Meru, mountains and mobility

 

So last night I was kicking back watching a film on Netflix.  It’s called ‘Meru’ and is about a legendary Himalayan climb on a mountain who’s top is called ‘The Shark’s Fin’

 

 

As a young adult, and right through my twenties, I loved walking and climbing in the mountains.  I did some walking in the Alps with family when I was 16 and then some tougher climbing routes in Scotland, North Wales and the Breacon Beacons through my twenties with friends.  From the very beginning I just adored the simplicity of the thing.

Anyway at 31 I got injured internally while giving birth to my son.  It was a neurological injury and consequentially took years and many operations to figure out.  Then in my early 40’s I developed a infection which lasted months and gave rise to post infective fibromyalgia.  When I had the pelvic problems alone my walking was restricted and I could no longer climb.  Once the chronic pain thing happened I began struggling to walk even short distances.

I don’t really miss the climbing nowadays at all – it seems to be too much like hard work(!)  but I still have a lot of sympathy for folk who feel driven to get themselves up these tremendous peaks.  I was drawn to it by the sensation of climbing itself, the burning of your muscles, the percussive kicking into the ice and the wild isolation, all of which gave me a sense of euphoria.  What I do miss now though is walking, the joy of just gambolling about wherever you want.

So this week I painted a picture of a place I visited in the Alps when I was 16.  It’s a valley called Val d’Anniviers in Switzerland.  (One of my God-Parents was Swiss and lived just outside Geneva with her English husband. I’ve known them all my life.  We have holiday’d with them, over there, a few times and they’ve holiday’d over here with us.  Very sadly we lost them suddenly in a plane crash in 2011 while they were on holiday in Botswanna.)  That holiday in Val d’Anniviers with both our families is my strongest memory of them.  I can’t think of the Alps without thinking of them.  So this is for them and their surviving daughters who were mine and my sister’s friends growing up.

Here’s the Swiss Tourist Board picture from that valley which I used as a reference (NB: Not my own photography.)

 

Many tourist type pictures are heavily doctored to make the places look pristine.  But this valley really is exactly like that photo.  It’s like walking through a real wonderland.  What the photo doesn’t show is the freshness of the air up there and the sound of the local cattle and goats with bells around their necks.  It’s was a real priviledge to have a go at painting this place.

I sketched out the main forms first (and changed them a bit to give me the feel and shape I wanted)…

Then I made a detailed ink drawing…

After that I played around in Photoshop for a while trying out different colour combinations.  My favourite two were these…

 

I couldn’t decided between them so I painted my final colours as a mix of the two.  I painted on different watercolour paper this week as I had some real issues with the paper last week.  It seemed to pay off as I had no further problems.

Here’s the final painting…

In loving memory of Nadine and Stuart. xxx

The Shape of Light on Water #2

 

This is another painting I attempted in my work towards learning how to paint water.

I saw a great video on YouTube by a really good watercolourist called Steven Cronin.  (Here is his channel.)

This is his video:

 

I thought I would try to follow his technique and see if I could paint a version of the same thing.  Please note this was just a study to help me learn how to do it.

His painting was using only one colour – a mix of blue and payne’s grey.  But I wanted to add a colour for the light rather than just relying on the white of the paper.  So I added a yellow.

Here’s my version:

 

I couldn’t quite get it like Steven Cronin’s picture  – I don’t have his control of paint from a big brush.  To try to work around this I made a few changes to the way I painted it.  I used a wet on dry technique after the wet on wet phase to give sharper edges to the hills around the lake and I used a wet brush on the almost dry forground to pull out some shadow reflections.   All of that said, I think it does bear a likeness to Steven’s work and I can read the image as a picture of water.  So that’s a step forward!

Thanks Steven!!!

 

Small Art Projects

This week I worked on a few smaller fun projects, leaving my bigger painting ‘Love’s Sacrifice’ alone for a bit.  My son is doing his exams and I’ve been concentrating on being there for him.

So I began the week looking at some beautiful macro photographs of tiny animals, like this miniscule moth photographed by Johan J Ingles Le Nobel.

I’ve always loved macro photography with a passion.  So many beautiful tiny details!  Le Nobel’s work is brilliant!

I didn’t intend on sketching this picture and was just playing around in my sketchbook whilst in bed one evening when the beauty of the photograph came into my mind…

So I decided the next day to give it some colour.  I used watercolour paints with Prismacolor Pencils over the top.

Here’s the final painting…

I wish I’d got the eyes exactly the right shape as they’re the main feature of this animal’s face.  The drawing was ok but successive layers of paint slightly changed the final curve.

 

Next I drew an ‘Eevee’ which is a little deer Pokemon.  (Please note the design of this little guy is created and owned by the Pokemon franchise.  I just made a painting of him.)  I used gouache for the painting so I could get really bright cartoon-type colours.  It was kind of fun!

Then finally I sketched a high alititude landscape in pencil…

I think this would have been more effective if I could have created a greater tonal difference between the foreground and the background.  Part of the problem was that my scanner wouldn’t pick up very light pencil for the far mountains unless I darkened them.  There seems to be a cut off point where the scanner couldn’t see very light pencil even when it’s obvious to a person’s regular eye sight.  I could have darkened the foreground more to cater for this but I didn’t think if it at the time.

I also coloured this picture to see if adding some colour helped.  First I added three shades of green to the trees and some basic blue sky lightening towards the top.  Then I added yellow to the light areas and purple to the shadows to give the picture a warmed look.

 

Looking at Light

Thanks to a brilliant idea from Earthbalm I’m going to deviate from my painting book for a couple of days and have a look at tints and other highlights. It makes sense after looking at shadows.

I had a look on the internet to find out some basic stuff.  Apparently a tint is a lighter tone of a colour caused by adding white to it.  This is the basic definition which I’ll use, although I have noticed that the tint which you actually get in real life is not always white – it mixes the colour of the object which is being lit with the colour of the light.  So if you had a red object under blue light the tint might be a kind of purple.  A grey object under red light would have a lighter red tint.  More importantly to a lot of painting, landscapes under yellow or orange light (during a sunset) will pick up yellow and orange tints. (I think.)

Then I found this great video on You-Tube:

It’s by a chap called Richard Robinson – he’s clearly a really good artist and I think he’s a super teacher as well.

I decided to have a go at the exercise he’s doing in this video – it concentrates on light, especially glowing light and the subject is simple enough for me to handle ok.  I don’t have any oils at the moment so I’m going to use gouache, nice and thick so it performs light oil paint.

Like Mr Robinson does in the video I used paint to sketch out my shapes to begin with.  It’s the first time I’ve painted with no pencil underneith.  I found that, although the mountains themselves are quite simple shapes, the lighting effect I was trying to do was actually really difficult.  I got so engrossed in it that I forgot to take any process photographs.  I tried to lighten and deepen the colour of the glow as I got closer to the sun but it was hard.  At first I failed because I wasn’t concentrating hard enough on my mixing, but I think with this kind of exercise the mixing of the exat colour you need is the most important thing.  Eventually I got something down which began to look a bit like the lighting effect I wanted.  It will take more practice to really get the hang of it though.

Here’s my first try:

MountainLight1_fin_webAnother thing which I found really interesting whilst doing the painting the above was that, at first I was feeling reticent and a bit stingy with my paint.  Because of that I kept struggling to get the paint thick enough to work it how I needed and that almost ruined the painting.  What I learned from this is that there is, I think, a generosity needed in artistic endeavour, a giving kind of spirit which lays the paint down fully and freely even though it’s not exactly cheap and you have no idea, at the beginning if it will work out.  It is an act of faith.

Shadows in an Autumn Landscape 1 of 2

I wanted to have another go at working on my shadow colours today.  I am, yet again, overwhelmed with the colours of the trees this autumn.  I’ve been tramping through a local wood recently trying to find the home of what I think is a tawny owl I heard hooting during their mating season earlier this year.  But I’ve found myself constantly caught in wonder at the colour and shape and form of the leaves.  So I thought I’d try to paint an autumn landscape.  I want it to be slightly unreal and otherworldly, but to use the colours I’ve seen so much in the last month.  I began with an A3 sketch of an autumn landscape:

AL_Sketch

Then I used a watercolour technique with dilute gouache paint for the sky and dabbed out the clouds with kitchen roll.

Next I painted the background:

al_backgrounddone

Again I struggled for control over my colour.  I had intended not to use greens at all – just the colour range from yellow to red and including browns, but my brain seems to default to colours I have, myself, seen in the hills.  I find it really really hard to break away from the exact memories of the things I’ve seen.  I always knew that the mild autism I have makes me quite literal, but I thought this was just something which affected my language.  Now I can see that it also affects the way I think visually.  It’s something I’m going to have to work on in terms of my art.  While I love photorealistic art in terms of the ability of an artist to absolutely reproduce something perfectly, we kind of have camera’s for that nowadays.  Also, less realistic art that I’ve seen makes me feel in ways I don’t always understand.  It’s this unspoken visual language that I want to learn but I have to somehow break away from painting like some kind of android and learn to paint from my heart as much as from my eyes and memory. (If that makes any sense.)

In terms of my task to paint the shadows todayI did manage to get the shadows in a darker shade than the non-shadowed sections of the same hue but I didn’t manage to reduce the chroma and make them look more grey.  It’s not because I don’t know how to do this with the paint, but because in my mind’s eye the shadows were not greyer than the non-shadow colour.  This lesson for me is just an experiment to see what shadows done using the method in my painting book look like but some part of my unconscious mind doesn’t see it that way.  I never realised how much of this painting malarky involves my unconscious self.  Perhaps it’s because when I was painting this one I was still feeling a little unwell so my willpower was down a bit?  I will have to work some more on this shadow technique in another picture once I’ve finished this one.

My next job was to paint the foreground.  I did think about changing the mountain colours and that of other places where I’d used greens to reds to keep to my original plan but I do quite like the mountains so I decided to let that go.  To paint the trees in the foreground clearly without the paint behind making too much of a difference I painted the whole area for them out in white.  Although all the paint underneith will still reactivate when I paint over the top, having the white in between the foreground and background colours should allow me to seperate foreground and background more easily.

This ‘painting out’ is the furthest I got today – more tomorrow:

al_prepforegroound

Soft Pastels – Tree of Life

After some more messing about with pastels I wanted to have a go at drawing a proper picture. One of the ways I love to relax in the summer is to sit under a big tree with a good book.  So I took this image as my starting point for this picture.  I also like being at the top of hills. As a child in the summer holidays I used to go hill walking in North Wales (and sometimes in the Lake District and the Peak District).  We used to stay on a farm in Snowdonia, quite high up in the hills and go walking from there. Here are some photo’s of the region generally from the World of Travel Website Snowdonia Snowdonia-National-Park (Please note these beautiful pictures are not my own photos.) When I was there it rained from time to time and was nearly always cloudy but it was beautiful nevertheless and I loved the quiet, the sound and smell of sheep and the crunching sound of my walking boots on the rocky, gravelly surface of the tracks we hiked along.  The higher we got the quieter and simpler the world became until it was just ground and cloud with the sound of the sheep from further down in the valley and the wind in the background.  I love places like that – I feel like I can breathe and be myself and I don’t have to fight and work really hard to try to fit in.  So I wanted my picture was going to include a hill too. But then as I looked at the brighly coloured soft pastels I had I realised that I wanted this image to be really brightly coloured and that didn’t fit very well with the dark browns and yellows and greens of Snowdonia.  It was then that I thought of making it more like a fantasy world, or a world from legend, or from the deep past. I still kept the hill and the tree ideas but changed how they would look. So this is what I came up with: treeoflife_WEBThe final picture ended up very different from my favourite oak tree which I sit under when I’m out with my dog and different from the Welsh hills but, for me at least, I still feel that sense of space and calm I get from those two places. I called it the tree of life because it feels like heaven.

A couple more studies in ink

Over the last couple of days I’ve moved on from drawing trees to drawing mainly rock in the ‘How to Draw Anything’ book I’m working through by Mark Linley.  Two of the studies I’ve drawn so far lent themselves to making into proper pictures with a few alterations.  In the first one I added a couple of mountains to sit the featured hill in some context and in the second I added some birds, changed the sky a bit and made a number of changes to the shape of the island rock formation.

This book is really good – it makes easy work of all of this.

Anyway, here’s the Mountainside picture:

Mountainside_FIN_Web

And here’s the Rock Island picture:

rockIsland_FIN_web

Hope you like them!