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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brown trout

Brown trout © Peter Gander
It always comes back to fishing and I’ve had woeful absence of that lately, so if you can’t fish for them, catch them on paper instead, I say. The wonderfully textured surface of The Langton Prestige Mould Made paper (300gsm) is used to good effect on the lower parts of the fish’s body with a dryish brush. Drawn with a 5B pencil.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Portrait: Nikki

Nikki © Peter Gander
Nikki at work has a very dramatic short and wavy hairstyle which motivated me to paint her. Her very dark hair is also a great contrast to her pale complexion. Painted from a reference pic taken back in the summer, the strong sun from a window added to the stark contrasts. In fact, I left the skin tone as the near-white of the Langton paper to emphasise and simplify things. Using the brush with a dryish mix of pigment for her hair lends a textural effect to the highlights, otherwise the hair becomes just a dark puddle of colour. Watercolour (Winsor & Newton) on Langton Prestige Mould-made 300gsm ‘Grain Torchon’ (rough) paper.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Man’s Head, British Museum

Old Man’s Head, (possibly the poet Hesiod), British Museum © Peter Gander
’Tis the season to be sketching indoors a bit more now, especially on a dull day like today so back I went to a favourite Rainy Day haunt, The British Museum. I’m lucky enough to work only ten minutes walk away from this free-to-enter Aladdin’s cave of drawing subjects. Though the museum does lend out free stools for sketching/studying purposes, I did this sketch from a standing position. Using a Daler-Rowney Murano Pastel Pad (Neutral colours) and both a Sanguine Oil pencil and Soft White Sketching pencil, I drew this ‘Marble head of an old man, possibly the post Hesiod’ according to the plaque. Like my recent post, Ship in a bottle, the speckled, stony texture of the pastel paper works especially well for studies like this, adding much character. © Peter Gander

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Mall Galleries

The Mall Galleries © Peter Gander
The set-up for painting on the train  © Peter Gander
Yesterday I walked down to The Mall Galleries in The Mall, near Trafalgar Square. The gallery was showing The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Engravers exhibition. Outside a warm sun was shining strongly, dappling through the plane trees the whole length of The Mall, opposite St James’ Park, reminding me of the avenues of France. (The London plane trees nearby in the south east corner of the park date back to the 1820s). Viewing the gallery and a 15 minute walk each way wasn't going to allow me the time to do any painting myself, so I did a quick pencil sketch, took a colour reference pic on my mobile (for colour ref) and actually painted this from scratch on the train (yes, the train) on the way home! I wouldn't recommend it and it only really works if the jogging of the train doesn't hamper your style (it wouldn't work if you like to paint ruler-straight lines - but my style is loose and impressionistic). I am no fan of having a hundred brushes to hand and there is no room for such luxuries when you only have a foot square drop-down train table to work on. Brush-wise, I used a Pro Arte Renaissance Squirrel size 2 mop, which holds a lot of water for the washes, yet has a fine tip too for the smaller areas. Also in the pic is an unused filbert travel brush (in gold). Plus my tiny Winsor & Newton Pocket Plus watercolour palette, at 12 half-pans and only 13cm x 7cm when stowed, it's ideal for such cramped conditions. (Note the well-designed clip-on palette extension which gives extra space for colour mixing). Not forgetting a couple of water wells (one with  a screw-top) decanted from an old plastic milk carton, a piece of wax candle (for those interesting wax-resist effects) and some tissue complete the equipment list. The watercolour paper was clipped to a pad for resting on, useful for angling purposes as the train table is too much of a right angle. Hopefully this shows you what is possible in confined spaces and makes good use of commuting time. Oh, and expect a few strange looks on the train! Watercolour on 150gsm paper, 178mm w x 127mm h. FOR SALE £50 inc P&P UK mainland only, email me with enquiries: petergander(at)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tower Bridge from Cannon Street station

Tower Bridge from Cannon Street station © Peter Gander
I often travel into Cannon Street in the mornings and the sun at this time of day is just coming up over The Thames from the east behind Tower Bridge, silhouetting it against a vapour trail-scarred sky. Much detail is rendered into simple shapes or silhouettes in this contre jour (against the sun) view and the sparkling water looks like a painter's dream. The rail signals of Cannon Street station are seen on the right. This is about as far as you can walk up the end of the platform to get such a fine view as it's purely a railway, not a pedestrian, bridge. Canary Wharf tower is visible in the background. This was painted with only Payne's Grey and Ultramarine and the heavyweight, pulpy Khadi paper on which it's painted allows for plenty of time for those lovely mixes of pigment to infuse into each other, as it stays wet for a good length of time. It virtually paints itself! Sparingly loading the brush (a Kolinsky blue squirrel mop) with dry pigment  and dragging the side of it across the paper gives the effect of sparkling water on the Thames as the tooth of the paper picks up the paint in a textured manner. Watercolour on 210gsm rough Indian Khadi paper. 24cm wide x 18cm high. • FOR SALE £75 email with enquiries, first come, first served. UK mainland only, free postage. Non-UK £100 inc postage.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mermaid fountain, Trafalgar Square, London

Trafalgar Square Fountain © Peter Gander
Returning from The Mall Galleries in my lunch hour the other day where I saw and met Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson at his ‘Power and the Passion’ exhibition, I emerged short of sketching time. I had only a quarter of an hour or so to sketch and returned to one of my favourite drawing subjects, the fountains at Trafalgar Square. This particular mermaid fountain is by Sir Charles Thomas Wheeler (1892-1974). There are two like this in Trafalgar Square dating from between the World Wars. The other one is by a different sculptor and features mermen. There is something about these verdigris-coloured figures and their mystical nature that reminds me of the Ray Harryhausen films I watched when I was young in the 70s where such mythical creatures came to life, like Medusa, harpies and cyclops. Fantastic stuff! The tiny sharks visible here skim the scales of the mermaid in such a skilful way and the sculpture reveals new surprises from whichever angle you view the piece. Quite an achievement. I hope to produce a 'fully-fledged' painting of this fountain, people, National Gallery background et al at a later date, it's such a rich view. 5B carbon pencil (the ones without the wooden surround) and watercolour on heavyweight cartridge pad.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Pret delivery man

100101 Pret delivery man © Peter Gander 
Prets (Pret a Manger) Oxford Street, London, was my port of call for lunch today (Malaysian chicken soup was fabulous). Too wet outside today for ‘live’ sketching, so this is drawn from an old reference photo back at work in one of our teeny meeting rooms as the rain lashed the windows. Never traced of course, (that would be the sure death of the drawing), but stuck on a wall and drawn by eye, as if from life. That way a spontaneity is retained and the artist’s flair or character comes through in the style of drawing. Though it is really way too thin to take watercolour (at 160gsm), I used a pastel paper, Daler Rowney Murano (Neutral colours) Pastel Pad, as I liked the appropriate stony base colour for the stone-flagged streets of London. The white areas are Conté pencil and the key of the paper is visible in those areas. The Conté adds a lovely pastel-like chalkiness. Carbon pencil and watercolour on Daler-Rowney Murano Pastel Paper.