Sunday, 22 January 2012

Re-reading my Art books

Re-read no.1
Al Gury - Alla Prima A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting

A really simple, easy to read but precise book covering all the techniques and terms used in Alla Prima or direct painting.  Interestingly I thought Alla Prima meant painting in one session which Al Gury says it is in his simplest form, where you draw with a brush readjusting and redrawing as you go, but he also describes it as being where a variety of technical effects can also used and developed over a number of painting sessions.  This is as opposed to indirect painting where you have a refined and linear underpainting and then layers of paint creating optical effects.  These terms are important to get straight in your head so I'll take Al's word for it as he has an impressive CV and obviously know his stuff.  In the book there are lots of excellent examples from his own work, his teachers and the masters and lots of really great and important reminders about what you should and shouldnt do.  For example he reminds the reader many times that blending must not be overdone and is not a technique to be used for its own sake. He suggests it is only done at the end of each painting session or when preparting for the next.  He says that maintaining the textures and variety are important to give the painting its strength and overblending flattens the form and destroys the light and dark contrast.  Of course we all know this dont we, but I am definately a repeat offender.

I bought this book last May and read it immediately but obviously you dont take everything in on one read, learning is about getting the right bit of wisdom at the right time.  Its a really useful book with stacks of information and good to dip in and out of, definately one I am pleased I bought. I think I first heard of Al Gury on Mike Manleys blog, (and I highly recommend back reading that) otherwise it probably wouldnt have found its way into my consciousness.   One day I may try the seven layer flemish technique but I think I am definately more comfortable with Alla Prima.  Following the rule of no post without a picture here's one I did earlier, about two years ago!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Life at Life

Its great to be back at Life the Gallery for the weekly life drawing sessions, here are the pretty rusty offerings from the last two weeks.  My expectations were low after the long break but Martin our host had an inspiring Christmas came up with some good ideas to loosen us up.  This first pose was about using the squiggly lines we had already put on the paper to pick out the shapes of the figure.  A certain amount of porportional accuracy is sacrificed and it was a bit strange to start with but it was good fun and took about ten minutes.  I am sure you would really get in the swing doing a few more and seeing where it took you.  Our model this time was excellent and really held the poses well - it makes all the difference!

This weeks warm ups were good, the model stood on the same spot and rotated for 5 x 5 minute poses. If we did them on the same page we could line up the shoulders, elbows etc with the previous drawing providing the first one was accurate and thereby have all the horizontal there for the five poses.  Of course I could have arranged them better but you get the idea.

This week I decided to paint, and in fact intend to every week from now on if I can because we usually have a long pose of around an hour and I want to get my brush hours up and do some plein air this year too.  I have a pochade box which I used for the first time and I am going to have to work out the most comfortable and practical way of setting myself up and being ready for action within the time constraints.  I usually prefer to stand when painting but did this sitting on a donkey. 

Oil on film 10" x 12"

Friday, 13 January 2012

Art goals 2012

I like to start each year with some art goals and normally these are just vague notions in my head but I thought I would document them this year and see if I stay on track.  I always have the aim of getting my painting on to the next level and general improvement of my technical skills and knowledge but beyond that I think its useful to have a few specifics.  Last year my aims were to review and standardise some of my methods and tools, identify my preferences and become more focused - I'm getting there.  Here are this years:-

1  Remember to simplify, its my aesthetic and should be my mental approach
2  Create a body of work, a cohesive collection
3  Spend less time on the computer and paint more
4  Re-read every art book I own
5  Expand the blog
6  Learn Photoshop

No post should be without a picture so here's a little thing I did with some palette scrapings
 4" x 4" Oil on canvas

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Last painting for 2011

Well I just managed to get in a last painting for 2011 - testing out some new paints on a copy of a Degas from an old calendar yesterday.  Those art calendars are brilliant for reasonable quality prints and I must make sure I get one for 2012.  Anyway, this was just a quicky to get the feel of brush and oil again,  its been a month since my last painting and that is way too long, must get my priorities right from now on.  I think this is my first attempt at a Degas, the original is a pastel but although I dont think its 'me' it was very interesting on a number of levels.  I already appreciated that he was an amazing draughtsman and his compositions are just so clever but I dont think I could ever 'see' how he did.  Blind faith kept me going on this but so much of it felt wrong, the darkness of the shadows, the black outlines, the lack of detail and definition, and a lot of the time it felt more like drawing than painting.  What genius he was and I am really kicking myself now that I didnt make it to the exhibition at the RA last year.  I havent seen Leonardo at the National gallery yet either.....tsk, tsk.....Master studies are so useful and satisfying - thanks to Richard for opening my eyes to that way back when.

Oil on film 12" x 12"
Happy New Year!