Wednesday, 30 November 2011

To market, to market

Well, there's just a few days left till I put my paintings up for sale at an open air art market this weekend in Maidenhead. It'll be my first time, and I'm sure it'll be interesting. I'm looking forward to talking to some other local artists as well as the general public – and maybe I will sell a painting or two. By getting some more giclee prints done of a few paintings I will be offering a range of prices – and hang onto a couple of originals I'd rather not part with! Let's just hope the weather isn't too inclement!

Since my last blog I've completed one small oil painting of a crab; I enjoyed painting the previous one so much I had to do another. I had planned to finish another version of 'Tree near the Jolly Woodman Pub'  in time for the art market (the first version of which I donated to Thames Hospicecare), but I wasn't enjoying painting a copy of something I've already done, so it's been put to one side for now. Anyway, here are the photos I took as the crab painting progressed:

Charcoal sketch of crab

Crab on a white plate (1)
'Crab on a White Plate' (2)
 'Crab on a White Plate' by Karen Davies  (20cm x 20cm)

As the festive season approaches and we are subjected to an avalanche of yuletide images, I've been thinking that perhaps, one year, I could join in and try to get a suitable painting accepted by a greeting card manufacturer. What about a painting of a handsome turkey? After all, I do like painting chickens so I reckon I could give it a good go and I do have some holiday snaps I took a few years back of the livestock on Lanlas Farm in Wales. I'll keep you posted on whether that little germ of an idea grows.

Recently I was surprised to be asked by for some tips on portraiture by a friend whose son is studying for his art 'A' level. The only nougat of interesting information that I could think of to offer was one that I gleaned from a book about the Welsh artist Kyffin Williams – and while it is fresh in my mind I thought I'd pass this on here in an attempt to make this blog as helpful as possible. In the book it was noted that Williams was influenced by an Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) who, in his portraits, 'would use the features of the face – particular the eyes – in a asymmetrical way, to heighten the impact of the portrait and to give the viewer greater insight into the subject's character'. After learning this, I noticed that many artists do this, including Vincent van Gogh, who uses this approach to great effect in his portraits. So next time I paint someone's eyes a bit wonky, I'll inform them it's deliberate and adds character.

And here endeth the lesson. Bye for now.

Nicholas Sinclair, The Art of Kyffin Williams, London, 2007.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Beside the sea

Today I decided two more paintings were finished, so I thought it would be good to blog about them.

The first is a painting of a rocky cove which I passed on a walk up to Baggy Point near Croyde Bay in North Devon. The coastal path belongs to the National Trust and has stunning views. The rocks had jagged, sharp edges, so for the first time in years, I used a palette knife to help get the right effect. I hope to paint some more coastal scenes in future, and improve.

Photo used for the painting
Rocky cove, Croyde Bay (1)
Rocky cove, Croyde Bay (2)

Rocky cove, Croyde Bay 2011 (20cmx20cm)
The second painting I completed this weekend was of a crab and shrimp on a white plate. I had intended to paint an uncooked crab but the fishmonger only had cooked crab, but I was quite pleased about this when I came to do the picture because the orange/red hues of the shell made it interesting material to work from. Compositionally, those colours worked well with the blues of the big plant pot in the background. I took quite a few photos of the crab so plan to paint another version soon.

Charcoal sketch of crab & prawns
Crab and shrimp (1)
Crab and shrimp (2)
Crab and shrimp (3)
Crab and shrimp (30cmx30cm)
In readiness for the open art market in Maidenhead I'm taking part in on 3rd December, I'm getting some giclee prints done of three paintings – mainly because I don't want to part with the originals. The prints will be of the following paintings: Pigs in mud; Mackerel head and tails; and Seascape, Croyde Bay. And here they are below:

Pigs in mud. Oil on board
Seascape, Croyde Bay
Mackerel head and tails

I've sent them off to Redcliffe Imaging Ltd in Bristol as I was so pleased with the giclee prints they produced of my painting 'Cows in Dorset'. So fingers crossed these ones come out well too.

For any fans of Lucian Freud, I can recommend a book by Martin Gayford who sat (for many months) for a portrait by LF. The book is titled, Man with a Blue Scarf, and offers an insight into how Freud worked and his relationship with his sitters. It contains a lot of pictures of his other works as well - always a bonus.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to offer feedback on any of the paintings.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Mission accomplished


I finally handed over three paintings to Thames Hospicecare who are based in Windsor, Berkshire.  And what a great feeling it was to do that and finally complete the project I began back in February. They seemed really pleased with them too. Just to recap, these are paintings I donated:

Big tree, Burnham Beeches 
Ploughed field near Cookham

Tree near Jolly Woodman Pub, Burnham Beeches 
In the meantime, I completed another mackerel painting, having enjoyed doing the first one so much, and then moved on to do a seascape.

Here's how the work progressed for the second mackerel painting:

Mackerel head and tails (1)

Mackerel head and tails (2)

Mackerel head and tails (final) (20cmx20cm)
Oil on canvas
I hadn't attempted a seascape for a few years and looked at some of the brilliant wave paintings by Maggi Hambling for inspiration. I used snaps of my summer holiday in Croyde Bay, north Devon, as the source material. 

Seascape, Croyde Bay 2011 (1)

Seascape, Croyde Bay, north Devon (2011) (final)
(30cm x 25.5cm) Oil on canvas
Currently, I'm working on a painting of the cliffs along from the same bay and I'll show you pics of that picture in the next blog.

The other news is that I have booked a stand at Art on the Street Maidenhead which will take place on 3rd December. It will be my first time selling in a market but my father-in-law Frank Stroud has the pitch next to mine, where he'll be selling his superb watercolours, so I won't be lonely!

Oh, and some more exciting news – an exhibition of Lucian Freud paintings is on at the National Portrait Gallery in February. Blimey, what with the forthcoming one of David Hockney's Yorkshire landscapes at the Royal Academy in January, my cup overfloweth!

Bye for now...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Wholly mackerel

Hi folks,

My first solo exhibition finished last Saturday after three weeks. But I must admit that it wasn't a rip- roaring success. Don't get me wrong, there were some highlights; for instance, there was a good turn out of friends for the preview and overall I sold quite a few greeting cards and postcards, but most importantly of all, I didn't sell any paintings. And since that's really the point of holding an exhibition I was rather disappointed. I know not all of the pictures were for sale but of the ones that were, I thought I would sell at least one.

I've gone over things to see if I could have done anything differently. I don't think there was anything wrong with the paintings themselves – the feedback I had about them was good – and I don't think they were over-priced either. In the end it all comes down to numbers. I guess the main reason I didn't sell any pics was because there weren't enough visitors. When I was stewarding on a Saturday, for example, I was getting an average of eight people through the door. It's just not enough. There were posters outside to advertise the gallery but I suspect that people associate the building with its primary use, that of being a day centre for old people, and therefore don't take it seriously as a gallery. This is a shame because the light and space inside is superb for showing pictures. Anyway, with hindsight, I can now see that I needed to do a lot more to promote the exhibition. There was a brief mention of the show in the local newspaper, the Maidenhead Advertiser, but no photos accompanied the copy. The photo below gives you a sense of what it was like to steward my show…

Crowd control at Elizabeth House Gallery, 13th August 2011.

Being able to meditate would be a perfect way to get you through times like these. I'm still glad I did the exhibition, though. I got to show the work I created on my sabbatical and I met some other local more experienced artists, such as Many McAllen and Gail Dorrington. In fact Gail was just setting up a group for Maidenhead artists on facebook to share information, so I've joined that. It's all part of getting out there as an artist and learning from experience.

Oh, by the way, I did sell one painting during this time - one that was hanging in my kitchen. It's a painting of some ducks which I did a few years ago but only recently got framed. A friend spotted it and made me an offer. Here it is:

Three ducks. Oil painting.
 Now the exhibition is over I will be donating the following three paintings to Thames Hospicecare:

Big tee, Burnham Beeches (36 x 46cm)

Plough field near Cookham (35 x 45.5cm)

Tree near Jolly Woodman pub (51 x 41cm)
Since my last blog I have been working on a still life of three mackerel on a plate, which I have just finished. Below is a series of photos to show how the piece progressed (people say they like to see the work in progress, so I'll carry on with this). I enjoyed painting this; the colours of the fish are beautiful even working from a photo. Which reminds me, while I'm on the subject of sea creatures, I would also like to paint a crab some day. I was inspired to buy one after seeing Angela Harnett prepare crab linguine on the telly for a series called the Great British Food Revival. Before boiling and smashing the crab to pieces I was struck by what an interesting subject it would make for a painting, so I plan to pay the fishmongers another visit soon. I also spent a week in Croyde Bay, north Devon, in early August and would like to try my hand at a seascape. Efforts in years gone by haven't been too successful, but I'm going to give it another go. Will have to check how good my snaps are first, though.

'Three mackerel on a plate' (25.5 x 30cm) Oil painting by Karen Davies

Lucian Freud died since I last blogged. What a great artist he was. He became my favourite painter after I first saw his work at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank in the late eighties; I was fascinated by the way he painted flesh and the intensity of his work. I've followed his career ever since and poured over my books about him. Now he's gone, the retrospective of his work next year is going to be very popular indeed! I'll be there, that's for sure. And I'll definitely be scraping the pennies to see if I can afford the catalogue.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Fowl play

I really struggled to get under the feathers of my subject for this painting. I guess if I'd taken more resource photos of the chicken it would probably have made life easier; instead I found myself scratching around for pictures on the internet to rescue the situation. However, with some perseverance, and alteration of the position of the legs with the aid of another photo (of a completely different chicken), I think I've got there in the end.

Why did I choose to paint a chicken? Well, I'd just noticed of late that chickens kept cropping up in conversations, magazines and on the telly. People around me seem to be either keeping chickens, considering keeping them, or knew someone who already did. Perhaps it's all part of the trend towards self-sufficiency – the good life. Even the coups – sorry, 'chicken houses' – are pretty fashionable these days too, for example, check out the rather ergonomic-looking Eglu 

Anyway, I've plucked up courage to show you how this painting was resolved. That's it, no more puns, I promise.

photo of chicken - no feet

Sketch of chicken

Chicken one

chicken two

chicken three - new legs!

chicken - final (30cm x 25.5cm)

I said I'd keep you updated on how I am doing with donating my sabbatical paintings to local hospitals – the objective being to get them into a hospital for the benefit of patients and staff. Well, rather frustratingly, my first attempt at altruism in my life seems to be making little headway at present. My emails to the relevant person at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have gone unanswered and so have the phone calls.

Not to be defeated I thought I'd contact a charity called Paintings in Hospitals (PiH), which has 50 years' experience of loaning pictures to hospitals, to see if they could help me. It seemed like a good idea: after all, as it states on the website, its mission is 'to relieve sickness, anxiety and stress through the provision of art in hospitals, hospices and other healthcare facilities, across the UK, for the benefit of patients, their visitors and staff. The only national organisation of its type, it currently provides visual arts services to more than 230 healthcare facilities.' The list of facilities even included the very ones that I am interested in donating to. But, no, I was wrong. PiH responded to my email saying that 'Unfortunately, we don't provide advice or information on these matters.' How baffling. Before doing the sabbatical I thought the hard part would be painting the pictures, not giving them away!

Anyway, not to be defeated, I have another avenue to explore and I will let you know how I get on with that next time.

In the meantime, my first exhibition is fast approaching (23rd July to 13th August) at Elizabeth House in Cookham. In case no-one wants to buy any of the original paintings, I'm getting some postcards and greeting cards printed. I must confess that I am starting to get a bit nervous about it now, especially as the previous exhibitors, whose work appears the gallery's website, are nearly all professional artists or photographers. I'll let you know how it goes in the next blog.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Magnolia Tree

There's been more procrastinating than usual about getting this blog done - mostly because I couldn't decide if the latest painting was finished or not. Always a tricky one that. Anyway with this painting I carried on using smaller brushes to put in more detail than I normally do. The subject, as you may have guessed, is a magnolia tree and comes from a photo I took at my favourite National Trust property at Cliveden, Berkshire.

I was drawn to the image because of the foreshortening of large branch coming towards the viewer and the tree's dramatically curved and twisted branches in general. The stunningly white flowers were at their peak and the petals themselves seem to match the tree in forming interesting shapes and shades. It was a lovely sunny day when the pic was taken so the sunlight created complex shadows over the tree and ground. So for starters the composition of the painting came quite easily, I just had to edit out some the of smaller branches so the painting wouldn't be too cluttered. Here follows photos of the painting from sketch to completion:

Initial sketch of Magnolia Tree

Magnolia Tree, Cliveden - Early stages

Magnolia Tree, Cliveden - more background

Magnolia Tree, Cliveden - final
I also have some exciting news. While I was on the Cookham Art Trail, visiting artists' houses, (see previous blog) I mentioned my sabbatical work to local artist Mandy McAllen. A few days later I was offered a three-week slot (23rd July to 13th August) to show the work at Elizabeth House Gallery in Cookham. What a great opportunity and it's a lovely light space to show work.

The gallery has enough space for 15 to 20 pictures so to make sure I have enough I decided to get one of my giclee prints of the 'Cows in Dorset' framed and some other paintings I have. At the picture framers I was assisted in choosing the frames by an artist who works there one day a week. He was very helpful and talented too – check out his website – he paints beautiful landscapes in acrylic of the Norfolk coast.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition sounds as wonderful as ever. I plan to trot along there at some point, I always find it uplifting and there's something for everyone - a great day out.

Next in my sights for a painting is a chicken. And with a wing and a prayer it won't take as long to paint as the magnolia tree did.

Til next time...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Brush Strokes

Back at work and laid rather low with a horrible cold, I've been rather quiet of late. And to make matters worse I hurt my back during a coughing fit, so painting has been put on the backburner. But enough of the excuses! Despite all that, I have managed to produce one painting of a rather splendid fox.

The subject material was supplied by my friend Lindsay who snapped the creature as it sat on her garden shed in snow-covered Golders Green last winter. Here's the photo below.

Photo credit: Lindsay Fitzpatrick
And here follows the photos of the painting as it progressed.

Charcoal sketch

Fox in snow - one

Fox in snow - two

Fox in snow - final (25.5cm x 30cm)
Happy birthday, Lindsay, if you get to read this on your travels across Australia. Perhaps you'll bring me back a photo of a koala to paint.

I also took delivery of my very first giclee prints (of the 'Cows in Dorset' painting) and I am thrilled with the quality – the colours are hardly distinguishable from the original. The image is A3 size on high quality Hahnemuhle Bamboo paper (290gsm) and I have seven available for purchase on Folksy.
Here's a reminder of what the painting looks like.

Cows in Dorset
There's quite a few arty events going on around here too. We've got the Cookham Arts Festival, which kicks off next week, during which artists open up their houses to the public and I intend to have a good nose around this year. First, though, this Saturday (7th May), there is Art on the Street in Maidenhead, where artists set up stall for the day and have the chance to sell their work in an affordable way. I'm definitely going to give that a go one day. I'm also dipping my toe into the exhibition scene with a small selection of older paintings at a local Rotary Club exhibition in Pangbourne in a couple of weeks.  Where Catherine Middleton went to school I do believe....

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


So here we are at the final week of my sabbatical and it seems the call to the council has finally worked and the annoying alarm has stopped - peace restored once more. So with just the sound of birdsong in the garden, I continued with two more paintings to round things off.

The first is of the river near Cookham Lock . I enjoyed painting the reflections in the Water Garden at Cliveden (see previous blog), so I thought I'd attempt a larger expanse of water. As you can see from the progression of photos the more you look, the more colours you see and still I'm not sure whether the painting is finished. I soon realised that I could become obsessed with this stretch of water and some might wisely suggest that I ought to get out more. See below for how it looks... for now.

 Charcoal sketch of River near Cookham Lock

River near Cookham Lock (one)

River near Cookham Lock (two)

River near Cookham Lock (14"x18")

So to have a break from water, I started on a completely different composition of some blossom on a tree viewed from close range. Despite looking like a dog's dinner in the early stages this picture turned out quite well.

Can you see what it is yet?

Blossom near weir, Cookham

Blossom near weir,  Cookham

Blossom near weir,  Cookham (12"x10")
Twelve paintings on I've come to the end of my stint as artist 'at' residence, but I shall keep you updated about where they end up. It has been a wonderful opportunity and I'd like to thank colleagues Lindsay Fitzpatrick and Sarah Harrison for nudging me to apply for the sabbatical in the first place, and to Annette Taylor-Anderson for her support. I will of course be continuing to blog and paint (but not at the same rate) and, who knows, maybe even exhibit in the future. In Maidenhead there's Norden Farm  Centre for the Arts which has a good exhibition space that artists can book, however just last week it was announced that the facility is to lose all of its funding from the National Arts Council. Let's hope it survives such a drastic cut.