Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today was plein air day - I ummd and ahhd as to whether to go and was given the push by my husband. Had a lot of fun - time flies painting outside!

I really wanted to try painting with a limited palette but I am not sure that I succeeded. I still had way too many colours on my palette! cadmium Yellow light and medium, cadmium red light, alizarin, ultramarine, white and sap green. I regretted not having my favourite payne's grey or black. And no I didn't do a colour study! But I did do a value study. Not so sure how accurately I kept to that as I was just really aware of how fast the shadows were moving.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Colour Studies

Colour studies, 3" x 2"

I really begin to see the value of colour studies the more I do of these especially if you are wanting to become more painterly, as I am. By working small it reduces the amount of detail you can include. I like the idea of giving enough information to the viewer for them to recognise what they are looking at but leaving enough out that they will have to create whats missing in their own imagination.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Colour studies, average 3" x 2"

Working on pulling together some ideas that have been bubbling - its going to mean a lot of experimentation and play in order to pull it off. Feeling a bit like stepping off the edge of a cliff as I am not sure how to even start. And I suffer
from vertigo!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Acrylic on Panel.

In rescuing files on my computer I found this image of a painting I did in my first year in University for a project called "Autobiography".

I've been reading on a couple of blogs about studies and it has echoed what I have been reading in books lately. Without exception they all emphasise the value of doing studies, both value (tonal) studies and colour studies before starting on the painting proper. Personally I find it hard to do a study before I start painting. i just can't wait to get in and paint. I might make a quick pencil sketch to work out composition but that will be it. I would be interested to know how many people do any kind of study before they start painting - particularly plein air.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Graphite on paper

I belong to the same portrait group as Jeanette Jobson and she has recently posted her version of Rose. This is mine - I need to tweak the face a little and work on the hand. Bad photo!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Orange and Black

oil on canvas, 10" x 10"

I've had a lovely day off today - didn't accomplish as much as I had hoped but on your birthday its good just to chill a little! I have been really enjoying doing reflections so thought I would tackle this mug again. I thought lemons were hard to paint but they are not nearly so hard as oranges - who would think that something that has such an incredibly simple shape could be so difficult - way harder than an object with lots of detail. i might go back tomorrow and neutralise the colour in the far orange a little - might be a tiny bit too warm at the moment. Need to sleep on it and see what I think tomorrow. I'm thinking of trying out these setups with the mug in pastel too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mixed Set-up

Pastel on Paper

Normally when I set up a still life I clear everything else out the way. I'm not sure why but I have seldom done a still life with multiple objects. Today I dared myself to just switch on the lamp and draw what was just sitting there. So here you have it. One problem was that my cup of tea was in the foremost mug and having set myself the dare I didn't dare move it to drink the tea! I love that mug - I bought it at the National Gallery of Art in Washingron, DC last summer. Every time I go there I treat myself to something out of the shop - they have wonderful things. This mug says on it "A line is a dot that went for a walk - Paul Klee" (he is one of my favourite artists).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mt Vernon

Summer of 2006, a trip to Mt Vernon. There is the most wonderful walled garden - a lovely haphazard garden with a beautiful orangery and this lovely little summer house.
Doing a lot of homework for the ArtBiz course with Alyson Stansfield, assessing directions and options. Also reading an enormous amount on various blogs about marketing and painting theory.
I did update my website today, something that I have set myself to do every month now so that it doesn't get too out of control.
Also considering going back to a working journal for research and experimentation in order to decide on a direction to take my artwork. Beginning to feel that I have been doing a little of too many things and want to find something to concentrate on Time to go back to take a step back and consider what comes next.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cosy Places

Just a doodle from my bed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Virtual Sketch Date - Peeled Tangerine

This is this months Virtual Sketch Date image How many media can you put in one sketch? Started with graphite but I didn't like it - so I added some colour pencil and then some watercolour and finally a little pen! It was nice to take a day off serious painting and just sit in front of the TV and doodle.

Also I doodled some tools my husband has lying around (he's rebuilding computers after he blew up my PC) and particularly liked the adjustable spanner (wrench). I love hardware stores - especially the power tool section. I've always wanted a router - with all the extras. What an amazing piece of hardware! One of my ambitions is to learn to make a dovetail joint, but the traditional way, no power tools. Do you have a secret ambition?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jefferson Memorial

Oil on Canvas, 8" x 8"

My first contribution to the "Different Strokes from Different Folks" Blog run by Karin Jurick. I've been looking at this image for a week or so, ummming and aaaaahing about whether to try it out. I have to admit that its not an image that I would normally paint. But it is one of my favourite DC monuments and that probably swayed my decision. I had planned to paint it last night but an inauguration got in the way and by the time that was over it was nearly midnight so I had to put it off a day!

I approached Katherine Tyrrell at Making a Mark for help on blogging and selling art on the internet and she very kindly agreed to give me some advice which is in the form of a new blog! (No not just for me but for everyone!) I am sure that her advice and the links she gives us are going to be very interesting and I for one plan to make it a regular part of my day to devote to marketing and promoting my art sales.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tony Hart - Thank you!

The Spinnaker, Portsmouth (got tied up with inauguration viewing today and got no art done!)

A sad day today hearing that one of my childhood heroes had died - Tony Hart. Tony Hart used to present first Vision On, Take Hart and Hart Beat - wonderful art programmes for children on BBC television. One of the highlights was the gallery where Tony showed artwork sent in by children. And of course Morph who helped out - you just had to love that little plasticine character. Very inspirational and I wonder how many artists today owe their start to Tony Hart's encouragement. The link is great and I remember watching that particular episode!

And just for fun. Not sure if this is me at all! "Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Four Quarters

pastel, 25" x 19"

I think this is the end of the road for this poor orange - its beginning to dry out and shrink around the edges!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Three Parts of the Whole

25" x 19", pastel on paper

I posted this a couple of hours ago and have come back to add a little writing after spending an evening doing research on blogging, feeds (RSS versus Atom), marketing and generally getting tied up in knots not knowing how to make the next step.
A lot of wonderful advice out there:-
Linda Blondheim has some wonderful thoughts about thinking about directions to take in these hard economic times.
Cindy Davis also had some interesting ideas on what artists do wrong.
Beth Hayden runs a blogging workshop and just in her description of her blogging toolkit give great ideas.
Alyson Stansfield is a font of knowledge for marketing strategies for artists (I'm currently taking a course with her and learning heaps especially about what I am not doing that I should be doing!

If anyone has any others to share - please feel free to do so! :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Three Quarters Mutiplied by Two

Pastel, 24" x 16"

Oil on canvas, 10" x 8"
I can see looking at this photo that I need to tone down the rear quarter of orange - the colour is too saturated and brings it foreward.
Both these pieces were fun to do and it was interesting doing the two pieces with different mediums. I really like the way the pastel glows.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Watercolour and Bear

I'm procrastinating - making phone calls, getting started with painting, studying and while I procrastinate I doodle - watercolour paint tubes and a little teddy bear.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Urban Sketching

A sketch for today. Sun was shining it was lovely and warm sitting in the sunshine for twenty minutes sketching this. Put the colour in when I got home. Taking a night off oil painting for some admin time. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice studio time for the more practical stuff. I really enjoy the geometric shapes of buildings and the cast shadows that form in hidden recesses.
Where I was sitting is a rose garden and its very odd to find roses blooming in January! I'm hoping to get a couple of blooms to paint this weekend as the weather forecast is not promising for plein air.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Green and Black

10" x 10", oil on canvas
Tempting fate by putting another apple in this set-up. Quite enjoying playing with green here - never thought I would hear myself say that! More fun with the reflections.

I forgot to say yesterday about how I came by the apples. The wonderful secretary in my office, Maria, bought them for me. Because of security we really are not encouraged to go out shopping and so we rarely get fresh fruit of vegetables. I asked Maria if she could possibly get me some green apples when she went to do her weekly grocery shopping. She told me that her children were fascinated by my wanting them for painting and insisted on helping pick out the best apples. Anything that was not a perfect apple shape was rejected.

On the way to work today we passed a scene that reminded me of how grateful we all should be that have homes and running water in our houses. Men washing in a puddle by the side of the road. I've grown used to the men in the river. This reopened my eyes to the poverty. Its funny how we begin to become blind to things we see on a regular basis. It reminded me of a lecture by a fascinating artist (Sorry I can't remember his name) who had done an installation piece using famous newspaper photos and how at first it seems so horrific and then after you have seen those images over and over again that you become immune to their image.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Black and Green

10" x 10", oil on canvas
Working with a limited palette of viridian, cadmium yellow light, cobalt blue, alizarin and titanium white. Applying more paint and using a larger brush - the problem as usual was not tweaking with a tiddly brush at the end. I have to get over the idea that all edges have to be neat and tidy, that I'm working toward suggestion more than detail. I read again last night that by leaving a suggestion you engage your viewer more because they have to fill in the gaps. Very pleased with the reflection of the apple in the cup.

Monday, January 12, 2009

York II

I love reflections in still water, slight ripples disturbing the reflections so they just shimmer.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trees and Garden

Today was another study day - studying trees and trying to work out how to paint trees so that they look natural but painterly.
I am struggling with trees. I'm not sure what the answer is but I feel it lies in brushwork and controlling the paint. The learning process goes on.

This morning the sun was shining through under the trees and over our garden wall, highlighting one side of the guardhouse at the front gate. The chairs are where our armed guards sit and have their tea on sunny days. The 18" metal spikes that surround the property are a constant reminder of the security threat, along with the double layer of metal bars on every window

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I did get out to paint plein air today but I have it posted on a private blog for critiquing so just some sketches today of chocolates. I've given myself the evening off practical work for more study and note taking.

I've been carefully studying other artists landscape work and in particular their brushwork. Sargent is a wonderful example of outstanding brushwork. It all seems to be about suggestion and letting the viewer create their own interpretation from the information given. This is the painting of Sargents for which I had been searching (Thank you, Karen, for finding it. Jeanette, the one you gave me is very similar and is as good an example) which shows how he masterfully demonstrates this suggestive quality (I had in particular been drawn to the silverware on the table). One of the books I recently brought says that you should paint according to what your eye sees - if your focus is on one object that is what should have the most detail while the peripheral objects should be more suggestive with only as much detail as is necessary to reveal them as they would appear in your field of vision.

I've also been reading, both in books and on blogs, about minimising the tonal values in a plein air landscape to 4 or at most 5 in an attempt to simplify the landscape. Severtal artists advocate doing a thumbnail tonal value sketch and also a thumbnail colour study. Kevin McPherson (Landscape Painting Inside and Out) suggests using a large brush and doing 2" x 3" thumbnails using the the closest colours to the landscape. Vicki McMurray (Mastering Colour) also suggests colour thumbnails to check the balance of the picture. Both if these, I feel are things I need to include in my practice as I am sure they simplify the actual painting process. Lots to chew over and absorb!

Some wonderful snapshots on my drive in to paint today - the soldier sitting on a chair in a tented camp with towel draped around his shoulders, his friend giving him a haircut and there were boys playing cricket in our street, the wickets set up either end of a very short "22 yards" were concrete blocks!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Chiquitas Cosiendo

10" x 10", oil on canvas

I took the reference photo for this painting at Valle de Bravo in Mexico after we had been to see the Monarch butterfly migration (Unbelievable sight!). These two young girls were dressed in traditional dresses and sitting in the dappled shade of the trees, embroidering. I have to admit that I am not normally drawn to pictures with people in and this would not normally be something that I would paint under any circumstances. But yesterday in the absence of having done any sketching from life, I sketched from this. When I came home from work this evening I was totally exhausted and had to push myself to my easel. Having already produced a tonal drawing I thought I was already halfway to the painting and so I set off on yet another experiment. And here we are. I bore in mind all that I had read lately about distances being thin transparent layers and foreground being thicker opague paint.

The weekend and another promise to myself that if the sun is shining I WILL be painting plein air! I need to dig out some warm socks and jacket because it was decidedly nippy this afternoon and if I had been anywhere else I would have said there was snow in the air. The driver did tell me that there is over a foot of snow where his family lives in the Himalayan foothills.

After lunch my husband and I usually take a stroll around the compound and enjoy the lovely gardens and trees, taking a few minutes from our desks. On several past weekends he has told me about some green parrots with long tails that he has seen in eucalyptus trees near his office and as I had not seen them I began to tease him, telling him he was hallucinating. Today, on our stroll, I saw them from a distance as they flew off, a shimmering emerald green in the sunlight. We have wonderful birds here - there are always kites and hawks flying around (one that stands guard on top of the main building), hoopoes that remind me of my childhood in Kenya, and many other birds that I had not seen before. I've yet to see any wild animals, unless you can count the cows that meaner freely down the main roads!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Revisiting Missouri

I came back to this reference today to put into practice some things that I have been reading about. Slightly different crop this time. I'm much happier with this version and feel that I am beginning to make a breakthrough with bringing my foregrounds forward and pushing back the background. The tree also seems to have more substance and I feel a lot happier about its structure. Sketching priorities for the next few days is to do some work on trees. I am also very happy that there is a feeling of early evening to this piece. I do need to work on my brushstrokes more, looking at other artist's work I'm aware of what a difference the use of different strokes makes to a piece.

I've been trying to find a picture by Sargent that I had seen a while back (dining table with silver dishes on it) - if anyone knows the one I mean I would be very grateful if you could give me a URL. Its been driving me crazy not being able to find it!

New Year's Resolution 8 - Practice techniques.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

White on white

10" x 10" (Lousy photo I am afraid, despite my best efforts and it being daylight)
Another experiment - battled with this - but its definitely an improvement on my last try of white on white. I can see that I am having problems with the deepest shadows. My instinct tells me they are the same but looking at the image I am not so sure they can be. Determinedly not using tiddly brushes in an attempt to keep loose. I can see that this is going to be one of those subjects that I keep coming back to, even if only to see how I have improved.

Today is the start of Alyson Stanfield's Blast Off course that I have signed up for. Robin Neudorfer gave me the link and after a lot of arguing with myself I decided to bite the bullet and see what I can learn to get my artwork out into the public arena. I'm determined that this year is going to be a breakthrough year.

New Year's Resolution 7 - Take every opportunity presented this year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Two Pairs

6" x 8", oil on canvas.
Today I did some colour studies. Single Japanese pear place on red, blue, green and yellow ground. I was aware that I got less and less loose with each one - maybe doing them all in one session was pushing it a little. It was really interesting to see the different colours that appear on the pear. The pear itself is a very pale creamy yellow and reflected the ground colours beautifully. The red was seriously in your face - nothing subtle going on here and the glow on the pear was brilliant. The blue fabric is a pale coeruleum pashmina with touches of pale lilac and paler turquoise and the pear shadow hues became much more subtle and soft. For the yellow I used a yellow top - quite a bright yellow - and the pear was almost camouflaged on it. The shadows seemed much darker though than they had on the blue. Finally for the green I used an olivey green sweater as my ground but in the light it became quite a golden colour and it seems like its only in the background that it shows as green. The shadows and lights were much cooler with only touches of warmth showing on the edges of the pear and at the stem. Interesting exercise and I learnt a lot. They look pretty cool all together too! I'm beginning to feel much more confident about moving the paint around the canvas and doing wet in wet. Another step forward!

New Year's Resolution 6 - Make notes of lessons learned.

Today was extremely chilly and there was frost on the ground - the first frost I have seen in years! All the locals were wrapped in their blanket/shawls and when my husband asked the driver why they wear blankets and not jackets, his response was that jackets are much more expensive at ................ $8.50 whereas a blanket/shawl costs only $3 or $4 and is much more useful because you can also wrap it around your head and across your mouth like a scarf as well as it covering your body and your hands. A jacket, however, only covers your arms and body. The soldiers guarding the road outside the Pakistani Parliament were dressed in greatcoats similar to the ones that used to be worn by British soldiers, their hands shoved deep in the pockets and then scarves wrapped around their heads, like a ladies headscarf, with their berets perched on top, kalashnikovs slung across their shoulders. Quite a picture.

One thing that is noticeable here is how few overweight people you see. They are also small. I am only 5' 5", very average for the western world, and here I am an amazon woman and tower over all but one person in my office!

Monday, January 05, 2009


Genalguacil is another of those gorgeous Andalucian pueblos blancos and an artists dream. Within this small village is an amazing art community who show their work throughout the village and once or twice a year hold an exhibition with their studios open to the public. I've not been fortunate enough to have been there at that time but my mother tells me its a delight! When you walk through this archway you come to a wonderful open plaza in front of the church and, if my memory serves me well, the view from here goes all the way to Morocco across the straits of Gibraltar. (Sorry for lousy photo - will retake in daylight on Wednesday).

The more I paint white the more I want to explore it - the different shades you can achieve and still create some very subtle difference. Just looking at my palette after one of these paintings shows the wonder of white. There is such an incredible subtlety and depth in areas that are close in value but shimmer with colour. The trick is in keeping the colours clean and not muddying them - now that I would like to learn! Doing the pastels has really helped in being able to see those differences in areas that at first look like they are one plane of colour but on closer inspection dissolved into multiple hues.

New Year Resolution 5 - explore areas of interest.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Today just a sketch - from York.

My father was a champion clay pigeon shooter - he won competitions the world over. He had a theory that anyone could hit the first clay - the action was instinctive. He said that after that it would all fall apart because you would try to think about what you had done and repeat it and but the results were invariably a miss. From that point you had to learn how to shoot. I think that this also applies to painting, at least for me. On successful days its intstinct - I don't think about what I am doing, I just apply the paint. The problem arises the next painting when I try to think what I did the last time and repeat the prescription and it just doesn't work. Either the mood is different or the change in subject matter changes how I react. Today was one of the days when I tried to recreate whatever it was that worked yesterday and just couldn't quite capture it.

Back to work tomorrow and dreading it. I've had the most wonderful 10 days at home, painting and doing artistic research. I'm going to try and do sketches in my lunch half-hour (weather permitting) and come home ready to paint.

New Year's Resolution 4 - Sketch regularly.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bowl of Sunshine

oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

I had all sorts of intentions today to go and paint plein air. I spent at least an hour yesterday evening packing up watercolours, brushes (both oil and watercolour0 pencils, drawing pens, water, jam jars, plastic plates to act as palettes, kitchen towl, an old tea towel, two canvases (carefully organised cardboard to protect these) and woke this morning to a deluge. The best laid plans of mice and men ..............

So still life it had to be. Now I have long held that I paint best when I am listening to music and it really is important what music I am listening to. I love things I can dance around to (pictures of Anita prancing around with palette and brushes in hand!) and my new favourite art music is Gabriela and Rodrigues. They play this funky flamenco type music - great beat! So this is what you get when you paint to their music.

I had such fun painting this though it started off badly. I washed the canvas with alizarin and rubbed it into the canvas. That in itself was hard as I had gessoed this canvas and sanded and gessoed and resanded until the surface was completely smooth. And boy does that surface suck up the paint. I then blocked in the main colours in thick paint and then painted into that layer. A real wet in wet challenge! I'm afraid its not a great photo as the wet paint is reflecting light - will try for better tomorrow.

New Year's Resolution 3 - Find enjoyment in everything you do.

Friday, January 02, 2009

6 O'clock Shadow

The name is a misnomer - it was two o'clock but I prefer the play on words! We have a covered back balcony (the sides are just wooden bars with netting) and in the afternoon the sun shines through and makes wonderful shadows with the bars. Ever since we arrived here I have wanted to draw it and thought there is no way I would ever be able to work quickly enough to catch the light before the shadows change. Of course there is no way but I took a tip that Mary gave me (I believe she got it from Michael Newberry) to lay in the shadows first. The colour of the light didn't change much but the shadows moved across the floor very quickly. So having worked out where the shadows were it was much easier to then concentrate on the light. Second question was how much of outside detail should I include and I decided that as it was the shadows on the floor and side net wall that interested me most I would just give a suggestion to what was outside. All in all I am pretty pleased with the way this came out. I tweaked it a bit once I got it inside.

New Year's Resoltion 2 - Keep website updated regularly.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lake Sinclair

A couple of sketches from Georgia.
New Year's resolution No 1 - Do some art every day - even if only a sketch.
all artwork is copyright of Anita Murphy 2006/2007/2008/2009