Swan in pastels

I completed this swan a few weeks ago. It was part of a challenge run by Lachri in a group she runs for Patreon supporters. The reference image was from MorgueFile and the challenge was to improve upon the reference by simplifying the background and adding details.

My attempt was only on A4 and so the swan wasn’t large enough for me to add a lot of detail. But it is a nice little study.

Pastel painting of a white swan

A4 Pastel on dark toned Canson Mi-Teintes.


A Look Ahead (and Zebras!)

I must have given a very good impression of having a slow start to 2015 because I haven’t updated this blog. But really, I’ve been extremely busy. In early January we got some surprising but very welcome news that we were going to be able to move house. So I spent a lot of January and February packing, unpacking and decorating, and several weeks without home internet access.

I prioritised having a place to work on my art, and an easy to access place to store my materials, as soon as we moved in. I didn’t want to have my art materials spread around in boxes and difficult to get to because it just puts a massive obstacle to creating. I also tried to get my drawing board out as many evenings as possible to get into a good habit of working and creating here.

These zebras I drew as part of an art challenge run by Lisa Clough (Lachri Fine Art). She provided a reference photo of the foreground zebra, and challenged people to draw or paint it into a new scene. I choose a natural backdrop, from a beautiful shot of zebra by Frankie Kay (via Neil Nicholson on Paint My Photo).

Zebras Grazing on the Savannah

Zebras Grazing on the Savannah

I’m currently working on a portrait which is a gift so I can’t share in progress photos. Over the next few weeks I’m going to concentrate on designing my website so that I’m ready to market my art business outside of my friends and relatives on Facebook. 2015 has been lucky and exciting for me so far and I’m really looking forward to growing as an artist this year. I’ve got the opportunity to exhibit some artwork in a local exhibition in June with my local art group, so I’m looking forward to creating some original work for that. I’d like to focus on some wildlife pieces, so these zebras might make an appearance!

I’ve also joined an online art group started by Lisa Clough (Lachri) who I mentioned above, and it’s really great to be surrounded by so many inspiring artists, especially when I find it difficult to get along to my local group regularly.

I hope your new year is going as well as mine, I’ll try to update again soon, so if you have any questions or comments, just leave me a message below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.



Playing with Abstraction

I’ve never created abstract art before so the October Challenge on Paint my Photo was certainly a challenge. I’m not sure if the end result is truly abstract but it was a fun experiment.

The idea was to create an abstract piece with patterns from one reference and then use autumn colours from another. I had the idea early on in the month that I wanted to do something with geese. The sound of their autumn migration is a real symbol of the season to me and I thought I could do something with the triangular shapes they make in the sky. I had time to let the idea develop whilst I was working on other projects like the horse portrait I posted yesterday.

I chose two references of flying Canada/Canadian Geese by Lynton Bolton (here and here). Of course, with Canada Geese I just had to go for Maple leaves for my colour reference and this one by Rodney Campbell was just right. I also used my own reference of rain making ripples on water.

My first attempt in my sketchbook ended up too dark, so I started over on pastel paper. Last night I just got stuck into it and I surprised myself with the result. I really like the combination of the more organic background and the bold subject. There are areas that could have done with more refinement, but as a quick, fun piece to let me enter the challenge in time and then move on to the rest of my ‘to do’ list, I think it came out pretty well.

Abstract Pastel Painting of Canadian Geese

Abstract Pastel Painting of Canadian Geese

It’s worth me remembering to have fun and experiment like this. I can have a tendency to be too earnest and particular. Loose, playful pieces like this can hopefully give me the confidence to be bolder and work more expressively.

You can see the wonderful variety of responses to the challenge in the album at Paint My Photo.

Have you tried something new to boost your creativity recently?


Narrow Escape

Last night I completed my first project in oil pastels. Paint my Photo is website where photographers share reference photos with artists and they run monthly themed challenges. July’s challenge was about sea creatures, after having a look through the available photos I decided on this underwater polar bear by Barbara Swinton and I used Debbie Gibert’s sealion as inspiration for the bearded seal. It was touch and go whether I’d have time to create it because my soft pastel painting for the LLL calendar also had a deadline of the end of July and I had a surprise portrait request from my mum. So the idea was bubbling away at the back of my mind for a few weeks.

As well as the Paint my Photo references, I also watched this clip of a BBC documentary to get a feel for the shape of the seal, the light under the sea ice and the hunting behaviour. The bears stake out the seal’s breathing holes in the ice and stay motionless so that they don’t alert the seals to their prescense.

Narrow Escape in Oil Pastels

l Narrow Escape in Oil Pastels

I love how vivid the colours have come out and how the expressive strokes on the polar bear really give a sense of the light. It was a playful leap into the unknown, both in terms of how the oil pastels would handle and in departing from the reference photos and imagining the scene. I can often be quite bound by reference material trying to recreate the photo, it was fun to compose this painting from scratch rather than just cropping the image.

Aspects of it probably would have been improved if I’d had an exact reference of the scene – the seal and the way the water reacted to the polar bear diving in – and it could have been more detailed if I had spent more time on it or worked at a larger scale. But I do like how it turned out. Working on a coloured ground (dark blue card) really helped the colours to pop. Being freer with the reference photos and still getting a good result has made me feel a bit more confident and creative.

Just for fun, I loved this point whist it was in progress:
Narrow Escape (in Progress)