101 Top Techniques for Artists

101 Top Techniques imageAround a year ago, I was invited by the SAA to submit an idea or two for a proposed book (their first) that would feature 101 interesting techniques for artists. Among those ideas, I included a run down of how I work with coloured pencils on cradled wooden panels – specially adapted for creating smaller works. This technique was selected and I prepared some examples for a photography session at SAA HQ.

I’m delighted to say that the book is now published and my two-page feature looks great! The whole book has been very well produced and is jam packed full of ideas and techniques  (there really are 101 of them!) for new, improving or established artists.

Priced for SAA members at £14.99, the book is a good buy for anyone looking to expand their repertoire – with tips, techniques and ideas from all your favourite SAA TV artists! The book is also available with a DVD featuring a handful of the featured artists (Geoff Kersey, Marion Dutton and Jeremy Ford)

Here’s a link to the trailer: here

I have a small stock of the books only (at £14.99) and, as a special offer, the first 10 ordered directly from my website will be sent postage free! Just go to The Art Shop and order direct from me.

Selected for UKCPS Open International 2014

Little-Toby-for-webI’m very pleased to learn that “Little Toby Dreams of Durer” has been selected for the 2014 UKCPS Open International Exhibition and really happy that it will be getting an outing.  I made it with last year’s Derwent Art Prize in mind – but it was not selected for that show!  It’s big (for coloured pencil anyway) at 120 cm x 90 cm (4′ x 3′) and is an idea that first formed in my mind while I was demonstrating at the UKCPS Open at Stamford Arts Centre in 2010.  It has been getting very good reactions when I show it at Art Society demonstrations and talks – so I’m chuffed that it has been selected for this show (where I know the selection process has been a bit tighter – with far fewer works being picked than last year).  If you’d like to know the story – read on to the end of this post!

Stamford was only the second UKCPS exhibition I’d seen and I was struck by the fact that no-one else seemed to be working in the same way as I was – largely the result of experiments at college around 2002/3.  There seemed to be a great focus on very tightly rendered small works that showed tremendous technical skill but that sometimes didn’t engage the eye at a regular viewing distance.  By contrast, my big works on prepared wooden panels could be clearly seen from across the room(!) but probably didn’t satisfy CP die-hards on closer inspection. I also have no real interest in animal portraits for their own sake – but observed that this genre was extremely popular amongst CP artists.

Being a lover of low viewpoints, the idea of “doing” a tortoise from ground level appealed to me greatly!  However, I rather dislike the popular habit of rendering portraits of domestic animals that seem to exist without context or narrative.  If I was going to go big and fill the frame with a small animal, I’d need to tell a story or encourage the viewer into some kind of imaginative world.  In addition, what would the tortoise be standing on? The Aesop fable of the Hare and the Tortoise came to mind almost immediately.  It was also not much of a stretch to think of the tortoise being on grass – with the challenge of random blades and leaves.  It was then that I remembered two particularly wonderful pieces by Albrecht Durer, the German artist (1471 – 1528). His drawing of a hare and another of a clod of earth are models for CP artists to this day of brilliant observation and technique. In addition, the fable of the hare and tortoise seemed to be a metaphor for the whole business of working in coloured pencils – and I decided early on to use a coloured pencil as part of the finishing line!!  So – as Toby crosses the finishing line, spurred on by thoughts of the Renaissance, he demonstrates the virtue of perseverance! Alternatively, if you’d prefer, it’s just a CP picture of a tortoise and stuff!!

Little-Toby-sketchbook Here’s an undated page (early 2011) from a sketchbook where I was starting to think about the composition.  Looking back on it now, although I tried a few variations, I stuck very close to my first idea for the final composition.  This is usual for me.  I don’t often do extensive sketchbook work before “fixing” my ideas.  I nearly always do the work in my head and have a very clear idea of how I want a finished piece of this type to look – before I start to work.

And so to the search for resources. I don’t own a tortoise – but I thought it would be easy to find one!  How wrong could I be.  As a child, so many friends and neighbours owned a tortoise (often with a hole through the edge of the shell and attached to a piece of string, or with the house number painted on the shell).  Not these days!  After asking around and searching the Internet, I came across Norfolk Tortoise Rescue and fired off a speculative e-mail to the contact.  After a few exchanges during which I had to confirm that I would keep the location secret (these animals are now protected and subject to kidnap), I was given permission to visit and take photos.  Several tortoises of varying sizes were brought out of their luxury sheds and “auditioned”.  These animals are amazingly fast and I took many dozens of photos of several potential candidates.  Mostly they were too quick for the slight delay on my digital camera and a lot of the photos were out of focus!  Little Toby, the smallest of the lot at around 8 inches across, showed the greatest character and I took loads of photos of him charging towards me across the grass. He was very sociable!

Key elements of the composition are arranged according to the rule of thirds. Toby himself (and some of the closest foliage) was based on a couple of the photos – but with some details from pictures of a different tortoise altogether. I looked on the Internet and in a couple of nature books at home for a reminder of what made a hare different from a rabbit (!) – but was more concerned to get a sense of rage in its eyes than anything else.  To get the pencil/finishing post looking right, I stuck a drawing pin in one that I’d been using and held it up with the light coming from the correct direction and drew what I saw. The sky, horizon, ribbon and much of the foliage is from my imagination.  As is my usual practice,  I made good use of the electric eraser right at the end when tightening up specific edges and other features.  Although twice the size of my other larger CP works, this piece probably didn’t take a lot longer to complete – maybe 60-80 hours. I worked standing at a large studio easel.

Even though this is a pretty big work for CP, it is nevertheless a “pure” coloured pencil painting.  I used Derwent Artist and Studio pencils dry on 6mm MDF prepared with several coats of white gesso and sanded to a smooth finish.  There is a lot of bracing on the rear of the panel and the surface is protected by a couple of spray coats of matt artists’ varnish.

 

My last Talking Point

After 3 years, I’ve now vacated the UKCPS Editor’s Chair.  My final issue of “Talking Point” (the twelfth quarterly issue on my watch) is just about to be posted to members.  I’ve loved the process of composing and editing the magazine.  In fact, it gave me the wonderful opportunity to potentially get in touch with any CP artist in the world to ask them for a contribution.  No-one ever said “no” and, while trawling the Internet for excellent examples of CP art, I was introduced to the work of some superb artists and have developed terrific “virtual” relationships with several of them.  However, during the latter half of 2013, I came to the unavoidable view that I really had to devote much more of my time to developing my own work and this would mean that voluntary commitments would have to be put aside.  I wish my successor, Judith Selcuk, every success.  I’m sure she’ll enjoy taking the magazine in her own direction in due course.

Here are the covers for all of my twelve issues.

TP-41-cover TP-42-cover TP-43-cover TP-44-cover TP-45-coverTP-46-cover TP-47-cover TP-48-cover TP-49-cover TP-50-cover TP-51-coverTP-52-cover

 

Front Page News!

B&BJ 13.12.2013 01

It was a nice surprise to find that, not only had the local paper responded to the press release I sent earlier in the week, they had covered half the front page with it.  I had been expecting to have to “badger” them a bit – but, even though I’d not had a response from them, there is was on the news stand!

The cards are now displayed and for sale in several Bungay locations.  They are:

  • The Earsham Street Cafe
  • The Fisher Theatre
  • The Art Trading Co.
  • The Cork Brick Gallery
  • Lodge Cordell
  • The Buttercross Tearooms
  • The Library

Sales of cards and the first run of prints have been pretty good and, at last, we’re starting to raise some money!

In addition, the following day, the article was in the Eastern Daily Press which has a much wider circulation across the region.  I even made the posters used on the news stands in town!  I’ve scanned all the articles and they can be accessed on the Bungay Panorama tab here or above.

 

Bungay Panorama Project Complete!

I’m really pleased (and relieved!) that the edition of 500 cards reproduced from my “epic” effort to capture the centre of Bungay in coloured pencil is now on sale.  Around 100 of them went straight away at the Bungay Christmas Street Market last Sunday (1st December).  100% of the purchase price of each card (£1.50) goes to Bungay Joint Tourism Group and will contribute to plans to raise the profile of this fine town on the Suffolk/Norfolk border (in the lovely Waveney Valley) as a tourist destination.  The cards – which feature tiny portraits of 70 adults, children and pets who have all been “sponsored” to be in the picture – will be available from a handful of outlets in Bungay ( t.b.a.) and can now be purchased from my website using PayPal.  An A3 print (which includes a “key” to all the participants) is also available.  I shall be adding a “purchase” button for the prints in due course.   Meanwhile, if you are interested in one of these prints, please get in touch.  They are £15 each (of which, after costs, around 2/3rds goes to BJTG).  To purchase cards, go to the “Shop” at the top of the page.

Even More “Happy As …”!!

Well, although I’ve really neglected my website because of overall busy-ness over the summer, I’m very chuffed to say that “Happy As …” was awarded “Runner Up – Best in Show” at the 2013 UKCPS Open International Exhibition at Patchings Art Centre on 31st August.

We’d been sitting in a corner of the gallery having a committee meeting while the show judge was working his way round the gallery making his choices.  We finished the meeting as other members started arriving for the PV and it was a complete surprise to find that I’d won the award.  In fact I was having a quick look round the show and didn’t notice it at first – until someone else came up to me and congratulated me on my award!  I’m aware that my work is a little like Marmite within the CP world (people either love it or hate it!) and was particularly chuffed with a couple of things the judge (Nottinghamshire artist – Stephen Ashurst) said.  Apparently he always likes to see the hand of the artist in a piece of work (my students will chuckle at this – as I often tell them the same thing!) and he enjoyed the evidence of the layers and levels of rendering that had gone into the picture.  In addition, he said that although he had not consciously seen my work before, he was certain that he would recognise it in future.  Both comments meant a huge amount to me.

The “hang” at Patchings was a bit chaotic and there has been a great deal of comment about this and the fact that, probably, too many pictures were selected.  However, it was generally acknowledged that the overall standard was very high – although the large number of pictures selected may have meant that a some work was a little below par and didn’t meet the “excellence” criterion that should characterise the UKCPS Open International.

here I am receiving my award from UKCPS Chair – Barbara Murray.  Stephen Ashurst is standing on the left and UKCPS President – Pat Heffer – is observing on the extreme right.  The award, £150 to spend with mail order art supplies company Great Art, will come in very handy.  However, having one of my pictures judged as Runner Up to the Best in Show (which was an excellent picture by Lesley Sharman UKCPS) was plenty enough reward in its own right!

Selected for UKCPS Open International Exhibition 2013

I’m happy as …. to say that my picture – “Happy As …” has been selected for the 12th UK Coloured Pencil Society Open International Exhibition.  This year, the exhibition is being held at Patchings Art Centre in Nottinghamshire from 1st September to 6th October with a Private View on 31st August.

This is a “pure” coloured pencil picture – using Derwent Artist and Derwent Studio pencils on a gesso prepared, cradled wooden panel 60 x 90 cms.  The picture was composed quite loosely from several separate photos taken at a friend’s pig farm just down the road at Earsham,Suffolk.  The various elements have been arranged so that the four visible piglet’s heads are in a loose alignment with the panel divided into thirds along both long and short edges.

Although I have done several pictures in this style which feature farm animals, I don’t really consider myself an “animal artist as such.  This picture is less about the piglets themselves and more about a “jumble” of forms where it might be hard to tell where one thing ends and another begins.  It is also a bit of an alternative to a common tendency to make animal pictures a bit cute”.  These piglets were extremely inquisitive (and probably pretty intelligent) – but not especially cute!

Try Your Hand At …. The Italian Job!

The final article in my series on coloured pencil techniques has now been published in “Paint” – the members’ magazine of The Society for All Artists (SAA).  It shows stages of the “work in progress” of a small still life and invites readers to “Try Your Hand At” the picture themselves.  Some of the reader’s pictures will be chosen for publication in a future magazine together with comments from “yours truly”.

There is a small reference in the article to my newly created double DVD set “Yes You Can Draw” which is launched in the SAA Autumn catalogue.  I’ll be devoting some future posts to this exciting new venture  (for me – at least!).  So -watch this space!

Coloured Pencil techniques workshops

It has been a hectic summer and I’ve been away from home for a good deal of it.  As a result, I’ve been neglecting this website and not even reported about the 2 successful CP techniques days I ran at The Art Trading Company studio here in Bungay.

During the first workshop – focusing on Rural Architecture and held on 24th March, we managed to “shoehorn” 10 participants into the modest studio space for a very full day of excercises, observation and experiment.  We even managed a short walk out from the studio to view some old stone and brick walls and a quick visit to the remains of the two towers of Bigod Castle.  Fortunately, these features of historic Bungay are all very close to the studio.

On 25th June, 9 participants (a slightly more manageable maximum for a “sitting-down” workshop in this studio!) enjoyed a CP session based on Still Lifes that we set up in small “shadow boxes” designed to simplify the lighting for such subjects.  Once again, it was a very full day and some lovely work was produced.

Coming up in a few days on Saturday 15th September is the 3rd workshop – this time focusing on CP techniques for Portraits.  Once again, this workshop is another “full house” and I’m looking forward to another really productive day.

Now You See It …..!

The final of my three coloured pencil techniques articles has appeared in “Paint” magazine.  It deals with erasing, embossing/indenting and scratching out.

In the September issue, there will be a “Try Your Hand At” article based on my CP painting of a simple still life.  Readers will be encouraged to submit their own versions of the painting – from which a few will be selected for a brief critique and inclusion in a follow up article which I anticipate will be in the New Year 2013.

Writing these articles has been a very valuable exercise for me in clarifying these CP techniques and has resulted in some great feedback from readers.  It has also lead to my recording a DVD set for SAA/Teaching Art which will be a complete drawing course for beginners.  I’m pretty excited about this project.  Watch this space for further details of the launch!