After studio of van Dyck, “Drunken Silenus supported by Satyrs”

It’s an odd painting, hung taking up a the wall between corner and door in Room 31 of the National Gallery. This painting appealed to me in part because it is quite disjointed, there seem to be several styles at work. My initial drawing was done over a few sheets of different toned paper, partly as I had run out of grey. I wanted the painting to be about the exploration process, rather than a direct copy of the original. Colours: Paynes Green Cobalt Blue Cobalt Violet Indian Red Permanent Rose Cadmium Orange Lemon Yellow Titanium White The primer is…

After Gerad David: painting in the National Gallery

Drawing in the National Galley, as this blog testifies, is a habit of mine. The ultimate cure for artist block and a great way to discover artists for free. Drawing in a public place comes with its own set of challenges. If you can’t handle criticism don’t draw in a gallery. Every passer by has an opinion and generally they feel obliged to share it with you. Since the National Gallery began allowing photography in 2015, drawing also comes with the peril of being considers part of the exhibition. Bus loads of tourists go home with a blurry photo of a…

Detail from "Dorethea's Apple Tree", 100 x 100 cm, ink & acrylic on paper, Charlie Kirkham 2015.

St. Dorethea’s Apple Tree makes longlist for Jackson’s Art Prize 2016!

  Really happy that my tree series has got some recognition after the slogging on it. So pleased that St. Dorethea’s tree has made it to the longlist. https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2016/04/15/joap-longlist-announced/ I’m on page 12 of the blog!  

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel", Watercolour Pencil on Canvas, 2015, 92 x122cm, Charlie Kirkham.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel…

Every so often it’s good to refer back to fairytale a for a bit of inspiration. I came across this version of Rapunzel  http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Rapu.shtml Rather than following it verbatim I wanted to create a piece that reflected different elements of the story. As a child I always imagined Rapunzel to have black hair, so I have kept her a brunette for this painting.  To give a time lapse feel I connected her hair to her final rescue where her tears restore the Prince’s sight and they have twins. To begin I used quite a range of coloured Watercolour pencils. I…

"Lucy's Dream", oil on canvas, 76 x 122Cm, Charlie Kirkham 2014.

Lucy’s Dream 

The painting developed from a life drawing of Lucy, seen from above. The drawing was a good exercise in balancing on a box as well as drawing from a high view point. Something about the drawing reminded me of flying and so it seemed natural that Lucy developed wings in the pairing. Rather than being in the studio sun lounger she is transferred to a textured dreamy space. I limited the colours to reflect the initial drawings limited graphite colour shades, but I added in the bursts of bright yellow. The painting will be on display at Tanner & Co….

After Rembrandt “Portrait of Margareth de Geer”

The best time to visit the National Gallery is when it’s sunny as all the tourists stay outside! Bearing this in mind, I took my watercolour crayons along to room23 where Rembrandt’s double portraits of Margareth de Geer and Jacob Trip hang.  http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-portrait-of-margaretha-de-geer-wife-of-jacob-trip This portrait is imposing and captivating. It is thought that Jacob Trip’s portrait was posthumous, created from a selection of other portraits. This may explain the contrast between the two portraits.  De Geer is a presence we notice from across the room. A woman in mourning, determined and strong.  Drawing from Rembrandt is always a challenge and…

The Model Has Flu! 

Sometimes working from life presents a unique set of challenges. In portraiture one of the most problematic is what to do to the painting when the model’a appearance changes? This can be caused by haircuts, changing make up or in this case the dreaded flu! In a typical English winter, more so in a drafty old art studio, flu is bound to strike artist and model at least once. So, over the three weeks of sittings for this portrait the flu developed. I found that it added another dimension to the portrait. Increasing the number of breaks and working faster…

#Watercolour5

#MakeASplash #Watercolour5 Again for this I employed my Wilko gel pens. This time I drew out some imaginary bits and bobs in blue ink. Afterwards I took my masking fluid pen and added in more details or retraced my drawing. I wanted to have the contrast between using blue ink lines and the white of the paper Once the masking fluid was dry I painted over the image very roughly with a large brush.   

#Watercolour4

This sketch was done using: Wilko gel pens Cass Art Jumbo A4 Pad Watercolours & Brushes What I love about these brightly coloured gel pens (apart from the 80p for five price!) is that they instantly make you smile. I doodled out some squares and rectangles floating in space, then just put a wash over the top. The pens are not waterproof so there was so bleeding. I think this added to the harmony of colours and I would like to develop the gel pen – watercolour combination further.

#Watercolour3

#MakeASplash #Watercolour3 This was done using a masking out method. I used: One sheet of Cass Art Jumbo watercolour pad paper, A4 size Masking fluid pen Watercolour travel box set (Windosr & Newton) Watercolour brushes I started by quickly drawing the train as it pulled away from Kingston station. I used the masking fluid pen to get the lines down. The only trouble drawing with masking fluid on the go is that it takes a while to dry. If you’ve got ten minutes until your train is due though, it works perfectly. Once the masking fluid was dry I used…

#Watercolour2

#MakeASplash #Watercolour2 This is my second watercolour sketch from the Cass Art watercolour challenge. It was done using the desk biro and watercolour washes.  I did a quick pen sketch while I was invigilating at RK Burt Gallery, London. Sometimes a simple biro can open up new ideas. I used a quick wash of watercolour to brighten this up a bit.    

#Watercolour1 

The first of 50 watercolour challenge paintings. This paperclip inspired piece was created using some nifty masking techniques. Materials list:  1 sheet of Cass Art Jumbo Watercolour Pad (I used A4) Masking tape Masking fluid Watercolour paints Decorators brush / large watercolour brush     Method: Mask off the edges of the paper using your masking tape. A nice tip here is to use very thick masking tape and tape the sheet down to a board to prevent buckling and frame the image. Using masking fluid draw out the shape of a paper clip. If you’re using masking fluid from…

After Tintoretto: Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples. Sketchbook page, HB pencil on paper, Charlie Kirkham 2014.

After Tintoretto : Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples

Although badly worn and in part dubiously restored, this painting still has impact. Tintoretto was a very fast painter, favouring a dark ground. Sadly, many of his paintings are badly deteriorated. The picture above is much clearer than the painting itself. I enjoyed drawing from this because the composition is very complex. As you scan it more figures seem to appear out of the ether.

"After Garofalo: Allegory of Love", Charlie Kirkham, watercolour pencil on paper, 2015.

After Garofalo: An Allegory of Love

  The strange caped man in red swooping in, the lizard, the goat and the weirdly headed cupid all make this a great painting to draw from. That’s before we get onto the beautifully painted landscape on the left. This very strange painting follows a popular theme and shows us another Allegory of Love. Hosted by the National Gallery for more information on the painting click here.

"After Willem Kalf: Still Life with Drinking Horn", Charlie Kirkham, watercolour pencil on paper, 2015.

After Willem Kalf: Still Life with Drinking Horn

  There’s something that always appealed to me about lobsters. I’m not normally a big still life fan, but the iconic nature of Kalf’s lobster is captivating. As you can see from my page extension, I misjudged the height and needed to glue a bit more onto my sketchbook. Click on the image of the original painting to find out more about it. This piece has influenced my own work, I’m starting another large tree drawing, this time themed loosely on Saint Sebastian.

‘Minerva protects Pax from Mars (‘Peace and War’)’ after Rubens

  At the moment the RA is showing the blockbuster exhibition of Rubens and his influence. In light of this I thought a bit of drawing from Rubens was in order. Once again, while the RA is full to bursting the National Gallery’s collection of (free) Rubens paintings is rather quiet. Minerva Protects Pax From Mars is a stunning painting. Rubens is famous for the sensuality of his paintings. He captures flesh in such a powerful,believable way. When I was drawing this I was conscious of the weight of each of the figures. The arrangement is really complicated and working in monochrome…

Respect, after Veronese

For the first time in my lifetime the four paintings of Veronese’s Allegory of Love are being show together. Wow! Having driven myself slightly mad drawing from The Vision of Saint Helene I thought I would further the experience with Respect http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/paolo-veronese-respect Strangely, working from this complex piece was delightful. The elusiveness of Veronese coupled with the believability get me every time. There’s also something about seeing the Allegory as a whole which makes it so much more than the sum of the parts.

Single Vanishing Point

As part of the Drawing & Watercolour course I teach at Merton Adult Education, I’ve been explaining perspective basics to my students. This has not only given me the chance to brush up my creeky perspective skills, but also to tackle subjects I would normally avoid. In this small watercolour I worked from a photograph of a canal in Venice, courtesy of Pinterest. As the original photo shows there’s a basic sense of one vanishing point. However, trying to literally copy this following the vanishing point is a big lesson 1 challenge. That’s why the painting was simplified.

My School Playground

My School Playground

Working with Open Space UK on the My School Playground project has been fantastic fun. Despite setbacks caused by the rainy winter weather in London the playground is now finished and looking brighter. For more information on the aims of the project click here. The initial ideas were based on talking with teachers and pupils about what they wanted to see on the playground. Working with children to create something is always challenging, because there are no limits on their imaginations a bit of reigning in has to be combined with trying to make the space exciting to a child. The…

Portrait with stuffed fox cub and escaping armadillo

This painting explores composition. I wanted to create a diagonal focus and give as much attention to the objects surrounding the sitter as to the portrait itself. Working on a full figure, on such a small scale, presents its own set of challenges. When the face is only the size of a 5 pence coin every stroke becomes important. Capturing the posture of Tara was important in getting a likeness. Initially the set up revolved around the fruit and stuffed fox cub, the elements of the Yew tree and armadillo developed more organically. My first idea for the large space…

Rhymes Nursery, Birmingham

Large scale mural exploring Healthy Eating concepts and the Lifecycle. Designed for pre-school children. I included interactive elements such as changing the shoes on the caterpillar so they can be used for a counting game, also ‘spot the difference’ images. The idea was taken from the book “The Hungry Caterpillar” and adapted to run around the nursery walls, the caterpillar grows as he eats healthy food (and a few sneaky chocolates) before going into a chrysalis and emerging as a beautiful butterfly. The best part was seeing the reaction from the excited bunch of toddlers who had been watching me…

"Froggy and the Tadpoles", mixed media on paper, 43x30cm, Charlie Kirkham 2013.

Froggy and the Tadpoles

I was trying to merge 2D and 3D in this piece. It started when I saw some googly eyes and thought they looked like frog spawn. This work also linked into the mural I was creating about healthy eating and the life cycle at Rhymes Nursery, Birmingham. Using found buttons, sequins, eyes and leaf skeletons I merged the collage and drawing elements.

"Treeman Holding the Fox", 297x420mm, paint marker, ink and pencil on paper, Charlie Kirkham 2013.

Treeman Holding the Fox

This image was based around the Treemen’s woods idea. Following on from the sketchbook images and pieces that were inspired by the combination of “Who Killed Cock Robin?” and “The Swineherd“. When all this is over, said the swineherd, I mean to retire, where Nobody will have heard about my special skills And conversation is mainly about the weather. I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen And polish the brass fenders every day. I want to lie awake at night Listening to cream crawling to the top of…

"Four Figures in the Studio", oil on canvas, 10x12", Charlie Kirkham 2014.

Four Figures in the Studio

Completed over nine days this small scale painting was first drawn out using the sight size method. As the left of the painting looked empty an extra portrait, canvas and rug were added in fading into the space of the wall to create an imaginary dimension to the room. The colour palette was more extensive and I glazed the final layers of the painting using a linseed oil and oil paint mix (2:3 ratio).