Category Archives: MEDIA

Artworks in this category are listed according to the materials/media used.

Circle, De Lovie, Poperinghe

Arched garden walkway De Lovie. Watercolour on hot pressed paper. Alizarine Crimson and Forest Green. 9" x 12' or 23 x 30 cm.

Arched garden walkway De Lovie. Watercolour on hot pressed paper. Alizarine Crimson and Forest Green. 9″ x 12′ or 23 x 30 cm.

About a month ago, out near Westvleteren, we stumbled across a large domain called De Lovie (nice name, eh?). The whole area is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, youths and adults who have mental handicaps. But besides the buildings dedicated to such assistance, a large part of the domain actually contains a beautiful heritage castle, its memorial chapel and landscaping including a lake and English garden. John snapped a photo of the main promenade to the castle with its dappling light. The haloed effect in such a simple, one point perspective piqued my interest, so I decided to try to render it within the circle motif.

The main challenge really was how to render the highlights. In watercolour, this actually doesn’t mean rendering the highlights but rather allowing the white of the paper to (strategically) shine through. In the past I’ve experimented with latex masking fluid, but for anyone who has actually tried it, you realise very quickly how difficult it is to control. Large areas are possible – at the cost of your increasingly clogged and ultimately useless paint brush. Fine details however are not. But recently I discovered a product that dispenses the masking fluid through a very fine, narrow tube, creating a very fine, thin line. Ha! So, after washing in the starting golden circle and laying in the composition, I used my new handy-dandy dispenser pen to block out various areas of highlights quickly and playfully. It was better than a brush but even so, still difficult to control. After everything dried I began to lay in my washes, wet-in-wet.

I had already decided to use just a two colour, complimentary palette, so washes of Forest Green were matched up against washes of Alizarine Crimson. I knew this approach would also allow for chromatic changes within the golden circle, but that would be out of my control. Nice! The washes went quickly and quite well, though I couldn’t really see what I had. After they had dried I rubbed off the latex. The results were stunning! – at least from a light point-of-view – even though it was also immediately clear that I still had a lot of form to recover/describe. Thus, a few hours of open brushwork gave me the basics, but it took another week of diligent searching/reclaimation to discribe the overall formal coherence.

I’m pretty pleased with the result. The latex itself creates hard edged highlights. So I really like how the strong highlights of the cross branches in the foreground stand out. Compositionally, they mitigate too, against the centrifugal pull of the circle and the walkway’s halo. The foliage, too, has nice hard edges. Still, I’d prefer that the dappled spots on the ground were a bit softer. Sigh. That gives me something to work on for next time. 😉

Along the Damse Vaart. Watercolour on hot-pressed paper. 6" x 12".

Circle, Along the Damse Vaart

Another watercolour, a medium which, by the way, is incredibly difficult to photograph. The colour of the spectrum of light influences the photograph. So if I try to create a photograph on a bright sunny day the subtle highlights become washed out. If I try to create a photograph on a cloudy day, there is an inevitable bluish tonality to the light. I can try to colour-correct for that using software but then colour is lost in the process. The highlights inevitably suffer. So suffice it to say that the image presented here is the best I can do to given my skills and conditions. Sigh, the warm yellow wash in the centre is underrepresented. OK.

Otherwise, I had a lot of fun doing this one. It is created on hot-pressed paper, whose flat texture allows for finer detail, especially with the (HB) graphite pencil. I continue to enjoy discovering the possibilities of working wet-in-wet, dry/saturated-in-wet, wet-on-dry or even dry/saturated-on-dry (not much of that last one here). I continue to explore a reduced, complimentary palette within a circular motif. I didn’t use any masking fluid on this one, however I did make use of paper towels to blot back areas of a dark wash, like in the soft dappled light on the tree or foreground on the left.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon tightened with pastel on tinted Canson paper. 32 x 50 cm.

Figure Drawing, August 22, 2022

Three minute gesture study. Charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute gesture study. Charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon tightened with pastel on tinted Canson paper. 32 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon tightened with pastel on tinted Canson paper. 32 x 50 cm.

Last night I was happy to see our beautiful young man there again. He has slowly become more relaxed and creative as he learns the posing ropes. Nice. But indeed it was to be his last evening modeling for us, as the summer winds down and soon he will be off to school. But I did discover his name, Kobe, like the Lakers’ famous basketball player. Ha!

Additionally, I had also heard that last night was going to be our last evening at the kasteel (!) but in fact, that’s next week. 😦 Turns out, is was only a summer lease as there is no heating in the place and barely enough electricity for some spot lights, so we will have to go elsewhere. Apparently a new location has already been found – and with a year’s lease. Though sessions will not begin again until the end of October. OK.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon tightened with pastel on tinted Canson paper. 32 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon tightened with pastel on tinted Canson paper. 32 x 50 cm.

Three minute gesture study. Charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute gesture study. Charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Back to tonight. It was one of those evenings where for some reason it took me awhile to warm up. The first half did not yield any keepers but the second half did. I had purchased some new Canson paper in a grey-brown hue which I was eager to try out. The two fifteen minute studies displayed here are from that batch. Since it is a lighter tonality than the sepia I have been using, I can see that in the future I will want to leave enough time to zap in some shadow accents, too. As it is, I feel these two displayed here are quite successful though a little too light overall in tonality.

As the evening progressed I found myself repeating an artist’s mantra that a friend of mine who studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts back in the seventies once shared with me:

  • mise en page (placement on the page)
  • circulation de la lumèire (circulation of the light)
  • ne tombe pas dans les détailes (don’t fall into the details)

The first one is appropriate for any two dimensional drawing (like the three minute gestures) but the second two are especially useful for the fuller development of any drawing (for example, the fifteen minute poses included here). Also, you do not need to restrict yourself to figurative work to apply these rules. They apply to abstraction and can help you to evaluate why a good abstract piece actually works – when it does. And, as I think about it, I would add a fourth: the appeal of texture. En français: l’attrait textuel?

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

The Circle Game or Homage to the Circle

I returned to Ruskin’s “The Elements of Drawing” this summer. (It’s always good to start anew and never assume that you know whatever you think you know – because most likely, you don’t) So as I was playing around with watercolours, Ruskin suggested creating shapes and filling them in, beginning with the most basic of shapes, the circle. I was creating these sun-like shapes on a landscape oriented pad, 6″ x 12″ and immediately wanted to superimpose a real landscape over it. So I did.

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour (Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour (Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

The first in the series, was of a scene along the Schipdonk canal somewhere around Eeklo. Since I thought it turned out rather well, I thought, hmmmm…., this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? I liked the serendipitous contribution of the sun-like circle, compositionally and chromatically, enhancing its one-point perspective. I also liked the idea of doing the landscape in a simplified colour scheme  of two complimentary colors. I began to imagine doing more, particularly of my favourite scenes around here.

Farm on the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Alizarine Crimson and Thalo Green Light) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

Farm on the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Alizarine Crimson and Thalo Green Light) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

The second in the series then is of a farm along the Damse Vaart that I have painted in the past. I really like the sweet, afternoon light on the farm buildings in the middle ground but have struggled to make it an interesting composition. Would this circle approach help? I decided to try it with a green/red palette, The result was OK, but compositionally, still rather static, so I enhanced the golden circle with an external wash of purple. It felt pretty rad. 🙂

Bend in the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

Bend in the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

Well, OK, what’s next? I have plenty of favourite spots around here, so I chose another one further along the Damse Vaart, this time at its bend (which I have also painted in the past). I ended up doing three different versions of it: the first in a ‘normal’ colour scheme’ (boring!); the second in Thalo Blue/Burnt Sienna but with a horizon line that was about a 1/2″ too high (ugh!, toss); and the last one (pictured here) with the Blue/Sienna colour scheme but a lowered horizon line ( it finally felt right chromatically and compositionally).

Luckily these small experiments are easy to do so there’s more to come. Stay tuned…

 

Conté crayon on Canson tinted paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Figure Drawing, August 8, 2022

Conté crayon on Canson pastel paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon on Canson pastel paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Conté crayon on Canson tinted paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute study. Conté crayon on Canson tinted paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Tonight we had another new model. New to us but also new to being a model for figure drawing. So, besides setting the length of the poses, Patrick, our new co-ordinator, does not tell the models what to do. (Bruno our last maître didn’t either) It’s always best to let the model sit, stand or lay in ways that are comfortable to them. Then we figure out how to make that interesting.

 

All that being said, there are models who intuitively understand what makes for a good pose. In that context, our new guy seemed to possess a comfortable bodily solidity so that the poses he took, though extremely simple and without any contrapasto or inner movement, were quite interesting to draw. That was my experience at least. These are a few fifteen minute studies as well as some three minute gesture drawings.

Three minute sketch, charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute sketch, charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute sketch, charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute sketch, charcoal on tinted sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute pose.Conté crayon tighten with pastel on toned Canson pastel paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Figure Drawing August 1, 2022

Fifteen minute pose.Conté crayon highlighted with pastel on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute pose. Conté crayon highlighted with pastel on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute pose. Conté crayon highlighted with pastel on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute pose. Conté crayon highlighted with pastel on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm.

We were so lucky to have the same model again tonight.  I smiled to see him and could observe over the course of the evening that he was a little more relaxed this time. He even brought his girlfriend and the two of them modelled together during the second half.

All that being the case (the first half or the second) I did not feel that I had a very successful catch for the night. The double session drawings did not play out for me. (Both were very sweet but unsure how to make such a venture interesting for us to draw.)

Three minute pose. Charcoal on toned sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute pose. Charcoal on toned sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Displayed here then are a few that made the grade.

Fifteen minute figure study. Conte crayon highlighted with patel chalk on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm

Figure Drawing July 25, 2022

Fifteen minute figure study. Conte crayon highlighted with patel chalk on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute figure study. Conte crayon highlighted with patel chalk on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm

A new model tonight. A classically beautiful young man. Strong, healthy. He reminded me of a young puppy that is now growing/becoming a big dog. So his head, hands and feet were slightly larger proportionally than the rest of his body. At maybe 17 years old, he appears to be on the cusp of catching up. A wonder to behold. Shy, actually tense: this was his first time.

Fifteen minute figure study. charcoal highlighted with pastel chalk on sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Fifteen minute figure study. charcoal highlighted with pastel chalk on sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

I really enjoyed drawing him though, allowing even his tension to reflect through. As it turned out, I think the fifteen minute studies were the more successful. This is because a three minute pose is all about gesture. And it took him awhile to get gestural, to relax. With one exception, his short poses were not very interesting (to me). I had difficulty getting a quick read. But the longer ones allowed time for roving and searching and because he had such a solid figure there was plenty of material to feel my way through.

Fifteen minute figure study. Conte crayon highlighted with patel chalk on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm

Fifteen minute figure study. Conte crayon highlighted with patel chalk on Canson paper. 30 x 50 cm

Three minute gesture study. Charcoal on sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

Three minute gesture study. Charcoal on sketching paper. 35 x 50 cm.

A few fifteen minute studies. and one three minute gesture.

Conté crayon on pastel paper.

Figure Drawing, July 18, 2022

15 minute pose. Charcoal on toned sketching paper.

15 minute pose. Charcoal on toned sketching paper.

Rear entrance to Kasteel Rooigem in Sint Andries, Belgium

Rear entrance to Kasteel Rooigem in Sint Andries, Belgium

After a very long hiatus (2.5 years!) the open studio figure drawing sessions here in Bruges have finally resumed. Hooray!!! During this interim, while the pandemic raged, Bruno Van Dyck, our resident artist-host, moved to a new studio in an old castle. Thanks to him, we now have a lovely setting for drawing in an outbuilding of the (former) Bishop’s Palace, on the outskirts of town. A great setting: some clouds do have a silver lining.

3 minute pose. Charcoal on toned sketching paper.

3 minute pose. Charcoal on toned sketching paper.

15 minute pose. Conté crayon on toned Canson paper.

15 minute pose. Conté crayon on toned Canson paper.

So the place is new but the crew and the set-up is not. Bruno too, has passed the baton to a new “master of ceremonies”, who now collects our coins and instead of delicious jazz or fantastic guitar licks plays Piaf and French chansons. For a Belgian castle it all seems quite appropriate. Maybe next week we’ll get Jacques Brel? As the session began I wondered how rusty I would feel but as it turned out, there were a few keepers for the night. Included here are a few – plus the castle’s back door entrance.

 

silverpoint composite underdrawing

Silverpoint Composite

silverpoint composite underdrawing

Composite silverpoint underdrawing, silverpoint on pastel ground over tinted acrylic gesso on HDF. Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42″ x 66″

It’s taken me approximately one year to complete this series of sixty four panels. Not that it should have taken all that time – it’s just that life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. However, all sixty panels are now completed such that the composite image can be assembled. And here it is. The final size is approximately 3 1/2 feet x 5 1/2 feet. So, almost life size.

I love the soft daguerrotype atmosphere that the silver creates. Also, how the somewhat fuzzy, sandpaper-like pastel ground that I applied over the tinted (acrylic) gesso panels adds to that softness. Drawing in silverpoint necessarily means a compressed value range, which in this case, I was able to increase through the addition of white highlights.

Silverpoint assemblage along the way.

Silverpoint assemblage along the way.

As I have insisted all along though, my aesthetic intention for these panels is that they serve as an underdrawing for the final painting – yet to come. Now, due to a number of technical considerations, I will need to perform a few experiments before I apply further layers of paint, fixative and/or varnish – not necessarily in that order. Thankfully, the University of Delaware hosts a forum, consisting of professional artists, expert conservators and product creators who freely offer sound, technical advice to geeky and experimental artists like myself. What a gift! Here’s the link for anyone who may be interested. So, though it may take awhile I truly hope I will be able to post the final outcome sometime in the (relatively) near future. Stay tuned. 😉

 

#13 Silverpoint on tinted panel, highlighted with titanium white.

Silverpoint underdrawings, batch #4

Perhaps because I haven’t posted in awhile, a number of friends have asked recently if I am still working on my silverpoint drawings. The answer is emphatically: “Yes!”. Since I’ve had a few other projects on my plate, I just haven’t done a post. So here is batch #4.

Actually, I am coming down the home stretch of these sixty four (underdrawing) panels (there are still twelve left to do). Each is a jewel in its own right, though clearly some are more interesting compositionally than others. I had  about thirty panels to sort through in order to select these five to showcase here.

As you’ll see, the panels that contain body parts with differing textures and conditions of light make for the most interesting compositions. It’s important to recognise that the silverpoint can never create a really dark line. The best that’s achievable is a 50% warm grey (which is drawn on a panel already tinted with a terra verte toned ground). So after transposing the basic form-describing lines, I fill in the dark values with silver cross-hatching. Through this process, the three quarter tone, deep shadow information inevitably gets lost however the composition does come to life when I introduce tints of (acrylic) titanium white.