As winter daylight reaches its nadir, I never seem to get much work done. Of course, the same is true even when there is plenty of daylight, but I feel even less happy about it. So, lacking any exciting new work to talk about1, I shall uphold the Christmas custom of a good, Scroogey whinge about all my favourite bugbears.
1.) Sharpening pencils
Oh, yes! There’s nothing like stopping in the middle of a delicate shading operation to slice off bits of finger – I mean pencil – for breaking one’s concentration. And the pencil lead. Maybe I should be following that handy Youtube tutorial more carefully…
2.) Painful posture
Even when I’m not trying to use myself as a model – so standing there with one eye on the paper, one on the mirror, and one on the… oh wait. Anyway, even then, I’m sure to have contorted myself into some bizarre position by the end of the session. Often this takes the form of standing up hunched over my desk2 – probably because the desk is too high (at 5’1’’, everything’s too high) – and my chair isn’t adjustable. Mind you, I’ve never found a comfy adjustable chair either3.
And when I’m working from an easel, you can be sure I’ll have pinned all my hardcopy source images around the board4 in such a way as to make it impossible to adjust the height of the easel, so I still end up crouching / kneeling / dangling from the ceiling5.
3.) Brush (and other) maintenance
Bluueergh. OK. Unlike issues 1) and 2) above, I’m usually quite assiduous in attending to my brush cleaning, as good brushes always trigger my ‘these are much too expensive for me to buy’ reflex6. So I feel the need to keep them viable for as long as possible.
I hate doing it. The cold water chaps my hands something chronic. And I can never bring myself to suck the brush into a point afterwards, no matter how thorough my cleaning has been. Ick, painty saliva7.
4.) Oil paint portion size
Without a doubt, I have the most miserly approach to doling out oil paint of anyone I’ve ever seen (all five of them). I was literally rubbing it onto the Thundercats sky with my fingers to eke the stuff out just a little further. Well, good quality lightfast oil paint is expensive.
Maybe I should just work smaller… but really, I’d prefer to find an oil paint medium I’m a bit happier with to thin down that pigment without gassing myself. Turpenoid Natural is good, but lacks the gloss of pongy, sticky Dammar varnish, among other issues8 – maybe just linseed oil on its own is the way to go, but I do wonder how many aeons that would take to dry…9
Ah, the final and biggest issue of them all10. Well… I couldn’t be bothered to write much for this section. ‘Nuff said, really11!
… perhaps my New Year’s resolution should be to invest more time and money into
working comfortably. And do less housework – I could live with that. Ah, a good thought on which to end the last Christmas post. Speaking of last Christmas posts, I hope those Prismacolour pencils I ordered turn up at some point; I could do with some new and exciting pencil leads to break.
1 Well, except for these visions of loveliness:
Red Head (2018)
Oil pastel on cardboard
Peas of Mind (2018)
2 In order to view my work flat and escape skewing the image (well, that’s the theory…)
3 Personally I don’t believe they exist.
4 I should really get that Tablet.
5 I knew my climbing harness would come in handy…
6 It’s hard for me to justify buying them, since I mostly use pastels… though this creates a bit of a feedback loop since it’s also one of the reasons I prefer using pastels. I mean, good soft pastels aren’t cheap, but if you break one it doesn’t mean £30 down the drain. Also, it is definitely getting harder to a) find art shops in which you can actually handle your brush before purchase and b) within those few shops, find a good undamaged selection of brushes (probably due to all that brush-handling). Yeah, I’m looking at you, the (brushes aside) wonderful Berkhamsted Arts and Crafts.
7 Other pet cleaning hates include (but are not limited to) anything which has had Dammar varnish on it, paint pots, my desk, my floor, my paint palettes, (OK, I mean the Ferrero Roche plastic box which I use as a paint palette, but it’s still annoying, although at least if means if I really do decide the palette has given up the ghost I can then go out and buy a huge tray of Ferrero Roche for my new palette. One must make sacrifices for one’s art).
8 For those who are interested, Turpenoid is more environmentally friendly, less smelly, and easier to deal with than traditional turpentine – I believe you can just wash it down your sink – but, it is really a solvent to make oil paint soluble in water, not a medium per se, so adding more than a touch to your oils (I think the maximum ratio of Turpenoid to oil paint is 1:3) may cause them not dry and even start removing pigment from your image when you apply the brush!
9 In fact, someone somewhere (the internet) suggested to me that, when you work on painting oils over a dry layer underneath, you should first thoroughly cover every nook and cranny of your board with linseed oil, and then (just as thoroughly) wipe off all but a hint of it with a makeup sponge. This is supposed to allow your brush to glide over your surface smoothly, while not causing beading of the paint due to excess linseed oil. Because beading is a right pain in the patella.
10 Honourable mentions also go to social media and the internet, for being… difficult.
11 I should really learn to work without a formal deadline…