• sarahdolby4

Updated: 7 hours ago

Welcome to the second part of 'Flour'. I have finally been able to get back to this painting after five dedicated months of working towards a solo show. This second part focus's on adding colour and composition - basically bringing the painting to life.

I wanted to start with the skin tones first to bring some warmth into the painting.


Once I established a palette for her skin tone and hair I could then look towards the elements needed to add to her story. [ you can see palette colours in Part 1. of Flour]

I have mentioned before that I have a loose impression in my mind of how I want the painting to look but this is as much based on a 'feeling' or a mixed bag of ideas. These ideas settle as the painting progresses.









Even though our kitchen wasn't finished I brought the painting in and propped it up against the wall so I could see her in the right environment. I then grabbed all 'my props' and placed them around the base of the painting. I won't use all of these but I was really just trying to see what might work...there was a lot of squinting through half lids trying to see without seeing ...if that makes sense!



I also like to lay down the canvas and put objects on it...and again stand back and squint...


Below you can see where I have placed a wooden spoon - so far the only object of all my squinting that made the first cut. Next steps will be building up the hands and fabrics.


April 20th, 2020.

Since my last post Covid 19 happened. This has, like everyone, affected my world in many ways. I have been spending a lot of time with my lovely family, home schooling, gardening and general home handy woman stuff [ finishing off renovations], listening to podcasts, binge watching 'Buffy The Vampire slayer' - plus painting.... and wondering what the future will bring for the arts. This painting 'Flour' has become more relevant to me than ever. I have, as many have, been spending a lot more time baking bread, making brioches, desserts and pizza dough. I was given a new baking book at Christmas called 'Magnolia Kitchen' a book from the cafe of the same name based in Auckland. The brioche hot cross buns are amazing.


Flour has been hard to get and luckily I already had a bit of a stash as we use it a lot in my house.

Lately a lot of thought has gone into what is 'essential' to each of us as we navigate through this. Basic food ingredients are definitely up there. I want to try and channel this time into 'Flour' in a positive way...it's beginning to feel slightly over used but getting back to basics, appreciating what we have and looking after it seems very relevant at this time.


Ok back to painting.

You will see some development since the above post with more colour [ I owe this addition of blue to watching the latest 'Little Woman' movie and falling in love with a blue skirt worn by Amy in her studio scene].

These influential tangents can be good...and time consuming but none the less they happen and should be explored.

I have also added the bench edge with the handle of a pan [ you can see this pan is in a photo above]. I felt like the painting needed some deeper browns as contrast.

I have also been working on her face and bringing her character to life. At the moment I am using quite a lot of greens in my skin tone which when mixed with crimsons, reds and a bit of white gives a lovely warm colour. I need to resolve the blue apron/skirt after my 'Little Woman' moment... great movie though with the most beautiful aesthetics.

Left - my reference for the bench [photograph taken at a Pizza bar in Port Chalmers].

Below is a photo I took over the weekend which shows a more accurate representation of both colour and light.

I haven't paid much attention to her hair yet as I actually like where its at and I think it will be something I look at later on as a finishing piece.



Right - a detail of the left hand. Plus you can see the bench photographed above makes its debut. I have found the hands very challenging in this painting as the model reference I had wasn't as good as it should have been. The hands had flour on them which masked the tonal detail that I needed plus the photos of the hands didn't have enough light and therefore detail.



Below you can see I have added another element. I often work this way - building on the exisiting compostion to provide balance, contrast and detail.

This iron spoon will be quite dark - something I felt was needed once I had created the shadow underneath the bench


Below you can see I have worked on her hair and added more definition to her face. I think looking at the two images side by side I have both gained and lost something. I like the softness of her face in the above image but part of bringing her hair around her face was a nod to the experience when baking that when your hands are covered in dough that is when you have an annoying stand of hair that tickles your nose and covers your eyes.

Also after much deliberating I added apples to the bowl. I initially wanted to put dough in there but due to the lack of 'flour' at the time I did this i decided to address that and instead have a lack of flour. i also felt like the painting needed something - a splash of colour. We make a lot of apple tarts in this house as it is my son's favourite dessert.



Below - a few weeks on and I have toned down the warmth in her skin with my favourite paint 'Transparent White'. Mixed with a bit of black it has a great cooling effect and can knock back 'when warm goes brown/muddy'. I also decided to add more cool white to the background. Because I was getting close to finishing I decided to take it into the framers/ gallery to choose something. I totally underestimated how important this was.


Once I had chosen the perfect frame [ see left ] it actually highlighted a few issues within the work. Seeing it in a different environment, with the frame made the background appear 'muddy'. It was a great exercise actually and one I will do again. I get so used to seeing my work in the same space that I miss the big picture. It is well worth while stepping back from time to time.


I also worked on the apples from reference photos and added an olive branch. I wasn't sure about the tension between the leaf and her shoulder but decided to leave it.


So below you can see the finished painting. Due to suddenly deciding it should be sent to Auckland, to be part of OREXART's group show celebrating their brand new gallery space, I had to put in a marathon effort to get all the little details up to scratch...things like strands of hair, highlights and shadows and floral fabric trim.




  • sarahdolby4

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

This little painting is one of five smaller works that I exhibited together this year. The exhibition was called 'When I Was' - a reflection of childhood memories. I thought this would be an ideal painting to document as I go. Below is a step by step account of progress.


Step 1. I didn't do a preliminary sketch for this painting as I had a strong idea of what I wanted and who I wanted as my model. So I moved straight to the photoshoot and spent a fun hour with my model Gemma trying on different out fits and hats.


Step 2. Choosing the right photo and making minor adjustments in photoshop to even out the light and tinker with skin tone.


Step 3. Printing out a grayscale version, rubbing the back with charcoal and then further rubbing or a paper towel over the charcoal to reduce artefacts.


Step 4. Placing the charcoal side down on a prepped canvas and using a ballpoint I drew over the main features and shapes to transfer the outline. You can see this in image 1.


Step 5. Thinning Raw Umber and Burnt umber oil paint [ I use Mussini by Schmincke but and good quality oils will do ] with odourless turps, I blocked out the main areas. See image 2. below. This helps me get a feel for the form and provides another layer for the oils to grip onto.



Step 6. I am always having to hold myself back at this stage as I really want to get immediate results by diving into the eye area and loading a whole lot of paint and detail onto it. I instead I have taught myself to hold back here and treat this next layer as further 'architecture'. You can see below in image 3. that I have just applied a thin coat of paint over the entire canvas building on the previous layer with a simple colour palette of umbers, Ivory black, Titanium White and a mix of red and blue for the dress. Again it is about establishing the darks and lights, refining the features and composition. This is when you want to make mistakes...not when you are nearly finished and realise that the eye is wandering off to the left or the chin is all wrong [ trust me I know!!] In these early stages you can see quite clearly what isn't working and make the necessary adjustments. Because where I live the winters get quite cool I do have to allow for decent drying time. I want to avoid new applications messing with exisiting layers that haven't quite dried properly so I give each layer about 3 days. This is why it is good to have a few paintings on the go so you can alternate between them.

Step 7. Here it gets fun. I can now start to apply layers of paint that are more descriptive. In the above image 4. I have concentrated on the left side of her face mostly as by the end of my 5 hour session I was a bit weary and not so great with detail so I didn't feel like applying the same laser like focus on the other side. Instead , for continuity of colours I worked fairly quickly bringing her eye and right cheek up to about %70 of the quality of the left side. In my next session I will start with the right side. For this layer I kept my palette quite simple - but constantly refer to my reference images for the right tones and hue. I find that I sink into a weird space while doing this where I start to see the smallest changes that shape the face, the cool and warm tones, the colours beneath the eye, the translucency of the features and the way the ambient light affects them. Again I have to be disciplined and not rush ahead with detail that will just be painting over in future sessions.


Step 8. As I mentioned above I started this session on the right side of her face and then moved left. Equal attention has now been given to each area of the face and I think I can now move forward and begin to add more colour and detail to the features. I do need to also look at the surrounding areas - the hat, dress and background.










Step 9. See below. This pass was fun - I was able to introduce more colours to build on the form. On my palette for this step was Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Cad Orange, Cad Yellow, Cad Red, Crimson, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Yellow Ochre, Titanium White and finally Transparent White. I also introduce transparent white at this later stage in the painting. When mixed with the blues and pinks it almost glows and is great when adding highlights to eyes and pulling out the cooler skin tones ...you can see how I have used it mixed with blue and crimson around her nose and under her eyes. I have also added another pass to her hair using Burnt Umber and more detail to her head dress. Using colour I have continued to define the features and form. I am always checking at this stage, because of the addition of transparent white that I am not flattening out the face...this is easy to do. So stepping back every now and then and looking at the painting from a distance helps.


Step 10. See below. Almost finished. I just have to tidy up the lower left side- sleeve, arm and hair. This pass was mostly refining and adding detail to what was already there, deepening shadows and pulling out highlights. The head dress took a while as I had to think about where I wanted the detail. I didn't want to paint every fibre - 1. because it would take forever and 2. I didn't need to - its nicer to have some soft lighter areas to balance the clarity of her eyes and face.



All finished and ready for it's beautiful ornate frame.

  • sarahdolby4

Updated: 3 days ago

I have been working as an artist for some years now and about a year ago I realised that

I wasn't exploring my ideas as much as I wanted to due to either deadlines or personal pressures.

Caught up in creating work for either a group show or solo exhibition had left little time for reflection. I am curious to see how I can change this and redefine what it means for me to be an artist.

Although I have a physical work book where I sketch and make notes, having a digital platform has given me a new space to document both my ideas and work as it progresses.

Creating this blog felt like a natural step for me as I have a 12 year background in computer graphics. During this time I did everything from 3D animation, creative direction, production management, concept art, web design to even working on Formula One race courses. I am comfortable with this medium and look forward to reconnecting with it as I grow this blog and my website.

Sometimes, and I am sure there are many artists and creatives who feel this, I feel like I am two or three different artists, with different aesthetics, inhabiting one body. Part of me loves realism and could spend hours painting eyes, wrinkles and skin texture, another part loves dark and atmospheric [ spooky ] imagery - another light and beautiful.





A selection of my old illustrations.

I also love illustrating and have a stack of drawings that I one day hope to turn into a children's book. Many hours have been spent trying to satisfy these creative threads. So I decided I needed to find a way to put all these ideas into one place....have somewhere I could organise my thoughts and processes.




Because of a growing appreciation of the simple things in life I have had to expand what I defined as my craft.

For example - I really enjoy learning about food and the origins of ingredients, how food brings us together, how plants grow and how spectacular they can be - the colours in nature, light and the way it changes throughout the day, old wood, furniture, beautiful objects and many more everyday things that have a beauty in their simplicity. I enjoy photography and sculpture and although these aren't my main focus they contribute to the broader picture.


Thats not to say I still don't live %50 of my time drifting around in my imagination. Like I mentioned earlier I love dark, rich and other worldly imagery and these characters/ woman keep pushing infront with their dark eyes and gaunt frames. I adore these woman as they connect with me in a totally different way.


When I Was A Bear

Also there is an element of nostalgia creeping into my work. 'When I Was a Bear' is my first ever self portrait. It is 5 year old me as a ballerina. We were really just little bears muddling around on a stage but the memory so vivid I can still remember how the ears crinkled when I touched them.


These are some of the themes that I want to weave through my work. I am always learning and feel like I have such a long way to go both technically and aesthetically. Some days I think I have 'got it' [ whatever that is] then others I have to wipe off a section of work that that I have completely butchered.


Some of my favourite objects in my studio.

So where to begin - I decided to start with the loudest idea which was 'Flour'. I really enjoy making bread - the way the flour feels cool in my hands, the smells, the warmth and comfort it would bring once baked. I started thinking - how can I create a piece that embodies all these elements of flour and more... what it means to me, what I associate it with, how does it feel and look, smell and what memories and imagery does in conjure. The more I thought about this the more I realised just how much I wanted to pull more of these everyday things onto the surface of a canvas. You can check out my progress on this piece here.


I will create posts as I go - when I feel that there is something to say or show. I will also continue to add content in the various categories. With sharing my ideas and process I hope to engage with a like minded community. I welcome feedback and for others to share with me their own projects and ideas.






©Sarah Dolby | Design by Sarah Dolby

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