Saturday, January 28, 2006

My new pastel books have arrived

I am so pleased - Amazon has delivered! Which means I now have the opportunity to combine two more of my favourite occupations - looking at very good art and reading art books!

My two new pastel books are:
I'll post reviews when I've had a good read - but a preliminary skim suggests I'm going to have a seriously good time - definitely a feet up with a pot of tea job.

And isn't on-line shopping a wonderful thing? I'd have such a job to track both these books down in art shops or bookshops. It's just so nice to be able to order an new book when I hear one has been published and I know enough about the author and/or publishers to know that I will be very happy without even seeing the book. (Mind you - the development which allows you to look inside books on Amazon is a seriously good development also).

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Feed and subscription facilities added

I've added a smart link for adding a feed from this journal to your feedreader. An alternative option of adding a subscription to this site via e-mail has also been added. Both links are just below the link to my website in the right hand column

Links to add a feed from this journal to specific webfeed readers ("Bloglines"; "Feedsearch"; "Google" and "My Yahoo") have also been added at the bottom of the right hand column

If you have any problems adding a feed or subscribing to the site please e-mail me.


I acquired a small soapstone figure of Ganesh - the Hindu deity with an elephant's shape - when I was on a painting trip to Goa. We visited a small rural fishing village and I was fortunate to encounter Ganesh's carver and we struck a deal. What I particularly like about him is that he was reading a book - one of my very favourite occupations!
This is a new small work - and it's the first time I've tried to draw Ganesh. The colours of the soapstone were an interesting challenge and it now includes pinks and reds in small quantities! The work is 7" x 5" and has been drawn using coloured pencils on black Canson Mi Teintes. See my website for further details.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Coloured Pencil Societies

One of the aims of this journal is to provide information about painting and drawing resources and related organisations to people who are interested in the type of artwork I produce. I've got a lot of benefit from the links I've made over the year - and it only seems fair to share.........

This entry focuses on Coloured Pencil Societies.

The use of coloured pencils as an artistic medium is relatively recent in the fine art world, although they have been used for some time by illustrators. The dominant use of coloured pencils by illustrators caused concerns about the permanence of the pigment (not required by illustrators), although these concerns are now being overcome largely due to the good work of the two main colour pencil societies and the manufacturers who have responded to expressed concerns.

I'm including links within the painting and drawing resources section to the two main societies associated with coloured pencil. Both provide a lot of information about and support for artists using coloured pencil. Both are also a source of a lot of technical information - with UKCPS probably being a bit better when it comes to sharing this with non-members.

The United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society was founded with two main aims in mind - to promote coloured pencils as a fine art medium, and to support UK based artists who use, or wish to use, coloured pencils, in any way. On its website are examples of what can be done with coloured pencils, links to artists who use them, details of upcoming events and exhibitions which promote this medium and a lot of helpful technical information. Artists who are members can have a gallery page on their website (this is mine), receive a quarterly newsletter and can submit their work to annual exhibitions held by the society.

The UKCPS has a section which provides information for artists using coloured pencils. This includes step-by-step lessons, tips and articles on techniques and information on useful tools and support media.

The Coloured Pencil Society of America is a non-profit organization founded in 1990. It is exclusively dedicated to artists working with colored pencil and has more than 1600 members in sixteen countries. It has an annual International Exhibition & Convention and provides product research information, workshops & seminars, a newsletter, a networking directory and district chapters across the United States.

CPSA publishes a useful list of books and articles about Coloured Pencil in pdf format

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The problems and pleasures of storage - and 3 "new" paintings

In recent years, my main focus has been on producing artwork rather than selling it - and, as a result, I have artwork stored all around my home. I keep aspiring to a planchest but I'm not sure they are a practical solution for me. Instead I've devised a system of horizontal and vertical storage files for my work - I've even got work sorted in terms of size.

However, I sometimes forget where I then store the files! Or I forget what I've stored in which file. Memo to self: Must develop an inventory system!

Anyway, my reason for writing is that I've just rediscovered some pastel paintings which were in a file I thought was storing some other paintings. It's always nice coming across old work. When I look at the work which will not be getting posted here or on my website, I have a quiet sense of satisfaction about how much I've progressed. When I look at the better stuff, it reminds me of what I can do if I've got time and the application.

So here are the three paintings. They are all paintings for flowers - done from life, in pastel on an abrasive support. They are all 19.5" x 25.5".

Camellias #2

Flower Study

The Fish Bowl (you may need your sunglasses for this one!)

When the Still Life takes over the shopping

You know that you're making your art a priority when you find you're studying all the fruit and vegetables you're buying at the supermarket for 'still life' potential.

I bought some cute baby turnips last week for just that reason! This week it was some amazing Romano and Marmara peppers. And I've got my eye on the dragon fruit..........

Friday, January 20, 2006

Can you ever have enough pastels?

Most pastellists would snort at this completely rhetorical question since the answer is emphatically 'No'. People who use pastels in a serious way seem to get overtaken at some point by an absolute urge to acquire yet more pastels - to try a new brand, to find another version of that colour which they use all the time, to just replace all of those they've used up - and most importantly - to have that sensation of taking off a wrapper and snapping a new pastel in two.

Whatever the reason, many a happy hour can be spent searching out new sources of supplies, swapping notes with other pastel artists and describing experiences of using a particular brand with all the eloquence and flowery language usually reserved for those who write about wine. Or maybe I mean restaurant critics? Words like "luscious, buttery, creamy, delicious" abound when soft pastellists get together. And then there's the whole process of grading the softness of the different brands and the different colours!

And every so often we have to have a look at what each other has got. Or we need to show what we've got to people who are just starting out..........which is what I was doing yesterday and why I took a photo of my pastel set..

So here is my 'other' pastel set (my main set being Unisons - which tend to be the preserve of the seriously smitten) or rather:
  • the 'in use' set (on the left) which is full of tiny bits which I always aim to wear all the way down rather than chuck, and
  • the 'reserves and spares' set which is the much cleaner set on the right with lots of paper sleeves on display.
The pastels are a combination of a number of different brands, including Schminke, Sennelier and Daler Rowney at the soft end and Rembrandts, Berge and Conte sticks at the harder end of the spectrum. The particular mix of colours I've got reflects my interest in painting landscapes in pastel.

I keep them in a "Pastel Art Bin" (one for each set). This is a very durable carry case with three removable trays. I've found it just the right size in the past for carrying pastels in hand luggage when going on painting trips abroad - although the shape of the pastels means that I always have to pack it at the top as it looks extremely suspicious on the security x-ray machine and usually gets inspected! I always sort my pastels by colour rather than type.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Indian Corn #4

Earlier this week, Robert Genn in one of his twice weekly letters (see end of this post) suggested that doing series paintings helps with creativity and commented in particular on small works - which I found interesting given my new project around completing small works
With small works in series there is greater freedom to experiment and err. Combinations and variations abound within each small work and within the greater series. A feeling of letting go, of "winging it," brings out our innate inventiveness.
On the whole, I'm very inclined to agree with him - and yet there can be frustrations to.

I have a new Small Work which has been very challenging during the course of its production. It's currently on its 4th incarnation. So far it has been developed twice on Canson Mi Teintes (CMT) paper, #1 on black and #2 on red earth. Neither of these versions quite seemed to work the way I visualised it. So the third attempt was on Arches Hot Press watercolour paper and the neutral creamy white background seemed to help with the colours of the corn - but the drawing had got tighter and the overall impact still wasn't right.

And so back to the original idea of using black CMT and a slightly different approach - and this time the colours are working better and the more painterly effect I was aiming for seems to be there. The paper however is now completely saturated with the oil and wax from the artist coloured pencils I use and has developed a really interesting texture! I think it's trying very hard to become an oil painting!

I've included a link to Painters Keys - Robert Genn's website - in the links under "Drawing and Painting Resources". I read past newsletters on the site before subscribing to this completely free resource - and didn't hesitate to sign up. It's usually thought provoking - and some weeks it can provide that extra bit of insight needed to turn the corner on a project or painting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Drawing towards Enquiry. Enquiry towards Drawing

I got an e-mail this morning from Clare Hansen, who is the Project and Web Manager for the Campaign for Drawing, alerting me to the series of lectures being given by Deanna Petherbridge (ex Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy) at the National Gallery during February and March as part of a project initiated by Camberwell College of Art.

Looks like they might be well worth attending. I've included the link to the site providing further details in the right hand coloumn. The lectures cover:
Wednesday 8 February, The Poetics of Line
Wednesday 15 February, Expressive Bodies and Personal Identities
Wednesday 22 February, Playing with the Provisional: Sketching in Art & Design Practice
Wednesday 1 March, Caricature, Crassness and Cruelty
Wednesday 8 March, Obsessive Drawing
Wednesday 15 March, Mickey Mouse and Manga: Drawing and Popular Culture

I've also included links to the Campaign for Drawing and the Drawing Research Network which have some interesting information and are well worth reviewing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pomegranate #2

I seem to be developing a bit of a pomegranate theme - I completed this larger painting yesterday. It's A4 size on an oatmeal coloured Two Rivers paper. By "completed", I mean that it's ready to go for its rest and review in about a week or 10 days time. I find that most pieces benefit from an objective review after you've not been staring at them continuously for some time.

I'm finding all the different sorts of textures and surfaces within a pomegranate to be an interesting challenge. I also like working within in a certain colour range while keeping surface colours alive and interesting. This particular image began to come alive when I got the darks going - as is often the case - and that's the major area for review in a few days.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Pomegranate #1

I'm intrigued by pomegranates - they have such a nice round shape and glorious colours on the outside and then you slice into them and get to see all the wonderful shapes and colours of the seeds.

I've been experimenting recently with compositions using pomegranates and am just about to start a larger study but thought I'd have a go first at developing a smaller work - and this is it.

This is coloured pencils on Arches Hot Press watercolour paper and is 7" x 5". I liked the idea of seeing a pomegranate halved but without seeing the complete shape of either half.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Working Smaller

I've started what I hope is going to be a series of small artworks - which now have their own gallery "Small Works" on my website.

The challenge for me is in working small - which is not something I have done on a regular basis in the past. But I'm intrigued at what can be achieved in some of the small works produced by other artists and I like in particular the way it forces me to look at potential subjects as individual items in their own right, rather than as part of a larger still life composition. This develops one of the ways in which I've been working on developing my larger still life paintings - treating individual items - flowers, fruit, vegetables - as landscapes in their own right through examining a macro perspective of the item concerned.

"Red Onion" is the first in the series. It is 7" x 5" and has been completed using only coloured pencils on black Canson Mi Teintes paper. You can see a larger version of this on my website on the new page for Small Works.

I'm hoping to produce at least one of these small works each week - and hopefully more.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Comments policy

To start with, if this seems rather heavy handed at this stage, I should explain. I did some research about blogging practice and policies before setting up this journal. This seemed to suggest that:
  • It’s helpful to have a comments policy up front so that this enables those who might be shy at posting to ‘know the rules’ and therefore feel more confident about posting.
  • There’s a general consensus that it’s better to publish a comments policy before rather than after you have been visited by a troll or received an abusive post which needs to be removed.
So here goes………….

General Principles

This policy is an amalgam of the best practice that I am sympathetic to that I can find on the net and my own personal experience of what can happen if comments are not moderated. Essentially I want to run with a policy which is derived from and based on what has been referred to by Lisa Williams as the “Living Room Doctrine” (UPDATE: link is now defunct - however I have found the extract which appealed to me - and qUoted it below) and the principles of the the “Friendly Stranger[link now defunct] and Rana’s “Benefit of the Doubt” . I’ll amend this policy as required in the light of experience and the development of even better practice on the net.
I consider my blog to be a virtual extension of my living space. As such, any comments that I would find threatening or offensive if said to me in person in my living room will be deleted. It’s fine to disagree with me (I allow that in my living room). Not fine is unbridled hostility, name calling, etc., either towards me or towards other commenters.The Living Room Doctrine
In essence then:
  1. I hope you will read this journal because you get something out of it and that you want to comment and/or interact with other people who comment on what I post
  2. I will write about things relating to the purposes of this art journal (see under “Making a Mark”) and how they: (a) relate to me personally and certain aspects of my life; (b) relate to wider trends and developments; and (c)might be relevant to others who are developing their own artwork and careers
  3. Learning is a good thing to pursue. Sharing information for mutual benefit is encouraged as are comments which expand our wealth of information.
  4. My journal is a virtual extension of my living space. Consequently, in this journal we will discuss things as if we were speaking face to face in my living space. Comments will always try to be on-topic, informative and polite. Discussions should always be thoughtful and respectful of others – this is not a debating forum.
  5. Private lives and privacy concerns are to be respected. When writing about personal lives and individuals both you and I will only share what has already been made public on the internet by the individual concerned or what we would share if standing in a queue chatting to a friendly stranger.
  6. Comments about specific individuals will generally relate to sharing information about positive experiences and innovation.
  7. Any references to something on another site should have proper attribution and a link.
  8. I will assume you to be a reasonable, thinking person (unless you provide evidence to the contrary) and I expect you to treat me as a reasonable, thoughtful person as well.
  9. My aim is run this site with comments enabled and without active policing on my part. However, comments will be moderated to start with and I will decide whether or not comments are enabled.
  10. If you have a lot to say do please consider setting up your own blog to share your views with others.

Comments that will be removed

This is my blog and, while I welcome comments, all comments will be moderated initially. Please note that using Blogger means that I can only delete a comment rather than edit.
  1. All abusive comments will not be published or will be removed – and I determine what is abusive in my eyes as this is my living space. So any comments that I personally consider to be threatening or offensive if said to me in person in my own living space will be deleted. It is not OK to bristle with hostility or to call either me or other people who comment “names”. Those who indulge in what I regard as anti-social behaviours (e.g. behave like trolls and/or conspire and/or practice deceit such as engineering double acts for false debate or creating conflict) will be banned and their comments will be deleted.
  2. All wildly off-topic comments will be removed.
  3. Any inflammatory statements, allegations or statement likely to generate legal interest and/or action by others will be removed.
  4. Posts will not be published [Update 2nd September 2007] if they are:
    • inappropriate (eg breach privacy considerations)
    • very disruptive to the flow (eg they would have been better sent as e-mails or are excessive in length.)
    • rude and/or disrespectful (eg if the poster comments at length on the topic and in a way which indicates they haven't read the post or subsequent comments. This is a conversation not an opportunity for people to get on a soap box.)
    • Comments on any post which are suggestions of items which could feature in my weekly "Who's making a mark this week" blog posts. These may be read but will not be published. If you have a suggestion use the 'contact me' mechanism. This is because I sometimes need to ask questions but mostly because I never ever accept a suggestion which are anonymous and lack an e-mail address.
  5. Spam (i.e. comments containing irrelevant links to commercial sites) will always be removed. [Update 28th June 2007]
    • I suggest anybody who wants to post a link to a commercial site but isn’t sure whether I will regard it as spam checks with me first via e-mail.
    • Any anonymous comments or otherwise suspicious comments which I suspect may be spam will be deleted. I always check who you are when you post. If I don't get an identifiable response your comment may be left in moderation or deleted. However I've just found that some spammers now have a way of masking their identity and consequently in future all such comments may well be deleted.
    • Bottom line - this blog does not provide link love to spammers
Where I have deleted a post I will indicate the reason why – at the highest level only (e.g. off-topic; spam; abusive). I won’t enter into any sort of debate about what I consider to be appropriate comment in my journal after the event.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Links to artist weblogs and websites

I've got my links to other sites reinstated (note to self - make a copy of all edits to the template before you fancy trying out what another style looks like!!!) And I've remembered to put in the extra bit of html which means that when you click on them they will open in a new window.........

I've split out the various art weblogs / journals from the websites of artists. The "blogs" or art journals vary enormously but demonstrate to me the different ways in which artists can use their weblog to display their work and or record how they see the world and develop their skills in producing art. I love looking at the daily paintings of Duane Keiser (A Painting a Day)and Julian Merrow Smith (Postcard from Provence) and really look forward to them landing in my Inbox each day. They've certainly inspired me into looking at what can be achieved in a small format and I'll doubtless comment on this further in future posts. The others listed provide some really good examples of what can be achieved and are my favourites out of the many art blogs I've looked at so far. Which is not to say there might not be others which I haven't found as yet!

The artist websites belong to:

1) People who I'm very pleased to have as my friends (you all know who you are) and who are working like me to develop their art and get more of it into the public eye. Some are working full time on their art and expanding their horizons all the time, some are doing an amazing job of raising small children at the same time as they make very significant advances in their careers as artists, some are working on how to generate more income from their art so that they may be able to spend less time on their current full time job and hopefully make that switch at some point - and some have still to get their websites up and running!!! But they will and they will be listed..........I'm planning to focus a bit more on each of them as this journal progresses. They're certainly a great bunch of people and constantly provide both inspiration and support as well as much good humour.

2) People I know and whose art I admire - Jackie Simmonds switched me on to pastel during a painting holiday we were both on in Bali in 1992. Having subsequently bought her books and videos and been painting with her again I can say from personal experience that she is one of the best teachers I've ever come across for those starting out in pastel. She does fewer workshops and painting holidays these days but check out her website for details of any coming up as I know she lists them there. I found Sally Strand's work inspirational when I was starting out in pastel and I am so pleased that she has finally got a website of her own which displays her work. I'm very keen to try and do a workshop with her this year if possible. Ann Kullberg is a very accomplished artist in coloured pencil who writes in a very accessible way and has done an awful lot to promote the development of coloured pencil to a wider audience. This list is only limited by those who choose to have a website or not which I can link to - there are many other people who have provided inspiration along the way...and hopefully there will be more links to post

3) Artists I've come across whose work I admire - this is very much an incomplete list as at the date of posting and more links will be added in as I get the time. Barbara Benedetti Newton works like me in both pastel and coloured pencil which makes her website particularly interesting to me. I rather suspect that Barbara also a liking for trees and I love visiting to see what new pastel landscapes are on her site. Elizabeth Patterson's artwork in coloured pencil is quite stunning and her work in progress page is well worth a look for those who aren't on slow connections.

I'm also going to be developing a list of links to sites providing resources for the artist. More of this in future.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Another sketch of Cosmo having a catnap. This one was done (double page spread in the MoleSkine) on New Year's Day evening.

Cosmo catnapping 2
The reason I've not posted it before today is I've been pondering about whether I've opted for the right blogger software and whether, if I need to change, I need to do it sooner rather than later. But every time I look at all the alternatives I get a headache. And as the flu bug has only diminished rather than disappeared I think I'll leave that for when I'm feeling a bit more invigorated and generally up for a bit of cyber thingummies. Especially as I've just managed to lose all my refinements of the basic template because I fancied looking at what it looked like in blue! Grrrrrrr!!

[Image size changed and technorati tags removed January 2016]