Monday, 24 October 2011

Mackinac Island, Michigan

A few days ago, a friend of mine on Facebook posted his latest holiday pictures of Mackinac Island in Michigan, US. I've never been there and certainly have never painted there but I found his photographs beautiful and couldn't help asking him the permission to use them for painting studies. So here it is:

Mackinac Island, Michigan    12"x10"    oil on board

I love painting outside in plein air but I also love just losing track of time in my little studio, forgetting everything and just having fun with the first painting idea that comes to my mind - and this is exactly what this sort of painting is about.

The reference photograph © Keonne Rodriguez

Here is the painting in progress
with my computer showing the reference photograph

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Bath Prize preview night

I spent a great evening yesterday at the Bath Prize exhibition preview at the Octagon in Bath.
Here are the paintings I have on show:

Builders at lunchtime, Bond Street, Bath - 12”x10”

The Theatre Royal, Bath, Summer evening - 12”x20”

Boats on the Avon, Summer evening - 12”x10”

Reflections on the river, Bath - 12”x10”

The Guildhall, Bath, summer afternoon - 12”x12”

The Bath Artists Studio on a Saturday afternoon - 12”x10”

Although I didn't win an actual prize,  I was very glad to find out one of my painting (Builders at lunchtime) got the "Highly commended" mention! Great surprise!

Two of my paintings

Bring it on!

That's me (with a weird shadow on my face!)  with the painter Andrew Taylor 

 I was very pleased too with the way my paintings were displayed:


Plenty of people turned up

It was a great opportunity to meet other artists. I was very glad I managed to have a little chat with the amazing painter Peter Brown who was one of the judges. Andrew and I also got caught up a in big conversation with talented Watercolourist Bob Child only to realise we were the last people in the room!

Right at the end of the evening before we got kicked out!

The show is on at the Octagon, Bath until the 27th of October and all the paintings are for sale by auction (click here to access the page) finishing on the Friday 28th at 7pm. (click here for more details)

Monday, 17 October 2011

My biggest painting challenge so far...

Here is a painting I completed for a commission a few months ago. It was commissioned from a whole family to be a birthday present for their mother/grandmother. The brief was to have a painting of the whole family together on a Nord Sea beach in Belgium.

Une après midi à la mer du Nord    18"x14"   oil on board

I called it a challenge for many reasons: first I'm not particularly familiar with portraits/figures as 90% of my work is landscape. Secondly this was done from photograph and I've never met most of the people in the painting so it's was a challenge to include 5 adults, 4 kids, a dog and a horse (!) in the same painting and get them all right... Finally this particular scene as such never happened which means I didn't have one photograph to work from, but instead around 50 different photographs/portraits of everybody in various positions/lights/clothing so I had to come up with a suitable composition.

Here is how I did it:

Step1: composition
Before I could even dream of picking up my brushes, I had to come up with a concept, a composition that would enable me to display everybody in positions as natural as possible but still without showing anybody from behind. Being a Graphic Designer in my full time job, I thought I could make good use of my skills and do a photoshop montage using various pictures (some even from google for the background and objects), cutting out people and moving them around until I'm happy with it.

Photoshop composition

Step2: photoshop filter
To test the quality of the composition, get the essence of the light and structure and to erase all the montage imperfections, I applied an artistic filter in photoshop. That enabled me to get a feel if this would work or not as a painting and could see it going somewhere.

Photoshop artistic effects

Step3: sketch
Afterwards I did a quick sketch to place the characters properly.

First sketch

Step4: oil background
Then I started painting the background of the painting (that's the easy bit).

Background painting

Step5: sketch with grid
Then I did an other sketch of the outlines of the drawing and applied a grid to it.

Sketch with grid 

Step6: sketch and grid on the painting
I then traced the same grid on my painting to enable me to easily reproduce the drawing.

Paintting with grid and sketch

Step7: colour blocking
I then started to gradually apply the colours and shapes of the people (and animals!) but I had to keep in mind where the light was coming from and keep it unified as the photographs on the photoshop composition were all from different lighting/colour etc...

Building up the figures

Step8: painting the faces
The trickiest part was probably to get all the faces right and make them recognisable. I kept referring to various pictures on my laptop  while painting to try to get the correct expressions and features.

Adding details with the photo references

I wanted to only suggest the faces but still get them clear enough to be identifiable.


Step6: final touches
Here is the final painting. I added various objects and tried to unify the shadows and light effect.

The final painting

The family was  really happy with it (what a relief!) and I've just heard that the mother/grandmother was really happy too and moved when she received it. I've been told, when she received it, she kept repeating "I love it, I love it, it's beautiful."

So, it was a tough challenge but I'm so glad I did it!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

My Grandma's garden

A couple of weeks ago I was in Belgium to spend some time with my family and I took a small oil painting kit and a couple of boards with me just in case. I was glad I did because I managed to do a quick study of my grandma's garden while I was paying her a visit. I need to say first that her garden is not any garden; it has been beautifully maintained and cherished over the years and won some local awards too! But then my Grandma is not any Grandma either. She is the most enthusiastic and energetic person I know and she is still out and about gardening and cutting the lawn at almost 90 years old! She is also a talented writer, artist and incredible pianist. What I call an inspirational person!

Here is the study I did:

My Grandma's garden, Malèves     10"x12"   oil on board

I painted this from the living room and had the french windows wide open:

I set up on the living room carpet and as I forgot my palette in UK, I borrowed one my Grandma's tray. (I promise I cleaned it afterwards and didn't stain the carpet!)

That's me with my painting smock. I'm aware I look rather ridiculous but it enables me to wear it over my clothes without having to change. So it's convenience before style here!

Here is my grandma, comfortably wrapped up who had been watching me paint with affection whispering several "oh" and "ha" here and there as I was gradually suggesting her plants and flowers in the painting. She was very happy with it so I'm glad it will turn into a nice souvenir.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Calm waters, summer evening

Here is a small painting of the River Avon on a summer evening, just a couple of minutes walk from my flat.

Calm waters, summer evening   10"x8"   oil on board

This has been done from a photograph I took a few weeks ago as I was looking for a spot to paint. This is the view from the bridge and I almost painted this on the spot but changed my mind at the last minute as there were too many people crossing that bridge and I was too much on the way. I decided to take a picture and paint it back in the studio and went on to paint a quieter place that day that you might have seen on one of my previous posts (click here to see the post).

The photograph reference

As you will probably notice on the photograph above, I decided not to include the metallic structure in the distance, not because some might consider it as ugly (I actually quite like this local landmark) but simply because I felt like doing a painting that would be just about water and reflections and didn't want anything to steal the show. On a other day, I probably would have included it but not this time.

On a other note, I'm delighted to announce that I have 6 paintings selected for the Bath Prize 2011 out of the 8 I entered. The show will start in a few weeks time and I'll post more info soon about this but meanwhile feel free to check out my entries page here.