Friday 16 December 2011

Coffee for Two

These are a series of paintings - all works on paper - I made for an OCA project a few years back.

Thursday 15 December 2011

December Rose

This is another rose from the plant that grew November Roses. It's still going strong! This time, you can see the simple container I've plonked it in, and you might be able to tell that I put it on a white-painted board as background.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Friday 9 December 2011

Pico Volcano, Azores

Here's an old painting of Pico volcano, on the island of Pico in the Azores. It was done from a sketch that I made from our Faial hotel room when we were on holiday in the Azores, some years ago. The volcano was a constant presence across the water - atmospheric rather than gloomy. I remember making the sketches (which were rather small - I only had an A5 sketchbook with me), but I didn't recall the painting until I found it by accident yesterday (I was looking for something else). It looks very much like a knife painting, but I think I may have used a brush as well.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Lego Minifigures 30: Brown Horse

My friend's son likes farm animals, so she asked me to paint some. We have horses and a dog - and a dragon. And a monkey, for that matter. So, I started with one of the horses.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Monday 5 December 2011

Christmas Selling

This weekend, I had tables at two Christmas fairs - the primary school on the Friday and a local dance school on the Sunday. I don't have any others planned. I managed to make a modest profit on both fairs, which was gratifying, but it has to be said that my ware (and its prices - which were, I thought, quite modest for what they are) and the general expectations of the customers didn't tally very well.

Friday 2 December 2011

LEGO® Minifigures 17: "Impromtu Santa"

It occurred to me to do a Lego Santa Claus for the purposes of creating Christmas cards, but I had a small problem: no Santa. With November half-gone, and with the lead times that professional printers seem to require, I wasn't sure about ordering one online (besides, how much real play value is there in a seasonal figure? I wasn't sure I actually wanted one...) if there was going to be any likelihood of selling cards at the Christmas Fair...

This paining is called "Impromptu Santa" because he's made from borrowed bits. Donations came from Yoda, a gnome, a pirate and an anonymous figure with red trousers. Oh, and I had to change the hands. I suppose that Santa could have been wearing green gloves, but I think he looks better with conventional (for a minifigure) yellow hands.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 28 and 29: London

Here are two minifigures in London (well, actually they're in the Big London A-Z from 1993, which doesn't suit either of their timescales very well).

I imagine that working out where Sherlock Holmes is shouldn't be too much of a problem. But Builder 2012 might pose a bit more of a puzzle.

I must admit that I am rather impressed that Mr. Holmes' magnifying glass really works.

Lego Minifigures 28: "Sherlock Holmes"
Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm
Lego Minifigures 29: "Builder 2012"
Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Monday 28 November 2011

Indoor Rose

This is another tiny November rose, but this one was indoors, in a pot. And the leaves look healthier. The background is an approximation of a hardwood box that my uncle made me to put my very first oil paints in, which just happened to be there.

This painting has a restricted palette; I used a total of four tubes of paint: Process Magenta, Pthalo Blue, Lemon Yellow and Titanium White.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Displaying mini canvases

Let's suppose that you buy one of my 7 x 7 cm canvases. What are you going to do with it?

You could put it away in a drawer and take it out to peer lovingly at it every now and then, but I'm not sure that that's quite the idea. I rather suspect that you might like to display it in some way.

Now, as an acrylic on canvas, the usual approach is to treat it the same as an oil on canvas. It doesn't need to be put behind glass; all it needs by way of protection is a coat of varnish, and it should already be varnished (I've still got some to varnish, but they should all be done in time for the school fair next Friday; you can varnish acrylics almost as soon as they are painted, because they dry quickly). The canvas doesn't really need a frame - as noted earlier, I've painted the edges on the assumption that it won't be framed.

But actually displaying such a small canvas presents its own problems. Do you put it on a wall? And how? I'm not selling them equipped for hanging, although I have got a suggestion as to how you might hang them (and I can provide the hardware*). You might prefer to display them resting on a small stand - one of my friends mentioned plate stands. Miniature display easels are another option.

In the past, I have prepared smaller canvases for hanging by screwing a D ring on the top support so that the "D" is uppermost, but the supports for these canvases are too thin for that (the D ring would be too visible). However, I have found that it works equally well to point the "D" downwards and then use the plate's natural hinge to point it upwards. Here are two I prepared earlier:

The larger brass D ring on the right is one of the type I already had several of. But I thought that a smaller ring might work better, so I have invested in a few smaller, triangular rings.


* Of course, if you'd rather buy your own, small quantities of limited types can be bought from all the usual DIY multiples. Or you can visit an online dealer like UK Picture Framing Supplies, who have a much wider choice.

The folks at Ordnance Survey, they say Yes!

Technically, my paintings of Lego figures standing on maps are derivative of the mapping data. This means that they might infringe the copyright on that mapping data. In the UK, the Crown owns the mapping data - this is generally collected and administered by the Ordnance Survey, who also administer the copyright on the data.

One of my friends pointed out my potential copyright infringement, and suggested that I contact the Ordnance Survey with examples of my work. I did so, and have received permission from them to use the mapping data "in this format" without incurring Royalty Fees.

Expect to see a one or two more Lego figures on maps next week!

Friday 25 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 27: "Robin Hood"

I was a bit pushed for time while painting this minifigure (I think Lego call him a forestman, but we all know who he is really, don't we?), and while I started painting him in daylight, I had to finish under artificial light. We've got halogen lamps in the dining room, where I was working; goodness knows how the colour balance in those compares to daylight. But regardless of what it does to the colours, the shadows and reflections all change, too, when you switch an overhead light on. Fortunately, I was at the point of adding detail to the map and the printed bits on the minifigure when the light had to be turned on, which wasn't too bad.

I've given Mr. Hood a proper longbow - filched from the elf - because the standard bows are, quite frankly, rather pathetic. A longbow, as I understand it, was typically as tall as its user.

It shouldn't be difficult to guess where he is on the map, although - according to my current reading material (J. C. Holt's classic investigation of the legend, "Robin Hood") - he's probably in the wrong place.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 26: "Yellow-Green Rock Monster"

"Aha! A crystal. Must tidy that up!"

More from the planet of newspaper rocks.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Lego Minifigures 25: "Power Miner"

The power miner is seeking crystals on the planet of newspaper rocks. The only problem is, those pesky rock monsters keep on tidying them away... I think that's how it goes, anyhow.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Lego Minifigures 24: "Domestic Rock Monster"

My daughter placed a broom in the hand of this blue rock monster and it just seemed so right. I improvised a set - the planet of newspaper rocks (although, as you can see, I didn't feel the need to even suggest the newsprint itself) - and gave the monster a temporary home to sweep.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 23: "Hip Hop"

My son calls this figure his "DJ"; Lego call it a "Rapper"; I'm calling the painting "Hip Hop". He's clearly old-skool, what with his goldie lookin' chain and cassette ghetto blaster. I'm not so sure about the shutter shades - they might be 80s vintage, but I got the impression that they were a new wave thing back then. Now, of course, I am reliably informed that Kanye West has been spotted wearing them. Hence the hip hop credentials. As for the amount of gold in this figure's painted-on mouth - well, it makes me shudder and recall Pam Ayres' most famous poem.

All that bling, however, gave me another opportunity to use some of that pearlescent tinting stuff noted in Lego 22.

Acrylic, 7 x 7 cm.

November Roses

There were still a few roses growing in our garden today. There are a few less now, because I brought these two indoors to paint (I think I left two buds on the bush). They are miniature roses, coloured a very delicate orange colour and tinged with dark pink. I've got no idea what they are called, only that they must be hardy to have survived our lack of attention.

The background is an approximation to the pale wood mat that was behind the roses when I painted them.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Lego Minifigures 22: "Secret Agent"

I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of this little lady! Her red bob reminds me of the singer in Republica - remember them? It turns out that only some of Saffron's hair was coloured bright red at the time of their biggest hit, but even so. Dynamite and a golden gun? You bet she's ready to go!

You can even shout it from the rooftops if you like...

About that golden gun. I used a bit of "Pearlescent Tinting Medium" (made by Daler-Rowney in their Cryla range; I've had it for ages, never found a use for it before) mixed with yellow ochre and a few other colours that were lying around on the palette. Highlights and reflections were required, of course, but it neatly solves the problem of how to make a metallic element stand out.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Monday 21 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 21: "Brick Bond"

"The name's Bond... Brick Bond."

Amazingly, the sun came out while I was painting this, allowing for an exceptionally sharp afternoon shadow on the background tile - and some nice highlights on the super-cool secret Lego agent.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Lego Minifigures 20: "Surfer Girl Catches a Wave"

It's the return of surfer girl! (Courtesy of Bethnoir and co.)

I wondered whether it would be possible to build some waves from transparent Lego, but it turns out that we don't have that much transparent Lego! So I grabbed a piece of blue paper, a few blue Lego boards, and a few transparent Lego slope bricks. It's not the most accurate rendition of the sea, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 19: "Gothic Peasant"

I think that this - the last of Bethnoir's loaners - is a peasant character from the Kingdoms series, but I also thought she looked a bit gothic, so I plonked her down on a bit of Hallowe'en netting (an offcut from the witch's skirt I made for my daughter this year). I think she looks happier there than she would have on a shiny white tile (which is underneath the netting).

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Friday 18 November 2011

Gearing up for Christmas Fairs

I'm quite excited by this. I got some cards made up by a local printing firm (Keeps Printing in Newbury - very reasonable prices and lovely service). There are 100 cards - 50 of each design. I used "Cannon Heath Down" (5) and "Watership Down" (1) - I fired up Corel Draw to arrange everything (the title, my name, and the address of this blog are all on the back) and to make a PDF that I sent a copy of to the printers.

The idea is that they might sell as individual cards to people who don't feel ready to own an original painting... or who might just want to send a greeting to somebody. It'll give my stall at the school's Christmas Fair a bit more range. I might even sell something!

The school fair is on the 2nd of December. And on the 4th, I'm signed up for a second fair! Busy weekend...

Expect a special visitor to this blog on the 2nd, too...

Thursday 17 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 18: "Lady Artist"

This is sort of a self portrait; with a few variations. The main one is that she's not wearing glasses. And I suppose, given where I've put her on the map, she really ought to have a painting knife rather than a brush... but I don't think you can get Lego painting knives. I haven't got a top quite like that one, either. But the paint splodges on the trousers are pretty accurate. I always seem to come down off the hill with an extra bit of green oil paint somewhere on my trousers.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 16: "Torvill"

Any Briton of a certain age will be familiar with the Olympic winning duo of Jayne Torvill and Christoper Dean. From Nottingham, they performed brilliantly in the ice dance in 1984, and won the nation's hearts (and introduced us all to the concept of figure skating). I think that this figure looks a little like the female half of the duo. That is why I have called this painting "Torvill", instead of "Figure Skater", or "Ice Dancer". If this one were to have a subtitle, it would be "In search of Mr. Dean". I think he's got her skates, too, because she certainly hasn't!

Mind you don't slip on that ice, Jayne!

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7cm.

Lego Minifigures 15: "Surfer Girl"

This cool lass is another of Bethnoir's loaners. I took the liberty of standing her on a piece of sandpaper to mimic the beach (don't worry, Beth, I carefully applied masking tape to her feet and surf board first). I had a bit of trouble mixing the colour for her hair - it's very nearly the same colour as the sand, and I had to work out how to differentiate the two objects.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Monday 14 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 14: "Red Queen"

Another of Bethnoir's loaned minifigures; I think this must be a queen from the Kingdom range, but I have just called her the Red Queen, which brings to mind a character in Lewis Carroll's book, Through the Looking Glass. That Red Queen was a chess piece (another series I had in mind... although my chess set is quite plain), of course, and this regal lady is not.

And before you go calling for their heads to be removed, remember that it was the Queen of Hearts (in Alice in Wonderland) whose catchphrase was "Off with their heads!"

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Sunday 13 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 13: "Dance Lady"

The lovely Bethnoir and her generous sons loaned me several female Lego figures after I noted that we were in short supply of ladies. Here is the first painting of one of their figures: a very pink lady who may be a dancer, or an aerobicist, or some other sort of get-fit enthusiast. She's got a leotard, tights, headband and - very 80s - leg warmers. Not to mention her ghetto blaster. I wonder what music she's playing?

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Friday 11 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 12: "Redbeard"

Cap'n Redbeard is sailing the seven seas... well, actually, the only nautical chart that I could find was of the English Channel. That's a fairly distinctive bit of coastline; I don't think I need to give any initial letters as a clue. Do you know where he is?

Acrylic on  canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 11: "Biker - CD"

Road atlases seem so much more prosaic than large scale leisure maps. No time to stop and admire the view, got to get to where you're going! Where's this motorcyclist off to? Answer tomorrow...

(Thank you, Sarah, for putting the idea of using more maps into my head!)

Green to Orange Pumpkin (3)

Something tells me that this pumpkin will soon have finished its colour journey. The step between numbers 1 and 2 is quite drastic when you look at all three paintings together:

You can tell that I missed a week.

Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 cm


Tuesday 8 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 10: "Climber - K"

This little fellow's been climbing. He's got his pickaxe and his binoculars (do you think he's a "twitcher"?), and his trusty rucksack... but where is he?

The map he's standing on is a new element in this series. It is a real map - an Ordnance Survey leisure map, naturally - but can you guess the location? I haven't rendered the map enormously accurately - I don't think the painting requires it, and, to be honest, I wasn't using a fine enough brush*. But you might be able to guess, especially if I tell you that the "K" is a clue. And that it's in England. I'll put the answer in a comment tomorrow.

Sunday 6 November 2011

"Newbury Bridge over the Kennet and Avon,” 19 May 2002

This is another old painting, as indicated by the post title. It was painted with a brush, en plein air, on a Sunday morning. Most of the work was done before the Sunday shoppers started moseying up the tow path (for such was my location). I felt slightly self-conscious, being in such a public place, but as I'd been there for long enough to establish my place - and my painting - it wasn't too bad. Most people wandered by with a passing glance, at most. Of the few who paused, all were pleasant and were careful not to distract me too much.

But the best thing about making this painting was hearing several people commenting that they had never really looked at the bridge before, and didn't realise how attractive it was. It felt good to open people's eyes to the unnoticed beauty around them...

Saturday 5 November 2011

Stack o' Mini Canvases

I've been painting the edges of my mini canvases (that's the 7 x 7 cm ones - the Lego Minifigure paintings and the Sweet Chestnuts). The canvases are so tiny that it seems impractical to frame them, so I thought it better to make a feature of the edges.

This image shows all the currently painted Lego Minifigure canvases stacked up, in order of painting. The canvas on leaning up against the side is Sweet Chestnuts.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 8 & 9: Pirates

Two more swashbucklin' Lego minifigures. These two were mine (I think they came free with something or other, when I was a teenager - consequently, they never got put away with the rest of my childhood Lego). The one with white trousers came with a treasure chest, a monkey and a bit of island, among other things. The one with blue trousers came with a raft. I borrowed the minifigures back from my children in order to paint them.

Both paintings:
Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Lego Minifigures 6: "Racing Car Driver"

For some reason, my husband has a Ferrari racing car driver in his collection of recently acquired minifigures (that basically means that they were bought from eBay). I think this little fellow cuts a fairly iconic figure...

... and he's back, sans helmet, in the next painting.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm

Green to Orange Pumpkin (2)

Here is the second painting of my ripening pumpkin. As you can see, this one missed Hallowe'en. It will probably end up as soup.

Edited 03/11/11: The second picture - added today - is, of course, the same painting (albeit photographed under different lighting conditions), but I took advantage of the fact that oils take so long to dry to "edit" the painted highlights. Originally, they were smears of white paint. They bothered me; they were too white. It looked like I'd dropped flour on the pumpkin, or applied my paint direct to the gourd. So I smudged them. My finger got covered in paint, but I think the result is an improvement.

Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 cm.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Chinese Trinity, 2002

Because it's half term and I don't think I'm going to get the chance to do any painting for a few days, here is another old painting. It dates from from November 2002 and is called "Chinese Trinity". That was the description given to these three ingredients - spring onions, garlic and root ginger - by Ken Hom. The idea was that they were the most important flavours in Chinese cooking. Before we had children, I used to cook a lot of vegetable stir fries (although I rarely followed a recipe), featuring a base note of spring onions, garlic and ginger. I'm not entirely sure why I stopped, but whenever I try to feed my children a vegetable stir fry now, they object strenuously.

Oil on canvas, 7 x 5".

Sunday 23 October 2011

Sweet Chestnuts

Family day out in a local country park; delight at spotting the spiny cases of sweet chestnuts, followed by the greater delight of gathering a few handfuls of the nuts for subsequent painting roasting.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm.

Friday 21 October 2011

LEGO® Minifigures 4 & 5: "Builder" and "Cup of Tea?"

Here are two more Lego minifigure paintings, done today. I can just imagine the fellow in the green dungarees (who belongs to my daughter) offering the builder (who belongs to my son) a nice cup of tea.

A small progression in the series: the cup is the first accessory to feature in any of the paintings.

Lego Minifigure 4: "Builder", acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm. - SOLD
Lego Minifigure 5: "Cup of Tea?", acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm. - SOLD

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Lego Minifigures 2 & 3: "Blue Astronaut" and "Policeman" - BOTH SOLD

Here are the fruits of today's labours. I've decided that this series is allowed to break one of my cardinal painting rules, viz. don't use black. It's an accepted fact that there are scarcely any true blacks in nature (blackberries are a very deep purple, as anyone who's eaten them can testify; shadows are merely areas where there is less light, and charcoal is ... well, not quite natural, but you'll find dark greys and browns in most hunks of burnt wood, even the slow-burnt wood that is charcoal). But, let's face it, Lego isn't nature. It's plastic. So I felt perfectly justified in using some Mars Black plastic paint (a.k.a acrylic) to paint the black bits on the Lego figures. Of course, the highlights are another matter.

Lego Minifigure 2: "Blue Astronaut", acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm. - SOLD
Lego Minifigure 3: "Policeman", acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7 cm. - SOLD

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Green to Orange Pumpkin (1)

I daresay I should have done a couple more Lego minifigures today, but I've been meaning to have a go at this pumpkin, before it turns all orange, for a while. My idea is to do a series of these 20cm square canvases portraying the same gourd as it gradually turns from green to orange. I thought I'd make it difficult for myself (and less pungent for the rest of the family) by eschewing brushes (and thinners - it's the turpentine that's smelly). Instead, I used a palette knife, which was a bit of a challenge considering the size of the canvas. I had to forgo the idea of faithfully recording the pattern of orange on green in favour of an impression.

Oh, yes, do you recognise the tiles? I dug them out again to provide a bit of continuity between this and the older squashes

Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 cm

LEGO® Minifigures 1: "Girl"

This is the first of a new series of paintings, intended to appeal to the less serious art-shopper. I'm considering a stall at a one or two local Christmas fairs, and I decided to do a few small canvases because I was worried that my landscapes, being larger and representing more work, might have too high a price for the event. I'm also planning on getting some greetings cards of a couple of the landscapes printed.

I acquired a number of these very small canvases, almost on a whim, and their small size inspired me to select small subjects. Initially, I thought of flowers - very close up flowers, like the one in "Tulip" - but then it occurred to me that there were a number of iconic toys which might look well in such a small scale. I liked the idea of using a plastic paint (acrylics) to create an image of a plastic toy. I'm starting with Lego minifigures, although I may expand to other subjects. The minifigures are nice because there are many different characters to choose from, and they have a fairly broad appeal. I started with a fairly plain one - the only printing she has is her features - partly to keep it simple, partly because this is what minifigures looked like when I was a child.

Acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7cm. SOLD


The small canvas (which came with its own miniature display easel, not pictured) called for a small subject. I happened to have a vase of tulips on the dining table, and they were opening up, brazenly revealing themselves to the eye... The work of Georgia O'Keefe was on my mind when I decided to to paint close up, pushing the edges of the petals out of the painting.

I worked in acrylic largely because I didn't want to make the dining room smell of turpentine.

Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 7cm, painted April 2011.
Painted as a gift.

Sunday 16 October 2011


Here are a couple of seasonally appropriate little oil paintings that I did a few years ago.
“Small Pumpkin and Little Gem Squash”, 25 October 2002.
7 x 5”, oil on canvas, painted with a brush in the studio.
“Butternut”, 29 October 2002
7 x 5”, oil on canvas, painted with a brush in the studio.