Friday, 21 November 2014

Cheese Delivery


Cheese Delivery
Watercolour / Gouache
24 x 31cm



My latest painting, 'Cheese Delivery,' was challenge to paint because I decided to use a very restricted range of colours or, as James Gurney would say, a narrow colour gamut. My influence behind colour mixing was 'Saying Grace' by Norman Rockwell. I leant heavily on yellow ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber and sepia throughout the whole process and only went to ultramarine, prussian blue and cadmium reds halfway through and even then they were always mixed with a brown.

Hopefully the whimsical story of the smelly cheese being delivered by an otter, with a peg on his nose, has come across in the finished painting. Nevertheless I had a lot of fun painting the crazed mice, especially the two young mice raiding the new cheese delivery.

By the way, Stenson (shop name) and Hartley (delivery van) are two surnames that feature in my family.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

My Art Turned Into Cross Stitch

Paine Free Crafts are converting a selection of my artwork in cross stitch charts and kits! The first image, 'Autumn Scribe' is up for sale. Click here to visit painefreecrafts.com.
Those owls are being stitched up good and proper!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Massive Fantastic Interview

I have recently given a 10 question interview, courtesy of Eric Millen, for his superb blog 'Massive Fantastic. You can read it here.

Make sure to have a browse through the archives, there is an especially good interview with James Gurney where Mr Gurney turns the tables on Eric and asks about the fate of his old brushes, Eric had previously traded new brushes for James' used ones!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

'Catching Butterflies' Work In Progress

A shot of what is on my drawing at the moment.
He's going to need a bigger net

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten Pt .3

For the first part of this post click here, and for the second part click here.

Finally I was up and running with my brushes (not literally, although I do have wheels on my studio chair so the option is there if needed).
Under-paintings and then some.
As is my wont, I began with an under-painting. However, just to be difficult, I began with payne's grey for the station and engine and then moved onto sepia for the characters. This was to re-enforce the difference between the cool station colours and the warmly coloured characters.

After that initial stage, it was a case of blocking in colours to work out the types of clothing. Every now and then I had to grab new reference (thank goodness for Downton Abbey screenshots) but mostly I had a reasonably clear idea of costumes beforehand.
A series of WIP shots taken over a period of 10 days
You'll notice in the 'works in progress' photos I tended to concentrate on the foreground characters more than the background. Traditional thinking would be to do this the opposite way, but I found it easier to focus on the main elements first before I lost enthusiasm with the painting and ended up slacking on my quality control. There's nothing worse than a fantastic scene with a poorly painted character sticking out like a sore thumb. Also there were so many elements that really I'm not sure it mattered where I began so long as I eventually finished it.

Speaking of which here is the final painting.
A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten
Watercolour & Gouache
50 x 92
 
3 weeks work in total and my biggest watercolour painting of this series so far.
 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten Pt .2

For the first part of this post click here.

After working out a basic, almost abstract, composition for the passengers and laying that on top of the station rough, it was time to work on each character individually. I had the intention of re-using characters from previous paintings and also introducing some that would then feature in their own personal painting. However I had no definite ideas so as usual I just started to draw in the hope something satisfactory would appear.
The full pencil rough
I'd better make clear that in order to produce the final pencil rough I printed out the initial rough at a larger size and then transferred that image onto a fresh piece of cartridge. I knew it would be a lot of work but you can't create a large painting like this on dodgy foundations (that's a favourite saying in my house).

Once I had the characters fleshed out I then put the image into Photoshop and had a play with the tonal values.
Photoshopped (is that a word?) tonal study
With the tonal study I tried to expand the tonal range on the characters and reduce the levels on the train in the hope the characters would be brought forward. This was all well and good until I realised I needed to darken the background roof to accentuate the light train in front. So now my tonal order was (front to back) dark/light medium/medium. I wasn't too confident in making the difference between all three of these tones clear in the final painting but decided (as you will see) to use a blurring effect on the roof to make sure it receded and a light glaze of white gouache on the train to bring the characters forward.
Tonal Study Detail: The badger, signing an autograph, happens to be the famous opera singer Madame Albani from a previous painting. In the background you can see an otter soldier holding his child - a reference to William Powell Frith.
Who knew the fox was a black market salesman. You might recognise the hedgehog too.
I sent this rough to my client, Olivier Souille, and he asked me to revise the bottom left section (see below)
Detail of the section in need of revision.
Olivier thought it looked clunky (my word, not his) and I agreed with his observation. I think I was so desperate to add the barrel, box, bench etc that I lost interest with the characters and how they interacted with whole image.

Before I heard from Olivier I had already sized up and transferred to rough onto stretched watercolour paper so I had to rework the area on a piece of tracing paper until I was happy and only then could it be added to the final pencil drawing.
Final Pencil Detail On Watercolour Paper: You can see I removed the bench and station paraphernalia and added more porter mice, a stoat and two young foxes. (Sorry about the poor picture quality, from here on the rest of the shots were taken with a camera phone )
The final pencil drawing ready to be painted

Detail: That little chap is awestruck.


Monday, 1 September 2014

A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten Pt .1

The past two weeks I have been working on the centrepiece to an upcoming exhibition of mine. In fact I'm still working on the painting, however I'm now sufficiently far enough into the painting process to show you how I arrived at the initial idea for 'A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten'.

First off - I knew I wanted to do a BIG painting but what should be the subject? It had to contain lots of characters (some which I've taken from previous paintings) and it must have depth both in terms of physical space and of narrative. My aim with the BIG painting was to develop the world in which my characters inhabited and also to spawn knew ideas for forthcoming paintings.

Gradually the idea to tackle a railway station scene, with lots of action on the platform and a great big steam engine in the background, came to me. A major influence on my choice was 'The Railway Station' by William Powell Frith which featured on the front cover of a British History book I had seen at school (I think). Frith's characters are lined up as if waiting for a school assembly photograph to be taken and the steam engine is in the far distance so when I started to thumbnail ideas I deliberately started with the engine first to bring it forward and then introduce random sqiuggles for characters afterwards in the hope the train and it's travellers would have equal importance.
Somewhere in these childlike scrawls is a reasoned composition waiting to be realised
You can see I circled the thumbnail I thought was balancing characters vs steam engine best. Some of the failed attempts either cut the steam engine in half or took over most of the scene leaving very little space for a platform that was to be teeming with life.
First rough (take two)
Because I knew the perspective of the roof and train was going to be very challenging I decided to create a rough which left the platform empty. This enabled me to erase mistakes easily without removing a meticulously drawn fox paw (insert your own obscure animal anatomy here). It also made sure the train's perspective lines joined up correctly when the characters appeared in the foreground blocking parts of the engine behind. The image above is the second attempt at the rough drawing, the first version was too side on and lacked any depth.

You might recognise the station as St Pancras in London. I visited a friend in the big smoke as part of my 'reference gathering trip'. I've got some good shots of old pubs too, ahem. I also visited Didcot Railway Centre which was a gold mine of not just trains but old luggage, station furniture, signs and trolleys.
I don't know how Bugs Bunny appeared in this sketch (far right - don't judge me).


Once I was happy with the train and station, the roof had to be re-drawn more times than I would like to admit, I then pulled out some tracing paper, laid it on top of the rough and started to develop some characters.

This post is long enough already so I'll go through some important characters in my next post and for now I will leave you with the image of the animals on tracing paper and the station brought together (like ebony and ivory) in Photoshop.
Together in perfect harmony.





Tuesday, 15 July 2014

'Good Evening M'lady'

Good Evening M'lady
Watercolour / Gouache
24 x 31cm

I had lots of fun bringing my rag and bone badger and lamplighter weasel characters together for this painting. There is no doubt that I have benefited re-using two characters in a new painting, the turn around was slightly quicker than normal because most of the colour decisions had already been made in previous paintings and the overall atmosphere is lifted straight from 'Rag & Bone'. You could say half of the image had already been painted before I even picked up my brushes.

I wonder if the lamplighter managed to catch the eye of the flower seller in the end?



Monday, 7 July 2014

'Lounging About' Work In Progress

A good day's painting, the under-painting done and basic blocking in well under way.
Dappled light is always a challenge

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Good Evening M'lady WIP

I'm currently working on this painting called 'Good Evening M'lady'. A couple of likely lads trying their best to catch the flower seller's eye.
Is she stifling a smile?
You may recognise the weasel from this and the badger from 'Rag And Bone' below:
He could do with a bath.
I down tools tomorrow because I'm shooting to London to get some much needed reference photos and to meet up with an old friend who really needs to update his twitter.