Thursday, January 31, 2008

A horse in progress part 2

A work in progress - Coloured Pencil on paper
Looking at my desk today - unorganised chaos with coloured pencils everywhere - set me thinking how I should really come up with a better storage solution for them. Not that I haven’t been thinking about it, or looking for that perfect ‘thing’ for some time now. Something that could rotate would be good.

My problem is that I have literally hundreds of pencils – some may think far too many but believe it or not I use them all, bright yellows, greens and pinks excluded. To give you an idea of just how many, I have sets of Derwent Artist (my favourite), Studio, Signature and Coloursoft, Prismacolor, Prismacolor Verithin, FC Polychromos, Lyra Rembrandt and a good number of Caran d’Ache Pablo’s. And that doesn’t include my watercolour pencils! I like them all for different reasons. I suppose you could say I am to coloured pencils what Imelda Marcos was to shoes.

Anyway, no matter how I store them I always find I spend too long looking for the pencil I want, which gets frustrating at times, and I normally end up with pencils everywhere. Then there is the problem of finding the perfect inventory system that will ensure I don’t run out of pencils, but that’s another story.

Any ideas gratefully received.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A horse in progress

I've been working on this drawing of a horse on and off for the last couple of weeks - she's big and will be 14x10 inches when finished. Why I chose to do it quite so big I'm not sure as it's taking me aaaaages to do. This is approximately 15 hours so far.

Not that I'm complaining as I'm really enjoying it. I love horses, they're beautiful animals ......... to look at and draw. I don't mind admitting to being slightly - ok, very - wary of them and I blame it all on a traumatic childhood experience with a rogue horse.

I would tell you about it but it would take too long and I'm rubbish at telling stories, but what I will say is that it involved a HUGE horse - no, really it was; an ill fitting hard hat (i.e. far too big); lots of tree branches and of course, me. It was enough to put me off horses for good and the reason why I couldn't ride off into the sunset with my knight in shining armour - that bit really gets me!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Artist's block

10x12 Coloured Pencil
This week has seen me thinking a lot about exhibitions and in particular those I would like to submit work to - I thought I should get myself organised early. This led to my timetable, handing in dates etc, then panic. I don't have any finished work I would be happy with going into an exhibition.

This isn't the problem though - I knew I wanted to work on drawings and paintings specifically for this reason and had set the time aside to do so. It's what to do I'm having problems with. I think I've been working to commission for too long without a break to do my own work, that I can't see past vignettes and head studies!

I've been looking for inspiration and that perfect reference but nothing has jumped out at me screaming to be drawn. Even things on my 'must do' list seem uninteresting just now - it must be some form of Artist's block. I just hope it's a mild case I have and nothing serious. In the meantime my search will continue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Ben 2
8x10 Coloured Pencil

Just a small post today if only to let you know I'm still here and not forgotten no.9 on my goals for 2008.

This is my first commissioned portrait, started and finished this year. Thinking about this, it doesn't seem a lot considering we are now half way through January and I'm working more hours (thanks to no.2 of goals), but there are more - I haven't just worked on this drawing. I did spend a lot of time getting his colouring right however, if I was to think about it some more!

Weimaraners are beautiful dogs but seem to change colour dependant on the light. In some photos Ben's fur had a lot of pinky/peachy tones, in others he was more of a grey colour and yet in others he definately leant towards the browns. So what did I do? Put them all in.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Almost forgot

12x16 acrylic and coloured pencil
Remember this one? I didn't until I came across it again while tidying and sorting out my studio and remembered I hadn't actually finished the WIP on my blog. So this is the final stage, currently titleless, but with whiskers and a background added. I'm still undecided about whether I like working with coloured pencils on Ampersand Pastelbord - I lean more towards 'like' but need to complete a few more to fully make my mind up.
What you see has been cropped, thanks to my scanner, and the dog actually sits more to the right of the composition rather than centred as she looks here. Once I get my printer set up - or should I say, once I build an extension to house it (it's HUGE) and take a proper photo, I plan to turn this into prints.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year

10x8 Coloured Pencil

First things first, before I start my ramblings on todays post I’d like to wish you all a happy New Year and hope it’s a productive one for everyone.

I spent the first day of the New Year ‘spring cleaning’ – my studio included. Actually, I had intended on only doing my studio and decided that with it looking so clean and tidy I’d do the sitting room….. then it was the stairs….. then it had to be the kitchen….. the bedrooms….. the…….. you get the idea. Anyway most importantly, I now have a tidy studio with everything in its right place, which is what I set out to do.

With 2007 now at an end I find myself, like many others, thinking about successes of the past year and my plans for the year ahead and what I want to achieve. 2007 saw me working 95% of the time on commissioned work and the other 5% on my own work. This is a success in itself in that I had my busiest year yet with commissions – I am obviously being found one way or another which is excellent as I am hopeless at optimising my website with the search engines and people like my work enough to commission me. I also became tutor for the Coloured Pencil Course with the London Art College, which I’m really enjoying and have great visions for – what a perfect way to promote coloured pencils and work with students with a similar passion for them – maybe the ‘passion’ comes later. However, I didn’t achieve a lot of what I set out to do.

To be fair, this time last year I didn’t have a set plan – I had a new puppy to look after (an incredibly hyperactive one at that with bladder and bowel problems) which took up a surprising amount of time and I had commissions to tide me over for a few months, so there was no rush – right? Well, as it turned out - wrong.

I do remember being extremely tired thanks to our new arrival and didn’t - couldn’t - really think about goals. And when I did start to think about them seriously, it was just that – I thought! I a) didn’t write them down and b) obviously wasn’t committed enough to see them through. So this year I am going to write them down and not only that – thanks to Maggie Stiefvater and her ‘butt-kicking’ post on goals, I am showing all on my blog. There is good reasoning and truth behind her words – the more people that see my goals, the more real they are and it makes me accountable to them. With this in mind my goals for 2008, in no particular order, are……

1. Better time management – I’m the first to admit that I could have completed and achieved more in 2007 had I managed my time better, i.e. mainly more time in the studio and less time in front of the TV and computer – which leads me onto no.2.

2. More studio time and less computer time – I spend way too long on the computer although, in my defence, it is all art related. I have a long list of blogs (which keeps getting longer) I enjoy visiting, not to mention the forums and what I call ‘research’. A lot of it can be educational so I don’t feel too guilty - I just need to allocate a set time, no matter how hard this may be, to computer time.

3. Enter work into at least two exhibitions – I had planned to do this last year, and the year before if I remember correctly, but concentrated more on my portrait business and marketing it. Hopefully nos. 1 and 2 will see me with a lot more time on my hands to see this goal through. My favourite medium is coloured pencil so I have earmarked the ‘UKCPS Open International Exhibition’ as a definite and am currently contemplating others.

4. Complete a painting a month – I don’t do enough painting but enjoy it when I do. I’d like to develop my techniques in both oils and acrylics and try to stop treating the brush like a pencil, which I tend to do.

5. Print, market and sell my prints – Again another goal I had planned (in my head admittedly) for 2007. I’d like to move more towards this market, as I believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is a current trend towards purchasing prints rather than originals.

6. Draw and paint 35 horses by the end of the year – I half-heartedly started this last year although didn’t put a figure on it. The figure came after being inspired by an artist on WC who took it upon herself to draw and paint 100 cheetah - it was great to watch her progression and to see her confidence in portraying this animal grow. I originally considered setting the target at 50, almost 1 a week, but decided this was unrealistic and I’d more than likely be stretching myself to get this done – anyhow, I hope by the time I get to no.35 I will know a horses temporal fossa from its mandible.

7. Visit more exhibitions and galleries – At least one a month. I live in Edinburgh and am surrounded by galleries so have no excuse not to. I often leave exhibitions totally inspired to try something new, which is reason enough, and yes, wishing it was my work on display – a goal for 2009 perhaps?

8. Backgrounds – I’ve mentioned this before in my blog and want to look more at including backgrounds in my work, maybe include the animal within its environment and surroundings? I do prefer the plain background approach and very often don’t include one at all when doing commissions. Paul Emsley summed it up for me when he said “I leave the background as a fairly nebulous space instead of depicting a particular environment. A non-explicit background, while directing the focus to the person or animal, infers a sense of stillness and timelessness, and it enhances the feeling of mystery”. Although I’m sure I wont be doing intricate and highly detailed backgrounds, it’s definitely something I want to look into this year.

9. Keep my blog up to date – I’m always promising this but I mean it this time – promise. I’m hoping the fact that it is one of my goals and is written in black and white will spur me on.

10. Build up a portfolio of work and prints – I couldn’t decide what to end with for no.10. I’d like to become more computer savvy and technical minded as I find myself relying on the computer more and more for my business and don’t know enough about them – Photoshop especially. And there’s photography – I have a top of the range camera I don’t know how to use to it’s full potential so know I am missing out on some fantastic reference material. Taking time to master the computer and the camera is something I want/need to do but am not going to make them priority this year. Instead I have gone for ‘building up a portfolio of work and prints’ in preparation for my goals in 2009 – how is that for forward thinking.

So there you have it, my goals for 2008 and a rather lengthy blog post as well. Now all I have to do is print them off and stick them where I can see them daily – I know just the place.