Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Imperial Inspiration

Hello There Blog Readers

I had a chance to visit the Imperial Palace in Beijing a few days ago, while in China. It is also called the Forbidden City. I found it was much larger a complex than I could have imagined. We kept walking through gates and coming to courtyards (most were very large courtyards, some exceeding the size of a professional sport playing ground) that lead to another palace or temple or pavilion !

I could write a lot about these, but instead will simply share a few photos of some of the things I saw there. I took a very many photos, so will have some rich sources of ideas and beautiful things to choose from to inspire paintings. I can already see that some of the statues may get featured as paintings in my Guardian Statues series. And some of the colors and patterns may inspire a series of encaustics.
Above left you see some of the lovely palace or temple buildings in the complex, showing the brilliant reds, painted eaves and verandah ceilings with blue and green, and the roof tops of imperially reserved color yellow. The roof tiles are all glazed yellow, which is really quite pretty.
On the right is a chinese gargoyle, who is guarding away bad spirits (as gargoyles do !) at the corner of a building in the garden area at the back of the Forbidden City complex, which is separated off by tall walls. This Gargoyle was larger, at his privileged corner position perhaps ? And he had a row of smaller gargoyles which joined him along the side of that building. Underneath the gagoyle is a really pretty large bronze bowl, a common feature in this stunning garden that was shaded by very old and majestic trees. The trees had plaques on them, written in Chinese (and my chinese reading is not good right now, so I can't tell you what exactly they had written on them). I was told by my hosts that the red bordered ones were announcing older, more important trees.
And at left is some close up detail from a door panel on a temple building. It features dragon patterns. In some areas, where the panels were far from passers by reach, the dragons are still dark green, maybe a bit of verdigris even. This one is close and in easy reach and you can see it has developed a patina and shine, and the scales pattern on its back have been worn off, leaving a shiny polish.

More soon, as I learn how to edit these photos or take more and catch up to my current location, which is Lithuania. I will have a few photos of my time here soon, maybe posted when I move onwards and get to the north of Spain !

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the Great Wall of China

Hi All;
I had a lovely visit in China, seeing a few of my employer's offices there. My colleagues hosting the visit knew I had not been to China before and they kindly took me out to see some sights on the Sunday prior to my meetings. Our first stop was to see the Great Wall of China, at Mutianyu. They asked me if I would like to sky cab to the top, or skycab down, or skycab both. I chose skycab down, so we proceeded to walk up. And it was up and up and up, many stairs to get to the top. I am sure they knew how far we had to walk, but I did not and for awhile the steep line of steps seemed to go on forever ! Most of this was under some tree canopy, so there was a bit of shade which was good. Also, the sky was cloudy and a bit overcast, so the sun did not beat down on us. I am grateful for that bit of luck, because just a few days later the weather was very hot, 36 on Tues, 37 on Wed, and so forth ! That might have made such a hike up rather unbearable.
On the way up, one of my host/colleagues, Lance, spotted a gorgeous butterfly on the stone step riser of one of the hundreds of steps ahead of us. I was able to photogrpah it, it was a great find and its colors almost blended in with its stone surrounds, other than its yellow and red markings ! I am sure to paint this, because it is very beautiful and captures my imagination for making it into a lovely painting. And lately I have wanted to paint in blacks and whites with just a bit of feature color to add interest. This sight and composition will be an apt subject to carry that idea out.

Further up, we got to the top and here to the below right you see me and my hosting colleagues, Lance and Alan at the top of the Great Wall. I enjoyed the rest of this visit so much, it was an amazing sight and the Wall is truly an amazing feature and also feat of engineering. The surrounding terrain is very rocky, mountainous and rough. It must have been so difficult to built this long boundary fortress.
I have more posts and catching up, so check back in the coming
days and visit to see more of my inspirational photos from my visit to China. Next post will have some of the photos I took at the Imperial Palace, aka Forbidden City. There I found more statues to photograph, a number of them possible subjects for my Guardian Statues series of paintings. And a lot more, just a feast for the eyes with colors and patterns and a lot of rich history too.
More next post !

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Traveling--Posts with Pics Coming Soon !

Hello :) I am traveling now, in China this week and have found I can't always get to the blog or Blogger while here. Hence, I have not gotten to update my blog during this visit. I will be adding posts in the next three days though and have some awesome pics of my visit to the Great Wall and also Forbidden City. I am happy to report getting some great photos of Chinese dragon and lion statues, plus some awesome chinese Gargoyles !

Tomorrow I travel onwards to Vilnius, via Helsinki. More soon, and hope you check back in a couple days to see some of the sights I saw here in Beijing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Work

Hello All, a short little post before hitting the road. I am about to finalise the suitcase pack and zip it shut. Done done done. Stunning weather here today, gorgeous and sunny and I had a glorious walk this afternoon. And passing by the studio, I found myself drawn to this painting in progress. Thought I would post it, so as to remind me to make some notes about it in my art journal and think about advancing it on my return. Of course on my return Lion #2 will be calling, waiting to get more paint, looking so compelling there sitting perched on the big easel in the studio. ((Earlier today I replaced the photo of the lion in the post below to one taken of it at the same stage but in better light (without the golden cast from camera flash). See below for June 17th's post for that one...))

But this monarch butterfly is interesting too. I suppose it has been overtaken by the drama of the verdigris lion paintings, which does not do it justice, so I want to do some thinking about this painting. It is painted on top of a collage of vintage flower seed catalog pages. These represent and make up the "garden" that this butterfly visits and enjoys. The pages in the collage show garden plants, tulips, dahlias, some garden tools, and so on. The butterfly wants to soar, in fact it wants to fly very high. It has chosen some inspirational words and thoughts that are painted on its canvas to symbolize its aspirations. The words are done in a quasi graffiti monochrome coloring. I want to embellish these more, and the recent work I did on this glazed over the wording and markings in a raw umber and gloss medium glaze, to "push" the letters back and blend them into the vintage catalog page collage. I quite like how the butterfly is so vivid against its drab and detailed garden backdrop.

More from the road. I must go finish the packing now. Then a bit of relaxation before sleep and have an early up to head to the airport tomorrow morning :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Short bit of painting....

Hello :) Very cold here today and drizzly part of it too. I have a big work "split" today, work done this morning and more this evening until quite late (1AM "tomorrow")...and then a back-to-back with tomorrow's 630AM first meeting. I did get out an walk, which is a good idea before traveling this weekend. I am looking forward to my first visit to China too, then Lithuania and then Spain...all firsts as I have not been to any of those places before. Oh yeah, later in July I go to Canada for a first visit there too ;)

I thought I would do a teensy bit of painting on the latest lion before leaving. I had some lovely green verdigris lion paints on my palette and did a little work on his detail. Just an hour, but every bit moves him forward a little more. I really love these colors, now I am looking at the photo of them that I took. And they look quite good for the reference photo I am using too.
And I got a bit of work to start to define his muscle tone and more of the detail in his mane. I added his jowl (the one that shows, on side he shows off). Plus lighter colors to start to show where the sun is shining on him and showing him in the light. I did a bit with shadows, but there is much more that can be done, of course.

He is a fab looking lion, has a very different personality than the first lion. I think this one has a quieter personality and he has quiet an elegant look to him. Both lions are very handsome, of course. But this guy has a quiet dignity of his own and it is really coming through as I paint him. Here is he is, at nightfall, when the light disappeared and I had to stop. At most I will possibly get another hour to work on him before leaving. So much to do tomorrow !

Have a great Wednesday or whatever day you see this out there. I will see you next with posts from my journey. Inspiring sights, travel pics, and maybe a few watercolors or sketches along the way. I will be taking sketch book, pencils, and my watercolor box. See you next from on the road ;)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lion #2-First Underpainting

Hello Blog Readers ! It is way cold this afternoon, but I toughed it out with a very thick scarf and my cordoroy jacket (now a studio jacket, has paint dabs from various paintings on it). And got into the chilly studio to work on the first underpainting for the second lion. After doing his sketch on the canvas yesterday, I was wanting to get him started in paint !

I decided to do the background first, then work on the lion. The background really just got blocked in with a big paint brush. Looked fine, so I added some green paints on the palette to start the platform the lion sits upon. Then when that was done, I adjusted the paint colors a bit and got started on the big guy himself. Very messy paint mixes, but it is about getting the essence of the painting underway and getting some character of the subject to emerge. And have some good navigation points for the next painting session.

I had worked on chores, so my painting began a bit late and as usual the past weeks I ran out of daylight before I was ready to call it a day...oh well, more can be done next time !

As initial underpaintings go, this one is a good effort and I was happy to wash up my paint palette, brushes and hands. Tools and implements are all set out at the ready in the studio. I might not get much time this week for painting, but Wednesday I have to work a lot of night hours, so perhaps I can do a bit more during the day. It would be nice to have this moving a bit more along its path before being away for travel. I think this lion has a good character and with that, I call it a night.

Enjoy Sunday. More next post.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Next Lion, just started...

Dear All, hello on a lovely weekend.  Last one before my big biz travel trip.  Last big block of time to paint before I depart.  I like to leave something "in the works" when I travel.  I can contemplate and look forward to working on it on my return.  It is great to return home and see the work sitting on the easel waiting for me in the studio too !

So, as earlier suggested, I have started work on the next lion statue.  He is the one I have in profile, guarding a gateway at the amazing Louvre (one of its buildings).  Not much to show off today...and I may not show all the steps in development as before.  Plus, given travel away time, there will be a big gap between under-paintings and further development, certainly as measured in elapsed time !

But here is the work I did today.  Just working to capture a good sketch to get me started.  This is done in willow charcoal, my fave sketching medium.  Any of you big critics out there--don't worry much, friends...I will fix flaws you see in this in the course of painting.  Point of the sketch is to 1) get started and 2) have a few navigation points on the canvas to keep me moving in the right direction !

His front paws look a bit heavy and misshapen, where I have adjusted things in the charcoal sketch.  I will fix this in the underpainting and work thereafter.  I will adjust also some of the dimensions in brickwork in background behind the lion, not happy with those as yet.  But after several changes and working in charcoal, it gets a bit messy.  And with travel next Saturday, I was busy with many (other) things to do today.   So easier to fix this when working in paint ! 

More tomorrow, I will post the first underpainting.  Just so you can see how that looks.  I omitted that in the Lion #1 series of posts (I only posted about every other painting session as progress), so you may not see how raw it looks and some of you may find this interesting.  So when you see it, then go to the Introducing Mr Lion post to see how it looks when all done, and you can compare the difference (big diff--these paintings really do evolve !)

Have a great Saturday, all around the world :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Also Finished: 'Cherry Cola'

Hello there, from a Sydney that is still in a cold "snap" !  Compared to other places, it is not so bad, but it is just not what we are accustomed to here.  Hope it becomes a bit milder and gentler soon...

Monday, when I glazed the lion painting, I looked around to see what else was sitting ready to glaze too.  I am making a concerted effort to finish my works in progress in the studio.  It is really easy to get lazy and just start things and not finish some of them.  So I have been fixing this and have been completing works.  I have a book by Stephen Quiller (whose books feature awesome watermedia painting techniques--highly recommend his books) and in it he says it is hard to know when a painting is done.  And that one way to learn this is to actually finish your paintings !  That really hit home to me as I realised I had a lot of things sitting around that were 50-75% done and I was moving on to the next thing and not finishing them up.  

And there was something waiting, the painting  shown to the right.   This is something I painted not long ago, but had not "finished" per se. This actually started out just using up extra red acrylic paint I had on a palette after working on another painting (probably one of the Waratahs ones, see May Posts for a post on those).  And some of it was Rose Madder, which is a gorgeous and a not-so-cheap pigment, too nice to let go to waste...so I decided I needed to do something with it.  And so I just started to muck around and created the background you see in the painting to the right.  I added some raw umber brown to it too and put that in the upper left corner and also left side.  It was nice to work without a destination, which is new rather uncharted territory for me and probably very good practice too.  The marks on the canvas  looked nice and rich and I just let the colors carry me in whatever direction they wanted, and they were so nice, like a topping on a dessert or really ripe red fruit.  Delicious !

Then, one day soon thereafter, when cherries were in season, I had a lot of them around.  And had put them in bowls on the table.  And I saw them sitting there and thought I should paint them.  And there was my canvas, already painted with deep and bright reds.  On the left you see my cherry still life models, lolling around on newspaper I keep on the painting table surface  (yes, that is a mayo jar in the background--favorite painting water jars).  I did wonder if the number of cherries should be deliberately selected (as in to mean something), but in the end I just painted what I thought looked good.  Which turned out to be seven.  Yes, there are more than seven still life models, but maybe some of them were eaten before they could be painted ?

I decided to make them free fall on the background I had on the canvas and that is how they have stayed.  The highlights in the cherries are a pale light blue.  I haven't had cherry cola in years, but heard the Lou Reed song 'Lola' on the radio not long after painting this and it made me think of it.  And so the painting above is named Cherry Cola !

More next post, enjoy your day...wherever you are :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Hello There !  It is brisk and chilly in Sydney this week.  And I have been very busy at work, with a short work week this week (Monday was a holiday--Queen's Birthday).  So not much painting getting done now, but soon on the weekend I will have one whole weekend before the biz travel away.

So what to paint ?  Well a few thoughts.  First, here is a photo that inspired the first lion, the one I just finished on Sunday (see previous post to this).  He is pictured with my daughter Karen, who loves lion statues !

And the next lion is my likely next subject.  I got a canvas for his painting this Saturday, 24 x 30 inches.  So a size or two down from the big one I just finished...but it is nice to vary them up some.  And the proportions are good for the next one I think.  Here is the photo I will use as inspiration for the next lion, on the left.  These two verdigris lions flank a gate of the Louvre in Paris called Lion's Gate (port du leons).  This was photographed on a crisp and brilliant November day, in mid afternoon.  I will be painting the lion on the right, the one showing a good profile.  So a very different pose and look than Lion #1 that I just painted.  On the right you can see a better shot of the lion, I cropped this photo from the one above left.  I like the shadows on the background, not too dark, 
but still nice.  The lion is standing at attention, guarding his gate very well and he has great muscle tone too.  I also like the platform he is sitting on.

This is not a new photo, it is from nearly 2 years ago, when we last went to Paris.  On our return, I had the photo of the two lions above done into a larger glossy photo that I sent to be framed at an art framing shop.  Plus I did an enlargement of a panel of stonework as you see behind the lion.  Each panel features a different set of symbols.  And I spotted one with bees.  Not sure how or why I noticed this, but I did and I photographed it too.   It is amazing and every panel was detailed differently.  At the time I did not photograph many, but think it would be nice to go back and take more photos of them, there is some great material for inspiration there (what's not to like about Paris !).  The bees are on a background of honeycomb with a crown in between them.  This photo is also framed and looks awesome !  I painted one of those bees as well, on its honeycomb ground.  That painting is in Ian's workshop, maybe material for a future post !

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Introducing Mr Lion

Hi All :)  I did indeed finish the lion today.  It took more painting sessions than I thought and even today it took longer than I thought it might.  But who's counting ?!  
I spent most of my time today working on the background.  The stone bricks needed to be suitably stained and marked up.  I worked to add some of the pattern to the shadowed areas, under the arches.  I also painted in to the lines and borders, in mid tones and also some shadows...and in a few places some highlights.

Here is a closeup of the lion's body, to the right.  It shows some of the marks and patterns I had to paint to make up the textured part of his mid back and flank.  Also, at the bottom, (ribcage area I suppose ?), there are marks where his verdigris finish ends and he is just bronzed.  You can also see the work on the front of his mane and shoulder too.

And below left is a close up of his face and the background behind his head.  He has a rather majestic expression.  After finishing painting, I put up one of the easels in the lounge/living room and put him up in there...Wow, did he ever fill the room !  A very nice presence.  He looks rather good in there I think.  I was going to have him there this evening, but decided to get stuck right into tidying up the sides of the painting (black-brown).  I have done that, signed it, and just am waiting or the sides to be dry.  Then I can glaze the lion with a nice oil glaze, which will enhance the finish and give it a nice finished look.

So what should I name him ?  And what should I call the painting ??  Questions, questions....

See you next post.  Either starting on second lion, doing the next series of encaustics, or picking up one of the other projects I have on the go in the studio....Stay tuned, hope you will check back in and see what I pick up next !

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Prep for a new series (and sneak preview of lion)

Hi There  !  Another Saturday here in Sydney, bright sunshine, but a tad chilly as the light faded and it became dark.  Soon it will be our shortest day of the year, so the days are not so long right now.

In between work on the verdigris lion, I have been getting a set of art boards ready to do my next series of encaustics painting.  I will work on two to three dozen paintings in the next run.  I am making the art boards myself, out of MDF and attaching timber
 backframing of pine or maple (or sometimes tassie oak).  The timber is not so important, as the three sorts all cost about the same.  Ian has made up a "jig" in his workshop and cuts the pieces to size and I attach them with a high quality woodworkers PVAplus glue.  Attaching the back frames is a fiddly job.  But as a task, it is a bit mindless and a good break from the lion--I can study him while I am working on attaching the frames.

Above right you can see a pile of art boards with timber backframes attached.  The art boards I am making are 10 x 10 cm, 20 x 20 cm and 10 x 30 cm sized.   In front of the small artboards in the photo are several half kilo blocks of beeswax.  I will be melting these down  for my painting and will add oil paint for pigment and then also some splashes of resin (damar varnish and also pure gum turps) to help it harden up to a nice finish.  

At left is a small set of encaustics paintings I painted last November.  They were just sitting on a table, looking nice and wanting a better purpose for their existence.  So, I have now attached them to a single set of backframing, the three 8 x 8 cm paintings are now joined together in the back by timber and make a nice little artwork of 8 x 24 cm size.  I like how they look together.  The middle one had a background that did not "go" so well with the top and bottom ones, so I put a fab deep blue green turquoise color oil paint on the middle one and have rubbed it back to expose the white feather design.  I am happy with how it looks as a collection now.   I am dubbing this Feather Study

I have not yet decided what I am going to paint in the new series !  I have another day to contemplate this, as I did not finish the lion today, so will be working on him again tomorrow.  Very close on him...most of the lion is done, but then I was working on the background and it took longer than I thought.  It is looking better though, big improvement on its previous look.  There is some clean up to do of a few parts of the background, before I can declare the painting complete.  This is so typical at this stage.  So much for thinking this painting would be done today !  Perhaps tomorrow then ?!

Just in case you wonder how the lion has progressed today....ok, ok, here he is.   Does he look almost or nearly done yet ?  Stay tuned for next post--I just have to get Mr Lion done and ready to glaze !

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

End of Session #5--Lion Almost Done

Hello All, It is Tuesday and today was a "split" schedule, with work in the morning and then again in the evening.  I was working remotely and had time for a short painting stint in between the parts of the work day.  Plus the clouds broke up and I got some really good quality bright sunshine, which was outstanding for the detail work I am doing now.

This first photo you see is the lion at end of Session #4, which was Sunday.  After the post of Saturday below, I did a fair bit more work on the lion, doing some detail work on his face, as promised.  One thing I did was to adjust the shadow falling across his chin, which had been really bothering me.   I also working on his left leg and flank.  Though I had originally thought I might finish  in five painting sessions, at the end of Sunday afternoon, I realised he would probably need 6 plus one extra for glazing.    There were still issues I needed to work on.  More shadows on his muzzle.  A slightly
straighter line to the bridge of his nose, more work on his craggy shadows in his mane around his face, and more attention to the highlights, where the sun is hitting him.  

On the right you see the palette I set up and worked with today, Session #5.  I only had an hour and a half to paint, plus a bit of set up time.  However, given I am working on primarily the Lion at the moment, I had all my acrylic paints in the colors I am using already on the table you see (the palette is sitting atop them there).  You see also my jars of water and paint brushes.  And a cup of coffee, which just seemed like a good thing to have to get me moving in the right direction.  Ian (hubby) has been working midnight shifts again this week and was still asleep, so I could not have loud music on the stereo...so I had my ipod instead.   World music playlist today :)

When I work on the underpainting stages my palette is a big mess of everything all over.  But as I work towards the end of the painting, my paint gets more precise, with small blobs and spots of various shades I need for the work I am doing.  I work back and forth from one color to another as I need to, either working on a particular area of the painting, or perhaps with a particular shade or color and taking wherever it needs to be put.  There are dozens of repetitive steps working back and forth like this at this stage.  I also work hard not to mix the blobs of paint together too much and I am pretty careful with what goes where, as I fine tune the painting, checking my reference photo often.  

Because this work is close up and delicate at times, I have to step back and view the work from across the room at times, to see if it is coming together.  Sometimes I photograph the work, as it can help to see the painting in progress on the camera screen.   Later I will study the images on the computer screen and contemplate them again.

I spent a lot of time on the lion's face today.  I did all the things I said above that I would be working on.  Mostly I worked with a mix of paint and lots of gloss medium, especially for the darker colors I used as shadows.  I have built up some of the shadows in many layers using this sort of a "glazey" mix, which allows putting shadows on in veils over the verdigris colors that give a greater dimension and more subtle look.  His muzzle and front of his nose was too bright, so I added more soft verdigris tones.  The shadows on the left side of his face needed more light on them, because the sunlight is coming from that direction.  I added more light in various places where the sunlight falls on him too.  In all the shadow areas of his face and mane, I painted in more subtle tones, shadows and highlights in his mane and face.  His eyes got some emphasis (like eyeliner !), which gave them more definition and elegance.  Each shadowed area got more detail.  This all probably took an hour or more.  The rest of my time was working on his left flank and leg,  adding 
shadows in a glazey Payne's Grey or Raw Umber.  And white or nearly white where the light falls on his side and back.

Here is the lion at the end of Session #5.  He needs some fine tuning next painting session, then I will work on the final touches for the background too.  I feel like he is almost done now, and that is a big step from earlier today, when I saw many many things I wanted to do. I am happy with how his body is looking, only small adjustments to do there.  Maybe a few things to do on his face.  Some work on his mane, but very minor.  And his background.  Then when I glaze him, I may add some oil paint into the glaze to bring out more of the colors I want to see and where I want to add a "glow."

Check in again for the next post on the lion's progress, later this week.  I hope he will be done then !