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.