Sunday, January 29, 2012

New camera!

It's taken almost three years to make a decision but I finally bought myself a new digital camera.

My first digital camera, purchased almost ten years ago, was a 4MP Nikon 4300 Coolpix. It was expensive at the time but I loved it to bits. The picture quality was astonishing, even by current standards in my opinion, and it had plenty of manual controls so I could override the auto functions when necessary. But it eventually started playing up (I did tend to drop it a lot) so I had to retire it.

Then I needed a camera to take away on a trip and I had to make a quick decision, so I naturally went with Nikon again. This time it was a cheap and simple L18 Coolpix. At 8MP I'd expected better results than I was used to with its 4MP cousin, but it wasn't to be. I've had it for almost three years and never really been happy with it. The images just never felt "right" and, frankly, didn't seem to me to be as sharp or detailed as the lower-resolution images from the 4300.

So I've been watching camera prices - and reading reviews - for a while until finally, this week, I saw a Canon 1100D SLR on sale for under $400. I wasn't really after a DSLR but I'd never seen them this cheap before so it was hard to pass up.

48 hours later and I'm loving it.

This little guy is a Bobtail Skink and was wandering across our back lawn this afternoon. Much more acceptable than the tiger snakes we've had hanging around for the two previous summers.

For those who are fascinated by such things, the photo was taken with the standard 18-55mm lens at full zoom, auto-focus, with the camera on macro setting. I was about 30-40cm away. I've cropped this section because the full image is a 4.5MB file.

I just love the detail.

So in future, when I mention that the photos of the paintings that I post here aren't up to scratch, you can blame the photographer (me), not the camera.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Handy Andy

I've just built myself a "custom-designed" computer/monitor stand for my new studio. I'm not much of a handy man ("Andy by name, not by nature", some might say), but I'm pretty happy with the result.

Built from some home-made shelves I pulled apart almost a year ago, it stands a little over a metre high, bringing the monitor up to a comfortable height for viewing whilst standing and painting. I also made the keyboard tray retractable so it all tucks neatly away when not in use.

It still needs a paint job.

I might add castors one day if I feel the need and find the confidence. And when I do that, I might consider adding some shelves to make better use of the space.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A change of approach

I decided it was time to try something different to see if I can make my plein air painting experience a little less challenging.

I've used limited palettes before, and it does help, but this week I tried a three-colour palette and pre-mixing.

I used French ultramarine, cadmium yellow light and cadmium scarlet, plus white.

I pre-mixed some warm and cool grey from these colours and used these as the starting point for other mixes. I then mixed patches of all the major colours I could see in the landscape before putting even one spot of paint on the painting panel.

My first attempts made some aspects of painting easier, since all decisions are made prior to painting, so all colours and tones are assessed and then mixed at the same time, side-by-side.

(Sketch for Grey day, Knights Road. 22x20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you've seen this tree before. It's a favourite spot.

It was cloudy while I was doing this painting. I don't think sunlight hit the scene the whole time I was there.

The first thing I've noticed from the changed approach is that the result is quite harmonious. That's hardly surprising when everything is mixed from just three colours. But the colours also seem somewhat neutral, to me.

I suspect my cadmium scarlet is just a bit too orange and, when mixed with the ultramarine, rather than making the sorts of clean violets I'm used to when using permanent crimson, I'm getting grey-browns.

(Sketch for Wild Ptilotus. 20x33cm oil on board. © Andy  Dolphin)

Those little fluffy things are the flowers of a Ptilotus, an Australian native plant. They were scattered in patches all over this strip of roadside bush.

This painting presented two challenges. Firstly, it was a new subject for me. I mostly paint scenic views whereas this was like a combination of landscape and still life. Secondly, I used the same limited palette, pre-mix approach I used above.

Again, I like the harmony but feel it is a little grey. I need to get some more rustic warm tones and natural greens in there. I'm going to go back and have another go as soon as possible.

For now, we've been promised thunder storms again - and the clouds are definitely building fast - so I'm going to have to go for a drive and see what nature can throw at me this time.

Clouds in oil

I love clouds. There are various types of formations, including stratus, cirrus and cumulus and infinite variations within, and combinations of, those categories.

I love them but rarely use them as a subject in their own right. I'll have to do something about that.

(Clouds over Mt Barker. 22x20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)
These, I believe, are cumulus clouds and they were building prior to a thunderstorm.

I painted this from my back verandah, an hour or so before the short-lived storm hit. The clouds were moving and changing very fast so, to speed things up, I used a limited palette. Even so, I had to "invent" most of the cloud detail, using bits of other clouds that formed and drifted by as reference.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bluff Knoll - sketches in oil

It's been warm and sunny here for a few days and I managed to get out to Bluff Knoll on two consecutive evenings.

Here's a couple of oil sketches I did.

(Sketch for Sunset Bluff. 22x20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

(Sketch for Behind the Bluff. 20x22cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

These are small sketches, done mostly with a single brush so there's not much in the way of fine detail. The major struggles were keeping track of the changing colours and trying to lock in the shadows that tend to stretch rapidly as the sun sets.