I’ve been working hard on improving my portrait drawings and finding out what is my preferred paper and preferred medium. After making a long list of all the different surfaces and all the different mediums I like to work with and practising over and over I finally settled with charcoal on Strathmore toned grey paper. A real bonus happened when Strathmore released a toned grey mixed media paper which is exactly the same tone grey and surface but a thicker version. This is a great bonus as I did have a concern that the original toned paper was a bit on the thin side.
Here a few of the recent portraits I have confidently completed in this style…..
As you can see it really has become a big step forward. My portraits are becoming quicker and more relaxed. I intend to do portrait sittings and try to work on my life drawing skills, but continue to work from photographs in the meantime. If you are interested in commissioning a portrait from me, they are all 11 x 14″ on toned grey Strathmore mixed media paper and cost £120 + shipping. They will be shipped flat in an all board envelope for you to frame.
For further details you can visit my website and read my commission page here
This has been drawn with Nitram charcoal on grey Canson Mi Teintes paper.
It is 20 x 16″ framed in a black wooden frame.
The original & limited edition prints are available.
The inspiration for this drawing came from watching all the action in the recent six nations championship. I watch video of the action I prefer, freeze it where I want it and then take a screenshot. It is the most effective way of getting the exact image that I want. In this case I wanted to save that point where we are not really sure if the forward is going to get away from the defender and score the try. The force of action is represented with loose charcoal stokes.
Here are some shots of the work in progress….
When capturing movement in art there are some principles that I have learnt:
ensure some part of the body is grounded
avoid figures in the air.pay close attention on which parts of the body is moving, in real time we would probably see them as a blur, represent them loosely.
represent the muscle structure of the body accurately on parts of the body that are not moving as that is where the power comes from.
sometimes there is so much movement that you can represent the air around the figures moving instead. In such a case try to imagine the air around them as water, which parts would be disturbed and which parts of the air would be still.
There are also limited edition (50) prints available….
This was a tough commission. The original drawing is 20 x 16″ on pastelmat.
When originally asked to do the commission I was presented with a photograph of the three dogs in this pose. It’s taken by a professional pet photographer. My initial reaction was to say that the photo was great and could not be improved upon with art. However, the customer insisted that he wanted something bigger and completed in art. Reluctantly I agreed, as most pet artists know a great photo can lead to a great piece because when the photography is so clear it makes my job a lot easier.
Decisions – I thought the best course of action was to focus on the dog’s faces and make everything else loose and impressionistic. I figured that if I drew the bench and the trees and grass in great detail then it would detract away from the dogs themselves.
Here are my materials for the commission – Unison soft pastels (Emma Colbert set) stabilo carbothello pastel pencils, conte soft and hard pastels all on pastelmat.
Here is a slideshow showing progress shots taken as I went along…
My first colour painting of my favourite subject – cricket and my first women’s cricket drawing for quite a while.
This piece has been spinning around in my head for a while so its so good to see it in reality in front of me. The inspiration for the piece came from watching video footage of England women’s Katherine Brunt diving to make it safely behind the line. Making figure sketches from the video and scrolling through reference photos of diving saves I finally came up with a shape that I wanted. I have wanted for a while to do an abstract piece of cricket art. This piece isn’t fully abstract but it’s getting there. The reasoning behind it is that working on commissions for both cricket figure drawings and portraits the predominant motive is always to get a good likeness. It’s something that I constantly battle with. When someone sits for a portrait then often they are still and expressionless so a likeness is easier to measure and work on. When they are in full movement and full of expression then they don’t always look like the person they are. In these cases the likeness comes from the body and the body language. Too often the clients struggle with that concept, expecting the face to look just like a portrait. It’s a continuous frustration with me as the artist. By working in abstract we move away from the ‘likeness battle’ and onto a much more personal interpretation.
The desire to produce a piece of abstract cricket art has been there for a few months but not a clue how to go about it. Flicking through an artist magazine I came across an American artist called Michele Poirier Mozzone who went on a similar abstract journey as myself. Wanting to work in abstract she spent 6 months trying to produce unfulfilling pieces that weren’t quite what she wanted. One day she took pictures of her daughter swimming from underwater up to the sunlight. The resulting photograph produced beautiful abstract colours slicing through the water with the safe realism of an actual figure to work with. It was perfect for her and set her on a new journey.
Reading her discoveries a clog clicked in my brain and I knew exactly what I wanted. I contacted Michele to check out some technical points and the drawing ‘Just in!’ became a reality.
Following Michele’s advice I produced a light oil paint wash which would show through subtlety the following pastel layers. It took a little longer to dry than I planned, the figure was painted a bit heavier and would not accept the first layers of pastel until a bit more drying time was taken.
My pastels and working area. For this drawing I was keen to use my new box of Unison pastels. Unfortunately I had purchased the pet portrait box so there was quite a few colours I wanted that weren’t there – looks like I’ll need to get another box 🙂 I also use Conte soft pastels, hard pastels and pastel pencils. All pastels are great but the reason that I use Conte is that the soft, hard and pencil all match so you can use exactly the same colour in all forms.
Some progress drawings.
I hope you like this drawing and its journey, prints are available click here to go to my shop and feel free to leave a comment….or check out more of my cricket art on my website
My drawing of catkins has gone really well. It took me about 4 mornings of an hour – 2 hours sketching each day. Every time I sat back down to draw it seemed darker and I kept having to go over some previous completed areas. By the third day I realised that the catkins themselves were darkening as they were drying out – 🙂
These are the catkins that I plucked whilst walking Charlie, I thought that in January / February there would be nothing worth sketching, I’d already done holly and pine cones but no, I was wrong, there is plenty.
A progress drawing, this is drawn on Daler Rowney Bristol Board, it is a great surface for these small studies, it holds the graphite well and has a bright white look which then frames well….
The finished piece sitting in its white rustic frame. The piece is 6 x 6″ and is framed to 8 x 8″. If you would like to view it in my shop click here or on the image below…
It has taken me a long time to complete this drawing. As soon as I stopped fiddling around with the setting up I knew I had made a catastrophic misjudgement of the time it would take me. Looking at all the intricate folds of the cones and the texture, shading and lines it did not fit into my ideal of daily sketching the world around me.
However, it was a busy period for me and made sense to have a still life on the go that would not wilt or change colour as it sat there. And indeed they sat proudly next to my desk easel for quite a few weeks.
I am not even sure why I decided to draw two together. In hindsight one on its own would have been a much better option. I liked the bottom of one and the full side of the other with its little lean inward so that was set.
A couple of shots of my set up and the materials I used. I have two easels on the go in my studio, this desk easel which sits quietly in the corner and is used for my still life daily sketches and a larger studio easel that I sit at with a high chair (or stand) that I use for my larger pieces. I like my pencils very long and sharp as I draw with my hand on the side as if painting. It is the first time I have used Strathmore Bristol Board, the pad is a little too large really for these daily sketches but yes, its a good surface and held the graphite well allowing some blending. It was fairly easy to keep clean.
And some progress shots as I go along.
I made a short video of sketching one small part …
The finished piece is available to buy from my website shop – you can visit it here
This idea for this drawing came from a commission request. The client, drawn at the front of the piece requested the drawing as his ‘father figure’ – to whom he always referred to him (I still don’t know his name) had recently died. He also would have celebrated his 70th birthday some time during the portrait’s execution.
The photo presented lots of questions. The main subject was at the back of the photo, the setting and background were not particularly interesting or added anything to the image and it is a typical selfie photo where the subjects are looking straight into the camera, not really showing any expression or emotion and are frozen for the pose. I wanted to show the bond between these two and so my main focus and the thing that showed that bond most strongly was the arm around the shoulders. I decided to therefore allow that to come forward out of the drawing towards the viewer.
These are some of the materials I used for this portrait. A combination of charcoal and graphite. I also had a couple of new deliveries during the process so I included them too. One was Grumbacher charcoal which I’m looking forward to using more in the future. It seems very similar to Nitram to be honest but the hard sticks seem a little more useful than the Nitram hard which can be very scratchy. The other thing I tried out was some carbon pencils. The combination of charcoal and graphite in these pencils seem to help work over the some areas that had either been heavily charcoaled or graphite.
Some early progress shots. I used Bristol board for the background but won’t be using it again for a combination of the two materials. It’s wonderful for graphite but the charcoal struggled with the smoothness. I had to work it in really hard to get it to make any significant effect. Laying down the shadows and initially working out where to go with the charcoal and where to go with the graphite.
Here are a few more shots of the progress.
Successes for the drawing were that I achieved a looseness with the drawing that I wanted as well as keeping it tight and fine around the facial features. In the past the charcoal has prevented me from working on fine details in a portrait, this is something that the graphite allows me to do. The two materials work well together with some restrictions that are also probably dependent on the surface.
Failures for the drawing is that the pose was restricting, I shall in future be looking for more expression and I worked the eyes of the younger man in graphite far too heavily which has given it some shine.