Winter Sun

winter sun

A demonstration for the wednesday class. This is a mainly palette knife painting, in oils on board.

First, I thinly washed some colour over the whole board, wiped off excess wetness and began the process of colour mixing and placing oil paint in slabs. There are a few bits of brushwork here. Also some sgraffito with a kebab skewer for the twiggy effects.

My idea for the group was to show that subject matter for painting need not be the obviously dramatic or typical viewpoint.

Blue Jug demo

blue jug cunninghame art club

My 300th post – I never knew I had so much to say!

Last night, it was a demonstration for New Cunninghame Art Club. I chose the blue jug still life demo, as I had the bumph from my earlier class demos and I thought they would be interested in the approach to this painting.

Here is the full exercise:-

Still Life – Palette Knife

……and the use of  coloured grounds


“A toned ground can be used to create atmosphere or mood, to unify a composition, indicate lighting conditions, or to give sculptural form to an object by giving depth to shadows. A toned ground speeds the process of painting, allowing simpler modelling and killing the stark white that otherwise would confront the artist initially.”


This exercise will focus on the use of coloured ground as a decorative effect. Left to show through the subsequent layers of the painting, to become an integral part of the picture plane. Seen at the edges of the objects in the composition and in gaps between paint strokes, on the subject itself or in the background.


Still life, as a subject matter, gives the artist total control of the painting in a way that landscape or portraiture cannot. The choice of objects, the arrangement, the lighting, the placement, are all under the artist’s direction.


My own approach to painting includes the idea of having casual rules to follow when considering a new painting. It helps me to control the picture to the finish and fulfil the intended vision I had at the beginning.

It could be seen as calculating, but each style must have a semblance of order and attachment to its own guidelines, written or imagined. Think Cubism or Constructivism or any “ism” that has guiding principles to adhere to.


So, our guidelines in this challenge are as follows;


  • Choose a strong colour for the ground
  • Try and paint the whole thing using a palette knife
  • Leave gaps in the painting for the ground to show through
  • Use as few paintstrokes as possible to describe the objects
  • Look at tonal relationships over details (ignore the small stuff – the palette knife helps here)


Outside the guidelines, you can choose any object/objects to paint; flowers, fruit, something from the home, clothing etc.


When considering what colour to paint the ground, be careful not to choose one which is too close to the dominant colour of the still life e.g. if you have a bunch of red flowers, avoid red or orange for a ground. A complementary colour would generally work better.


Some artists to look at online : Stanley Bielen, Christine Lafuente, Mhairi McGregor, Chelsea Bentley James

Keith Salmon at the HAC

Keith Talk

Keith Salmon has a new exhibition of paintings and a drawing project at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine this month. An exciting part of the show is Keith’s intention to work in situ on a large scale drawing of Glen Rosa, Arran. A walker and climber, he paints from memories, sketches and photographs of his experiences of weather and atmosphere in the hills.

Walking in the giant natural amphitheatre of Glen Rosa, he envisioned an ambitious plan to draw the surrounding hills. It relates to an earlier project when he performed another public drawing of the external view of Speyer Cathedral in Germany. This time, contrasting with the external walk around a man made structure, he is inside the towering landscape of the natural walls of the mountains.

Here is a detail of the first stage of the drawing. Really an underdrawing so far, which he can build upon with layers and tones in the coming days. I’ll show progress as the drawing develops later in the month.

keiths drawing detail

keith poster

System 3 Acrylic portrait

wendys2 opt

Trying out system 3 acrylics for a portrait exercise. They are fluid and soft. I expected an extremely quick drying time on the palette but surprisingly stayed wet for a time enough. Cryla are obviously thicker and meatier. I don’t know if I have a preference of one over the other. I do know I will always prefer oils!

The portrait is one I will use as an example for a workshop with some Higher Art students at Auchenharvie school tomorrow.

Waitress V

waitress V

I know, pushing my luck with this pose. I had a date with Fairlie Art Club and what to paint? Why, the waitress of course!

One of the members is also a member of New Cunninghame Club and saw a version of this there. Fortunately a three quarter view and not the same one. I was able to chat more this time since I am so familiar with the face now I could relax into the painting. I need a new image for the next one.

The Waitress IV

waitress iv

Another, and final, version of The Waitress (all going well, of course). This was a demonstration this morning for the new Saturday group. So far, they have practiced drawing freehand, from a grid and traced images. The painting here demonstrates two of these techniques for transferring the image onto canvas. I printed a photograph of the model’s head to the exact size I needed and traced the image for transfer. The torso was drawn from a photograph prepared with a grid and scaled to fit the head.

Painted alla prima, but will go back into the face again tomorrow. It should still be wet for retouching.

I am painting the whole figure this time as this was the intention from the beginning. I want to represent the figure at work, slightly daydreaming but still paying attention and ready for duty. Strong shadows cast on the left side of the face which I am not used to, so trying to fight dirty colours. I am happy with how it’s looking at the moment but keen to get more work done on it tomorrow.

The Waitress III – Cunninghame Art Club Demo

The third and final demo version of the  “Waitress”. This time a 3/4 view as Kate looks out the window casting a deep shadow over the left of the head.

I finished this at home and spent an extra half hour adjusting. I had forgotten the eye lashes too! So I had to go back to it.

The Waitress III