Saturday, 24 December 2016

Influences 8: James Ensor

James Ensor, The Intrigue, 1890
I first came across the paintings of James Ensor (1860 - 1949) when I was seventeen. The Intrigue, above, absolutely captivated me. How wonderful, then, to be able to stand in front of the real thing over thirty years later! That was a couple of weeks ago and it's still very present in my head.

Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans is an exhibition of work by Ensor curated by Tuymans currently showing at the Royal Academy. There are lots of works on paper as well as paintings; drawings and etchings. I'd only seen his paintings before so it was interesting to see his sketches and prints.

James Ensor, Skeletons Fighting over a Pickled Herring, 1891
What do I like about his work? I like the narrative element of course; the weird symbolism of the images keeps me guessing and wondering. I like the satirical works which remind me of the 'cartoons' of James Gillray and other similar artists. I like his macabre sense of humour (see his self-portraits as skeletons with titles such as My Portrait in 1960). I like the way he composed an image and the way he put the paint on the canvas. And in terms of the man himself, I like the way he started out by pinching stuff to paint from the weird collection of tourist tat his mother sold in her shop below his studio. I like the way he lived in Ostend all his life, a small seaside town on the Belgian coast. Above all, I like the way he just got on and did his own unique thing, and never really fitted into a neat category of style or subject matter. 

The exhibition is on until 29 January 2017.

Palimpsest continued


Here is the first print in my Palimpsest series; three drawings, two of which were the same, the final one made directly on the plate last Saturday at life drawing.

And here's the second plate etched and printed. This is the first stage of the next Palimpsest print. Printed a small edition of four of these, even though this isn't the final image. 

Monday, 19 December 2016


Following on from my post on 7 December where I'd started to burnish back the image and etch over it again, I found that burnishing alone was too laborious and not effective enough, so I had at the plates with a scraper and then a drill with various grinding and polishing attachments. Much fun and some interesting effects.

I drew another figure over this image at life drawing on Saturday so watch this space for a scan when the print is dry.

December life drawing

Charcoal drawing - 3 x 5 minute poses

It was our monthly Saturday life drawing session at the art gallery at the weekend. This month I took along some etching plates to draw directly onto them to capture the full energy of the drawing on the plate. This gets lost when transferring a drawing from paper to plate as you stiffen up and lose a lot of the extraneous marks made when searching for the image. 

The images below show the drawing as made on tissue paper laid over a soft grounded plate (left). The images on the right are the tissue paper taken off the plate and scanned to see the drawing more clearly. 

The first pair of images were made on the plate shown in my previous post so when etched, there will be fragments of the previous drawing. The second pair are on a new plate which will gradually become layered with images; a palimpsest of figure studies.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

New project

Third state - second etching
Continuing to explore soft ground etching as a way to make etchngs with a soft, charcoal-like quality, I'm also exploring layering of images with a process of etching the image, burnishing or scraping it off, then etching the same or another image over the top.

First etching
I wrecked this image from the start by putting the first soft ground on unevenly to see what would happen (and by dropping a blob of stopping out varnish on the subject's arm. In trying to get it off, I took off too much ground so now it just looks like a really bad tattoo). It came out more patchy than I thought, which the initial burnishing back and subsequent etching didn't sufficiently remove. Scraping it off is the next stage.
Second state - first etching burnished back

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Etching again!

Having decided, in August, to hang up my printmaker's apron to concentrate on painting for the foreseeable, I made an etching this week! 

Looking through my drawings from recent life sessions, there were a couple that looked like they might work well as soft ground etchings. 

The above is just two states; the first on soft ground drawn through tissue paper and the second, contrast strengthened with a hard ground line etch. The etching solution was practically dead so although the first state on soft ground was in the bath for nearly an hour and a half, it came out fairly light. I mixed up a new batch straightaway though so hopefully the next one will be stronger - and quicker!

I was going to tinker further with the image but actually, I decided I quite like the spareness of it and printed up a few in a warm dark brown. 

It was so good to be etching again. Hang up my printmaker's apron? Who was I kidding! I am powerless to resist the lure of ink on metal.

Tuesday life drawing

Here are my latest offerings from Tuesday life drawing. Not a great week.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Saturday life drawing - November

 Had a good session at the art gallery yesterday. My tutor suggested I use a limited palette of four colours: blue black, white, burnt sienna and yellow ochre. I was a bit sceptical of my ability to do anything useful with just those four colours but actually, I was really pleased with the result. It's not a good photograph - doesnt show the colours as they actually are. I also tried to work from dark to light as I tend to make my paintings very pale to start with. I faff for ages with too subtle a range of tones, then have to wallop in a load of dark tones just before time's up. not a good way to work.

Tuesday life drawing

 At Tuesday life drawing , we take it in turns to set the poses. These drawings came from my session and aren't terribly good. Maybe I can blame it on the fact I was clock-watching, timing the poses...

Monday, 24 October 2016

Honourable mention

How exciting! I submitted a charcoal drawing to the Art Prof September Art Dare and got an honourable mention! Art Prof sent me a t shirt as a prize, all the way from the US. It was a very bright spot in an otherwise crappy week. Have a look at the video above.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Saturday life drawing - October

Last Saturday was monthly life drawing day at the art gallery. I tried some tinted charcoal for the first time - very different consistency, very different drawing experience. I like some of the smudgey effects but need to work with it more to bring out contrasts better. Different materials change the way you draw which can be quite interesting. 

All in all, not a terribly good day though. Wasn't pleased with anything I did, particularly the painting which is a disappointment. Hoping for a better session in November.

Tuesday life drawing

I'm a bit behind with me blog posts. Here are drawings from the last three Tuesday evening life drawing sessions. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

New life drawing session

Just started going to a new life drawing session on a Tuesday evening, as well as the monthly workshops at the Art Gallery. I feel lucky to have been able to join the Tuesday evening session as it's a group of experienced artists from whom I'm hoping to learn lots. It's good to be back to weekly life drawing as I realised recently that my drawing skills have gone down hill somewhat since the Hamble class folded and I've been concentrating on painting. It was my second week at the Tuesday group and a better week drawing-wise. My drawings from the first session last week were shocking. It's amazing how quickly you get out of practice

Saturday life drawing

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Two days of life drawing

This week, I had the pleasure of spending the whole of Monday and Tuesday at the art gallery life drawing and painting. Two figure studies in oils in two day - what luxury! Drawings on day two were ropey so shan't post those but the afternoon painting wasn't too bad. I'm improving I think. Just got to keep practising.