Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lion #1- Session 3

Hi on a Saturday, a greyish day, with moments of sunny sparkle.  But mostly feeling a  bit wintry (for Sydney), and I have had to wear a jacket and scarf in the studio !  Plus an apron of course, I make a huge and glorious mess while painting so the apron is essential.  I did not get to work on the lion during the week, even the days I worked from home doing funny local hours meetings did not give a good opportunity for a break.  I can do a minor bit of painting in an hour, but a block of 2.5 - 3 hours is better and 4 is ideal.    Usually a "split" sked of morning work and late evening work allows this, but not this week.  So the lion has been waiting all week and gazing at me from his canvas, sitting on a big easel.  

Today I decided to do NO errands out and about and stay and have the whole day to work on the lion and other art things.  A few CDs got put on and I got water and gloss medium.  I already had all my paint tubes out, left out from the previous session working on the lion.

First I had to work on the lion's face.  His mouth and jowls were not right yet, and looked a bit "heavy".  Also, shadows on parts of his face were not right yet.  And I also worked on his nose and his eyes.  I used a very light touch today, with a palette full of many shades of my verdigris colors, payne's blue, and also some raw umber for dark shadows.  And pthalo green, this time with no white (as used for verdigris shades).   I had already made some charcoal markings on the lion's face where I would work on improving the shadows.  I let the charcoal mix into the paint this time (no fixative needed) and that worked fine, just adding a bit of charcoal granularity to the payne's grey or pthalo green used for shadows.    This allowed me to vary up my shadows and add some dimension to some of them.  Especially on the lion's nose and eyes.  I put in some of the dark shadowy and shading bits today, where the verdigris is worn off his chin, and where it ends on his ribcage, legs, etc.  I painted shadows into a few of the highlighted parts to give them more definition.

I worked on the lion in two shorter stints, but probably each over an hour.  Gosh now thinking about it is must have been two plus each.  I wasn't really keeping track of time today, which was kind of pleasant and relaxing.  

It got quite dark and stormy and my good light disappeared, so I decided to do a bit of work on the background.  I got most of the stone bricks in the building done, but need to make a few adjustments next session and also work on the shadows and a bit of detailing.  But the color of the stone looks better and is on its way to being how I want it.  I ran out of daylight and had to stop.

So here is the lion at end of session 3.  Still more adjustments to do to his face, his body, mane, and left leg.  And work on the building in the background.  So plenty to do in session #4.  If all goes well, he will be mostly done that next session and need just a bit of "love" to give him some embellishing highlights and touches before an oil glaze.  Stay tuned for his further development. Have a good Saturday :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lion #1 (Painting In-Progress)

Hello, from Sydney on a Thursday morning.  Yesterday's drizzle has cleared and there is a partly cloudy day in its place.  Not overly warm (about 16 C now), but pleasant enough with a light jacket and a silk scarf.  Good light in the studio for a bit of painting on my current piece of work, before the next "shift of meetings" for the day (I have done one early shift already, a big-yikes! 445AM wake up for a first call at 5 and already now half a day's work done).

Some of you have asked me to post some here is what I am working on this week and it is very much in-progress at this point !  The first of two verdigris lion statue paintings.  The two lion statue paintings will be of different lions, I have collected a number of photographs of verdigris lion statues along my travels in past years.  Not least because my eldest daughter Karen has an affinity for them (she is a Leo lady, so lions are a personal mascot and favorite of hers).  As I mined my photo library, I found two verdigris lions that were suitable for painting subjects with good detail and colors and a composition or pose I liked.

The first lion lives in front of the Art Institute in Chicago, an outstanding museum to include on your next visit to that lovely city (a very impressive permanent collection, great visiting exhibits are well presented).  But back to the lion.  I did a bit of work on the photo get the right background I wanted and I had it printed.  I can print myself, but I prefer to use a photo printing shop, as their printers and papers are better quality.  As I just get a 4" x 6" print, it is not expensive to do this.  

Then I sketched the lion and his background onto a large canvas (90 x 120 cm, or 36 x 48 inches).  I use willow charcoal for my sketches and an old scrap of a flour sack cloth as an eraser (remarkably effective and easy to softly erase the charcoal marks).  When I am happy enough with the sketch, I use fixative to lock it in place, so it doesn't smudge or mix into the paint of my initial underpainting.  The sketch does not have to be perfect, because I will also work visually from my reference subject (photo).  But the sketch gives me some important inputs that are used as boundaries and to navigate my way.  This is especially helpful for large paintings or complicated compositions.

Then I did a first underpainting, working quickly with a large brush.  Quickly is a relative term, as I spent several hours on both the sketch, then the initial underpainting.  I am working in acrylics and my first paint mixes a bit soupy with gloss medium and also water that is in and on the brush.  This creates drips and spills, some of which I may keep and leave in place, others will get painted over with more paint.  I want to capture the drama and strength of the lion in the first session and I was happy with that part, his personality came to life on the canvas quite well and early on.   I eventually had to stop painting, because it got too dark.  I have lights in the studio, but they are not good enough for seeing detail I was working at the time. Sometimes my initial underpainting is in black and white (and shades of grey), but this time I worked in color for it, because the overall palette is not super varied (verdigris tones, shadowy darks, and stone and dark shadows for the backdrop).

The next day on the (this past Sunday), I worked on the Lion again, making a number of corrections to his features and adding a lot of detail to the shadows, especially in his mane around face and in front of his chest.  His left leg (lion's left !) had been a bit puny looking, so I redid it to be better proportioned and liked it a lot better.  I also did a lot of color and contrast work, to further develop the shadows and also the highlights, helping "sculpt" the dimension and shape of the lion.  I used Pthalo green with white as my base verdigris color with some accents for the verdigris that have a more yellowy green mixed in.  The shadows are predominantly achieved with Payne's grey (which has a lot of blue in it) and also raw umber.  The photo right shows the state of Lion #1 at end of painting session 2.

This lion almost jumps off the canvas !  He is truly larger than life looking. But he is not done.  I have more corrections to make, especially on his facial features and the shadows under his jowly jutting chin.  More shadows also to put into his mane and body fur.  Stay tuned for more posts soon showing how he develops in this painting.  Bye now !

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kim's Reading List 27 May 2009

Hi All :)  Today's post has a few interesting reading reference picks I thought I would share.  These three are art and design related; two are about color and one is about object placement and composition.  The first is one I absolutely love, which is Choosing Colours by Kevin McCloud.   His work in this book and also his palettes for Fired Earth paint company are nothing short of awesome !  I originally learned of Kevin's color palettes after having gotten a freebie copy of his Fired Earth Paint palette in some British interiors magazines I had bought while in the UK.  I loved the subtlety to Kevin's Fired Earth palette and the descriptions of how the colors behaved in certain sorts of light.  I love Porter's Paints colors here in Australia and I even mapped my favorite Fired Earth colors to Porters which I have used in a fair few decorating projects.  Then when I saw this book in the bookstore, I just knew I had to have it !

The palette's shown in this book are amazing.  Kevin researches the colors thoroughly and presents really sophisticated insights to the nature of the color, what it works with and complements, and its depth and versatility.  I highly recommend this book to anyone doing work with color for interior decorating, textile arts, and artwork.  There are great ideas of how colors work together, palettes of related colors and also of color themes, and also lovely photos of decors done in certain colors or themes.  I find lots of inspiration and insights from this book, over and over again !

The next book is a new acquisition for me (today's stop at Border's !), and it looks fascinating.  Colorist:  A Practical Handbook for Personal and Professional Use by Shigenobu Kobayashi 
delves into color aesthetics and offers tools and techniques for determining color preferences and harmonies.  The book is a small size one, so it will be jumping into my suitcase for the upcoming epic round the world biz trip in June-July !  I found the charts and color insights fascinating and will be enjoying having a few good reads and also using this as a reference.

The last book pick in today's post is a very nice little study on still life object arrangement theory and practice called Arranging Things:  A Rhetoric of Object Placement by Leonard Koren (Paintings by Nathalie Du Pasquier).   This is a cool little easy-to-carry around book that decomposes compositions and analyzes objects in them in a very intelligent way.  A really great read for anyone arranging objects for aesthetics, interest, or to generate curiosity or intrigue !  

I find it is important to read as much as I can, and constantly look at new ideas, concepts and techniques or principles.  I also have a mad and crazy magazine habit, especially when I travel.  Then I buy off news stands or in book stores, especially in the UK and USA.  Usually I have a definite bias and affinity for interiors mags !  Not that I deliberately limit myself though, every so often it is good to look at something different, you just never know what you might find or learn...  I also LOVE buying magazines in India (check out Vogue India--it's  stunning !!!) So many cool and different things in the features and even the adverts, and fabulous colors, fabrics, jewelry, accessories, and makeup !   Though I read serious news too and am a voracious reader of local newspapers and news magazines too (especially appreciate The Economist--very well presented pieces in it !  And in USA, I like the WSJ for a good news balance between politics and business, and excellent editorials).  But back to my magazine habit.  I buy them and read and dog ear and scribble notes on whatever pages appeal, for whatever reason.  And before moving on (as in checking out of a hotel or leaving an airport transit lounge, I rip out the keepers pages, articles, images.  Magazines are heavy--but I do recycle the discarded bits in recycle paper bins :)  Later on return home I file the ones I want to retain as references and inspiration in big binders.  I now have a formidable set of volumes of reference materials for renovations, interiors makeovers, fashion, art and anything else (I also keep travel articles, in case I ever go to where the feature is ).  As part of my mental and visual immersion and stimulation while spending waytoomuchtime in airports, this is pretty tame and safe--works for me ;)

Have fun checking these out, or let me know what books related to art, aesthetics, and design you are loving right now !

Bye, more soon :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Waratahs Paintings

Hi There from a rainy Sydney, where it is seeming rather monsoonal !

I recently finished a lovely red waratahs painting, in oils on canvas.  Waratahs are one of my favorite Aussie native flowers and they are spring September, which makes them a favorite birthday flower.  The flower is one of two I photographed last September.  One of my neighbours, Vera, had some gorgeous waratah flowers blooming in her front garden and invited me to photograph them.  I did not paint from one of those pictures, but I got a few stems of waratah flowers at my florist and did a photo shoot using my (at the time) new DSLR camera.  I think I took over 200 photos in various light and settings.   The best shots were photographed in front of sheer white curtains, which filtered the light and worked out quite well.  I kept about a dozen images and I printed the one I decided to paint.  

I actually painted two waratahs together late last year, and finished that painting in December.  In oils on canvas.  Done in a 90 x 122 cm size, so pretty big.  After painting this, my 
decorator Kellie Murray was over to help me with some of the concept work for the kitchen reno we were starting.  And this big painting of Spring Waratahs shown below just about jumped onto the kitchen wall where it wanted to be !  Very funny how that happens (artwork often chooses where it wants to be in my home).  Anyway, we did  end up putting it in the kitchen, where it looks awesome and visually fills the space with very uplifting color and energy.  Goes great with a red kitchenaid mixer and a midtone pink dualit toaster ;) So a good choice.

After deciding to keep the big waratahs painting, I decided to paint the single one shown at top of this post.  A lot of people had seen the big one while in progress and really loved the colors and the painting, even before I got it done.  So I did another of the smaller flower on the right of that composition, and put it on a long tall canvas.  A lot of the aspects are similar,
 particularly the colors.  I really enjoyed working with all the reds and pinks, one of my favorite reds in there is a Rose Madder, which is an expensive pigment, but so gorgeous to use ! I also used a lot of Geranium Lake, and some Cad Red Medium, and Alizarin.  To make some of the pinks, I added white and to get the darker shadowed areas I neutralised the reds with their complements, Sap Green, or Viridian, depending on the particular red hue.  In the painting, I built up some good texture using the oil paint. Here is a close up of some of the colors and textures used in that, just to the right.  I used a paint brush for the flower portions, putting the paint on thickly.  

Then for the leaves I also used a painting knife, which is great fun with oil paint.  These flowers and leaves do have some light shining on them, so I needed to capture the areas in the light with a lot more white.  And for the shadowed parts, I neutralised deep greens with their red complement to make an almost black color with some warmth to it in some areas.

For the background I used a painting knife and also a large bristle brush, to create a textured background with more rose colors in the lower right side and more pale green at top left.

More next post, have a good Friday :)  I will be taking my umby along with me today !

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wedding Flowers

Beachside Wedding Flowers, oil on canvas, 46 cm x 61 cm, by Kim Mathieson, 2009
Here's something I recently finished (yeay !).  Several friends encouraged me to do a painting of my wedding flowers.  I thought this would be a great way to have a keepsake of the pretty bouquet, which was really lovely with orange roses and lots of pink, red, green, violet, and white tropical flowers.  I painted a great photo from our wedding, which was in Hawaii on the island of Kauai in October.  

The painting took a good while to complete, but that is because I was working on other things in the meantime as well and a few of them had deadlines. !  Also, I did the painting in oils and needed to let parts in progress get touch dry before working other adjacent parts of the composition, especially when I was working on the dress or the flowers.  The titanium white parts of the dress particularly took a while to dry before I could work the bright colors of the flowers next to them.

I started this painting with an acrylic underpainting, which lets me work fast to get the basic composition on the canvas and make my corrections to it.  I can also work do tonal and initial color work in the fast drying acrylic paint.  At that point I did not do too much with the flowers, just blocking them in place where the bouquet is, because I intended to do more with them in oils.  But I did a fair bit on the beach and sea background. the sky, and especially on the back of the dress, which featured a lovely draped back neckline and draped loose scarf hemline gathered in the back from the waist, which fluttered and got picked up in the wind, as shown in the painting.  I also did some work to get the back neck skin colors right, working with some highlights and accents that were shown in the photographs I had.

Then I started to work the final painting in oils.  I did the dress first...but in actuality, I did the dress over several times, correcting little things, re-adjusting the shadows, which are done in soft mauvy and lilac greys and also some pale blues.  I had some of the shadows bluer and then decided to lighten them up to make them more subtle.   In later work on the dress I decided it was too dark and not showing enough of the sunlight on it, so I brightened the sunlit parts, to better convey the feeling of late afternoon sunshine warmth.  At the end, I used an eversolight touch of Naples Yellow to mix into the white on just the two or
three draped parts of the dress that captured the most sunlight that afternoon.

To the right you can see my studio space, where I paint in the sunroom overlooking a lovely garden and the surrounding bush.  I have helpers, and two of them (Maggie and Winston) were very excited to help out the day I picked up paintbrushes after being away on business travel.  I think they missed painting with me, because there they were front and centre on my worktable when I was setting up to choose paint for my palette.

The flowers took a lot of work, and I did batches of colors and over the painting sessions, redid certain parts until I liked the effects.  The orange in the roses presented more color mixing problems than I thought and had to be lightened up.  Again, Naples Yellow to the rescue to add the more delicate areas of the orange roses that had sun shining on them.  I saved the white singapore orchids to do last, after all the surrounding colored flowers were done.  Then I used a medium sized brush to dab  and twist to form the petals in a texture of white oil paint, adding shadings of pale spring green and greys to add some dimension to them.

One of the last work sessions had a fantastic set of colors on the palette for all the bright flowers. And Winston was on hand hiding behind the scenes, but never far away !

More next post !

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Container Series

BonVoyage27, 20 cm x 20 cm encaustics painted on timber framed artboard, by Kim Mathieson, 2009.
Hi There All !  I have been working on new series of paintings lately, done in encaustics.  For those who haven't heard of encaustics, it is painting with beeswax and pigment, with some resin in the recipe to harden the wax on cooling.  Encaustics are very interesting to work with, as you put the paint down on your board or surface when the wax-paint mixture is melted and hot.  It cools and then you can carve and sculpt it, scrape it, paint it (with oil paints, straight), and create patterns, textures, and layers.  The beeswax-paint mixture hardens and can be polished, which looks very nice.  The melted beeswax smells awesome (I love the smell of beeswax !) and even when the works are completed, they have a nice beeswax smell, like beeswax candles do.

This new series of works is called 'Container,' and are inspired by colors, textures, and patterns seen in container ports and shipping industry.  With a few other maritime and military sorts of terms and names thrown in for good measure !  It features lettering and painted textures.  Lots
of oranges, greens, greys, black, white, yellow, reds and blue, some aqua, and a few other colors too.  Like you see in a container port, the big containers are often brightly painted and colored, making an interesting horizon of colored blocks, waiting to be loaded or unloaded to fulfill their next job.

These works have textures on them that look like painted timber or metal and also lettering effects some of which are distressed and also splatters of colors for interest and texture.  All of the the pieces are worked by hand, a considerable amount of hand work went into creating each one.  

To the upper right are three small 10 cm square works:  Anorak, Deep9, and Mod59.

Creating this series has been fun and a great learning experience too.  I did the painting at Salon Rouge Gallery in Kapunda South Australia, at the end of the week when I did the angels (see previous post).  Jacqueline Coates teaches encaustics too and I have done some workshops of that sort with her before, so was there this time to work on this new more industrial inspired direction.  I painted about 30-35 paintings on different sized boards and brought them back to Sydney with me.  Then here in Sydney, I have been attaching small timber frames to the backs, painting the timber sides, finishing off and polishing the works, attaching picture hanging wires, etc.  Now I am listing them on my new Etsy shop (another thing I am learning about), at (you can find them there, check it out !).

The works look fab arranged and juxtaposed in combination with other pieces.  I am having fun rearranging them and also deciding which ones I want to keep !  I have found a few places where a tall column of them would look very good and add a bit of industrial eclectic vibe to the room !

BonVoyage27 (also shown at top of this post) looks very cool with others shown just above, three are 20 cm square sized and four small 10cm square sized in the fourth bigger square spot. The pieces look good in a row of 3 or more or a column of that many too.  The other pieces shown (clockwise from BonVoyage27 to the center) are Stage2, Signal71, Priority, Beacon38, WideLoad, and Hi2.
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These three small 10 cm square pieces are Ampersand, Beacon38, and SignalTwelveThirtyFour.

I am already thinking about the next series of encaustics...and I have two or three other themes to work on.  I also can see doing more in this sort of theme, with industrial inspired pieces.  I want to incorporate more textures and rusty colors.  Stay Tuned !

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Santiago Angel

I recently took a whole week off from my professional work, a spend the week painting in South Australia at a workshop taught by Jacqueline Coates of Salon Rouge Gallery in Kapunda (right between the Barossa and Clare Valleys, a beautiful area to escape and paint).  Jacqueline is an outstanding teacher and I have already done all her large painting workshops, so I was there to explore some new techniques and ideas, bringing a subject of my choosing.  This angel statue was one I photographed in March when in Santiago, Chile on a business trip.  I had spent a great weekend out and about there, having a fabulous walking tour in Santiago.  On Sunday I went to see park up on a hillside in an area called Santa Lucia.  I think it was a hospital and there are now lovely parklike grounds you can stroll through and some very pretty statues too.  The weather was gorgeous with a deep cerulean blue sky showing through some old trees and I photographed the angel against that backdrop.

The angel is painted in acrylics and I had a lot of fun painting the underpainting of it with a big paintbrush, the style you use to paint walls in your house.  I had not used that sort for doing a painting before and found it a great way to block in the shadows and light areas fast and get it all onto the canvas.  Great fun and working like that allows you to really get into the spirit of the painting and not overthink things in the beginning.   It was wonderful to get some of the emotion and drama into the painting so quickly, which allowed me to decide what I wanted to develop in it.   This canvas is 1.5 m high, the largest I have painted yet.  I have wanted to have a play with some impressionistic techniques and also make my paintings more expressive and I really enjoyed doing that with this one.  The bark on the tree shows some of the impressionistic marks that are inspired by some art books Jacqueline had that we consulted for ideas on how to bring the big tree trunk alive and give it a more prominent supporting role in the composition.  There are dozens of colored marks comprising the tree trunk's bark, some light where the sun touched it and then moodier darks like ultramarine helped deepen and push back the shadowed parts.  I love how the angel's wing in the sun glows so brightly, as this captures the brilliant sunshine of that day as the sun was moving higher into the sky and it really sets off the shadows that were cast on the statue in the brilliant late morning light.

With a bit more time to continue with this theme, I painted a smaller painting of the same angel, but a closer up and cropped version, allowing more of a study on the facial expression which I wanted to be more serene.  I used a more restricted color palette this time, and more golds, sepia tones and also the stoney white colors of the statue.  I added a bit of purple madder glaze into the background and also on the wing in the shade, which gave it a look of blood spilled over the wing for a bit of drama to this smaller composition.

More next post, when I will be back with another painting !