The Old Dun Cow

 

“The Old Dun Cow” is an old music hall song from the late 19th century about a group of men who are in a pub when it catches fire. Instead of getting out of the fire the men stay to take advantage of the free beer and spirits, and the song tells of their antics. I first heard the song performed by the folk band ‘Bellowhead’, listening to the tale evoked images of the pubs customers and their efforts to take advantage of the situation and although people are not my normal type of subject I couldn’t resist trying to represent them in paint.

 

 

 

I started by trying to work out the layout of the scene which included four drinkers and a pot-man. To get as much of the story into one frame I have played with time to show as much as possible happening at once and rearranged  the layout and the perspective to  show the firemen through the window. To fill the space more effectively I tried moving the people about, for example the figure second from the left in sketch number 1 moves from standing to sitting in sketch number 2, and the one on the far right goes from sitting to standing. The cat moves from left to right and as you will see in the next sketch below the man on the floor turns so his head is on the right, not in the middle of the picture. It felt more natural to have the man on the floor this way around if he had originally been sat at the table with his friends and to have the pot-man standing on the right helps to show that he is separate from the group and that he has just entered the room. Sketch number 3 was to work out how to show the shock experienced by the pot-man and how he interacts with the drinkers. In the sketch below I tried the pot-mans head in several positions and worked out a few other details before starting the final painting, you will note that the lamps still changed position and the window and firemen were added.

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Some of the other things that I considered were the style of clothing and the lamps. The clothes, I think, could be from anywhere between 1880-1950, the lamps caused me more of a problem. Would they have candles or gas lamps?  I don’t think it would be electric.  Then I worried that if they were gas lamps in reality there would of been an explosion. I decided I was probably over thinking the small details for an image depicting a comic song.

The final image was as usual drawn out with watercolour pencils and painted with Daler-Rowney Artists’ quality watercolour paints on Bockingford 300gsm paper.

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Here is a link for the ‘Bellowhead’ version of “The Old Dun Cow”, that inspired the painting.

 

Christmas Cards

Every year I try to design at least one Christmas card and over time they have varied a lot in style and subject. Last year I chose a robin sitting in a holly tree with ivy growing through it but with not a hint of snow, this year I had to have snow.

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The Holly and the Ivy.

I didn’t want something to overtly Christmas, so I picked a winter wildlife scene, I chose

deer as the main subject  and sketched out a few until I was happy with how they looked and then transferred them on to the watercolour paper.

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As usual they were drawn using watercolour pencils and then I built the rest of the scene around them. I like to start at the top of the paper and work down, this means that I am not reaching across wet paint so there is no chance of smudging. So I started with the sky which is a mixture of Prussian Blue and French Ultramarine and scattered salt on to it to create starry or snow flurry effect. I find that the Prussian Blue reacts to the salt very well but I use the French Ultramarine to warm the colour a little.

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I added a very light wash of the same mix to the land in the background to give the blue tint of distant snow then when that was dry a second light wash in areas to suggest dips in the snow.

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Next on  the rear deer, I used salt on the paint to give him a shaggy winter coat.

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On the front two deer I used wax to resist the paint, to create the white markings on their backs.

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Then I used some of the weak sky mix to mark the hoof prints in the snow and to show the snow collecting in the undergrowth.

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The trees are almost silhouetted in the moonlight so the distant trees and bushes were painted in grey just leaving areas to represent the snow and the tree in the  foreground was given a hint of green. I used the weak sky colour to make the shadow of the snow on the branches.

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Then I added the holly in the foreground which helps to give the design depth and re-enforces the image as a Christmas card.  Then I thought I would play with it.

I drew a snowflake and put it into Photoshop, I hid the background and turned the snowflake white, you should just about be able to see it beside the blue one above. Then I added the snowflakes in layers to the card design, distorting some of them as they were added , so that there were now snowflakes in the background and in the front. Doing it this way If I didn’t like it I still had the original painting but as it is a Christmas card I think the snowflakes stay.

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 https://lovefromtheartist.com/artists/bude/alex-pointer

Cards are available at the above link.

Drawing

One of my long term projects is to create illustrations for a book of animal poems, it is something I drop in and out of when time allows. In the book the animals are having a party and each party goer has to perform their party piece, so my task is to illustrate the animals doing recognisable human actions (or extreme human actions in some cases). Because the animals are doing things that they couldn’t really do I have to imagine their positions. To enable me to do this I have to get to know how the animal works physically, I do this by drawing them, a lot. Drawing them enough times in different positions helps me to imagine how they would look doing unusual things. Practicing in this way is also useful when I want to change the composition of a painting, it helps me to move wings and limbs and heads into natural positions.

  A few practice sketches of various characters.

Once I have the positions right I can transfer the outline to watercolour paper and create the final image. Below are just a few of the characters so far. We have a stunt diving duck, two beavers dancing a tango, an acrobatic tortoise and a sad clown buffalo about to receive a custard pie.

The Wren

In our garden we are lucky enough to have many birds visit throughout the year, the Wren is one of them, this spring they even nested in our Blue Tit box. They dart in and out of the stone walls and under the plants and occasionally we get to spot them perched on a branch or even a post singing amazingly loud for such a tiny bird. I try to photograph them but they only want to pose when I am without my camera so the few photos I do have are not very clear.

A while back I was considering trying to paint in the style of Tiffany Glass with its luminous colours and idealised landscapes, so I thought I would try to produce a series of paintings based on my Wrens with added  simple details about their lives. As I was doing a series of paintings I needed to work on them all at the same time, this way it is easy to keep the continuity.  I drew them all out before painting and then painted similar subjects together so that the colours would match, first the Wrens and then the trees leaving an area clear for the captions.

Once the main structure of the picture was painted I could concentrate on getting each one finished keeping the colour palette as similar as possible with the exception of one which needed a hint of evening with more shadows and a sunset like glow.

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To give the impression of back lit glass I used rich vibrant colours and inked some of the outlines, not every line but enough to suggest sections of leaded glass. Finally I added the captions with basic natural history information about Wrens.

 

The Unlooked For

I have a fascination with hedgerows and roadside verges and have amassed a huge collection of photographs of hedges, walls, banks, field edges and general clumps of tangled greenery.  They are miniature worlds of intertwined plants and scuttling bugs in various layers, mostly oblivious to the rest of the world.  These photos have been a great reference source in many of my projects especially when the hedges are the subject themselves. Here are just a few.

Whether it is Spring or Autumn there is much to see just beside the roads and lanes of the countryside, as the year progresses the same spot can look completely different and sometimes it is enough just to paint a small metre square section. In the Spring there are the leaves unfurling and the wildflowers in bud, I love to see the first Celandine, in the Summer  the banks are covered in flowers and insects with grasses rustling in the wind, in the Autumn  all the fruits and berries and the leaves turning red and even in Winter there are the dried seed heads and the frosted edges, and that is just the plants.  Usually there are insects and butterflies but if you are quiet and lucky there may be small mammals and birds. When I do paint places like this I think of them as the ‘unlooked for’ subjects, things that are around us everyday that we don’t notice and I love them.

This last photo is of a work in progress, so I can only show this stage,  it is one that I am painting when I have time to fit it around other things.  The subject is mainly Bindweed and Ivy but I think the some small creatures may be about to crawl in.

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The Peacock and the Meerkats

As I have said before, inspiration arrives in the strangest of ways. We visited Exmoor Zoo a while back and that is where we met this chap. He had flown down off a roof into the meerkat enclosure and was causing chaos. The adult meerkats had gone into full ‘repel the invader’ mode and the young pups were joining in. The peacocks feathers were raised, although he did not have the full display, and he stood defiantly as the incensed meerkats darted back and forth trying to scare him off. He, looking like a prima ballerina, stretched out that long neck and jabbed at them with his sharp beak. There was a stand-off until a keeper eventually persuaded the peacock to leave. So the haughty peacock and his obvious divine right to be where ever he wanted just had to be a subject to be painted.

Photographs by Chris Pointer

 

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As usual the image was first sketched out using watercolour pencil.

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The neck and chest were painted very wet to keep the edges soft, I used a mixture of Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Lemon Yellow and a very dilute Purple Lake with Rose Madder to give a hint of colour on the head.

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Salt was added to the wet paint in places to give the feathers a fluffy look and I filled in the details of the head with more solid painting to emphasize the details of the eye and the beak.

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The tail feathers took much longer because they need to be painted individually and left to dry before a neighbouring one is painted so that they don’t bleed into each other.  Cobalt Blue was added to the palette to add a contrast to the mass of feathers. The feathers at the front are in stronger colours than those further back to create a feeling of depth.

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I think that at some point in the future I must paint the meerkats and their valiant attempt to defend their territory.

Rocks

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Rock pool, Summerleaze beach, Bude, Cornwall

It is strange where inspiration comes from, the above photo of a rock pool on Summerleaze beach in Bude in Cornwall set me off on a series of paintings about rocks (but that is a whole other story). Rocks are usually the background, the boring bit, if they are in a painting at all but when they are the focus of the work they appear very abstract.  The colours are never what you think they are going to be, they’re not all brown and grey, the range of textures is enormous and more you look the more interesting they become.

In this blog I thought I would briefly explain how I went about painting this rock pool. I will appologise now for the quality of some of the photos, they are taken as I work so are not always the best and of course I can’t go back and redo them.

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My initial drawings are done with watercolour pencil, usually a light brown or purple, so that when the paint is applied the lines will soften or even disappear. The paper is Bockingford 140lb NOT watercolour paper.

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To begin I like to fill in a few blocks with light watercolour washes, with a subject like this it helps to navigate, it is easy to get lost among the lines. The foreground  I leave until later so that  I don’t damage it while painting the rest.

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Keeping the paint quite weak I loosely fill in the rest of the space and rub a few dry areas with wax so that later paint layers will reveal some texture.

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The next stage is to add the shadows using cooler colours and darker tints of the rock colours to suggest little indents. I try to work as wet as possible to avoid any hard lines, a spray bottle of clean water is useful for this but if any hard lines do develop they can be worked on once they have dried using clean water on a brush.

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When the background is dry I repeat the process for the front

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To finish up I strengthen any shadows that need it, add touches of white reflections and add a little warmer colour to the foreground. I tidied up the top by using the dark shadow colour, it helped to balance the picture and prevented me from adding unnecessary detail.

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Other Rocks

Hunting for Dragons

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Dragons are easier to find than you may think, and so I thought I would use my first blog to explain how I find them. Like ‘Magic Eye’ puzzles it takes  some time to see them but when you have been hunting for a while you can find them everywhere.

Usually I start with a day of splashing strong watercolour paint over reasonably heavy watercolour paper, I use Bockingford 140lb NOT.  First I lightly brush the sheet with clean water, this gives something for the paint to bleed into so that it has soft uncontrolled edges. Next I drop and splash on my chosen colours, I only use 2 or 3 different colours , this prevents it turning into a muddy mess. While it is still wet I sprinkle ordinary table salt over parts of the paper, the salt works with the paint to give a variety of textures, I may then add a little more colour. Very slowly the paint will find it’s own way and the salt will react leaving patterns in the paint. All that can be done now is to leave it to dry. It can take a day for some to dry totally so I will usually make lots of sheets at a time. This is a very messy process so do protect the area from unwanted splashes. As the paint dries the patterns will grow, you never know what will happen.

 

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Hunting grounds

The following day, when all is dry I survey the results, it is like looking for shapes in the clouds. I turn each sheet around to see what is hiding there, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes  I have to put them aside for a day or so and look at them with fresh eyes.

When I am sure of what I have found I use weak watercolour paint to enhance the shape and coax the dragon out, usually by negative shape painting. Picking out in this manner helps to reveal the dragon, from there it is a matter of layering and filling in with shadows and highlights  to expose the full character of the beast.