The Art of Sandra Busby...
Painter of Playful Light in Glass and Still Life


Friday, 21 October 2011

W.I.P. Thinking like Sherlock...

Well I have been busy, busy, busy with the second in my series of bears and I have decided to give you just a little peak at the stage I am at right now.

I have finally finished the under-painting, which I did to establish my darkest tones and as you can see there are plenty of them!
I am aiming for another old fashioned style painting, rather like the last bear.  That old bear of Dads taught me so much, so this time I feel ready to be a little braver!

I love this stage. It really does give me an idea of how it will look when it is complete...

© Sandra Busby

(Ignore the blue area in the corner, that's just the light from the window hitting the canvas)

This bear belongs to my Mum and though vintage in style, I actually brought it for her just a few years ago. I have yet to decide whether or not I should 'tatty it up' a bit for the sake of the painting but I'll decide as the painting progresses :0)

That beautiful antique magnifying glass, which was kindly lent to me by a family friend reminded me of the sort of thing that Sherlock Holmes might have carried around whilst investigating crimes.
This got me thinking... painting is sort of similar really; although it's not quite like solving a crime, it is still an investigation of sorts. We are still looking at the evidence before us, building a picture and piecing together the puzzle in order to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Just like Sherlock, I seem to go through stages of frustration and elation during the whole process.
One minute I am scratching my head, for something is wrong or out of place and so I have to step back and unravel, look just that little bit closer, until I reach one of those wonderful 'Aha!' moment.
It is when those very moments happen, that I find myself one step closer to concluding the whole picture and reaching that long awaited verdict when I can finally declare 'Case Closed'!

The frustration with this one hasn't been in the painting itself, but rather in arranging a good composition in the first place.
I really wanted something glass in the picture and the magnifying glass seemed in-keeping with the tatty old books, which I picked up from a local Antique book store. 
Incidentally, one of the books is called 'Through the Looking Glass', making the magnifying glass even more relevant.

I had hoped to used the glass to create all sorts of wonderful distortions to the wording on the books, but no matter how hard I tried, it always left the composition looking overly contrived and it also seemed to take the focus away from the bear. So, instead I laid it in front of the books as something relevant to catch the light in what will be a predominantly dark painting.
Once the painting is complete, I hope I can borrow the magnifying glass again at a later date, because I do want to play around with some distortions at some point and glass is a favorite subject of mine to paint :0)

Since solving the composition issues, from then on it has been pretty plain sailing so far. Perhaps it's because, like the last bear, I had a pretty clear idea in my head from the start of how I want it to look. Let's hope it continues that way!

For once I have been properly timing how long I am spending on one painting. So far, from the moment I picked up my pencil to draw my initial sketch (as shown in my last post), to the under-painting as it is now, it has taken me 16.5 hours!

Anyway, I need to get back to my investigation now. This is the really exciting bit - time to add some colour!!

Take care everyone :0)


  1. Sandra it is looking SO beautiful! I just love that bear. You've painted him with such personality. And the books too. Why yes I do think books can have personality!

    You know what I see when I look at this painting? I see you. Your style, your heart right there. And that my friend is truly awesome to behold. Can't wait for the next step. :D Sherlock away.

  2. This basic patch is absolutely flawless!
    The great painters used the sepia, the land to start his paintings.
    You started very well, root for the success to the end.
    a hug

  3. First, you are so good with writing..I love your posts..second..this is going to be such a beautiful bear. I love it already!

  4. It looks like a great composition, Sandra, and a good start. I love reading your "story" about the work, as well. Weird thing, I've been thinking of trying some anamorphic effects in my painting, too!!!

  5. Enjoyed reading this post. It is so cool to learn how other artist think when composing a picture. I think the composition is visually and intellectually stimulating.

  6. This is looking like another stunner, Sandra. As Sherlock would say, 'the plan is afoot'!

  7. Looking good so far, Sandra!

  8. This is looking good! I'm glad you've decided to paint this bear and find your 'bearings' again!

  9. Crystal - Thank you! These books have a personality because they are so old and so tatty, lol! There are all sorts of written inscriptions inside the cover too, written in old fashioned handwriting in fountain pen. Fascinating really! At the moment I am having an issue with the fur... Oh, I'm sure it'll come together in the end :0)

    Antonio - I'm glad you noticed that, thank you! I am trying to enbrace the way the old masters used to paint, but at the same time injecting my own modern twist. I really hope it ends up how I hope, because this bear will be much harder to paint that my Dads! :0)

    Hilda - Thank you! I LOVE writing. If I had more time I would do lots of it! If I could have my life all over again I would most certainly have started writing as a teenager and tried to make a career of it. Maybe in my next life ;0)

    Studio - Thank you! Ooh, I can't wait to see those! :0)

    Prabal - Thank you! I'm glad I spent plenty of time and thought on the composition. It is such an important consideration isn't it :0)

    Michael - , lol! Thank you! :0)

    Pat - Thank you very much! :0)

    Judy - Hehe! I can feel lots of those puns to come, lol! Thank you! :0)

  10. Hi Sandra. Thanks for your comment on my blog. Your tonal range is looking pretty good here. I'm sure you will be doing what I am about to say but just in-case..I would consider knocking the bears' torso down so that it doesn't compete so much with the primary highlights (try to subordinate other tones to the main highlight) Try asking yourself 'is this bit darker/lighter than this bit etc..' Also, I think in the next layers you should get 'intimate' with your edges and really look at them instead of aiming for neat outlines (basic shapes are an important start, but there is tonnes of mileage to be got from a painting if you study the edges). You will find most edges to be very soft and you will probably want to hint at the occasional wisp of fur. Some of the outlines could be 'lost' altogether and so should be carefully blurred into the background. You will need to be subtle but I doubt there is a single hard line on a bear. With experience you can create a seemingly infinite illusion of lost and found edges. It is important not to be afraid of 'losing' your drawing. In summary 1. concentrate on your tonal relationships 2. Get variety in the edges. 3. Be brave 4. take lots of breaks :D

    Hope that helps.

  11. James - Thank you! Yes, I know what you mean. The purpose of my under-painting is just to give me a guide and to make sure it works as a whole but I do tend to adjust things as I go along for the good of the painting, without necessarily feeling as though I have to paint exactly what's in front of me. Oh that good old artistic license! Don't you just love it? It's a case of learning how to use it well though isn't it? Sometimes I get it right and sometimes not. Like you say, it's so important to think, take a break and not to rush.
    I LOVE playing with lost and found edges. I did this a lot with the last bear on his darkest side, and the soft, almost lost edge to his foot. Looking at the bear now, I can see things I would do differently if I did it again now because that painting taught me so much, but then again it was painted from the very depths of my heart and so I suppose any naivity in the painting is just part of it :0)
    I will definitely be painting that ole' bear again some day though as I learn more and more :0)

  12. Hi there Sandra!... Glad that I found your fine site!

    I love the interesting blend of medium... exploration and photographic images.

    The current bear portrait is going to be smashing! A beautiful... sensitive composition and superb draughtsmanship! Can't wait to see what you do with it!

    I'll be checking in from time to time! Really enjoyed my first visit! Thank "You"!

    Good Painting!
    Warm regards,
    Bruce Sherman

  13. This is just great. A very intellectual-looking bear you have there. Love the composition and thoroughly enjoyed your post. ;-)

  14. Bruce - Thank you so much for dropping in! It always makes me smile when another face appears!
    I'm enjoying how the painting is progressing so far. I really hope it continues that way :0)

    John - Thank you! I suppose the bear does look a little intellectual doesn't he! Not long I hope until it's complete :0)

  15. Sandra this is beautiful. i actually love it how it is-looking like an old fashioned sepia photograph . do you use oils? i have so much to learn on application but i love how completelt smooth this looks-i tend to blob the paint on (and then wonder why it takes a fortnught to dry between coats!)
    i'll look forward to seeing the next steps.
    btw thanks for your comment on my blog-yep a little premature for Christmas cards but if i don't get my designs done soon I'll have nothing to sell at my stall! also i wanted to confratulate you on the post you wrote about the gallery-my work computer wouldn't let me leave a comment (think its to do with the word verification) anyway, that such exciting news and i would be hugely surprised if you dont end up with an exhibition of your gorgeous work!

  16. Having been extremely lucky to have seen this at its latest stage, privilage of being your Sister, and even more lucky, to see you actually working on it, I think that it is magical how even the little bit I saw you complete grew. It surprised me quite how long such a little detail can take to come to life!!! I can see that all your Bloggy friends are going to find the completed picture absolutely delightful!! Anyway, thanks for a lovely day. x

  17. i'll come back to see the colours ! sound happy with this one ...ciao j

  18. Pointy-Pix - Thank you! I would love to have an exhibition one day but I do need to build up a collection of work I am entirely happy with first :0)
    Yes, this bear will be in oils, though I use acrylic for the under-painting for the sake of speed. I use a few drops of liquin in my oils which speeds up the drying process and I tend to work in thin layers. That said, I would like to use some impasto techniques one day :0)

    Amanda - It was a lovely day wasn't it? I don't normally like to paint whilst someone is watching, but since you were doing your own creative thing in the corner it didn't bother me at all. Having problems with the bear now and so have stepped away for a few days so I can look again with fresh eyes! I think its to do with the colour of the bear - he doesn't seem to harmonise with the rest of the painting. Hmmm....? :0)

  19. first of all this photo of the canvas and the set up is outstanding, a piece of art in itself!! and the painting is just wonderful. i so love to see the process. beautifully done.

  20. Very good shot! Happy we, Arianna

  21. Suzanne - Thank you! My Dad also likes the photo, which is mice because he used to a photographer! The painting's coming along nicely and I can't wait to finish it :0)

    Arianna - Thank you very much :0)


Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Where possible I will respond via email. I really do love to read them! They always make me smile ;0)


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