Preliminary Sketches of Galloping Horses

Galloping Horse Drawing

I’ve transferred the drawings to watercolour paper now, and kept them as line drawings only, which is why they are faint. I have assembled the individual drawings that I had and strengthened, I hope , the composition into a more horizontal arrangement.

Since posting this drawing, I have liberally spattered with masking fluid, around the lower regions of the horses to look like, again hopefully, the spray that the lead horse was throwing up

I have put on a base coat of colour. A band of pthalo blue modified with cobalt for a sky colour, followed by a pink horizon, followed by a ground colour the same as the sky. For the pink, I have used something I bought long ago from SAA called Vermillion Hue, a colour outside of my experience. It was described as very good as a warm grey when mixed with Cobalt, and a very good shadow colour on snow. Likewise, without the Cobalt  it can provide a warm glow. No snow here I know,  but plenty of water and grey horses. The horses in the photograph were just catching the light on one side from a very watery sun

So this is an experiment and could fail, but I am hoping to catch this pink light on the horses, if I can

That is as far as I have got

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Impressionists in London Exhibition at Tate Britain

Charing Cross Bridge by Pissarro

Charing Cross Bridge by Camille Pissarro

I took my grandson to see this fascinating exhibition at Tate Britain, a week or so ago, as he is studying Pointillism as part of his Art GCSE syllabus. The work of Camille Pissarro was much in evidence, so a lot for him to have a look at. This was his first visit to a major gallery, so significant, and as he pointed out, we were looking at originals, so the actual canvases that these painters worked on. I sometimes lose sight of that fact myself.

The exhibition was centred around the work of French painters who fled to Britain in the 1870s to escape the horrors of the Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III had been captured after the Battle of Sedan, and on his release went into exile with his wife, Eugenie, and their son the Crown Prince, in England, living in Chislehurst. All three are entombed in Farnborough, in the abbey founded by Eugenie. After the fall of the Second Empire the fight went on, culminating in the horrific Siege of Paris in 1871. Civil war followed after a popular uprising by the Paris Commune. Thousands died. Many of the Communards were amongst those who fled to Britain, and who were received without question or restriction.

Many well-known painters arrived and stayed in London. Claude Monet had a suite of rooms in the Savoy Hotel, and painted the Thames and Houses of Parliament in all its moods. He loved the London fog, as did Whistler, credited by Oscar Wilde with the “invention of the fog”

Camille Pissarro, whose house in Louceviennes was commandeered by the Prussians, fled to south London with his mother and other relatives, ruined by the conflict. He lived at Kew, and paintings of his, of the Gardens and Kew Green are on display. He was another fascinated by the Thames and painted similar views to Monet, of the Houses of Parliament through the mist, as well as Charing Cross Bridge in the picture shown.

Not all the arrivals were Impressionists. James Tissot having been introduced by his friend Thomas Bowles, made a name for himself as a painter of High Society. With a great eye for colour and fashion, his paintings of ball gowns and uniforms are magnificent.

Many well-known dealers also followed the painters, and there are many more names that one could mention, but in the final room, is displayed the work of Andre Derain, who was inspired by the London paintings of Monet. He was sent to London in 1906 by the dealer Vollard, and produced thirty canvases from this trip. These were in homage to Monet and covered the same subjects , Charing Cross Bridge, the Thames and the Houses of Parliament. Not to my taste, I think he belonged to a group called the Fauvistes, which believed in the arbitrary use of colour. However, his work is successful, and rounds off this exhibiton nicely

Paintings are on loan from galleries across the world, so a one-off opportunity for most of us to see them. Worth going to, more than once if you can

 

Wild Horse Painting

Wild Horses

Now that my exhibition entry is complete, I can start to look at painting something for pure pleasure, whilst at the same time, having something very different in my portfolio, knowing that local exhibitions will be cropping up during the summer.

Horses are something of a favourite. I rode for many years. Nothing very serious, just hacking out but still exhilarating. Christmas rides over the Downs were the best, with a couple of long gallops thrown in. Some parts of the ride were on sandstone, so sandy tracks to gallop along which just went on and on.

My son and I used to go to the north-east several years running, and go post-trail riding spread over the week. Quite hairy galloping across the moors, but the horses were like goats, so you just let them take you

So after a while, you form an affection for horses, whether they are ponies or drays. In fact I loved watching the big dray horses delivering beer in certain parts of London, especially Wandsworth, home of Youngs Brewery which had a team of drays up to the time they closed down not that long ago. Now I just enjoy looking at them and taking photographs, hopefully to get some shots good enough to paint.

I am getting one or two different sketches together, hopefully to create something dramatic, perhaps even wild-looking. I haven’t finished my deliberations yet, but for the moment will just show the sketches which I’ve prepared so far, which might change as I go along

Galloping Horse

Finished Bosham Panorama Painting

Finished Bosham Panorama

and there it is waiting to go into its long frame

That will then complete a collection of twelve paintings for the coming exhibition at the Guildford Institute from 19th of this month

Since the last post, really the work was purely detailing, using dark brown, white and cadmium red. I have drawn in some buoys and odd details like that

I bought a new detail brush the other day, designed by Matthew Palmer. It has a large bole which holds a good supply of water, but the tip comes to a very fine point, which produces a line rather like you’d expect from a pen. I think it was designed for painting very thin branches and twigs. It also works well for fine rope work, and window frames

Huge sigh of relief now that the exhibition collection is finished, all but framing the last one

I can now look at catching up with a few paintings for pleasure. I love doing horses and have made some initial sketches, from which I think I can put an interesting composition together. I have gone back to drawing by eye instead of using a grid, which not only saves time, but also is comforting to know I can still do it ( or think I can)

I will publish the horse drawings at another time

Bosham Panorama for the Long Frame

Bosham Panorama Starting to emerge

Emerging from the sea mist almost

This is the start of the panoramic painting for the long frame which I mentioned recently, which I am hopeful for, but we shall see

For sky and sea I used a mix of phthalo blue and cobalt. For the sunset sky and reflection in the water, I have used a mix of Cadmium Orange and Permanent Rose. I was not pleased with the initial result, as the sky came up very orange indeed. I applied coat after coat of Permanent Rose, wet on dry, which when dry, appeared to have made very little impact. Eventually the sunset turned pinky red, and I quite liked the effect of the pink over the blue. Where the blue had gone on sparsely, the pink soaked in, and started to look like pink clouds on the blue sky. I am not sure whether this shows in the photograph.

In order to get the effect of the low sun on the rooftops, I will need to glaze the buildings with something like Light Red and if that goes too brown, then a thin wash of Cadmium Red. Sparingly, of course, as that is powerful stuff.

There is masking fluid to come off, where white buildings have caught the strong light. I should have mirrored that in the sea, but forgot, but I think I can rescue that with White Gouache.

Dark shadows to go in with dark Brown which will accentuate the light, I hope. Also some small boats for which I will use the same blue mix, and white masts, should add to the effect

I am hoping so, as exhibition time draws near

Schooldays in the 1950s: Part Two

One of the most important aspects of grammar school life was sport and sporting achievement. Sporting heroes were venerated, whilst scholars were not. I haven’t given this piece a title, quite deliberately, but if I did it could be Sport and Entertainment, which sounds like a quiz round. We had a lot of sport, but very little entertainment. Our antidote to work was sport. There was no place for the frivolous

I have not named my old school yet, I don’t know why, there is no need for me to be coy about it. The college was founded in the c18, by an East India merchant named Richard Churcher, to train boys in mathematics and navigation, before entering the service of the East India Company. The school is Churcher’s College, still very much there, but independent since the introduction of the comprehensive system. It stands alongside the old Portsmouth Road, built of local sandstone, it boasts clocktower, quadrangle,refectory and all those other ingredients of a traditional boy’s college from a distant past. It could be Greyfriar’s or Hogwarts

Sport was very well catered for. Rugby in the autumn term, cross-country running in the spring term and cricket in the summer, were obligatory, and enjoyed by many. I hated all three. My extreme odium was reserved for cross-country running, always on a Tuesday afternoon for juniors, straight after a lunch of corned beef, lumpy mash potato and some mixed salad leaves, with a boiled suet pudding to follow. Running three miles over rough farmland straight after that, was not good for the digestion. Several boys lost their lunch on the way.

I said this took place in the spring term. This ran from early January to Easter more or less so took in the worst two months of the year. Today,  thanks to global warming, we have comparatively mild winters, and rarely have snow in the south. In the 1950s snow was more or less guaranteed straight after Christmas, and would hang around for weeks

We changed in the pavilion, which doubled as a gym. One afternoon sticks in my mind, as our games master opened the doors to start us off. The sky was black, and large flakes of snow fell in blizzard conditions. Surely the run would be cancelled, and we could spend the afternoon in the library.  Dream on.  Smiling, if not laughing, our games master dressed in duffle coat, scarf and gloves waved us on our way. We had rugger shirts and shorts and Plimsoll shoes to protect us against the elements. Today, I think, people would be horrified to run in those conditions. Most runners in the winter seem to wear leggings, hood and anorak today, something about keeping muscles warm.

Across the playing fields and out into Love Lane, we ran en masse. Gradually the good runners pulled ahead, with the boys not built for speed lagging further and further behind. I was usually somewhere in the middle , I have to say

After a mile or so of road running, we approached that terrible first obstacle, the “muddy bridge” which really did sort out the good from the awful. This was an old railway bridge, one of many, which carried the Petersfield to Midhurst railway. The railway was in use then, but later would be axed by Doctor Beeching.  Beneath the bridge never saw the light of day, was very deep mud. It never dried out, not even in good weather. The local farmer drove his cattle through it. The cattle sank above their knees in this ooze, creating holes that filled with water with a crust of ice on top. We forged through this lot, likewise well over our knees, so that it took a very great effort to extricate our feet from this sticky morass of mud and excrement. Plimsolls were lost,  sometimes for ever.

After this we were on to open farmland, which we took in our stride, quite literally. It was expected, and we had to do it, so we did. No one was in touch with their feminine side in those days, if we had one to be in touch with. We were told it was good for us, as we arrived back at the pavilion, our characters built, glad to be alive, glad the ordeal was over for yet another week but yet strangely satisfied as we took our hot shower, forged anew by this arduous test. I felt sorry for the tail-enders, as they trickled in, sometimes in the dark, suffering derisive comments from the games master. I don’t remember any concern being shown for boys late back, only irritation. They could have been face down in a ditch for all that anyone knew.

Reading this back, it looks as though I had a miserable time at school, but not so.  I enjoyed my studies, and also enjoyed my time in the CCF or Combined Cadet Force, which once must have been an Officers Training Corps. You could join either of the three services. I chose the army. Everything was still WW2 issue,  uniform, weapons etc. Give a boy of 14 a .303 rifle and a magazine of blanks, and have him charging round the countryside shooting at the”enemy”, this had to be enjoyable. Health and Safety today would be horrified. This deserves, one day, a chapter of its own, so I will talk about what served as our only light relief in those days.

We read a great deal, it is fair to say. We read the classics without being told to. I read H.Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stephenson, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and H.G.Wells. These authors wrote wonderful adventure stories which appealed to boys, then. Stories of exploration and of empire, which remember we were only just leaving behind us. The humiliation of the Suez Crisis in 1956 taught us that our days as a world power had come to an end, and that America was taking over.

In our wonderful library, we had, amongst many other things, leather-bound copies of Strand Magazine, a Victorian publication which serialised stories that we know well today. Conan Doyle published his adventures of Sherlock Holmes in this magazine in serialised form, and I remember especially reading Hound of the Baskervilles. I can say truthfully that I read it in the original.

We had comics. I bought the Eagle from W.H.Smith on Havant Station. One of the first comics to run stories of space travel, it was a runaway success. Dan Dare was the great hero with his sidekick Digby from Wigan. Together they thwarted the plans of the Mekon and his reptilian band of Treens

Recently I researched and gave a talk on H.G.Wells and his time in Woking, his most prolific time, from 1895-6, where he wrote works that made him famous like War of the Worlds. He also wrote something called The Man from the Year Million, where humans had developed massive brains with massive heads to match, and atrophied bodies and limbs which had shrunk because they were no longer being used. Interestingly, the illustrators of the Dan Dare stories borrowed from Wells when they created the Mekon character, and somewhere I have a picture.

Mekon_Big

and there is the rascal himself

Dan Dare stories were also broadcast on Radio Luxembourg , which I was not allowed to listen to, in our authoritarian household.

There was very little in the way of titillation. Censorship was strong and minors had to be protected. Nevertheless we sometimes bought a paper called Reveille, which might contain a picture of Diana Dors in a one piece bathing costume! She was Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, a blond bombshell and a very popular model. She died quite young in 1982, married to a gangster as I remember, and living an orgiastic lifestyle. On a more serious note, she was also RADA trained and a very competent straight actress. I can remember seeing her in character parts in TV dramatisations of different works by DIckens, in which she was excellent.

I became very interested in photography in my mid teens, an interest way out of my meagre budget. I did buy each week, the Amateur Photographer magazine, which cost me 1/6d in old money, out of my pocket money of 3/6d, which left me strapped for the rest of the week. My father liked to read it too, but never thought to cough up a bit more money to cover the outlay. Maybe this propagated in me a latent interest in art, who knows

Bits and pieces come back as I write. I started learning German when I was 14. You were only allowed to do this, if you were already proficient in French. We were encouraged to have pen friends in Germany, and I started to write to Brigitte who lived in Wilhelmshaven, a naval port on the Baltic coast, a place better known for U-boat pens than anything else, but enough of that. We were the same age. She wrote in English and I wrote in German. Her stuff was very girly, as one might expect, and I wasn’t mature enough to say anything interesting either, so the arrangement foundered fairly quickly. She was very good-looking though.  Who knows what became of her.

I think I will stop

Using a Long Frame

Bosham Harbour at Sunset

You will remember this as the picturesque harbour and church of the village of Bosham on the West Sussex coast. A beautiful place, its history goes back beyond the Saxons, who built the parish church in the picture. It was a favourite of the Danish king , Cnut who reigned before the Norman conquest. The apocryphal story of Cnut attempting to turn back the waves to demonstrate his power is alleged to have happened here. What is true, however, is that his daughter, a child who drowned, is buried in the church, close to the massive chancel arch

Bosham church features on the Bayeux tapestry, which is really an embroidery and which was made in England, not Bayeux, but never mind, it is nevertheless an amazing work of art which has survived. The church doesn’t look like the one in the photograph, but is represented by the enormous Saxon chancel arch, so perhaps it was only the chancel which was there then. Why was it shown on the tapestry? Harold Godwinsson who was in the running to become king of England, as was William of Normandy, sailed from here on his ill-fated voyage to Normandy to meet William. Later he was shipwrecked on the French coast, handed over to William, who kept him as a house-guest cum prisoner for some months, and as the story goes, tricked him into swearing an oath to support his, William’s, bid for the English throne.

Shortly after writing this in draft form, a matter of hours in fact, came the announcement that France is very kindly loaning the embroidery to England, to be put on display. How strange is that. The first time in 950 years that the embroidery would be coming back to England, and I have just written about it.  It is thought that the embroidery was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, who was made Duke of Kent, but who was also Bishop of Bayeux. The work was most likely carried out by Anglo-Saxon needlewomen. Their needlework was famous throughout Europe, called, I think, Opus Anglicanorum. Also we are told that there are hints of Anglo-Saxon amongst the Latin titles, although I have not checked that

Later it came to force of arms, at Senlac Hill further along the Sussex coast, called the Battle of Hastings, although not at Hastings, in 1066, and the result is well-known. But this piece is about Bosham, and how to paint it, which I have done many, many times in so many moods. Always popular at exhibitions, and has also been commissioned, the problem is that everyone wants that same view, naturally enough, because it is so very tranquil and delightful to look at.

How can I do something different? I thought of this frame, which will allow an image of about 50×15 centimetres, so will appear as a panorama of the shoreline, with no foreground at all, so completely different to the previous paintings of this view. I did something like it before, of the fishing boats at Beer, and that sold, so I will try it again for this exhibition and see what happens.

long frame

This is the actual frame to give you more of an idea

Schooldays in the 1950s

Occasionally, very occasionally, a painting goes wrong. Sometimes it can be rescued, but now and then it can’t, and has to be abandoned. That is what has happened now, with the painting of the Canal Bridge. I know I shall never be happy with it, so I am going to move on to something else, probably a Venice waterside for the exhibition, which is galloping towards me

That leaves me with no paintings to write about for the moment, so something completely different, which may or may not be of interest. I am going to jot down some of my memories of my grammar school years, which ran from 1954 to 1959. The world was a different place. We were emerging from the Second World War. I don’t remember the war, but I experienced the aftermath. Bomb damage and reconstruction, rationing, real austerity and the effect on my parents who had lived through this terrible time. My father in Burma, the so-called forgotten war, returning home wrecked and my mother building a business from nothing . So this may ramble as it won’t be chronological, but will just be aspects of my school life, as they come back to me.

At the age of eleven, which for me was 1954, one year following the coronation of our present queen, we sat an examination which decided our future for life. This was the socially divisive eleven plus exam, which really did separate the sheep from the goats. Such was the competition for grammar school places, that from a class of 36 boys and girls, only six were able to pass. The rest were condemned to the so called secondary modern system, where they received a second class education fitting them out for a second class life. This system would change but not yet.

But this is about me, and I was a lucky one. I was enrolled for a well-known grammar school in Petersfield, a small town in the South Downs. Founded in the c18 by an East India merchant for the purpose of training boys in mathematics and navigation before enlisting them in the East India Company. You can imagine that a school immersed in tradition and history such as this,  would be a serious place to study in. It was

After leaving a fairly comfortable council- run primary school, entering this college was something of a culture-shock. It was an all boys school for a starter. We had not been used to segregation of the sexes. We did meet girls from the nearby Petersfield High School, on the train going home, so there was some solace in that. Otherwise our life had something of a monastic feel to it, study, compulsory sport and showers. No not cold I’m happy to report. Mens sana in corpore sano it was though

Wearing a uniform felt strange. Blazer with badge, tie and cap were de rigueur. We rebelled against the cap by bending the peak into a serpentine shape. Perched on the back of the head, it made us look cool, we thought. Yes, we had that word then too. Elbows on the blazers wore first. My parents patched them with pieces of leather. Ironically this came in as a fashion statement, a few years ago. I still have a sweater in my wardrobe, which I smile to look at.

Punishment, terrifying at first, was new to us. Corporal punishment, illegal today, could be given by masters but not prefects. Prefects could give detention for any misdemeanor up to one hour, which was served after school, which was miserable in the winter, walking to the railway station alone. What you could do, if you wanted, was trade your detention in for two strokes of the cane, delivered by the headmaster. After the sting and the heat had worn off, and you no longer had to hop around, you thought you had done a good deal.

Only masters could beat boys, but very few did. One exception was our English master, one William Kershaw, whom the boys called Gus. Nobody knew why. He was one of the few masters to wear his university gown during class, and occasionally he would sport the mortar board too. Once agitated in class, he would wind his gown round and round his arm, rather in the manner Roman senators did with their togas, which we know was for protection against violent attack. So much wear did he give it, that the arms shredded and hung off him like rags on Cinderella.

In his pocket he carried the sole of a Plimsoll shoe, which was all we had for PE and running in those days. This slipper saw action in every lesson, with amazing good humour. The class deteriorated into pure theatre. The hapless victim leaned over the desk, whilst the rest of us bayed for blood, not literally, I hasten to add. Gus waited for the thumbs to go up or down. Always down, and he proceeded with the execution. The victim blinked manfully and returned to his seat. The crowd roared. We were a dreadful spectacle, master and boys presenting this awful drama. Gus was amazingly popular. An erudite scholar in Latin and Greek, and Anglo-Saxon too I believe, there was little that he didn’t know about poetry and prose in all those languages as well as English

We were very fond of him. Towards the end of term, and if we had been good, he would read to us from the ghost stories of M.R.James, which he loved, and reading aloud he would lose himself in the story, doing the voices and the actions, whilst all the time winding his tattered gown around his arm like bandages torn from a black sheet. We boys, starved of any sort of entertainment, were spellbound and never wanted this lesson to finish. I still read them occasionally to this day, and wallow in the nostalgia. He also read from the Border Ballads, especially the tale of Little Musgrave, which was exceptionally naughty. One verse he omitted as too disgusting. After the class finished, there was a mad stampede to the library to get a copy to read the forbidden verse. He also lightly tossed into the conversation that of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Titus Andronicus was too disgusting to read. Likewise we devoured the library copy. There was psychology at work there, for sure.

I see that I have quickly reached 1000 words, with these few snatches. Maybe I will do some more one day

Turner in Surrey Exhibition at Lightbox in Woking

Turner's Newark Priory

I can highly recommend this exhibition at the Woking Lightbox. Their exhibitions just get better. I had no idea that Turner did so much work in Surrey, especially around Guildford in or around 1805

He painted Newark Priory Church plein air long before the Impressionists, and you may be able to tell from my bad photograph that his style then was getting towards an impressionist one. His later paintings like Rain, Steam and Speed were all about colour and not form, very much like the Impressionists. The ruined priory church is all that remains of a once complete Augustinian foundation, coming under Chertsey as I remember. It stands on private land so it cannot be visited only viewed from the towpath on the Wey Navigation, or from the road, and I rather think Turner made his study from the road. There was probably less traffic on the road than on the canal towpath in those days

He also stayed at the White Lion Inn in Guildford High Street, one of the many old coaching inns in the town. Demolished despite local protest to make way for Woolworths store, the white lion model inn sign was kept, and brought forward again, when Woolworths itself was demolished to make way for the White Lion Walk shopping centre in the 1980s

From his room in the hotel, Turner sketched Quarry Street opposite. The scene is much the same as today, with the historic Star Inn on the right-hand corner and St.Mary’s, the Saxon church behind that. You can see the castle too. The building on the left, which is now Thomas Cook, has changed. I tried to photograph the sketch, but not too successfully

Turner's Sketch Book

I have painted this view myself, so slightly eerie

He also painted and etched a very fine view of St.Catherine’s Chapel which stands just outside of the town on the Portsmouth Road. Ruined 13c, it stands roughly on the old pilgrim’s way, near where pilgrims would have been ferried across the river. No connection with pilgrims though, as it was built as a chapel of ease for the parishioners of Artington, to save them the long journey to St.Nicholas’ Church

There is more and I shall go back

 

 

 

The Finished House Portrait

Finished House Portrait

Well, the portrait is finished and shown to the client who is delighted. I don’t usually allow myself satisfaction, but even I think that this one turned out well. It just has to be mounted, which I shall do in the new year. It isn’t required until the middle of January so that should work out nicely

Basically, all that I needed to do since the last post, was to put in the shadows. Half the gravel drive was covered by shade from a large tree just off-stage, which also darkened the hedge. Some intricate shadow underneath the porch gave shape to the covered interior, and even the cartwheel stands out more now from the wall

Some dark detailing was added to the shrubs on the left. Somewhere in the deep tunnel made by those shrubs is a white garden gate, which I have shaded. Most of this I had to guess, with the help of some alternative references

I enjoy house portraits. I’m not sure why. This one will go on my website one day

But for now to resume my exhibition work, as time does not stand still

At this time of year, may I wish all who read my blog,warmest greetings and good fortune in the coming year