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14 x 18 inch on mounted canvas board
Belfast is snuggled between the Lough, Black Mountain, Divis Mountain, Wolf Hill and The Cave Hill (Ben Madigan). There is other high ground too but the Cave Hill with its castles, forts and pre historic caves and its huge volcanic basin called the Devils Punchbowl will always be special to me. We used to feast on hazel nuts in autumn on the climb to the summit, wild strawberries and blueberries in summer, paint pictures and played.  From McArts fort on the top we watched the big ships come up the Lough with County Down as a back drop and on a clear day you could see Scotland. Then with primroses and bluebells for mum on the long hike home. 'Looking Back' depicts me with my sisters and Finn, Mr. Conners dog  when we were children. We lived all the way down at the Lough and we could still make out our home with its white Portland stone contrasting with the inky blue water.

 
 
Angel close up
I have near enough finished the hair highlights, I may add a little blue or whatever colour the angels clothes will be just to harmonize things. I may also lose the angels pout but that can wait but I keep thinking the cat is looking at her and saying " will you stop whistling in my ear ! " It may settle down when I alter the cat, things still look a little stark and disjointed but I thought it fun that the angel was consoling the cat and her mouth gesture resembles that of a grandmother soothing a child with kind words. The flesh colours are near or maybe even completed, that will be decided close to the finish. That's the bonus with painting techniques like glazes, its so easy to alter tones or hues to better suit the final ambiance, note the lightest flesh tone still present while exploiting the white of the canvas to hopefully give it a glow or luster.

 
 
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I'm fairly happy with the progress of Nine Strikes. At first I dreaded starting it and really only succumbed to starting it through guilt in letting down the friend who requested it. As it evolves I like it all the more, when I think about it, what's my issue with painting an angel cradling a cat in her arms when Ive not long completed a painting ' House Sparrow ' that got highly commended at the London art awards exhibition, depicting a girl with a sparrow on her arm indoors ? Come to think about it the other painting that took a rosette this week ' Serenade ' is a scene with a young woman sitting and clearly enthralled by a linnets song ! The hair will come to life when I add some more highlights and if I'm brave enough I will re-expose the Germanic chin that I partially concealed with the fur of the unfortunate cat. Dante Rossetti would frown at my hesitation but I fear outcome of my effort would resemble Desperate Dan in a frock.

 
 
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'Bathing Belle' took a commended rosette at L.E.A.M.A.C. 2013 open competition in Long Eaton Town hall, themed (water) category.
I could have gone a lot further with this painting with water droplets on hair and skin but I felt that keeping it less detailed was in harmony with the surrounding water.
Please see my gallery page for details.
oil on stretched canvas 20 x 24 inch

 
 
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I have just received an e mail from the EAC Art Awards Administrator in London telling me that I received a highly commended with my painting 'House Sparrow'. There was almost 2000 entries and presentation will be held in The House Of Lords in due course. The painting is gathering interesting comments, " A super and strange painting.  Strong colors and pattern contrasting with the modern Alice in wonderland girl. I loved it ".      Rebecca Pullen
'House Sparrow' is currently on display at Long Eaton Town Hall.  Description :  oils 24 X 20 inch on slimline stretched canvas, soft sheen varnished with edges painted as part of the scene, strung and ready to hang. For further details see my gallery page.
 Inspiration :  Janet didn't go to school all that much because of her illness and was happier to help out with the daily house chores and go on errands for her mother. She sits near the parlour window facing the street enjoying the peaceful solitude before her brothers and sisters return, while keeping a watchful eye for the school board truancy official.
When I glance through the front window as I approach the house my movement causes Janet to glance like that. Still sitting near the window watching the world go by, still serene and enjoying the calm of the house, still ill and almost 70 years old.

 
 
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Now Ive completed my blocking in ( cartooning). I rarely make any attempt at shading with this stage, its just a rough study for me to access my final colours and where to place light and shade. It also serves to block out the sometimes intimidating white of a blank canvas. I always block in with much paler shades of the final colours and with flesh areas and possibly fabrics I will only apply enough paint to make a uniform covering yet still allow the white canvas to glow through, hopefully I can retain this 'glow' in the finish with my very thin translucent glazes of oils. To explain it better, the skin colour now present will remain the lightest shade of flesh in the final painting, same goes for the angels hair, what you see now will end up as the high lights and maybe areas reinforced with even lighter shades of yellow, orange or even flake white to further effect the illusion of glossy hair and to strengthen form, light and shade. As usual I pick an unconventional pose, most times I bite of more than I can chew and end up working hard to convince the viewer that everything is in the right proportions. Foreshortening can confuse the brain ! The viewer will be looking up rather than the normal predictable onlooker and sitter same eye level approach. Who wants to paint portraits ? Well I do, I do little else but I want to have a narrative there as well, even in my animal portraits, the angle and stance tells you everything. This pose shows the angel in control but not dominating, similar to a little child's view of mum when they need comfort but,,, the same view may be applied to the child on the carpet in front of the school head, that's where the sympathetic face and the lips ready to plant a loving kiss hopefully alter the viewers perception. As a child I witnessed all three scenarios, looking up at the stone angels in the cemetery, regularly looking up at a furious head master and finding solace with mum who's little soldier could do no wrong.

 
 
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There are times when we get so caught up in our own environment, become cocooned and intensely preoccupied with other things,,,, 'so busy it slipped my mind'  'time goes so quickly', We've all been there with the feeble excuses. I cringe when I answer the phone from yet another (acrossthewater) call  from a caring sister & lamely say "Ive been meaning to get back to you". Its always Queenie who calls me,, except when I'm homesick and need to hear the familiar homely lilt from my birth place. That portrays me as selfish as well as uncaring as she calls to inquire about me, I call her for comforting, my personal recompense or gratification. I'm not selfish or uncaring of course, 'Its trying to find the time',  'I just need to finish this painting'  'I'm neglecting things I should be doing',,, things like updating this blog !!! Ummm, on second thoughts I am selfish,, but not uncaring, if I was uncaring the subject of this blog would be something other than,,, ummm, just what is the subject ? Apology may be a good title. Ages ago the longest running friend of mine (both sides of the water) requested a painting for his wife, he told me what she likes, we even discussed ideas I came up with, that's as far as the painting got, I got busy finishing the painting I was working on with the intentions of commencing Fran's wife's painting immediately afterwards. Then I got a commission, then I needed to paint a picture to get it out of my head, then a follow up, etc etc. Fran wanted me to do a painting ! that's not like Fran to ask for something, not something to own, maybe to borrow an obscure engineering tool but not for something to own. It must have been important. He never reminded me again. This is the guy who called me every day when my wife was in long time hospital care, who fetched me groceries, who visited me in his lunch breaks from work to see if I was all right. He never asked anything from me,, just this once, a painting for his wife. I have four wet paintings on the go right now, Ive turned them to face the wall, Ive thought about Fran's request and how to make his painting the best I will ever have painted, a work that Dante Rossetti would have slapped his forehead and exclaimed, " I wish I had thought of that ". As soon as its finished I will call Queenie just to see how she is.

 

Serenade

07/02/2013

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Soon to be exhibited at the L.E.A.M.A.C. open in Long Eaton, along with 2 other oils, 1 pastel, 1 acrylic and a water colour.
Details and dates can be found on a previous blog and Further details on 'Serenade' can be found on my gallery page.
For sale following the exhibition.