The February Challenge

Painting with black, white and greys. Hmm…no colour, that will take some persistence.

At least that’s what I thought at the declaration of the challenge. More than persistence, it took hard-headed perseverance. Remember that trick sentence teachers slipped into grammar tests? “The boy made his way into the impenetrable jungle.” Impossible. That’s what it felt like.

Today I painted my third monochrome. I have really tried to get the most out of this challenge.

My first was from a photograph of some tourists on Calton Hill Edinburgh.


It seemed to turn out quite well but working from a photograph felt like an easy way out. I needed to be tougher on myself.

For the second painting, I chose to work from ‘life’ and a view of brush fences, concrete and grey brick presented a possibility. It  was a view from the balcony of the neighbour’s front yard. (Sshhh)! Sort-of en plein air.


The composition is totally dominated by that jolly kayak and the pale fence because I laid it down fairly literally. The brush fence was difficult to render and it made me see that large flat areas were not the answer. The proportions of the two fence panels on the left are too similar. This is an unfinished struggle.

So, I had worked on people from a photo, and some hard-edged forms. For the third work I needed to pit myself against more organic forms. Do you hear words of battle?

It was not the lack of colour, although I was dying to take refuge in some greens. The nub of the challenge lay in the discipline of seeing tonally and translating it into form and line. Of course that is what the real pro’s do in plein-air-land as a matter of course.

Preliminary drawing


After about an hour and a half I was ready to give up. I knew this reaction. My tennis court behaviour. 40-love up when I’m serving usually ends up with the opposition winning the game. Self-sabotage? Perhaps it is just giving up. I really thought about it, talked aloud to myself. Not this time. Hot coffee and back to work.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
“Ungreenery” with camera’s white balance adjusted

This is my year for learning new skills and brushing up some old ones. It promises to be painful as well as enlightening. A bit like learning to serve properly/reliably in tennis when the old habits work most of the time. My tennis ‘career’ is almost over, so I won’t bother with those lessons.

And by the way, did you notice it is almost May? I think these challenges could be quarterly rather than monthly.


The November Challenge

November? You might well ask…….

Lots of exciting ideas came to mind when my colleague and I agreed in August last year to take on a monthly challenge. Time? Not really a problem – it would be relatively easy to find 3 or 4 hours a month. November was getting towards the busy time of year so completion in December/January was predictable. By late January things were at Stage 2. And then, it was March.

The challenge was to paint with white and three colours: burnt sienna, phthalo blue and cadmium yellow.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Stage 1 – no, it is not a poached egg

The first stage is rough but a little reminiscent of Vuillard. But I couldn’t leave it there. Is this a person? Is that a poached egg after all?

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Stage 2

More definition of the face and the items on the table-top. Adding another chair to add to the curves in the composition.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Stage 3 – le bon choix

Where is the main light source? A bit late for this perhaps. But still. It helped to pin down the floating cups and saucers (and meringues). The extra chair was a distraction leading out of the picture plane – had to go. Darker shadows on face and fabric, less hair over the shoulder. This is where I choose to leave it. Perhaps you would have stopped earlier (or later). What do you think?

It is surprising how little I used the yellow. That first meringue would have been a bit dull without it. I love blues and use them often but have avoided phthalo blue for quite a while. Because of its intensity it can dominate so easily. It does make some beautiful chromatic greys with burnt sienna and I was in a sort of heaven playing with those.

The next challenge has been on the table for a couple of months. I am catching up!

Thanks for visiting.

AWOL – in the seascape

Please pardon my absence. It is good to be back and see what you have been doing.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

As it is 31st December here I can get in early to wish you a Happy New Year for tomorrow and beyond. May your wishes be fulfilled and your resolutions be forgotten early.

The world has so many people struggling to meet even their basic needs for safety. If you are fortunate like me, you will have hope and freedom, safety and comfort. Sometimes in 2013 those things felt a bit flimsy to me, but in reality, they were not at all.

Best wishes for your ‘new’ start.

Back on the beach!

Back on the beach

It was hot out there yesterday – 37 degrees in the shade. After an aerobics/weights session at the gym I was a little worn out. Perhaps that’s why I decided to go out in the midday, out in the midday, out in the midday sun. I still had gym shoes on but not for long. I had to wade into the water to cool off almost immediately. Socks back on as I hadn’t put sunscreen on my feet. I waded in twice more during the 90 minutes. The last time in desperation I drenched my hat.

I didn’t meet any mad dogs or Englishmen. If only I could tell Noel Coward. But I did have a proper swim an hour later.

Can I blame the gym session for my crazy decisions?