Some years ago we were in South Africa on a game reserve, and met these birds walking unhurriedly along the track. They stayed on the track just in front of our vehicle for quite a long time and refused to budge. I think the female was holding us back so that we didn’t mow down her chicks!
We didn’t mind as this was a splendid photo opportunity, and we took full advantage.
I said that I would paint them one day and now finally I have. The subject seemed simple enough and yet I found this painting to be one of the trickiest i have done for a long time. I think the colours may have had something to do with it. There was such a lot of green, and not very exciting green either. There was no other colour to give relief
Ostrich are magnificent birds, and interesting to draw. When it comes to painting them, then it is a different matter, especially when painting the female. I consulted references about the right colour to use for the female’s plumage, and the consensus was taupe. Taupe you will know, is beige running into grey. Not exciting but not something I could change
Added to that the light was flat and no shadows to speak of. Still not to worry, the painting is complete, and I have done what I set out to do. But an object lesson learned, which is to avoid subjects with little colour interest as they will disappoint
One lockdown task that I have been getting to grips with, has been sorting out and rationalising my burgeoning collection of reference pictures
About seven or eight years ago, we made a trip to South Africa which was amazing. About a week was spent on safari, followed by a long weekend in Cape Town
This shot, just one of many, shows an ostrich family just ahead of our truck, and being totally disinclined to move out of the way. I think the mother bird was deliberately preventing our vehicle from running over her young. Nobody was worried of course, as this was such a fantastic photo opportunity and went on for quite a long time
A long time ago, I thought I would paint this but never did. Now I have been reminded and have made a start with the drawing. Problems would be with colours, I think. Weather was not particularly good when we were there, with dull skies and proportionately subdued colour. I will have to try and inject a little sunshine somehow, although not sure how
I have done the initial sketch and will come back later
I quite like doing these narrative paintings from time to time. This one I have done in a vignette style, again something I do for a change. In some ways this style takes less time, as I don’t have to tape up, and without big expanse of sky or sea, there are no big washes to worry about.
This was not done from one of my reference photos, and my thanks and acknowledgements go to an unknown photographer whom I could not find. This painting is not a copy of but was inspired by a photograph.
This is pure nostalgia in one sense. I don’t know of a visitor to France who didn’t enjoy that early morning trip to the boulangerie for the fresh bread.
In England we don’t have that culture. Our bread is homogenised and comes plastic wrapped, although some of our supermarkets are now baking on site, and producing something worth eating. But we still don’t go for it early morning when it is fresh and still warm
This is Paris obviously. The location was not marked, but looks like Montmartre, with those steep steps. Again a place much visited and much painted.
I changed the background considerably. I have lengthened the perspective so that the Eiffel Tower looks much further away. The buildings are deliberately out of focus, so that we concentrate on the lady in the foreground. We look at her with great compassion as she struggles homeward up that steep slope, heavily laden. I see her almost pushing that basket with her knee, to take some of that strain off her arm.
This painting is smaller than my usual, this time about 30×25 centimetres. I found it a pleasant change to do. At the moment,thanks to lockdown I am sorting and consolidating my reference photographs, so who knows may find more of this type
This was by way of an exercise. I’ve used someone else’s photograph as a basis for this painting, so unlikely to use the finished result, unless I can get permission
I wanted to try and achieve this foggy sort of image. The mosque in the background is hardly visible. Until you get to the figure in the foreground, shapes are almost unrecognisable. The clever bit would be to get the feeling that the mist is moving towards you. Whether that has been achieved I will let others judge
The painting did not photograph well. There are some brush marks showing in the foreground which you don’t get with the original
We haven’t been able to visit the RHS gardens at Wisley ever since lockdown began. It was a favourite place and we miss going there. Hopefully as things ease they may reopen, although how social distancing will be organised, remains to be seen
Doing this painting reminded me of happier times. We have stood here enough times in the loggia if that is the term, looking through the wisteria along the canal to the laboratory, which is an uninspiring name for the splendid mock-Tudor building in the background
Flowers and foliage are not my strong point. I had to look up how to paint wisteria. I used ultramarine violet, and then dark mauve for the deeper colours. I also dropped some quinacradone gold in here and there for the tips of the flowers. That has a name which botanists will know
The leaves were built up with a succession of colours. Sunlight streamed through in places and cadmium yellow suited that. I used Sap Green mixed with Lemon and finally Olive green for the leaves in shadow
Anyway I think it came close to the photograph, but as always I will leave others to judge
Just to finish off, I have been having a remarkable number of sales, all online obviously. I think this must be the lockdown factor
Ferry across the Bosphorus sold this week and was shipped today in fact, bringing my total to four since January. Chicken feed to many artists I know but significant for me.
Wisley Gardens, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society is fairly near us, and we go there frequently. Since lockdown the place has been closed, like so many other gardens. We’ve missed it enormously especially at this time of year
This photograph appeared in Garden magazine this month, showing the view through the wisteria along the canal towards the laboratory which is the elegant building in the background. I have painted it many times
As I can’t go there I shall paint this view with everyone’s permission, as the next best thing. We look forward to going back when things return to normal.
I have in fact made a start, and I will let you know how I get on
Despite lockdown , I am still selling a few pictures. I sold the painting of the Scottish castle, Eilean Donan a few days, and the buyer collected from my door. We observed social distancing of course
We had a competition recently inter family based on the work of Alberto Rosso and his drawings using ballpoint pen. The theme was birds
I hadn’t drawn in ballpoint for some while and had forgotten what a satisfying medium it was for sketching. Likewise drawing birds wasn’t something I had attempted. I did several versions, and the first ones were measured and precise which didn’t fit the project at all.
In the end I treated the drawings as doodles, so only doing them by eye and doing without measurements. That seemed to work better. My favourite is the one that I am showing which dates back some years when we had a holiday in South Africa.
We were out in a game reserve, in a truck, and met a family of ostrich going the same way. They just kept walking in front of us and made no attempt to speed up or move out of the way. We took loads of pictures, and I thought one day I might paint them, which I never did do
So I used them as a model for my biro drawing instead and am fairly pleased with the way it turned out. Ballpoint works well with watercolour so I may well paint it another time
On the easel I have just started painting an old favourite Wisley Gardens, a scene through wisteria which looked inviting in the photograph. I will deal with that another time
This has been an enjoyable journey to use that expression, which does seem appropriate, as I did feel I went back there. I took photographs with a view to paint, but never found the time. One thing about lockdown is that I don’t feel guilty about making more time to paint. There is always something to do in the house but generally house and garden are tidy and the allotment is up-to-date, which is unheard of
Also I am managing to paint in natural light which is a plus. So often painting time comes in the evening and artificial light is a handicap
Colours were enjoyable with the mix of phthalo blue and cobalt for sky and cathedral. Just a tad of grey in the blue for accuracy and to stand against the sky. For all the old houses, different shades of Burnt Sienna and orange, with some blue in the steps to balance the colour scheme
There is a competition coming up for 70+ year olds in lockdown so might put this one in. There will be thousands of entries from across the country, so no hope of winning, but as we say, it’s the taking part that counts
I have made a start on the actual painting. Quite a lot of drawing work to be done as one might imagine, and working from three photographs, the perspective drawing was interesting to say the least
I do a small amount most days and look at what I have done when the paint has properly dried. The cathedral is virtually finished although I may still go back in with a sharp brush and reinforce some of the finer details.
For some reason the colours in the photograph are more red than in the original painting.
We spent a lovely holiday in Sicily a few years back. One of the many towns we visited was Ragusa, built on two hills as I remember, certainly high up.
We were given a walking tour by a local guide, a young man who was fit and agile. Members of our party were mostly not, some had sticks and needed time. He took us to the vantage point in the picture, behind the cathedral. We were faced with what looked like hundreds of steps and very steep at that. Our guide skipped up them like a young goat. We climbed slowly pausing for breath. We caught him up at the very top. He looked impatient. He gave us a matter of minutes to take photographs, and gather our strength , then trotted down at a speed which we could not match
I remember thinking ” One day, young man, you’ll be like us”
At the top I took pictures from the hip. It was quite a view and needed more time. I remember thinking ” I’ll paint this one day”. That was a few years back, and now thanks to isolation I have finally found time and I have made a start. So far so good but nothing worth showing yet
I will just finish with a view of the steps which might give an idea of the ascent
I still remember that feeling of vertigo when I looked back down
It should make for an interesting composition if I get it right