Getting carried away by turps dribbles at the #lifeclass

Oil paint granulates beautifully on Aches Huile paper and a quick study in the life class turned into a 40 minute exercise in prodding and dripping turps into the paint. I was also interested in balancing how much I had to do to paint to keep it figurative versus letting the paint do its stuff.
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This was partly triggered by the effects I got in the 40 min study of Richard also at the Bristol Grammar School life class.
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Yay, new term at #lifedrawing has started

I didn’t go to the Summer term and had forgotten how much I enjoy the Bristol grammar school life class.
Just drawing or painting in whatever style takes your fancy and about 80 other people all doing the same whose work you can nose at in the break.

Here are my efforts from this week, all 15 mins, not that it matters.

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And for further inspiration I went to the RWA 100 years exhibition and sneaked a photo of this Bernard Dunstan nude, beautiful greens in the skin. Well worth a visit and you can marvel at the Gromit queues at the same time.

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Might try painting next week.

Plein Air of the Holbeck Clock

Here’s a plein air painting I did in Broad St in Bristol that I’ve entered into the Bristol Art Prize. You can see all the entries on-line, some of the plein air work is jaw dropping. I think it took around two hours when I had to stop as a was getting cold and hungry after being sat in the shade for so long. It’s got a slightly streaky paint quality, the board I painted on had a quite slippery w&n oil primer so the paint slid around a bit. The exhibition will be at the Guildhall, which is just behind where the painting was painted from and will be on during October, it’s a judged show so hopefully I’ll get a couple in. The clock is hanging outside the former Leeds and Holbeck Building Society.

I enjoyed the process and got a few encouraging comments from some of Bristol’s harder drinking street residents, I’d not painted anywhere quite that public before. With hindsight I wish I’d been brave enough to ask one of them to sit for a portrait in situ, it would certainly stand out in the online gallery and put my discomfort to shame. If it runs again in Bristol next year I resolve to ask if the opportunity arises and see what happens.

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Portrait drawing with Laurence Kell

I spent last weekend at the RWA doing portrait drawings at the Laurence Kell course.

It started off fairly conventionally, although I think it was the first time I’ve drawn someone sat in front of me with a pencil since I was fourteen when I dropped art and took physics at school.

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We moved onto cartoons to draw out the unique features of people. I think this was the most fun I’ve had while pretending to take art seriously. I think I may have taken the exercise too far?!

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Then some tonal drawings, altogether more LaurenceKell-like. Would have loved more time to get them to that Florence art school finish.

An unexpected bonus was that the selection for the RWA Drawn exhibition was the same day so could peep at some of it. It was a pretty brutal and rapid process, the final selection looked great in the gallery though so it’ll be worth a visit. It made me feel better about not getting into the RP exhibition this week!

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Some rapid life class oil paintings

I’ve had a stab at doing some real full(ish) palette oil paintings in the life classes recently here are the results with varying degrees of looseness and accompanying turps dribbles.

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This one was a 1 hour study on Arches Huile paper at the Bristol Grammar Life (Ashley Down locn), size about 14 by 12 inch.

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This is a two hour study on a little 8 by 6 inch board, it was at an RWA long pose day a few weekends ago. I thought I’d do a little board to warm up and ended up fiddling about painting tighter and tighter but I kept at it as I quite liked the composition. I was also using Cremnitz Lead white painting the sheets so was really having a go at being a Freud clone.

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This is the one I’m most pleased with I think. I like the turps dribbles so much I briefly considered switching back to watercolours! It’s on a sized piece of cardboard, 10 inch by 10 inch. Also 1 hour.

Watch this space, more turps dribbles coming in the future I think…

P.S. not an oil painting I know, but I enjoyed the following Quink ink study too. I was pleased with the initial outline drawing in fountain pen but took a deep breath and dived in with the watered down inky brush.

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More Portishead Seascapes ready for arts week #art #painting #landscape

Been painting a few more plein-air landscapes on the beach in Portishead. I went down a few weeks ago wondering what to paint and thought I’d base a picture around the two fishermen I could see.

I decided to pack in when I couldn’t feel my fingers any more, which only took about 45 minutes, luckily this was the same time the fisherman left. They’d spotted me painting and were enthusiastic about taking a look leaving the beach and were keen enough to take take the site details from me. So, as promised, here it is following a small about of remedial work to make the sea horizontal!

Two fishermen, Black Nore

Two fishermen, Black Nore

Here are a couple more painted a few weeks earlier during the snow.

Snow on Black Nore


Snow over channel

Snow over channel

Anybody know the name of the factory featured?


2hr Oil sketch portrait on Arches Huile paper #art #painting

I completed this oil sketch yesterday morning. Thanks to Derek for being such a good model. I didn’t do any preliminary sketches this time and was pleased how far I got in the 1st hour leaving time for judging small marks in the 2nd hour. This was another Zorn palette sketch but I was sorely tempted to get more blues and greens in this time, it’s been a good exercise to learn to push red, ochre and black though.

It was the first time I’ve painted on Arches Huile paper. It’s similar to their watercolour paper but sized to support oil paint. My initial sketch marks were a bit of a shock; I couldn’t paint more than an inch without all of the solvent being sucked out of the brush. I had to revert to a more scrubbing dry-brush style to build up the under drawing tonally instead of a more linear sketch. I’ve got a whole sheet to use up though so I’ll be trying again.

I was pleased with the result though and particularly happy that the model thought it was a good effort.

Following the session I tidied up the hat to remove a satin look it had but decided to leave the background unpainted and un-tidied up, bare paper with the odd sketchy mark. I like the sketchy feel especially the turps dribble, not sure about the background, hard to sketch a swift loose background on this paper though. What do you think?

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Today’s portrait from untutored workshop with Deb Pearson #portrait #art #painting

We had 2 hours before and 2 hours after lunch in workshop at the RWA without any breaks, how does she manage to stay so still? Slight downside to having no breaks – less chance to chat to fellow painters and nose at their work. After a bit of sketching I decided to spend the rest of the time on a single study. Zorn palette again, red,black,ochre,white. I was using flats for the portrait and was maybe slightly thinking of the Simon Davis portraits I’d seen in the week.

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A real bonus was free entry to the current Reigning Cats and Dogs exhibition Pretty much 50% of the dogs featured were whippets, greyhounds or lurchers so I’ve absolutely no excuse for creating work based on the dogs. Fantastic to see the bronze greyhound sculptures that I admired a few years ago too. Still can’t afford them though!

Showing at the Cornucopia Exhibition at the Grant Bradley Bedminster in Feb

I’m really looking forward to showing with some other people from the Bristol Grammar Life Class next month from Feb 9th. I’ll be exhibiting portraits as well as life class sketches. There’s some great talent in the class and I’m looking forward to seeing their other work, it’s a mixed exhibition hence the name, here’s a preview page. Details of the gallery here.

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What have Bristol Drawing Club, Adebanji Alade, Zorn, me and Kate Middleton got in common? #painting #portrait #palette #kate

I was lucky enough to get to see the ROI exhibition in the Mall Galleries last month, the painting that stood out for me was a painting of a homeless person by Adebanji Alade. The most remarkable thing about the portrait was that it used the Zorn palette only Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, White and Black!

The link shows a demo of him making the painting. I was impressed by the range of colours from such a limited palette.
This palette is name after the Swedish artist Zorn who specialised in paintings of Scandinavian ladies on the way to have a bit of a goosepimply wash in a fjord, brrr.


This spurred me on to have a go and find a subject to try out the Zorn palette on. I’m a big fan of Bristol Drawing Club ( where pub and sketching people meet seamlessly. What’s not to like? At one of these get togethers I sat opposite Jim for 60 seconds, sketching each other before we shuffled along to the next person, a bit like speed dating with pencils.
I ended up with this sketch, thank you Jim!


 I thought I’d captured Jim as far as I could tell from our 60 second meeting, so I thought it was a good candidate to work up into a little painting.

First thing I did was to see what range of colours I could get out of this palette so started mixing. This is what I got…
I thought that was plenty of colours and set about painting using the sketch and some imagination to fill in the blanks in the sketch. I wanted to keep the colours separate and patchy and after an hour or two ended up with this…


OK, not a BP portrait award winner but a useful lesson For me on how useful and harmonised a limited palette can be and also a good reason to ignore anyone that is dogmatic about not using black in paintings, black and yellow ochre gave some beautiful olive greens.
Encouraged by this I had another crack, this time with a model called Ella who was darker skinned, I think the palette worked here too. Thanks Ella. It’s also pleasingly different to the Jim one.
When I was looking into limited palettes and in particular using black I stumbled across this article.  I was staggered to find a painter I was familiar with that painted large portraits using only Mars Violet (a dull red with a purple twinge), Blue-black and a bit of white.
 Here’s one of his works…


Pretty amazing for such a limited palette eh? It shows that accurate tone trumps hue every time. I must have a go with this palette next time out.

The artist is Paul Elmsley, he’s considerably better known today than he was when I first thought about writing this a few days ago, now what else is he famous for?
Oh yes…


I think he admitted himself that he was more cautious than he would have been with any other commission. Understandable I think and a pity if his career suffers. Thought this was a bit harsh ….



Progress of landscape from abstracted inspiration to figurative end point in 3 steps

1. I thought these sand dunes made an interesting pattern when turned upside down. Try it yourself and compare it to the picture below.

2. I had a stab at turning it into an abstracted landscape with the aid of acrylics and masking tape.

3. I thought this could be improved and I had another attempt with oils. In the process I played with vertical strokes and enjoyed the rainstorm effect of the top half.

I’ve submitted the end result to the Clifton Arts Club Summer exhibition today, I’ll let you know how I got on.

Sunday afternoon painting of a Sunday afternoon scene

Decided to have a paint of my lounge on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. I’ve not attempted an interior scene like this before. Pleased with the colour mixing and the dog. Interestingly it looks really disappointing online. Usually the most shockingly bad picture looks presentable online, i can’t work out why the opposite is true in this case.