Our pair have now been provided with the wherewithal to stand on  – with mixed results.

I am rather pleased with her foot as it peeps from under her long dress.  The sunlight is just catching the tips of her toes, while tidying the edge of that dress and adding the cast shadow has grounded her nicely.  She does need the vestige of another foot in the shadow but that’s not difficult.

His feet have always been problematic.  His legs are crossed at the ankles, so the shoe is at an angle and I can see the sole. The other shoe is largely hidden.   I turned this upside down to do it and think the shoe is believable but a little too big.  You can judge for yourself in this picture.

This could be an easy fix, or one of those things you never get right.  Time will tell, and meanwhile I’ll get on with finishing the other details.

Gum Trees

Meanwhile, progress is apparent among the gum trees.  Most obvious is the light on the path and some of the trees  The curve of the path round the nearest tree on the right is satisfying but more thought is needed on the middle ground where there is dip in the ground but also a camber on the path.  Until I get that sorted the light on the path is fighting the direction of shadows.

Looking a  painting in reduced form as in a photograph does help to pinpoint unhappy areas.  The sky is too bright a blue, creating energy where quiet is required.  I have something of a conundrum here, as using a lighter blue will undermine the light on the path, while greys will reduce the impact of the trees.  Even so I think the latter is the way to go as the light is a more important feature of the painting.

I have worked on the canopy.  This is not the focus of the picture but it still should present a more complete image.  It’s largely dark green but such greens are more effective if other darks, blues, purples, (even Alizarin Crimson if appropriate)   are added to the mix.  This has filled out the canopy and emphasised the  bright light beneath.  I have also lightened the bank on the left hand side but this has still not resolved the unhappy path.   I tried cropping the picture to see if removing the foreground would help ……..

but I think that reduces the impact of the height of the trees.  Thinking caps required!

In the sunshine – on the home straight

Well, what a surprise!  Since I resumed work on this large painting, I’ve been pussyfooting around with tentative dabs of paint trying to edge the picture towards completion, focussed mainly on the heads (and Feet!). Today – rain, so no gardening –  with a unexpected feeling of calm, I donned my kit, laid out all (!) my paints and spent a blissful two and a half hours working over the whole canvas.  In truth, I didn’t know it was blissful until I put down my brushes, but now I feel I own the painting again.   I don’t need to say that I am pleased with the results.

As you can see,  I’ve darkened the shadows of the pillars, thereby increasing the sunshine; I am thrilled to bits with his pants, and his shirt is better too; Her dress is more shapely and glowing in the light, while her head and shoulders are beginning to resemble her, and her arm has more substance;  a little wall has crept in on the left hand side; pink flowers and green leaves are pushing through the railings;  even the relationship of the two pillars on the right is more convincing.

OK, I chickened out on his shoes.  I’m going to draw them until I know them well enough to paint them.  They are dark on light, but are not, repeat not, the focus of the picture.

The pinks will be picked up  by traces of that colour in her gown.  The railings should figure in places.  The faces need a little more shaping without returning to portrait definition.  I think the orangy/greeny  background behind her head should be lower and more shaped. but all that’s for next time – soon I hope.

Small advances on two fronts

This week I have worked on both current paintings, though one of them has been “current” for some time.

Having changed the pose of my figures in the oil painting, and liked the new atmosphere the changes have created, I made a start on the man’s head.  I have to say that it looks like him! and is exactly how I have wanted the figures to appear.  I said all along that I didn’t want to paint a portrait, but only a recognisable figure.  We can recognise people from a distance by the way they carry themselves, so detail is not necessary to create a likeness.  This is much easier to catch, too.

The pastel also is gaining shape and perspective.  I had intended to work on the two trees just in from the right hand side, and did start there.   Inevitably the background was called into play for one shapes the other.  I seem to have lost the path which curves among the trees, but the blue-greens of Australia  are apparent.  The sunshine catching the right side of those trees will also illuminate the nearest tree on the left so that the path (when I find it again) and the shadows  will be balanced by the strong verticals of the sunlit trees.

Australian Trees

A new term opens and I am using a photo taken in Australia when on my holiday there.  The photo was taken a day or two after my arrival, and a first sight “a path through trees” may seem  a tad ordinary.  However these are gum trees, a source of endless fascination, their differing varieties, their pealing bark, their resilience, and I am hoping that I manage to get the colouring right.  There are blue tones in the foliage in many trees, even as far south as Melbourne, (It’s winter, by the way) part of the subtle visual “otherness” I shall be seeking to pin down.

I’m using velour  pastel paper which takes pastel strokes beautifully, and as I like the strokes to show, it collaborates with all its might.  A light drawing in pastel delineated the trees – it was the placing of the trees which made this an appealing composition – then I indicated roughly, with as many darks as I could find, the foliage and the “stitching line” of darks in the near distance.   With a few slashes of light on the trunks and  darks for the shadows, the picture begins to emerge.

Progress “in the sunshine”

Using my sketch as a guide, I have altered the pose and the colouring of my pair. I think it already looks more relaxed and friendly.  The new colours are altering the balance of the painting, and I am preferring the new view.

His creamy trousers are lightening the tone, his outstretched arm opening up the pose, and when he gets his feet …..

Meanwhile, her choice of dress goes happily with the greens and blues of the foliage, but it played havoc with the turquoise vase at her elbow.  Now these vases are a source of joy to her, but when I took the reference photo, they were temporarily  not on display for safety during building work.  None of us thought about them!  What to do?

I could change the colour of her dress – but I liked what the present colour was doing to the painting.  I could change the colour of the vases though I don’t think that would go down too well.  In the end, I took the one behind her out of the painting altogether.  There is the large, very glossy vase and its attendant dove in the foreground which was sufficiently distant from her dress for an unhappiness to be avoided,  and she looks less crowded now that it has gone.

In the Sunshine again.

Is it really September 4th 2017 when I last worked on this painting?  Much has happened since then, not least I have finally got a good working photo of the pair on the identical terrace.  I had to go to Nice to get it (but that was fun) and  the pose has more animation now.

I have painted out his head and part of hers, and also painted out the feet.  These areas had begun to show a little “halo” of adjustments, not quite matching the background, looking dirty.  I don’t think that I need to paint out the rest of the figures – I think I can change them as necessary.  We have a different colour scheme which will help, and the new pose is encouraging as it makes the painting more friendly.


I have done a line drawing to help me position the figures.  Her head is not quite right as she is looking at him and smiling!  But the figures themselves are right relative to each other.  She has opted for a long dress, which makes things easier, and his pose means that I don’t have to do him full face (and he is pleased about that).  This looks like a win-win situation!


You may remember I have quite a menagerie in my sitting room, as mentioned in my posts about the Honourable Giver of Contentment.  I have added to my aviary today by creating this kingfisher on the fire screen.

The screen is tall, not quite shoulder high, and has seem various incarnations over the years.  Originally I covered it with a piece of lace curtain and sprayed gold paint at it – very effective when the lace was removed.  Later I chose to  paint a stencil of Chrysanthemums, also in gold, enlarged from a lampshade design.  But this time, colour was needed and bird life is a theme (dragons can fly!).

After all that concentration on watercolour, I have returned to acrylics.   This is a “one chance” painting – if I get it wrong, I’ll have to repaint the entire screen again!

I started with a light pencil sketch (freehand, Yeh!!!)  then laid out my acrylics.  For some reason, I had no Prussian Blue, so used Cerulean Blue Dark and Phthalo Green to achieve bluey green.  The Cadmiums, Red and Yellow provided orange, shading with Burnt Sienna.  The markings and the colours are so distinctive that it’s difficult to go wrong.

Here he is in situ with The Cat Person, sublimely oblivious of his presence, at his feet.  I’m not convinced by the branch, and I don’t know how long it will be before I feel moved to do something about that!  However, with the Honourable Giver of Contentment on his left,  and the exuberant macaws on the curtains, he  (and pussy) sit well in the room.

A monastery door

When we visited the Cathedral in Belem we also took the opportunity to explore the monastery attached to it.  The stonework was as exuberantly decorated as the church, The two storey cloisters, something I didn’t even know existed, were stunning, and I don’t use the word lightly.  They were vast, full of sunlight and shadow, every door, window, pillar, decorated and decorated again.

I have chosen one of the less excited doors to paint. Capturing this much decoration was going to be a struggle.

In fact the only way to do it justice would be do do a close-up of one small section, but I’m going to continue with this door.  A general wash of Yellow Ochre and my new friend, Burnt Umber, provided a backcloth to the more detailed work.  I did use a line drawing to work out the complicated aperture.  The dark green door helped define the shapes and the bell was a gift, the Prussian Blue so near and yet so far in colour terms.

Details of the carving, using Burnt Umber and a fine brush, were hard to achieve.  I didn’t want to be too mannered yet there was a lot to say in a small space.  In the end, I aimed to show the shadows as I saw them, hoping to place them with sufficient accuracy to create the illusion.  I’m relative pleased with the result, but the only way  to do justice to to the stone craft would be to do a small section enlarged.

An old street completed

We soldiered on, working on the building on the left.  The shutters on either side of the open window went in with a single stroke of a flat brush, then the same flat brush with  a deeper grey-blue used vertically so that only the tips of the brush hairs touched the surface hopped down the shape.  That made the louvres – they only needed a trifle more dark at their edges to become convincing. Flowers, pots and greenery  covered the wall adequately and decoratively.  Using varying tones of reds and greens added depth, and the pots were great fun.

The strong shadow on the ground,( it was very sunny), made me see that the walls were too warm.  It seemed a pity to lose the colour, but “needs must”, so I blued it with a light wash after all was very dry.  The final touch was the opaque white on the heads and shoulders of two of the people.