Tag Archives: art techniques

Drawing Degenerates

13 May


I’m carrying on with my ‘Degenerates’ series of portrayals of contemporary artists that I work with. My focus is on drawing but I am also using paint as these are very large and I need to be able to cover big areas of colour. I don’t particularly like painting so I am using my fingers and bits of rag to apply the pigment in a drawingly way. Once the larger areas have been coloured in with acrylic paint, I’ll work details on top with oil bars, which should take me back into pure drawing.


Here are some close ups showing some of the finger work I have been doing on the surface of the canvas. The work will be exhibited from the end of this month at Fringe Arts Bath at the Octagon.

Apricots And Bunnies (not for vegetarians)

9 Mar

09 apricot tree

I’ve been having lots of discussions about rabbit skin glue with local artists recently. It seems that some art colleges don’t bother teaching about technique and materials any more. Well, there we are then! Anyway, rabbit skin glue is a very versatile and cheap size for applying to canvas, paper, wood and cardboard before painting, drawing or doing traditional or digital printmaking. It forms a barrier between the surface and the material you are applying. This is important because the surface might contain chemicals that will damage your pigment, such as cheaper papers, some kinds of wood, and also because your pigment might rot the surface, such as oil paints on canvas or paper.

It’s largely been superceded by acrylic gesso, printmaking papers with internal size, and commercially prepared art papers for digital printing. These can be very expensive. To prepare rabbit skin glue I use one teaspoonful of glue granules to 12 teaspoons of cold water, leave overnight to set into a revolting grey jelly then stand the pot in a bain marie (I use an old saucepan) to melt the glue. When it’s thin brush it quickly over the surface you want to prime. It leaves a lovely satiny sheen and is a joy to work on. I usually do 2 coats and stretch papers first, although some heavy-duty artpapers can take the strain.

This piece started as a digital photograph I took on my travels to the Hunza Valley in Pakistan when the millions of apricot trees were in Spring bloom. I tweaked it a bit in Photoshop (just very slightly with Cutout filter) and then printed it out using a good quality inkjet onto an A3 piece of Somerset I’d previously sized and dried with rabbit skin glue. The piece has a beautiful velvety quality that doesn’t really come over on the screen.

ps Toulouse-Lautrec did loads of paintings onto cardboard, usually with gouache and oil.

The Final Proof [female nude]

1 Feb

Full colour drypoint.


Today I went back to Swansea Print Workshop for the final session of drypoint training. Yesterday I managed to pull a first proof [on the left] and this morning I used it to guide me while I did a lot more mark-making into the paper drypoint plates. I added a lot more cross hatching and some patterning along with some lively linework on the figure and then repeated the technique of inking up and printing the three separate plates [I explained this in yesterday’s post]. I’m pleased with the result [on the right]. I’m not sure if I’m pleased enough to edition this particular print – it should be possible to get an edition of 15-20 prints from these paper plates. I’ll sleep on it and decide whether to edition them on Saturday. But I really like the technique and I have some paper drypoint plates in my studio, so that’s what I’ll be doing for the next couple of days. I’ll see if I can get a series of four prints in this technique over the next couple of weeks and see what I think then about doing some more.

It’s easy to get carried away talking about the technical stuff and forget to say what good fun it is to go on these courses. There’s a good mix of professional and hobby artists and the standard of tuition is very high. I was in with a great group of people this week and we had loads of interesting and stimulating discussions ranging from the government’s failure to recognise the worth of the extended family in modern child-rearing to whether Grayson Perry is one of our greatest living artists. [Probably] 🙂

Sheep Staring At Me!

18 Dec

Continuous line drawing: Elan Valley Sheep.


Someone asked me today what ‘continuous line drawing’ is. I use the technique a lot. What you do is draw with a good quality pen or pencil, one that gives a nice flowing line, and you try not to:

a) lift your pen off the surface of the paper and

b) look at your drawing too often.

The idea is to keep looking at the subject and ‘feel’ your way quickly around the paper with the point of your pen. You look at the drawing occasionally to stop yourself from going completely off, but resist the temptation to keep checking it and trust yourself!

If you keep your pen on the paper, you’ll achieve a flowing line and you’ll often have to go back over bits to get to other parts of the drawing, but that’s all right because you’ll end up with very lively, vibrant lines. You can have a few breaks but try to keep these to a minimum.

This method gives lots of life to your drawings and also helps with accuracy as you’re constantly observing the subject and you’re also drawing the surroundings as well as the subject. I hope that explains it. Feel free to question me if you want 🙂

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