Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunrise at Fleet Pond

On a freezing cold day back in January, I had an appointment at the dentist to have a filling replaced.  Knowing how quickly the station car park fills up, I drove up early and parked my car then found myself with half an hour to kill before I went for my appointment.  Those of you who know Fleet will be aware that the station is right next to Fleet Pond, a nature reserve that has featured previously in this blog.  It was an icy day and the pond was completely frozen over so I decided to spend my time watching the sun rise.  It was a beautiful morning which was inevitably going to end up in a painting one day.  It took a couple of months for me to come back to it.  This is often the case as I mull the picture over in my head, trying to work out what I want from the end result.  In this case it was the blues and pinks of the sky that stayed in my mind so that's what I set out to capture. I used a watercolour under-painting, followed by pastels - a technique you'll have seen me use once or twice before.  

Having finished this picture, I took a bit of a break from painting over the summer, I focusing instead on landscaping the garden. Those of you who also paint will know that after a break, it's sometimes hard to get back into things and when I returned to my easel I was at a bit of a loss as to where to begin.  I've stopped parking my car at the station now (the cost is ridiculous) and instead use my parents' driveway which is a 10 minute walk away round, you guessed it, Fleet Pond.  So now I get these fabulous sunrises every single day of the week.  It seemed an obvious place to start - pick up again where I left off.  The next few paintings ended up in the bin.  I couldn't seem to get what was in my head out onto the paper and I screwed them up in frustration.  This afternoon I decided to just spend some time playing around with a few sketches which was exactly what I needed to do.  This is one of them - another sunrise using Pan Pastels.  Pan Pastels are pastel pigment compressed into a dish and you apply them using either your fingers or sponges.  I opted for sponges this time, something I haven't really tried before but will definitely be doing again.  I stopped myself from adding too much detail on the reed banks, choosing instead to just hint at them with the green.  I love the end product and as it was supposed to just be an experiment it has come as a bit of a surprise.  Now I'm left wondering what I can do next with these lovely little pots of colour but for now I'll leave you with today's efforts.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A Pastel Workshop

A couple of months ago we had a demo at the Farnham Art Society given by the very talented Rick Holmes using pastels and Chinese ink.  Regular readers may have noticed with my recent postings that pastels are fast becoming my favourite medium so I was particularly interested in this one.  The demo was followed by a workshop which I signed up for and went to yesterday.  I had a fantastic day so I thought I'd share the results with you.

We started off with a few doodles and marks to get used to using the pastels.  Then we moved on to our first picture of the day.  Using one of Rick's paintings as a reference,  this is Frensham pond...I think.  My thoughts on this one, I'm not entirely happy with the trees as I think they've come out too much like a dark block in the corner.  Rick's comments,  you need more colour...  

Painting number two was a farm which I've forgotten the name of (hopefully one of my fellow participants will leave a comment below filling in that particular blank). This time our reference material was a black and white copy of another of Rick's paintings.  That was exactly what I needed.  In the first painting, I focused on copying the colours and missed a lot in the process.  This time I had to use my imagination and so, listening to the feedback from earlier, I added colour.  To the point where everyone who walked past my easel said "Ooh, that's colourful".  I'm happier with this one and I can see how taking the same approach to the first picture would have worked.  Something I often fail to do (because I often fail to think about it) is bring the foreground forwards and push the background back.  Rick gave me a few tips to help here which I'll definitely be making use of in future,

After a break for lunch, we moved onto our third and final painting.  This time we used Chinese Ink to begin with (as in the earlier demo) followed by pastels.  We had a choice this time between New York or Venice.  I went with New York as it's not that long since I did a similar scene, also using pastels, and I wanted to see how different this one came out.  I spent a lot less time studiously blending my colours together and I like the results.  I'm also quite pleased with the truck.  I'm less pleased with the deformed cars in the bottom right - they definitely need a bit of attention.  

All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable day, learned a lot and met some lovely people.  My only disappointment is that it's now Sunday evening and I have to go to work tomorrow instead of staying home and putting into practice some of those ideas.  

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Fall Foliage

Every now and then an email drops into my inbox from Pete Marney, a former colleague and an excellent photographer.  His emails contain links to his latest set of photographs along with stories and anecdotes describing where and why they were taken.  It always makes a nice start to my day when they turn up and I spend a little while browsing through his pictures with my morning cuppa before getting on with my work.  His mails were one of the inspirations behind this blog as I wanted to find my own way of telling the stories behind my pictures so it follows that sooner or later I was going to use one of his pictures as inspiration too.  

Back in October I got a message titled "Fall Foliage" with a set of photographs taken on a weekend trip to somewhere called Skytop Lodge.  I'm not entirely sure where Skytop lodge is (the email didn't say) but it looks like a lovely place so, with Pete's permission, I decided to have a go at my own interpretation of those beautiful autumn leaves.  I used pastels to get the bright colours on a watercolour under painting.  It's one of those paintings that was hard to judge when it was time to stop.   I could probably have kept going for longer, adding to the trees but I'm not sure I'd have improved it by doing that so it's coming off the easel as soon as I've finished writing this.  

If you like this one than please go ahead and check out the original photo on Pete's website.  Unusually for me, I tried to stick pretty closely to the original photo this time.  I hope I've done it justice.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

New York

Whether you love it or hate it, there's no denying that New York can be a bit of an assault on the senses.  Times Square, in particular, is noisy and chaotic.  There's an interesting array of smells, some nicer than others and it's impossible to walk from one side of the square to the other without bumping into hundreds of people and photo bombing many more.

I have to admit that after a week I'm usually quite pleased to return to the relative quiet of home - even with a hotel room on the 27th floor I could hear the car horns at night.  That doesn't in any way take away from the fact that it's an incredible city to visit.  I have a feeling that one painting of Times Square is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding inspiration here.  It's such an iconic place that we're so use to seeing on TV and in movies and the first time you visit you get a strange sense of deja vu.

I've been twice this year, both times for work (you can see our office in this picture).  After my first visit in June, I wanted to do a painting that captured the vibrant nature of the place but I wasn't quite sure how to approach it.  Then I read an article in a magazine which showed a painting of a night scene in Bangkok and how it was built up.  I decided that this was the way to represent New York so on my next visit I went out after work one evening and took some photos to work from.  Pastels seemed the obvious choice to get those bold colours and once I got going, this picture actually progressed pretty quickly. The whole thing was done in an afternoon and I made very few finishing touches when I came back the next week to look at it.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Sacre Coeur

This picture is from my last visit to Paris.  Happy memories with wonderful friends who I am lucky enough to be seeing this evening.  Like most of us, I was shocked and saddened when I picked up my newspaper this morning and heard of the devastating attack on this beautiful city.  It's beyond comprehension how anyone could dream up such a plan, let alone carry it out.

As you get on with your lives and prepare for your Saturday evening in with your family or out with your friends, spare a thought for the people who will never be coming home and the friends and families waiting for them.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Chicago Bean

I went to Chicago earlier this year to visit some friends.  After a week in noisy, hectic New York, I was expecting more of the same as I stepped off the plane.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Chicago is a much more relaxed, chilled out city.  And very arty too.  There's all kinds of interesting sculptures and artworks dotted around the place making it a lovely city to spend a few days exploring.  Without a doubt, Anish Kapoor's Bean (or Cloud Gate) in Millenium Park is the most striking and probably most photographed work of art that I saw during my stay.  The bean is perfectly smooth and polished and was built about 10 years ago following a design competition.  I would imagine there is a considerable cleaning effort required to keep it looking as flawless as it does.

It's not the easiest of things to paint either as the shape distorts everything in the reflection.  I put off  starting this picture for quite a while as I mulled over how to tackle it.  In the end, I dug out my pastels again as I thought they'd be a fun way of making the curved shapes and smooth surfaces and I think it was the right decision.

When I was there it was a beautiful sunny day and the place was swarming in tourists all taking pictures on their phones.  I couldn't help thinking it would look a lot better if we weren't all there so I decided to leave all but one of the people out of my final painting. This lady, leaning against the bean looking at her distorted reflection, hall of mirrors style is the only one who made the cut.  I liked her because she was just enjoying the moment instead of snapping away on her camera phone like the rest of us.  We should all take a leaf out of her book.  We miss so much with the all too easy point, click and move on approach that so many of us take to exploring a new place.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Looking Out My Window - At Work

Those of you who have been reading this blog since it began may remember when I went to the David Hockney exhibition and came back all inspired.  The result was a series of paintings of the view from my window, watching the change of the seasons through Autumn and Winter.  Well, not so long ago I went to the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate Modern and these paintings are the result of that visit.  It was a fascinating exhibition to walk round and I loved watching how her work evolved from her early portraits through to fabric design and fashion.  She was a talented and versatile artist and I particularly liked the bold colours.

So taking inspiration from this, I used the view of London as seen from my desk at work to get some practice in.  I would like to add a disclaimer at this point just in case my boss is reading - these pictures are based on a quick post-it note sketch and I haven't been wasting away hours at work secretly producing artwork when I was supposed to be doing the budget.

This is not a style of painting I've done before so this was a bit of an experiment.  I started by drawing out the buildings and the river then used the shapes I'd created to extend the blocks of colour into the sky.  Delaunay probably abstracted some of her images more than I have but these are ultimately Keeley paintings.  The colours themselves were just colours that took my fancy and I didn't give much thought as to what went where as I started out.  This was deliberate.  I needed to be producing something in order to decide what it was I wanted to produce.  As I worked, I started to get a better idea in my head of what I wanted and that's where version two comes in.  I limited the palette more for this one and out more thought into what went where.  I like both paintings but I was happier with my approach to the second one because I felt like I put more thought into it.  It's probably not going to come as much of a surprise that I finished that second picture with a bundle of ideas of things I want to do next. So although this is a deviation from my normal style of painting, watch this space for more to come.