x49 cm.
This was a lesson in grisaille (painting in greys). This techniques makes it a lot easier to concentrate on form and tone without having colour values complicating things. I’ve been interested in smalt blue (the background for some renaissance portraits, which was once a bright jewel like blue, though it fades over the years to grey), hence the background glaze.
The work was made in layers. Over a yellow ochre wash I drew the model in pencil, then used lamp black and white and off-white acrylics and a lot of glaze medium to build up the painting. At home the blue and ochre glazes in oil paint gave the work some dynamism. The aged paper splitting and ripping gives it something, making the whole work a bit more punk.

  1. A close up of the portrait. The model had a piercing at the top of her nose.
  2. A version of the painting photoshopped in mono.
  3. How the worked looked after the painting from life (with a little coloured pencil).
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Adrian in Yellow

Adrian in yellow. Acrylic and glaze medium on prepared board.
Adrian is a famous life model, so it was unusual to see him in a scarf. The theme this week was yellow. The look he’s giving is of someone who has been wearing a scarf and sitting down on a hot evening for three hours. The flower fabric was inspired from an old bed covering in a copy of World of Interiors. progress is being made with new brushes and a fair bit of acrylic glaze medium, working in layers like oil painting.

Here’s some details.

And here’s the painting in progress with the palette. Notice the yellow lighting on the middle image.
1. half way through. 2. At the end of the three hour session. 3. The palette at the end of the session.

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Portrait in red

Portrait in red. Acrylics on prepared mdf. 40 x 5ocm.

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Portraits of relations.

These are some of my favourite people. It wasn’t a hard job painting them.

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Portrait on blue.

Portrait on Blue. Acrylic on prepared 1960’s Daler canvas paper. 48 x 40cm.
I liked this painting enough to have it hanging up in my house.
Made at the Tuesday evening portrait class at the Mary Ward Centre, Queens Square, London.
Unfortunately, when I glued it to the backing the paper buckled up, the age of the paper has made it rather fragile.

Above: the original portrait, lightly photoshopped to bring out the warmth, as a black and white, at an angle in blue-ish light, in the dark and in situ.

Above are some details and a blurry shot of the palette.

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A portrait of my Parents.

Anniversary portrait. Acrylic on card. A4.
A pleasure to paint. My parents are very cool. Here they are in Italy in the 1960’s. Gold works well for this type of works, being obviously not ‘real’ and full of positive connotations. The different whites and blacks mixed with different acrylic mediums give the painting some variation.

Fancy Envelope. Pens and pencils on A4 envelope.
Here’s an envelope sent to my mum. The inspiration was a plate in the Wallace collection. Nice to doodle, some of it is by my sons.

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Florida Art.

Palm Beach house for Mo.
We went on a family holiday to Florida. Palm Beach, Key Largo, Key West and Miami Beach.
I packed a big sketchbook and some acrylic paints and some pencils. I found the strong sunlight and deep shadows fascinating.

Palm beach palm tree, Miami Beach, Edward on Miami Beach.

Sunlight on a hotel garden

Blankets on a hotel bed, Plant material for future work and a great Picture of a plane window by Edward.

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Portrait. Daryl J Hembrough in a smaller work.

Daryl J Hembrough in a small work. Acrylic, oil and pencil on card. 18 x 26cm.
I was late to the class and quickly grabbed some small pieces of cardboard. Daryl is great to work with. The background material had a very interesting colour, oscillating between green and an ochre. This was the first session at the portrait class at the Mary Ward Centre with the tutor John Close.
I painted with a fairly large brush in the session, then at home I made a few coloured oil paint glazes and lastly finished with two coloured pencils. The frame and understated wallpaper is from the Wallace collection.

See the details below, plus three recent portraits of Daryl together.

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Portrait. Daryl J. Hembrough in Highgate Cemetery.

Daryl J Hembrough in Highgate Cemetery. Acrylic on board. A3.
The second of two weeks work (I have yet to finish the small painting from the first week). The background was sketched in before the session started. It came from asking Daryl what he’d like and a chat about the great Highgate Cemetery. I live near the cemetery and have made some sketches a while back (see the gallery below). I’d also made a sketch of a Sufi art photograph, which I replaced the stone angel with. Into this image I placed the portrait from life.
It’s interesting being a portrait class instead of a life drawing class, less flesh and more material, less classical allusions more present day garb.
This was painted at the great life room in The Mary Ward Centre, in a portrait class lead by John Close. I could not resist going there for the last sessions before it moves from Queens Square to Stratford.

Some details from the painting and the two sketches.

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Portrait. Daryl J. Hembrough as Philosopher King.

Darryl J Hembrough as Philosopher King. Oil on old canvas board. 42 x 60cm.
This painting was created using four colours over two and a half hours.
I thought his contemplative atmosphere made him look like a Philosopher King. The colours chosen were a modified version of the Zorn palette. The background was painted in dark blue grey. Then warm white, crimson lake and Paynes grey were put over the top. Almost all the paint was thinned with walnut oil put on with two size filbert brushes then an old sock and dry brush was used to move the paint around the canvas board.

The painting feels like a breakthrough.
Thanks to the great John Close for the Zorn palette insights and tips on technique. His Friday night classes are well worth experiencing. See more here https://www.johnclosearts.co.uk

Daryl is a joy to paint and likes his scars being shown in the finished work. You can find out more about him and his art classes in Bristol here https://www.facebook.com/bristollifedrawinguk

Here’s the painting without the Frans Hals frame and on a chair in the art centre. You can see how bright the red walls are in the background. Plus an earlier portrait of mine with Darryl again playing the King.

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Life drawing. Long thin calm nude.

Long thin calm nude. Oil on primed wood. 60 x 120cm. Three hours.
The background was primed with grey-green paint, then Prussian blue and Naples yellow were used in tandem. The discipline of this gave me space to focus on the modelling and mark making. The colours have give the work a calmness that doesn’t come into my work much. the composition was quite considered with contrasting diagonals and a Degas-like feel of cropping the figure.

Above are two close-ups and how is could have looked with a stronger palette or in a mono colour scheme.

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Birthday Portrait. 15.

15. pencils and acrylic on board. A4.
There’s some interesting colour choices to make it 3 dimensional. Starting with a mid green, then purple, browns, a little blue and then some red. It follows you around the room.

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The Golden Couple.

The Golden Couple. Acrylics and gold leaf on gesso board. 14″ square.
This painting was a commission for a Golden wedding anniversary. I had some fantastic photos of the couple from the 1960’s. There was something dynamic about this image which I married to my ongoing obsession with Giotto and his use of gold and blues. This had some reasoning to it as they are Italian.
Gold leaf is exciting to work with and I haven’t mastered the technique yet. It really accentuates how the light can change a painting. Working on the gesso’d wooden panel is a matter of painting many layers, each brushstroke being able to be seen.

Here’s a close up, part of the palette and the back of the board with fun little sketch over the top of a children’s sketch.

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Portraits on paper.

The lump on my neck. Oil paint on card. 18cm square sketchbook page.
Made using oil paint I had left over from other work. The light was strong and the thought of highlighting a part of me I’m not so proud seems a got start. The lump is benign, by the way. It’s just a fatty lump.

With my winter scarf. Acrylics and pencil in A3 sketchbook.
Made standing looking in a mirror. The eyes look a bit wonky, which is due to my focus… I think. the intensity of the stare often comes up in self portraits as you are concentrating hard.

Mark & David. Pen, felt tip, pencil on 18cm square sketchbook pages.
Two fellow artist friends in the pub after a hard nights artwork. Coloured in at home.

Hot choc at Bear & Wolf, Tufnell Park. Pencils in A3 sketchbook.
Quite fun trying to get the picture perspective right in the sketch of the sketch…
Lazy boy on the sofa. Pencils and a little paint in A3 sketchbook.
Something nicely jarring about the flat green and the quick pencil marks.

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Life drawing. 5 views.

Here are 5 paintings. I think they are all equally good. All are painted on prepared paper, in acrylics with a little pencil. All were made in John Close’s art class on a Friday night.

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Life painting: Gogmagog sleeps.

Gogmagog sleeps. Acrylics, oils and pencil on prepared paper. 91 x 72cm.
I’ve had some free time for 15 minutes on Saturday mornings to look out from a disused bridge in Muswell Hill onto London. It’s an amazing view with landmarks strewn thinly on the horizon, huge clouds scudding by. I had a nude painting on a dark grey ground which looked like a sleeping giant due to the perspective, a bit like Gulliver asleep in the land of the Lilliputians. After studying Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Ramano in the National gallery, it suddenly came to me that the nude and the cityscape could be married. There is a legend of a giant that guards London. As he sleeps, buildings are built around him. At one point he was going to have park railings surrounding him. It’s ended up in a an arresting image. Not sure what it means.

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Kate sleeping.

Kate sleeping. 2002(?) – 2022. Oil on Canvas.
Kate sleeping was a pretty successful painting of my wife Kate. One of a series of 3.
It was painted on the then fashionable very thick framed canvas so it stood out from the wall like a medicine cabinet and di have little sculpture resting on the top (something I used to do a lot). I alway thought I’d botched the hands, so after someone commenting that they liked the painting I went back to it – getting the family to pose for the hands and painting away every now and then til I got it right.
This painting has be cropped to fit the new frame. This was more complicated than it sounds, with getting some hardboard, sawing to size, cutting the painting form the old stretcher, glueing the canvas on the board, adjusting the size and then fitting it in the old Victorian frame. it will be varnished in 6 months.
Below are images of the painting through the day and night. Fun how the light moves and she still sleeps.

Two of the hand sketches.

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Life drawing. On Melancholia.

On Melancholia.
Acrylic, pencil and oil paint on prepared paper. 91 x 72cm. November – January 2021.

Another painting that took a long time, with a fair bit of thought involved. Again, the work was halted and not particularly ‘finished’. It started out from a great thirty minute pose, which immediately made me think of the Albrecht Dürer etching called Melancholia. It’s a riff on this work, rather than a copy.
I’m still not sure about the nudity, which is strange for me. She was very nearly clothed but it might have looked contrived. Nudes were used as symbols in the past, though I don’t want the painting to be too ‘sexy’, At least she is covering herself a bit with knowledge, even if the book is closed.
There is obviously a lot of colour and object echoing. Some fun balancing of objects in the pictures composition. An odd, dislocated atmosphere pervades. As near as I have got to Giorgio de Chirico. Books are becoming a theme as is a bright colour against coloured greys. Working the skin over in oil paint really helps bring the painting to life.
Looking at it now, the shadows still need some work…

Details of the work. The head has a little bit of a photograph of Mary from Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Pietà. I’ve been using black and white photographs in a big old art book of his sculpture as reference for a while now, when my drawing hasn’t enough information in it for me to work from.

The first life study, the other paintings on the night. A space of sketches. The painting without frame. The fantastical Albrecht Dürer etching and another sketch by a renaissance artist.


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