Woodbrook Vale High School Loughborough 23rd September 2014
Wow a demonstration to cheer us all up! Bright and colourful acrylics using a variety of brands available, Tas had a table with at least 50 tubes on. With palette knife and paint straight out of the tube Tas smeared it on a pre-coloured purple board and began composing a vase with bright red tulips. Gradually after initially placing the flowers he built up the layers developing the background first, with little mixing apart from where colour went on top of colour.
Tas emphasised the need to have a composition in mind before starting and think about where colour marks were placed, it wasn’t random although it seemed like it with the array of colour used.
As the acrylic tends to dry fairly quickly it was necessary to establish the design quite speedily in the first half of the session, and Tas needed the paint to be more malleable. Then as the painting developed more time was taken to place colour marks which brought out the flowers and stem details, highlighting with some very bright colours to complete a very lively picture.
Just as we thought about putting our sunglasses away for the summer, this bright little gem appeared before our eyes.
I am not really a pastel lover, I have never really given the medium a thought, although I have admired work that others have done. I think I have always thought of it as messy, although it cant be that really as I love working in charcoal and look like a coalman when I have finished, so no it cant be that. A bit scratchy then…mmm…maybe.
For some reason it was difficult to get people to come on this workshop, whether it was the time of year, the subject or the medium I don’t know, but what I do know is that everyone who did come produced a very satisfying and lovely finished portrait, under the gentle guidance of a very experienced painter.
Rob started the workshop with a practical demonstration, explaining his technique for using pastels as he worked. His palette was limited to four tonal pastels from light to dark in flesh colours, 2 pastel pencils, a dark brown and a reddy orange, and a fine pointed dark pastel, he worked on a grey pastel paper.
Firstly he measured the face by using his hand, from finger tip to wrist and making a mark with the orange pencil on the paper at each point. He then divided it up for the nose and mouth lines. From there he measured a point for the left eye, the gap between the eyes and then the right eye, drawing in the vague positions of each. Concentrating on the eyes, forehead and nose areas which Rob described as ‘fixed’ positions, the next crucial point was the highlight on the end of the nose, and the gap between the eyes, if established correctly then the painting would ‘look’ right.
The lower half of the face was left till later as this area was the one that would change as the model got bored and potentially fell asleep, so if you had established it early on when the sitter was happy then the facial expression on the cheeks, mouth and jaw line would change and you would have to keep correcting.
After sketching in the rough dimensions, then Rob changed to the darker pencil and started adding in the shadowy areas on the cheek and around the eyes and nose areas, scuffing in a bit of hair as well. Then onto the pastels and concentrating on the tonal range he began to build up the layers fleshing out the skin and slowly bringing the model to life.
One of the major ‘no, no’s’ was ‘do not blend in with your hands’ as the image will become flat and lifeless. Just build the layers up using the different pastel tones.
Then it was our turn. We had two models, so there was plenty of room to get close to them, so after a lot of shuffling about and a coffee we tentatively put pastel to paper. Rob guided us through the process, encouraging us to look harder, it was the eyes that I found the most enlightening. I was just putting in the blue iris at the bottom half of the eye, when Rob said to shade over the top half of the eye socket as this is in shadow of the top eyelid, demonstrating this for me he then put a pin prick of light on the pupil, then said to add the white of the eye on the left hand side and on the right just a small line to indicate the inside of the lid. Your own eyes filled everything else in, it was very effective.
Little tips like this were invaluable. The emphasis on drawing and establishing the framework, measuring all the time, then filling out the flesh tonally with the pastel, it made you look hard at the subtle changes of tone, a very good exercise from life.
The final pictures were all very different, and we were all very happy with the results. Many thanks to Rob and his wife and to Amanda the model, it was a superb day enjoyed by all.
Oh, and it wasn’t at all messy, with clouds of dust everywhere, far from it… but it was tiring and a cuppa and a bar of chocolate when I got home was a very satisfying end to the day.
Poppies, poppies , poppies…. Acrylic creative techniques workshop with Tim Fisher
On a lovely morning in May we all turned up in Rothley equipped with bags stuffed with acrylics, brushes, car sponges and palette knives… and an easel, with the intention of learning how to paint a poppy field Tim Fisher style. I took my sister, she had never painted, before and was like a jelly before we entered the hall, but in brave anticipation she soldiered on.
Tim suggested using mountcard to paint on about 18” x 16” if not canvass board or MDF. The basic structure of the painting was pencilled in, following this Tim vigorously covered the board using cadmium red, and cadmium yellow to give a patchy orange glow.
Whilst his dried we had a go at ours. The next stage was to put masking tape to form the horizon line. White and cerulean blue were splashed on to form a lively sky, and violet, white and ultramarine were used to create distant mountains.
Using a car sponge we blotted black in to form the background of trees in greens made from ultramarine and yellow, yellow and cerulean and yellow for the leaves, and raw sienna and yellow ochre for the trunks.
Then came the really exciting bit! Tim gave a really comprehensive session on how to use the palette knife, giving tips and hints as to how to get the best results. We then practiced the techniques on scrap paper to hone our skills. Using the same greens as for the trees but using a palette knife Tim started scraping the paint across the board densely at first then with a chopping motion as he came down the board creating the poppies in reverse. It was really effective. Then we tried…
We were all really proud of our paintings and the lessons learned that day using the palette knife. Even my sister who had never painted before was inspired, since then she has not stopped painting and has created an impressive body of work!