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So I was getting along fine, I had brought oil paints this time and I almost finished but I had to get back to the Netherlands. Another problem is that I haven’t been able to score some normal white spirit yet. Everything I have brought in America smells really nasty and gives me a bad throat ache. It must be very unhealthy :(  The stuff I brought was expensive too! The effect is that I really can’t paint for longer than three hours, and then I need some fresh air.

So this was the start, in acrylic:

And then I painted the thunder clouds, the pegasus is going to be black

But the pegasus is only in the ground layer. So it looks a bit flat still. As per usual I got some paint from the lightning on my sleeve and smeared it over the sky. I already managed to clean that up. pffffff!

Now this is fun! I used ”auto color correction” on my photo, and this is almost how it’s supposed to look when it is finished!

I’m glad I noticed those white blotches and could remove them, imagine I noticed them only now! Anyway, it’s really funny to see what I had in mind about this painting after the ”auto adjust”! Now I will ahve to wait to really finish it until I am back in America.

I have been having some fun! I love the members of Basenotes, the perfume forum I visit almost every day. I wanted to do something nice for my friends on Base notes so I have been re-binding and illustrating two old pocket books. It’s a great suspense novel by Ngaio Marsh: ”False Scent”. There is of course a theme of a very special perfume which runs through it, and I have my idea what it would smell like, and the game is going to be that who-ever guesses it gets one of the books.

So here are the covers, inside is a little vial where you can put your perfume if you like.

I drew the illustrations directly in the book, in the empty spots.

The fatal perfume is presented!

Inspector Alleyn inspects the body…

Dior is a good friend, and so is dr Roxs, his private attendant, trainer, and stable boy.
Dior has a very elegant head, and carries it beautifully, he is also very dependable and very kind. It was a pure joy painting this sympathetic horse.

I started off with a beautiful canvas, very good quality solid wood, covered with the best quality linen. The linen is stretched the ”wrong way around”, so the beautiful greyish green natural linen is up front.

This is real quality, this will last!
Now, before you can paint on linen you need to size it, with gesso or acrylic. Of course this means you loose the linen color, and some of the texture. To keep the linen as it is, while still be able to paint on it I sized it with Lascaux imprègne.

To get a start I did a quick line drawing in acrylic. The drawback on this style is that I can’t really make a mistake because I can never get rid of it.

When I am satisfied with the line drawing, and confident it will be a good likeness, with all Dior’s proportions and personality.

Then I put on some basic color, very ”meager” quite thin. This is one type of painting where I want to keep the paint thin, showing lots of handwriting. Again, if I mess up I cannot scrape it off and start afresh. Basically I do give up the advantages of oilpaint.

Painting several more layers actually takes time. I don’t want to mess up by putting too much paint on the canvas, which is só easy to do! Neither do I want to become too fiddly, to precise, which is also much easier to do than keeping it fresh and straightforward.
It’s really difficult to explain, but it is easier to do an over painted, over detailed, over ”photographically-realistic” painting than keeping a grip on yourself and stopping before you get bogged down.
and trust your hand!

Especially the final touches have to be spot on, right color, right place, right thickness.
It’s best not to think too much about it…

The real test of course is when Diors personal attendant gets to see it…

More about that later!

So I have been commissioned to paint a lot of Pegasuses racing to get away from a thunderstorm.   Sometimes the sun smiles on an artist!

A tantalizing couple of sketches and close-ups….

The cloudy background

Hope you enjoyed!

I have been spending a lot of time in Amsterdam, off and on, and have been working on this very large wall painting in the library of an 18th century canal house.
The idea is that the wall painting should have an eighteenth century connection, without it looking like we tried to ”fake” it, a modern feeling should be there as well.
As an inspiration we chose the Chinese wall paper at Nostell Priory. It is exceptionally beautiful, it was supplied by Chippendale who designed the chinoiserie furniture to go with it. It is however very ”busy”. I went for a more balanced custom design to fit the dimensions of the room. Also, the brush strokes, and my ”handwriting” will be clearly discernible.

The Chinese wall painting and Chippendale furniture at Nostell Priory.

My design for the right side of the room, with the fireplace:

The room! There are bits of wall to be painted on every wall except the windows.

The base color is finished, it is really three colors on top of each other, the last one very subtly sponged to make the color look less of a solid block.

The sketch. I paint directly on thge wall, I don’t use a magnifier which projects a drawing on the wall. This is of course more difficult, but it is also a lot more spontaneous.

The colors of the tree and the flowers. It is going to be very gay. The crane is almost finished

The bird is talking to the crane. One wonders what they are up to when the lights go out and nobody is in the room…

The painting is finished. Sort of. I am still wondering if I shouldn’t change a few bits here and there. Now the books with all their colors are in their cases, and the pretty knick-knacks are on the shelf, it looks very much integrated into the room.

We had this talk on another blog, and a blogging buddy said something like, ”It is not only art which matters, but also all the things one does besides making art which defines the artist”

That is something I have always agreed with, and which at times I find very difficult to explain, especially to my mother who always thought I was wasting time when I spend a lot of time and effort in one of my ”non-high-art” projects. But I think it is an inevitable part of ones existence as an artist. I don’t think I know any fellow artist who doesn’t have one or more ”hobbies” next to making art. I think we all ”collect” stuff for example. Maybe antiques of an unusual kind, or just simply ”Objects de Virtue”, but I cannot call to mind any artist of my acquaintance who does not collect something.
I definitely am a shocking collector! I collect books, porcelain, jewelery,  antique fans, you name it, I collect it…

I also have many interests which are related to my art, yet also apart from it. I play the concert flute, I have trained as a western saddle maker, I have trained as a silversmith, (I love jewelry) I make my own clothes, I can repair my own shoes, I restore antique fans. I am always busy with some project or other.

So I have decided that for this blog to be complete, I should not just constrain it to the art I make, but also to the interests surrounding it. So I will also be posting on all the other little and big things which occupy my mind and my time.

I am still not finished with my Pasadena works. But it is always so busy as soon as you come home, with work waiting, mountains of post to go through, problems to be solved and heavy metal festivals to go to… (Yes, did some sketches and they will be posted!)

Anyway, I loved the Huntington Botanical gardens and especially the Chinese Garden! This is a proper Chinese Garden, with a balance between Ying and Yang observed in all details.

I painted the lotus flowers there, here you can see them in the background while I am making a water color sketch.

This little equine portrait is a cute little filly which is being trained by my friend S. She came as a very scared little thing, grown up in the wild. She is the offspring of a mare from a free-roaming group of Exmoor ponies, and a naughty spanish stallion who escaped his comfortable lodgings to have a night of hanky-panky with the wild ladies. Who consequently gave birth to a pack of cruzados, all unwanted because the aim was to keep the Exmoors as a pure herd.

So little Kyra arrived as a shivering bundle of nerves, and my friend S has been working with, and caring for the little lady for about six months now. By now Kyra has about doubled in size, her somewhat crooked legs have become straight, and she has become a very sweet friendly little horse, enjoying working with S. and looking forward to every session, and looking at the world with open curiosity.

I was completely taken with her.

My friend S also likes photography and she had one photo which struck me in it’s monumental simplicity. She send it to me. I usually don’t work from photo’s other than using them for details, information. The danger with really working from a photo is that you get a very static painting. You can usually see at first glance when an artist has copied a photo. There is something languid and boring and static about such paintings.
Yet when one has to make a portrait of a horse on another continent, or one which has died, one has no choice. If I have to use photo’s and can’t meet the horse in person, I prefer to get a lot of photos. That way I can have a more complete image in my mind of the horse and it’s personality.

I think the major problem is that if you have such a clear, static, two-dimensional image in front of you, you tend to concentrate far too much on that easy image.
I have noticed paintings which follow a photo so slavishly that silly things are copied too, like a hoof dangling at a weird angle. Now the human mind works thus: if it is a Photo, your brain doesn’t really register a detail which is artistically a bad detail. But as soon as that image is transferred to a drawing or painting it becomes immediately apparent. So you should weed out those things which will look wrong in a piece of art. You should also avoid looking too much at the photo, but instead concentrate more on your painting.

So as I looked at that photo I kept seeing more details, more interesting combinations between blacks, greys and browns. I thought it would be an interesting study, use the one photo, try not to get bogged down with details, and explore those subtle colours.

Now of course I also know Kyra very well, but I really wanted this to be an excercise in using only one photo, and keep it fresh.

So what do you think?

This is also Diary painting 9/10 December. And to show you a bit of my painting process I show you the portrait half-finished too.

The photo of Kyra

Kyra half finished


9/10 december 2010
9” × 9” oil on canvas

Aafke Art on YouTube

aafke at you tube




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