Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Simple Pleasures

View from Cottage
Having recently completed several revisions of some 250 3D renders for Cambridge University Press over the best part of a year, I suddenly felt an inexplicable desire to step away from computing for a short while and partake in simpler pleasures - like sketching! To start with we nipped off on a short break to Crieff where I was reminded what upright apes actually use legs for. It's called walking and Perthshire is a pretty good place to do it. I'm going to let you guess what the image entitled 'View from Cottage' is all about, but to help you out a little I should mention we stayed in a self catering cottage where the stunning views looked over to the Trossachs and Ben Vorlich's white peak.
You may have noticed this image is sketched on canvas and displays some fairly dynamic impasto/sgraffito strokes. Well, that is because I finally got round to testing my giant Sennelier oil pastels and I can honestly say they are absolutely amazing for sketching. This image was made in a 30 x 40cm canvas sketchbook using white, medium grey and black pastels with a craft knife for scratching and a blending stump for blending.

Holyrood Raven
Here is another image done with the same tools, this time sketched from a photo I took of a Raven perching on Holyrood Park's Crags.
Pesky things never sit still so here we go again with the great photo debate - well I am firmly on the side of taking reference images, I love taking photos, I do it more than sketching - but as many say, it is often best to use reference as inspiration rather than slavishly copy. I mostly use photos for initial form and lighting info then stop looking and let the image grow by itself. Here I quite liked the slightly irksome distribution of tone and the way the contrast between bird and bleached out background makes my eyes dance in a jarring kind of way. Art shouldn't always be about balance and harmony you know, shake things up! Why should the viewer always get their creative nuggets spoon fed? :D

Salisbury Crags
Shaking it up a little, this sketch was done on the same day as 'Holyrood Raven' on my iPad in ArtRage and shows the view of Salisbury Crags from Holyrood Palace Cafe. I used the pencil and crayon tools and as you can see, put the basics down quickly then left it. Sometimes unfinished things posses a charm all of their own. I like this sketch.

Three Graces, Canova
It has occasionally been known to rain in Scotland, but fortunately there are still plenty of sketching options thanks to a proliferation of Museums and Galleries. This is an iPad/Artrage oil brush sketch of Antonio Canova's masterpiece, The Three Graces currently housed in the National Galleries of Scotland. I often walk past such pieces on my way to visit Sargent's gorgeous Lady Agnew, but sometimes it pays to stop and notice other treasures. On the same day, I discovered Frederick Church's breathtaking Niagara Falls which really must be seen in the flesh.

Wolf Head
The National Museum of Scotland is also a great place to gather references with an abundance of useful stuff for arty types. This is a wolf's head sketched with afore mentioned giant oil pastels. Now, I admit any arguments on the morality of stuffing and displaying creatures are (quite awkwardly) put to one side here because - and this will always be a contradiction - I am a fauna lover which, ironically, is what draws me back to see animals in the kind of detail it would usually be all but impossible to see without smearing oneself in dung and indulging in a spot of rural creature stalking. Or failing that, buying tons of expensive photographic gear and carting it thousands of miles across the planet, at which point another moral argument kicks in involving gigantic carbon boots! :D Click on images to zoom.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Highlights Continued

This is an idea so beautiful in concept
and execution it deserves a post all of
its own. A while ago I came across a breathtaking sculpture made from Ian Rankin's 'Exit Music' in the foyer of the National Library of Scotland and have since found that it was only one of 11 sculptures which made up a modern day tale so magical you'd be forgiven for thinking it came from the pen of J.K. Rowling.

A year ago mysterious sculptures made from books began appearing in Edinburgh's public institutions dedicated to the written word, beginning at the Scottish Poetry Library where a wonderful "Poetree" sculpture was found with a note which said, 'It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)'

The Stories Are In The Stones
As the year drifted by more sculptures emerged at the National Library of Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Central Lending Library, The National Museum of Scotland and the Writer's Museum until finally, a pair of exquisite sculptures labelled 10/10 appeared back where they started at the Poetry Library. The creator has remained anonymous and last I heard the Poetry Library is hoping to exhibit the whole collection. It is both heartening and inspiring in this day and age to know that someone can create such beautiful objects in support of creativity without a thought for self publicity. Whoever you are, thank you for a wonderful gift, I salute you.
But wait, the magic does not stop there. On 25th November 2011 Ian Rankin got in touch with the Edinburgh Bookshop and said he was expecting a parcel to be delivered - could they let him know when it arrived. The parcel was another sculpture labelled 11/10. Simply brilliant.
The story and images come from  where you can find more details. Click on images to enlarge.


I admit to being a passionate figurative art lover, always have been since the days of Ladybird Books 606D series, such as 'The Elves and the Shoemaker" and 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff' illustrated by Robert Lumley. I am always looking out for stuff to ogle and there are so many great things to check out this month, kicking off with David Gray's painting techniques blog featuring some fascinating time lapse videos of the maestro painting his masterpieces.
Something I picked up from David's blog that I really must try - walnut oil as a painting medium. Not that it'll make me a better painter but I've read a few good things on using it, most currently in the latest addition of Artists & Illustrators magazine where there is an excellent article on non toxic painting. Leah Mebane explains that walnut oil can also be used for cleaning brushes - of interest to me because I currently work at home in a fairly compact space so I've been using water soluble oil paints which I'm happy with, but much prefer her idea of using only pure earth pigment and walnut oil, which would get rid of toxins and fillers completely.
Meanwhile in ImagineFX magazine, the real stand out item for me is Felideus' amazing beer label illustrations for Italian brew, Busker's Beer. I have seen these online at itsart but it is good to know his gorgeous style is reaching ever wider audiences and actually they look even better in print.
Meanwhile, issue 84 of International Artist just dropped onto my mat, a magazine which contains so much goodness it is impossible to put down. I could choose many highlights from this edition but I particularly liked Omar Rayyan's article on the art of illustration and the amazing James Gurney's masterclass on atmospheric effects.
Finally, Pixologic recently released an update to ZBrush which includes tools for making fibres and hair without having to leave the app as well as many other new and amazing goodies.
So much ocular feasting to be had, click on the links and enjoy!