Wednesday, 18 May 2011

prizes, paints and paper

Hullo everyone and happy Wednesday!

For those lovely readers who have found me on Facebook, you might remember I mentioned last week I'd be sponsoring an award for the Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment Prizegiving Ceremony for Semester 1, 2011 at Charles Darwin University.

Being the wife and daughter-in-law of social workers, I have a bit of an understanding of what it takes to be successful in this field. There's no surprise it's hard work. I think it takes a very particular sort of person to do these jobs, and we need to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of people who can do them and do them well.

And so, I donated last week's newest addition to the Grumpy Star Studio, the Boy with the Heart Balloons. I thought this would be a nice reminder of all the hard work that goes into gaining a degree, and for the industrious soul who managed to do so with distinctions and high distinctions in a field like social work.

It was wonderful to meet Cara and her lovely parents and to present her with her award. Congratulations Cara, I'm so glad I didn't give you another book voucher!

And a big happy birthday to Cara's mum for yesterday- I think she was hoping Cara might let her share her prize!

While we're on the subject of the Boy with the Heart Balloons, here's a few close-ups for those of you who might be interested in spending your pocket-money on some new art equipment.


Last week I told you a bit about my lovely friend Francesca Vignaga, who creates her gorgeous work by using coloured pencils over acrylics. I thought this might be a good technique for me to use, given that painting is still relatively new for me as I try to bridge the gap and form a happy relationship between my past experience in watercolours and graphite pencil drawings.

As you might have seen in the development of my brolly-girl a few weeks back, I start off my paintings with lots of thin washes, partly to ascertain harmony within the palette and partly so as not to lose the translucence of the paper too soon. The paint I use is Polycolour, which I bought in Italy (and then lugged all 5 kilos of it over Europe). If, like me, you've flung yourself to a remote corner of the earth, I've found Amazon can generally get it to you quicksticks without lightening your wallet too much.

When I've established a sense of light, perspective and firmly rooted the figure within the grounding with my acrylics, I pick up details (the eyes, the hair, fabric textures) with Caran D'Ache watercolour pencils sans water. These have a lovely clay-like consistency; kind of like soft pastels but with more sticking-power and stronger colour saturation. At the same time as a sharpened pencil can add a more realistic sharpened focus, when used in a looser way like you see on the grass or trees, they pick up the underlying textures and soften the focus of the background. When I want really sharp lines, like for individual strands of hair, I use my Derwent Artists (a Christmas present from my parents when I was 8 and wanted to draw like Da Vinci- a bit shorter but still good after 17 years!)

As I mentioned last week, the paper I'm using is Aquarelle; a hot-press paper with minimal texture. Sometimes I use the wrong side of a cold-press Fabriano; cold-press being a more textured watercolour paper. Paper is perhaps just as important as what you put on it; for example, if it's too waxy I'll press harder to compensate for the lack of definition, and very soon I've torn the paper surface. It can take awhile to experiment with lots of different papers to find what works best for your particular technique. Aquarelle is probably the most expensive, but you get what you pay for- there's no point in creating a materpiece on photocopy paper! Stroking the surface of a fresh piece of Aquarelle paper is like sticking your nose into a bag of freshly ground coffee- so luxurious as to be slightly indecent!

And on that note, it's high time I attacked another of those lovely pieces of paper with a pen and paintbrush!

Mel x

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