Monday, January 23, 2012


I think the most difficult problem with painting a group of birds is to place them in a convincing composition. During the cold weather of last winter flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings were attracted to the holly berries and over ripe crab apples in the garden. I attempted to paint a watercolour of four Redwings in the branches of our crab apple.  It wasn’t working so I enlisted the help of Painter XI.

I started the painting by making an outline watercolour drawing directly with a No. 6 Sable. Next a scan of two of the birds  was opened in Painter.  The outlines of the birds, tree branches, and the watercolour wash used for the sky are visible.  The digital additions were done on two layers The first was used to add a transparent background fill and the second layer was used to add the berries.

It would be possible to develop detail and modify colours on subsequent layers with the aim of producing a digital print. With the file saved that’s an option that could be tried later. After this initial exploration I’m more attracted to taking the watercolour to a finished state with the use of  body colour.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Prof. Brian Cox' TV programmes have stimulated a lot of interest in Stargazing. A Facebook friend is showing a photograph of the Plaeides taken with a Canon 1000D and a 200mm telephoto lense. The technique seems to be to take a set of 1.5min exposures and stack them presumably using Photoshop. He used 33 digital photographs to get a bright image. Registering them and dropping them onto a single base layer must be quite tricky. A fascinating and ingenious procedure for a digital camers enthusiast though.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

SHORT EARED OWL: a digital study.

This is another digital study taken further by the inclusion of a coloured background. I began with a ‘pen’ drawing on a white ‘canvas’. First a monochrome sepia drawing on a slightly textured ‘paper’ then further developments were made by changing the pen colour. 

The background was created on a new layer by adding freely drawn transparent ‘washes’. Photoshop users will be familiar with the use of layers to make additions to digital photographs.

The source was a photograph I took on a visit to Mary Arden’s House at Wilnecote near Stratford Upon Avon. 

Friday, January 13, 2012


Seeing David Hockney last week-end sketching with what looked like an iPad has motivated me to try some digital techniques again. I encountered   harsh criticism on one artists’ forum when I tried to start a discussion of the new medium by posting some digital paintings. There is a lot of ill-informed criticism of digital art by amateur painters. But the world has moved on - David Hockney a successful professional  seems willing to consider what digital methods have to offer.

Remembering John Ruskin’s drawing of the head of a Golden Eagle referred to back in December 2011 I chose to study a Ludlow Museum specimen.  This was a fine Golden Eagle which once flew locally.

 I've used one of the 'pen brushes' in Painter XI to create a quick freehand  line drawing working from a photograph I took using my iPhone.

I could have tried adding washes on a new layer - maybe next time. In the past I've made a pen sketch on paper and imported a scanned copy into Painter.

Then digital washes can be laid over it to simulate a line and wash technique.

Monday, January 09, 2012


I’ve always had a soft spot for David Hockney even though I’m not a keen fan of his paintings. There’s no doubting his talent though he was noticed early on during his later student years at the RCA. Sir Hugh Casson said ‘he drew like a dream.’ For me his best work is to be seen in his pencil drawings – confident linear statements that take your breath away.

He also talks a lot of sense when interviewed about his work or indeed art in general. The BBC apparently quoted him as being critical of artists who employ assistants to essentially do the practical work for them. He denied that he had Damien Hurst in mind but Damien like Jeff Koons  and Anthony Gormley belong to a class of artists who call in skilled trained craftsmen to make their constructions. Of course artists have always had apprentices and trained artists in their studios.While working on the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo employed a fresco painter to lay the intonaco in preparation for him to apply colours to the final layer. Henry Moore in his later years employed carvers to assist in roughing out the basic forms of his large stone sculptures.
In contrast David Hockney gets out to paint in front of the subject the canvas carries his marks not those of somebody else. A feature on the BBC Countryfile programme showed him at work. I was surprised to see him making use of an iPad as a sketching tool – it’s an expensive bit of kit to use outdoors in bad weather.  It may have been a bit of showmanship but digital painting is being increasingly taken up by artists for fine art as well as graphic work  and it was interesting to see him using the iPad in a country lane.