Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Oil painting set up - shadow box, Irish style

Last summer I spent much of my time planning and preparing for the Draw In Symposium (www.draw-in.co.uk) which ran across two weeks at the end of August into September.
I came out the other side of that determinded to set aside more regular painting time for myself, and in order to do this, I resigned as distance learning tutor for London Art College.  Although I've loved it, it was the right thing for me to do - sometimes the best way to serve students is to produce more personal work, and practice. I've worked with their students for six years, but have many students that I am still (in May) seeing out, who started their course with me.  

So, a new routine!

One of the common mistakes I hear from students is in thinking that you must have a designated area at home, set aside specifically for painting. While this is desirable, it's not essential - what is much more important than setting aside space is setting aside TIME.

I decided to do some still life subjects using a shadow box, and put it on the dining room table, raised up on another box to get an angle that I liked. After playing with the light source, I started drawing. (light, by the way, is so transformative to a subject that it makes the difference between making something worth painting, and not. A perfectly ordinary object can be rendered awesome, by the lighting).

Drawing - this is the important act of beginning your observation of the subject - of form, light, relationships, contrasts, nuances of tone. It gets your eye and brain engaged and in sinc with the subject and prepares the ground for the painting to come.  Yet this is the step that many students seek to avoid! Preparation is key. Draw to prepare. Think of the word Draw to mean Gathering. You're gathering information. You're drawing together the information you need to make a good painting.  

Next I traced my drawing onto layout paper, and transferred it onto canvas by painting a thin layer of burnt sienna oil paint over the back of the layout,  and drawing over my lines with a pen, ready for my black and white tonal study. I think it's important to show you the table by now - filling up, but I haven't had to spread out much - the space required is small.

Note the glass of water -  do not get dehydrated.. It's fine to get so absorbed that you forget to eat, but don't forget to drink. 
Finished tonal study

Next up was the colour version. I traced my drawing onto another canvas, laid down an underlayer with burnt umber thinned with mineral spirit, and left it to dry overnight. 

Starting the colour

By now, I admit, I was spreading out a bit more, and I was worried as had a friend coming to visit for an overight stay... Fortunately, she's a lover of arty things and was happy to share the table with me to do some of her own work. This has GOT to be the sign of a good friend. 

Me and Claire, space sharing

One of the good thing about having a visitor, of course, is that it would be rude not to go OUT, especially when the weather is crisp and sunny. So we headed down The Ards Peninsula, one of my favourite places, and drove over the little islands to the Nendrum Monastic site, and on round to Daft Eddie's for coffee.  

You can't beat a nice dry stone wall. 
A break from the drawing board often means we work more quickly when we get back to it. We also see things with a fresh eye when we've had a change of scenery. If you know you're going to have a small gap in studio visits (or, dining-room table visits), it's important to leave the painting at a good place, so it's easy to pick it up again.

The finished painting

A colse up to show the slathery bits - this is one of the best things about oil paint, the slathers. 
Next up - Portrait drawing workshop, Oils weekend and a Drawing Trail around Belfast's Titanic Quarter. For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

No comments:

Post a Comment