‘Mutt and Jeff’, ‘Self portrait with Lemon Tree’ and Ruth smoking. Analysis and thoughts.

‘Spend min 10 min each reflecting and recording your responses to: Mutt and Jeff, Portrait lemon tree and Ruth smoking.’

Mutt & Jeff: purpose: to describe my feeling with regards to my hearing loss and the anguish and frustration I often feel from my body letting me down in this way. Red is a warm, hot colour but also describes pain and anguish, my arms raised in frustration, almost pulling out my hair, my eyes squeezed shut to stop tears. I used rough brush strokes and also a sponge to blend and to make sure this was not attempting a mirror likeness. Yes, I did not include clothing again, laying myself bare for the world to see me as I truly am. In order for this not to be taken so seriously, as after all, I do have hearing aids and can actually hear and it is not life threatening…so I used the title to lighten it and to add some humour in here. Yes, I get frustrated but don’t take me too seriously.

Ruth smoking: I had tried a few poses with this model but when we stopped for a break and she lit up her cigarette I asked if I could portray her in this way, defiantly smoking indoors, lost in her own thoughts, this is in fact the Ruth I see socially from time to time, an independent lady who challenges you to criticise her (lack of) eating habits and her cigarette habit. The portrait is quite bold and tonal, I think I have caught the light through the window quite well, which was my intention, but it also brings to the fore her character.

Self portrait with lemon tree: This pose was chosen by me from my selfies challenge, as I felt it to be the most interesting, and I learnt a lot from building up the layers in this portrait. I discovered the profile pose to be an interesting angle and one which I will be using again at some point. I also cropped to add interest. I am wearing a hat and a shirt as this is me outside, about to pick a lemon.   I initially thought this work was not bold, or clear enough, but looking back I can see the subtleties within it, and also that I have captured a certain look, (content, and intent, on what I am about to do). As my tutor seemed pleased with this self challenge, I may well continue with this project and see where it leads me.


Conveying character #2

I had mentioned that I might have another go at this exercise and, as a break from the landscape section, I painted my husband. Twice. My aim was to produce a likeness that showed his character and his concentration when he is working, or watching football, as in the last one. He was working on the laptop and I asked him to sit in the living room on the sofa, so the light was on him and I could sit and the table and work. I used A3 acrylic paper.  I worked very quickly as though sketching with the paints. The first one, as he was working, produced something curious. The top half was correct, and so was the bottom half, but I think because he was moving his head up and down as he was working, the middle section was too long! I could not see this at the time and I have learnt from this to stand back and look at the whole thing and not concentrate on the different parts but remember the picture as a whole. I folded a crease in the painting and it worked and balanced the angle of the face! 20170521_174004_Richtone(HDR)

Wanting to try again with this fresh in my mind, I got him to sit in the same place but this time watching a football match. The light had changed as it was now evening and he was not wearing his glasses to watch this. And, importantly, the head was still (most of the time anyway…) I worked quickly, and because I had the other painting in my mind, it was almost worked out for me already. I did this in an hour and a quarter.

I think it works as it shows his nervous concentration on the match and it is a good likeness of him. My husband’s reaction was that it was very much him. I think it went well as I was relaxed and also knew this face very well, and I had learnt from the first version to really look at the whole picture and not get too concentrated on one area.

Richard watching football
Richard watching football


Telling a story: A simple wedding.

‘Create a simple narrative, involving one or several human figures, and produce a painting that gives the viewer the clearest possible idea of whats happening’. 

This might be a bit self-indulgent, but I have an idea to recreate my maternal grandmother and grandfather’s wedding day from a few pictures that I have. My sister has also sent me some information (she researches the family tree) and I know the wedding was 15th April 1922 at the parish church in Montacute, Somerset.  (It seems strange that it would be their anniversary tomorrow!) The photos we have show them outside the house and none of the church, and it looks wet so maybe it was pouring with rain at the church so they took the photos when they got back. I love that his trousers are a bit short and I love the tin bath hanging on the wall in all of them….

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This is the photograph I have and my sister has sent me some other ones that include the best man and the bridesmaid (my Nan’s best friend Mabel, who was Nan’s brother’s wife and died soon after she got married. My grandfather died when my Mum was about 20 so I never knew him.

I want to tell the story of a simple wedding on a wet, April day back in the 1920s.

So today I have been trying a few things. I was thinking maybe they could have stood outside the church with an umbrella… Could it be a red one that will really stand out in the grey rain and that will symbolise protection and warmth? I have found some photos of the church with a google search and am looking at those. If only I was in Somerset I could have gone there and done some sketching…but anyway, this is what I have done so far. They are just fast pencil and watercolour. I think I will have to keep it a little on the abstract side as none of the images are clear and I want to put in the rain, which will blur the view of the church anyway.

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Today I did a pencil drawing, using the images I have, to put the couple together under an umbrella and this is the positioning I will use in my painting. I have also laid down a ground, (after trying this in my sketchbook) using a pale blue and streaking in some white, as a rainy background to work upon.  The light will be from the right and the rain driving across from the left. Using blue, mixed with a little black and white I hope will give a feeling of the coolness of the day and the wetness of the rain.image1 (93).JPG

I used the sketch above to paint the figures like this onto the canvas. I then worked on the figures and used a maroon colour in the end for the umbrella, as I felt this was more in keeping with the era, but still a warm, protective colour. I then marked out the background and painted in the church and gateway in a really loose way with the same blue but with some black mixed in. Kept it all very wet. Added a little more rain and drops and reflections until it looked right.image1 (94).JPG

A simple wedding

I hope it tells the story of 2 happy people getting married on a wet, grey, spring day – who didn’t mind the rain! Gilbert and Elizabeth Cole, my grandparents. 🙂

Researching figures in interiors

The studio wall

‘The studio wall’ 1914, Daniel Garber source: http://www.artnet.com/usernet/awc/awc_workdetail.asp?aid=424318133&gid=424318133&cid=79237&wid=424739154&page=3

Garber seems to have painted mostly landscapes but  his figures are so beautiful, I stumbled over this one on pinterest and followed it up to see more. It gives a feeling of calm with the use of the pale colours, and the warm golden light coming in with the shadows on the wall, indicating an church-like window, and the pale wood of the seat is simple yet beautifully described. The woman seems to be wearing a kimono, which looks heavy, and is tending to a plant, I think. She is absorbed in her task. I love the pink and gold tones of this painting. I think Gerber intends his message to be calm, early morning contemplation.


Constantin Korovin. In Front of the Balcony: Leonora and Ampara. Detail. 1888-1889 source: http://www.abcgallery.com/K/korovin/korovin31.html

This may be only part of a larger painting; however I think Korovin has captured a moment between two women, They are enjoying spying down on something or somebody, and a joke or comment has passed between them. He has described this by the expressions on their faces, they are slightly amused and engrossed by what is passing.  He has used colour sparingly, it seems to be black, dark green and yellowish tones only and yet this works well even in the flesh tones as it is the light coming through the venetian type blinds that is lighting the scene. He is beautifully described the embroidery on the Spanish shawl. Somehow there seems to be more colour than there actually is; I note that he has achieved this with the details and the range of tones used.


‘Passengers’, 2009, Steven Assael. Oil on canvas (72×90 inches) source: http://www.delart.org/press-room/delaware-art-museum-presents-truth-vision-21st-century-realism/

This realist painting shows three sleeping passengers on a train travelling through, I presume, an exotic location such as India. There is a lake, castle/temple and mountains outside visible through the train window and a couple of monkeys seem to be in the carriage with them. The three figures are so relaxed and asleep; their limbs are draped over each other, indicating a close relationships. Their clothes are casual and worn; the middle girl’s jeans are very ripped and it is obviously warm as they have bare limbs and are wearing sandles. The baggage rack is stuffed full and seems to be breaking. There is a sixties feeling to it with the clothes and hair. I like how he has captured the reflection of the sleeping man in the glass. The golden light outside is shinning on the skin tones and balances the painting out so beautifully. I feel this is a narrative picture that you could write a whole story around. I don’t know if the artist intended this but it also suggests a faded American flag to me with the colours.

I have not perhaps picked conventional figures in an interior for these 3 paintings; however they all appeal to me and speak to me and I will take something from each one. The Garber has taken the shadows on the wall as the focus; although the woman is beautiful he indicates with the title (The studio wall) his intention.  The Korovin shows me it is possible to capture a moment using very few colours and wonderful facial expressions.  The Assael teaches me what realism can be achieved with patience  and also what a story can be told from one captured moment.

A figure in an interior

I am thinking that this is going to have to be in my house; however, I do feel I have drawn, painted and sketched so much of it already…however, I have been walking around and having a big think and I may well use the wooden sofa in the living room, as it had nice light coming in through the window on the front door. I am thinking of working from a photograph to add a figure on the sofa, sitting or reclining. I have found a few of Jane Birkin and have tried a few sketches but I don’t feel it is working too well. I think the idea is just not interesting me enough…

Today I woke up to lovely light shinning through into the middle room upstairs and suddenly I knew what I wanted to paint. I positioned a chair in this light and opened up the door to light the light through. The tiled floor will lend perspective and depth. The wooden cupboards behind will be a good, simple background.  My friend dropped in for a favour so I asked her to sit for me, just briefly as she couldn’t stay long, I took some pictures and did a fast sketch. I can work in the room and add her in from my photos. The light looked good and I think it will work well. Feeling much more inspired!  I might balance the pink trainers with a pink detail behind – like a pot plant..?image2 (57)

I am also taking inspiration from the (deceptive!) simplicity of  a Hockney painting.  I have marked the position of the chair and the plant as I will have to move it all later as we have people staying with us. I did a charcoal sketch in my A3 pad to work out the light and composition. I will do it landscape on a canvas block that is  larger than A3 in size.Hockney

Shirley Goldfarb & Gregory Masurovsky’ source: https://openspace.sfmoma.org/2010/07/frank-on-hockney/

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I prepared the block with a neutral, warm ground in titan bluff. I then drew it out with a brush with the titan darkened by added a little burnt sienna.

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I worked on this yesterday and today. It was hard to actually work in the room from the same spot – I ended up in a very uncomfortable position but managed by moving between the rooms and back to my normal painting spot when I was using the photograph I took.  It is good to have the bright light and then dark shadows but it makes setting up so you can see very difficult. I also found it very hard to paint the head so small and get the features correct so it looked like my friend; overall, I think it does but I guess this is one of the problems of having a smaller figure in a room rather than a portrait. I think I managed to capture the light through the doorway and the effect is pretty much how I wanted it. Again, the figure being smaller was hard and I am sure the feet are not quite right.

ruthie in the morning light
‘Ruthie in the morning light’


Reviewing my portrait work

Jaz fin
‘Self  portrait with jasmine’



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‘Ruth smoking’
Mutt and jeff
‘Mutt and Jeff’
Taylor from the shrew
‘The Taming of the Shrew’

I decided to put my portraits on one post so I could consider them together. I have enjoyed this section immensely and I feel I have learnt a lot about skin tones, yes, still a lot to learn of course. I think my self portrait DOES look like me, even though it is unflattering, and I remain pleased with the outcome. The mood one, about my deafness I am cautiously pleased with – it was good to try a different style and I liked expressing myself and my feelings in this way. The one of the model smoking – it DOES look like her and she was pleased with it although she felt I had NOT flattered her (I thought actually I had….) I was pleased with the deep tones and light on this one.  The Liz Taylor I am pleased with overall but I am wondering now if I have expressed enough character in this. I might repeat this one maybe with a family member at some stage. Ms Taylor is just a bit too perfect….;-)

Added after feedback….

‘ Think about and compare your portraits with the series of Van gogh’s portraits, ask what your ‘purpose’, ‘impression’ or what you wish to ‘convey’

Self portrait with jasmine’ ,purpose: to show a true impression of myself, with deep tonal contrasts in the skin tone. I wanted to convey that jasmine connects me to the natural world and my own world here in Spain (the jasmine was out at the time and the heavy scent was a strong influence in me choosing this) Van Gogh’s self portrait Summer 1887, has strong tonal contrasts in this way and he also gazes out at the viewer as I do.

‘Ruth smoking’, purpose: to portray Ruth as the strong minded, independant woman that she is. I convey this with her almost defiant attitude as she blows the smoke though parted lips and stares defiantly away from you, challenging you to criticise. The strong, tonal areas and rougher brush strokes with the smoking attitude compare with Van Gogh’s ‘self portrait with pipe 1886. His is a limited pallette of browns and blacks.

‘Mutt & Jeff’, purpose: to describe my feeling about my hearing loss and the anguish and frustration I often feel from this. Limited pallette of reds symbolising blood and anguish and my position and facial expression all convey this. The title given to this is to add some humour and to not take myself so seriously over this. Maybe is comparable to Van Gogh’s self portraits when he has cut an ear off to express his anguish and frustration with life….?

‘The taming of the shrew’ purpose: to experiment with painting from a film clip in the manner of Luc Tuymans and to show the character that Taylor portrays therein. I wanted to show the anger flashing in her eyes and the annoyed curve of the lips – but subtly, as she is very beautiful and I needed that to be described as well. Van Gogh’s portrait of Adeline Ravoux shows a rather angry looking lady or perhaps just  rather anxious, and I think this compares with my portrayal of Taylor.

Conveying character

For this exercise I am going to use an actress, Elizabeth Taylor, but not from a classic photo of her, tempting as it is, but I am going to try and take a frame from a film in the manner of Luc Tuymans, whose work I have looked at on the recommendation of my tutor. I was thinking either ‘The shew’ or Virginia Woolf’ would through up some good facial expressions! Also, she is brunette, and I have been painting too many blondes…..

I have found a good clip from Youtube of her in ‘The taming of the shrew’, here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK-5TeQAeM8 and have been sketching and painting to try out some ideas.

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I managed to copy an image that I wanted and did a sketch of her face to try and capture a likeness and expression.  In the scene is she is wild and  angry and is shouting, leaning out of a window and looking down. I have to show the wildness in her eyes and the displeasure in her mouth.image2 (55)

I decided on using carnation pink as a ground, and then I added a little red and started to sketch in her face, using this sketch above, and the window behind her. I then filled in the sky to the left using ultramarine and white mixed. image3 (14)

Today I painted for well over 2 hours. It is very difficult to describe skin tone. And noses! I thought I had ‘cracked’ noses on D1 but painting them is proving difficult. I think also it is difficult because the image from the film is not sharp. I had not thought of this. I have a lot more to do but will break for now.

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Today I finished. I painted for 2 more hours roughly. I went over the nose again and the skin tones, and I used a sponge to try and blend the tones together. I felt this worked quite well.I kept the background simple.

I think I have captured a likeness of Taylor, and some of the wildness and temper of the scene. My mistake was that the film clip was not too clear very work from.  I think there is something cartoonish about this image, not sure if this a good thing or not! Taylor from the shrew