Sunday, 27 March 2011

Short Tempered Swan

Short Tempered Swan
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

They appear serene as they float on the water, but on the land, they are ungainly aggressive bullies - bovver boys in ball gowns. I have been at picnics and barbeques where they’ve tried to muscle in and steal all the food. Their PR people probably invented the story about them being able to break a man’s arm with their necks just so we are less inclined to put up a fight. This one was bashing on a glass door - demanding access to the kitchen. 

The most difficult part of this painting was the background. I didn’t plan it sufficiently. The first attempt looked like a dark halo around the swan's head. (You can still see the remains of this). It made the painting look like a cartoon. If I was starting again, I would use a completely different approach.

The red marks on the bill are not supposed to represent blood. They are not a cheap attempt to make the swan look as though it has recently carried out a grisly murder. It really had an irregular pattern of red markings on its beak, but I don’t always notice this sort of detail until I draw or paint something.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Farewell Contour Drawing

On The Other Hand
Contour Drawing - 19 February 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 30cm (11" x 12")

This is my last contour drawing for a few months.

I’ve finished Section 2 of the Natural Way to Draw and contour drawing disappears from the schedules for the next 4 Sections, which is 20 weeks in my timetable.

It is like losing a friend. Initially I hated it, but over the last 10 weeks, I have come to enjoy time spent contour drawing. It is a restful activity as long as I accept that the results are likely to look mad and I don’t have any preoccupations or time pressures.

Hopefully, I will have a similar breakthrough with gesture drawing, because the schedules all contain 65 gesture drawings a lesson (week).

I’ve read the instructions for the first exercise in Section 3. It mostly involves scribbling with crayon. I will post the results in a couple of weeks. Prepare yourself for something like Mr Messy from the Mr Men.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Spring Tulips

Spring Tulips
Watercolour and Ink on Paper
26cm x 36.5cm (10.25" x 14.5")

I had to paint these tulips. Tommy Kane posted a striking ink and watercolour sketch of some tulips on the Urban Sketchers blog ( and then Elaine bought these beautiful tulips.

I already have two paintings on the go, but I had to leave them to draw and paint the tulips.

This was more difficult than I anticipated. I haven’t done any sketching this year and I seemed to have forgotten how. I have been following the exercises from the Natural Way to Draw and painting watercolours from photographs. This is the first time this year that I’ve sat down in front of something with the intention of drawing and painting it.

The drawing at the bottom of the post is a contour drawing of the same tulips that I drew before starting the sketch.

Spring Tulips
Contour Drawing - 12 March 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 51cm (11" x 20")

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey
Watercolour on Paper
52cm x 34cm (20.5" x 13.5")

The ruined abbey is set on a hill above the town and dominates the skyline. Dracula came ashore at Whitby in Bram Stoker’s novel and the town has a spooky charm. It is a popular holiday destination for Goths.

The painting is a bit of an experiment. The inspiration was an exercise from Jean Haines ( book Colour and Light in Watercolour.

When I started, I didn’t have a clear vision of how it was going to turn out. I thought it might be moody and brooding.

One of the last things I did was add the white patch to the top left corner. I added it because the sky was looking a bit boring, but it really improves the whole piece. It works well with the shadows on the small tower slightly to the left of the centre and brings the whole thing together. The scene instantly becomes a sunrise with the sun burning off the morning haze. Dawn has come. Dracula has been defeated. A new day has started with all that promises.

I am pleased that, for me, it is an uplifting image because whenever I look at it I will remember Elaine’s father, Pete.

We visited Whitby in November 2007 with Pete and Elaine’s sister, Julie. It is the last trip we had with Pete. Painting the abbey brought back memories of our visit. We had a good time, but the severity of his illness was already apparent.