Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pablo Picasso – Painter and Twentieth Century Art Genius, or Was He a Smart Alec?

It may interest you to know that a lot of cubism and indeed modern art has been attributed to the contributions of one man – a genius of the twentieth century, and an artist whose legacy and life of art in the recent centuries have remained almost unmatched. Pablo Picasso was born in Spain in 1881, he was an infant genius who was recognised and helped early in life by his father who was also his teacher. The small Museo de Picasso is situated in Barcelona; it is a place that is strictly devoted to housing especially some of Picasso’s early works which also includes even a range of very realistic casts of ancient sculptures. 

Pablo Picasso (photo by Herbert List)

As a youngster Picasso was a non conformist of some sort, and he began frequenting the Barcelona cafes where intellectuals often gathered. Very soon he went to Paris which is regarded as the capital of art and familiarised himself thoroughly with the works of masters like Gustave Courbet, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec. Their sketchy styles of work inspired him a great deal; later he was off, and returned to Spain, then to France, then again to Spain all in the period 1899 – 1904.

Before Pablo Picasso discovered cubism he had experimented with, and gone through fascinating different styles such as realism, caricature, the Blue Period and the Rose Period. His blue period for instance ran from 1901-1904, and featured predominantly a blue palette, and his works then focussed mainly on depicting the lives of outcasts, prostitutes and beggars. At this period of his career, he produced some of his first works of sculpture in this style including a painting piece he did depicting his childhood friend - the Spanish poet Casagemas, who had committed suicide. And this work is a permanent collection of Cleveland's Museum of Art, La Vie.

'Guernica', painting by Pablo Picasso

The painting started off as a self portrait but ended up being that of his late bosom friend. Another popular work of Picasso’s of this period is the 1903 piece in the Metropolitan which he called ‘The Blind Man's Meal’. Another example is the very lyrical and mysterious piece housed in the Toledo Museum of Art titled ‘the haunting Woman with a Crow’ (1903). 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Watercolour Painting – How to Lay On a Successful Wash

In classical modern watercolour painting, there are guiding rules and techniques that apply. For instance, if you wish to put on a flat wash on your paper which of course you must have stretched, here is what to do: You have to mix the colour you want to lay on making sure you mix it in double quantity before starting out. You have to double the quantity you need because once you begin, you will not be able to stop to mix up another more quantity of paint.

Illustration of washes by Marion Boddy-Evans

Once you are set, make sure your painting (board) surface is tilted up just a bit, and begin by using your largest painting brush. But note that if you want to lay an even wash to your paper or any particular area of the paper, you should firstly dampen the area with water using a large brush or sponge. And so you can decide to lay an even wash or a graded wash. Now, load your brush and gently lay it on - sweeping from the top left of the paper i.e. assuming that you are right handed like me, towards the right and also downwards.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Landscape Painting and the Guiding Rules of Design, Harmony & Balance

Throughout painting history, artists have explored and exploited the landscape as a very important theme for expression. Landscape which generally means any form of portrayal of the earth in cognisance of the natural environment is a classical concept for romantic painters. Usually, it is either a mere portrayal or composition of nature per se, or an assemblage of nature with human intervention as regards the land, and or with an attendant body of water to it like the sea or river, etc.

I like to further describe landscape painting as the artist’s portrayal of any view of countryside, town, land and sky, water or even sea, in a panoramic, grandiose, local or intimate style. In drawing and painting landscapes however, all the elements of design and the ingredients of composition must be brought to bear because in the final analysis, no matter how colourful or populated your expression may be, if it tends to make the viewer overtly uncomfortable, then something must be perhaps technically wrong with it.

Watercolour painting: (c) Morgan Nwanguma

Thus a sense of balance and harmony must be enjoyed by anyone who views your landscape painting. There must be a sense of design which welds your composition in a harmonious and rhythmic fashion: the plains, rolling hills, the rivers or sea, must correspond with the sky and the entirety of nature, animals, human beings and structures, while producing a successful ‘piece of visual enjoyment’. 

When considering landscapes, I am forced to bring to mind old masters such as the duo of British greats - JMW Turner (1775-1851), and John Constable (1776-1837). Turner was an English landscape painter whose treatment of light and colour is said to have influenced the French impressionists. These old masters were outstanding and eloquent in the use of the two most important mediums of painting i.e. oil and watercolour. Personally, landscape painting is one of my favourite themes, and it draws with it and for me nostalgia and romantic sentimentalism. Quaint and natural landscapes especially of (rural) country sides, and even ruins, are just it for me, while some artists I know are also able to portray urban and city landscapes in a manner that will make you just fall in love.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Defining the Various Forms of Drawing Materials

There are really quite lots of drawing materials that are available for you to try out, and I must add that they are also very affordable compared to say, painting materials like oil paints for instance. It is however by plodding and experimenting with these materials that you will be able to know which one or combination of drawing materials you will fall in love with, and may wish to eventually adopt at the end of the day.

'Biola' - pastel drawing by Morgan Nwanguma

I will further let you know that as a professional artist there is no limiting the height you can assail even by the sole application of any one or a combination of some of these materials. Thus you could stand out of the crowd excelling as a draughtsman in say conte renditions, illustration, or in producing pastel pictures, etc.

The followings are some of the popular drawing mediums that are available to you either as a student artist, amateur or professional.

Carbon Pencil

This is a soft black pencil that produces texture like that of eighteenth century pencil drawings.

Chalk Pastel

This medium is a soft stick of delicate and pale coloured drawing and painting material. It comes in ranges of pale hues of pigments mixed with chalk. Chalk pastel usually would require fixing after use; otherwise, framing your drawing behind glass immediately after use will be called for.


This medium comes in brittle sticks of black carbon material. It is a specially prepared residue of burnt wood; it is only presented in black and usually also needing to be fixed with a spray of fixative.


Conte is the shortened form of conte chalk; it is usually produced in a square shape stick and also mostly coloured in brown, sanguine or terra-cotta red, black and white. Conte sticks are brittle but slightly harder and not powdery like chalk pastel, and will equally require fixing after you have produced your drawing with it.

All in Your Eyes