Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crazy Mix

Nothing like painting ice-cream to make you paint fast!! I think someone on the outside looking in would have been rather amused by my running up and down stairs with a choc-ice. I painted a bit then took it back down to the freezer while I worked a bit more on building up the painting, then running back downstairs to pick up my model and work for another few minutes before having to return it to the freezer. I gave up after the third time and just ate the it!

A quick pastel - its hard to do anything outside because of the security situation here. But the golden light on the changing leaves just wouldn't be ignored. I'm really not at ease doing anything like this so it took a concentrated effort to try and pull this together.

I've been looking at the Fauvist group of artists in my research on use of colour and have found a lot of what Michael Newberry had talked to me about - using cool colours for distant objects to push them back. So for example - a red object in the distance to use magentas and more blue reds. Matisse is a master of colour and uses its hue to move objects in space as does Derain. I was delighted to find that Dufy, who is a favourite of mine (such happy, cheerful paintings!, was also a fauvist. What a great art movement.

Deborah Ross kindly commented on my blog and so I went to take a look at hers and she was talking about a poem she had read but then couldn't find. I thought I would have a look and see if I could find it and came across this - not sure if it was what she was looking for but it realy spoke to me..... I also found through Deborah's blog the Sketchbook Project which has wonderful things going on. I wish I had found this sooner as I would love to have taken part in the latest project but with mailing times to and from here it would leave me less than a month to fill up and entire sketchbook and I am not sure I could do that! Going to keep an eye on this and maybe join in something else.

"From the start, From my Heart, That's really art!"
Randy Vanlandingham

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I recently made a list of my favourite artists and wrote down why I liked their work - the artists are many and varied in style, Monet, Bonnard, Seurat, Macke, Thiebaud, Diebenkorn, Hopper, Rothko to name a few. The predominant theme that ran through my little discourse was colour. It struck me as strange that something that I find so difficult myself, is what I love in other's work. I discussed this with Michael Newberry in my mentor session last night and decided that I need to use colour more as a concept within my work. So I have gone back to revisit the cotton reels as they are nicely brightly coloured and will use these as a base for a few more small works, experimenting with colour in seeing how it positions itself in space according to its hue and saturation.

Today I went to a bazaar of local handicrafts which was very interesting. Wonderful sight of hundreds of Persian, Afghani and Pakistani rugs spread over the grass. The majority of the carpets are reds and blues but amidst them there was one that stood out in the crowd (no I didn't buy it)- it was a Tabriz carpet from North-Western Iran, 80% silk, 20% wool. In each of the four directions that you could look at it, it took on different colours. One way it was the most delicate pale steely blue, in the opposite direction it was apricot, from one side it was pale silvery and the final side a deep goldy colour - just unbelievable. The tufts were very fine - about 800 knots to the square inch. The central panel was a snake design, interwoven snake-like emblems, very different from any other rugs I have seen. And the tufts were cut at different lengths in the pattern so there was the added textural differences. Just absolutely beautiful.

I may not have bought that, but I did buy three copper pots, one large with a brass base, rather rustic, the middle sized is engraved all over the outer surface and is slightly over an 1/8th of an inch thick and the smallest one was unpolished - a sort of old pewter colour. I love the warmth of the colour of copper.

It is rare for me to be out in the middle of the day - during the week I would be at work and on the weekend at home, so it was quite a novelty to be outside those two places. Now we are in late autumn it is dark in the morning when we leave for work and nearly dark when we get home so I have missed seeing how the landscape is changing with the coming of winter. The colours are wonderful, leaves are varied from a deep golden yellow, to a more acid yellow, burnished coppery pinks to deep apricot, and the most wonderful deep rosey reds. I'd forgotten how wonderful autumn can be!

Friday, November 28, 2008


I think that I have finished this commissioned portrait. As usual impossible task of photographing graphite work and getting the paper to look white even in monochrome. I will try and get a better photo of this.

Quick pastel - really liked the way the light was spilling round the edge of the canvases leaning up agains the window.

Taking the plunge today and putting the chair back onto my easel - figuratively as I only have a lightweight easel here and it wont take a canvas this large. This is where I left off. I admit to a feeling of trepidation at getting back to this piece but I feel a little more confident about putting the paint on the canvas and I am sure Michael will pull me up short the minute I put a brush wrong!

Cleared out my "studio" space this morning and now just need to find a way to set up a good still life area as there is a lot of light in this space from large windows on two wall

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Midnight Feast

There is nothing like milk and biscuits in the middle of the night (biscuits = cookies for the Americans, not those other biscuits!). I was thrilled to find there were Oreos in stock this week and pounced on them like they were a gold bar! Got very funny look from other shoppers when I whooped with glee! I have to admit that they proved a great deal harder to paint than to eat.

We ventured out tonight as I had heard of a store where they supposedly had art materials and I was looking for canvases as I am running out of little ones. Its the first time I have been out when the shopping markets have been very busy and it was quite an experience. Hundreds of people milling around, though I did notice there were few women. Smile of the night was for the "chippies" (sellers of chips/fries) - a small table with a single gas flame ring with a big metal bowl acting as deep fryer. On the table were a pile of defrosted frozen crinkle cut chips/fries waiting to be cooked to order. I could just imagine Health Inspectors the western world over having heart failure if they saw them. Not entirely sure I would want to buy fries from them either! The "art store" had a very basic art supply section, with two really badly made canvases. I will be putting in an order to the States today!

Another Thanksgiving Day and I still haven't had one Stateside yet! The section that we work with are all meeting today in the bosses house for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone is bringing something to the feast and my donation is a pecan pie with pecans straight from Georgia. I was wondering if I could sneak a slice out to paint without anyone noticing!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Primary Colours

When I came home tonight I wasn't in the mood to paint at all and I spent at least an hour fussing about what to do, hovering between a pastel and doing my daily painting. The more I thought that I wouldn't do a little painting, the more guilty I felt and so I ended up with this.

As Robyn noted in my last post - I seem to be a little stuck on reds - so here I tried to introduce some other colours. I know that green is a major problem for me so I should really do something that will help me overcome that. The photo is not the clearest, I'm having a horrible time getting photos as its dark when I get home and no matter what I do they don't seem entirely accurate. If anyone has any suggestions on photographing work in the winter ..............

One thing that painting these little pictures has done for me is show me that I do also really enjoy doing more substantive work. Beginning to think seriously about starting a major piece (and finishing the blessed chair!).

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Squeeze from the bottom" and "Bed Linen"

6" x 4" oil on canvas
Today's daily painting - tube of paint, and it was my husband's suggestion to have the paint coming out of the tube so I blame him for the sheer extravagance of wasting paint! I've discovered that the smoother the object the more fiddly I become and its all I can do not to use the tiddliest brushes I own.

I've had the yearning to paint/draw bed sheets for years - since we first arrived in Mexico 4 years ago! So I've set myself the target to try to produce the picture I have in my head. I think its going to take a few studies to get there and then who knows, maybe a painting.

Nice surprise of 15 new brushes arriving in the mail today - but as usual I bought too many little ones and not enough chunky ones. And I need to find out if its possible to buy a scumbling brush or whether its just a case of wearing brushes out first. One of my favourite brushes is about 1/4 of an inch wide and the bristles must be shorter than that - I love it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"The Second Bite" and Portrait Swap

I ate the first bite before I even noticed it had found its way into my mouth! Had to hold back so I could get the second bite painted! Had to move into bigger format as I have run out of 8" x 5" canvases - can't remember what size this is but its a little larger. I have a lot of unstretched canvas and I have been thinking about getting some boards cut and then stretching the canvas over the boards as a way to be able to go on painting until my ordered canvases arrive. I remember someone sent me instructions on how to do that but I can't remember where I put them. Then again someone gave me the name of a store that might, just might, have canvases for sale - hoping to get there this week to take a look.

I've been taking part in the portrait swap on WetCanvas and decided to try out a different medium. This is charcoal on Rives. Was pleased that it came out looking like my victim but is not quite how I had imagined the final result. Need some practice with charcoal portraits.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Strawberry Cheescake

8" x 5", oil on canvas.
Today's little painting. The Cheesecake was plain and I added a hearty dollop of strawberry jam to top it off. I'm afraid the photo doesn't show all the different colours in the creamy layer. Fun to paint!

"The first impulse towards painting, or art in general, stems from the need to communicate, the effort to fix one's vision, to deal with appearances, otherwise the work is pointless and unjustified, Art for Art's Sake. Art is making sense and giving shape to that sense. Art serves to establish community. It links us with others and with the things around us, in a shared vision and effort."
The Daily Practice of Painting Gerhard Richter

I thought this was an interesting quote from Gerhard Richter, its a book I studied in art school, and it has raised some interesting questions for me about doing daily paintings and what is conveyed in those paintings, if anything. I have to admit that its the one thing that has bothered me about doing them, though I could, possiblty say that what I am communicating is about form and colour rather than the the experience being about the practice of putting paint on canvas. Maybe its because my art educatin led me to have to always justify why I did anything and that "cos I want to" just wasn't good enough that I find myself revisiting this quote from Richter. It does raise another question, that of whether what the artist meant by a work actually matters once it is in the public gaze, because every viewer will put their own interpretation on the work. Just a thought.

A little more of Pakistan - it's getting colder every day and men in the early mornings wrap them selves in blankets like a shawl, to keep warm. And what made me laugh was the sight of a man on a motorbike, wrapped in his blanket, with a helmet on, weaving his way through the traffic, and another on a bicycle similarly wrapped up. Some of the soldiers wear dark blue wool uniforms, the shirts are long, just above knee length, rahter like a shalwar kameez shirt, belted at the waist. Now its getting colder they are wearing British military style sweaters over the top and though it at first looks very odd, it is in fact extremely smart and rather exotic. It is rare to see a man without some form of facial hair, whether just a moustache or with a full beard which vary from neatly trimmed to longer in the Muslim tradition. Men's clothing is surprisingly dull in colour in comparison to the women, from white through pale blue, beige to grey.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


No artwork today.

I thought I might write a little about living in Pakistan. We aren't allowed out much - I mean at all - because of the security situation so since we have been here my experience of Pakistan has pretty much been limited to what I see on the ride to and from work.

In the mornings, the light is lovely, filtering in pale apricot rays through the trees, a light early morning mist lingering in the air. We pass a little stream which must be about 10ft below street level. There are always people there, standing by the side of the road, using the water from the stream which looks incredibly polluted, to wash themselves and their cars. A little further down the street are open areas where yesterday I saw an elderly man jogging barefoot round the field. Along every street you see tents pitched in little clusters and the occupants wondering around getting ready for their days. Many streets are barricaded and we often have to change our route to work because the security situation has necessitated new roadblocks. Now the leaves are starting to change colour and they are not the brilliant colours of western autumns, but seem a softer more pastel version of the autumn that I am used to. On every street corner there are police and soldiers armed with automatic weapons. On one street there are these little beehive shaped buidings, they can't be more than 5 ft high, and our driver told us that they are typical of the area slightly north-west of us, closer to the Himalayas.

On the ride home in the evening, we pass a park where there are always around 20 youths learning some form of martial arts. They are all dressed in black, they perform their exercises with military precision. The open area where the old man had been jogging is now filled with men of all ages playing cricket. Many are seated watching the game even thought the light is fading fast. Trucks are painted in the most amazing patterns and colours, each totally unique, buses are crammed with people so you wonder how anyone will ever be able to get off. Cars are dented and battered and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the traffic moves and yet no-one seems entirely perturbed by the neighbouring car swerving across their path. Women on the streets are dressed either in multi-coloured shalwar khameez, or in abayas and veils as we saw in Saudi Arabia.

In the last couple of days I have painted a couple of small pictures as I am still determined to do something every day. I haven't been able to connect with any turpentine here so I am using watersoluble oil paints which has one huge advantage. When I don't like what I have done I just stick the canvas under water and wash it off! Which allows me to paint but I don't have to waste canvas. One thing that I have realised with these little daily paintings is that I like to paint objects that have some substance to them rather than objects which have a smaller profile, like today's packet of M&Ms. I've also realised that I much prefer somthing that allows me to be more loose in the application of the paint - maybe I am at last being able to get to paint the sort of paintings that I would also choose to have in my own home.

I've nearly finished the portrait commission that I have been working on and am going to start the portrait for the swap on WC! over the weekend. My poor partner must think I am never going to get it done! I'm also ready to start something with more substance to it.

This is all a little disconnected so I hope it makes some sense. Hope to post some artwork on Saturday.

Monday, November 17, 2008


An interior pastel from my house. This looks into the laundry area and out into the back garden - I love the light reflections on the floor.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Karen's Bite

8" x 6"

I know the image is on its side - I have spent the last hour today (and a lot of time yesterday) trying to get Blogger to load it correctly but it wont and I can't be doing with the struggle anymore. I tried to load from an outside site but can't figure that out so its just going to have to lie on its side! I will try to reload tomorrow. Very frustrating!

These little paintings are fun, I'm enjoying them - and no, that is not because I get to eat donuts! This one is very stale and taking a bite was like biting into rather hard polystyrene. Nothing like suffering for your art!

Edit - 17 November - the photo still wont load the right way round!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Half Full and Comfort Eating

Two little paintings this week - I think they are 6" x 8". Fun to do (especially at 4:00 in the morning when you can't sleep!)

I was thinking about style and does one choose to paint in a particular way and can you learn to paint against your nature, is it necessarily that you paint what you love or is the way you paint just the way you paint because it is the sort of person you are?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PB & J

10" x 10" oil on canvas

I have to admit that the mixture still does not appeal to me! I just cannot imaging what peanut butter and jelly would taste like together - I know I now have the ingredients and could try it but I just can't bring myself to do it. I do love peanut butter and to me its best eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon! I try not to have peanut butter in the house because an open jar tends to be an empty jar and I am the only one thats eaten any of it. Already this jar is half empty and I only opened it this morning. I do prefer crunchy peanut butter over smooth, something about a little crunch amongst all that creamy smoothness. Nothing like piece of hot buttered toast dripping with butter and a thick layer of peanut butter. Everyone seems to be painting PB&J so here is mine.

Slightly thrown mid-painting to discover that what I thought was turps (ok it smelled a little strange) was something completely different and it had removed all the varnish off my paint brush handles! Horrible gooey mess! I'm trying to loosen up more but I'm still not quite there though using larger brushes is definitely helping - I just need to lock the little skinny ones up so I can't get hold of them.

One thing that I have realised that I am not doing and that I am sure would make an enormous difference is putting into practice what Michael has taught me of really looking at colours and assessing the warmth or coolness of them. I wonder at what point you can be spontaneous with your paint and still manage to capture those values in your work.

Something else that is challenging me is how to do an underpainting in umber and still get clean colours when you paint over the underpainting. It seems to be very hard to get anything other than various shades of mud.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Piece of Apple

My paints arrived on Friday!

Spent a fun couple of hours with this apple. As usual I got way too tied up with the detail. I need to limit myself to big brushes - very hard to become detail oriented with big brushes. I'd like to thank Joe Lacorte who sent me a link to a picture of his still life set up which showed me how to get good lighting.

I spent a good portion of yesterday watching videos on YouTube with demonstrations by Duane Keiser, Bill Groats, Carol Marine and others from the Painting a Day Group. What a treat to watch such accomplished artists at work - they make it look so easy! With the premise that practice makes perfect I am going to try to do some sort of artwork every day. Not promising a painting a day!

Portraits are coming back into my life - I have a commission for a friend and I also signed up for the annual WetCanvas! portrait exchange as an excuse to try out a new medium - thinking of either charcoal or watercolour.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I posted this last night but didn't write anything because I couldn't think of anything to say. I've spent several hours wondering if I should remove it as I really am not sure what I think of this piece. But of course every piece should be a learning experience and this was certainly one of those. When I set up the jug of water I spent quite a time positioning it so I would get lots of different colours in the water - I think this was probably not entirely wise as it made it very difficult. I also had set it up outside in the sunlight and of course that changed from minute to minute and had shifted considerably by the time I had finished. I might try this set-up again taking into consideration these points and hope to get something that overall pleases me more. All in all one to put down to experience and learn from.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Macro Photos

I set out today to do some plein aire work. I find working outside incredibly hard. The whole thing of carrying pastels, paper, board, easel out and then trying to find something that inspires me is so stressful! I set up in one spot, I liked the light in the leaves, falling on the bank to the right of the picture, and also the added benefit of being able to put myself in a position where no-one could come up behind me to watch. Almost immediately I decided that I was not inspired so I packed everything up and moved to a new spot. The light was lovely, falling on the ground and making wonderful mix of dappled colours from pale apricots to acid greens in the light and deep purples in the shadows. The sun on the bark of the eucalyptus trees was silver and bright against the dark background. Almost a perfect set-up - the resulting picture was horrible. I could feel my blood pressure rising within minutes of putting pastel to paper. I can't decide what it is that I find so stressful - whether its the feeling that time is limited and that the light is going to change quickly, or wondering if someone is going to come up and speak to me. I just don't know - maybe I am just not a plein aire artist.
The day was not a total deadloss though. A friend and I had arranged to swop lenses and I had some time to play with his macro lens. A real challenge taking photos with it as the focal length is incredibly short and even though it seemed like there was no wind at all, just the slightest movement made the object that I was photographing go out of focus. A dragonfly very cooperatively posed for me and I was able to take a number of photos of it from different angles. Best photo of the day was the fan palm which had lovely mix of lights on it.
all artwork is copyright of Anita Murphy 2006/2007/2008/2009