Five by Five: Fathers and sons

The obligatory paint brush sketch
The obligatory paint brush sketch

My friend Karin Panaino Petersen posted a challenge of Facebook yesterday: State five things you are grateful for.

I’ve decided to tweak that slightly. For the next five days I am going to try to post about five things that make me smile, and if I can manage it, do a quick sketch of one of the five to post. This may be setting the bar a bit high, given my time constraints. But since 4 of these days are holidays here, I’m hopeful that I can make it work (if I paint the fifth ahead of time).

Here we go – in no particular order:

– Fathers. Sometimes, we don’t really focus on our parents as much as we should. They’re quietly there in the background, and if they’re not particularly high maintenance, life just trundles along. Today my Dad stepped into the breach for my sister in the most amazing way. He was my hero today, and it reminded me how many times he’s just quietly been there for all of us.

– Sons. Both of my sons made me smile today. Christopher sent messages from Vietnam where he’s on holiday. Lovely to know he’s having a great time. And Nic is coming home for the weekend.  Yes!

– Sunshine – it came back for a fleeting few moments a couple of times today. After such a long winter, even a tiny but of sunshine is fabulous.

– Four days to indulge in painting. (And I’ve decided that painting paint brushes is possibly a rite of passage for every artist. Here’s mine. Now it’s done.)

– Chocolate. I know, I know. Such a cliché. But hey, it’s Easter. It’s allowed.

If you fancy sharing your five, or playing along on your blog if you have one, pile in and join the party.

Hope you have a fabulous Easter weekend.

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Rain in the park

Rain in the park (small watercolour)
Rain in the park (small watercolour)

Sometimes working in a very limited palette really makes a painting. On the ‘less is more’ rule, it allows the viewer to use their imagination more.  This one may say things to me that it doesn’t say to you. I was tempted to go into detail, but I’ll resist the urge and leave you to see in it whatever you will.

I will just say that one of my favourite bits of this painting is the gorgeous blue granulation in the bottom right third of the picture. I just love it when the paint comes to life like that.

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Storm in the Air

Summer 2012 (watercolour 13 x 17 cm)

This past month I’ve been working on two different scales – and I quite like it. Maggie Latham invited me to take part in her Small Works Challenge group on Facebook. The rules set a specific size (roughly A6) and required the works to be done without pencil or masking fluid en plein air. It was a great way if getting focused just on the painting and not worrying about getting everything perfect – resulting in some lovely spontaneous images in the group.

I’ve used this idea to create a series of small works for the exhibition at Whittlesford next week. It will be interesting to see how they are received. Here’s one I called Summer 2012 – it has been the wettest summer I can recall.

Summer 2012 (watercolour 13 x 17 cm)
Summer 2012 (watercolour 13 x 17 cm)

The beauty of the small works is that they give me an opportunity to try out a concept I can then paint on a much bigger scale. I  wanted to get the same feeling of rain in the air in this larger painting which came out looking a lot more brooding and dramatic.

Storm in the air (watercolour 38 x 48 cm)
Storm in the air (watercolour 38 x 48 cm)

I think I’ll work big and little for a while longer. I suspect the small works are likely to be a bit gentler on the subject – but perhaps that’s in the nature of the size and speed of work.

Here’s a quick pic of the two paintings together in the studio – just for a sense of relative scale:

big and little water colour paintings

Misty mountains

Watercolour paintings mist in the mountains

Watercolour paintings mist in the mountainsSometimes a painting starts as a whisper and waits quietly until the final image emerges in the artist’s mind.

The basic wash for this painting gave a little hint of what it would eventually become. It was painted on unusually textured paper which took the pigment beautifully. This very rough texture isn’t ideal for every subject, but for a landscape – particularly a craggy mountain scene – it is perfect. I only had one sheet so I can’t tell you what it is right now, and I will have to do a good search around the studio to find out so I can get some more.

Today, when I wanted to create something really special for a birthday celebration, this painting finally came to life and the picture took shape. Sometimes the right image just seems to magically emerge from the wash. All it needs is a little help with definition, and it appears.

Watercolour painting landscape



Wash #2 of 100

Ultramarine, Windsor blue, lemon yellow and Windsor violet, with a splodge of Cadmium yellow.

I used a gorgeous rough paper sample I got in an Artists & Illustrators magazine. Sadly I can’t find the magazine at the moment, so I can’t tell you what make the paper is. I can tell you it measures 203mm x 275mm though. The learning in this wash was as much about the paper as the pigment. Fabulous texture to this paper – paint moves differently to the way it does on my usual paper. Hmmmm. Interesting.

Wanted to play with the idea of rain on water when I started this. Time will tell what it turns out to be – but there is a whisper of water in there.

A matter of style

I used to worry about the fact that I don’t have a particular style when I paint. But I’ve had enormous fun trying a host of different techniques and subject, and perhaps that’s the key. It’s been suggested that variety may in fact be my style of painting. So now I’ve relaxed about it and I’m actively playing with painting the same subject in different ways. Here are two early ones:
Poppies-3 2010.11
Poppy shouts

Poppies-4 2010.11
Poppy whispers

Both have elements that appeal to me.