Sunday, March 31, 2013

Latest off the easel

As it has been a while since I have posted regularly I thought I should post a few images of work I have done recently. All these paintings are done with oils and are as a result of my Botswana field trip in 2011.

The idea for this piece was after watching three bulls cross the flood plain on a dull drizzly day in the Okavango Delta. I toyed with painting the scene as I saw it with the  muted light conditions; but the bulls had crossed singly so I chose to group them in the composition but still give them that space between them. After some thought I decided to change the light level and backdrop. I went through all my reference photo's  to find a setting that had an 'interesting' tree line and broken reed beds. This has been painted on a deep canvas with the scenery painted round the sides.

I started this painting back last summer it is one of the bigger canvases I have painted so far for my Botswana Collection, it's approx 2' x 3' and I am painting this slightly differently to my normal approach. I am playing with a looser approach for some of my work, these two bulls are my first serious attempt to try and paint less intensely. It has been a challenge to hold off going in with too much detail but it has also been fun 'playing'. These two bulls were seen striding closely side by side one evening near sundown one was very pale probably covered in the pale dust and sandy soil of the surrounding area and the other may have recently washed himself clean of dust as he was much darker. I have had a spell of doing other work, so it has been some months since I last worked on it but this weekend I was able to get back to it. One advantage of the 'time out' has been that I can look at the painting again with fresh objective eyes and can see I have a few adjustments to make to the paler elephant. Over the weekend, though, I concentrated on the darker bull adding in a 'foundation' layer on the ears head and trunk. Once this is dry I shall go over this foundation adding texture which will also lighten him up and better define the highlights.

These three pieces are more examples of some more 'playing' with this looser approach. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Clover... for Send A Cow

Yesterday I spent the day at the offices of the Send A Cow Charity, donating my time, to paint Clover. 

Clover is the cow sculpture made by the wonderful company Wild Art who did the gorilla sculptures seen in Bristol in 2011 and the Grommit sculptures to be seen in Bristol this Summer. They have made some wonderful shapes of animals, really pleasing to the eye with surprisingly tactile and perfect forms. The sculpture was the prize in a recent competition, run by the charity, to name her. The winning name is "Clover" and as one of the artists who submitted designs to decorate her, I got the honour to paint her... not in the design I put in but one suggested by the lady who won her. She was donating the sculpture to her local school and wanted the colours to reflect the school colours and be patches with the 6 'R' words that make up the school motto. These words will be put on by a signwriter, but first I had to paint the patches. 

After a brief chat with Joanna at the charity to discuss ideas the plan formed of several patches showing the countries of Great Britain and Africa. Great Britain for where the Charity is based and Africa for where they do their work. Then I thought of adding the Send A Cow charity logo and the shape of a clover leaf to represent her name. My prep work consisted of finding suitable map images of both countries, both of which I played with in Photoshop on the computer to 'clean up' of place names etc and turn into plain black shapes. A quick search on the internet for Fresian cow images (to get some basic patch patterns as reference), the charity logo and an image of a four-leafed clover all of which I printed out on A4 sheets.

I took a collection of brushes, a small tray to hold some paint, a water jar, my iPod and speaker and a Cadbury's creme egg along with a few other nourishment supplies to keep me going. 

The day started off badly with my car battery deciding to go on strike and refusing to allow my car engine to turn over and fire up! I got it started eventually by using a set of industrial sized jump leads and my brother's van. Should have been an easy affair to sort, but all manner of things conspired to throw proverbial spanners into works. I got there eventually, with the help of my neighbour Joe, but let's just say it all could have gone a lot more smoothly and simply than it did.

Got to the offices of Send A Cow just after 10am and after being shown around quickly I was then left to sort myself out. As planned my attack of the project as I looked over Clover and took a few 'before' photo's. Then there was nothing to it but to wade in and get cracking...

I had only one colour to apply and for the most part it was make it up as I went along. I used the Fresian cow photo's to get some sense of how I might place certain patches but apart from the emblems. logo and country patches, everything was just playing with shapes. This was great fun and I did enjoy 'finding my way' on her markings.

I decided to do the country shapes freehand.. I had no printouts big enough to trace so it was just a case of start drawing with a pencil and hope my proportions and size looked pretty good. I wasn't happy with Africa.. it looked stunted and fat, so I had some alterations to do to slim it down and elongate the sub Saharan part of the continent. But GB went quite well, I thought.

The school had sent Joanna an image of a school shirt so she could get the right colour blue paint, it also had the school emblem on, so I decided to add that to the design as well. Another on the spot addition was a little heart shape under the chin. It can only be seen by an adult if you bend down really low.. but the small children should see it with no trouble.

Here are some pictures of before, during and after the 'make over'. From start to finish of painting (with no breaks) took about 5- 6 hours.

During the day I had a few of the charity staff pop in to see what I was doing and at the end of the day, as I was painting the last hoof, practically all the staff came in en mass to see the finished product. I was pleased with their reactions and felt relieved that hopefully meant I had done a good job  and that they were happy with what I had done. Now I just hope the signwriter can work with what I have given her and that the lady who won the cow and the school to whom it is being donated like the look of Clover too.  

I was pleased too that, even though it gave a little protest, the car started reasonably well and I got home without further mishap.