Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another charcoal/carbon portrait

I am taking a very quick moment this morning while the kids are eating breakfast to post this drawing before we go off visiting. The beautiful subjects are my husband's nieces and as I gave it to their Mum last night I thought I can post it now. When I looked at the photos this morning they were terrible and as I have given it away I can't take a better one now so this will just have to do. Once again it is charcoal pencil and carbon pencil on Arches A4 HP paper.

Yesterday I had fun spending my Christmas voucher from my Dad at The French Art Shop here in Auckland. I looooove that shop, it is such a treasure trove for art stuff and it was so much fun deciding how I would spend my voucher. I got a really good cretacolour charcoal set, some derwent tinted charcoal pencils, some Bristol paper (which seems exceptionally smooth so I am interested to try some charcoal drawings on that for very smooth blending), a beautiful squirrel hair paint brush and some Viridian oil paint. Viridian is the oil paint I go through most, with the exception of titanium white because I mix it with alizeron crimson for my blacks and greys. I love the greys you get with those two colours but you need much more viridian than alizeron and as it is a series 4 paint, it was nice to use a voucher to pay for it.

I hope to get out the paintbrushes this afternoon when the kids are sleeping as I haven't painted in weeks. I need to do more work on Carter's portrait which has been sitting there untouched for a long time and I am so keen for some more seascapes.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Greetings

I have been quiet on the blogging and emailing front over these last days as I have had family staying and have been enjoying the holiday feeling over this Christmas period. I hope that everyone reading this has had a lovely time with family and friends and is feeling refreshed and inspired to greet 2009.

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of having a babysitter (aka my Mum) staying and took off for a few hours. Heading over to the eastern side of Auckland we found Musick Point which has a large building that was the centre of radio communications for a number of years, especially during WWII. That is all closed down now, but behind the building is a number of very steep steps that you can climb down and it is just fantastic. Neither my husband nor myself have been here before and we stayed for a while, taking photos and enjoying the coastal beauty so close to home.

Here you can see Rangitoto Island at the back and Browns Island (we think) at the front.

The rock formations were amazing and there were hidden surprises like this cave.
It was so great just to take off in the car, not knowing where we were going to go and just exploring parts of our city. I took several hundred photos and am inspired to paint some more seascapes based on them. It was an overcast day and I am really keen to return when it is blue sky to see how that changes the light and colours. Even though we were only gone for a few hours, it felt like such an escape and a mini holiday even though we didn't go away.
I hope all of you manage a small or big escape over this holiday season too. Best wishes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Charcoal Pencil Portrait - Tayla

On Saturday I decided that I wasn't happy with the last portrait that I drew of Tayla and that it didn't match the one I had done of Carter. I looked through my photos but couldn't find one that worked for me so I decided that my daughter should do another photo session for me.

Well, 140 photos later, I had a couple that I really liked and the one that this drawing is based on was my favourite. So last night I sat on the couch and drew while half watching a DVD and I was so so pleased with the outcome. This is now definitely my favourite so far and I can just see how much I am improving with every portrait.

And here are the two framed portraits together. I really love them and half wish they weren't Christmas presents so that I could hang them on our walls.
For this latest one I tried using carbon pencils alongside the charcoal pencils for the eyes and some of the fine detail of her hair. I like the sharp point and fine detail you can get but still prefer the intense velvety darks you get with charcoal. I can see me using them in the future in conjunction with charcoal but not to do an entire drawing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Is it genetic, the need to put marks on paper, canvas, (walls, doors) etc? I wonder when I look at my two toddlers who frequently draw. And I have had crayons snuck into the cot so when nap-time is over I see a beautiful purple mural all over the wall. At any time, you will find chalk, crayons, pencils and felt pens all over the house and they love it when I set the easel up with paint.

I am making progress on the portrait with the glazing but the photos look terrible so I will wait until I am a little further on before I post progress so I thought my beautiful children drawing would provide the photos today. I am also working on some christmas drawings which I won't post yet as the person may read this blog so I better get my a into g to finish them on time!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grisaille underpainting - Carter's portrail in oil

Last night my husband was out visiting clients and I finally felt well enough to paint so while the kids slept I hid away in my studio with the dog and cat. YAY!

As I mentioned previously, I really want to explore portraiture in the next year and have been reading up on it. So last night I thought I would do a grisaille underpainting for a portrait of Carter. As my husband had my laptop with me (which felt like a limb was cut off) which has all my photos, I couldn't print off a photo so had to work with what I had which was the same photo that I drew as a charcoal portrait last week. And that worked well. Because I was used to the photo and where the tonal changes were, I found that a really good base point before painting the underpainting and think I will probably do that again for the next portrait.

I spent a couple of hours on this, and concentrated on the face mainly. The hair and t-shirt are not terribly detailed but I didn't think they needed to be in this. I really want to get the luminosity of a child's skin coming through when I start the glazing which is why I spent a long time on his face. I did this all in burnt umber and am really happy with it. Now I am really scared of stuffing up the next stages so I am going to do more research today on how to approach the glazing for the skin tones before I start that tonight.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Charcoal Pencil Portrait - Tayla

This is my lovely one year old daughter Tayla in charcoal pencil on A4 Arches HP paper.

Today is the first day I have picked up a pencil or anything remotely resembling a drawing instrument since I last posted. The reason being is that I have Strep Throat again, which means I have been sick for 6 days now and only now beginning to show signs of recovery after I went to the Doctor yesterday and got some antibiotics. Looks like I am one of the 15% of the population that carry the bacteria around with them all the time which is why I am getting it once a year at present. Lucky me. My poor munchkins are also not well, each with ear infections in their right ears.

While I have been sick I have been reading lots of art magazines and books and am so so inspired to get stuck into painting again and have some big ideas for a total change in direction. I really want to focus on portraiture next year and the figure and in painting as well as drawing. I feel much more confident drawing a portrait than I do in painting it and my attempts are self-portrait are hiding away in my studio at the moment waiting to see if I can rescue it or whether I should sand it back and start again. So I am mulling at the moment inside my head thinking about how I structure my art and my artistic development next year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Charcoal Pencil Portrait no.4 - Carter

Here is my latest portrait done in charcoal pencil. This time of my son Carter. A4 on Arches HP again. This time I used a photo that I had played around with in photoshop to up the contrast and I quite like the effect (although I am still struggling with getting decent photos of completed drawings and the white paper is coming out gray and they look so much better in real life). I am really happy with this one though and feeling a lot more confident with charcoal pencils.

I was especially happy with the eyes on this one. I still do them first and love seeing a person appear on the page.
Also please check out a fantastic challenge that Chavah Kinloch, a fellow artist from the NZ Art Guild is hosting on her blog at the moment. It is called 'The Random Act of Kindness Challenge' and she is giving away one of her gorgeous paintings as a prize. Check out her post here for the details. It is such a great thing to do at any time, especially at this time of year. I do believe that 'giving' is a fundamental human requirement to live a fulfilling life and recent studies have determined that it is as integral as the basic necessities of life such as food, water, shelter etc. I'm a big fan of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs and recent research would suggest "giving" should be down at the bottom of this pyramid. So check it out and spread the love!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doing the tagging thing...finally

Okay, I have been tagged twice now in the past few weeks, once by Chavah Kinloch and once by Ronda Turk (go now check out their blogs, they are both fabulous artists).

The rules:
1. Link to the person or persons who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Okay, so I have done the first two rules, now six random things about myself:

1. In my last year at High School, I played First Witch in a rock version of Macbeth. Imagine a mix of genuine Shakespeare interspersed with rock music and a purple Lycra catsuit and really really big hair (my hair was very long and it was teased out so much it would take at least 30 minutes the follow morning to get the knots out in preparation for it to all happen again that night at the next show).

2. I am a book addict and have in the vicinity of 5000 books. I read most genres and categorise my books alphabetically within genres. I have a real thing for sci-fi and fantasy books thanks to my friend Jo after turning down my nose at that genre for years. Now nothing beats a good fat fantasy series for complete escapism.

3. In my non-art, non-mummy life I am a Human Resources Consultant. I have my own business set up and do contract and consulting work and will be increasing that next year as I have been doing this part-time while my munchkins were little. It is coming up to a decade of being in HR but I do enjoy the people aspect and feel passionate about being able to make a difference.

4. I never did my big OE in my twenties as I was so focused on my career but I still really really have itchy feet. I can't wait to see Europe, the great art and the history. In saying that, the thought of dragging two toddlers on 24-hour plane trips to get to the other side of the world is just far too painful to contemplate so until they are a bit older, I will live vocariously through my friends travels and drool over their photos and stories.

5. I did a double major at university so have a degree in History and Feminist Studies and my passion was for women's history and revisionist history. One day I will go back and do all my post-grad. I loved being in academia and would really like a PhD one day. Dr Melissa..ummmmmm

6. Before I had my own babies, I was terrified of babies and if I ever had to hold one, I was frozen stiff ,so scared that I might damage it and always felt a sense of relief once I got to hand it back. Then I had my own and realised they are robust little things and I am now very comfortable with babies and toddlers. Nothing like cuddling a little baby to make me think, hmmm, maybe more,......one day..... but jury is still out on that one and after having two within a year of each other, I need a few more years break before we will make that decision!

Okay, now is the point where I have to tag six people. Because I slacked around with this, most of the people I was going to tag have already been tagged, so I am going to manipulate the rules (just for me) and list six blogs of which you should go visit and if those people from those blogs feel like playing along, they are more than welcome to feel tagged if they haven't been so already.

Check Spelling
1. Sophia Elise - manager of the NZ Art Guild, abstract artist and all around fabulous human being
2. Leanne Brischetto - photographer extraordinaire and if she lived in NZ I would so get her to take photos of my babies
3. Tanya Dann - Artist, art student, check out her blog to see the incredible variery of stuff she has been doing from sculpture to photography to really cool unique soft toys
4. Sandra Toornstra - life drawings that are vibrant and immediate, I really enjoy her work
5. Marimba Powley - check out her landscapes, they have such style to them and are stunning
6. Jen Longshaw - fantastic animal art and musings on country life

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Moonlight Dream Flights

Last week I thought that I had almost finished the dragonfly painting and then stuffed up the final touches. After it being such a battle all the way through I just didn't know what to do. I had prepared a very textured abstract background with iridescant turquoises and greens and then painted a very realistic dragonfly on top, having to switch to oils part way through just because I couldn't get the level of detail that I wanted with acrylic and the fast-drying was frustrating me.

So I thought about it and then this purple moonlit image appeared in my mind, not realistic, more stylised and I thought that I would give it a try. And it came together very easily and I sent the painting off today. It is acrylic 500 x 500 x 40mm and the photo doesn't really show it properly as I used iridescant paint in different parts so it is actually quite shimmery and the glazed areas don't look patchy in real life like they do in the photo. I also took a not-straight photo so the bottom left side is cropped.

This painting is for a young woman that I have never met, who has overcome some incredible things in her life and is now facing her biggest battle health-wise. She really loves dragonflies so this painting is for her and I just really hope that she likes it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Charcoal pencil portrait - my lovely husband

I was going through photos the other night when I was trying to find a decent photos of both kids together for the annual calendar that daycare organises, which is a pretty hard task - I have lots of great individual shots but very few with both of them. I came across a photo of my lovely husband holding our daughter and I thought, I want to draw that picture of him. So yesterday I did and the result is above. This is charcoal pencil on A4 Arches Smooth and I am heaps happier with this one compared to the last one I did.

I managed to do this when the kids were up and about and set my son up with his own drawing board, some paper and a pencil and a copy of this photo of Daddy so that he could draw Daddy too. I would post his two year version however last night his one year old sister tore it to bits when she wasn't too happy with her brother after she decided WWF-style wrestling isn't that much fun after a while (and as I write this now they are practicing wrestling moves on each other on the lounge floor).

My husband asked me when he saw this, if he really does have that many wrinkles. Well he was looking into the sun at the time with his head turned and he is a builder who works outside. And then for his hobby and his passion he is out on the boat with wakeboarding so he does look like he spends quite a bit of time outside but I love each and every wrinkle and I think they give him character. And I do really like drawing his face, it is a change from the smoothness of baby and toddler faces. So I am pretty happy with this one although can anyone give me a hint on how to sharpen charcoal pencils? I've tried different types of sharpeners and the lead seems to break so easily and I can't get a sharp point. If anyone reading this does know, please leave me a comment, I will be very grateful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My yesterday morning

Yesterday morning I dropped my lovely munchkins at daycare and decided to take a moment to myself before I headed home with the work waiting, bills to be paid and housework to be completed (although do you ever complete housework with two toddlers in the house?). I had my camera in the car and when I turned the corner from daycare I saw this house.

I drive past this house at least four times a week on a tiny little road called Risk Road and I have never noticed it before yesterday morning when I was obviously looking for the first time. It is this tiny villa with peeling paint, overgrown gardens and I wouldn't like to guess if it is inhabited or not (or if it is inhabitable). Especially when you consider it is smack bamm in the middle of Remuera which most New Zealander's know to be one of "those" suburbs, by which I mean, established old money type suburb. And here tucked in this tiny little road which has such a great name - Risk Road - which leads to many imaginative wanderings in itself - is this little house that is so beautiful in its weathering and the life it has lived that I just had to take some photos.

After being all inspired from Risk Road, I decided to turn the other way and instead of going home, I went to Cornwall Park which truly is a jewel in Auckland city. Beautiful spring/summer morning, the sun was shining, the dew was slowly dissipating and I just sat there and looked. Here are some of the things I looked it. Did you ever notice how beautiful the bark is on a tree?

And how beautiful the shadow/light dance is on a gravel walkway between swaying trees?

And then when I decided that real life had better intrude again (and I was getting hungry as I normally have breakfast after the kids are in daycare) I drove off to see a friend walking in the park. I rolled down my window, she asked me to walk with them so I did.

And after a good walk, enjoying the sun, enjoying the wind and the beauty of the surroundings, I then found some cows by where I parked my car and enjoyed watching them.
So that was my yesterday morning. It was a morning that I could have been working, doing housework or painting, however I think my unintentional break from life was just what I needed and I think I will be doing that again!

NZ Art Guild - Christmas Tree

Each year the Bruce Mason Center has a selection of Christmas Trees that are decorated by various organisations. This year the NZ Art Guild have been asked to participate and decorate a tree. I have been the collection point for art decorations being sent to me from artists all over New Zealand and the decoration itself happens this Friday. The theme was art and Kiwiana. So I did some little canvases, one of which has pohutakawa flowers which are coming out at the moment all over the place and are considered New Zealand's native Christmas Tree. The other one has iridescent baubles on the tree and a rhinestone at the top which you can't really see in the photo.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the completed tree. Unfortunately I can't help out with the decoration itself as I would like as it is happening Friday afternoon which is one day that I have no childcare options and is right smack bang in the middle of sleep time. So the thought of juggling two toddlers that want to be sleeping while trying to keep their hands away from the beautifully decorated trees doesn't sound like too much fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Figure drawing 2 - coloured pencil on canvas

Here is my second coloured pencil figure drawing on boxed canvas. I started this about a month ago but didn't get into it until yesterday when I did another 'sit in the sun on the stairs while the kids play in the lounge' thing. It is 200 x 200 x 40mm. I haven't varnished it yet but the other one varnished fine so these should be fine to hang straight on the wall. The reference photo that this was based on was from wetcanvas again with the same model Sophie as the previous figure drawing I did. Wetcanvas is a fabulous resource for images that you are allowed to use for your art.

I've had a bit of a block for the past few weeks and it has felt like I have had so many unfinished works and just wasn't getting any traction. Finishing this yesterday afternoon and then almost finishing the dragonfly piece last night has made me feel really good and all inspired again. Now I just need to figure out what to do to finish that seascape I posted a week or so ago.

It is also Virtual Sketch Date week again and I would like to participate but as it has to be completed by Saturday, I am not sure if I will get a chance given we have family coming to stay today that I am really looking forward to catching up with. Hopefully lots of photos from their travels from Europe as well to give me itchy feet (until I think about the realities of plane trips with a one year old and two year old which puts me off in a hurry).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fairy Princess Photos

Something different for a change. Still not at completion stages with any art but today we had a family walk around the doggie park (fantastic reserve that allows dogs to go off-leash with watering holes for them to swim in and a long pathway right around where they get to meet lots of other dogs) so I took some photos when we stopped for a picnic lunch. So here are just a couple of pics of my one year old fairy princess. I had lots of fun playing in Photoshop Elements with these.

I have also been 'tagged' so will attend to that very soon once I figure out what 6 things about me, you don't know!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A bit stuck with this seascape

This is one of the paintings that I am currently working on. It is fairly large, 900 x 750 x 40mm and is oil on canvas. My issue is that it doesn't look complete but I don't know what I need to do to finish it. It has been sitting in this state on my easel since Saturday and I don't have a solution. Any ideas?

Finally made some decent progress with the dragonfly piece too since I switched to oils for the dragonfly itself so once that is further along I will post that too. Hope you all are well, I have actually been doing quite a bit of art, just have heaps of things in progress and nothing finished.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hope - Yes we can

Here I am, in Auckland, New Zealand, being completely caught up in the American Elections. I felt so emotionally invested in Barack Obama and I truly believe that he is one of those special people who will go down in history for making a difference. He has a gift - people believe in him and seeing the spirit of hope and joy in America yesterday (well from the Obama supporters anyway) and the landslide victory, was just very very special.

I had the TV on mute during the day to see the results coming through (was working on some HR stuff so couldn't take the time to listen but I could look up at the screen and see results every so often) and when I had to go out driving, I listened to it in my car. When I heard him speak his victory speech, I cried. It really bought home to me just how important this election is, both for the past and for the future.

I have a degree in History and have studied American History and for an African American person to win this election is incredible and I hope it brings hope and belief to the many many children who have thought that they can't achieve certain things due to the colour of their skin. And I think it says something great about the amount of American people who voted for him because he was the best person and that it wasn't about the colour of his skin.

Here in New Zealand (and probably the rest of the western world), we have been so put off by the Bush administration and couldn't believe how such an imbecile could be in charge and make such damaging decisions that were affecting the rest of the world. The leader of this country has such an impact on how the rest of the world views America and I see how interested and invested people here in NZ have been about this election and how excited and hopeful we are about Obama being President. Even though McCain probably would have been better for NZ in terms of the Fair Trade Agreement, I think we all thought that Obama was better for the world.

So I feel hope, hope that this person is one that will continue to change history and make a positive impact on the world. Just seeing the synergy of the people who believe in him and are wanting change is incredible in itself and I believe there will be change and hope.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Charcoal Pencil Portrait no.2

I thought that I would try another portrait using charcoal pencils so this time I drew my lovely husband. My husband doesn't like having a presence on the internet and I respect that which is why I never post photos of him or refer to him via his name on here or on facebook and as I paint and work under my maiden name of Muirhead and have a different married name, he manages to keep his privacy. He was however fine with me posting this drawing of him so here it is and here he is - the love of my life, my biggest supporter and my inspiration.

I am happier with this attempt than Tayla's portrait but it is still not quite where I want it to be. I did struggle a bit with the photo I based this one off, as the back of our son's head was actually cutting off one side of his ear, cheek and neck so I left that to last and last night when he got home from work I had to get him to pose for me with his head on that angle so I could try and get where his neck should be.

This is on A4 Arches smooth paper again. I am almost out of that pad so I might try another brand next time to see the difference.

I also have two paintings on the go that I plan on working on more today - the dragonfly one is slowly coming along and I also am inspired to start another large seascape today too. I find I get into the flow more when I paint landscapes and seascapes versus more detailed subjects. I enjoy the zone when you are just blending colours and are able to get large areas of colour done in one hit. So I think the dragonfly one will be done in bits and pieces and I will do some landscapes/seascapes in between for refreshments. Also all our walls are quite bare at the moment after taking a few of them down to go to Cafe Apollo so I really need to get some large ones done soon.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tayla charcoal pencil portrait

Here she is, my lovely Tayla. This is A4 Arches Smooth with charcoal pencil. I found it difficult getting the gradations of smooth tone with the charcoal pencil and found that if I drew a line then it kind of stained the paper and even my trusty battery-operated eraser couldn't get rid of that line. I did try using compressed charcoal which I drew on another piece of paper and then firstly used a paper stump to blend it but that wasn't too smooth so then I used my trusty finger and I think that worked best.

So this isn't the best outcome that I wanted and I left the clothes and neck pretty undeveloped as by that stage I figured this was a learning piece and not one that I will give away or hang up myself. I do really love the photo that this is based on though so I would like to attempt this one again, perhaps with a mixture of graphite and charcoal? I do really love the intense black you get with charcoal pencils and I am pretty happy with the eyes and hair, it's really the lack of smoothness with the change in tone on the face and because my baby girl has such beautiful smooth clear skin I really wanted to capture that and I don't think I did.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photos from Cafe Apollo

On Tuesday we managed to get over to the North Shore and hang my paintings in Cafe Apollo. Here is a photo of them hanging. I think it brightened the cafe up and it would be lovely if I got some sales from it. However the publicity and exposure is all good and I have had sales from people taking my business cards before so I think it is a good thing to do. I am going to rotate work every 3 months so I need to get fairly busy on some large pieces very soon so I have work completed to replace these ones with.

I also thought that I would post of photo of my husband's creative work. He has just finished building this house and I am about to load it up on the internet so we can get some tenants in. It's a really lovely house and I was almost tempted to move into it ourselves as it is bigger than our house and has a separate lounge upstairs. After living with two toddlers who absolutely trash the house every single day, the thought of just closing the door on the mess and going into a toy-free tidy lounge in the evening just seems really appealing sometimes.
I do have great plans for when we build THE house which include a top floor studio with views of Rangitoto, a large library and separate office. That's just what I require for me, let along everything for my husband, our toddlers and my teenage step-son. It might have to be a fairly large house I think so I will wait in our current house until we find the right section for THE house (and have the money to pay for it). It will have to be a large section as I want my kids growing up outside with a large lawn and treehuts to climb to, bushes to play hide and seek in and flowers to pick for their mother. Can't wait...

Monday, October 27, 2008

We Are the World - Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Jackson

Thought that I would check out You Tube to see if the video was there and of course it is so for those of you that haven't heard this song for a while, here it is!

NZ Art Guild fortnightly challenge

Something completely and utterly different for me I know! This fortnight's theme for the NZ Art Guild is 'Community' and the challenge component of it was that you had to use collage. So I played and it was fun doing something light and different.

It is called "We are the World" as my interpretation of community is that we are a global community right now. Look at how inter-related we all are with our systems such as the finance markets which is top of mind at present. Look at how technology has meant that you can communicate instantly with someone the other side of the world. When I thought about our world as our community, it made me remember that song "We are the world, we are the children..." I remember singing that at primary school and I loved it so for this challenge I thought that I would do three girls singing this from different cultures/ethnicities but together in our global community.

I have no idea what I will do with this piece, but it was fun to play and do and gave me a break from this self-portrait which I am still battling with and the dragonfly that I have decided to give up the acrylics with and break out the oils.

This particular piece is 300 x 200 x 35mm and is acrylic, collage and mixed media on canvas.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - October

I really didn't think I would get anything done in time for the Virtual Sketch Date this month but this afternoon after putting the kiddies down for their nap, I decided to sit down and do a charcoal pencil sketch. I only spent about 45 minutes on this one (just a tad quicker than the 5-6 hours I spent on the coloured pencil peonies last month). I decided to crop the image for two reasons, firstly so I could actually get something finished in time and secondly because in the previous months I have really enjoyed seeing the interesting crops that other artists have done so I wanted to extend myself and try cropping rather than drawing the entire thing and I quite like the effect actually.
I also played around with the reference image on photoshop elements and put a film effect on it (makes it grainy) and then removed the colour so I would do something a bit looser for me.
Here is the original photo that this was based on. This was kindly provided by the very talented Belinda Lindhardt. I would recommend you check out her work as she does some amazing stuff with coloured pencils that I am in awe of.
I am looking forward to seeing all the other versions again this month. Basically check out the Virtual Sketch Date blog by tomorrow and you should see all the links for those that participated. It seems to be growing month on month and there is something really special about seeing just how creative and unique everyone's interpretations of the same image can be.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Charcoal pencil portrait - Tayla WIP

Wednesday was an absolutely beautiful spring day here in Auckland (has been raining ever since) so the kiddies played outside and I took about 150 photos. I got loads of gorgeous ones of Carter and as Tayla was quite grumpy (teething again at the moment) I got lots of grumpy photos and just a few beautiful ones. I decided that I would draw my favourite of Tayla's photos so I started the above last night. It is A4 Arches Smooth and is with a charcoal pencil which I haven't used before. Still a very very long way to go but I am loving the intense darks you get with a charcoal pencil.

What has put me off charcoal in the past is the messiness and the lack of control I feel I have with a charcoal stick. So a charcoal pencil gives me the control I like (am I a control freak?) but the beautiful intense dark which is a change from graphite. I need to figure out the blending side of things and may use a charcoal stick or willow charcoal for that softer part but I was pretty happy with the eyes.

I am nervous of smudging it and was wondering if I should have started top left and worked my way down. The trouble is that I like to draw the eyes first after I have done the outline as that makes the picture come alive to me and I really love seeing my daughter's face appear on the page. I guess I will just have to be careful.

One interesting thing I found when drawing Mackenzie recently, was because I have never met her in real life and only see photos, I didn't get that sense that I get when I draw my children of "that's her". Even though I am working of a photo of Tayla, I know her face so well from life that I think it adds something. I can understand why portrait painters prefer to meet the subject in real life as I think it helps with knowing when you have got that true likeness and sense of who they are.

In terms of other art, I have actually done more work on that self-portrait and it is looking better so once it is further long I will post it along with some of the exceptionally "ugly" stages this particular piece has gone through. I have also been battling with this dragonfly. I have been painting it in acrylic but I keep getting frustrated with not being able to blend and manipulate the paint like you can with oils. I was doing it in acrylic as I was intending to resin it once it was finished as it has a very textured mixed media background which would look great under resin but I think I might just paint over the dragonfly in oils and then just use a gloss varnish. I like acrylic for certain things but I find oil paint so much better for blending and manipulating and I almost feel like I have lost my skills in acrylic and the quick drying frustrates me immensely.

It is also Virtual Sketch Date week and I haven't done anything yet so will try and do that today. It is pears this time so might be a good chance to try out the charcoal pencil on something different that people.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A creative funk

For the last week I have been in a creative funk. Things just weren't going my way with the self-portrait, I damaged the porcelain Christmas decorations that I was hand-painting so wasn't able to get them for donation for Starship Hospital. I didn't like my initial background for the dragonfly painting as I did that one glaze too many and then couldn't go back so ended up starting from scratch again. I also couldn't hang my paintings at Cafe Apollo on Monday as I pulled a shoulder muscle at the gym on Saturday and as it hurts to lift, I couldn't deal with lifting big paintings up to hang and carrying them.
So I've basically felt frustrated and uninspired and in a creative funk. So today while my lovely daughter was sleeping, I decided that I had to pick up a paintbrush. I didn't know what to paint and I didn't want to even think about that so I squirted out 2 blues, 2 cool reds, one white and one gold and just put paint on the canvas. And this is what I came out with.
A bit strange, not really me and I will probably paint over it at some point and re-use the canvas, but it worked in terms of getting me out of this funk I was in by just picking up a paintbrush and pushing paint around. After I had done that, I tidied up my studio, prepared 2 canvases for some mixed media work I've had in the back of my mind and drew out the dragonfly on the prepared background that I re-did.
So I feel a lot better now and am actually inspired to get back out there and start on this dragonfly tonight once the munchkins are in bed. My shoulder has improved although is still not quite right and I am really missing the gym (and no an alien has not taken over my body for those readers that know me in real life) and using my husbands TENS machine on it each night which is helping. He uses the machine on his knee (wakeboarding = hobby) + (building = occupation) = three lots of knee surgery . So each night we sit in bed both with electrodes stuck on us while we read.
Also if you noticed the photo of an avocado at the top, I took that about an hour a go and played around a little with Photoshop Elements. I love avocado and it just gave me a ying and yang type feel when I was cutting it up for dinner so I decided to stop preparing tea and quickly take photos in the late afternoon sun. I actually quite like it and may even paint it at some stage.
So that's me, I'm back and will hopefully post progress on stuff very very soon.....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Self Portrait in Oil - WIP

I decided that I might as well post my work in process with this self-portrait that I am currently working on. Here you can see the first "drawing" that I did in a thin burnt umber. I was really just trying to establish the tonal values and was hoping that it I did that right then I would be able to glaze over to get the final result. In hindsight I think I did this too rough and I think it would be better to spend more time doing that so that the initial under-painting is very very smooth and correct.
Since then I have been glazing and you can see where I am up to with the top photo. I still have a long way to go and at one point I used titanium white instead of the translucent white I had been using to mix with and that put a horrid opaque film over the entire face. So tonight I went back with the burnt umber and have been glazing with my various mixtures of cerulean red and yellow ochre with translucent white. So I am feeling happier with it now. However I think because I brought in the opaqueness too early and all over instead of just the highlights, that I have lost the potential to get that real luminosity coming through.
I haven't worked on the eyes much since that first night at it so a lot to do there and a lot of refinement on the face itself. The hair, eyebrows and background haven't been touched and I will figure out what to do with those once I have completed the face. I have lost some of the deeper values in the shadow part of the face too so I need to darken those. So still a long way to go but I am enjoying the process and I think a self-portrait is a good way to start to explore portraiture. The photo that it is based on was not meant to be a flattering photo - I held the camera out from my un-made-up face in the morning and just snapped. I just wanted to have a simple face structure to paint and decided not to get hung up on whether it made me look good or not.
So I will keep you posted in my first attempt at portraiture in oils and hopefully I end up with an outcome that isn't too painful. In any case I am determined to keep it and not paint over it as I think self-portraits are brilliant for tracking artistic progression so hopefully one day I will look back on this and laugh at my amateur attempts!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coloured pencil figure drawing - completed

Here she is, my sixth (I think) coloured pencil drawing and this time on gallery wrapped canvas. It is 200 x 200 x 40mm and once I varnish it, it will be ready to hang without framing which appeals to me. I don't have a title for this yet and I am pretty happy with the outcome even though I was ambivalent about whether it was working throughout different parts of the process.

I think for the next coloured pencil piece I do on canvas, I will use a lighter colour to prime it as I couldn't get rid of the black base and haven't made my mind up to whether that adds depth or would a figure drawing be better on a lighter background. The only way to find out is to try another one on a light background.

I enjoyed working on this size as I could cart it around with me and ended up doing quite a bit of it in bed before going to sleep at nights (was a change from reading which is my normal wind down activity).

I just need to find out what varnish to use on this now as I have a horror of spraying it and then finding that it dissolves colour pencil and the drawing runs off the canvas. I am sure that is highly unlikely to happen but these coloured pencil pieces take so damn long that I am not willing to risk it so I will be doing some research first.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mackenzie - graphite portrait - finished

Here is Mackenzie, completed (well unless her mother tells me that something isn't quite right and that I need to fix it). This is graphite on A4 Arches Smooth. I find it really hard to take an accurate photo of pencil drawings. I know that other pencil artists scan their work but when I've tried that it has come out worse. Perhaps I should find out if there are different settings I should use for scanning as I do have a fairly decent scanner.
I have almost completed the figure drawing and it is getting fine-tuned and I am pretty happy with it actually. Just the legs and hand to go. I am a bit nervous of the hand so I need to just suck it in and do it and forget it is a hand just tones and shapes.
I also have a number of paintings on the go, none of which are at interesting stages to show. I have started a small self-portrait of myself in oil which is something I have been meaning to do for a long time. I enjoy looking at artistic development of artists through their self-portraits so I thought now was as good a time to start as any. I have done a painted sketch to establish the tones and shapes in a turpsy burnt umber. I will take photos throughout the process as it is new for me and I thought it would be good to keep a record.
I have also just started preparing the background for a dragonfly painting which is to be gifted to a woman fighting cancer. I don't know her personally but a call went out on the NZ Art Guild forum by another member so I said that I would do this. I was researching dragonflies last night and came across the incredible photography of Mark Plonsky. I emailed him to ask permission to use one of his images as a reference and he has kindly granted permission. Check this out to see his incredible dragonfly photos.
I am also at work on my donation for the Starship Hospital Christmas Fundraising. For those outside of New Zealand, Starship is our Children's Hospital. We have had to go there once late last year when my then one year old son pulled a friend's hot drink down on himself. That was a very very scary day and I am grateful that he has no scars at all from that and that there were such great ambulance and hospital staff at Starship. So they are having special market stalls with hand-made christmas decorations so once I have finished what I am doing, I will post a photo of that too.
So I am feeling very creative and inspired at the moment and it is nice to be enjoying working on so many different things at once so when one thing is drying, I can work on something else.
(please excuse the lack of space between the paragraphs - for some reason today Blogger will not let me publish this with spaces - I have tried extending the spaces when I write it but as soon as I publish it the spaces disappear. After 5 attempts at fixing I give up and I will come and check late to see if it is fixed)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

WIP - Figure Drawing on canvas

I am currently experimenting with using coloured pencil on canvas with this piece above. I primed the canvas with Art Spectrum Pastel primer and thought that I would play around with this because I do love works of art on canvas and it would be fantastic if it does work and I can draw on canvas then seal it and it to be able to be hung just like that. I am also experimenting with using solvent which is interesting - it seems to dissolve the pencil and you can manipulate it a bit like a turpsy oil glaze really. It can muddy it a bit but I will persevere with this as I can see the potential.

Here is a photo of it on its side. As you can see if is gallery wrapped canvas, 200 x 200 x 40mm. The image that I am working from is courtesy from wetcanvas from a virtual life drawing class last year. I will find out more details before I finish it so I can properly credit the photographer.

I also met with the owner of Cafe Apollo in Mairangi Bay on Friday and checked out the space in the cafe for hanging artwork. On the left hand side you can see about half the big white wall space available and there is also more space for two large works by the door at the end (behind me in the photo). I will be assessing whether I have enough works to fill this space appropriately within the next day or so and if I do, I will hang on Wednesday. I will rotate works every 3 months so it is another great opportunity to get my work out on display and hopefully some sales! I've had some good outcomes from displaying my work at the Albany Garden Centre and this opportunity has come from the owner seeing my work at the Pizza de Casa restaurant and taking my business card. So you do have to get out there to be seen and get sold.

If I do paint some new pieces for this cafe I think I will focus more on colourful landscapes. I do enjoy doing them and I think they would fit well in this space. For my personal development I really want to start doing some figure painting and portraiture but that is for me. I've been meaning to sign up for a life drawing class at the local high school so I better check and get on to that as I do have a feeling it was an October start!

I have almost finished the graphite portrait of my god-daughter Mackenzie, just the clothing to do now so I will post that as soon as I have completed it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

WIP - Softly Twilight - oil

Today is the first day all week that I have managed to paint. I have had the kids in daycare extra days this week so I could get work done and I just haven't have the time to paint during the day and in the evenings I have been tired as I have also joined the gym this week so have been working out!!! (And thus feeling the pain in the evenings which is why a glass of wine and a book has been more tempting that painting).
It felt really good to pick up a paint brush today and I really do have a love affair with oil paints. Just the buttery consistency and the smoothness and the blendibility. I mix my colours on my palette and I really love the texture and feel as you mix with a knife. So I enjoyed myself. I still have significant work to do on this - I will go back over the sky and water with glazes and need to work more on the hills. I originally was going to put clouds high in the sky but not too sure about that at the moment - I might work on it more and then see what it needs. The colours are not quite right in the photo - it is actually softer so I will ensure I get a more accurate photo of the final result.
In terms of size, I am pretty sure this is 500 x 500mm but as I am sitting in the nice comfy lounge and can't be bothered to walk up to the studio to check, I potentially may be wrong. It is a nice size to work on in any case and I will post further process.
I also have some good news about potentially finding a cafe to display my art in long term. I currently have some pieces in the Pizza de Casa restaurant in Albany and I have been contacted by a cafe owner who saw my work there. I am off to see him tomorrow to discuss this and will update on the outcome. Apparently it is a nice cafe in a very nice area and on quite a busy road so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photos from Vegetarian Lifestyle Festival

On Saturday I dropped off my paintings to be exhibited at the Vegetarian Lifestyle and Food Festival and realised that I had forgotten my business cards. I was just going to flag it and then late Saturday night I figured that it was important that I did drive out to the Festival first thing in the morning to drop off the cards. Getting cards picked up and people then being directed to my website was what I wanted to achieve from this exposure at this festival. So I did drop them off and apparently quite a few cards were picked up so fingers crossed some interest comes from that.
So here are just a couple of photos. The other two vegetarian artists that were displaying their works are the very talented Sophia Elise and Michelle Whitehouse. The art was displayed on the stage area of the hall where people could also come up and sit and eat tasty vegetarian food. There was a really good turn out and it was really busy so I'm really pleased that I participated.
I've got no art to show from the past couple of days as I haven't done any. I have been busy doing development work for my Human Resources business and I have also joined a gym. The gym part means that I am feeling rather tired and sore and instead of painting tonight, I am very tempted to lie on the couch with a good book.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - September

Here it is - my entry this month for Virtual Sketch Date. I can't wait to see all the other interpretations when they are loaded today. Please go and check them out too - links will be listed on the VSD blog.

This is coloured pencil on AS Colourfix paper. I mainly used Prismacolor pencils which I think may be becoming my favourite out of the coloured pencil brands. The size is 260mm x 230mm and this is now my fifth coloured pencil piece.

I do like working on the Colourfix paper but might try HP watercolour next time to see what the difference is. I went through one and a half white pencils on this as this paper does eat pencil.

I notice on the overseas blogs, that people keep referring to Stonehenge paper as being the best. I haven't come across this in NZ yet but I might do a ring around and see if any of the art shops can get it or already have it. I do have some Arches smooth paper so that will be worth a try. I use the Arches normally for the graphite portraits and it is lovely paper. I also want to play around with using solvent on coloured pencil so that will be interesting to experiment with.

Anyway it is a Saturday morning and I have two exceptionally grumpy toddlers as they both have colds so I'm glad I got this one done well in advance of the deadline as I get the feeling that today is going to be one of "those" days. I have got a large oil painting that I have started out in my studio but I don't think I will be getting a chance to work on that today!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mackenzie - graphite portrait WIP

I have actually finished the virtual sketch date drawing but as I can't post that until tomorrow, I thought that I would post what I have been working on this afternoon - a graphite portrait of my god-daughter Mackenzie. Her mother (my oldest best-est friend) sent me this photo several months ago and it felt good to start this today. Once again I sat on the stairway with a gate between me and the munchkins and I could see them playing while I drew. There is fantastic afternoon light that comes through so it is a really nice way to spend an afternoon (except when I have to play referee with the sibling rivalry which has kicked in recently).
Obviously there is still a far bit of work to go on this, but I thought that I would post a WIP so I can now text my friend (she lives in Australia) to say "go check out my blog NOW" so she can see that I have finally started!
Tomorrow I will post my virtual sketch date finished piece - we don't watch TV but if there is a show we like we will work through the DVD of it within a week or two. Several years ago my youngest brother got us into Stargate Atlantis so last night I managed about 4 hours straight drawing while listening/watching the most recent season. We finished it at about 11pm last night at the same time I finished my drawing so that felt good to get that done well before the deadline.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - September WIP

This month I am entering the Virtual Sketch Date again. I still have a lot to do on this if it will be ready to post on Saturday. Basically the rules are that once a month an image is posted on the Saturday before the last week of the month and then you have a week to use that image to create your piece. You can crop and change as you want. I am using coloured pencils for this which does take a long time.
Here is the original image -This month the image has been kindly provided by Sharon.

This morning I am off to the museum with the toddlers so I am hoping to get some inspiration and some ideas for a direction to take with my painting. The weather isn't great today which is a pity as we were hoping to have a picnic lunch outside on the domain afterwards but I am sure we can find somewhere to have a nice lunch. Speaking of this, I better go start getting kids dressed and ready.