Michele Clamp Art

Horse Wrestling - The End

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Well here is the final thing.   I think I'm pretty pleased with this although as always it has to sink in for a few days to know for sure.   This has been the most complicated commission so far and was a lot of work.   Definitely worthwhile though and now I can paint horses noses like a pro.

Let's have a quick look back as to how I got here.

My first attack was just a quick sketch to see whether my horse drawing ability had improved :

Not perfect by any means but much improved from even a year ago.    This encouraged me so I ventured into a color sketch.

Hmm.   Not quite what I had envisioned.   A bit too sketchy for a commissioned work I think. 

How about if I include some background (straw clutching here) :


 Nope. Back to the drawing board.

So let's expand the subject matter a little I thought.   Include a couple of extra riders and see how that works out :

Oh good grief no.    I like the shadows on the white horse and nothing else.    Let's try something else.    How about just a torso shot?

Ok so we're going in completely the wrong direction.   An intervention is needed here.   This is obviously not going anywhere.    Need to completely rethink and try and remember how to paint.

At this point I put down the brushes for a day or so and came back fresh.   I decided to tighten up the drawing somewhat and go back to the 3 horses and riders.    This started to look a lot better :

   MUCH happier now.    The drawing is better, the painting is better,  the brushwork is better, and the horses really do look like horses.     So what changed?   One thing was I really took a lot of care over the drawing.    Carefully observing all the shapes correctly and taking some time over it.  This made it a lot easier to apply the paint and keep it loose knowing I didn't have to correct the drawing at the same time.

But I still wasn't completely happy.    I wasn't sure that the 'three in a row' look was the best so into photoshop (actually gimp) I went and played around with the arrangement.  Pulling them all together in a clump felt a lot better so I went with that :

Yup.   This is the one - let's do this.

The final change I made was to increase the size of paper I was using.    Everything up until now had been on 11"x14" paper.    I upped the size to 18"x24" and made the painting portrait.

So the plan was :

 - Careful drawing.

 - Decide which edges to lose ahead of time.

- Be careful painting the horses heads and legs - these bits are the most important on a horse.

- Keep the faces recognizable as human but not of anyone in particular.   When I'm painting from photos and haven't met the people in person I find it very difficult to get a likeness.

- Make it look like a painting.  Not sure what I mean by this but it's basically to make sure all the shapes hang together and everything is part of a whole with no areas of the paper left out.   This doesn't mean paint on every square inch but rather that every part relates to every other part.

By this morning I was almost there.   All the horses had gone in well as had the people.  Increasing the image size had helped enormously and I was pleased with the final composition.

The very last thing was to put some bunting in across the top.   It was actually quite tricky to keep this loose but flicking a lot of water about helped here.


Horse Wrestling - Take 5

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Getting somewhere now.   Decided on a bigger format and rearranged the composition.

Using image editing software I squished the horses together to make things a bit more interesting.

Some Intermediates:



Horse Wrestling - Take 4

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Finally getting somewhere with the horses.    I went back to more of a contour-like original drawing which gave everything a bit of life.   I don't know whether this is the final thing yet but we're close.   

Some intermediates :

The drawing.   Looks a lot better at this stage  - I need to remember not to get too stiff in the painting.

I did the horses and riders one by one.  First the central figure.   The faces are so small it was impossible to get a likeness.   This may be a good reason to do a larger version.

Second horse in.   I'm feeling pretty good here.    Thankfully I didn't screw up on the third one.

Horse Sketch

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I have a commission that I really want to do a good job on.   Well of course I always want to do a good job but this one is, ummm, tricky.    Horses.   Horses with riders.   Not straightforward and even Mr Zbukvic says horses are the most difficult things on the planet.  So today was horse sketching day.     Not fantastically successful but progress is being made.   

And we have a video!    First time doing a time lapse on the iphone.   This was very professionally propped up on a coffee mug next to the water jar and came out well considering.

It's very strange to watch this.   It looks like I just draw things and then color them in straightforwardly.    It is abolutely nothing like that in real life.    It's a constant stream of decisions, problem solving,  mistakes,  going over stuff.     Also - next time shoot from the left hand side.  Will have to get the tripod out.


Heron at Fiske Millpond, Upton

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Heron at Fiske Millpond, Upton, MA

This was an ambitious one for me but has a lot of good stuff in it.    We were visiting our friends Mark and Geneen and Geneen mentioned that the pond up the road was beautiful and I might like to take a look at it for a painting.    She was definitely right and frankly I haven't managed to do it justice here.   The reflections on the water are magical and we managed to catch a heron perching on the large rock in the evening sun.

A couple of intermediates :

The initial washes.

Almost there here.    Especially pleased with the foliage.

Rocky Neck Sketch

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It's a couple of years since I was painting at Rocky Neck in Gloucester MA.   I did a painting on site which I wasn't particularly happy with but still wanted to revisit the scene.  Before starting on the main painting of the day I tried out a quick monochrome sketch which has something worth building on.   I'll keep this one in my back pocket for a rainy day.

John Sulston Portrait

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Portrait of John Sulston.  Watercolor by Michele Clamp.  14"x11" on Saunders Waterford 200lb CP.

It was so sad to hear of John Sulston's passing earlier this year.   In my previous life I had the pleasure of working under his leadership on the Human Genome Project in Cambridge UK.   His scientific vision,  ethics, and leadership are unparalleled.   He is greatly missed.

Having said that I really didn't want to screw up his portrait.   I haven't done a portrait in a long time and this was really hit and miss.   First of all you need to get a likeness.  This means concentrating on observation skills for shapes and angles.    Banish from your mind things like 'now we do the eyes, now we do the nose'  and just get the relationship of the shapes exactly as you see them.   When I'd finished the drawing I definitely wasn't confident :

The beard was throwing me off a little but I couldn't see anything obviously out of whack so it was time to go in with the paint.

First washes - some warmth in the face fading out to cool near the hairline.  Very Charles Reid this bit.

Next to start on more details.   First the eyes, being careful to not paint them in outline but place pieces of color where I could see them.   Then onto the nose and mouth.  The mouth was the trickiest bit - John had a very distinctive mouth that had a lot of humour and kindness in it.   Combined with the beard (oh that beard gave me all sorts of trouble) this could be make or break.

But the Gods were smiling on me and the likeness appeared out of the mist.   At this point I did a test and showed James asking 'Guess who this is!'.    Thankfully he guessed right and also gave very good advice to not do too much more to it.

It was very good advice which I promptly ignored.  Thankfully I put the brushes down before doing too much damage and I'm very pleased with the final thing.

Just a Bit of Fun - Sunset Edition

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 Sunset on the highway.  Michele Clamp.  11"x14". Watercolor on 200lb Bockingford

Sunset on the highway.  Michele Clamp.  11"x14". Watercolor on 200lb Bockingford

So the paint just wasn't going away and I was left with orange, red and phthalo blue.   So perfect for a sunset yes?   After rooting around on paintmyphoto  I found a sunset that looked doable but not fiendish.  My previous sunsets have left something to be desired and they can end up looking pretty cheesy.   This time I think I got away with it.   Pretty happy.



Swallowtail Butterfly - The End of the Palette

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Swallowtail Butterfly.   Watercolor by Michele Clamp.  11"x14" on 200lb Bockingford rough.

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I still haven't moved over to the new palette as I'm trying to use up all the paint in the old one (amazing how long it lasts).    I'm left with a lot of orange, red and pthalo blue so colorful butterflies came to mind.

 It was good fun to use some bright colors for a change and he came out fairly loose.  Pretty happy I think.

I did a quick sketch in the small 5x7 sketchbook :

This actually came out cleaner which is often the way.   Easier on a smaller scale though.

For completeness here is it part way through when the initial orange washes went on :

The Zbukvic Emulation Experience - Multiple Sketch Day

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After the french village post-mortem I was musing about how to go about simplifying my buildings paintings.    Going smaller was my first thought and all of these are done in a 5"x7" Strathmore sketchbook.    The paper isn't my favorite by a long chalk but it dries very quickly and forces me to work fast.    I wanted to do multiple copies of a fairly simple Joseph Zbukvic painting and see if I could get better at seeing the big shapes and get the values.

So 4 small paintings done in a couple of hours.  You can see how things changed over the 4 paintings.   The first one is a little bitty.   I'm not getting the big value areas well and the colors are a little slapdash.  Paintings 2,3, and 4 are much better in both regards.   It was a really worthwhile exercise to do.   Seeing them all together shows a big difference to me.  Strangely I didn't notice any difference as I was painting them.

Here's the original Zbukvic image  - lovely isn't it?