Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Back in the draw

After a busy couple of months (work and travel [see my other blog]) I found the space to get the charcoal out again (Thanks Chris!) and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Monday, 28 September 2015

I've been a-hangin'

Well, it's up.
My small show.
At the King's Theatre. Southsea.
In the Circle Bar/Promenade.
For two weeks.


It's been a long time since I put my work on someone else's wall and I'm more nervous than I expected. It should be no big deal, it's not a gallery and the people who will see it aren't there for the art (well, not the stuff that hangs on walls), so probably won't notice or care.
But it's there.
In public.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Finished at last

Well, this is it.

I've called it "The continuing failure of urban planning", not because of any specific example, but more about how since the war communities have in large part been let down by the planners even if in later years they try and fix things. But no matter how good the patch, the gash often remains.

This joins "View 2.2" as new work for the King's Theatre show which starts on 
Monday 28th September

Thursday, 17 September 2015

One down

Finished the first of the new works tonight. Something of a comment on the work ethic.

View 2.2 by Ric Robinson. All rights reserved.
Need to get the other one done now, Monday. Tuesday latest.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Nearly there

And the panic is on.

Less than two weeks before the small show at the King's theatre. Two pieces to finish, two more to frame, barely enough time to do either.

I could finish the one on the left tomorrow, the other needs a couple more sessions.
(deliberately unflattering angles - don't want to give the whole game away)

An apology

Some months ago Google sent emails out to Bloggers demanding (nicely) that we put the ol' cookie message on our sites.

So I did.

Then they put one of their own on anyway and now I don't know how to remove either one of them so you don't get two of these legally necessary but ultimately pointless messages to click off.

Sorry about that.

I'll work on it.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Starting something new

Working title: View2015
 Lots to do still (obvs), not a huge amount of time to do it if I want it to go in my exhibition in late September.
Crack on.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Sickert in Dieppe

Walter Sickert, L’Hôtel Royal, Dieppe, 1894, oil on canvas, 50.2 x 61 cm, Museums Sheffield

Had a really lovely morning at the Pallant House Gallery last Saturday. As friends of the gallery we took the opportunity to attend the pv of their new exhibition "Sickert in Dieppe". They're a lovely bunch down there and very drinkable coffee was provided to accompany a short talk on the exhibition from curator Katy Norris, which was light and informative without being overladen in detail.
The exhibition itself takes up six rooms on the first floor of the gallery and charts Sickert's whole career through the lens of his time in Dieppe. It's a fascinating journey. I only really knew the rather dour Camden Town paintings and as a result was not a big fan but this exhibition had me reassessing this position and, thanks to the good job done by PHG and Ms Norris, I came out far more appreciative of his work than before.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Kitchen litho

Wow, that was exciting; the strange alchemy of kitchen litho.
A sheet of kitchen foil is transformed into a printing plate by as little as the judicious application of Sharpie® pens and Coke® and can give amazing results.

In simple terms it works by ionising the foil to become hydrophilic where you don't want the ink to stick. First you need to create your plate. It's best to use the duller side of strong kitchen foil, which you fix firmly, and without creases, to a smooth and solid surface - we used old pieces of mount board, fixing the foil to the reverse side.

Then draw your image. There are a number of tools you can use to do this - Sharpies® are good because they don't need cleaning off, but you can use proper litho crayons, blocks, or even oil pastels. These waxy substances will need to be cleaned off later.

Next comes the alchemy. A generous application of Coke® (or Pepsi®, or any other regular cola) for about 30 seconds to a minute will do the trick. Wipe this off with clean water and dry. If you have used anything other than Sharpies® you will need to clean it off with a small amount of vegetable oil. Wipe off the excess oil and dampen the plate.

You are now ready to ink.
We used 3 parts block printing medium to 2 parts oil paint. When rolled on, the ink should only stick to those parts of the plate that you want it to. There are tips and tricks to deal with excess ink, and it is important to keep the water and cola you use clean. It's also a good idea to clean the roller between inkings to limit the amount of water getting into the ink.

You can use a press to pull the prints off but simply applying pressure with a clean roller will usually suffice. It's a case of trial and error really.

I think it's a great way of reproducing many copies of a freehand drawing.

Friday, 26 June 2015


Last session of the term for me - I'll be lazing on a narrow boat next week.
Fast, furious and loads of paint, and all on only one canvas board.

I was aware that recently, and against the term's stated aims, I had been veering back towards portraiture rather than working on the whole figure. So, for the first pose of the night I deliberately went for the full length, despite the difficulties of this seated figure - her right leg is unconvincing.
The majority of the paint was applied with a palette knife and took about 45 minutes.

I used a large brush for the second, reclining, pose. Very happy with the hat but got close to over-working the face again. However, for this painting I only had 30 minutes and considering that I'm very pleased with the result. This technique, I believe, relies on an excellent under-painted drawing to quietly control the otherwise apparent excesses of impasto painting. At least until one is confident enough in one's ability anyway. A bit of refinement and the 4 hours allotted to contestants on Sky's  Portrait Artist of the Year would seem an eternity!

Here's the full canvas:

Friday, 19 June 2015

Loosening up

I think I'm getting it.

Very happy with the results of last night's session. I focussed much more on drawing with the paint - starting with a raw umber background, I then used charcoal while it was still wet to map out the features before Vandyke brown to draw in the shadows. The over-painting was achieved with more watered down body colour than I would normally use. 

Creating what is effectively a preliminary sketch; a quick, fluid capture of the subject, knowing when to stop before it becomes an over-worked nomansland of a piece has produced a much better result, for me, in the time we had. It also allows me to acknowledge that the hat is too small, even if well rendered, and that it could be corrected if it were ever to be worked up into a final portrait.

The actual focus of the session was on the difference between sharp and soft edges and I think this was also achieved quite well. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Colouring in

This week we took the grisaille from last week and 'coloured them in'

Even using a glaze medium it's difficult to get the right level of colour and transparency,and mixing the right flesh tones in the time is always difficult if you're aiming for some level of realism. Each of these took about 90 minutes in total to produce and probably feel a bit rushed as a result. However, what I should have remembered was that this is a drawing class and instead of regretting the lack of time to work on the pieces, I should embrace it; focus not on the painting but rather try to draw in paint, perhaps be a little freer.
Having said that, there are elements of these that are quite good.

Friday, 5 June 2015


... or Shades of Grey.
Often used as an underpainting technique, grisaille uses up to nine values of grey to create depth.

It was good to get the paints out again despite a leaky water pot, and I think the results are quite good. I think my mid-grey started out too dark but as time wore on I was able to create a wider variety of tones on the palette without the result getting too muddy as it can do in colour.
Looking at it again, this first image needs more work on the near arm and I struggled to get the mouth right but it's not bad

I'm much happier with this one

Next week's class will involve taking this second image and over-painting colour.
Scary-ish stuff.

Friday, 29 May 2015

An exceptional evening

With it being half-term at the Omega I took the chance to visit the Pallant House gallery in Chichester where they were hosting the above performance piece. Artist Sue Maclaine told the story of model and muse Henrietta Moraes, in character, pausing every so often to recreate some of the poses from works by Bacon, Freud, and Hamblin, with whom she had worked and lived, for us in the audience to draw in turn. Hers was a fascinating, tragic life and having it told in this way reinforced the memory of the artist's model as more than solely an object to make art from.

Henrietta Moraes died in 1999.

My drawings from the session:

Firstly, three one-minute poses to warm up. Then this second image which was based on
the pose in the Lucien Freud work "Girl in a Blanket".

Followed by a semi-reclining pose based on Bacon's portrait:

The poses held for quite short periods so were in the nature of quick, warm-up exercises
but I'm pleased with how they turned out.

It was quite an experience.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Drapery, line and wash

Although I wasn't really playing the game at first because I wanted to try out my new compressed charcoal stick. I'm very impressed with it; easy to use and nowhere near as "dusty" as regular charcoal but still blendable enough and moveable with a water brush.
The main focus of the session was supposed to be the depiction of drapery but the drapery in question was a thin scarf and quite small, so challenging to make look convincing with more wrinkles than folds.
These first two are principally charcoal and wash on brown paper.

This reclining pose was done with pen and ink wash with added charcoal.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Shadows and light reprised

A year or so ago, in the life class, we worked in extreme lighting conditions to try and bring out the full range of tones. Last night we did the same in our clothed figure class.
Aiming for something approaching the chiaroscuro of Caravaggio, but in quite a light room without the dark background from which the light of the model can emerge, and with my paper not being particularly dark, the results tend to look like strangely isolated pools of dark in a sea of light rather than the preferred reverse. The shadows can appear bizarrely exaggerated as your eye cannot quite adjust to the dissonance between the image and the background. A fellow student used a mid-tone brown paper and her loose style with the pastels produced a much more balanced and impressive work than mine. A lesson there.

We had three poses, none of which were quite long enough fully to get to grips with, and the last pose was such an awkward position the model understandably couldn't hold it for very long. The costume for the first two also had quite a complex pattern, which was a bit distracting. So these are all a bit incomplete and, again, are images taken quickly on a fairly average phone camera - I can assure you the originals look better!

Friday, 8 May 2015


Another exercise.
Draw the shape that the model fits into.
Make a contour drawing of the model within that shape.
Make interesting.

Several short poses later with the model in various crouching positions:

Very happy with this, and it got lots of positive feedback on the night. I think this, following on from last week, is one of the more useful exercises in that it makes you see the overall shape and size of your model better, helping with proportion.
Incidentally, she was wearing a loose, smock-like dress and large straw hat.

The next drawing was over a longer time scale, reclining, different clothing.
Same idea, work out the overall shape then complete the drawing.

I was at the "foot end", tricky, but again I'm very pleased with this. 
I do like a thick black line, it just seems to work for me. This (and the first) was done in Conté with lots of smearing finger work.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Blind, mass, negative

A series of exercises this time, all designed to help make drawing a  more intuitive process, practising again and again drawing blind, with either hand followed by focussing on the mass of the object (in this case of course, a person) and then remembering the negative shapes that go to make up the outline of your subject.
So none of these drawings are particularly brilliant but if I can remember and employ the thought processes behind each technique next time I make a drawing it should help achieve a better result.

Not great photos either, I'm afraid.

Friday, 24 April 2015

New term, clothed figure

Back with the pencil, back with gesture and contour. 
Some good marks made, some less good.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Trying a new style

For the last portrait class of the term I thought I'd try something a bit different. Working on a plain white canvas and concentrating on the face, building up layers of colour and seeing where it got me.
In an ideal world I'd take a lot more time over the drawing but as I've said before, it's quite a short class to get two poses in.
The results however, I'm pretty happy with.

Next term we're moving on to the whole figure (clothed), so that will be interesting and stretching.

Saturday, 21 March 2015


This is not a portrait of Jenny Eclair!

Although, if I changed the hair colour...

Once again I struggled with over-working areas and the nose in particular. I think that trying to produce a nearly half length portrait at this scale, in the time allowed, was ambitious. This needed a better drawing, I was a bit lax about the face.

For the second half (in reality a half hour), I decided to close right up. 
It's a much better likeness and much more suited to the looser style I tried to adopt.

It still has issues.
Practice, practice, practice.