Friday, December 31, 2010

spreading colour

Following this weeks progress the oil canvas underpainting (below) looks a little left behind!
This suits me, for by applying a generous quantity of paint here I can really get into the spirit of the thing. Nothing like the spreading of juicy colours around to get the adrenalin moving.
While reviewing the gouache sketches I mix paint, paint that will work to support the later application, and that will be tuned for the final juxtaposition of colours. 
This stage must be kept simple, zones of colour parked in the general area required with a few bold lines to boot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Radical moves

Here the skittle idea gets the makeover. New colours new look.
By painting at speed with complete focus and holding the idea/purpose in my mind, these radical changes were achieved.

Notable alterations are the removal of the extreme right hand woman and the couple on the steps have changed pose. The simple cross as a compositional device works for me and the level of drama/narrative pleases me.

Watch this space.

Monday, December 27, 2010

zippy do dah

Here they are, two of four new studies just completed in order to break away from those 'charming' watercolours. They are painted with gouache on card and measure about 8cm square.

One main task was to 'bunch up' the figures, more overlap, more image cropping and this has, along with a dramatic change in colours and key made the desired leap forwards.

All the old elements are there, just more so. 

Friday, December 24, 2010


'The Magi' by John Scarland

Like a recent post where I spoke about following the masters as I copied JMW Turner, here I do a work in the style of 14C masters. I just love those rocks and whacky landscapes. 

As I am included in a lot of talks and graphics for my church over Christmas I also identify with this little watercolour. I admit that it was not painted this year, but the thoughts and gladness that flow from the truth of this narrative last from year to year.

A happy Christmas to you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Testing another watercolour

'skittles' a watercolour by John Scarland

Here is the watercolour variation on the 'skittles theme!  I always find that shifts in medium and size generates movement in my thinking. The previous post on the 'chequers' theme proved that point. This has lifted the idea to much grander event with gender swaps and revised lighting. I have no notion of the nationality, the period or the occasion, they are just interacting a thoroughly human sort of way.
My love affair with watercolour continues. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

testing the water(colour)

'chequers' a watercolour by John Scarland

The work on this idea continues. I need to know the people so I paint them again, this time in watercolour. This repetition is productive, it makes the image more ingrained, more part of myself. This has a sort of circus feel, an alternative spin on the idea - much less of that previous allotment shed connotation. 
This is paving the way for the next revision

Friday, December 17, 2010

The waking mind

the waking mind slides gently into place, 
a distant ante room - shows one arrived
who hands to me a tray of half made thoughts
that nestle close with velvet shells.
Slow awareness forms a shape 
as birdsong drifts on half-lit air.

the sense of bed will enter low,
for warmth and comfort permeate
my fuddled thinking, making ranks
of proper things, that uninvited to my head; inflate.
Another  murmmers close beside  'can you see, 
is that a cobweb or a play of morning light?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Learning from the Masters

To copy the Masters is always a valuable exercise. I like to make changes in order to make my mark and to make the work more interesting, for instance I remember painting that all time great 'The Hay Wain' in the snow! 
Here I have worked on Turners 'Isleworth' on the Thames but wanted to add a modern picnic. The gouache sketch above is to test the layout, how in abstract values will the changes look. and then with this done I can proceed with my revised Turner.
To replicate his colours and tonal patterns is demanding and to stitch my picnic extension in, calls for an understanding of the original gained by just this sort of exercise.
Below is my study piece and I am a little wiser! 

Monday, December 13, 2010


With the drawings complete I make up two canvases about 80cm square, primed Irish Linen and laid on a 6mm ply base in the way I have always done it. This feels good, the preparation of a proper ground in itself gives me confidence in the work.
I continue to make changes, with the chequers above gaining a standing figure behind to widen interest in the group and lift the back to a more diamond shape formed by the figures.
The drawing was indian ink on the white canvas, then transparent oil colours adding a tonal effusion of light and space. 
This work shows me the way ahead. While this paint dries I will revert to more studies in order to 'compress' the composition, to drive up those people I am beginning to be familiar with. By 'drive up' I mean the alter them in a way that may lift our awareness of the human dynamics while stepping away from the level of realism present.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Skittles development

As with the previous post I develop the idea using vigorous drawings with compressed charcoal and water. Below is the earlier and inferior attempt that was overpainted using white emulsion to alter the darks. A general improvement is seen with what is now seven figures.
The drawings are about 40cm square and are devised for the fluid improvement of the scheme

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chequers development

I worked on a sheet of paper for some time - standing by the fire drawing and re-drawing this composition. Thinking and designing is no way forward! I change tack.
A new sheet of 'nice' paper (plus another for the skittles) is pulled from store. Working upright at arms length I dash in the general layout, apply some darks and wash liberally with water. The girl gets a stool and her legs re-arranged - the floor has some 12C perspective and the man on the left becomes bored and stares out of the picture.
The space is still neither in nor out and is now constructed from an abstract arrangement of forms that rather suggest an allotment shed.
An OK stage, more is needed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

skittle start

charcoal sketch 60cm x 60cm

I had it in mind to work on a medium size group for this, the second pub game picture. Using the Giotto open building room with steps I made this early drawing with five figures. with mast of the skittles almost dead centre there is a strong isometric triangulation. Behind its loose appearance is a very formal composition.
That the man in the centre is wearing what seems to be a dress is probably me overdosing on Giotto  rather than anything else. The animation and layout looks promising enough to me to stick this on the wall to observe and consider the way ahead.
With the chequers also at this stage I am ready to move on. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

First thoughts

figure study with chequers . charcoal . 60cm x 60cm

To counter a creative dead end I turn to a natural model for me; figures in an interior.
I had recently drawn on a lost scrap of paper two men playing bar skittles and it had amused me.
Remembering this while comparing Kitaj and Giotto (as you do) along with some other low relief carvings from the 11thC I saw in the Wallace Collection (below) that took my eye I took up a piece of charcoal. This is one of a few studies I did early this evening in an effort to 'place' the figures in an interesting and meaningful way. These figures are freely drawn from my imagination and undergo continuous revision.
I am at the moment running with two ideas, this one of three figures and Chequers the other with five/six figures and bar skittles.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lewes Castle 2008

Today has been minor jobs and cleaning up
but here is and etching and a few words about Lewes Castle

(thoughts on visiting Lewes castle)

Up tar-macadam ramps, and over granite sets
through little squares with ancient trees in gentle iron-work.
Polished flints by chalky whites 
contained in leaning quoins lead up and on.
here Hellebores are freshly mulched
instead of hallebardes, 
that clash,
are thinly painted on the wall, in lofty chambers
up the mended stair.
The yellow sun slips in a narrow pane, illuminates 
the deep reveals. 
The watery light is now absorbed by soft distemper resting
on the wall. The gates 
will close at twilight, said the sign.
The mound, together with the distant downs 
will see the evening star.   

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stripping back

#13, galvanized steel and copper  h.22cm

Late morning and I was back re-drawing #13 again and again.
My initial ink study 01 (bottom) has the core rectangle supported at an angle, and this 'support' is something of a bear hug, too locked, too trapped.
Yesterday's late removal of the triangle was a greater breakthrough than I had realized, leaving me with fewer pieces in a vertical 'bunch' 
Many small exploratory drawings later I managed this biro sketch in the margin (below) that seemed to suggest movement & support.  From this I made the model above from sheet galvanized steel and copper rod (lengths and hole positions need revision) with some success.
Now with just two pieces the work has a greater clarity and with less of that deconstruction chaos.

#13 biro thumbnail sketch

#13 initial ink study