Wednesday, 28 December 2011

First trial at my self-portrait

Last month I had a try at my first self-portrait. I have never even done a sketch of myself which probably should be the first step but I went for it anyway. I worked in the studio with a mirror. I didn't do any preliminary drawing on the canvas and went straight with the paint blocking areas in abstract way having fun with the masses and colours, gradually sculpting the face.
Here is the result:

Although I recognise myself here it is possible not everybody will; I'm not sure it totally looks like me, and to be honest it wasn't really my concern as I just wanted to get a feel for it and explore the colours that make the skintone. I quite liked "skipping" the drawing step as it gave me more freedom to paint an "impression" of myself rather than a proper portrait. I think I mainly recognise myself in the eyes:

The portrait is actually cropped bigger than the head and includes my painting smock which I always wear when I paint:

Here is the painting setting which shows an earlier stage of the portrait:

Here is the portrait after the first stage - I look a bit like an alien but kinda of like it!

That's me looking terribly serious and focused:

I first had the palette on the table on my right as usual but it made me move to much so I moved the palette right under the board to be able to remain still and keep the pose:

It was quite an interesting experience and I hope I'll get the chance to do more self-portraits next year.

I take the opportunity here to wish you all a wonderful and Happy New Year 2012!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Life Model - Pregnant woman

A couple of weeks ago I went to a life model painting session organised by the Bath Painting group. The model was a beautiful pregnant woman and it was a wonderful subject to paint:

Nude- pregnant woman   12"x16"  oil on board

I really enjoyed painting this one. I don't often get the chance to paint life models so it was a real treat.  


Here is picture of the model. Although she gave me the permission to photograph her I blurred the picture anyway for privacy reasons but wanted to show the beautiful light effect on her skin:

Below is my setting on the day. I managed to find a good spot close to the model. I used my pochade box as a palette which was really handy so I didn't have to clean it on the day and could keep using my colours back home on an other painting.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Salisbury with the Plein Air Society

A couple of weeks ago I went painting in Salisbury with the UK Plein Air Society. It was a chilly bright November morning. We were about 8 meeting there and after a quick walk around town we all agreed that the sunshine on this archway would be a perfect painting subject:

Gateway, Salisbury, November morning   10"x8"  oil on board


I managed to find a little corner against a wall to get protection from the cold wind and still get a good view of the Gateway:

We all set up behind each others trying to still leave some room on the pavement for the pedestrians. I was so glad I had my proper winter coat because it was pretty cold.

That's me with the beret and the french accent - I just needed a baguette under my arm and a moody attitude to give the full stereotype of the french painter ;) (I've stopped explaining that I'm actually from Belgium as people don't seem to find it as glamourous) 

After a warm soup and a good cup of english tea, we headed for our second and last painting of the day. Although the Salisbury Cathedral in the winter sunshine was begging to be painted, I fancied something a bit more simple so the park behind the cathedral turned out to be the perfect subject. Some sheep across the water really caught me eye so I decided to tackle this typical english scenery:

Sheep, late afternoon, Salisbury   7"x10"   oil on board

This was such an inspiring scene. The crisp subtle winter light and the quietness of the place reminded me of the landscapes in Jane Austen's novels. I almost started to believe that Mr Darcy would turn up from the mist but unfortunately I could only count on the sheep to keep me company!


This was a challenge in the way that the sun was right in my eyes. I felt I almost blinded myself looking at the scene so I made myself only look for a few seconds and paint from memory for a few minutes.

A stylish change of hat to cope with the sun - painting can be fashionable afterall:

Not far from where I was, Andrew Taylor painted a beautiful water scene which he managed to create only in a few minutes...

I'm loving the quality of light in Winter so despite of the cold, I'm very excited about this new painting season. Now, bring on the snow I say...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


For once I wanted to do something else than landscapes. I had a photograph of a peacock I took years ago and I've always been attracted to the beautiful turquoise and golden feathers contrasting with the dark green plumage. I did this painting in once session:

Peacock    10"x8"   oil on board

My trick to make the light touches stand out was to paint first my background in a dark brown colour, so everything you paint over that will look so much lighter than if you paint on a light background. I tried not to overdo it and only suggested the feathers and accentuated the ones in the light areas.


The original reference photograph had been on the wall of my studio for years as a source of inspiration and I suddenly decided to give it a try:

I think this is the type of painting that is worth looking at in a frame to contain all the things going on:

I really enjoyed painting this one and might be tempted to try an other peacock painting now.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Boats near Widcombe, Bath, November afternoon

Last Sunday I finally got a chance to try my brand new homemade pochade box as I went painting alongside the canal in Bath. It was chilly and grey but the winter afternoon light managed to show through the mist.

Boats near Widcombe, Bath, November afternoon    8"x10"   oil on board

My pochade box did pass the test and was just perfect. Lovin' it!

As I was finishing the painting, talented painter Bo Hilton - which I recently met at his new gallery Hilton Fine Arts - came to say hello. He made a few comments on my work and as he didn't have the time to do a full painting himself I invited him to do just a few brushstrokes on mine to see what he would improve - it was only a couple of brushstrokes but still a very interesting experience.

The picture at the end of the session


As I was painting I thought a couple of time that this was a typical "Peter Brown" painting spot so it was a funny coincidence we bumped into him as we were about to leave. Obviously a hot spot for painters! I'll certainly be back...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Peppers study at the Bath Artists Studios

A few weeks ago I went painting with the Bath Painting Group at the Bath Artists Studio for a still life session. It was fun and relaxed and I did two small paintings on the day:

Red Pepper   10"x8"  oil on board

Here is the group, well focused:

I always choose an easel as close as possible to the set up to get most of the colours and values right, specially when it's a small still life like this.

My palette is always messier when I paint from life as there is that feeling to try to capture things quickly and spontaneously. It does look like the paints had a fight here and it all ended up in a blood bath - don't you think:

After an hour or so working on the first painting I moved on to the next pepper-model who was posing like a star to get some attention. I don't recall ever doing yellow still life before (for some reasons I tend to do mainly white, green and reds) so this was a good exercise and lot of fun too.

Yellow Pepper   7"x10"  oil on board

You can see my ridiculously minimal sketch above the painting - I just wanted to get started with the paint really:

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Homemade pochade box!

In between two painting posts, I would like to share my sheer excitement about this little pochade box my partner's father kindly built for me! I've never been very keen on the original pochade boxes available in UK as most restrict you to a specific panel size. I got the guerilla pochade box from the US which I'm very pleased with but I was looking for a lighter option so here it is (tadaaa...):

This box is very light, slim and portable and will take any panels sizes (within reason). The bottom part is for paint mixing and the hooks on both sides can be removed so they don't smash the paint between sessions.

I've re-used my metallic piece from my guerilla pochade box to hold the painting and this can be adjusted to different heights. To hold the back/top of the painting there is some velcro that can be fixed on the board or for any painting taller than the box, there is a hook coming from behind.

Here is the box with a 12"x10" board...

The box has a tripod fixing and some extra wood has been added to strengthen the fixing:

Here is the hook that can grab the top of the painting or just the box itself for extra stability:

Can't wait to try it out and will let you know if it passes the test of my energetic brushstrokes...

ps: I just saw yesterday a similar post from fellow painter Tim King who has built some great pochade boxes so click here to have a look.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

La chambre à couture de bonne-maman, Malèves - (My grandmother's sewing room in Malèves)

During my last visit in Belgium I paid a visit to my grandma Odette. She lives in the belgian coutryside in a lovely restored farm that is full of character and has an amazing garden. I did a painting of her garden on the spot (see my previous post here) but also took a few photographs of certain rooms for future painting references. I just finished this one that is my grandma's sewing room:

La chambre a couture de bonne-maman, Malèves
(My grandmother's sewing room in Malèves)
14"x18"    oil on board

This - I have been told - is my grandma's favourite room; where she does her sewing activities (you can see her sewing machine under the protection cover behind the door alongside patterns and fabrics lying around), some of her writing, and where she has the best views over her sunny garden. I also have the memory, as I was only around 6, of her sitting at that desk doing a watercolour painting for me - and remember thinking "how cool is that??".

I started from the reference photograph and did this drawing to get the composition and values right:

The reference photograph

I also applied a photoshop filter to the picture to get a feel how it would look like as a painting and to simplify the information:


There are many reasons why I like to paint, and one of them is to be able to capture a landscape or place at a precise moment in time, like an emotional visual souvenir of what this place/room looks like today - afterall who knows what it will look like in 100 years? When I look at the painting I suddenly remember the smell of wood, fabric and dry flowers in the house, the sound of birds and wild pigeons in the garden and the sparkling light of the sun falling on all the little ceramic objects and glassware on the windowsill.

I will give this painting to my grandma for Christmas (at 89 she is still cooking the traditional turkey for the full family - around 35 people in total!) and I don't think I'm spoiling the surprise because, as cool as she can be, she is not familiar with the whole internet / blog world...(yet?)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Landscape in Herefordshire, October sunset

A couple of weeks ago my mum came from Belgium to visit me and we spent a few days together in Herefordshire to visit gardens and enjoy the cider festival (she is a garden and tourism journalist for various belgian magazines). I took my painting kit and managed to squeeze a little study one evening before we headed back to the hotel.

Landscape in Herefordshire, October sunset   10"x7"  oil on board

I was amazed by the beauty of the countryside there, which is very different to the landscapes around Bath.


What caught my eye was the highlights and gradients of blue in the distant hills, and the touches of light in the foreground.

No, this is not my third hand taking the picture but my mum
who couldn't help covering this exclusive painting event like the good reporter she is!

That's me in the middle of the action

I took tons of photographs there which will make great painting material so that'll probably keep me busy in winter days...