Monday, December 21, 2015

Revealing my Inner Abstract



8x10 oil pastel on paper

After all those dog portraits, I really badly need to cut loose, so I've worked on some full on abstracts.  It felt great to work with colour, texture, form and composition completely unfettered.  This one is on rough watercolour paper.  It takes very thick layers of pastel to mash out the white bits.

early rough stage

after some scraping & more layers

And this one is oil pastel on gessoed masonite. Which was a fascinating exercise. So much texture and layering on what is almost a flat surface. I have no wip's for this, I just want to sink into the painting and go.

Mmmmm, texture



Where to next, who knows....

Friday, December 18, 2015

Oil Pastel, Tutorial, WIP's, Step by Step Pet Portrait

Dynamo & Riker, 9x12 oil pastel
For this one, I took a lot of progress shots, mostly out of curiousity. I've been working with oil pastels for a long time now, and finally it's coming together, so documenting the process is interesting to me. Paint by numbers, it is not.  Above, is mostly finished/finished (the final result with tape removed is my previous post). Here, though, are the tools I used, including a printed reference photo, and my android tablet.  Riker had his eyes almost shut in the ref. photo, and while I thought I knew him well enough to work it out on my own, I was mistaken.  I ended up having to scrap & erase back to white, find a better photo of Riker and work from that to finish Riker's face.

Here it is at the beginning, after I've taped off the edges, outlined delicately in pencil, I lay down thick white pastel for all the whites and highlights, followed by cream and light blue for warm mid-tones, and cool darks, respectively.

Some further fun with primary colours.

Middle stage, time to start scraping back with the art knife.

Just after scraping back, revealing some lovely colours, but needing details in darks and lights. Because of the white and blue layers below, highlights can be brought back in with the knife and soft eraser.  And the finish line, you've already seen.
That's it. Whether I'm doing 'realism' (or my reasonable facsimile thereof) or abstract, I pretty much use the same technique and steps.

And, on the 'waiting for Nino' front, I am so pathetic, I 'borrowed' someone's dog. This is Tessa, and she needed more exercise than her mom can give her; I needed some sunshine, so I borrowed her. Tessa thought she was being kidnapped, so I had to baby talk her all the way through. Sadly, Tessa's moving out of the neighbourhood soon, so I won't be borrowing her again.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dogs, Cats and this and that


(Dynamo & Riker)
(9x12 Oil pastel on Strathmore Bristol)

Worked up another one of my favourite photographs into a memorial portrait of Dynamo with her best buddy Riker. Riker’s still truckin’ on with us, but have to admit, he’s in that ‘old-old’ stage of daily meds and frequent vet visits.
In the meantime, I received a commission of portrait of a yorkshire terrier.  Being for someone other than myself, I somewhat reigned in my style, for more realism, and realized (belatedly) that smaller is neither faster nor easier than larger work (lesson learned).



(Yorkie) (5x7 oil pastel on Strathmore Bristol)
And because all that realism and restraint drove me nuts, here’s the ‘illustrated Batman’, still taped, but I think he’s done.  (8x10 oil pastel and black staedler marker on watercolour paper)


(Batman) (8x10 oilpastel, pan pastel & black marker)
And, in the meantime, I’ve been wildly distracted by the prospect of getting a new dog. Said ‘new dog’ is scheduled to arrive in January, so I have a long wait. The cats are greatful. I’m not just excited, yeah, a new dog! but lots of worry thoughts too, how will the cats feel? Will everything work out, a new dog is not like getting a new couch.
I’ve been going through toys, leashes, dog beds, dog sweaters, gosh, I have an accumulated mountain of this stuff, to pass the time.

(Simba in the bag)
That’s Simba checking out the accumulated hiking and camping gear.  I also have squeaky clean, never been used designer collars (don’t ask), well used but comfy dog beds, dog sweaters (which are human adult cut-offs) all ready. The leashes still hang above the door, the dog bed is in the spare bedroom, all waiting…
for this dude.


(Nino)
He’s still in the Caribbean islands. He will need sweaters (at least for a bit--looks like he’s got a good wool coat ready to grow in as needed).
PS. I should have a ‘count the frisbees’ contest for the one pic. I have no idea how/why I have all those frisbees, only that Dynamo loved frisbees, and always having two the same meant she wouldn’t play ‘keep away’ (in theory).

So yeah, I’ve been distracted, doing too much thinking, too little art, trying to channel some of that energy into brushing up on training knowledge, doing my pet portraits, cruising various ‘dog forums’ and spending too much time worrying about this, that and the other thing that might go wrong. All of which, I think, is also part of grieving. Dynamo the senior, of course, was perfect. Senior dogs always are.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Life Drawing Tuesdays—Longer Poses and Pastels

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10  minutes pose and a pencil.
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1 hour pose, oil pastel.  I actually had a start for a different pose on the page, laid down in white & yellow, then, during break, just started scribbling colour over the entire page. When the model sat for this pose, I had a fully coloured page (light colours) and drew in the lines directly, eventually scraped back everything, then added in more oil pastel, and a little coloured pencil.
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20 minutes, I must have been thinking of snow. Snow Queen.
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And our previous nights model.  Black lines are graphite on oil pastel, which always generates a rich black. 
Fun fact: remember all that ‘scraping back’ I talk about?  I literally scrape off layers of oil pastel with an art knife. I guess I’m overly thrifty, as I decided to collect the scrapings, press them together, and voila, lovely lavender nuanced grey tone, so much better than the dead grey of a solid colour (I never actually use grey pastel because of that).  Must get a close-up next time I use my recycled scrap pastel ‘stick’.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Art for a Rainy Day—Artistic Cat Portrait


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8x10 inch oil pastel painting on 11x14 paper.  Yes, that’s Simba’s paw in the lower right corner.
Now we’re into typical November weather, grey, wet and dark.  My plein air painting sessions are definitely on hold for the season. So I decided to work from one of my favourite cat snapshots.  This is Simba and Batman in the Yellow Chair.  There’s much more realism in this than my usual.  Partially, it just seems appropriate for a pet portrait, but the other reason is that the snapshot itself has a very strong abstract composition with broad fields of colour and jet black. I love the way they were piled up in an interlocking tangle.  Less detail would have produced something completely abstract and  unreadable. 
I thought I could let my coloured pencils do the fine details, but they showed up dull in comparison to the richness of the oils, so I had to poke about delicately with a fat black oil pastel.  Somehow managed.
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Here it is in the first rough stage, just before I scrape back.  I find it really hard to keep motivated at this point, because it just looks like an unredeemable mess.
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An this is intermediate. Still a mess,just at the point where I thought the coloured pencil would same me.  Nope. This is the point where I start mindlessly surfing the web, because I can’t imagination ever getting a finished work of art from this.  Yesterday it was dog forums and training videos. I’ve been dreaming of dogs of late, as I will get a chance to welcome into my household a beautiful border-collie rescue sometime in January. Simba and Batman most likely will disapprove but I promise to keep them safe.  There will always be Cat Land in my house.
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Simba inspecting the portrait of himself and brother-in-arms.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life Drawing Tuesday—Figures & gestures

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1 or 2 minute pose, I never keep track. This is the dancer.  I missed posting a session, so this time I’m posting from two sessions (two different models) but only the figure drawing gestures. 
Gestures are great as the model can do all sorts of dynamic and exciting poses that are simply far to difficult to hold for longer periods of time.  They are challenging because you have to move that pencil very very fast.
They are wonderful for developing personal style as you have no time to think, you just do, and the drawing is straight from instinct.
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And below, previous nights model.
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Friday, November 20, 2015

A Walk in the Woods—Hollidge Tract Plein Air

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This plein air pastel is not a single scene. I went for a walk looking for a place to sit, and as I hiked along the trail, I saw many things of interest, but no one place where I wanted to settle. It was a lovely day too, which always makes me want to keep moving.  So I finished most of my walk first before I found an interesting spot to sit.
I wish I had photos of my spot, but my camera failed me. There were ferns, an interest tree, dainty sunlit hemlocks and leafless deciduous woodlands in the background, but no open water.  But evidence of water is everywhere in this forest, and close below the ground seeping up through the loam, or invisible but evident in the lush growth of trees.  My walk crosses the actual Vivian Creek twice. It’s a lively shallow trout stream that bubbles across pebbles, and rushes over fallen logs.  So it is properly placed in this landscape, which is not about a specific spot as the camera would see it, but of span of place and time—my walk.
As for that failed camera, WHOOT!  I don’t do upgrades, so only a broken camera gives me an excuse to get a new one, and wow, am I happy.  Canon Proshot SX610HS replaces my Canon Proshot 410 (which did me good service as my camera travels with me on my daily exercise). My new camera is smaller, faster, lighter, does better close-ups, zooms 18x vs 3.5x, and does it’s own light balancing, no more fiddling with controls, and, and, and, I might not need my scanner as it photographs artwork beautifully. Sorry, but I really am excited, oh, it cost me less than my old camera.
Artwork today was all photographed (not scanned) with my new toy.
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Whites are laid in with white oil pastel and white crayon at the beginning stage, just after sketching in general forms with an orange pencil.  They get covered with colour only to be revealed again at the end. Fun.
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As all my other current pastels, oil pastel, heavy layers, scraped back, some details added in as needed over the scraped surface.  In the image above, you might see the difference in texture of the plum pastel sitting on top of the smoother scraped surface.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Life Drawing Tuesday

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Happy. Oil pastel, coloured pencils, scraping back.  Love it. Yeah. Much better than last week. This was the one hour pose.
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Coloured pencil, 1/2 pose.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Snake in the Grass—More Plein Air Paintings

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9x12 oil pastel and coloured pencil (mostly pastel).  I use white as a resist for this one, placing white pastel down first, and moving on from there.
IMG_0388The view from my chair.
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Early stage.
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And here it is, just before I started scraping back. A scary thing to do, because I just have no idea how things will be revealed beneath.
And, oh, the snake in the grass.
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I happened to be chomping on a delicious wild apple, freshly plucked from a tree (still yummy in November!!!) so could not help the ‘garden of eden’ sly reference. Thank you snake, delicious apple. The apples are soooooooo good, I’m still not over the novelty of finding sweet tasting snacks along the trail. I have not purchased or eaten a ‘grocery store’ apple since the beginning of September. Yum.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Life Drawing Tuesday

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It was just downright awful.  Have no clue why, but I could not for the life of me get a good drawing. This quick gesture is the best of the lot. The longer poses resulted in art that is just too embarrassing to post, gack.
I’m almost afraid to go back, which is silly, I mean, pencils don’t bite, so there’s nothing to fear, right?
Below from a previous session, some of a number of gestures, a great night.
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Is there an ‘on’ switch?  Is it the model? I do find men harder to draw, but that sounds like a poor excuse. Is it me? Of course it’s me. That’s the difficulty of art, it’s always me, with no one to blame but, yep, me, myself, and I, when things don’t go right.
Ah well, back to the drawing board, for better or worse.

Friday, October 30, 2015

That Big Giant Dog Park in the Sky

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My art is more than a little autobiographical, although, given the amount of stylization and abstraction, maybe not immediately apparent. I don’t set out make a specific statement, or tell a particular story, I just go. Blank page, white space, orange pencil, gobs of pastel and onwards.
I started this one yesterday…and didn’t like where it was going.  This morning, fresh eyes, and I still wasn’t sure where it was going, but I knew without a doubt where it came from, and why it came to be. 
I wasn’t ready to tell this story until today. I wasn’t ready ready to tell this story until I got it down, in vivid colour in all it’s awkward screaming glory.
My dog died last month. There it is, now you know.
Her name was Dynamo, and I brought her home from the dog pound when she was 6 months old, and wound up tight and exploding with energy like a—Dynamo.
She lived up to her name. We did obedience, rally-obedience, agility, and frisbee. We even did some competitions, and got a little title for her. We also camped and hiked, taught her to swim and love it. 
Dynamo-1
Her most important lesson, (and the hardest learned) was ‘THOU SHALT NOT EAT THE CATS’, or chase them, or poke them, pounce on them, bark at them, or stare at them like they are nice juicy animated hamburgers.  And she learned this lesson, not only learned it, but learned to love them, with this the result.
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What an amazing cat-loving dog. 
In her later years, circumstances (my aging in-laws) took her into the environment of public health care, the hospital rehab ward, and the nursing home, first as a family pet visitor, and later as therapy dog (the job was the same, though). Another new environment, and more great behaviour.  The lessons were likely as difficult for her as the ‘cat thing’ though not as obvious to us.
IMG_5234<—that’s June, our friend at the home (Dynamo treated her as family)
She was a better judge of who wanted to ‘say hi’ to the nice doggy, then we were.
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This is how she spent most of her time in her last days, head on pillow with Riker for company.  I’ll say that she had a better send off than my previous dog. She still had her dignity, and her good days, and a reasonable level of comfort. It does make a difference.
She is missed by all the folks and staff at the nursing home we visit, and by us, of course, and although he can’t tell us, I’m sure she’s dearly missed by Riker the Cat.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumn Splendour, fading fast

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Coloured pencil, oil pastel, ink. 
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The view from my comfy travelling chair. I’m developing muscles carting my art kit into the woods.
For plein air sketches, I’ve been focusing on those scenes that photo’s don’t capture so well, that need the interpretation of the human eye and mind.
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Oil pastel, using white & transparent pastel as a resist, and scraping back to reveal the white.
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This picture (above) is one I may save to do during the winter months; it’s one of those ‘perfect’ scenic photo spots. 

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