Monday, 1 September 2014

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (ca. 1797 – 1861)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) was a very prolific Japanese print artist from the Edo era. The Asholean museum in Oxford (England) has on show a few of his prints from a series titled Heroes of the Great Peace (太平記英勇傳- Taiheiki eiyuden), published by Yamamotoya Heikichi (山本屋平吉).

Utagawa Kuniyoshi  studied with Utagawa Toyokuni. He was one of the three principal 'Ukiyo-e' artists of the late Edo period, together with Hiroshige and Kunisada (Toyokuni III).

Although better known as Utagawa Kuniyoshi,the artist used a number of aliases. He is also known as: Ichiyusai (一勇彩); Saihosha (採芳舎); Chooro (朝櫻楼); Sekkoku (雪谷); Senshin (仙真); Ryuen (柳燕); Ichimyokai Hodoyoshi (一妙開程芳); Ikusa (井草); Magosaburo (孫三郎); Yoshisaburo (芳三郎).
These prints are woodblock prints on paper. For Japanese prints, the term 'woodblock' is used instead of 'woodcut'. In Japan cherry wood is used for woodblock printing, where as in the West pear or lime wood are usual woods for woodcut printing.

Orio Mosuke Yasaharu (the historical Horio Yoshiharu) wrestling a boar. (35.7 cm x 25.4 cm)- Date: 1848-1850.

The warrior Inaue Daikurō discharging a cannon (36.2 x 25 cm). Date: 1847 - 1850

Larger image (from the British Museum online database).

Read the story of Inaue Daikurō, the warrior on this print, at the site of the Jameel Centre.

The warrior-monk Negoro no Komizucha defending himself with a pole (36.2 x 25 cm). Date: 1847 - 1850

Larger image (from the British Museum online database).

Read the story of ‘Negoro no Komizucha’, the brave warrior-monk of Negoro-ji on this print, at the site of the Jameel Centre.

Related articles and resources

Book on Japanese print from the Edo period

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Limiting waste when painting with oil paint

With the cost of paint and art supply, I make sure to waste as less as possible.

Making the best use of your paint

When I paint in oil, I put all the colours on my palette before I start painting, because I don’t want to have to stop and break the rhythm when I am in the flow. I pour a blob of each colour (experience will tell you how much you need for a certain canvas size) and two or three times the amount of the colour paint for Titanium White.

Even if I am careful, I always end-up with some paint left on the palette. For example, my painting Coate Water Lake turned more on the cooler side of the palette. I used most of the blue colours, but was left with some of the following:
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson
Certain colours in oil paint are pricey and you would be surprised how much money you would waste by just wiping off the paint. There is so much you could do with the left-over paint.

A few things you can do to make the most of the paint left.

  • The first option is obvious. If you plan to carry on working on the painting the next day, the paint should still be good. Traditional oil paint takes a few days to harden. Same thing if you plan to start another painting the next day. In both cases, selectively clean your palette to wipe out thin layers of paint that would dry more quickly and areas where you mixed the colours.

  • Outlining your next painting and putting on some undertones. I did just that in the painting below. Warm tones (orange and red) work well as undertone for grass and foliage because they are complimentary colours to blue and green colours. Don’t be afraid to be bold.

Re-using oil thinner

The first way to save thinner is to pour only what you need. I am using a small metal dipper that I clip on the side of the palette. The lid allows me to close the dipper and bring the full dipper back home without any mess. Some models have two containers.

When coming back from an outdoor session, I would start cleaning the brushes by dipping them first in the used thinner and pressing them on a rag (for a step-by-step description of the cleaning process, see Cleaning your brushes for oil painting).

I then use the same thinner to clean (or partially clean) my palette. I just pour the thinner on the palette and wipe the paint with a rag or some tissue paper.

Related resources and articles

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Coate Water Lake

Coate Water Lake - Oil painting (18" x 14") by Benoit Philippe

I did this plein-air painting on Saturday in Coate Water Country Park in Swindon (England). I sat on a bench sheltered by trees, which became convenient when the rain fell shortly after I started... I was also glad to work with oil and not watercolour.

Here is the palette I used for this painting. All paints are by Winsor & Newton:
  • Titanium white (Griffin Alkyd paint)
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cobalt Turquoise Light 
  • Cobalt Blue Hue (Griffin Alkyd)
  • French Ultramarine (Griffin Alkyd)
  • Phthalo Blue (Griffin Alkyd)

Friday, 22 August 2014

St John Baptist & St Helen graveyard - watercolour

I am not usually painting in graveyards and I only did it for a commission. That said, there is nothing sinister about the graveyard of St John Baptist & St Helen church in Wroughton (The village of Wroughton is located 3 miles south of Swindon, England).

St John Baptist & St Helen church graveyard - Watercolour (38 x 30 cm) by Benoit Philippe

The churchyard covers around five acres grass, trees (including some old yew trees with wide branches) and wild areas.

The historic church building contains a few features from the 12th century, was extended in the 14th and 15th centuries, and altered in the 19th century. Around the church are centuries old headstones.

The lower and newest part of the graveyard is located down a planted bank and looks towards a beautiful valley. This is the view I was asked to paint on location.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Painting spots along the Thames

On Sunday, the weather proved better than forecasted and we enjoyed a nice family walk along the Thames. We started from Buscot, crossing the Buscot Lock, built in 1790 on the River Thames. It is the smallest of the 45 locks on the Thames operated manually by pushing and pulling large beams.

We then followed the twists of the river Thames for a few miles, until we reached Kelmscott. Both Buscot and Kelmscott are traditional Cotswold villages with grey stone houses and cottages.

On the way, I noticed many places that would make perfect painting spots. I managed to shoot a few good pictures that I may use as reference photographs for paintings.

Eaton Footbridge

We passed KelmscottHouse that dates from the 1780s. It is a museum open to the public, but it is closed on Sunday. The designer, poet and socialist William Morris (1834-1896) lived in this house from 1878 until his death. 

Kelmscott House

On the bright side, The Plough Inn (a 17th Century Inn) was open for business, with a very cheerful and welcoming landlord. I highly recommend the place.

The Plough Inn

I noticed a somewhat art related advertising plaque on the outside wall. Not sure how easy it is to paint with a pint in hand…

And at the back of the Inn, they built a beautiful tree-house.

I must go back sometime on this walk with my easel…