Saturday, 20 January 2018

Food & Product Compositions

Following on from the composition blog of 13th January, using food items for a composition, an email popped into my inbox this morning from Artists and Illustrators, giving an amazing example of how common food items can be turned into fabulous and profitable art.  Rodney Kingston - Kitchen Cupboard Bits and Bobs is an acrylic original retailing for a respectable £400. The artist notes that the work is painted from life, which in real terms means he selected a few select objects from out of the cupboard, to create a super, professional composition. You can look at more of Robert's work here : 

©Rodney Kingston : Kitchen Cupboard Bits & Pieces
Acrylic 30cm x 25cm high
So how much mileage can be gained from using household objects and food packaging?  One only has to think of Andy Warhol's work to appreciate the beauty of simplicity. Both exploiting and embracing consumerism, his 'Campbell's Soup 1', is instantly recognisable for what it is, and who painted it.  Along with the artist's  questioning, demanding, 'Well,  what, after all, is art?'  
 Campbells Soup 1 © Andy Warhol 1968

Art evokes feeling, emotion, perhaps memories. Art moves us, often in an unexpected way. 

We can all relate to product and food. Each of us has to eat.  We can all relate to the tomato sauce clinging to the bottom of the bottle, defiant to all shaking and thudding of the bottom to coax the life partner of the humble chip to slither up the neck of the bottle, blobbing out  on to the plate.     Just as most of us of a certain age, have fond memories of Campbell's Tomato Soup.  For me, it was always served in a mug, steaming hot and generously sprinkled with pepper.  So for me,   Warhol's work instantly starts an internal video of shared soups with folk no longer around, in an era that for me, entering my teenage years, overflowing with memories of very happy times.

Going back to Rodney Kingston's work, he has carefully selected items that would possibly appeal to all age groups.   Coca Cola, Oxos, Golden Syrup, Marmite, and of course, Heinz Tomato Ketchup.   Instantly recognisable to most of us.  Each product concealing a personal trigger for most of us..   

The ketchup..  Most of us prefer the glass bottle to the plastic version, as we grew up with the glass Marmite jar, rather than the plastic squeezy one.  The Oxos are timeless, as are the tin of Golden Syrup and Coca Cola bottles.    

The subliminal messages in Rodney's work are 'authenticity' & 'originality'.  Had Rodney chosen say, a supermarket brand, or modern plastic packaging, the work wouldn't have the same impact.  It wouldn't trigger off memories of our first Coke,  or the taste of a mug of Oxo on a cold day, or simply memories of the staple items found living on the formica kitchen table of the 1960's.

Food and product paintings sell.  One word sums up the unique selling point of the 'Food' genre.  Comfort.     Just gazing at a painting of toast on the end of a toasting fork will evoke smells, tastes, social times, home, holidays, in fact, any random memory that involves toast.  Even writing this, as I write I am smelling toast.  Thus is the power of food.  Don't underestimate it! 

The Fruit Bowl © Kate Lomax All Rights Reserved
My own painting, 'The Fruit Bowl', was painted after I went to the fruit bowl to select some fruit to accompany my lunch.  I placed the pear and the satsuma beside the bowl and went to the kitchen to fetch a plate.  When I returned, the light was catching the bowl in such a way, that I had to paint it. So I did.  Whenever I look at the painting, I am reminded of that day, the bowl that I purchased from a charity shop with my Grandson, and the pear that  became over ripe waiting for me to finish the work!  

Most people remember meals, foods, and social events with fondness.  Perhaps think of your own foodie memories and try and recreate your memory in a painting this weekend.  Or, rifle through your store cupboard for staple brands that have been around for years, or perhaps a wok and some Chinese spices and herbs.   Don't dismiss the food genre as being meaningless to anyone but yourself.  Perhaps Google food paintings and do your own research as you roll through the images to see how many switches they flick within you!  

Happy painting! 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Storm - The Back Story

The Storm © Kate Lomax 2018

Some moments in life, pass you by and a week later, it has faded into  a distant memory, a couple of weeks later, that precious moment has  disappeared into the ether.

Other moments, make such a lasting impression, that you can never quite disengage from.  You can never unfeel it, or unsee it.  

That is how it was when I visited Boscastle on the north coast of  Cornwall, on route to Tintagel.  The weather had been so unkind, we had driven through thick fog, torrential rain, sunshine, and storms. Undeterred from enjoying our lovely Cornish holiday, we chose to stop off at Boscastle, the scene of a devastating flash flood in 2004.  I watched the river running at a pace, given the rainfall on that particular day.  As it gathered speed and force, I recalled the footage from 2004.  I have never completely left the memory of standing on the pathway, imagining the torrents of water ravaging the village as it pulverised anything in it's path.  

From where I live on the Solent, on the south coast of England, I can look along the coastline, and often see storms raging over the New Forest, Dorset and Southampton to the west of our coastline.   The colours in the sky as the storms  hit landfall from the ocean are amazing, particularly at dawn or sunset. They are always accentuated by the position of any sun, which could be shining in another part of the solent.  

It is these two events that I have combined here.  To begin, I worked wet into wet, dropping background colours onto wet paper, allowing the colours to bleed together and then blotting with kitchen paper before  I ended up with mud.  This I repeated  twice more, and placed the lightening storm whilst the paint was wet. On the third wash, I guided the colour to key positions on the landscape, this time, allowing the watercolour to dry naturally overnight.

Working with bleeds takes patience, nerve, and quick reflexes to know when to blot, so make sure you are not going to be distracted while working wet in wet. 

The next morning, I sprayed the outside edges of the work and dropped a blue / black pigment onto the wet paper and a cad and lemon yellow loose mix into the gaps between the edge and the main body, allowing the paint again to merge naturally.  I also worked on the storm clouds and lightening bolts, until they were ready for highlights and shadows. 

The next job was to decide on my final geography, which wasn't that far removed from what I had created the night before.  I just needed to enhance the bridge a little, with a touch of highlighting, and to drop shadows in along the edge of the lightening bolts and along and underneath the foam wash created by the torrent.  

I left the work to dry for the afternoon, allowing the colours to gently continue bleeding until the work dried naturally.  

Remember when working with watercolour, that if saturated, the paper stays damp well after the surface has dried, therefore expect subtle colour changes as the hues continue to merge.  This is one of the reasons that I really don't like to use a hairdryer to assist drying.   The surface heats, and dries the fibres of the paper in an unnatural order, resulting in warping and overdrying, which can lead to surface flaking.  

When working in wet, water based mediums,  try and keep everything as natural as possible.  Even the water.  I fill up from my water filter jug, since I live in a hard water area.  Allowing wet in wet work to dry overnight will give you great results, allowing you to enhance any detail safely the next day when the work is bone dry.   For final enhancing, you can use a water based calligraphy ink.  These are available in many colours.  Steer away from acrylic inks, as these are opaque, and will blot out all of your gorgeous blends and bleeds.   Calligraphy ink, although strongly pigmented, works well with watercolour, and can even be mixed to create some exciting colours.  The important thing with watercolour is not to be afraid of it.  Mix and merge your colours in an experimental session.  Get to know your box of tricks and work with your new found friends with a smile.

Have fun!

The Storm.  Artwork & Explanatory © Kate Lomax 2018 All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Composition - Where to begin....

My lovely Warsash class restarted this week after the Christmas and New Year break.  This term, we are focused on the core disciplines of painting, starting with the blank canvas.  After you are done staring at it trying to figure what to paint, you have conquered the hardest part of any artwork which is getting started.  The next, and most complex task in any artwork, is the consideration of composition.   So, for the purpose of the class practical demonstration, I loaded on to a small table, 2 litres of BOB Milk, Azera coffee, a tin of biscuits, sugar cubes, a lemon drizzle cake, a new wave teaspoon , and of course tea bags, to which I added some pretty napkins and a cake slice. 
Yep, the contents of our trusty tea break bag! 
 So, using these items, each class member took a turn in arranging a composition for an imaginary painting, including naming the proposed work.  The rules were simple: You may take away any item (s) that were not needed, you could do anything with any object, as in open a packet or box perhaps.  It was very interesting to see how each painter approached the exercise.    

The first to rise to the challenge, Steve,  arranged the items in a row, with the impressive intention of creating an Andy Warhol type Pop Art scene.  Many combinations followed, each painter with their own idea of how the scene should look.  Each arrangement offered a new perspective to the previous. The message in the exercise was this: An artist never accepts what they see in the first person.  They should look beyond the packaging, look beyond the 2d photograph.  Rearrange things, use your artistic licence to create your individual artistic identity. 

Henri Matisse acknowledged that our mood affects the way we perceive our world, including the humble elements that we may have gathered for our planned artwork, which is why, once you have the concept and the composition in your mind, you should really wait a day or two before introducing mark maker to paper or canvas.  If you mood is perhaps tetchy, and you are trying to paint some delicate sweet peas, you will go to war with your work.  Getting into the right mindset is vital.

When considering composition, it is vital that you take your viewer on a journey.  Even if you are painting a still life of a vase holding a single bloom, you would vary the light in the background, adding perhaps a little texture here and there, to guide the viewer from the visual entry point right around the canvas. In the video below, Stefan Baumann explains the considerations and the application of placement skills.

Your next consideration is sketching.  Try always to sketch with charcoal.  From the lightest of grey for watercolours, to a more appropriate grey tone for acrylics and oils. Charcoal turns into a great ink when you introduce a damp brush to it.  So you sketch your outlines very openly, adding the details using a damp brush.  The addition of moisture also sets the charcoal, ready for the next step.
I shall cover the subject of charcoal sketching with water next week.  In the meantime, here is something real fun to try! 

Have fun! 


Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Orange Tree - Watercolour

The Orange Tree © Kate Lomax 2018 All Rights Reserved

The Orange Tree, is, unusually for me, a watercolour work.   It is really another sketch study, a move on from my sketch of last blog.   

My next step was to think about the elements I had visited in the first sketch and decide which I wanted to adopt for my next step.  I gaze at my fruit trees frequently.  When I am looking at the fruit, waiting for it to ripen, I think about what I am going to do with it.  I always use all of the fruit.  The peel, the zest, the flesh and the juice.  I so wished to convey this in my painting.  It isn't just about fruit, it is about juice, marmalade, candied peel, oranges preserved in brandy, orange blossom oil, among hundreds of by-products that originate from the humble orange.     In any study, we must always consider where the object, in this instance, a tree came to be. 

Key elements decided, I then need to to consider composition, working with a charcoal sketch.

I always use light grey charcoal for sketching.  The charcoal will melt away and merge with your medium once moisture is introduced.  It is a far more paint friendly than pencil. 

When working with watercolour, you must decide how you are going to approach. Wet on wet?  Dry brushing?  A bit of both?  I chose to apply my outlines to dry paper, then gently flood the locked in areas, taking great care not to introduce water to my outlines.  I then allowed the base colours to dry completely before adding more colour very, very carefully.  Building shape and form as I progressed. In normal practice, I would start with the background.  However, with this work, my decision on colour choice, came at the end.   I couldn't decide between yellow or lime green. Only by completing the work in the main, could I confidently make the right choice.  

The reason I chose yellow is quite an elementary one.  Each of the colours featured would be enhanced by the yellow surround.  Lime green may have dumbed down the little green in the painting, and possibly have given the orange the illusion of leaning toward a brown tone.  Whereas the yellow would compliment, lift  and add to the vibrance of the orange and green hues.  The wildcard was the turquoise that was to sit in the upper areas of the tree.  Because of the green tone of turquoise, it would intensify the green in the proposed lime hue.  Had I used french ultramarine instead of turquoise, lime would have worked, both would have complimented the orange.  However, turquoise is always my favourite blue as it works with almost everything, because the pigment is blue/green.  So yellow won the day! 

The yellow background was mixed in two batches.  Very intense, for around the outside edges of the work, and a finer mix for around the tree, which I applied with several brushes in a scrubbing motion to achieve a relaxed and uneven cover.  I opted for this method of application to soften the formality of the tree arrangement, shown here prior to the addition of the colour wash. I could have sprayed moisture on then dropped the water colour pigment into the water for an even more random effect.  However, if you do this, make a good mask from acetate to protect the completed part of your painting.

When composing a water colour painting.  Plan through to the finish line.  Give yourself set options if you are not sure.  I would advise against 'going with the flow', as once you have committed water colour paint to paper, you are more or less stuck either with the colour, or a long drawn out removal process if you decide that the colour choice is wrong. Always use a colour wheel to study your options.  However, I prefer to take my proposed water colour hues and just make your own colour wheel, using the colours that will make up your work.  Tone is vital. One dull tone can kill a painting full of brights.  Even dark colours can be vibrant...  My tree trunk has orange and emerald dropped into it to lift the blander raw  umber of the trunk.   Subtle colour drops will lift dark and dull hues without changing the colour.

The important thing is not to be afraid of water colours.  There is much fun to be had, lots of experimenting to be done, and many sketches to paint in your planning of larger works in your journey as an artist.  Have fun!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Orange Tree - Preliminary Sketch Of Work In Progress

The Orange Tree - WIP © Kate Lomax 2018

As artists, it is vital that we sketch, or doodle our ideas down.  Preferable in a sketch book, or, as in my case, if you think you can develop your sketch into a fully evolved painting, then work on the surface you prefer.  I have chosen 300 gsm watercolour paper because I move paint, so it needs to be able to take a bit of punishment.

The orange tree in question was gifted to me on New Year's Day.  By my daughter, as a beautiful birthday gift.  When she presented it to me, I heard the story of the journey from the nursery to her home, and then back to mine.  Shedding fruit en route, leaving orange scented debris wherever my daughter and her leafy new companion adventured. It is rather bushy you see. Slightly wider than a house door, definitely wider than a car door. 

As I listened, I smiled admiring the specimen absolutely laden with fruit.  

When I came to explore ideas for a painting, I could imagine my daughter, eyeing all of the potential gifts, and then spotting the abundant tree that she gifted to me.  I doodled away with the paint and realised that I had inadvertently created the look of a girl not unlike my daughter.  My point being is that when you sketch, you have to let your mind wander, and your hands communicate with your vision on an unconscious level.   I am not sure of the scene I have started.  I think it is my daughter visiting the nursery to select the tree.  I have found other images in there also.  An elderly gardener, maybe he cared for the tree prior to it's journey here.  Lavender, in the backdrop.  I guess there would have been many floral gifts on display over Christmas and New Year.  None of these things were in my mind as I painted.  Only the orange tree.
The subconscious is a really powerful tool.  You have to be uber relaxed to access it.  I am sitting here at 2.45 am.  I have been working in beautiful silence, apart from the dog's breathing.   

We all find our perfect time and conditions to access our inner most workings.  That, almost for sure, is when your work and ideas will be at their best.  

Paint those ideas out, or sketch them with charcoal in a sketch book.  The reason you ought to use charcoal is because if you then moisten your brush, it will become like ink and you can fine tune your sketches to look like mono paintings.

Have fun.  Do sketch. Do get lost in your daydreams.  You will, I am sure be impressed with your results! 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The River Rother

The River Rother © Kate Lomax All Rights Reserved

The River Rother runs from Empshott, near Liss, to Peterfield in Hampshire, England, then meandering across the South Downs toward  Stopham Sussex, where it merges with the River Arun.  Petersfield is a popular place for riders and ramblers, particularly the heath and lake, which has influenced the woodland scene in this work. Bridle paths along the river are illustrated by the white horses formed by the surf of the river, in the foreground.  Woodland footpaths and walkways stretch along the 32 miles of the river's scenic  route, nurturing wildlife and marshlands across the South Downs. A little piece of England on your wall. The work is mounted, the exterior dimensions of the mount for a frame, are approximately 14 inches wide x 11 inches  high.  This is a new addition to my collection of originals available to purchase.

The area has a special place in my heart.  I love a good picnic, an eating ritual instilled in me from childhood, when we would set off in the family car, all squished in, Mum, Dad, us three kids, and the dog.   We would either head westward to the New Forest or Dorset Coast, or northward to Petersfield and the South Downs.  Given the choice, it would be northward.  To miles of unspoiled countryside, wide open spaces and some water play in the waterways.  Joyous times indeed.

For those of you that have walked around the lake you will I am sure, immediately summon some heart smiles as you recall the abundant and uber friendly wildlife.  Used to the public visiting and feeding, all manner or critters will come right up, trying to woo the sandwich right out of your hand! Happy days!  

The Lull Before The Storm - Surrealism

The Lull Before The Storm © Kate Lomax 2015 All Rights Reserved

At heart, my natural style of painting is Surrealism.  Not to be confused with Fantasy, Abstract, Abstraction, Manga or any genre that folk sometimes mistake for Surrealism.

Surrealism is identified by the process.  You go to the paper or the canvas with not the slightest idea of what you are going to paint.  The moment you actually think about it, the thought process disqualifies the work as true surrealism.  Surrealism is to paint in a dream like state. How I work with this in watercolour is rather random, but it works for me.   If I am working in oil, I stare at the blank canvas for several days and let the canvas talk to me.  This is also the practice of many fellow artists. Most of us believe that everything has life.  Even a canvas.  It is made from cotton which is, after all, a plant that grew in a field prior to harvest.  It is that energy that an artists wishes to work with, to get the very best result possible.

I like to work with the elements.  Therefore I use a glued on all sides pad of heavyweight paper.  Arches is a good one.  I pop it out in the rain and allow the paper to become damp.  Because of the way rain falls, some drops will be wetter than others. So the paper is unevenly wet.

I then take my watercolour pigment and sprinkle randomly on the paper. I then allow it to dry.  Then, using a damp brush, I work on the multi coloured paper, picking out elements that I can see in my minds eye.   The first element I saw in this work was the swimmer's head.  Viewed from the rear of the head, which is turned slightly to the right, and fills a good part of the paper.  Once I had picked out the detail, the rest of the detail  followed spontaneously and soon I was reliving a then recent experience on the beach, when I was almost caught in a bad storm: 

The Lull Before The Storm - I was walking the dog along our local coastline, and over the New Forest we could see a violent storm approaching. We stood for a moment aghast at the speed it was moving across the Solent, and yet, there was only a gentle breeze. In minutes, the energy changed.

The whole painting is captured within the form of the back of a swimmer, his goggles having come astray in the sudden waves. Find him and everything else is likely to become visible to you... A paddler retreats, a child is still laughing into the sun, unaware of the approaching danger, a water nymph has popped her head up, as has the water sphinx, who peeks out from beneath a wave. The wind God, Boreas, gently exhales, saving his breath for the eye of the storm, which we see just peeking over the hill at the back.  The trees are found on the clifftops at Hill Head, and you will make out the figures of a walker and their dog. The Robin? My Grandmother always said if you saw a robin in times of trouble, everything was going to be just fine, which of course, it was. 

Enjoy.  And perhaps, if you have never tried, have a trial with surrealism.  Guard against analysing your brush strokes or any other part of the painting process.  Let your heart and your subconscious work together to produce something a little different.  Please feel free to post your work on my 'Paint With Kate' page on Facebook

Don't forget to like my page while you are there, and then you will find new blogs and tutorials in your feed, as and when they are published. 

Remember to always have fun with your art and explore new things, new colours and new styles, there could be a surrealist inside of you just screaming to be released!

To purchase 'The Lull Before The Storm' please click the gallery link at the top right of this page.

Thank you for visiting! 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year! - Here Comes Spring!

Happy New Year!

I would  like today, to wish a  very happy, healthy and abundant New Year to all of my students, followers, and fellow artists.  Let us all paint the world happy in 2018! 

Many Blessings,


Saturday, 30 December 2017

A Solent Sunset - Painting Process

A Solent Sunset © Kate Lomax 2017
As artist, we all get days when we have the urge to splish splash a little more freely than normal, and are not sure what to do with all of that creative energy.  
A very long time ago indeed, probably years, I decided that on those days, I would create backgrounds.  Not for anything in particular, just for stock.  So, tucked away, I have a number of ready to go backgrounds.  This cotton canvas on board, has been tucked away as a, 'ready to go', background.  Here it is, as it was when I fished it out of my stock drawer.


Knowing that I had planned to paint a sunset, this was perfect.  I then focussed on my composition by using a grey charcoal to map it all out

Stage 1 - Composition

Making the best use of the colours on the canvas, I outlined what will be the Isle Of Wight in the distance, the ocean, the mid field waves, the near field waves and the foreshore.

Stage 2 - Palette

Stage 3 - Dropping In The Shadows

It is always vital to drop in the shadows before you get started.  Trying to paint them in after is a nightmare, and they wont look natural.  Put them in first, using a contrasting colour.  My choice was Red Oxide - Mussini. 

Stage 4 - Colour Map

Yep, at this stage it looks like you really cant make up your mind what colour to use.  Once they were on there, I blended with the softest brush I have, to make sure I keep the colour signatures.  Harsh brushes create mud! I created the purple from my palette.

Stage 5 - Start Blending - Add Waves

Adding waves is a joy for me.  I watch the sea quite a bit, even video it from time to time to study the wave patterns.  In the Solent we have a flow of water from Southampton end, and another from Portsmouth end, which come together in Lee On Solent, in the form of a cross current. Quite fascinating to watch.

Stage 6 - Keep Blending, Add More Waves

It is essential when you are painting water, that you capture movement, and the easiest way to illustrate movement is by creating waves.  Thankfully, in my neck of the woods, because of the cross current, the waves are plentiful.  They dance along the shore like a chorus line, taking turns to can - can with their frilly frocks along the beach.  With each wave comes the underwave spill, the water that collects in a pool along the shore.  This is when you are so grateful for the shadow you dropped in earlier!!  

A Reminder - The Shadow

Stage 7 - Final Touches

Finally, I have added my highlights, my white horses on the ocean, defined the Isle Of Wight In the distance, and added lights in the sky using additionally, Lemon Yellow & Alizarin Crimson.  I have used Mussini's indispensable transparent black, Asphaltlasurton on the foreshore.

I am so lucky to live right on the Solent.   The Solent is a channel between the mainland and the Isle Of Wight, which was also the resting place of The Mary Rose, until her discovery in the depths of the water just to the east of Lee On Solent. With Southampton Docks to the west, and Portsmouth Docks to the east, the Solent is a busy shipping channel.  The current swirls from Southampton end and Portsmouth end, so on a rough day, it can be extremely choppy.  On a good day you get the cross current forming all sorts of waves and surf.  In 2006/7, after a life change, I photographed the dusk,  every single day, to give myself something to look forward to.  The sunsets in the summer are stunning. However, in the winter, with the sun low in the sky from midday onward, on a clear day, it is a sight to behold.  Purples, reds, oranges, and yellows dance around the sky, and as the sun disappears beneath the horizon, she gives a final kiss to the ocean and everything that surrounds it.   

Do try a waterscape yourself.  It isn't that scary, as long as you do the shadows first!

If you find these tutorials helpful, please feel free to share on your art pages, and perhaps leave a comment.   Perhaps also subscribe to my blog so you are notified when I publish a fresh one! Just click the 'Subscribe' button in the right hand column.  Thank you.

Have fun! 

A Solent Sunset & Tutorial © Kate Lomax 2017 All Rights Reserved

Ted & Golly

After several decades painting .... 

One builds up a stock of photographs, gazillions probably..  I carry at least two cameras with me at all times, three if I count my mobile...   You also build up a stock of bric a brac, objects d'art, all manner of 'things' - buttons, beads, ribbons, cotton, tins, anything that delights the eye, the curiosity, and kick starts the creative juices.

Then there is your personal stuff.

I for one, overlook my personal stuff.  Well, it's personal isn't it?  Did I really want to share the remains of Old Ted, long tired out and worn out, yet still up for a cuddle without falling apart, then poor Golly, always smiling, bright and shiny whatever the weather.  Even if the dog did swing him around by his legs ....  Still smiling.  Now I adore smiley folk, so I wouldn't want to be doing anything to upset Golly. Or Old Ted. Especially Old Ted in fact.  He's eons older than me, and at 61 years 11 months and 28 days, I am cantankerous enough when taken for granted.

So, it was a big decision. 

I wanted to illustrate them as the inseparable friends they are.  Always together, perched in the old fireplace I converted into bookshelves. Old Ted giving 
 that unimpressed sideways glance, almost as if he is just tolerating Golly's young whippersnapper ways.  Old Ted's faded, twisted and a little bit dishevelled ribbon being shown off like a war medal.  It is the original bow tied into the ribbon. I have never been able to figure why it is so loose. It just is, always has been.  Old Ted has posable arms and legs, held together throughout by tiny little hand stitches.  The pads on his hands and feet attached in the same way.  His eyes are made up of a number of French knots, and his funny little expression made up from more hand stitching.

Golly, on the other hand, has more of a modern feel about him.  Machine stitched, he is now going a little grey and fading, but his smile goes on and on.  How can you be having a bad day when you have Golly to share it with?  

So, on the day, when even a gazillion photographs were not enough, when the bric a brac was uninviting clutter, the buttons seemed boring , the beads fiddly, the ribbons bland, there, in a flash, were Old Ted & Golly.  

My old friends and I spent a glorious few hours chittering while I painted away, determined to capture Old Ted's very strange ageing fur, and Golly's over stuffed stiffness and ridiculously large bow tie.

Sometimes, it is the things we take for granted that we need to get to know again, isn't it?

Ted & Golly © Kate Lomax 2017 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Lemon Tree - The Painting Process

The Lemon Tree © Kate Lomax 2017
Oil On Linen Board.  All Rights Reserved

My first job was to decide which part of the tree to paint.  I didn't wish to capture the whole plant, as the lemons would have been tiny and looked quite irrelevant against the plant's bushy foliage.  So I mentally zoomed in on an area that seemed quite abundant, not only in foliage at all stages of growth,  but in fruit and flowers also.
I selected my two base colours thus: 

Mussini Translucent Yellow & W&N Turquoise
I then set about using charcoal to sketch my composition, to make sure my thoughts on the plant were going to work, eye appeal wise.  Once happy, I applied a wash of Turquoise to set the charcoal.

The composition begins with the leaf in the top left corner, moves across
to the lemon pointing down to direct the eye down, to swing
across to the largest leaf in the bottom left corner, inviting
the viewer to  a complete tour of the canvas.
Happy with my sketch and undercoat, I moved on to my first stage of colour, which is, at this stage, very elementary.  I don't want to complicate the process by applying too much paint.  Keep it fine and build wet into wet as the Alla Prima technique demands.  Too thicker paint will create stress should you need to move the paint for fine adjustments.  

First Stage Colour
I used the Translucent Yellow to mark out the leaves and lemons.  Note, where the Turquoise and T. Yellow have merged a gorgeous light leaf green has been created.  This can be deepened with more blue, or lightened with more yellow. Look at the image, Second Stage Colour (below) You can see where I have deepened and lightened the colour.  At this stage I wanted to see how many greens I could create using my two colours plus Mussini Titanium White.

Second Stage Colour
Third Stage Colour
Third stage colour involves creating a depth of field with the colours you are using.  Remember colours become clearer and deeper as the object nears the front of the viewing field.  I also dropped in the positioning of the white lemon blossom here, and first stage highlighted some of the leaves and the lemons.

Fourth Stage Colour
Fourth stage colour is really pulling together your hues and tones to create a dance between the colours.  I call it 'the zing'.  Deep in the plant there are leaves which are quite dark, that would have dumbed down the painting, so, using artistic licence, I lifted them a little.The larger, more mature leaves on the left have ridges, the younger leaves have not necessarily developed these yet and are very similar to bay leaves in their early life.  In the part of the paint, I added detail such as stamen, buds, veins, lemon skin irregularities, such as dimples.

Fifth (final) Stage
In this final stage of painting, I added the tiny bud casing, the stamen on all of the blooms, the viens on the leaves,   and, mindful of the light and shadow values, I had kept the plant on a side table next to my easel the whole time.  Lacking now in daylight, I turned my daylight lamp on and placed it where the sun would be in relation to the tree.  I then made my final light corrections, prior to working on the green bark of the tree.  I used a tiny speck of Ultramarine Blue on the darker leaves, and to enhance shadow.  Lemon Yellow on the highlights of the leaves completed the paint.

The Lemon Tree plus Tutorial. © Kate Lomax 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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Beach Busker - The Painting Process

Beach Busker © Kate Lomax 2017
Alla Prima - Oil on linen board

I loved painting this picture. I originally took the photograph of this double bass player, probably around 2000, in Hampshire. He was part of a quartet who were playing to entertain holidaymakers. I didn't want to be in his face taking pictures, so I found a vantage point directly above him, promising myself to paint it very soon after.  Ahem! Seventeen years or so on....
Alla Prima lends itself to water so well, allowing your brush to flow with the tide, swirling and rolling with the water, to me is one of life's joys.  Load your brush up with several colours, then roll your brush along the shore - remember to drop a shadow underneath the waterline first, because it is a devil to pop in after.....

Here is how 'Beach Busker' came to be

Stage 1 - Charcoal Sketch

Firstly, to decide on my composition, I sketched with charcoal the busker, adding very roughly, the shoreline in Prussian Blue, which became my shore and wave shadow as the work progressed. 
Stage 2 

The next two steps were to apply a colour map. Yellow Ochre was daubed roughly where the sand might be. French Ultramarine and Mussini's Titanium White were applied together and applied with a rolling brush. At this point, if I wasn't happy I could wipe it all off and start afresh, - one of the benefits in painting Alla Prima, win win  all around!   
 The darker tones were then applied to the Yellow Ochre, by introducing  in a touch of Mussini Indian Red. Do not overwork it, or it wont look like sand for very long!

Stage 3

For my own reassurance, I needed to work on the ocean and beach before proceeding to the figure, although I did map the busker out in colour tones to get an idea of the 'zing' factor.   I decided that applying Windsor & Newton's Turquoise to the ocean would zing with the reddy tones of the double bass, rather than use a cobalt or ultramarine which I felt would dumb down the zing factor.
Stage 4

The busker was relatively easy to complete, paying attention to details like his shoes, the shadow from his trouser leg on to his sock, the creases in his trousers. More Indian red was added into the sand where it might be wet.  Highlights were applied to the sand also, to lift the colour.  Highlights were then applied to the double bass, shirt and to the top of his balding head.  Almost Done!
Stage 5

The final stage is adding fine detail, almost invisible to the casual viewer, however easily spotted to the trained eye or art critic. The left hand under wave has a new edge on it which is a more natural shape, the sand has highlights, as if it is glistening in the sun.  The double bass now has it's fiddle thing holder.  I polished his shoes while I was there,  Worked on his flesh tones, arms and fingers,  and gave the double bass it's highly polished look with some subtle highlights.  I also disturbed the sand around the double bass to show where it had sunk into the sand.   The very last thing I added was his cap, placed to accept generous donations from the public. 
Beach Busker &  Instructional Blog © Kate Lomax 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Exciting News! Live Again!!

Hi, I am happy to announce that this blog is now live again.  Yay!  This will be linked to my website, and also to my Daily Painting profile.  More details tomorrow!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Illustrative Painting Parts I, II, & III

Whilst in progress, a curious butterfly lands on one of the daisies featured in
Quantum Leapfrog!
Now that's realism for you!
Oil On Canvas 24 x 24
(c) Copyright Kate Lomax 2011 All Rights Reserved
One of the most testing  dilemmas an artist has to deal with on a fairly regular basis is answering the seemingly circular question, "Is the painting finished?"

When you have gazed for at least a week in quiet contemplation of your 'finished' piece, and have resisted the urge to just do this or that, it can indeed be declared finished, duly named and presented to the world!

Try not to name your artwork when it is in progress, you will immediately give yourself parameters by default of the working title.   You can christen  the piece with no name to whatever you choose no name to evolve to.  However, 'Placid Lake In Woodland Setting' can hardly evolve to a hunting scene, or a surreal monster of the deep kinda work, although a painting could evolve to represent almost anything - where it begins is rarely where the piece ends.  Keep your title smart, snappy and memorable. Indeed, a commission should never be named prior to completion. Work around a loose brief, and let the painting speak to you on completion. The right title should be apparent.  If the piece is a portrait, it should be simply named after the subject.

Painting Illustrative Work Part I

I have three new pieces to share with you, 'Antoinette' being the first of the three.  The next two to follow over the next few days.  They have all been declared finished pieces at one stage or another, only to find their way back to the easel for slight amendments here and there - Oh the joy of being fickle!! 

The most challenging of my most recent work was, without a doubt, 'Antoinette'.  If you have read Wide Sargasso Sea, (Jean Rhys) then you will immediately recognise certain elements of the painting.  The book is the prequel to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and narrates the story of Antoinette Cosway, aka Bertha Mason (Rochester's first wife) who resided in the attic at the Rochester family home, occasionally emerging to dabble in a little domestic fire-raising. 

The story of Antoinette is so sad - truly - I just had to immortalise my reading experience.

The central character of Wide Sargasso Sea,  Antoinette Cosway  is a white Creole  raised in a white household in the Jamaican community of Coulibri around the time of the emancipation of black slaves.  A social outcast, Antoinette carries a wooden stake as protection after her mother's horse was poisoned. In the painting this forms the fence behind which Antoinette features, unable to express or verbalise her suffering.  The large house is set fire to by rebelling black servants, and the family leave the house, her parrot Coco engulfed by the flames, unable to fly away, since his wings had been clipped, a practice common where parrots are kept as free roaming pets. Antoinette's brother Pierre also dies as a result of the fire. You must read the book to find out more!

The horse in the foreground is a piebald, so chosen as I wanted to depict the racist issues, the harsh black & white of it all.  The rest of the illustration has been digitally converted to sepia to reflect the status of Creole.  Not black or white. A beautiful warm mid way tone between the two.  I also felt that the monotone look would add to the drama of the visualisation.

However, my technical issues were complex.  If I had used umber hues to achieve the sepia I could have strayed into yellow tones or darker browns, so I decided to complete the look using a little technology.
So, to achieve the shading and dramatic tones, I needed to pay attention to the colours I mixed for  the final top rendering in oil keeping in the forefront of my mind the effect I wished  to create for the final visual, whilst staying true to the story, as in green parrot, golden skin tones the reds and oranges of the flames.  It was all quite intense, since I was looking to achieve a one click transformation.  I loathe sitting in front of a computer!  Converting on screen the underlayers I became aware of the potential pit falls.  Too much red would take me further into browny black hues than I wished to venture.  I also had to be careful with my yellows.  Cad gave me the look I was after, whereas a lemon yellow or naples could have given the sepia version far too much highlight, in areas I didn't want. In fact, if you compare the yellow area above right of the parrot's right wing tip, you can clearly see on the sepia edit where I have used lemon yellow. Eventually I mixed my yellow using a tiny element of cad deep to mute it in the digital process.  I used Liquin to give me the transparency I needed in the light areas. The only true black, which would remain black should be the colouring of the piebald.  However, the horse remained brown and headless for some time! While I decided on the design of his top coat, and facial features and direction of gaze. I finally settled to introduce a more nonsensical and surreal dynamic in the work using the horse's coat almost as an individual canvas, reserving the intensity of the subject matter of the overall visualisation for his concerned stare.

Original Oil On Canvas  24 x 24
(c) Copyright Kate Lomax 2010 All Rights Reserved

Beginning the project in late 2010, after many months of experimentation, indecision & toil, I am  joyous  to present  'Antoinette'.

Illustrative Painting Part II

Oil On Canvas Board
10 x 12 inches
(c) Copyright Kate Lomax 2010 All Rights Reserved

The life of an Illustrator is indeed  an interesting one. Illustrators come in many genres.  Today I want to focus on artistic illustration. You may be asked to illustrate a short story or perhaps a book cover, poetry or even a cook book.  The first job in hand then is to know your subject.  Read the book, the poetry, the short story.  Try a recipe or two.  Know the beast, then it will become your friend.

The secret of a good illustration is one that evokes a curiosity without giving too much of the plot away.  Go to your library, browse the illustrative book covers.  They should read like a teaser line.  Tut tut merrily at the covers of well known tales that give away the climax of the plot on the cover.   Look at the date of publication.  A century or two ago, the only possible way of warning a potential reader of the suitability of the  content in relation to their own religious or moral code was indeed with a graphic illustration.  Today it is different.  Today, we have reviews online, in almost every magazine and newspaper, and of course reader reviews on sites such as Amazon.  An illustration therefore should tease the reader into the pages of the story as it unfolds.  We also have censorship across mass media,  therefore there is a much smaller chance of making an epic gaff when selecting a book for your ageing Aunt's birthday.

You may not be interested in illustration at all.  However, it is exceptionally good practice to try a few simply to train yourself to look at your own paintings and drawings to analyse what story you are telling your audience in your finished piece.

While you are at the library, find yourself a good book on  semiotics.  The painters code, which after many, many centuries, still holds good today.   Studying semiotics will also help you to understand the complexities of centuries old work, then when analysed invariable tell the back story of the event the work is depicting.

The above illustration, 'Penelope' is an illustration depicting the tale of Penelope of Odyssey notoriety, as  depicted by Margaret Atwood in The Penelopiad, (2005) as  one of the Canongate Myths.  Almost a saintly character in The Odyssey, busying herself with her tapestry during the twenty four years her husband was AWOL, Atwood reinvented Penelope as a lady, perhaps not behaving as a lady should, who is make the best of the situation she finds herself in. However, this is all set in a time period when wall to wall handmaidens were a necessary part of any household and as we all know walls have ears and eyes! I chose to paint her without a mouth as her lips were tightly sealed to the truth throughout her plight

So, in the illustration above, you will note that Penelope has downcast eyes, not wanting to show herself to whoever views in.  In the shadowy area on the left of the painting see her husband, Odysseus, although he is not painted as a solid form. The eyes of the handmaidens look around and look out at the viewer, one appears to be an eye belonging to Odysseus himself.  This tells us that he has a greater insight into the situation than Penelope imagines.  Between the half image of each character, we can merge them to be a whole, the two halves fused together in gold,  - their joint love of wealth and power.  My indication here is that they are fused together, jointly responsible for the grisly climax of the tale, and equally accountable.

The colouring is intentionally strong.  The tale is a strong, punchy story, with unfolding twists such as deceit, cunning, materialism, slavery, and of course adultery.  These elements dictated my palette. I needed various levels of transparency for the layers.  If you look closely, there are indications of other elements throughout the work, weaved into the background and found within other shapes and forms. For example, the eye of Cyclops can be found around the bridge of the nose of Odysseus.  Have fun finding the rest! Oh! and do read the book if you get chance!

Illustrative Painting Part III

My newest surreal piece 'Quantum Leapfrog'  was inspired by listening to a meditation.  Meditation allows our imagination to roam freely between the conscious and subconscious and is a marvelllous practice for artists wishing to illustrate intuitively.  It has been great fun to paint, a thoroughly enjoyable piece.  Some of my early followers of 20 years or more standing may remember my seemingly ordinary landscapes and seascapes with subtexts illustrated within the clouds waves and figurative shapes.  Well, let me tell you that you will find many many beasts and shapes, birds and fish within this work.  You just have to look!!  A bit like looking at the clouds or into a 3D poster the secondary items will eventually leap out at you, and once you have spotted them there is absolutely no getting shot of them........ I have attached just two crops, but there are quite a few more.  In producing this work, I wanted  to induce the viewer into an alpha state by distraction, as in searching for the hidden images and eventually 'losing' the chaos of the 'now' surrounding them.

Quantum Leapfrog (Crop 1) (c) Kate Lomax 2011 All Rights Reserved
The most obvious addition is that of the bear chatting to the sea lion. To the bottom right
of the sea lion there is an snowy owl in profile, find his yellow eye looking skyward first...

Quantum Leapfrog (Crop 2) (c) Kate Lomax 2011 All Rights Reserved
On the left of the painting, beneath the daisy is a mouth singing with a mic in front of the mouth, to the left of this is an elephant, a goat and a bird singing along also.
When painting in the abstract or surreal, we have to rely heavily on the picture in our minds eye, or the mental imprint we have to direct our work from within

Some artists are able to do this, some are not.  Essentially, this still falls under the umbrella of illustrative painting. 

Normally, a surreal work does eventually spawn a narrative or backstory, conception bouncing from an initial idea, that will have a root somewhere in the artist's universe.  The paint did not just fall out of the sky and arrange itself on the canvas, thus, it must have a starting point. For example, the artist may be wishing to  capture on canvas a feeling or an energy they have experienced in another person or an institution and may wish to do this as visual satire, or maybe placing the recognisable elements in an absurd situation.

Falling out of the sky via an artist's brush, a true Abstract however, ideally has no such root, meaning or backstory, and may be regarded as a delightfully interesting discussion piece.  Jackson Pollock was a remarkable Abstract Expressionist. Known best for his paint drip paintings you can have a go yourself. Here is one I did in about 10 seconds at the Jackson Pollock Organisation website. You simply go to a blank screen and hit any key to start, click to change colour.  Great fun and totally abstract!

Apiece that is based on experience, imprints or any real thread is regarded as an Abstraction.  Surrealism on the other hand, is normally based in the figurative, with identifiable elements knitted together in a dream like reality, and of course in dreams anything can happen! Surrealism is probably the most popular and most acceptable form of abstraction.

When composing such a work, it always good firstly to write notes about your thoughts and your vision, and secondly, to produce rough sketches with any notation about colour style and the overall ambience of your piece.  The background is also important, and I shall be talking about backgrounds in depth in my next blog.

Many would be surrealists fear ridicule and rejection from their arty peer groups and often do not emerge as competent surrealists until later in life, when perhaps they are a little more confidence in who they are artistically. If this sounds like you, then it is time to come out of the closet.  The great thing about now in the evolution of art, is that almost absolutely anything is acceptable. 

A good exercise is just to grab whatever medium you prefer, and scribble with paint or any mark maker, in any colour you fancy without any subject matter in mind.  Just paint or draw mindlessly. Create a true abstract.  But is it....  often when you return to the painting, you can see all sorts of Freudian additions, if this is so you have just created an piece of Abstract Expressionism.  Well Done!! If it is just a collection of  meaningless shapes and  marks, I am sure it is beautiful, and will evoke all manner of discussions as different viewers see or imagine they see different forms within the work.  How wonderfully exciting!
Art is, simply because it is, and all art is stunningly beautiful because it represents a tiny piece of a person. An inner snapshot.  Gosh.  When we understand this, we can begin to understand what Impressionism is all about.  Creating that snapshot quickly and in the moment and painting what we see, be it in reality or the mind's eye.  We can then also see the links between Surrealism, Abstract and Abstraction, and Impressionism.  All Genre's relate to visual truth.  The artist's truth.  

So, if you feel you are painting what your public expect to see and not what YOU want to see, stop it, right now.  Pick up a paintbrush, pencil or pastel, and paint yourself at one with yourself!