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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Maker of smiles, illustrators of memories

Christmas continues in the blogosphere and you are, I'm sure, curious to see what a few of us created for the occasion?
Presents have been unwrapped and many of us (commission artists) are now able to unveil our artwork.
This is why today's post is not directly about my work but that of some of my fellow artists.

Did you know that all too often commission artists are looked upon with a certain disrespect?
This is mainly because we are considered to be selling ourselves and copying photographs.

Total rubbish.
Being commissioned to render a loved one is MUCH harder than copying a photograph.

Why? The artwork has to be above average artistically, spot-on accurate, come from the heart and display total understanding of the rendered subject. All these elements are crucial. Should one of these fundamentals fail the artwork will hold very little credibility (if any at all!).

Oh this could get so very long... !

We are simply wizards of our chosen mediums. Artists with a skill for recreating someone else's memories and feelings.

We are, without a shadow of a doubt, the "makers of smiles", "illustrators of memories".

Here are, in no specific order, links to some of my fellow (blogging) artists and their unveiled treasures.

  • Dawn Secord shows her regal painting of an Irish Setter on her blog Art of the Dog
  • Gayle Mason's beautiful pastel painting of a Rough Collie and coloured pencil drawing of a Jack Russel can be seen on her blog Fur in the Paint
  • Terry Miller has been posting his little treasures on his blog Pencil Shavings throughout December. (This are not commissions as such but were nevertheless wrapped under Christmas trees and creating smiles.)
  • Jennifer Pratt unveiled her beautiful coloured equine pencil drawing of thoroughbred mare Gilly. The portrait can be seen on her blog Life as a Horse Artist.
  • Melanie Phillips shared her many work in progresses of her commissions on her blog Work in Progress. She has had vary varied sitters: Dalmatians, Dachshund with scarf, Labradors, Airedales, Spaniels, Collies, Pugs...
  • Marsha Robinett of The Extraordinary Pencil shared her moving portrait for her grandson before wrapping it in Christmas paper.
  • On her blog Painting a Dog a Day, Kim Santini shares her canine commissions of which I am sure many have been wrapped and laid carefully under glittering trees.
  • Holly Bedrosian unvailed a sensitive coloured pencil portrait on her blog Holly Bedrosian Fine Art. I'm unsure as to it being a Christmas commission but it was for certain a "smile maker".
  • Last but not least, Dee Dee Murray has posted her brilliant interpretation of a beautiful Great Dane "Gracie" on her studio blog Dee Dee Murray Art Studio.
Great stuff!
Back in 2009 with sharpened pencils and a new stock of paper.
Until then I will leave with a wave and wishing you all a cracking New Year!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

"Grandad's Story" finished graphite drawing.

"Grandad's Story"
graphite on paper, 33x25cm

This is how my pencils render love.
Thank you for patience ( a whole three weeks of patience) have a lovely week-end.

Monday, 15 December 2008

"Grandads' story", graphite drawing final steps shown.

Flowing smoothly (and slowly) to the last stages of "Grandads' Story".

The above steps show how the ear, neck and shirt developed over a period of two sittings (roughly 5 hours)

I've added the hat in a penciled-in version. Once I have brought the two subjects together (by balancing and harmonising the values and textures) the hat will get its own final tweak.

The last image gives you a wee view of the connection between the two figures (as well as the hat).

The shadowing is still wrong so I'm off up to the studio to get that sorted...

Back soon.

p.s: please ask any questions you may have: answers will be forthcoming and not too long winded!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

New step into "Grandads' Story", new non equine, non canine drawing.

Gone with the flow and more progress has been made. Yeah again!
The shadowing and light is proving quite a challenge.
I'm tackling it with determination and layers of 2B and F.
See what tomorrow brings - hopefully loads of progress I'm really dying to see the finished piece and tweak away to my hearts content...

Monday, 8 December 2008

Progress on new pencil drawing "Grandads' Story"


A little progress  has been  made on "Grandads' Story"...

Amelie is nearly finished -the tweaking and final detail layer will be done after I've drawn the second subject.

The dress has been mapped out and still needs a whole load of attention. I've decided to keep the pattern as it adds to the portrait (summer feeling and "colours").

There will be more posted tomorrow..the flow has picked up again and always a good thing to go with!

Apologies for the scan quality...sadly it  looks as though my good old faithful scanner is just that: old and tired... Quality control will pick up: promise!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

End of week hello.

The week flew by.

My silence: a direct result of a virus "thingy" (the one that hit our household a whole 2 weeks ago). Not only has it made my family ill... but proceeded, shamelessly, to nibble away any work and me time...

Today, the sun made a rare appearance and sent us off for a good battery recharging traditional Sunday stroll (i.e: a walk).

For your viewing pleasure: a couple of "proof pics" that explain, in the way only pics can, the afternoon we so enjoyed. 

I hope you, wherever you are, are enjoying or have enjoyed a great second of Advent.

Cheers for now.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Rembrandt's drawings and sketches: powerful strokes.

Albertina, Vienna. Black Chalk, 230x340 mm by Rembrandt in 1637.

"A woman Sleeping".
Brush and Wash in Bistre, 245x203 mm by Rembrandt in about 1655.

Have you ever wondered who this lady actually is and (now) what the link could be with the elephant?

Both are rendered by Rembrandt back in the 17th century, and through pure coincidence, I discovered who Rembrandt sketched sleeping back in 1655.

This beautiful figure is very likely Hendrickje Stoffels, Rembrandt's second wife and mother to his daughter Cornelia (born in 1654). The original can be seen in the British Museum in London.

Last week, a nasty virus (our youngest was its victim) kept me away from crossing my studio's threshold but luckily not from catching up on some long overdue reading. One of the books I picked up and couldn't put down was: "Rembrandt Drawings - 116 Masterpieces in Original Color". 2007, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.

I loved it. This hardcover has been earmarked more than I've earmarked a book in a very long time.

I was mesmerized.

"Woman carrying a child downstairs". Morgan Library Museum, NY. Pen& Bistre wash. 185x133 mm by Rembrandt in about 1636.

"The Screaming Boy". Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. Pen&Bistre, wash, white body colour, black chalk. 206x143 mm by Rembrandt in about

"Old Woman holding a Child in Leading Strings". Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Pen & Bistre. 160x165 mm by Rembrandt in 1645.


So much of the work struck a cord...(see above!) and the feeling of entering a great Master's world through another door thrilling.

The artist who left us immense masterworks such as the Night Watch, "The Anatomy lesson of Dr Tulp" or "Bathing woman" is portrayed in this book in a different light, with a focus being brought to lines, lined texture to the bone structure and knowledge needed for achieving full blown master piece.

(Illustrated above are: The Night Watch,1642 Rijkmuseum Amsterdam. The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp, 1632, Mauritshuis, The Hague. Bathing Woman, 1654, National Gallery, London.)

I was enthralled, drawings and etchings had taken center stage and were sitting proudly in the spotlight (yeah!). Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijns' drawings were of an amazing caliber and power.


Red Crayon, 129x119 mmby Rembrandt van Rijn in about 1637

Studying the work featured, one is taken back into Rembrandts' world, a world of strong religious imagery, of real people, of 17th century scenery. A world studied by a man grounded in his time, by a man wanting to learn and understand the human condition, by a man who spoke through his work.

Each stroke beautiful.

"A Mounted Officer", British Museum, London. Pen&Wash in bistre, red chalk, yellow water colour, heightened with white and some oil colour. 210x164 mm by Rembrandt in about 1638.

Each stroke studied, understood.

"Saskia seated in an Armchair". Le Louvre, Paris. Red& white chalk. 147x110 mm by Rembrandt in about 1635.

Each stroke meaningful.

"Woman wearing costume, seen from Back", Teyler Museum. Pen&wash in bistre. 220x150 mm by Rembrandt in about 1642.

A book I highly recommend to anyone wanting to see and understand a little more about who Rembrandt was and ... the power of his strokes.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Snow and the week ahead

The week-end came and left this chap in the garden swaying to the laughter of the girls.

No progress worth displaying has been made on "Grandad's story" due to some strange virus which has made my youngest needing loads of TLC.

Will be posting as soon as possible but until I do I will leave you with one or two pics of cats in the snow and a fun link ( posted by fellow blogger Jo Castillo. (Follow it and you find out if your blog has a male touch or that feminine je ne sais quoi!)


Oliver loved it, Jess  on the other hand was so interested she stayed curled up in a ball most of the day...

Back soon with more graphite updates and bits and bobs.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Virtual Sketch Date November: "End of Summer"

Jeanette Jobson author of the blog Illustrated Life graciously offered a great reference for us all to get stuck into.

I loved the light (that special autumn glow) and the shadows of the leaves created. I saw so much in this reference but wasn't until I saw the rope that I knew where I was going! I was sticking to black and white (no graphitints) and going to "radically zoom" and flip (not literally of course...)!

Working in black and white, I feel, always makes shape and symbolism that extra bit precious.

This time was no exception. Summer has hung up its coat and left us for another year, leaves are just shadowed memories.

The result a big drawing 33x24 cm on Strathmore Bristol smooth. The tooth of the paper was used as the foundation for the bark and the rest followed. All the drawing was done in 6B. The shadows are layers of graphite topped with charcoal.

"End of Summer"

Graphite on Paper, 33x24 cm

Here's the reference photograph.  Another great challenge thank you to Rose Welty, Jeanette Jobson and Stacey Rowan for the idea and the co-ordination of  VSD

Monday, 17 November 2008

New, non equine non canine, drawing...

Here is the reason for my couple of days of silence.
I spent a few hours last week at the drawing board with Amelie, working on rendering her expression, her baby skin, her fine hair and flowery cotton dress.
Progress is good but slow...I am absolutely loving this to bits and not rushing or cutting any corners.
After the more dramatic and speedier technic used for the soluble graphite- comparable to speeding down the German motorway: thrilling, stimulating as well as a little edgy. This piece can be very easily compared to a leisurely stroll down a quiet country lane where one just has to take the time to smell the (wild)roses and watch the butterflies flutter by.
Mellotex paper and 2B, F & 6B pencils are the tools I've chosen and this simply because you cannot in anyway rush this paper and it allows for soooooo much detail.
A few more strolls down the country lane are needed (and will be taken) to complete "Grandad's Story" . I will be posting more steps over the week (with a few key explanations).
Before I say my cheerios for today, please let me extended a great big hello to all of you who have added themselves to my "followers" (great to see you!) as well as all my other visitors who've had a wee peak here at Black on Grey on White: there have been over 3000 in the last 6 months.... I am humbled...
Thank you

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Chirstmas cards: snow scenes from Montana.

My favorite time of year is around the corner.
Admittedly, I'm  wee bit late with my  cards, I am nevertheless proud to present "Montana Snow" and "Snowed Under". 
 They are (surprisingly) my first official Christmas cards and will be for sale shortly... watch this space!
I was inspired... I've never seen horses in such strong snow. (Being a softy, I always stabled mine during the winter) and these shots jut made me think winter and warm fires!
The great references for these cards were bought from Donna Ridgeways photo reference site. Donna, herself an artist, loves to take her camera wherever she goes. 
The result: a very big selection of great images, not only equine but of  Montana's scenery, wildlife, plants and architecture, many of which are for sale to other artists as reference photos. 
Thank you Donna! 
I hate to think how cold it was when these shots were taken but I'm so glad you had you're woolly hat on and were ready to brave the weather!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Last stage in new equine (soluble) graphite drawing

Closed for inventory yesterday...sounds like a sign that would appear on a shop door in January...!

Feeling very organised and ready to confront the up and coming holiday season head on.

Here are the final stages on "Above the Bit."

Step 5 and 6 are basically focused on rendering and slightly detailing the mouth. This is the stage where I found it the hardest to stay loose. To render an impression rather than the full visual detail. I worked using a flat tip as opposed to a sharp point. The metal was done with a fine paint brush.

Step 5: The mouth and nose added

Step 6 (zoomed in) Work on the metal, all the edges are still to be cleaned and worked. This scan also clearly shows the tooth of the paper. This is not visible to the eye from a distance so I chose (with difficulty) to ignore it.

Below is the signed and sealed version of  "Above the Bit".  

The title is so obvious forming a nice contrast, I feel, with the crop I chose to illustrate.

Once again had a great time drawing with this medium. 

Wishing you a grand week-end wherever you are.


"Above the Bit"

23x22 cm. Graphite on paper

300 Euros ( 390$)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

New soluble graphite equine drawing

Mid term is now over and I am busy running around in all sorts of odd circles.

The only place I seem to settle is behind my drawing board and as a result I have made some progress with my new equine drawing.

After completing "Welcome Impact", I knew I would bring out my soluble graphites again. 

I am using the same Vellum paper and working "medium-big".

My main objective (apart from learning more about the soluble graphite) is to limit detail and achieve strong contrasts.

Here are the first steps 

Layout and first strokes. Went for the darks to establish my tones. 2B Derwent used and Cretacolors' soluble graphite 8B.Working out the lay of the grey coat, the sweat marks under the throat as well the lines created by  the leather bridle and the bit.

This is where the ugly stage starts to turn into something a little more real.  The leather has been done with a layer of soluble graphite and finished with a very fine and barely wet paint brush. The horse's coat is rendered using a normal graphite pencil.

Again, I'm really exited by being able to paint a drawing...just can't wait to get back into the studio and discover more.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Frederic Edwin Church THE 19th Century American landscape artist.

Mid-term has set in and my drawing board has been cleared away until Monday next week.

The time for drawing and creating seriously diminished.

The time for discovering and relishing in what others have done with a mastery strangely enough increased.

I'm not one for landscapes...well not until I  (virtually) saw Churches' 7 foot wide Aurora Borealis. This masterpiece is anchoring the To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape  at the Peabody Essex Museum. (Runs from 8 November through 1 March, 2009.)

I had to dig further.

I did

and... found a master. 

The purpose of this post is not to bore you with my interpretation of his work, or the impact it has on me, or even to tell you that he was born in Connecticut on May 4th 1826 and died 74 years later in New York his reputation  firmly established and incredibly well respected. 

The purpose is rather to let you enjoy in silence the magnificence of his work.

However, before I bring on this silence, let me just throw in a few jumbled (loud) words so descriptive of his grand legacy.

Ephemeral, extraordinary, meticulous, topographically exact, greying greens, "Wagnerian Weather" (Adrian Searle, The Guardian), romantic, phenomenal, grandeur, dramatical, substancial, technical genius, immense, magnificent...

Enough said... Here is the jaw dropping painting for your own special viewing followed by a selection of the Master's work.

"Niagara", 1867

"Iceberg Flotante",  1859, Frederic Church.

"Cotopaxi", 1862

"Vale of St Thomas", 1865

"Icebergs and Wreck in Sunset", 1860

"Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp"

"Niagara from Canadian side", 1857

"View from Olana in the Snow", 1873

"Heart of the Andes" 

Brilliant stuff!

Hope you enjoyed your virtual"getaway" as much as I did.

Back soon, 

cheerio until then.

All images are from Wikimedia and Museum Syndicate.