I’ve been doing a lot of ‘en plein air’ painting recently. There’s no doubt about it -it’s a beneficial exercise. Painting outdoors and in public hones your drawing and painting skills -and frankly; gets you noticed. The weather has finally settled into something like a summer and it’s good to get out and about.
I also enjoy talking to passers-by. I’ve never really had anybody cause problems although I know an artist who has had one twit get all aerated because he thought he was in the painting and managed to convince a guard (a second twit) to move the painter along. What an absolute pair of berks.
I’ve just had a relatively easy week, though. I’ve been at the fantastic Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat and had the time and freedom to explore the gorgeous county around South Kerry.
Anyway; I teach this stuff and if you want to have a go, have a look at my teaching web site, www.McSherryStudio.com
A Brunaille: technique of making a warm, monochrome underpainting
If you want to try out this technique of making a warm, monochrome underpainting at next week’s class, you will need the following tubes of ACRYLIC paint:
Flesh Tint (Winsor & Newton) or Warm Bright Yellow (Sennelier)
This technique provides you with a great big safety net for you when you get to the point of adding colour by glazing -and the results can be beautifully rich and lustrous. I often use this method in my hand painted illustrations as I can get the whole work planned out in monochrome before committing to colour. In the image above, I didn’t even glaze colour and left the brunaille as it was -I thought colour would detract from this one. If you’d like me to hold a demonstration in your area, why not drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Brunaille: Underpainting in warm monochrome.
Grisaille: Underpainting in cool monochrome.
Somebody told me recently, that before the rise of the GAA, cricket was the most popular sport in Ireland. Interesting. I was never that interested in cricket. I could never understand why people got excited by such a ponderous game. I much preferred football and as a child, always dreamt of scoring the winning goal for Manchester United or Chelsea; I can’t remember which.
Meandering about a field on the off-chance that a very lethal ball might fly your way sometime in the next week just didn’t do it for me. However, now I’ve gotten older, I can see the attraction more and I wouldn’t mind standing on a grassy surface for a few hours -and then retiring to a clubhouse for a beer. Or I could just go for a beer.
I don’t single out cricket for a mild ribbing due to any particular dislike; I see all sports the same way. I realise that this is probably why I’m shunned by society; it’s hard to be with a crowd of Jeremy Clarksons in a pub and have to ask them which sport they’re talking about, about an hour into the conversation.
“Huzzah for Terenure,
O land of beige and taupe,
Our genetic ability for dirigibility,
And hiding our money ‘neath the soap”
Sport always generates an inordinate amount of seriousness, and a serious amount of hot air. It’s worse than art. Many people seem to have an almost religious observance of the details and forms of sport. And an unlimited capacity for reeling out sporting anecdotes about events dating back to the 12th Century.
Mostly, though, the media and advertising seems to be pathetically obsessed with sport and what it thinks it’ll do for sales figures -hence, those fantastically overwrought TV introductions to sporting events that scream excitement, excitement, excitement! Then they get some elite sports star, who’s the personification of derring-do on the field of play, to endorse a product, only to have them drone through their script in a monotone, passionless manner. God knows how they think this will help them link sporting élan to car insurance or National Cement in the minds of the public. I always think of the poor creative directors of many of these ads whose dreams are broken on the wheel of sports-star dullness. It always makes me smile. Thank you sport, for making me smile.
I must confess that I’ve never worked through the night; never worked late shifts. I’ve always managed to avoid them, even when it looked like shift work would come in in one of the printing jobs I had when I worked in that trade. So it was with hesitation that I accepted the task of a painting project in the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar which had only very limited times when the work could be done – from 7pm to the following 9am.
I love my bed, you see. I don’t like missing any opportunities to sleep. Even after a moderately late night, I feel exhausted and cheated of my rest. To stay up over night is my idea of hell; to stay up all night working is worse.
The Guinness Storehouse has been shortlisted for kind of Oscars of the travel industry. It’s up there, competing with the likes of the Parthenon, the Colosseum, Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower. Not bad, eh? So Guinness wanted to celebrate this success with a window painting of the other six candidates as if they were all on view from the Gravity Bar. Very good idea.
And this project did have its excitements. It would be an opportunity to experience the beauty of seeing the sun set and rise again from the best viewpoint in Dublin city, with its panoramic, almost 360° arc of windows. And so I did see it. The attached video is wonderful but it could not possibly capture the full glory of that scene – and it was on one of the clearest and warmest of midsummer evenings.
The video also makes everything look speedy! Creatives in Ad agencies spend a lot of time and energy in trying to get across the story that a pint of draft Guinness takes a long time to pour compared to all other beers. Well, just like an expert Guinness barman pulling a pint of the black stuff, this painting took quite some time to prepare. I drafted in my daughter Mathilde to help. To the creative director and cameraman’s dismay (they were there to oversee and record the proceedings) nothing much seemed to be happening for the first couple of hours – just layers of undercoat building up an opaque ground. The creative director, Gillian Herlihy did admit afterwards that she had begun to lose heart at that early stage!
But of course, it all came together wonderfully. With unusual foresight, I had brought a sleeping bag with me and managed to get an hour or of sleep inside the circular bar. Then up at 2.30am to start work again. The funny thing was, I didn’t really feel the night passing at all, so absorbed was I in building up the details.
I finished slightly ahead of scheme too and was dabbing on the final touches as the creative director and cameraman padded in after their own short night of sleep. So that’s the long of it. I practically lapsed into a catatonic stupor for much of the following week but, like the perfect pint, it’s all in the preparation and it was well worth the wait.
I’ve branched out somewhat and commenced painting classes in my studio. My inaugural class was last Tuesday morning when I had six students along and I started them off painting a single apple. My aim is to keep compositions simple, with perhaps a single object.
I’ve seen many students in art classes, who may not have much experience, try to take on large compositions and become overwhelmed by the task they’ve set themselves. The philosophy at Art Classes Ireland is to gradually build up knowledge and confidence. The second principle is to have fun while learning -the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial. You can see the Art Classes Ireland web site here
A few weeks ago, the Irish Times published their annual Christmas gifts supplement. They had contacted me previously about my web site, www.irishdailypaintings.com where I sell my small oils painting studies, with a suggestion to insert an article on it.
It demonstrated to me why print is still vital for advertising. There’s something reassuring to buyers about a write up in a newspaper. You can pour all the searchable tags you like into a web site to drive people to your online presence but at the end of it, many people don’t see material published on the web as verifiable and authentic. We all know from the movies that a newspaper office is full of caffeine-fuelled editors and journalists, with sleeves all rolled up, endlessly fighting to find the truth. So we know that all the material has been researched by the hacks and verified by a growling cigar-chomping ed, don’t we? And that’s a good thing. On the internet, it has been said, nobody knows you’re a dog; any mutt could claim anything and they frequently do. The trouble is, we all suspect that the claims may be nothing more than piss up a lamp-post -even after evaporation, there’s a bad smell and you don’t want to park your bike there.
Subsequent to publication, I received many more enquiries [and sales] over two weeks than I had had in the entire year before. Print is not dead. You can’t sit in a café and browse comfortably through an old copy of the internet and you can’t hide anonymously behind the puff and flummery of a web site and expect people to have faith in you.
Of course, you are reading this on a blog -but I’ve been verified and passed as authentic by Citizen Kane. So, thank you.
In my on-going quest to rediscover the pleasure of just painting, I blundered upon a large and growing internet-based art movement; Daily Painting. Apparently only going since 2006 as a informal, blog-based idea, it works on several levels. It’s an education to see other artists’ set-ups, thoughts and working practices -often along with step-by-step demonstrations and explanations of techniques.
For the artists, it’s an encouragement to practice every day. They can then sell originals by availing of several internet outlets, such as Etsy, eBay or just through the blog itself, with a link to PayPal. It’s a super way for the general public to buy reasonably priced original artworks, with no gallery fees. Most of the resulting artworks are small, since they’re only studies -often around 6″ x 8″.
My own favourite is Peter Yesis’ Daily Painting Practice. He loves to share knowledge and his good-humour and modesty comes across in his writing. Like all the daily painters, his output is prodigious. Another is Carole Marine’s . I find her style captivating -a great sense of colour with a beautifully spare technique that belies the amount of skill and work that goes into each piece. For the same reasons, I like the work of Qiang-Huang.
For my part, I have set up my own Daily Studies in Oils blog. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to paint with no art director or client to comment or make changes -just me and a blank canvas. It’s also surprising how different the required skills are from illustration. It’s going to be a long haul but I’m going to enjoy every minute. Now, before the light goes…