What is the best thing about your job?

For years, the best thing was the look on people’s faces when I handed over a painting. I get giddy on their shining eyes and compliments, thrilled that something I pour so much time and love into can bring them so much happiness.

But now I am not sure!

Last Spring, I had a stall at my local Village Fayre. I was there painting a Little Owl and selling my collection of cards, paintings and prints, when a lady asked me an interesting question.

“Would you ever try teaching?”

She said, referring to her nine year old daughter.

I was caught off guard. I had never even thought of teaching.

Being self-taught, I had no idea where I would begin. I don’t seem to create my paintings in a logical order – I flit from section to section, depending on what I fancy, or what paint I have on my brush.

We swapped details and I mulled it over for a few days. Why not?! I thought. It would be fun!

We agreed to start a series of six lessons in August. My boyfriend was being deployed, so it would be the perfect project to keep me busy and creative. Sophie (the nine year old) also seemed giddy with excitement.

Lesson 1

I went along, armed with a small box canvas, a bulging bag of paints and brushes, a ruler, a pencil and a gridded up photograph of a bunny. Not wanting to start off the lessons on a boring note, I explained to her that this step was by far the most important part of a realistic painting.

Under my lead, she gridded up the canvas into five centremetre squares, and into each one, copied exactly what she saw in each square on the photograph. I taught her to really look at the photograph, and appreciate all the sections of shadow, light and contrasting colours, and mark them all onto the canvas. I promised that next week we could get our hands painty.

Sophie 1

Lesson 2

We decided to do a green background full of vegetation. She was a bit timid at first, but with my encouragement, she started to mix colours and hesitantly dab them onto the canvas. I explained that the beauty of acrylic paint is that 1. If you made a mistake, you could paint over it and 2. That it was waterproof, so you could wipe off fresh layers of paint if they weren’t quite right.

“Woahhh I love acrylic paint!”

She said.

Lesson 3

I outlined the importance of getting down base layers of paint on the bunny.

“If you can see through it, you need more paint.”

Is my general rule of thumb. Together, we really looked at the photograph, and with my help, she was able to see subtle colours that you wouldn’t ever notice before.

“I think I can see some purple in there.”

I said, pointing at the bunny’s pouchy cheeks. She mixed and dabbed colours, using different techniques and different brush sizes as required. I couldn’t stop myself from getting stuck in, subconsciously mixing colours, and applying paint to brushes, before catching myself and handing them onto her.

Her confidence slowly grew as she spotted all the reds, purples and browns scattered throughout the bunny’s fur. I urged her to mix in subtle amounts of white paint, to which she asked :

“What does that do?”

“Think of it like putting cream into a tomato sauce.”

I said

“It makes it thicker, richer and paler.”

Sophie 3

Lesson 4

This week, we were ready to get started on the bunny’s face.

“III’m SOOOO EXCIIITEDDD!”

She said.

Together, we practiced painting eyes on a separate piece of paper. I showed her how to make them look 3D and alive, with a glint of light in them. We also practiced creating thin hairs with a little fine brush. After a few tries, she felt confident enough to have a go on the canvas. The result really started to bring the bunny to life.

Sophie 4

Lesson 5

This week, we painted in the nose, mouth, and continued making the bunny fluffier, using different shades of colour applied in short sharp movements with a little fine brush.

“I can’t waiiiiitttt for it to be finished!”

She said, anxious to take it into school and show off her work to her friends and teachers.

Sophie 5

Lesson 6

We had such a productive lesson, and really got into the swing of getting our hands dirty for the sake of art. I noticed with joy how much more confident my student, and how much more control she had over a brush after only six hours of tutoring.

She asked me how I made colours blend perfectly into each other in my paintings, and I admitted that the majority of the time, I use my hands! So that lesson, we did the same.

Sophie 6

Lesson 7

In the final lesson, we practiced creating very thin lines using acrylic ink, so that we could create realistic whiskers.

“Ooooh I’m scaaareeed!”

She said, unwilling to potentially ruin her precious artwork.

I reminded her that acrylic paint is waterproof, and if she got it wrong, she could wipe it straight off!

By the end of the lesson, she had marked on (and wiped off) dozens of whiskers, and painted on some grass around the bunny’s feet.

I was overcome with pride at the finished result, at Sophie’s reaction, at her mum’s reaction!

“I cant tell you how much she has enjoyed these lessons. This has got to be the most rewarding thing she has ever done!”

Her mum said to me.

I can’t wait to do some more teaching! It feels so good to share my skills with others!

Sophie 7

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How to paint a short haired cat

I was commissioned to paint Gumdrops the cat for fellow blogger, Kate. I thought it would look really striking on a tall thin canvas, walking proudly, tail in the air.

To Create a painting of a short haired cat, you will need:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Large flat paintbrushes
  • Small rounded brushes
  • Play mat
  • Water
  • Palette (or foil case)
  • Canvas (I used 75cm x 30 cm)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Photo to copy.

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Gumdrops was posted off to Gibraltar, and has safely arrived with the proud owner.
I got this lovely email, which just makes my work SO worthwhile!

“I’ve collected Gumdrops the painting and he’s wonderful! .. you’ve really captured his essence .. thank you so much for all the skill, care and attention you’ve put into this lovely painting :)”

Refer

 

The time I drew a caricature of my boss and didn’t get fired.

A couple of months ago, I was approached by a man at work about a possible commission.

“I have a potential project for you!”

Great! I am always up for a new project!

“How would you like to do a caricature of <<the big boss>>?”

I went home and saw my boyfriend / official advisor. He had a few words to say about this.

“This can ONLY GO BADLY.”
“Your options are:
a) your boss gets offended because it really does look like him and he can’t take a joke.
b) it’s rubbish and people lose faith in your abilities.”

Quick fact about me: I am notoriously bad at saying no. Instead I whine and worry to people who cannot make any difference.

Obviously I had already said I would try. I can’t let people down!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I started to collect photographs and fun facts about my boss, fed from a private detective…his wife.

“Loves Golf, Dr Who, Percy Pigs, Crystal Palace…

…Can you try to get those into the picture too?”

I said I would try… racking my brains as to why I was making these promises I didn’t know I could keep. With animals I have a track record. This was an unknown.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After a week of promising to try… I actually began to try. My plan was to give him the body of a golfer, with an oversized head. That way, I need not risk exaggerating his features! Genius.

boss 1

I have remarkably little imagination for someone so arty. I find it very difficult to draw from memory, so I found a photograph of a golfer, mid swing, printed off big boss’ decapitated head, and quite literally stuck it on.

 

 

 

 

 

boss 2

As I started to draw my first draft, I completely relaxed! I just sketched it onto a scrap piece of A4 paper in pencil, before developing it with a black felt tip pen. It was looking good!

 

 

 

 

 

boss 3

Once the first draft was complete, I scanned it into the computer and printed it out onto an A3 sheet, to scale it up quickly and easily. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

boss 4

I then re-copied it onto a sheet of card.. I embellished the shirt with stereotypical golfing diamonds, and added a flag in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

boss 5

I got out my colouring pencils and I coloured it in. I didn’t want to risk paint, as you can completely lose your artwork beneath it! I patiently coloured several layers to get the colours lovely and bright.

 

 

 

 

 

boss 6

For a few personal touches, I coloured the diamonds on his shirt Crystal Palace red and blue, and the little flag in the background the tasteful company colours of orange and green.

 

 

 

 

 

boss 8

Finally I went over the artwork in my felt tip pen, and wrote a personal message on the gold ball “25 years”, his time in the company.

 

 

 

 

 

So the moral of the story here is: just because you have never done something, it doesn’t mean you will be rubbish!
You might just get it right.

What have you thought about writing off before even trying it?
Have I convinced you to give it a try?

boss 9

How to paint a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

You may have spotted him at the Fayre, or you may just be coming across him now. This is Bertie the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppy. Judging by his expression, he knows he is royalty. He has a grumpy ‘superior than thou’ expression and gangly legs. Admit it, he is absolutely adorable!

You will need:

  • A lot of time and patience
  • 30cm x 40cm canvas
  • Photograph to copy
  • Large flat paintbrush
  • Range of smaller round paintbrushes
  • Large playmat
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Masking tape
  • Acrylic Paint:
    • White
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Burnt Umber
    • Raw Umber
    • Rich Gold
    • Mars Black
    • Cadmium Red

1. Choose your composition: I didn’t have to crop my photograph as it was already a closely cropped image. The customer asked me to keep the background exactly as it was. 
bertie

2. Mark up your canvas. For a 30 x 40 canvas it is easiest to do 5cm2 squares. If you grid out your photo on a screen, make sure that your scaled dimensions are the same. You will probably have to crop parts of your photo and expand it to fill the space.

3. Draw the outline shape of your subject onto the canvas, following the corresponding squares on your screen. For a more detailed way of doing this, see here.

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4. Paint the background: The customer wanted the background painted exactly as in the photograph. This was a pink rug and a window. To paint the rug I used various shades of pink and red, and a small round paintbrush to rub the paint in spirals into the canvas. To paint the window, I used a lot of masking tape, a steady hand, and about 50 shades of grey ;-).

5. Begin painting in the beautiful curly ears. This is using a range of rich siennas, raw and burnt umber, gold, flesh tint, etc. Use little round brushes and short curly strokes with a slightly watery paint.

Extend the shades onto the face around the eyes, leaving the nose and a stripe up the forehead in white. Concentrate on the direction of the hairs in the photograph – the top of the ears stick upwards and are paler.

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6. Rim the eyes with a near-black (black mixed with brown or blue or yellow.) Start to paint them in in shades of deep grey to bring out the spherical shape. Put glints in the eyes to bring them to life.

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7.Paint the body in grey. Once you have the grey base you can use paler greys and flesh tint to pick out lighter sections and shadows using a small round brush.

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8. Paint in the nose – make the nostrils a deep black, with a black line up the middle. The rest is a deep grey in a rounded heart shape. Pick out white glints to make it look damp.

Bring out the characteristic downturned mouth. King charles spaniels look grumpy. Really cute, but grumpy. Play on that!
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9. Paint in the collar. If you use metalic paint and a bit of nifty shading, metal rings and disks look very real!

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10. Decide that following the photograph is a bad idea after all and that limbs appear to be going everywhere! Re-paint the legs by researching other photos where dogs are sitting more nicely! *please note, forward planning and a better photo can eliminate this stage!!

Bertie ARTbyIMI

11. Sniff test of approval?

Bertie and painting