Michele Clamp Art

The Zbukvic Emulation Experience

Michele ClampComment

After yesterday's decision to do a detailed value sketch for all paintings I promptly completely ignored it and went straight in with some paint.   In my defense I had spent a while doing some practice value swatches.   This was a game of 'guess the value from the paint on the palette' which I did pretty well at.   Further in my defense this was only meant to be a quick doodle while I contemplated what to do as a 'proper' painting.  

Despite the terrible (for me) cheap paper this came out quite well.   For once I didn't rush it and blunder around like a bull with a paintbrush.   I concentrated on keeping the grays colorful and not muddy and this helped a lot.   

I think I may be on a path out of this painting desert.   I certainly hope so.

Joseph Zbukvic Sketch

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As I was in sketching mode here is a quick sketch of Joseph Zbukvic himself.   Apologies to Mr Zbukvic.  As if it wasn't bad enough that I'm butchering his paintings :-)

Zbukvic Practice

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I'm persevering with trying to get a handle on Joseph Zbukvic's style.   I think this is the closest I've managed so far and I had a bit of an epiphany on the way.

Browsing through pinterest I came across a lot of Mr Zbukvic's sketches.  And boy are they great.   For example :

Nice huh?   I mean really nice.    And the thing that struck me was there's no contour drawing here.    Not much outlining at all.   It's all *values* and a lot of them.   Now my 'value' sketches look something like this :

Bit different huh?    To be fair his sketches are 'proper' sketches and mine are just layout thumbnails but it got me thinking.    If I'm having a problem getting a good range of values into my paintings how about I practice with a more detailed value sketch first?    Genius yes?   I then hit myself in the face for not thinking of this before.

So I tried to do something a little more detailed 


Better yes?   Actually now I come and look at it again I could have gone further but definitely better.

Interestingly when I came to the painting itself I found there was very little drawing to be done.   Once the roofs and windows were done and the boat everything else could be left.   And the lack of drawing made for a very different painting experience.   It felt much much simpler and I could play about with the colors and the textures.  Even selecting the values felt easier as everything had been simplified beforehand.

So I think there's something here I can use.    The finished painting is nothing to write home about but boy it's better than all the others I've tried.   If I ever do something to be proud of I'll post all the failures but I'm not there yet.

Oh - and here's the Zbukvic original.    Had to put it at the end as the comparison is painful.


Horse Sketches - Then and Now

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Sometimes it's good to look back.   The sketch on the right is from 2012 and the one on the left is me doodling at my desk just now.   Not perfect by any means but gosh what a difference.


Had another quick go at the face.

Crowstone House - Take 2

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My second go at Crowstone House.   Much more of a painting this time and the shimmer of the sun on the white windows comes across well.

Happy Feet - Practice Session on Bird Feet

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Even though I have painted a lot of birds I struggle with their feet.   I'd warmed up the brushes early this morning and it felt like a good time to have a practice session.   The problem as always is that I tend not to 'see' the feet properly and so they come out like symbols rather than shapes and values.  Often the rest of the bird looks good but then the feet look stuck on and out of place. 

This was the final and most successful of the test pieces.   I'd managed to get the lights placed well to indicate the curve of the talons and also judged the values correctly so they look like they're actually grasping something.  Well worth doing.


Here's the first practice sheet with varying degrees of success.   Surprisingly enjoyable.

Unperturbed Hoopoe

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Pigeon sketch asisde it's been a long while since I've done a bird.   After the  Maine Exhibition I was a bit birded out but a few months have gone by since then and I was feeling a bit guilty about leaving the facebook Paint Colorful Birds for Fun page empty for so long.   

Hoopoes are certainly colorful so they fit the bill but continuing the theme of subtlety I wanted to give this a calm, dignified mood rather than go full blast on the orange.    Looking past the flashy head feathers I very much like the soft purple shadows on the neck and breast.  It's a small effect but adds some calmness to a bird that could easily be one dimensional.

Oh - and he's unperturbed because there was a humdinger of a thunderstorm going on while I was painting this.   Windows and walls rattling and everything.

Southend Seafront

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We were back in the UK last week and this building caught my eye while we were strolling along Southend seafront.   I loved the unusual shape of the building and the contrast between the white window frames and the darks of the brick.     As I'm in experimental mode I tried a few different things when planning the painting :

 -  Keep everything that isn't the house simple.    Sky, foreground and even the parts of the house that I'm not particularly interested in.   Pretty successful in this but a smidgen more detail in the foreground may have helped.   Sky is great - even the blossoms look good.

 - Keep the colors muted.   There are a lot of paintings out there (mine included) that look like a jar of jelly beans.   They may have an initial *pow* effect especially on social media but I'm after a more subtle, long lasting picture.     Somewhat successful here but I'm thinking rather than dull everything down I'll keep to a restricted palette in future.

 - Loosen up the lines of the building but keep the effect sharp.    What do I mean by this?   Buildings are made up of a *lot* of straight lines and it's easy to start painting everything perfectly even and straight.    This makes for a very dull, awkward looking painting.  It's not a bad rule, in fact, to break up any straight lines in a painting.   The human brain fills in the missing pieces for you and it ends up looking 'right'.    The tricky bit is knowing which bits to break up and which bits to rough around a bit.    In general your verticals need to be vertical and your horizontals horizontal.    Keep these true to life unless you really know what you're doing.   Everything else is pretty much up for grabs.  Windows especially - you can smoosh the paint around when painting windows and brain goes  'yup - that's a window'.   Fairly happy with this part - stopped just this side of messiness.

So as an experiment this was a successful outing.   As a painting however it lacks a bit of soul but you can't have everything.  Maybe next time Clamp.


A quick preparatory sketch.    Should do more of these.

Pigeon Sketch

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Had a fair bit of activation energy to overcome to get started again after a break.   James suggested getting back in the swing of things with a pigeon.   We've been in the UK for a week and were woken up by two enormous pigeons nesting at the top of a tree right outside our bedroom window so it seemed appropriate.   This little chap isn't quite as fat as our ones but he definitely has more attitude.

Pigeon With Attitude

8”x10”/14”x16” matted

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Marlborough Farmhouse - Take 2

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Over the past few days I've been trying to work on improving the values in my paintings.   My attempt yesterday had good color but the values were lacking.   Today the aim was to do a value sketch of the same scene and get a better pattern of lights and darks.   As it turned out I just painted the whole thing again which wasn't the aim.   On the plus side the values are definitely better.    

Now it's up on the screen I think I need to focus in more and keep the scenes smaller and simpler.   Too much is going on for me to really get to grips with those tricky midvalues.

(1/8 sheet, Lanaquerelle 140lb cp)