Monday, 29 February 2016

Learning to paint

Flowers in acrylic (Feb 2016)

Which medium to use?


Furry friends in oils
One of the things I wanted to do in my spare time on retiring was to take up painting again. Many years ago my husband bought me a set of oil paints and an easel in an effort to give me something to do that would de-stress me at the end of a working week.

On Friday evenings I set up my easel in the kitchen and spent many happy hours firstly copying a simple picture of two cats from a Christmas card and then copying a postcard of village houses in Provence. 

A village in France in oils
Although I didn't really have any idea of what I was doing with the oil paints as I'd never used oils before, I was very pleased with what I managed to produce but actually found it quite a stressful activity at the time. With family commitments, working full time and doing things that had to be done, there wasn't enough time to devote to painting in order to to finish something quickly. I found it frustrating that a painting seemed to take forever to complete so I packed away my paints and easel in the attic and decided that this was something to come back to later. 


Watercolour scene from a photo 2015
Time passed and I didn't even attempt to paint again whilst I was still working. After I retired I was invited to join a group of retirees at a social art group where a friend of the organiser took us through some of the basics. Although this group only met for five weeks I was inspired to continue on my own afterwards. Having bought watercolour paints and been shown how to stretch paper in the art group, I attempted to copy photographs in watercolour. This wasn't as easy as I expected, even after I took to reading up about techniques in books bought from local charity shops. Although I didn't frame any of these paintings I photographed them and used my IT skills and an app called Pic Collage to frame some of the photos as one of the things I did already know was that framing a picture always improves it. 

Over the years, I have found that as long as I have written instructions with illustrations I can teach myself most things. I wasn't sure about learning to paint though but decided to give it a try and bought a book that included graded tutorials on painting watercolour landscapes.

Watercolour landscape 2015
 I worked through several  of the tutorials, finding that these tutorials really helped me to produce paintings that looked much more like the given examples than the results of my previous attempts at copying photographs. These tutorials were especially helpful in showing me when and where to leave white areas of paper. 

Watercolour landscape 2015


Still life in acrylics 2015
Whilst tidying out the attics ready for redecorating last year, I came across the art materials I had put aside years ago. I was surprised but pleased to find an unopened box of acrylic paints which gave me an excuse to visit our local charity shops once again in search of 'how to paint' books but now looking for anything on painting with acrylics. I really enjoyed the first couple of acrylic tutorials and it felt much more natural to paint with the acrylics, especially as there was no need to leave white areas as these could be painted in later. I was so pleased with the results of completing the second tutorial that I framed it!

A teapot of flowers in acrylics 2015
Not fancying any of the remaining tutorials I decided to try out my new skills on copying a photo of a parrot. I was hoping to be able to make use of the vibrant nature of acrylics to produce a painting that would reflect the bright colours captured in the photo and I think I managed this. 

Parrot in acrylics 2015
It was weeks, actually several months, before I picked up my paints again. Even though I was busy with Christmas and birthdays during this time, it was mainly that I couldn't think of anything to paint. I've realised that I don't have much imagination regarding painting my own pictures. Perhaps this will come as my skills improve. For now I will continue to practise and seek inspiration in books and on the internet. 

Flowers in acrylics 2016
I have a online Pinterest account and have been using it to curate links to tutorials and examples inspirational art work. It's very pleasant to pass half an hour or more just following the suggested links and adding those I find useful to my Painting and Drawing board. 

Last week, whilst searching via Pinterest, I ended up on the Craftsy website and found a free mini class on painting flowers in acrylics. I enrolled, downloaded the videos and the painting here and at the top of the page is what I produced from following the videos on my iPad. I found it really useful to be able to see the tutor demonstrating how to mix and apply the paint as well as which areas to paint in each layer. Being able to replay the videos, when I hadn't understood or followed what was being demonstrated first time, proved to be essential. I will definitely be seeking out more painting and drawing video tutorials on the internet and can recommend this as an excellent way to learn at home.  

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Valentine Flowers

Although my mum regularly buys herself cut flowers, I rarely do. So, unless I have ones I can bring in from the garden, I generally only have vases of flowers on display when I receive them as presents from family for my birthday and Mother's Day or occasionally from friends when they come to stay with us. This year, on Valentine's Day, I was most surprised and delighted to find that my husband had bought me 12 red roses. I think that, although he has bought me flowers in the past, this might be the first time in the 47 years we have been together he has bought me a dozen red roses. He did slightly spoil this romantic gesture, though, by proceeding to tell me just how cheap they had been at the well known supermarket where he had been buying bread and milk. So cheap that he couldn't walk past and not pick up a bunch! He then went on to remark on how cheaply a Valentine card and flowers can now be bought and that no-one nowadays really has an excuse for not buying a card and flowers for their loved one.  

This made me wonder at the time:
1. Are more flowers now given as presents for Valentine's Day than in the past? If so, is this mainly because cheap flowers can now be picked up along with the regular weekly shopping? 
2. How much florists have been affected by flowers being readily and cheaply available in supermarkets? 
3. Where are all the flowers grown and why a dozen red roses can be bought so cheaply at this time of year? 

Having watched a TV programme this week on how the Chinese New Year is celebrated in China and Hong Kong in which it featured a section on how millions of red roses were grown and auctioned in the run up to their celebrations, I can now make a guess at answering my third question. Somewhere there must have been huge poly-tunnels full of red roses growing in readiness for Valentine's Day. I doubt that this was in the UK though. But I could be wrong!