Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tulip Revival

Watercolour - 13 x 21cm HP Fabriano

I love a survival story. After I finished sketching my fallen tulip yesterday I was about to toss her in the compost. She was so limp, having been lying in the garden for ages and then on my desk in the hot sun for most of the day. Something made me pop her into the jar of water on my desk. This morning I found her bright and perky and ready to rock. Amazing.

I'm not as happy with this painting and I'm aware it has some awful anatomical errors but I thought the girl deserved another outing for sheer survival spirit.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fallen Tulip

Fallen Tulip - 18 x 24cm Watercolour - Clairefontaine Sketchbook

One of the red tulips in the garden was broken off overnight so I put off the dreaded weeding to paint it this morning. It reminded me of a girl in a red satin dress who had danced too long at the ball and finally collapsed.

Red Shine Lily-flowered Tulips still standing

This is the first year I've planted tulips and I can't bring myself to cut them for the house or for art. I just take endless photographs when, in fact, I should be sketching and painting them.

I haven't been at all diligent about keeping up my Garden Journal sketchbook, but everything is photographed as it blooms. The other day I decided to start a new blog Our Tuscan Garden as a place to post these photos and tell the story of our experience making a garden in Tuscany.

I was very pleased that the title was available and very distressed when Blogger shortly after locked me out of my new blog. Days later the powers that be at Blogger have had time to check and have decided it isn't all spam.

The story begins at the beginning so it's going to take quite a few posts to bring our garden story up to the present day. I will continue to post my paintings from the garden here as well as on the other blog.

Now I really must get stuck into the weeding!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Old Japanese Design Book

I wandered down to the antique street market in the village this morning, looking for an old book to alter into a sketchbook. But instead I found a little treasure that I certainly won't be altering. Now I would be grateful if someone who reads Japanese could tell me exactly what this book is.

I was very taken with the traditional binding.

It has 264 pages of examples of Japanese graphic art, possibly ancient logos. Some look like they could be patterns for kimono designs. Anyway the notan is beautiful and I'm thinking that there are many patterns here I would like to try in linocut, perhaps for bookplates.

They remind me a lot of mandalas.

I can't find a date of publication (that I can read) but there is a light pencil message in the front that says
Showa 38 and the date 1963. Can anyone help?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My First Art Show

May is Festival Month in Castiglion Fiorentino - Maggio Castiglionese. My Wednesday afternoon oil painting group is putting on a show as part of the cultural activities.

Needless to say I'm pretty excited, since this is the first time I've exhibited.

Unfortunately my name doesn't fit any Italian spelling pattern, so when the proofs of the poster arrived I had become Robjn. The error was noted and now the final posters have been delivered. I'm now Robin Sinclaire! I think I preferred Robjn.

Possibly I'm a victim of Botticelli's Curse. Has the master taken offence at my copy of his Primavera?

They're nice big posters.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dog with Opposable Thumb

Click to read captions

It was bound to happen! Dermott, our Old English Sheepdog, seems to have grown an opposable thumb. This is because there was a personal request, via a comment from Katherine of Making a Mark , for Dermott to reply to my cartoon - A Day in My Life - in which Dermott seems to think he was short changed (or big bummed, more likely).

Anyway he just slapped this sketch (above) on my desk. It seems he would do anything for Katherine, which may have something to do with the fact that she gave him a special award in her annual Making a Mark Awards (MAMA) for 2007.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sketch & Some Tuscan Sun Photos

Watercolour & Lamy Pen with Sepia Ink - Moleskine WC Sketchbook

I packed my kit and head outside to sketch today. I'm a bit rusty and have a lot of trouble juggling a tin of watercolours outside and everything gets a bit wishy washy, using a water brush. Anyway Sketching Season has only just begun, there's always room for improvement. For the first time today I noticed that this little street is called Vicolo Buio - Dark Alley!

After I finished sketching, I took the long way home. Here are some photos for those of you who'd like to share my walk.

Castiglion Fiorentino is currently marking the anniversary of the passage of the liberating army that fought its way though the town during WWII. This photograph is hanging in the main square (above). Can you see the bomb crater in the road on the right side of the photo? That's the town , on the hill ahead.

And this last one is for Joan, who noted recently just how dead these little Italian villages are when all the shops shut and everyone goes home for a long lunch.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Brush Sketch Challenge

Large Moleskine sketchbook - 2B mechanical pencil

This is my Raphael No9 Petit Gris Pur watercolour brush. I bought it (and a couple more) when I had more money than time. Now I have more time than money, I find it's not a brush I use very often. I also wonder what I, who won't eat anything with big brown eyes, is actually doing with this brush!

It came out of the cupboard today to pose for a portrait in the Vivien Blackburn Brush Sketch Challenge. You can read about it on her blog Painting, Prints and Stuff. I was so excited to have the opportunity to be in the running for one of Vivien's sketches, I launched into this without reading the instructions properly. I used to lose marks for that in examinations. How tough a teacher is Vivien, I wonder? She actually stipulated a sketch of 'your brushes'.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Day in My Life - Cartoon Strip

I was charmed by a recent post by British artist, Vivien Blackburn on her blog Painting, Prints & Stuff.

Vivien had been inspired by illustrator Liz Minichiello to try a cartoon strip based on a day in her life.

Vivien's beautifully rendered effort inspired me to come up with this rather slapdash effort. But I had fun.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Japonisme Lizard

Watercolour & Sumi Ink 19cm x 14cm sketchbook

Just in case you think all I've been doing lately is copying art, here is something that is all my own work.

I've finally applied the Japanese influence I've been absorbing to my own work. Now that spring is here the little lizards are appearing in our garden again. They are very quick but this year I have a better camera, so I'm able to sit very still and wait for one to appear. I still haven't got a good reference shot of the totally iridescent green ones but when I do, I'm hoping to do a whole series of paintings of them.

I was pleased with how this little fellow turned out but I'm not sure if he can be called Japonisme. There are so many elements to consider, but I'm going to keep chipping away at the subject because it really inspires me. Katherine Tyrrell - Making a Mark - keeps adding more wonderful links to her posts about Japanese Art and has generously tied them all together in her Squidoo lens here.

Ayu (Trout) After Ando Hiroshige - Grand Series of Fishes
Watercolour, watercolour pencil & Pigma pen

Actually, I couldn't resist one final copy from these wonderful old Ando Hiroshige woodblock prints!

I couldn't work out what the marks were in the background at first but on studying the fantastic website of Japan based woodblock printer, David Bull, I've learned they are brush marks made by the printmaker as he applies the pigment to the block. I used coloured pencil to try to achieve the same effect.

Next stop, I think, will be to start looking at some traditional Japanese landscapes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

After Botticelli - Primavera

Flora - Detail from Botticelli's Primavera
Oil on canvas 26cm x 36cm

FINALLY - I've finished the oil painting I seem to have been working on for months! The original panel is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Since there is always such a queue for tickets, I don't get to see this painting as often as I would like. I didn't get to see her at all while I was doing my copy. You can see Botticelli's entire painting here.

I loved painting Botticelli's foliage and flowers but the expression of this goddess gave me a lot of trouble. Botticelli's original seems to have a slight turn in her eye but his mouth is much more natural than mine. This is probably not the painting to choose to copy when one is starting out with oils but I have learnt a great deal as a result.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Two Fish After Ando Hiroshige

Watercolour detail after Hiroshige print

This is the second detail from the same Ando Hiroshige woodblock print. The prawns in my previous post were at the top of the print. My handmade watercolour sketchbook is too small for the whole composition of most of Hiroshige's prints. I tried to work a bit faster with this one so it is much more obviously my work, not Hiroshige's. There is one more of his famous fish prints I must do and then I'm thinking I might try a bit of Japonisme of my own - inspired by Hiroshige, of course.

Speaking of Japonisme, through a comment on my previous post, I discovered a blog called Japonisme by Lotusgreen. If you are into beautiful things - paintings or objects, treat yourself by paying Lotusgreen a visit. And don't forget, if you want to know more about this journey into Japanese Art, you'll find it all on Making a Mark.
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