Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A Work in Progress

I’ve not been very productive lately thanks to some horrible bug that saw me laid low and feeling sorry for myself for a few days. I did manage to start a drawing before it hit me but have been fighting the urge to throw it in the bin the whole time I have been working on it.

It wasn’t working for me - the colours weren’t right, there wasn’t enough contrast, the composition didn’t work. You name it, I found fault with it. Thankfully, it didn’t make the bin and I can now see a way forward with this drawing when I get back to it.

If I’m being totally honest with myself I think I was being impatient – I wasn’t getting anywhere fast enough. But then this is something I know all too well. It does take many, many (and often many more) hours to finish a coloured pencil drawing but sometimes, just sometimes, I’d love to push the whole process along and get the results I am after quicker. Maybe it’s time to start one of those paintings I keep promising myself to do so I can switch between the two should I get impatient.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Camera Shy
16x9 inches, Coloured Pencil
Copyright Laura Hardie 2009

I must be growing impatient as I feel like I’ve been working on this drawing forever but I’m glad to say it is now finished – at least for the time being. I’m contemplating adding a bit of background - not a lot, more of a suggestion here and there - but need to take a break and look at it with fresh eyes before I can decide.

All in all I have enjoyed working with a grisaille underpainting and although I won’t work solely in this way from now on (I’m far too stuck in my ways) it is something I will definitely play with in the future. So what have I learned?

  • I liked the fact that all my values were worked out and in place before I added any colour making this stage quicker and easier. It wasn’t, however, a quicker way to work overall taking into account the grisaille stage (I’m still searching for a quicker way to work with my pencils).
  • There is still a lot to learn, and experiment with, on colours to use for the grisaille and the effects they will have on the finished drawing. Also the pressure with which the colours are applied can make a difference – there were areas in my drawing where I had a layer or two too much and could have gone lighter (and vice versa) so more work needed there.
  • The colour covered the grisaille surprisingly well – this was something I found hard to get my head around at first for some reason. Probably due to the fact I’m so used to working from light to dark.
  • The grisaille underpainting didn’t give me any more depth to my drawing than I would get from working in my normal way. Working with a grisaille does add depth to your drawing but I personally didn’t see any noticable difference.
  • I really enjoyed working on the grisaille stage with only a few pencils as opposed to many – very therapeutic - which can only be a good thing.

The subject for this drawing was a beautiful Thoroughbred that I photographed at Musselburgh racecourse last July as she was led around the parade ring. Every time she spotted me with my camera she would hold back and raise her head high to look at me, not taking her eye away from the camera until she had passed. This happened each time she passed and came to the conclusion that it must be the camera hence the title.

The overall size of the drawing was a bit too big for my scanner to cope with so all the work in progress shots have unfortunately had a bit chopped off the bottom. But after playing around with Photoshop this morning I have worked out how to merge two scans together and can now show you the full picture. I can't help thinking the 'chopped' version looks better somehow!

Copyright Laura Hardie 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adding colour

A Work in Progress
Copyright Laura Hardie 2009
Here are the next two stages showing colour being added onto my grisaille underpainting. I am so used to working the way I do with my pencils that it has certainly been ‘strange’ starting in this way. As with all new techniques, it will take practice, trial and error to improve but it is definitely an area I’d like to explore more – in painting as well.

Saying this I am happy so far with how the drawing is progressing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Working with an underpainting

A Work in Progress

Back to my coloured pencils, and this time I decided to approach my drawing slightly differently by starting with a grisaille type underpainting before adding colour. This has been something I’ve been wanting to try for some time mainly to see what can be achieved using this technique.

As you will know, grisaille is the term used for a painting or drawing completed entirely in monochrome – usually shades of grays or browns. A benefit of working in this way is that you can establish your values before any colour is added, effectively making the colour stage a lot easier.

I’d thought of using various shades of greys for my underpainting but decided to opt for complimentary colours instead. I couldn’t help thinking the greys might dull my colours in some way although I will be experimenting with them if I’m happy with the outcome of this drawing. As the horse is a chestnut brown colour with a lot of orange tones, I went for the blues.

I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed working with just a few shades of blue as opposed to around 20 to 30 different colours. At this stage I’m not entirely happy with my values and need to darken some areas quite a bit for more of a contrast. The fear I have is that I’ll make it too dark for colour to be seen when added on top and can’t help thinking I might already have too much blue there as it is without adding more. But I do need to push those darks somehow.

Apart from working more on my values there is not much left to do at this stage and I can start to think about adding colour.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Graphite pencil on paper, 11'x8'
Copyright Laura Hardie 2009

Something I have been meaning to do for a long time is to update my blog and move with the times as far as it was concerned. I think I was the only blogger left using the old template and I was feeling a bit left out especially when I saw all the wonderful things you could add using the layout tab.

Of course, it was easy enough to change and I did this last year but disliked the way it moved everything around in my earlier posts – mainly squashing everything together and leaving no spaces between paragraphs and pictures. Being a perfectionist and not having the faintest idea how to amend all this I went back to the old template – at least this way everything looked alright.

But I guess the layout tab has won (it was either that or starting a new blog) because I’ve now changed back as you can probably tell with all the additions I’ve added to my sidebar. I spent quite a bit of time on this last night, even tried to edit my text in previous posts with the spacebar so everything didn’t look so cramped but it didn’t work – that will probably niggle away at me until I find a solution or grow to accept it. What is bothering me more however is the appearance of what looks like a small spanner and screwdriver appearing several times down the sidebar on the left – can you see them? I went to bed last night and they were there, got up this morning and they’d gone, made a change in layouts and they’re back to haunt me. Now everytime I check my blog they are there – does anyone know what they are and how to get rid of them? And there are people I have added to my blogroll who aren’t showing and I’m at a loss to why. I’m sure I make things difficult for myself as nothing ever seems to run smoothly.

My blog will probably be a work in progress for a couple of weeks until I get everything as I like it so bear (or is it bare) with me as I play around with it.

I’m calling my graphite drawing of a horse finished for the time being – I’m still undecided what to do with the background and I may yet continue the shading to the edges of the paper. Looking at it now on screen I think something needs to be done though it does look better in real life.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A horse continued

A Work in Progress
Graphite pencil on paper

I’m still working away on the horse above – not much more to go now, mainly just the mane to do and the inevitable touch-ups. I hadn’t actually planned on doing this horse next, it just happened, and despite it taking longer than I’d hoped to complete I want to finish it before I start anything else.

It started out as a sketch or at the very least a drawing where I could ‘loosen up’ my pencil strokes in an attempt to break free from being so true to my reference photo. But before I knew it I was adding the intricate details and putting in the hours.

My problem is that I work from photos and I have to draw what I see.
Obviously when working to commission I have to be true to my reference and it isn’t a problem but when working on my own pieces I can’t help being made to feel guilty about reproducing exactly what is in the photo, especially if that work is planned for an exhibition and it isn't my photo I'm working from. There is a lot of objection to this and, while I do feel my drawings are how I interpret the photo, I do want to work more ‘loosely’ - have the photo more as an aid and not concern myself so much with the fine detail. Change things even - for me that's a challenge. The problem I have is that my hands wont seem to let me. Or maybe it’s my head not happy with the results if I don’t draw what I see in front of me, details and all – I will persevere.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Looking forward to the year ahead

A Work in Progress
Graphite pencil on paper
Happy New Year
It’s a new year and I’m hoping it’s a better and more productive one than the last. 2008 was not a good year for me in many ways and all my plans and visions of where I wanted to be in the art world didn’t really take off – not helped of course by suffering artists block for months at the beginning of the year. That really got me down and put a stop to many of my plans. I usually like to sit about this time and review the past year and what I accomplished but not this time as it would probably depress me. Instead I’m going to look forward and view the New Year as a fresh start and new beginnings.

Before I jump into listing my goals for 2009 I should point out that not all was doom and gloom on the art front last year – that was reserved solely for my own personal work. Much of the work I currently do, actually the majority, is to commission and last year was no exception. I had the privilege of drawing many beautiful dogs and working with some lovely people and for that I am very grateful. Working on commissioned portraits is something I love to do, and for as long as I’m asked I’ll continue doing so.

I have been giving a lot of thought to my goals for 2009 and where I want to be as an artist. There are so many things I want to do but I’m conscious of keeping my list do-able so it was a case of what to include and what to leave out - for the time being at least. I wasn’t too sure about putting them on my blog for all to see after failing miserably last year but I do believe the more people that see my goals, the more real they are and it makes me accountable to them. I’ve decided to list them briefly rather than going into detail on each one – so, in no particular order, my goals for 2009……
  • Update my marketing materials such as business cards, postcards etc.
  • Print, market and sell prints of my work.
  • Start a newsletter.
  • Experiment more with my pencils, try new supports, techniques and mixing them with other media.
  • Work more with paint – aim to complete one painting a month.
  • Put together a portfolio of work with the aim of approaching galleries next year.
  • Submit work into at least two exhibitions.
  • Keep my blog up to date – aim to post twice a week.
  • Learn more about my camera and improve my photography skills – start photography course.
  • Improve what little knowledge I have of Photoshop.

And of course if I hope to achieve any of this I have to improve my time management skills and stop procastinating all the time. Very important if I want to be more productive.