Stone carvings around the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are amazing. I found them after seeing s snippet of a holiday programme. I isolated this very specific scene from hundreds, probably thousands, on the temple walls and tried to represent it faithfully, though with colour. The warrior boat was taken from a much bigger scene of war, carved out of huge blocks of stone, now worn. A source of fascination for me because, in it, you can see the slaves pulling at the oars and, above them, the warriors with weapons in hand ready to fight. An oarsman steers the ship towards their target and a leader at the bow rouses them to give their all. The fish in the sea are, in my mind, an anomaly (partly why I painted them a blue colour) but I think it may be part of another scene of fishermen nearby. It certainly shows a wealth of sea life at the time! An original sculpture of a warrior ship sits alongside the painting.
This time I wanted to represent this wonderful scene in good old pencil, minus the fish! Pencil was always my medium of choice in my younger days and with the range from H’s to B’s is great for subtle tonal changes and depth. It’s quite stark and more in keeping with the original stone relief.
This is a nice little plaque I found in Bruges, by the canal, and I just loved the 3D effect. Something I wanted to recreate, with my usual washes, speckles and pits. A dot of white gouache helps to give the impression of depth in a hole, or height in a raised area. I was pleased with the subtle colour and texture contrast with the old brickwork. The words are NOT on the actual plaque. I just felt it needed that little extra to give an ethereal touch.
Good relief carving appeals to me because of the form and depth. Whether Medieval or ancient civilisation, as long as it is beautifully crafted, I’m drawn to it. I like depth in my own work and, using watercolour, leave the darkest areas for last. For me, once that has been applied, the painting comes to life. So, although I don’t carve, I do try to simulate a relief carving in my painting, sometimes using authentic colours, sometimes using unrelated colour. Here are some examples.
This Mayan civilisation (Central America)relief sculpture is a sensational composition. The next one isn’t, but it’s likeable nonetheless. The title is tongue in cheek, because I can’t remember anything about it, where I saw it or what period it comes from. The same applies to the Three Apostles below, but the Birds in a Tree painting exists on the walls of the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I was true to the design and the colour of the stone, but then added gouache paint heavily mixed with white to create pastel shades in the birds and leaves.
This African picture was a wood carving and had a strong influence on me – great shapes. figures, decorative elements and mystery. I reduced the carving to the basic shapes and turned it into a painting using the muted range of colours I’m so fond of – paynes grey, raw sienna, alizarin crimson, burnt umber and cerulean and/or ultramarine. The blues blend nicely with the browns to give subtle hues, and of course the alizarin crimson and ultramarine (+ paynes grey) give muted purples.
Medieval art work is so distinctive so I just had to have a go at representing my family in that style, albeit loosely. Simple figures with little detail and expressionless faces. The items within each panel are symbolic, decorative and non-realistic, and perspective is contrived to suit the narrative. A few arches to complete.
A wash was applied on top of the drawing then the whole picture was speckled using a toothbrush. Paynes gray is, as so often, my prime colour and various browns and reds were added for different hues.Heavy shadow under each arch gives depth to the scene.
My son, David, taking part in the Cyclone event in Northumberland. It’s a family event of three levels ( approx 30, 60 and 100 miles) setting off from, and finishing at, Kingston Park rugby ground, Newcastle. The background is taken from other sources. Below is the progress of the painting in stages. Had I not got the face right I would have abandoned the whole thing but, happily, it is a reasonable likeness so I continued. Actually, I wished I’d stopped it before adding the background. It made quite a pleasing illustration. I was not happy with the crowd’s faces but once the painting was finished, I added some shade and subtltey with coloured pencils. I think the difference can be seen between the last one in the series and the finished painting. Phew, saved it!
For our grandson, Jamie, on his 7th birthday, it had to be a Thomas and Friends-related theme. This is it.
The card shows an incident in one of Jamie’s favourite episodes, when Thomas crashes through the window of the stationmaster’s cottage, just as his family are having breakfast. I’ve replaced his family for mine (badly) with, from left to right, mammy, me, Jamie and nana.
It really helped to use a good watercolour paper. It can be bent into position and it will retain its shape. It worked especially well for the bricks and curtains, and it was strong enough for the figures. This card had to hold its own in terms of strength because, as you can see, it is not flat-fronted. Thomas himself sticks out and the family sticks out further so it needed to be given (NOT posted) in a box. So, before making it, I found a redundant toiletries box and made the card to fit. The reception it got made it really worth every minute of effort.
For the 47 year old, it’s a birthday card showing our son working from home and showing the highest of standards in his behaviour and deference to his boss. What could be under the surface? Well…
But what about the book cabinet – so work-orientated, and the back room?
I got a long way with this one before abandoning it in the early 80’s. The museum management had turned down two other drawings and so I knew this one wasn’t going to get anywhere. I filed it away, having had enough of fine detail drawing. Pleased I kept it. My only reservation is about the foreground mother – perhaps a bit too sour-looking. Oh and maybe, no definitely, the group by the horse. Looks like I still have a bit of work to do. It won’t wait another 30 years, though. Better get on with it.
My grandson, Jamie, loves Thomas and Friends and all related material and programmes. One such programme “Kids Toys Play” centres around a family who play with (promote) related items, and the children receive their train presents in giant papier-mache eggs. Each egg depicts a well-known train from the series, and often its number. That’s what Jamie wanted so I made him one for a birthday. He loved it. I made a Christmas one. Then an Easter one, a Summer one! Here are most of the ones I made.
The joy is the breaking into the egg, usually with an elbow at a weakened point on it, then tearing it apart! And how were the presents put inside? Simple. Once each egg had dried through, and was painted, I turned it over, made four cuts (about 30cm), creating flaps. It weakens the structure so care is needed to slip the gifts inside. Then I glued and taped the flaps back together and left it overnight to dry. Effectively, you need best part of a week to make an egg of three layers, with adequate time for each layer to dry. But, boy is it worth it!
Artwork and Stories