Erquy in Brittany: the Finished Painting

Erquy in Brittany

The painting is now finished, in that I have started to fiddle, which is a good time to stop

Getting the sand/mud to look waterlogged has been a problem, and I have settled for what I’ve got, rather than end up with a surface which looks dark and unconvincing. I did mask out some tyre tracks which had filled with water, and then touched them in afterwards. They seemed to work well enough.

I have taken the mask off the lighthouse, and painted that in, with its red domed top, that attracts the eye. Two tricolor flags on the boats give another opportunity for small dabs of red too. I tend to use vermilion now rather than cadmium red, which seems to work.

Some of the figures and dinghies have bled into the wet, which I have allowed, as I think that gives a hint of reflection.

I think I have taken it as far as I dare without spoiling, so will leave it now as complete.

I have a new commission arrived, a house portrait, which is highly convenient so will start on that soon

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Erquy: the Drawing

Erquy in Brittany

I have done some drawing and also started to paint as you can see. Nothing startling, just the background. The lighthouse has been masked out, so it can stand out stark white with red at the very end

I have also masked out some of the tyre marks in the sand which are full of water, hopefully to recreate that image. The composition itself I have altered slightly, but only slightly, as really not much improvement is necessary. The fishing boats have been beached at low tide, which immediately offers an interesting picture for watercolour. There is light coming from the left, offering shadows as well as possible reflections.Some boats were left out, and one different one added. Otherwise the scene is much the same as it was in 1972

I needed some human activity so added the two figures in the foreground. They are actually copied from the figure in the distance. I had to guess the perspective, so I hope it looks convincing. Both figures are bent over as though hauling on some imaginary chain, so a little bit of narrative

I have added shadow to the boats just to give them form, and to guide me when I go to paint them in. One or two extra dinghies as well. I may well have to add somehting small in the centre, but I am not sure yet.

That is as far as I have got. So far so good I think

Erquy in Brittany, using one of my old photographs

Erquy Harbour and Lighthouse

I took this photograph in 1972 when we were on holiday in Brittany. We had hired a villa in the fishing village of Erquy, which was delightful, and I daresay it still is. I was reminded of our visit whilst going through my Pinterest boards and seeing any number of shots of the harbour at Erquy. In fact the same view as mine. I went through my old pictures, which were colour slides in those days, so inconvenient to look at, and found this one, which I decided to paint, and I have made a start on the drawing.

We stayed there for two weeks, and it was delightful,but not everything went smoothly, quite the reverse.

Our little boy, James who was eighteen months old, became ill. Everything he ate came up immediately, and in the middle of one night he became acutely distressed. On examination we found a lump in his groin about the size of a pigeon’s egg. Worrying at the best of times, but on holiday, doubly so.

In the villa, we had a list of useful addresses. A doctor was listed. I had no idea how to get to his house. It was pitch black outside. I looked up the words I might need, and rehearsed what I would say in French. Then I drove off into the night.

I drove into Erquy village, praying all the time. In those days people went to bed at a reasonable hour. Not a street lamp, no moon, nothing. The village was in inky blackness. I picked out a street plan in my headlights. I positioned the car across the road so that the map was illuminated, and thanks be to God, the road where the doctor lived was shown. I copied the map as best as I could and got back into the car, and drove to the address

The doctor’s house was a fine old building, three storeys high. I rang the bell and continued to pray. A window opened on the top floor, and a head appeared. I will always remember that he was wearing a nightcap which was quaint even by the standards of the day.

I launched into my prepared speech in bad French.

“Monsieur le docteur, je suis desolee de vous reveiller. C’est mon petit fils qui est malade. Il a dix-huit mois…………… That’s enough. I went on to describe the symptoms.

That wonderful man told me to wait whilst he got dressed. In a very short time he was down with his bag, and followed me in his car.

My wife, and her elderly aunt who was holidaying with us, seemed amazed to see me come back with the doctor. They thought I would never find anyone. The doctor examined our child and immediately diagnosed a hernia. We were pretty green in those days, and didn’t fully understand the ramifications. It was serious. He needed surgery. The doctor wrote us a letter of introduction to a clinic in St.Brieuc, about two hours drive away. We were to go immediately.

As we left Erquy, the sun was coming up and the daylight helped. We found the clinic as though again by divine guidance. The surgeon greeted us. The good doctor had telephoned ahead. Our little boy was put on the table and the surgeon examined him, and started manipulating the lump. All the time, he was telling us about the operation. He would need immediate surgery and about a week in hospital. We were going home in about three days. Where would we stay? How much would it cost? No credit cards in those days. No EHIC cards then

As he manipulated the lump, came another divine intervention. The lump popped back in. He was strapped up, and we were told the danger was over. The reflux stopped and we could continue with our stay. We were given a prescription for a truss which we bought from a nearby pharmacy. Marvellous marvellous people

We returned to Erquy, and saw the doctor again. Thanked him again profusely and paid him of course.

Three days later we set off for Cherbourg during a violent rainstorm. We had an Austin 1800 in those days, which was a robust enough car, but like all the Leyland cars in those days, including the Mini, it had a design fault. Because of the transverse engine, the HT leads were positioned just inside the grille. If the wind blew the rain head on, water reached the leads and the engine cut out. Halfway to Cherbourg, the engine started to cough, and continued to cough until finally stopping. We were in the middle of the countryside

Maybe we could have bump started the car but there was only me and I had to drive. My wife was pregnant and her aunt had heart trouble! maybe we should have stayed at home.

Again the good Lord smiled on us benignly. Wonderful people from a nearby cottage came out and took my wife, cild and aunt indoors out of the rain. One of the teenage sons of he family went on his moped to the hearest garage, and came back with a mechanic, who stripped down the motor and dried it all off. The car started and the rain had stopped. I just had enough money to pay the mechanic. As I said, no credit cards then They really were good Samaritans

We were on our way to Cherbourg and met no further problems. Phew

So a holiday to remember. I shall enjoy painting Erquy harbour and have already started the drawing

Lightbox Woking Exhibition:the Scottish Colourists

Ben More in Mull by FCB Cadell

Yet another excellent exhibition at the Lightbox in Woking which runs until the 12th of January, entitled Burning Bright : The Scottish Colourists. This brings together the work of Scottish Colourists S.J.Peploe, J.D.Fergusson, G.L.Hunter and F.C.B. Cadell

Not a group I know anything about and apparently not a group that painted together as I understand it, but artists who were placed together in exhibitions by organisers and dealers, possibly because styles and colours went well together. They were never formally a movement and exhibited together only three times

They were drawn together by a love of travel, and by their attraction to the French Post Impressionists especially Matisse and the group known as Les Fauves, the wild beasts, who used colour in an arbitrary and passionate way.

The Colourists grew up in a climate dominated by the Glasgow Boys, whose love of colour had already liberated Scottish art from the strait jacket of academicism

I was drawn especially to the work of Cadell. His Ben More in Mull I have included. I felt I could walk out onto the sands, I love it. Incidentally the painting is not hung crookedly. That was me photographing from the hip

I am also going to include The Black Hat which is a magnificent example of his portrait work, with more than a nod to Singer Sargent, another of my great favourites

Wonderful exhibition too by the Institute of Painters in Watercolour which really needs its own post

The Black Hat by FCB Cadell
The Black Hat Inscription

I will end there

Rex Whistler at Plas Newydd in Anglesey

Rex Whistler includes himself in his painting

Last week we were in North Wales, staying in Caernarfon, never sure about the spelling, and spending the week looking at some very good National Trust properties

The house I had wanted to see for a long time was Plas Newydd on Anglesey, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey. This houses the magnificent mural painted by Rex Whistler, unfinished due to his untimely death in 1944 in France.

The mural, painted on canvas and at 56 feet reputed to be the longest in the country, is such a wonderful work that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. I took some pictures, but because of the understandable light level in the viewing chamber, these are poor, and I am still debating whether to include them or not.

Whistler had fallen madly in love with Lady Caroline, daughter of the then Marquess, and there are references in the painting. His self portrait I have included above. There is also a painting of Lady Caroline in the picture too

At the far right of the painting are two trees intertwined, one of which is dying. That one represents Whistler who is dying of unrequited love.

The whole thing is of a fantastical scene of a classical harbour with magnificent buildings and ships with an atmospheric backdrop of mountains based on Snowdonia with dramatic cloud formations

At the time he was in great demand for stage sets and murals in great houses. Many times I have admired his work at Mottisfont in Hampshire, and of course in the restaurant at the Tate

The Plas Newydd mural is staggering and just holds you for hours if necessary. My pictures disappoint so I will not include them. There are websites or go and see the real thing

The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, finished painting

The Royal Crescent Hotel

This commissioned painting is finished and approved, and once I have cut a mount and signed and dated, then this will be going off to its new owner

Testing in many ways, classical architecture doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, nonetheless enjoyable to do, and I am happy with the way it has turned out

I shall be otherwise engaged for a few days, but as soon as I can, I need to start on another commission, which is a really interesting looking house portrait. That will need a shetch for approval before getting started.

Added to that I have an important exhibition coming up mid October at one of the local hospitals. This is one where I usually sell. I pray that I sell something as I am bulging with framed pictures. It’s lovely to sell on the internet, but I get left with frames. However, a happy problem

So quite busy for a while

I don’t know what made me do it, but I started going through boxes of slides which I took in the 1970s. Some of us can remember that colour photographs were made into slides at one time, for projecting onto a screen, for amusement of family and friends with our holiday pics, or not as the case may be.

I found amongst the many, a lovely shot of a fishing harbour in Brittany where we stayed in 1972. I have had it printed so that I can work from it, and that will be up after the commissioned work.

Much to do

Mary Wollstonecraft Exhibition at Chawton House in Hampshire

Chawton House associated with Jane Austen

An exhibition of work by Louisa Albani, not an artist I’m familiar with, opened at Chawton House in Hampshire, yesterday, and goes on into November. Not a large exhibition, held in one of the garret rooms,but powerful none the less, and deals with the period that Mary Wollstonecraft spent in Paris during the French Revolution

Known as a writer and legendary advocate of women’s rights, she was in Paris from December 1792, a month before Louis XVI was guillotined, until April 1795 when she returned to London. The artwork in the exhibition was inspired by what she saw and what she did during her stay, and what she wrote, whilst acting as a war correspondent for the English journal Analytical Review

I was struck by one of her quotations.

People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice,than any government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be suddenly overturned

Written during the French Revolution by Mary Wollstenecraft

Hint of a warning there for someone perhaps

Chawton House is a gem in itself. An Elizabethan Manor House. of which there are not too many. It belonged to Edward, Jane Austen’s brother who had inherited from the Knight family. Jane was a frequent visitor to the house which is only a short walking distance from the village. The lovely tea room served teas to visitors back in the c19

Lapsed into disrepair during the c19, for lack of funds, the house was rescued by the North American branch of the Jane Austen Society, and has been splendidly restored whilst retaining the character of a country house of the Elizabethan style

Artwork from the exhibition referring to the quote above:

The caption would have to be her quotation above

A delightful visit

The Royal Crescent in Bath : the Preparatory Sketch

The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath

I went to Bath a few days ago and took some pictures as reference for sketch ideas for the commission I have been given. I have been commissioned to paint the Royal Crescent Hotel which is dead centre of the crescent of that name. I have never stayed there, although I believe it is magnificent, and certainly world famous

This is my black and white sketch in ink and wash which covers the points that the client wanted. The large window is included which is about the only thing that identifies the hotel, that and the tubs by the railings. There was no signage that I could see, presumably not allowed. I managed to get some idea of the crescent shape in the roof line

Georgian architecture is certainly magnificent, drawing on classical details. It is certainly quite testing to draw. Having said that, I try not to include too much detail, as this will be a painting, not an architect’s drawing. That is my excuse anyway

If the sketch is approved then I move on to the drawing proper ready for painting, which will keep me out of mischief for a while

It may be some time before I post again, but I haven’t gone away

One day I shall have to count and see how many categories I have covered over the years. Certainly quite a lot and all things that have interested me

The Royal Crescent in Bath

I have been commissioned to paint the facade of the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath. which is a beautiful building in a beautiful city

Bath was made especially fashionable in the c18. It was a spa town. The rich and the famous went there for their health, to take the waters and to see and to be seen. It had been famous for its natural spring waters since Roman times, and the Roman baths today are a favourite tourist attraction. The Roman name for Bath was Aquae Sulis, or the waters of Sul. Sul was a British god whom the Romans adopted, so presumably the spring waters were venerated long before the Romans arrived.

The Royal Crescent

This is a long shot of the famous crescent. Sadly a dull day when I was there so the light does no justice to the lovely Bath stone which is a gorgeous honey colour. I have been commissioned to paint the hotel which is in the middle of the crescent and has a larger central window than the rest of the houses in the terrace

The terrace was designed in 1774 by an architect called John Wood the Younger. It looks out over parkland to this day, and has earned the soubriquet of “rus in urbe”. The Royal Crescent is considered to be the finest example of neo-classical architecture in the country, and has been imitated in Brighton, Buxton and London

I now have the task of doing this fine building justice in paint, which should prove challenging to say the very least.

Eilean Donan Castle Painting Completed

Eilean Donan Castle Completed

The painting completed

The foxgloves were really all that was left to do. I took great care with the colour match, yet still they turned out a tad too dark. I did actually remove some pigment which put in some highlight, and I thought they might dry lighter than that, but they didn’t. Perhaps they are a more exotic species.

Having said that, I quite like the colour even if not authentic. They give a welcome relief to all that green

I’m sitting here typing and my spotlight is on the painting, and the flowers look quite good. I shall have to recommend front lighting to anyone who might be interested

Not sorry to put this one to bed and perhaps move onto something else