To be honest Elvis wouldn’t normally be my first choice of creative accompaniment. Much as I like him I tend to prefer something a bit more chilled out: some Pink Floyd maybe, or Peter Gabriel – maybe a bit of world music. But today we are creating with The King because it so happens that I recently bought a 3-CD set of his hits really cheap and haven’t got around to listening to it.
The canvas I’m using is a £1.99 canvas from a bargain basement store in a nearby town. Nigel, the well-meaning but slightly annoying Sontaran that I work with, picked it up for me just before Christmas. I waver in favouritism between oils and acrylics, having never got to grips with watercolours (Rolf Harris says you have to plan watercolours like a military campaign, and anything Rolf says is good enough for me!) – I like the final texture that Oil paints give, but dislike the waiting around for 6 weeks whilst each layer dries. Plus washing the brushes is a pain – involving stinking out the house with turpse and frantically trying to clean the bathroom sink before it dries on. Acrylics dry faster – so they fit my temperament much better.
However, the problem with acrylics drying much faster is that they dry much faster – often before you’ve finished using them. To compensate for this instead of a palette I have a tray into which you fit a water-absorbent sheet, over which you put a second sheet which is similar to grease-proof paper (used in baking)., which you then run a small amount of water over (enough to soak it) before running off the excess water.
So – whilst Elvis warbles away I start to paint the background colour. In the original photograph this is black, but I know that you should avoid black wherever possible (it can produce a very dead look to the picture and absorb the other colours), so go for brown instead. As I paint the brown I use a cheap D.I.Y. brush and apply a bit too much water (hint: if using one of these try to avoid dipping the metal clip of the brush into the water, as it retains it) but refuse to panic.
Leaving it to dry for a while I continue with a smaller D.I.Y. brush from the local hardware store and begin to add a few reds before realising that I need to start with the lighter colours and build up
By now Elvis is singing “Return To Sender”, but I’ve done as much as I can for the day, so I turn the painting upside down so that I can paint the area where the easel was (if anyone knows another solution to this please let me know) and leave it to dry overnight.
Sunday comes and, having turned the picture the right way around, I revert to my actual art brushes and mix some yellows and oranges.
Just as Elvis reaches “The Wonder Of You” and thus the end of the CD I leave it to dry whilst I make some lunch. Coming back to the picture I decide that the white is too strong and add some more colours on top as well as the detail for the bottom of the picture using a purple that I mixed myself (note to self: it may be wasteful, but always make more than you need as otherwise you WILL run out whilst you still need it)
Finally, and working from the top, I complete the trees in the same purple and add a few more touches to the flame