Thursday, July 28, 2011

Too Bee or Not Too Bee

I've scanned my Summer Bee, ready for delivery in the Cubby Hole exhibition which opens in one week's time. Some V.I.P.s will be at the opening so I'm keen to impress (it's open to the public too!) More later.

For the most part this week though I've been painting the second layer of the giant Lyceum picture. Of note!

1. Raphael used a lot of transparent pigments. This struck me while glazing too transparently and leaving the exact same distinctive marking on my painting as he did on St. Catherine. They didn't have half as many opaque pigments as we do.
2. The top "knobbles" on my gesso are being wiped by the glaze. The underpaint at that point is too weak or too thin (or both). It's so hard to get the exact depth right. Several options to fix this...
3. Ultramarine violet is so weak and transparent. It happens to be one of the nicest colours, so shy, so beautiful but too quiet to be up for much fun. I made a stronger semi-opaque purple from pyrrole crimson and ultramarine. The drapery and swan on this painting are so pretty and detailed that they draw every stare.

I've now planned lots of new paintings and completed more. August should be fun!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Masters of the Sky and Summer Bee

I've had a productive few days and have completed three paintings over the past few days; I Feel Nothing Nothing Nothing (I might add more nothings yet!), Masters Of The Sky (pictured) and Lost In The Colours of Cheshire which was originally a study but was too pretty to throw away.

Last Wednesday another new painting, Summer Bee (below), won the first prize in the Art Support annual competition, which was a nice surprise. There were about 30 entries this year and I wasn't sure if I was going to enter at all because I had to devise and paint an idea in one evening. This result spurred me on.

That painting will be on exhibition at The Cubby Hole, Crewe, from the 5th August to the 29th of September. I've sold two reproductions already. Number three of twelve will cost £30 framed, and the original painting is £65.

Now, onward! I've listed several paintings which are in progress and deserve to be completed. These have the at least the planning complete and will now start to move on painting. There are ten.

I've also listed a few of my best ideas that would make good artworks in their own right, there are four, all new. I'll try to complete those too this year. That should make for a good year's production.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Optimistic Signs

I have grounds for optimism, however last night I dreamed that, in a computer game, my sniper had lost the game because he shot an innocent civilian, quite nonchalantly, as well as the enemy. More on what this paragraph means later! The image is a fragment of my current painting in progress; Masters of the Sky.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I skipped Magritte, postponed for the future. My brother was visiting from London and he didn't really want to go, and I didn't really either. He's written an essay about the need for a synthesizer orchestra which was compelling. I'm sure he'll put it online sooner or later. His website by the way is

I had a busy Sunday. First I updated my website, adding year-by-year tags to each page, making old paintings and poems easier to find and locate. Then I located newspapers in Macclesfield and sent of a press release about my forthcoming exhibition, then painting the drapery on my Lyceum painting and a new dark floor on it (problematical; mars black and naples yellow dries quickly and often looks ugly). Then I completed the design and modelling for a new painting, and thought up and painted a complete painting, a Bee Flower, which I'll post in detail here when it's dry (there is a small photo of it on my Facebook page).

The design and painting took five hours and while doing it listened to Brian's Gothic Symphony, an epic work that required two symphony orchestras, four brass bands and nine choirs, over 800 singers and 1000 performers! It was epic and quite wonderful, bigger even than Mahler's Eighth. It's only been performed nine times despite being about a century old, understandably.

I also wrote a theological philosophical note, Extroversion and Depression.

Now, I must resist this rambling warble and get creating. I've decided to throw away everything that is half complete. Neaten things, then make new plans and get going. perhaps I can paint my huge quantity of artworks in record time after all! I'll start planning two paintings tonight. I wonder if all artists move in frenetic spurts?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day Eight

The underpainting of this my largest painting is completed. I'm unhappy that I'll not have the time to complete this to the standard I'd like. I was over-ambitious in scale, however I've learned a lot from this painting.

I'm frustrated at my lack of output this year, trapped by too many large and unexpected projects, meaning that many of the paintings I had planned for the year remain unstarted. I've only completed about ten small paintings when my target was nearer forty. I consider only one or two good enough to show anywhere at all. Frustration frustration frustration!!

I must console myself on the positives and other achievements made. I dislike my work so much lately that the quality must be returning; relaxed confidence of ones brilliance is the best way to produce rubbish work. The giant paintings are nearly complete. Perhaps I can salvage 2011 yet.

Tomorrow I'm going to Liverpool to see an exhibition of works by Magritte. This morning I so wanted a day off. Now I'm rested and want to work twice as hard as before!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day Seven

Day Seven. Flaming feathers. I find myself staring at the picture for long periods.

I used no white today which is unusual for any oil painter. It is probably the first day I've ever done that, using only nickel yellow as the lightest shade.

The nickel yellow in the fire scene is blotchy, due to the paint being applied too thinly and unconfidently. I applied a yellow imprimatura there; blue elsewhere, so that that ultrafirst layer fades upwards. In recent times I've tried to apply a base layer that matched the colours I intended to overpaint with, so that the results were smoother. I think perhaps this is not working, instead causing me to be too complacent and applying an insufficiently thick layer of paint. For smooth perfect results you must apply exactly the right amount of paint, about one mongooses hair thick. Too thin and you can't smooth it out without removing paint and making the result less smooth. Too thick and you find yourself trapped like Indiana Jones in quicksand.

Finally today I joined an affiliate network for my art suppliers, GreatArt. These are my main suppliers and the advantage here is that I can use my own link and effectively get money off by earning commission from myself! If you buy from them then you might want to sign up to the scheme too (which includes other websites than GreatArt as well).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day Six

Day Six; Phoenix face and the start of the wings. I thought the painting ugly for a while, a sin for I'm responsible for every square millimetre. After that I called her beautiful, and it worked! forcing me to focus all the harder on the bits that needed attention. I began a new brush, making three that I've used up in under a week! Hard surfaces really punish brushes. I noticed that when painting on canvas the brushes stay in top condition. I also began a new tube of mars black and cobalt turquoise, before I'd finished the old ones. The Winsor and Newton black turns rather grey and pasty near the bottom (as do all of their oil paints; many paints exhibit oil separation in the tube, but this make in particular seems extra thick and greyish in the second half). As with the nickel yellow their cobalt appears dull compared to the Blockx version, which costs a lot more at about £40 a tube. That colour is perhaps the most beautiful of all paints. Tip of the day is to use blu-tak to remove wet paint.

In other news my new business cards arrived today. The front and rear (web version)...

I also heard that my painting has got into the M.O.M.A. Wales exhibition. It will be on show in the gallery in Machynlleth until September.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day Five

Day Five; Rocks. This did not go well due to several reasons. This is not the first time this has happened and this problem now requires extra attention for the future. I think I'll start to contour some objects in the drawing stage from now on, objects like rocks or hair or other "high detail" objects that require shading for light plus a secondary detail texture in the underpainting. I'll correct and refine tomorrow. More on this subject later when I have time. Good night.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day Four

Day four. Fire scene. The detail finally tipped me into madness.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Painting Continues

Day Three. Figure torso; naples yellow, venetian red, cobalt turquoise, mars black, titanium white. Swan; venetian red, mars black, titanium white. Tree scene. Part of fire scene.

With a steady hand and adequate eyes a tiny face is no easier or harder than a large portrait. The principle is the same when painting any object; copy the blobs of dark and light, then use knowledge of the object to expand and refine. The turquoise was for a blue back light.

In other news the Lyceum Theatre centenary poster I designed has appeared in town. I think this will be the cover of the special anniversary booklet.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Day Two

Day two. Red sky: Naples yellow*, nickel yellow, light red, mars black, titanium white. Drapery: mars black, foundation white. Figure legs. Phoenix head grass.

Naples yellow is better than yellow ochre in every circumstance. It and nickel yellow are the only yellows needed for anything unless the extreme intensity of cadmium or the transparent effects of an azo are desired. Note that Winsor and Newton lemon yellow hue is dull compared to the superior, and gratefully more expensive, Blockx version; nickel yellow.

Drapery used lead white because it is to be violet and there are no opaque violets (the closest alternative being dioxazine (with a little mars black) but that colour is too unstable and dries too slowly to be considered for underpainting). An extra glazing layer is needed so this white was chosen as it dries more quickly than titanium.

* Michael Harding naples yellow; titanium chromium yellow not "genuine" naples yellow.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Day one complete. Sky; Cobalt turquoise light, mars black, titanium white. Cobalt turquoise light is the most opaque blue I've encountered. It is slow drying.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Hand

I went to Machynlleth yesterday to drop off a painting to the Museum of Modern Art in Wales. It's their annual competition. The trip takes all day, mostly on trains or waiting for them but it's a nice place and entering competitions is something I like doing. The theme is "Feeling", in particular expression of feelings the artist feels. In a way all art should do that so it's a very open subject! I'll comment more on my entry later...

Today I'm preparing to begin the large Lyceum painting. It's heavy so one thing to learn is how to safely raise and lower it from its prostrate drying position to my easel and back. I redrew the right hand today because the hands in Poser aren't up to the job. It looks a bit small now. I'll use the lighting from the computer model.

Another issue was the tree. Generally it's best to paint everything in the underpainting but with less detail. Very fine lines like eyelashes can be omitted from underpainting because these can smudge in the thicker layer of paint needed for this solid coat; but things like that are an exception. Time and experience has shown me that the more detail one adds to an underpainting the better.

Trees though can pose a problem because of leaves and fine spindly branches. Are trees best painted in the glazing layer then? I have done this, on Memory. With that the sky was solid blue, then glazed in blue, then the green leaves painted into the wet glaze. This worked fine... but perhaps if it was underpainted with even more detail on top it would have looked better? Also I like the idea of a simple rule such as "underpainting everything". As such I've decided to do that for this one, and paint the tree in general blocks of colour and refine in a glaze layer.

Either way I must make haste. The second half of 2011 must be the main event, and the first half the preparation. I feel I've done nothing nothing nothing! I have too many creative ideas and am spending too long implementing them. My mistake of the year was painting big. Large paintings are difficult to store and expensive to frame. Many competitions don't allow them as entries at all, they are more likely to be rejected due to lack of space, and they take a lot more time, work and materials, and as a result fewer works are produced and fewer lessons are learned (after all, every artist is a student). I will aim to finish my three large paintings as soon as possible and next year I will paint smaller.

Friday, July 01, 2011


Today I have decided to focus more on my marketing and have rebranded. My website, blog, business cards and music packaging tended to use the same font and same general look, but now this is fixed and unified, complete with a new colour scheme and a new logo. Meet Aleax...

It symbolises mathematical perfection because it is based on the geometry of the pentagram, wealth and riches because it is gold, positivity, and angelic cruciform glory!

My next step is to find a way of explaining more about my paintings at my next exhibition in Sevens of Macclesfield. Ideally I'd have an expensive printed catalogue, but cost aside, would this make people grab the catalogue and flee instead of staring at the paintings? Would grabbing the catalogue and fleeing be beneficial enough from a marketing standpoint to outweigh the cost of printing? An alternative is a catalogue to borrow... or, as is most common in quality galleries, a block of text on the wall near the paintings. I must decide quickly as time is short.

My main job at the moment is to paint my largest, most spectacular and certainly best artwork of genius that I've ever contemplated painting (I always think that about the next one in line). The first colour study is half complete. I will begin painting the first layer next Thursday.