A new floral painting

Last week my wife and I went to a local art supply store and they were selling 11x14" cradled wood panels in packs of four. I’ve wanted to try painting on one of these for ages but was always worried I’d “waste” it if I did a bad painting. She convinced me that was just silly and we bought some. Have I ever mentioned how awesome it is to have such a supportive wife?

I wasn’t sure what to paint on it at first, but finally decided if it was going to be a “first”, I might as well choose something new, so she helped me find a great flower arrangement in a teapot which was delivered the same day. I usually avoid floral paintings because, frankly, I’m intimidated by the challenge!

I also decided that I was going to allow myself to paint however it came out, rather than trying for a particular style. I put out a really basic palette - mixing white, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium and cobalt blue - and just went for it. After about 4 or 5 hours and three sessions (and the late addition of pure titanium white for the highlights and brightest petals) this painting is the end result. 

I didn’t waste a panel and I did a flower painting I really like. It really does pay to push past your comfort zones!

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Making a fresh start

For some time now I’ve been experimenting with my online presence - to have a website, and if so, what kind … to be on social media, and if so, which ones, and so on. I’ve ultimately concluded that having this website, plus Instagram and my shop at Etsy, is the optimum balance between having an online presence and how much time is required to maintain it.

Unfortunately in the transition I’ve lost about a year’s worth of blog posts, but such is life. Hopefully, going forwards, I can add some interesting new posts, and of course, paintings!

I have updated my galleries with the many paintings I’ve done in the last year, many of which I’m grateful to have sold, traded or given away. So much so, in fact, that I’d better get painting or I’ll have none available at all!

Time for ice cream!

This painting is a scene from Queenscliff. Just off to the left is Queenscliff beach, and further down the road is Manly beach. I had a lot of fun doing this one, simplifying (or entirely omitting) a lot of detail so as to focus on the story I wanted to tell. I’m very pleased with the result!

One thing I did differently with this painting was paint the darkest value first (the shadow under the shop awning), which then gave me a reference point for judging all the other values. In this way I ended up with the kind of high-key (bright) picture I wanted, which hopefully evokes the bright sunlight!

As usual, this one is off to the Postcard Art Group.

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Two bird paintings

I’ve done two paintings of birds in the last week; one went to the Postcard Art Group, the other is a private commission. Both are pen and watercolour and both were great fun to do!

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New painting, new adjective

Without going into details, my life has been altogether way too serious for way too long. Through some of it, art has been a refuge, but at other times it has been a source of frustration and stress, caused mostly by my quest for perfection.

Today I made a conscious effort to paint something with simple outlines in place of exhaustive detail, and I really like the painting that resulted. I’ve done similarly successful and pleasing paintings before without really understanding what I was doing that made them work.

In short, I’ve been taking it all way too seriously, and the adjective that I’d like to apsire to in future is playful. Not just in my painting style, but in life too. It doesn’t mean I’m not working hard, but it does mean I’m not trying to achieve perfection or realism. My paintings will still be representational, but might contain “unreal” colours, simplifications of form, and/or elements that don’t exist in the “real” world. It’s precisely the sort of balance that Disney background artists have excelled at for decades (not that I think for one second I could ever compete with those guys!).

This painting is of a bridge that crosses over Curl Curl Lagoon just a few minutes drive from our house. I’ve got several photos of this area I plan to turn into paintings, continuing my series of surprisingly beautiful locations found in the midst of suburban Sydney! It’s going to someone in the Postcard Art Group.

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Four new paintings, inspired by my geeky side

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is one of my favourite books of all time. It has also been made into radio plays, albums, a TV series and even a Hollywood movie (each one different to the other). My personal favourite version (other than the book) is the 1981 British TV series, which I own on DVD and every few years I enjoy re-watching it.

Recently I started re-watching it again because I wanted to add the character of “Marvin the Paranoid Android” to my ongoing series of robot-themed paintings. However, I got inspired by a completely unrelated scene that goes along with this scene from the book;

[…] the fabulously beautiful planet Bethselamin is now so worried about the cumulative erosion by ten billion visiting tourists a year that any net imbalance between the amount you eat and the amount you excrete whilst on the planet is surgically removed from your bodyweight when you leave: so every time you go to the lavatory there it is vitally important to get a receipt.”

- Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, Chapter 8

In the TV series, this scene is illustrated by someone flipping through postcards of the planet, and it was pretty clear that the postcard props used had been hand painted. It immediately occured to me what fun it would be to recreate them, especially since I’ve painted so many postcard-sized paintings in the last year.

Each painting took two hours or less, were done in gouache, and while they’re not perfect copies of the paintings in the TV series (mostly due to the fact that TV shot in 1981 had pretty poor resolution so it’s not easy to see the details), they’re close enough that anyone who’s as big a fan as I am should (I hope!) recognise them. They were really great fun to do.

Because they are copies of someone else’s work there are probably copyright limitations on what I can do with these, so they won’t be for sale either as originals or prints. I’m going to frame and keep them for myself, like the true fanboy that I am! However, doing them has awakened an idea I had several years ago about doing precisely this - postcard-sized paintings from fictional places. When I first had the idea I didn’t have the painting skill to carry it off, but now … well, stay tuned, because if you like these then I hope I’ll be able to offer some completely original new ones soon.

By the way, yes, I’m still going to paint Marvin. In fact, I’m planning to paint him as he was seen in both the 1981 TV series and the 2005 movie.

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New painting, and yet another shop change

I actually did this painting before the R2-D2 painting, but as it was a surpise for someone on the Postcard Art Group, I couldn’t show it online until after she had received it, which she now has. As you will know if you’re a fan of the UK science fiction show Doctor Who, it’s a Dalek. It was painted with gouache on black card, and at the end I sprayed a little white ink to get the “glow” effects.

Regarding the shop, I finally figured out how to put a proper Paypal “buy now” button on the site, which is what I’ve wanted all along but could never figure out how to do. So that’s hopefully the final change to the shop, except of course for adding new items to it!

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Some good news, and new paintings

Good news first: The Cockatoo that I painted some weeks ago has been accepted into the Animal Art Show at the Cruelty Free Festival in October. Only 40 works were chosen so I’m very pleased that it was one of them. 

For those of you who don’t know, the Cruelty Free Festival - in its tenth year this year - is all about promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle, whether that’s veganism, vegetarianism, only using products not made from or tested on animals, and so on. So much unnecessary cruelty is perpetrated against animals every day and festivals like this help to raise awareness of that and also help people to find alternatives. You’d be amazed how easy it is these days!

The Cockatoo painting will be available to buy for $A320 and every cent of that goes to Animal Liberation NSW, so if you’re an animal lover and an art lover who lives in Sydney (or wants an excuse to visit), I hope you’ll come along, eat some great food, see some great products, and maybe even buy some art :)

In other news, I’ve been having a wonderful time doing some paintings that are very close to my heart - characters from science fiction. I can’t tell you what the first one is, yet, as I’ve sent it to someone as a surprise (I’ll post it here after they receive it). But I can share the second one with you!

To make this painting, I bought some Canson Mat Board (really heavy card) that’s black on one side and white on the other. I really love painting on a black background. To start the drawing off I use a yellow watercolour pencil, because it shows up well but can also be erased with water. Once I’ve got a rough layout drawn, I put down permanent lines using a white gel pen. Once dry, I can still wet and erase the remaining yellow lines, leaving me with a clean white line drawing:

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The next step is to paint. For this painting I only needed three colours - white, blue and burnt sienna. When mixed, blue and burnt sienna form a lovely chromatic grey, which then when mixed with white gives me a full range of values which I can also adjust the temperature of by using more blue (colder) or more sienna (warm). In the end, however, I did have to add a pure black, because towards the end I smudged the painting on one side and needed to paint over the smudge. Most of the black lines were made by simply not painting those areas, but as you can see I did add some back in, as well as adding some pockmarks and scratches using both a black copic pen and the white gel pen. So here’s the end result:

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This painting is on its way to Ireland for somebody in the Postcard Art Group. As for me, I’ve got to decide what to paint next!

New painting - “Cockatoo"

The Cruelty Free Festival is on again in Sydney this year (Sunday October 25th) and once again they’re having an animal art show. I thought I’d try entering a piece this year, and this is it. We get a lot of cockatoos in our front garden - which, ahem, might be because we keep feeding them. They are intelligent, funny and surprisingly gentle birds, quite happy to sit close by me (or eat sunflower seeds out out my hand) as I studied and photographed them for this painting. This painting is a combination of several photos plus a good deal of just making stuff up but I’m very pleased with how it came together.

What was truly interesting about doing this painting was that right from the start I knew I wanted to start with a black - yes, that’s black, not blank - canvas. I felt this would make it easier to manage the extreme contrast required to paint a bird that’s almost white and have it actually stand out. I worked in layers - the very darkest darks first, then some middle values, then light values, and finally some highlights. Not an unusual way of painting, but I’ve only done a handful of pieces this way in the past. I’m really pleased with where it ended up in terms of how well the bird stands out against the background, and I’m quite certain I will work this way again.

This is on a stretched canvas, 16x20”, painted in Atelier Interactive Acrylics. I’ll let you know in late September if you’ll be able to see it in the show. If not it will be available for sale directly from me!

I should add - it’s also quite difficult to get a good photo of. The actual painting looks better than this!

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New sketch - TV and Video Games

A while ago I took an amazing course at Craftsy - Dynamic Detail in Pen, Ink and Watercolour. I can’t recommend this class highly enough if you’d like to learn or improve your observational drawing. It’s not realism but is very suited to standalone drawings or ink and wash art. I can’t begin to tell you how much my drawing improved as soon as I started implementing the techniques taught in this class - and they’re really very simple, and very well explained.

This is a drawing I did this afternoon, I think it took me around 90 minutes. It’s the confusion of boxes and cables that fills my TV cabinet. Apart from the TV, there are several videogame systems, a lava lamp, a DVD and VCR, and various remote controls and videogame controllers. I would **never** have dreamed of trying to draw such a complicated scene before the class, but I had no hesitation diving into it today. There was no preparatory drawing in pencil here - it was fountain pen from the very beginning.

Unfortunately the paper and the pen didn’t get along too well - every time I paused along a line, no matter how briefly, I got a “bloom” (dot of ink), but you don’t really notice them in the completed drawing. Also, when I added the ink washes (using watered-down ink and a brush), the paper buckled quite badly. I had originally planned to add watercolour to this, but I’ve decided to leave it as-is for fear of the paper falling apart if I try painting on it.

This is in a no-name A4 sketchbook and the sketch itself is about seven inches square. I used a Lamy Safari fountain pen with an EF nib, and De Atramentis Permanent Black Ink.

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