Sunday, 16 February 2014

Look into my eyes...

wildlife art seal cub painting in gouache
'Look into my eyes' - Baby Seal in Gouache  21.5 cm x 30cm

I saw the most beautiful photo of a baby seal on the Caithness Photos Facebook page back in January and, as soon as I saw those soulful eyes, I knew I just had to have a go at painting this beautiful creature. I contacted the photographer, Ve Young, and she kindly gave me permission to use her photo as reference. I started it a couple of weeks ago and just finished it today.

Oh, and after feeling all professional soaking my watercolour paper, for the orang-utan painting, and using the gum strip to stretch it, I should also have checked how to remove it from the drawing board. I stupidly thought the gum strip would peel off nicely revealing a crisp white border but actually, no, it doesn't peel off at all. Instead I had to get S to carefully cut through it with a stanley knife (I was too scared of slicing through my painting to do it myself!) and now I have an attractive brown border all the way round my painting that won't come off. I know it'll be covered by mounting card but still, it put me off using it again.  Plus it's all stuck to my drawing board and I couldn't face having to soak it off then wait for the board to dry before I could use it again.

So, I didn't bother soaking or stretching the paper at all for this painting and while it buckled ever so slightly I don't think it'll be noticeable once it's been framed 

Here are the stages the seal painting went through:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5 - final piece

I'm looking for some advice from fellow artists as well please. Until now I've always worked on canvas or else on commission pieces on watercolour paper that I didn't have to frame but, now that I've fallen in love with gouache, I plan to use it most all of the time and that will mean having to frame artwork for exhibitions and what not.  

As I haven't yet made my fortune from my art I've got that catch 22 of not wanting to fork out a lot for expensive framing in case the piece doesn't sell but having to frame the pieces in advance or else I can't hang them at the exhibitions. I've seen some frames on Amazon that are for wall hanging only so they don't have that stand that shop bought frames tend to have so possibly they might work but I'd love to hear what other folk do in this case. 


  1. What a fantastic painting, you've captured so much expression in the seal's eyes. Thank you for sharing the process, as a painter myself it's nice to see how other people do it!

  2. That is a wonderful painting full of life.

  3. Omg Nic, those eyes ....... I could get lost in them. So utterly gorgeous, I can't imagine how you do it! Beautiful painting!
    That's a bit of a bummer to have that gumstrip stuck to your paper.... I only sell works on canvas, so I can't help you with frames. But I have a friend who has bought some of my prints, and she loves wandering through op-shops and recycling places. And there she got lovely frames for my prints. Maybe that's an idea? We also have an artist at the gallery who uses old/secondhand frames for her art, and then paints them and makes them look old. I've heard quite a feww people comment that they really like the look of those frames. And in secondhandshops those frames are plenty and cheap. I would have a look there ....

  4. This is wonderful, those liquid eyes are memorising You really have found your medium. I can't believe you only started using it a few months ago!
    Re frames, I have framed works and usually go on the hunt for similar sized prints in 'bargain' type stores. I find they despite being new are often cheaper than new empty ones. I have bought this way some rather horrible pictures and have felt very self concious taking them to the till! I do think that now you are taking several weeks to finish a piece and the nature of your work is so intricate the frame is actually hugely important. It would set off your paintings beautifully and add to their saleability. Perhaps you could visit a picture framer and get a quote, I really think your work deserves to be seen at it's best.

  5. what a stunning painting Nic-and those eyes-wow! I love both the ideas the above commenters mentioned for framing. At least here in the US getting pieces framed professionally are super expensive -and not always the quality one would want. It's why my hubby has done his own framing. He uses new frame moulding and also old vintage frames.

  6. Wow this is absolutely stunning! You really captured the look in it's eyes. Seriously beautiful!!

  7. Oh those eyes of this beautiful creature. They pull you right in. Awesome job. That gouache is interesting. You are doing fantastic with it.

  8. Your seal is breath-taking, so alive with its fur shining as if it has just come out of the water and its eyes shining with life. I hope that you have send a copy of it to the photographer - I am sure that she would be honoured.

  9. Such a beautiful piece, Nic...those eyes are soulful! I love gouache too. :)

    As for frames, I can't really help you as I have only done canvasses for sale to date. I hope to change that as I feel drawn to work on paper now. My son does coloured pencil art and he looks around for nice frames via the cheaper stores. He's sold a few recently and the clients were very happy. We noticed that the frames in the more expensive stores weren't all that different in quality compared to the cheaper stores. One of my other art friends gets her scratch-board art framed at a professional picture framer but they can work out to be very expensive; she enters her art into art shows.

    Have a lovely week ~ xx

  10. oh wow this has to be my favourite painting of yours ever Nic, so much expression and beautiful markings with colour, so fabulous. Good luck with the framing as lots of great advice has been given here already. Hugs Annette x

  11. You've outdone yourself. Have I told you this before? If I have scratch that time...THIS is your best work to date and I think you know it speaks to the viewer. Amazing job! Of course it's not about the best painting or drawing, it's what moves a person and you've done it before with the cow...but this time, I don't know whether it's the medium or not but it's precious. I wish I could help you out with advice on frames, but mine have been pricey and not always worth what I've paid. I'm looking for ideas myself so if you come across any good ones, please pass them on to me. Thanks!

  12. Hi Nicola,
    You do amazing work in gouache. This seal is amazing. This is not a large watercolor. Goauche is a water medium like watercolour only opaque. I cannot fault you for trying to stretch your paper. One of my students stretched his paper everytime, religiously, just like his first instructor advised. He did not use the gum strip, but did staple all around the edges. His paintings looked no different for doing that than the rest of ours and we just taped our papers to a board with masking tape. I have also used those large clips and painted on half sheets, clipping the bull clips at the four corners. I read in an art magazine, at some point, that stretching is pretty important in "HUGE" watercolors. I have been to several workshops with renowned watercolorists and watched them paint with the bull clip and then those paintings are added to their for sale paintings. My watercolors frame nicely without a buckle and I never stretch paper and work on 140lb paper.
    Framing? I learned the hard way. Cut corners, painted to store bought matte sizes, used colors in my mattes that I thought looked "cool" with my painting. YUCK! I had a local artist come up to me and told me I did beautiful wok, but why did I continue to not honor it with better framing? She suggested I double matte in a neutral white or off white and get with a framer to do so and allow him to advise me about the frame choice for gallery hanging purposes. She said she was having trouble finding places to hang my paintings because the framing got in the way of the painting being noticed. I took a piece to a local framer and that is all she wrote. I place in shows and my work does sell, now. The cuts on the mattes are better and the frame is simple so it does not detract from the painting. If I want to cut corners? I take older framed pieces back to my framer and, as long as the next painting is smaller, he cuts a new matte for the new piece, re-cuts the frame and glass and frames the new piece in the old glass and frame. I still have to pay for the new matting and the work that goes into re-cutting the old frame and glass but it pays off in the long run. I do not frame every painting, only what I intend to hang in the gallery or enter in the shows. You'll find that clients begin to request to see your unframed works. I store those in an acid free portfolio and they can page through them, so I also sell originals that way. Nothing beats the look of professional framing and the jurors and buyers will applaud you for doing so. Once again, I learned the hard way, but most good framers will work with you on your needs. If the first one doesn't, try another till you find one. Paintings, like the above, deserve to be shown off well!

  13. Well Nic this one just blew me away! Seriously, it is more than awesome - I just think it is your best yet!!! I can not get enough of those incredible eyes!
    I can't help with the framing I'm afraid - but as far as gum strip - use drawing pins or preferably staples. that's what many Artists do :0)

  14. Stunningly beautiful piece. Amazing and inspiring work. I love it!!!! Thank you for sharing

  15. This piece is Absolutely Fantastic!!!!!!!!! I can't put enough Exclamation marks! LOL! My husband makes my frames so that helps me a lot. You can get some really cheap frames unfinished and then you can finish them yourself. That's all I can say about the framing issue. Seriously this is such a beautiful piece!!!


  16. This seal is gorgeous! What a beautiful piece! Unfortunately I can't help you with advice about framing,


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