Sunday, January 27, 2008

Just a note!

I don't have much time for a blog this week. Rather annoyingly, I had some problems with the computer. First, my computer couldn't work my DVD drive. It turned out that this was because I had updated my iTunes player, which I had to uninstal. Problem fixed! Next, day, I found that I could not connect to the Internet. Suspecting that this might be connected to the previous problem, I reinstalled my broadband connection. I managed to mess that up a couple of times before all went well. I love computers - but sometimes they can be very annoying!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Two new landscape paintings.

"Corner on the Newcastle to Ballynahinch Road",
December 2007.
Oils on canvas, 25 cm x 30 cm. (11 hours working time)

There is a small, local exhibition coming up and I agreed to submit five paintings. Just got the last two finished, to my relief! There are, I think, quite nice, although not what I would consider major paintings. The weather has been poor recently and does not encourage much work outdoors. I am very much looking forward to warmer weather, when I can start spending much longer outside working on paintings.

I have quite a few paintings I want to get finished. At the beginning of January we had - for us - heavy snow (i.e., about 16 cm, which fell in the one night and lasted about a day). As always, it caught us unprepared. My wife and I were travelling to Ballynahinch and were about 15 miles away from there when it started. So, naturally, when we were just a few miles from Ballynahinch we got stuck (with a lot of others) at the first serious hill. It was only when some of us drivers got together to give cars a push that we were able to get moving again. No chance of help from the police or the road service as they were all snarled up around the town itself, nobody able to move on any of the roads leading in or out of Ballynahinch. The one good thing about being stuck where we were was that when, after several hours, we got moving again, at least the traffic chaos in Ballynahinch itself was beginning to clear and we were able to get to our destination! The other good thing was that the snow was still there in the morning, so I took several canvases up into the town and was able to sketch layouts on to them. I think that I should, potentially, have a couple of good paintings, although they will have to be completed from the photographs that I took at the time.

"Horses in a Field", December 2007.
Oils on canvas, 30 cm x 25 cm. (14.5 hours working time)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wavy Lines and Op Art

This is an exercise I found useful with first year (secondary school) pupils, both to hammer home lessons about colour mixing and to link it up with a little art history. The exercise starts by drawing a very wavy line down the middle of an A4 sheet of paper.

Further lines are added, trying to keep them evenly spaced from the first one. If a loop is particularly big, a section of the new line will have to be "broken off" and left inside the loop.
This process was continued until this side of the page was completely filled with lines, as evenly spaced as possible. The process was then repeated for the other side!

The next stage was to fill in one of the spaces between the lines down the middle with either a primary or secondary colour. The next space was left blank and the one after that filled in with the next secondary or primary colour in sequence, ie., red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple (and back to red and through the sequence again if necessary). It doesn't matter where the sequence is started or in which direction they are gone through, as long as the colours are kept in sequence.

The process is then repeated to the other side. (Note that, although I have completed the sequence on the left side, it could just have easily have been completed by going through the same colours again in the same order - so instead of purple, I would have filled in orange again, etc.)

The final stage is to fill in the remaining spaces by mixing the two colours on either side of each space.

Some pupils would put in the colours a little differently than others and sometimes interesting results were created when pupils misunderstood the instructions somewhat. If the results were visually interesting, I never told pupils off just because they did not follow my instructions exactly.
The exercise could be done with paints or colouring pencils and I would set a version of this for homework, which could be completed using different shades of lead pencils and no colours at all!
It should be obvious that there are strong connections to Op Art and the work of artists like Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. I encouraged my pupils to investigate this for themselves and to experiment along similar lines. I gave all pupils a small handout on Op Art and encouraged those who could do so to search the Web for more material.
These are some useful links that I have found.
Op Art:
Bridget Riley:
Queensland Art Gallery
Victor Vasarely:
Fondation Vasarely (in French, but excellent pictures)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Thumbnail Sketches

If any one is seriously interested in Art History then, to my mind, a really important skill to master is that of creating "thumbnail" sketches. This doesn't mean that it is not important to get good quality images wherever possible. There are many sources available online. (One excellent one is Olga's Gallery. For a full colour version of William Turner's, "Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway", see However, a thumbnail sketch is not merely a reminder of the painting, it also helps you to analyse it and understand its composition. For it to be successful, you have to think about what you are doing, about what it is really important to show, yet it is also fast to do!

In order to improve your understanding of a piece of art work, it can also be useful to make a large, detailed study of it (as in my study of the horse cave painting). But sometimes this is unnecessary, even a waste of time, when (in some cases) a much simpler thumbnail sketch would give you all the insight you need and would get across whatever point that you wish to make!