Its scorching hot, in the middle of the day in Greece, but have found a shady spot underneath a fig tree in a secluded corner of Galaxidi. The easel is up and the painting sketched out in charcoal directly onto the 80 x 60 cm canvas, underpainted in cerulean blue oils. Semi-squishy fallen figs get stuck on my sandals, but at least I found a subject quickly and have made a start. Its my last full day in Greece so need to work fast!
I love Greece, and all her people, but most of all love the old ways of life, and the old traditions. As I used to live in the north of Greece, in Thessaloniki, I read and write and speak fluent Greek, so its easy to feel Greek too!
This painting though was initially captured as a photo on my phone, as it was my last day in Samos, and was actually on my way to the airport, but had diverted on the spur of the moment, to take one last look at Manolates and to try to track down the lady I had heard wove traditional rag rugs on a handloom. I was standing outside her little shop while she package up my parcel, when I spotted this delightful old man walking up the hill, using a walking stick, so quickly positioned myself to get the ideal shot on my phone, as he approached the blue doors but without covering the view of another man casually sitting in front of that same door. Success!
It was several months later though when I finally got round to turning that initial idea into an oil painting.
It starts though by underpainting the canvas in diluted blue oil paint, then sketching out the image in charcoal.
Then gradually adding the main features of the people in the painting
Its for sale at £850, though I now prefer to keep all my work!
Contact Elaine Ask on +_447990867058 to arrange the purchase or buy it and pay online on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ElaineAskArtist
Its mid October on the Greek island of Samos. From the terrace above my little Airbnb house in Palaio Karlovasi, the views are perfect in every direction for painting.
The mountains opposite have a dreamy layer of mist floating below the peaks. Below that olive trees grow in red earth, and to the right a whole forest flourishes. Its the next level below that, that really catches my eye. A glowing white, red roofed house has three black short-sleeved shirts paraded like flags below the balcony. A large church building, Aghios Isidoros, hides the rest of the foreground from view. I make the church of lesser importance, and bring the house with the washing line much closer, as that is really my main subject.
Today the sky is flecked with clouds looking like horizontal brushstrokes, so that is where I start after sketching out the main outlines.
The painting in situe on my easel
This garden is in Washdyke Lane, Hucknall, Nottingham. The owner, who sadly has since passed away, was holding an artists’ get together . We were encouraged to be productive so I brought along my oil paints, and this smallish square canvass and set up my easel in his garden. Fortunately it didn’t rain and it was warm enough to be comfortable standing outside all afternoon. I was forced to think carefully about what to leave out in order to make this painting work , using only his garden as the subject. The bench, the garage and a few flowers were enough to create what you see here.
Sometimes the canvass you have to work with, doesn’t quite match the proportions of what you wish to include in it. See a photo below of the actual scene.
This style of drawing is one of my favourite where the lively pencil sketch from life is the main element of the composition , then overlaid with a light watercolour wash to allow the structure to still be viewed while also adding a dimension of colour.
This is a homely domestic scene. The teenager has an almost vacant, look, as she sits watching TV, and certainly doesn’t appear to be that happy. You can’t see what she is thinking, as she is wrapped up in her own little world. Its evening time, and in the top left hand corner of the painting, adjacent to a small plant, the little lamp on top of the wooden desk casts reflected colours onto the desk itself and the wall to the right, on which a painting of a child playing the violin hangs. The armchair on which she sits has a yellow cellular blanket draped over it, while the second armchair next to her is adorned with colourful cushions. On the far left is a patterned carpet/rug.
So many colours and patterns, yet somehow they all hang together!
Another painting from life , created ten years earlier than the one shown above, depicts Greek villagers going about their business in the summer of 1984
This is an older oil painting and it continues to be one of my favourites. It depicts my then 5 year old daughter eating black grapes that a kind Italian gentleman has just helped her wash under the tap at this Italian water pump in the street. Its the end of our long summer holiday in the North of Greece , so we are hitch-hiking home via Italy.
Saskia always loved to imitate her brother, wearing his outgrown underpants , aged 5 : of course she doesn’t do that anymore nowadays!
A photo is a moment in time, the shutter clicked to capture a subject that excites visually or emotionally, or it can simply be a notebook to record facts and ideas. Just as in photography, the choice of a subject for a painting can be made in a flash, or it can require slowly made decisions to choose that moment when the lighting is right and it all comes together. Before starting this painting, I walked all round the area, taking photos of potential subjects, then painted it on the spot, spread over two evenings, not finishing till almost nightfall. Below are some of the photos I took before choosing the painting that would emerge. The first three photos show what I did not choose to paint – but did consider – as they didn’t suit the size and proportions of my canvass, and it the case of the first photo, would work much better in graphic media, rather than oils.