Sunday, 5 February 2012

Getting started

Hi everyone,

I've been meaning to make a start on this new work for ages. I'm doing a painting that I think will accompany a quilt or two. It's continuing on with my swallows theme which didn't start out to be oriental, but the quilt that's also on the go has lots of bird cages which do look just like the ones you see massed at Chinese markets. This painting also features hands which are the linking element to the other strand of thought for this exhibition - more on that when there's actually something tangible to show you.
Back to the painting. I've done lots of drawing of this subject, both in my sketchbook and larger versions on loose paper.

Drawing is great for getting to know your subject, but the way I draw is quite different to the way I'm going to paint this. Nevertheless it's good to have these on hand for reference. I've also got some photos to remind me of the colours as the painting isn't going to be black and white.

Having already done the drawings there's no point labouring over redrawing it onto the painting panel so I've made a square-up tracing of the largest drawing I've got. It's still not big enough to transfer 1:1 so I've scaled it up as I've transferred it to fill the whole panel.
I'm painting onto a wooden panel which I've primed with a couple of coats of acrylic gesso. I've tried to get away with the most sparing use of pencil lines as a guide. I just read a book by an artist who's painting I really admire and she says to try to avoid using pencil at all as often it's easy to fall into the trap of simply filling in. I agree wholeheartedly, but I also need to get the proportions right so I want the safety net of the pencil this time.

With the pencil lines down I've started blocking in with paint. I'm using fluid acrylic. Just on it's own at the moment, but in subsequent layers I'll add some glaze medium to keep everything lovely and transparent.

I know, I know, the flesh tone wouldn't look out of place in an episode of The Simpsons but we all have to start somewhere! This is just the base layer and the colour will be modified with lots of overpainting with glazes.
 Like the hands, I've blocked the bird in too, just to establish the lights and darks. There's so much detail on the feathers and I'm not sure at this stage how photographic I'll go.
Needless to say there's still a lot of work to go into this one yet. I'm hoping to do a bit each evening this week and if it goes to plan I'll post my progress. If you never see this painting again you'll know it all went horribly wrong!

Hope you've all had a great weekend.
Talk soon,


  1. Hi Laura,
    You might be interested in this story, a Galloping Horse Treading on the Back of a Swallow, I have the images and have done some work on it, the legend is Chinese rather than Japanese but I might stretch a point, the shape of the horse is wonderful, here is a link It doesn't work from here, you will have to copy and paste.

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  3. It is always fascinating to watch a work in progress, i sure your painting will be successful. I love the drawing. Pencil can be so expressive.

  4. Hi Marie, Thanks for the link! I'll check it out.

    Accordingly to my email notification there was another comment posted here overnight, but when I got here this morning to reply it's vanished! Anyway, the question posed was 'who was the artist/book that I mentioned?'. The book is called 'Breaking the Rules of Watercolour' and it's by Shirley Trevena. Both Linda and I are big fans of Shirley's work and unlike Linda I don't paint so much with watercolour but I still enjoy her approach and technique. She has a website:
    Well worth looking her up if you need some painting inspiration.

  5. Hi Laura,
    What a great link, I love the paintings, if only I could come anywhere near such gorgeous results!


  6. They're beautiful aren't they? I defy anyone to say that Still Life is boring. If you think that, then you've got no imagination! She proves how it can be a fantastic vehicle for colour and composition. Makes you want to get the paint out doesn't it?

  7. Thanks for the links to the book and the horse (fabulous movement can sense a kind of low slung gallop)

    Love the pencil sketch Laura; brilliant fingers! Looking forward to seeing the results and hope they turn out as you want. I can't wait to finish the piece of piecing I'm doing at the moment so I can have a paint as's like having an itch I can't scratch!!