Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Artist's Magazine: All-Media Online Competition

Just a quick reminder that the closing date for The Artist's Magazine All-Media Online Competition is TOMORROW!!!

I've been thinking about submitting work and got a reminder yesterday from Nicole Caulfield (thanks Nicole!) who got an Honourable Mention in the Still Life Category of The Artist's Magazine 2006 Art Competition. Click at the categories at the side to see the entries which won and got to the final for each category of that competition. These are also featured in the December 2006 edition of the magazine.

All you need to enter the All-Media Online Ccompetition is a JPEG image - no need to get pesky slides produced which is a blessing! Winners will be featured in the July/August 2007 issue of The Artist's Magazine along with a list of Honorable Mentions. Here are all the details of the submission guidelines. In summary:
  • categories of media are as detailed below. You can enter in more than one category - but read the details for each category carefully.
    • oil and oil pastel
    • acrylic
    • watercolour
    • pastel
    • mixed media and collage
    • graphite, charcoal and coloured pencil
  • you can submit a work if you are over 16; the work was done by you AND is original (ie not based on published material or other artists' work) AND it was not done in a workshop under another artist's direct supervision. Source material must be available upon request.
  • All entries must be digital files accompanied by an Official Entry Form and a fee of $8 - and you need a separate entry form for each entry
  • All image files cannot exceed 500KB. The file format must be JPEG. Image dimensions must not exceed 500x500 pixels.
  • If you want to enter, given the deadline, you will need to use the online form and upload the image. This means you will need to use a credit card for payment of the $8 fee per image.
  • Answers to frequently asked questions about how to submit an image are provided here
  • All entries must be postmarked no later than December 1, 2006. (The online form I assume will record the time it is submitted)
Some tips for entering competitions:
  • make sure you read the competition details
  • make sure you read the competition details AGAIN slowly. The guidelines state " All properly prepared entries will be viewed and judged." People who produce good work can be rejected because they don't take the time to read the details of how to submit. With the numbers that tend to get entered in national/international competitions anybody not complying always gets put aside straight away.
  • make sure you submit a good image. Crop to exclude all framing and anything else in the background. Make sure it is well lit and has no glare. I have to say you can always tell an image which has been lit by an expert!
  • works which project well tend to be ones with strong simple compositions, saturated colours and good contrast which produces a clear focal point. I'm guessing but you have maybe 10 seconds max to get your image across. Could be more like 5.
In August, I did an analysis of what I thought were good slide submissions to the CPSA annual exhibition last year - after my friends and I watched the 700 odd slides submitted for inclusion in that exhibition. I also commented on what seemed to me made a weak submission. You can read that analysis here. I have no idea whether this entry will be judged on a laptop or projected on a wall - but if it's the latter or you like entering competitions then I suggest you might want to read the analysis.

I've noticed that more and more competitions are going over to digital submissions online. If you like entering competitions it's worth getting good digital images suitable for submission done as and when you complete a piece - rather than turning the air blue because it is now glazed/sold/out at exhibition/etc! It's so much easier than getting a slide done!

And for those of you are sitting reading this with your coffee on Saturday morning - here are the details of the Artist Magazine 2007 Art Competition. ;)

(Note for UK Readers: This is The Artist's Magazine in the USA - not the one published in the UK. This USA Artist's Magazine is available to people living in the UK if you subscribe - as I do)

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Egg tempera class at the V&A: painting with egg tempera

So far I've looked at what I learned about the support and the drawing, the pigments and the grinding to create the egg tempera paint - now we get to the actual painting! Working in egg tempera on a panel in class over two days - at the same time as learning about the paint and how to to use it - had some pluses and minuses - which I'll indicate below.

Who is most likely to like egg tempera painting?

I think I'd recommend egg tempera painting for people who don't need quick results and who have the patience to work through quite a few mistakes before they get it right. I know I came away with nothing but the utmost admiration for contemporary artists who produce large works in egg tempera (eg Andrew Wyeth; David Tindle)

Egg tempera seemed to me to belong very much to the age when artists had to know a lot about craft as well as a lot about art and will certainly appeal to those who like the craft aspect of art media. This is the very first time in a class that I've had a sense of what a studio of old might be like. Once we got going, people were cracking eggs and grinding paint for the next section they were going to paint as well as painting. We all ended up agreeing that while very enjoyable, having 15 year old apprentices to do all of that (as well as preparing the gesso panels and making the brushes) did seem like a jolly good idea!

How much paint to mix

One of the pluses of being in a workshop was that we soon learned to share the egg tempera we had made. Invariably people found that they were making up much more than they needed at the beginning - but it was all put to good use - albeit on somebody else's panel!

I'd certainly recommend that it's seems best to be very judicious about much paint you grind and mix to start with. The guiding principle seems to be to produce no more than you expect to use that day - given that you're using egg yolk as the binder.

The bonus of using good quality watercolours as your basic 'paste' to mix with egg yolk is that this consideration does not apply. However it does create a different problem - one of wanting to work faster than the paint allows - which was a trap which I well and truly fell into. Given the problems that the grinding presented for my tenosynovitis, after I ground two lots of paint I decided on the second day to work just with watercolour paints, forgetting of course just how long it is since I've worked in watercolour! Getting tops off paint tubes was 'interesting'! Here's my set-up at the start of the second day.

My set-up for painting with egg tempera on a gesso panel
workshop at Victoria and Albert Museum
© Katherine Tyrrell

Planning the painting is essential

Prof Wallace advised that when working with egg tempera she would normally expect to take between a week and 10 days to do a small piece. In practical terms this would typically mean working on three tones of one colour at a time and maybe no more than two colours in one day

This makes planning the painting interesting. You need to think about which pigments you are going to use, which pigments you are going to mix, how many tones you will create for each colour, which colours and values you are going make adjacent - a very important consideration for creating light an dark in a painting with a limited number of tones; which order to apply colours; etc. One of the effects of egg tempera is that it makes the paints very bright - but in renaissance times paintings would have been viewed by candle light (maybe a maximum of 50 lux) and needed to be bright. It would never be seen under artificial light.

The negative side of working in class was essentially about the time limits - we were producing a work on a panel in less than two days. One lady solved this problem by very sensibly using her panel to try out different small paintings using different colours and with different effects. I'd certainly commend this approach for people starting to use egg tempera for the first time.

How to apply the paint

The really difficult bit about egg tempera is working out how much more egg to use with each emulsion mix and and how many drops of water are required to make the paint work properly. It varies with each pigment and seems to be very much a case of trial and error which cannot be avoided. This is also the bit where being in a workshop and having a very experienced tutor in the room with you as you are starting out saves a lot of time in learning terms. Professor Wallace was an absolutely invaluable resource!

The other issue is about how to mix colours. The trick here seems to be to get both primary pigments to the viscosity of thick cream first before mixing. This is because different pigments absorb different amounts of water before they become smooth and creamy. Thus they can be mixed only after they have achieved the requisite level of creaminess.

Basic application seems to work as follows (bearing in mind I am still very much a novice at this):
  • use one colour at a time to develop three tones - dark value, middle value and a light value
  • start with fresh egg tempera every day
  • wet the brush and dry it on paper so it is moist.
  • pick up some emulsion and place in a palette and then add as much egg or water as is required to make it less viscose painting mix.
  • Ideally use distilled water when using egg tempera.
  • Use small brush strokes. Traditionally, the ideal was to avoid any sense of brush strokes - so in this context blending as you paint is desirable. More contemporary painters allow us to see the brush strokes and some practice optical mixing
  • never try to paint in a long line of equal weight - the brush loses the paint very fast.
  • always clean the brush in a different pot of water before adding clean water from a second pot to the mix
  • never leave a brush with egg tempera paint on (think egg yolk left on breakfast plates); always clean before putting it down ( clean in 'dirty water'; then dip in clean water and then lay down on absorbent paper or rag
I personally found that the disposable wooden spatulas which came with the V&A tea and coffee were absolutely spot on for use in extracting some paste/yolk/water and then mixing!

While doing the workshop and generally researching egg tempera on the internet I came across or was given links to some excellent demonstrations of how to paint using egg tempera
What to do if it all goes wrong
This is my own personal contribution to painting with egg tempera!

Some of the reasons it can go wrong:
  • the application looks patchy and/or gritty.
    • The solution: check out the background in Fred Wessell's demo and also see my comments below about the potential for the use of fine sandpaper.
  • too much water has been used. Watercolour mixed with watercolour paints and egg yolk lifts off the previous layer and can quickly result in a gesso hole. I found out the hard way!
    • Solution: when using watercolour paints use much less egg yolk to produce the egg tempera emulsion and don't use any water at all!
  • the egg tempera emulsion had dried out. Once a film has formed then you are potentially in trouble.
    • Solution: keep the base emulsion covered with cling film while working and use a small amount only in a mixing palette (we used oyster shells)
  • egg tempera can be rather mobile and you can get spots on your painting - I did!
    • try lifting off with kitchen paper and sanding back and then painting over. This doesn't always work
Working in a group meant we also got the feedback which came from people finding something out from the application of the paint. For example, I asked Prof Wallace how I should approach my panel given the large amount of background and she advised that doing it first would be best - with verdigris mixed only with water. Which I did, but the verdigris is a very gritty pigment and I maybe didn't grind it well enough as my background looked very dark and gritty. Until I discovered the wonders of sanding back using a very fine sandpaper! After that I had a very nice (albeit rather patchy) turquoise background - and I became a firm advocate of the creative use of very fine sandpaper with egg tempera! Verdigris is also apparently a pigment best used under other colours - presumably because it is so difficult to get smooth.

I also found that I needed to be very careful in making sure that a coat had dried fully before applying the next one. I kept getting a gooey mess - partly because I think I was making scrambled eggs on my panel. I did however find that one can remove a gooey mess using sandpaper - and battery powered erasers work very well as well! I removed the pear at the centre of my painting three times getting back to smooth gesso on each occasion.

Egg Tempera painting on Gesso Panel
- indicating the results of removing a gooey mess!

workshop at Victoria and Albert Museum
© Katherine Tyrrell

It's generally recommended that egg tempera paintings should be left for as long as possible before varnishing. I've got a note which indicates that the varnish for egg tempera should be egg yolk and water and again Ceninno Cennini has a recipe and an approach for varnishing.

What can be achieved in class
I'm going to finish by posting a photo of the panel which was produced by the chap I sat next to in the workshop. Vincent Daniels is a chemist by profession and works as a Research Fellow in Conservation; he developed a copy of a Fra Angelico piece. The brighter blue in the wings is lapis lazuli and I think the darker blue was alizarin crimson over the lapis lazuli. The background was red ochre covered by a gold paint. I think it's jolly good and much better than mine! I tried to work too fast and experimented a lot and Vincent just got on with a lot of thought and very steady application - I'm very sure he'll make an excellent painter using egg tempera if he persists with it!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Egg Tempera Class at the V&A: the pigments and the grinding

Following on from yesterday's post about last week's Egg Tempera class at the V&A, today's post is going to deal with the pigments we used and the grinding process.


The pigments we used came from L. Cornelissen & Son in London. Some came in packets, some in small jars and some in very small jars - the more expensive the pigment, the smaller the container! This is Cornelissen's list of pigments; quantities and prices (pdf). It starts with the pigments, ordered according to colour group, but also includes other supplies. Note as indicated on page 5, Cornellisen also supply small quantities of pigment for artists using egg tempera to sample and others also requiring small amounts. Descriptions of the pigments producing early colours are listed on page 6 along with references to publications providing more information about them.

Cornelissen have been established as "colour men" (the term used for those who supply pigment to artists) since 1855 and are based in central London (at 105 Great Russell Street), very close to the British Museum. Their shop is well worth a visit for anybody wanting to get a taste of a traditional art supplies shop. AP Fitzpatrick just up the road from me in Bethnal Green also supplies pigment to artists - but doesn't have a website.

The following pigments were available in class:
  • Blues: Ultramarine Blue; Lapis Lazuli Dark; Smalt Dark
  • Reds: Alizarin Crimson, Red Ochre; Rose Madder Genuine
  • Yellows: Indian Yellow Tartrazine; Gamboge; Yellow Ochre
  • Greens: Green earth light; Verdigris; synthetic Malachite
  • Flake White
  • Ivory Black
In addition to this, Prof Wallace recommended azurite for sky colours.

Cennino Cennini writes about all the pigment colours used in fifteenth century Italy in section 2 of "Il Libro dell Arte". Another book recommended by Professor Wallace which provides a lot of good information about pigments is "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques: Fifth Edition, Revised and Updated (Artists' Handbook of Materials and Techniques)" by Ralph Meyer.

Now, as regular readers will know, I like collecting, organising and sharing links to websites that provide good information as a resource for artists. So - it will come as no surprise - I've created a new squidoo lens to organise all my new links to websites about egg tempera and this also contains other links to information about pigments - including pigment suppliers in the UK, Europe and the USA. "Egg Tempera: Resources for Artists" is set up pretty much along the same lines as my other squidoo lens. Please let me know what you think of it either on this blog or in the feedback section of the lens.

Producing egg tempera paintEgg tempera uses an egg yolk to bind the pigment. Cennino Cennini writes about why you need to use a town egg (with a lighter yolk) rather than a country egg when attempting to paint fine skin tones. You can experiment to see the impact that different colours of egg yolk can have on egg tempera. Country-fed chickens are good for orange!

Prof Wallace showed us how to create egg tempera paint. You can also see a more detailed description of how to do this here and there is another demo with photos here.

Click on the photos to see more a larger image. In summary the process for producing egg tempera paint was as follows:
  • set aside a quantity of pigment on a very hard (glass) grinding surface and check to ensure there are no lumps (you will also need to ensure that the glass does not move around while grinding takes place).
  • extract a yolk from an egg. One way of doing this is by placing the egg yolk in the palm of your hand and letting the egg white run off until there is none left (see photo). Then roll the egg yolk between your fingers and prick the sac from underneath so that the yolk runs out into a small clean container and the sac is left in your hands. Alternatively if you acquire the skill the egg sac can be squeezed (see photo). The egg yolk released from its sac then needs to be covered by cling film to keep it fresh. Ideally you need a small sterile container with a lid.
  • A fresh egg should be used each day so only make enough paint to use that day.
  • a palette knife is then used to mix a small quantity of water and then egg yolk with a small quantity of pigment. The mix will vary according to the type of the pigment - some need a lot of yolk while others need very little. Some pigments work best if ground with water first and then egg added.
  • The pigment is ground (see photo) using a glass muller with a ground base which looks rather like a paper weight with a knob on top. Grinding continues until the pigment mix is the consistency of thick cream. The egg tempera mix dries very fast on the grinding plate and it can be scraped down and reused for the next pigment very easily.
  • Egg tempera paint should be kept covered while not in use, otherwise it will dry out and become very difficult to use. Once it's got a skin you've got a problem. Suasage skins used to be used in the past - cling film works well now.
I found it worked best for me if I extracted a small quantity of creamy paste and then mixed this with a few drops of water in a separate container just before I was going to use it.

The main problem for me and my hand (with its tenosynovitis) is that I discovered that the grinding would quickly become a problem for me. Prof Wallace advised that it was possible, if not engaged in conservation work, to use very good artist quality watercolour paints containing high concentrations of artist quality pigment plus egg yolk. This is because watercolour paint contains the most finely ground pigment of all paints. The basic principle of creating egg tempera is that a pigment paste is mixed with egg yolk. Water should not be added if using watercolour paint plus egg yolk.

Tomorrow I will be telling you all about how I got on with actually painting with egg tempera!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Egg Tempera Class at the V&A: The support and the drawing

Last week I spent two days at the Victoria and Albert Museum participating in an Egg Tempera class as part of the classes developed to support the two current exhibitions at the V&A - the exhibition of Da Vinci Drawings and Notebooks and At Home in Renaissance Italy.

The class tutor was Professor Marina Wallace, who is a Professor of Art at Central St Martins College of Art and Design (part of the University of Arts, London). She and Professor Martin Kemp direct the Universal Leonardo project (see note below) and the current Da Vinci exhibition was organised in liaison with this project.

I'm going to take three days to post about this class as there's far too much information and photos for one post! So I'm going to focus on the support and the drawing today, the pigments and the grinding tomorrow and painting using egg tempera on Wednesday. I have to emphasise that no matter how much one reads about egg tempera, in books or websites or in this blog post, there is absolutely no substitute for doing a class and trying it yourself. What's more I found Prof. Wallace to be a very knowledgeable and excellent tutor. The V&A classes have also been a really excellent practical perspective on and introduction to medieval drawing and painting.

Prof. Wallace used Cennino Cennini's "Il Libro dell' Arte" published in 1437 ( (The Craftsman's Handbook as translated by Daniel V Thompson 1933), as a starting point for understanding about the nature of supports, gesso and pigments. It's a really fascinating 'recipe' book - you can read the contents here and is available as an e-book here. I'm going to liberally sprinkle these blog posts with references to relevant sections of it.

Egg tempera involves painting using an egg yolk to bind the ground pigment. It dries rapidly to a fine film and is very robust and inflexible (you may recall how difficult it is to get dried egg yolk off plates when doing the washing up!). Consequently it requires a support which is equally robust and unlikely to move or warp. Painting in egg tempera in Italy pre-dated oil painting (which filtered down from the Netherlands) however many paintings in egg tempera survive in good condition - partly because the gesso panels are on which they are painted are very well made.

Egg tempera support - the gesso panel

The nature and quality of the panel is fundamental to painting in egg tempera. We started the first day by reviewing what is required of a support for the egg tempera.
  • Traditionally a wooden panel primed with chalk gesso has been used to create a slightly absorbent surface.
  • Cennini highlights how to choose the right wood for a panel in Chapter CXIII. The larger the panel the more inert the support needs to be - otherwise it may warp or crack. Apparently marine plywood works very well as a modern support.
  • Gesso is powdered chalk and is mixed with glue size to make a primer for a wood panel.
  • We learned about different types of gesso (gesso grosso and gesso sortille) and when to use each type, and that layers of gesso sit on top of one another (rather than binding together as they should) if they are applied too slowly or during damp weather. Weather conditions are very important.
  • We discussed the use of slaked gypsum versus calcium carbonate for gesso and how the quantities of size need to be adjusted depending on which is used.
  • The different sorts of glue size were highlighted (fish skin, goat skin and rabbit skin) - and apparently fish skin glue provides the smoothest finish.
  • Prof Wallace advised that if Cennini's recipe is followed exactly a perfect surface will result.
Acrylic primers are not suitable for modern egg tempera painted in the traditional way as it is too absorbent.

Drawing on a gesso panel
Traditionally, artists drew on a gesso panel using charcoal fixed with ink - but I can't improve on Cennini's description
Chapter CXXII: How to Draw on Panel. With Charcoal, to Begin with, and to Fix it with Ink.

When the gesso has all been scraped down, and come out like ivory, the first thing for you to do is to draw in your ancona or panel with those willow coals which I taught you to make before. But the charcoal wants to be tied to a little cane or stick, so that it comes some distance from the figures; for it is a great help to you in composing. And keep a feather handy; so that, if you are not satisfied with any stroke, you may erase it with the barbs of the feather, and draw it over again. And draw with a light touch. And then shade the folds and the faces, as you did with the brush, or as you did with the pen; for you draw as if you were working with a pen. When you have finished drawing your figure, especially if it is in a very valuable ancona, so that you are counting on profit and reputation from it, leave it alone for a few days, going back to it now and then to look it over and improve it wherever it still needs something. When it seems to you about right[114] [and bear in mind that you may copy and examine things done by other good masters; that it is no shame to you], when the figure is satisfactory, take the feather and rub it over the drawing very lightly, until the drawing is practically effaced; though not so much but that you may still make out your strokes. And take a little dish half full of fresh water, and a few drops of ink; and reinforce your whole drawing, with a small pointed minever brush. Then take a little bunch of feathers, and sweep the whole drawing free of charcoal. Then take a wash of this ink, and, with a rather blunt minever brush, shade in some of the folds, and some of the shadow on the face. And you come out with such a handsome drawing, in this way, that you will make everyone fall in love with your production
Below you can see my sketch of the dish of fruit and vegetables (made in 1540 of tin glazed earthenware from Emilio-Romagna) which I drew in the Renaissance Italy exhibition as my subject matter for my egg tempera painting.

Bowl of Fruit and Vegetables 1540 
tin glazed earthenware, Faenze, Emilio-Romagna
pencil and coloured pencil
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Notes: The Universal Leonardo Project is a programme aimed at deepening our understanding of Leonardo da Vinci through a series of European exhibitions, scientific research and web-based resources.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Blogosphere matures

David Sifry, the CEO of Technorati – which tracks virtually all blogs – published his State of the Blogosphere report for October this month. This is a very helpful quarterly report which helps to keep track of what is happening in the blogosphere. The key facts are that:
  • Technorati is now tracking more than 57 Million blogs.
  • Although the amount of garbage from spam blogs is beginning to reduce, they’re still having to fight intensive spam attacks
  • The increasing size of blogosphere has slowed somewhat due to the elimination of the spam blogs. It now doubles in size approximately every 236 days.
  • About 100,000 new weblogs were created each day in the last quarter (from a peak of 160,000 in June when spamming activity peaked)
  • About 55% of blogs are classified as active i.e. they post about once every 3 months
  • Blogging activity is levelling off at about 1.3 million posts per day or about 54,000 posts per hour.

Sifry focused in this report on the invesigation Technorati have done into the common characteristics of top bloggers, whether they behave differently and what can be learned from them. They ranked blogs falling into the top 1.5 million blogs (ie 3 links or more in the last 6 months). This is based on the premise that Technorati establishes a blog’s authority (or influence) by tracking the number of distinct blogs that link to it over the past 6 months. It identified four distinct groups of bloggers

The Low Authority Group (3-9 blogs linking in the last 6 months)
The average blog age (the number of days that the blog has been in existence) is about 228 days, which shows a real commitment to blogging. However, bloggers of this type average only 12 posts per month, meaning that their posting habits are generally dedicated but infrequent.

The Middle Authority Group (10-99 blogs linking in the last 6 months)

This contrasts somewhat with the second group, which enjoys an average age not much older than the first at 260 days and which posts 50% more frequently than the first. There is a clear correlation between posting volume and Technorati authority ranking.

The High Authority Group (100-499 blogs linking in the last 6 months)

The third group represents a decided shift in blog age while not blogging much more frequently than the last. In keeping with the theme of the maturation of the blogosphere, it seems evident that many of these bloggers were previously in category two and have grown in authority organically over time. In other words, sheer dedication pays off over time.

The Very High Authority Group (500 or more blogs linking in the last 6 months)

In the final group we see what might be considered the blogging elite. This group, which represents more than 4,000 blogs, exhibits a radical shift in post frequency as well as blog age. Bloggers of this type have been at it longer – a year and a half on average – and post nearly twice a day, an increase in posting volume of over 100% from the previous group. Many of the blogs in this category, in fact, are about as old as Technorati and we’ve grown up together. Some of these are full-fledge professional enterprises that post many, many times per day and behave increasingly like our friends in the mainstream media. As has been widely reported, the impact of these bloggers on our cultures and democracies is increasingly dramatic.
Thus there is a strong correlation between the aging and post frequency of blogs and their authority and Technorati ranking. The older the blog and the more often it posts, the more likely it is to have both authority and rank highly. (Note: This blog qualifies as 'middle authority' or C List. It's been in existence for 11 months and currently ranks between 30-35,000 out of 57 million blogs. You can check its profile here.)

After his report was published I came across a fun tool which purports to let you know whether you've made the A list yet! It's fun (for those of us who like pink flowery things!) but don't take it too seriously - ranking in the real world of browsers tends to depend on the weight of the site linking to your blog........

And the moral of this story:
  • Either - don't give up on blogging iof you've just started! Keep at it and one day somebody will see your art and/or listen to what you have to say! ;)
  • And/Or - don't take any of this too seriously - otherwise you could end up like Hugh's cartoon.........
copyright Hugh Mcleod

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Drawing Heads - 23rd November

Drawing Heads - 23rd November 2006
mechanical pencil and graphite stick on Daler Rowney heavy white cartridge paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

After last week's disaster (for which many thanks to those who commented), I decided to go 'back to basics' and actually draw a head. Well, two actually....because if I just do one I end up over-working it which is how I got into drawing the whole model set-up in the first place.

So here's my two heads from last night's class (click on the images for a bigger picture). Lots of hatching marks on the female face so I did a close-up so you can see that there is no blending going on. It always feels a bit like I'm sculpting a face when I use hatching marks in this way. Which made me wonder whether hatching and chiseling are linked in any way.............

The Prince's Drawing School has now published its programme for the Spring Term and for classes also being held during the Christmas Break. For anybody living in or near London who think they might like to attend you can find out more details about any of the classes on offer (both daytime and evening during term-time and week long during the Christmas break) by clicking on the link below.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

All the best cafes have a marble dog.........

Marble dog in V&A Cafe 22.11.06
8.5" x 11.5", pencil and coloured pencil
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Yesterday lunchtime, on the second day of my egg tempera class, at the Victoria and Albert Museum saw me sat looking at a statue of a marble dog next to a huntress. So, under the rules of my 'draw only what you can see' exercise for sketching in cafes and restaurants that's what I drew. I probably shouldn't have had him bang in the centre and did start off thinking of having him portrait - but that would have been really boring so I tried this instead. When I got home I tried introducing some colour as I had a much better view of the trees and the interior courtyard of the V&A yesterday........and then tried drawing with my eraser again - which is always fun. And what you see at the top is the result.

I've decided to leave the post about the egg tempera class until Monday as it's Thanksgiving Day in the USA today plus I need a bit more time to get it sorted. I've got all sorts of photos I need to download and sort as well.

On my way home with some new objects for the still life collection (you'll see them soon enough!) I noticed the new light and sound installation for the Christmas season in the interior courtyard - called "Volume".
A luminous interactive installation will transform the V&A's John Madejski Garden this winter. Volume is a sculpture of light and sound - an array of light columns positioned dramatically in the centre of the garden. Volume responds spectacularly to human movement, creating a series of audio-visual experiences. Step inside and see your actions at play with the energy fields throughout the space, triggering a brilliant display of light and sound.
Here's my rather poor photo of what it looks like.

PS I'm having some problems with my feedburner feed at the moment and am trying to get it sorted.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lunch in the new V&A Cafe

The new V&A cafe 20.11.06. 2pm
pen and sepia ink in Daler Rownet A4 black hardback sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The newly refurbished V&A cafe is now open and is being enjoyed by an awful lot of people. I'm currently doing a two day workshop at the V&A on painting with egg tempera there (see tomorrow's blog post) and tried it out for the first time at lunchtime yesterday.

It's very interesting combination of styles - sort of Carluccio's meets William Morris.
The Café is located in the V&A's original refreshment rooms, the Morris, Gamble and Pointer Rooms. These three rooms formed the first museum restaurant in the world and were intended as a showpiece of modern design, craftsmanship and manufacturing.
Here's a pen and ink sketch of four ladies having lunch that I did in 15 minutes while eating salami, mozzarella and rocket on foccacia. The window behind their heads looks out on to the John Madejski Garden at the centre of the museum buildings.

Links: Victoria and Albert Museum

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"On My Desk" celebrates a 100 desks on view

Following on from the images of Duane Keiser's studio in yesterday's post, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at "On My Desk". Earlier this month, it celebrated a major milestone by posting the 100th working environment of a professional artist or illustrator.

The purpose of "On My Desk" is for artists, illustrators, designers and creative folk to share the stuff on their desks and in and around their working space - as much or as little as they'd like to share. If you look under the 'Choose a desk' menu, you'll see that illustrators seem to be in the majority but that there's also quite a few artists as well as the odd Art Director. If you;re thinking you might like to post your enviroment do take a look at the FAQ section for who can post and are the sort of things to cover.

I found myself absolutely hooked when I discovered this site - I love looking at other people's workspaces as it gives me all sorts of ideas for developing my own - and getting the storage sorted! Another good thread for the pastel artists among you is this one on the Top Ten Studio Necessities in the Wet Canvas Pastel Talk Forum - I think the forum ladies are maybe a little more honest about just how messy it can get at times!

At the moment I'm getting very frustrated as all my creative "stuff" is becoming increasingly scattered all round my home - "taking over" would be another way of describing it! Tackling this is an imminent project and the reason you're not seeing anything here other than a very small section of my art book collection which is currently spread over four bookcases - but I have at least achieved getting almost all of them off the floor!!! I think you've got the Cs for Colour and Coloured Pencil in the photo (click and you might be able to see the titles) - but even then I know there at least three books next to my bed on this topic! Do bear in mind that my shopping habits rank buying art books second after buying art supplies and just ahead of shopping for the still life in the supermarket and a long way before anything else! I've had to strictly ration my visits to art bookshops and Amazon as I'm a self-confessed bookaholic - one is never enough!

Anyway, I've decided that SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE! Soon. Preferably in December - as in starting next week....................

What's your working space like - and do you ever manage to keep it all under control in neat boxes?

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Duane Keiser - processes and paintings

Night Studio II
oil on linen, 10"x 10" 2003
copyright Duane Keiser and reproduced with his permission

Many people interested in art on the internet have heard of Duane Keiser. Most probably think of him as the man with the "A Painting a Day" blog who initially stimulated the new phenomena for posting a painting a day on a blog and then selling them on the internet. However there's an awful lot more to Duane than nearly two years of daily paintings on his first blog and a phenomenal record of sales.

As his resume reveals, he's been a painter for a very long time. He has an MFA (1990) and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Art (Painting) with the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. He has also had work in gallery exhibitions in New York, Boston, New Jersey and Richmond since 1987.

His website, provides an insight into the nature of the paintings he produces for exhibitions as well as some of the best examples of his daily paintings - check out the galleries of "Still Lifes", "Interiors", "Nocturnes" and "Landscapes". Personally, I really like the paintings that convey the subleties of colour that he finds in painting a view which is mostly one colour but also has different textures that in turn have a different response to light. His coloured greys are amazing.

Duane stopped literally posting a painting each day to his blog earlier this year but still posts frequently as he keeps up a remarkable high quality output of small paintings which he still auctions on e-bay. However this year he has started to develop videos and has created two new blogs which convey rather more about the man, how he paints and his thoughts on the process of painting.

His blog "On Painting" started on August 15. In it he writes about painting - how he paints and his take on new developments in the art world and associated phenomena. You can subscribe to this blog and get each new post as it's written by providing your e-mail address.

His first post "On A-Painting-a-Day (Part1)" is about how the painting a day project started. He also expresses his views about others who have also adopted the same concept in "On A-Painting-a-Day (Part 2)". The second paragraph is especially pertinent to those new to the concept - and he provides some excellent advice.
There are two things that are a problem: some of what I am seeing now is people tacking their work onto the business model. I built the business model around my work, not the other way around. In short, the way some painters work doesn't always fit into the PAD idea. I'm not denigrating the work (there are some good painters out there) I'm just saying that everyone has their own unique way of painting and they would be better served, as painters, to design a creative/business model that suits there own unique work instead of trying to fit the proverbial square peg into the round hole. Secondly, the business side of painting has to be kept separate from what happens at the easel, and this is almost impossible if you do not have a sense of who you are as a painter. If you are a beginner, and you become involved in the day to day machinations of what is selling and what is not, it is very hard to treat painting like an exploration... it devolves into a search for answers rather than a search for questions. (Duane Keiser)

Untitled work in progress
oil in linen 16" x 16"
copyright Duane Keiser and reproduced here with his permission

At the beginning of this month, Duane started a second new blog called "Process". This illustrates the process of producing a larger work. He's currently working on a self-portrait of himself in his studio. It's very interesting - both in terms of the composition he's chosen and hearing about the decisions he's making as he progresses the painting.
For this blog I will be documenting the making of a painting: from the development of the initial idea to the finished piece. These will be long-term paintings, typically taking months or longer to complete. They are the projects that I work on in the background of my other work, so there will be days or weeks that I may not work and then spurts of consistent daily painting. The painting I'm starting with is already in progress. I will post the details of the areas that I worked on last. (Duane Keiser)
Duane has also created videos of his painting - but more about those in a later post.

All in all, he's a very interesting man who produces some very interesting paintings. Do take the time to read what he has written and look at some of his larger works - you won't regret it.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Single Peony

"Single Peony"
8.5" x 11.5", coloured pencil on Saunders Waterford HP 140 lb
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This peony was in one of the herbaceous borders at Kew Gardens in May this year. The garden was ablaze with them and I ended up with absolutely masses of photographs but this was one of my favourites because of its form.

I'm beginning to notice something interesting about my drawing. I'm enjoying the backgrounds more and more, particularly if they have one of my 'colour field' effects - basically layers and layers of different colours producing an optical effect using an open hatching technique. Scans do not reproduce the effect terribly well though - on the other hand, they might and it could just be my scanning technique!

With this particular drawing, I knew I wanted a very dark background because to get form into the peony I needed to be able to use colour and I needed to keep the contrast heightened. So I decided to try using Zest-It solvent to melt the coloured pencil in the background so that it covered the paper. Basically this just meant that I could get a good lush dark faster. A lot of coloured pencil artists who have very rich darks in their work prefer to use solvent to avoid acquiring a repetitive strain injury to the hand using the pencils.

You can find more details about Zest-It below - artists mainly use it with oils as a replacement for turps but it's also very useful in colour pencil work.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

The next International sketchcrawl is on........

St Paul's Cathedral and Southwark Bridge
11.75" x 16.5", pencil and coloured pencil in Daler black hardback sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

....... Saturday December 9th.

You can find details here:
But what is a "SketchCrawl"?
In short, roughly every 3 months we put a call out to people around the world to join in, put pen to paper on a given day for as long as they can (be it 20 minutes or 8 hours) drawing, sketching, journaling about their day and what's around them. For a day, slow down, look around you, see ... and draw or write. Record your day. No specific level of skill is expected ! Anyone is welcome.

How to participate.
We set up a forum where to seek and organize meetings with artists from your area. You can participate in SketchCrawl on your own or with a group of friends. I usually meet groups of artists in San Francisco, where I live. The forums and the Flickr SketchCrawl group also serve as gathering and sharing place after the drawing marathon day. The idea behind this is to get the great feeling of drawing with and at the same time as peoples from all walks of life and from all corners of the world; and ultimately by sharing the day's sketches and photos on Flickr and the SketchCrawl forums, to see places and details from corners of the world we might not see at all in our life time !

The history of it.
We put out a call for the first World Wide SketchCrawl on November 21st 2004, we've done 11 drawing marathons since and people from all over the world have joined in and shared their drawings.
  • in the forum for the 12th international Sketchcrawl - which lists threads for different cities. Check to make sure your locations is not covered before starting a new one.I shall be trying to get out and about in London on the day itself - probably somewhere where I can get inside and get warm easily as I doubt very much that the weather will be as warm as it was last time. ;).
This is the Forum thread for the London sketchcrawl. Remember you don't have to join a group to do the sketchcrawl but if you want to be with a group, then the forum is the place to find people to be with.

You can see what I did on the last sketchcrawl here in "10th International Sketchcrawl - the results". The sketch at the top of the page was the last one I did on that very hot day.


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