Saturday, 13 February 2016

A clear view

This is my third oil painting using a series of great photos of one seagull in St Ives, Cornwall, which were taken by a friend of mine who also happens to be a talented photographer. Below is the photo I based the painting on:

Photograph  by Lindsay Fitzpatrick

This time I was so keen to get on with the picture that I forgot to take a photo of the work to record its progress. That's why there is no sketch of the image in charcoal and the first stage we see already has quite a lot of the canvas covered. 

Canvas size is 23 x 30 cm

You can see how green the sea looks near the shore in the photo and it becomes darker blue towards the horizon. The colours I used for the sky are cerulean blue and flake white, and for the sea: Windsor emerald, phthalo turquoise and French ultramarine. In previous paintings of this scene I added some clouds, but this time I resisted the temptation; I think the pure round white head of the gull intersecting with the cloudless blue sky works well.

'Seagull looking out to sea'

This time I struggled with the bird's feathers and I still wasn't happy with the picture.

More work done to the tail feathers and sea

I deepened the shadow for the seagull and carried on working on the feathers until I felt I was going round in circles with them. Something was still jarring with the picture and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. But then, while writing this blog, I realised what the problem was. You see, it became obvious to me when comparing these pics with the original photo at the top that I have made the seagull's legs too short. Right at the start I got the scale of the body and head too big to comfortably fit the feet on the canvas. If I knew it was going to throw the painting off so much I would have started again. Lesson learned, I hope! So it is useful for me to blog about a painting. Not only does it hopefully inform or interest others, it can help me analyse where a painting might have gone awry.

Final version of 'Seagull looking out to sea' by Karen Davies

Oh well, I think the answer is to get myself a copy of 'Drawing Birds' (published with the RSPB in 1986 and revised in collaboration with Bill Oddie in 2004). This book was produced by the brilliant wildlife artist John Busby, who died aged 87 in June 2015. He was passionate about painting birds and was also an inspirational teacher. He was able to capture the essence of a bird's movement in just a few strokes of pencil and watercolour wash in the field and develop the rest of the painting back in the studio. See for yourself using this link:  I couldn't even capture a seagull standing still, so I have much to learn from the master!

Other arty news is that a new gallery dedicated to a French artist Irene Laksine has opened in the high street in Cookham. Her work seems to be mostly flamboyant, colourful abstracts and looks very interesting. I must check it out, although I think her silk scarves prints are a bit beyond my pocket!  C'est la vie.

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