Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre , Paris

 

This has always been a favourite area of Paris. I have wandered around many times taking pictures, and have used them for paintings afterwards. The artist’s quarter, the steps, the views over the roof tops and the Consulat have all featured in my paintings and have been popular at exhibitions, but for some reason, I have never painted the basilica itself

The basilica was planned or started about 1870, and was part of a Catholic revival in France. It was said to be partly a penance following defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war, and partly to expiate the sins of the Communards during the Commune which followed the exile of Napoleon 111.

Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians after the battle of Sedan. His son, the Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, present at the battle, was spirited away to Ostende and thence to England by boat. His mother the Empress Eugenie, dropped everything and fled to England to join her son. In fairness, all was up with the imperial rule. her husband Napoleon III  was released by the Prussians and allowed to travel to England. Already a sick man, he died in exile in 1873.

The Commune , following the fall of Paris, saw much anti-church rhetoric and atrocities. The building of the Sacre-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre, a scene of much insurrection, was intended to heal the divisions in France, and create a church come-back. Certainly this was  a significant building

Using various photographs, I have made this pencil sketch on which to base a painting. I just haven’t worked out colours yet, although something sunlit I suspect. No doubt my favourite warm shadows using Sennelier Transparent Brown mixed with Violet will be present.

I have the task now of moving the sketch in very basic terms onto watercolour paper and then finishing a drawing ready for painting. So, as always we shall see.

The Basilica of la Sagrada Familia

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The Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. An amazing structure, quite, or perhaps almost, unique

We have been staying in Sitges for the last five days, enjoying the sun and the warmth, although as our perverse climate would have it, the temperature in southern England shot up to 25c, whilst in Spain only 20c but nevertheless very agreeable.

We took the train into Barcelona, which proved very straightforward, not to mention cheap in comparison to the steep fares charged around the London area. The journey took about forty minutes. I had already bought timed tickets for the Sagrada Familia on line before I left home. What a boon that proved to be as the crowds queuing for tickets when we arrived were formidable

We were, of course, very early, so time for a coffee, and a stroll round the outside of the building, taking in the details. We were last here twenty years ago, and the place, even inside, was a construction site. High up in the heavens magnificent cranes are working with the sensitivity and lightness of touch that you might expect from an artist.

After lunch and another stroll, our tickets allowed us to enter and we went inside. I don’t often use the word “breath taking” but we were looking at a masterpiece.

We associate this building, sometimes called the third cathedral, with Antoni Gaudi, the incredible architect in the Art Nouveau style, who adapted Gothic architecture to produce this wonderful building. He took over the project in 1883, and stayed with it until his untimely death in 1926. During all this time he is also completing other large projects for the Guell family and also for the Church.

So much has been achieved since our last visit. The nave with its paraboloid arches which seem to reach up into the heavens, will be my enduring memory. Colour is everywhere, as the light streams through stained glass. Detail is everywhere, small animals, leaves, vegetation as well as so many human figures representing the Nativity and other stories. Gaudi was devoted to nature. He was also extremely devout, and his interpretations of the liturgy, I found moving. So much detail, too much to record here.

In the cloister which surrounds the building, is situated the museum, now open, which records the timeline of the whole construction period. Gaudi’s models are on show and his drawings, which enabled successive craftsmen to carry on his work. Still much to do, with a projected finish date of 2026. I wonder if I will get back to see that. Could do, I certainly hope so

Venice Painting Completed

Venice Painting Completed

The finished painting with San Giorgio Maggiore in the background, which I enjoyed doing, although trying to hit the right colours was testing to say the least

I have already mentioned the mooring posts. In the photograph they looked red in the evening light. This turned into a glazing exercise, wet on dry, although nothing like as tricky as the hull of the gondola which I will come to in a minute

For the posts I started with a Burnt Sienna wash which is pretty safe. When the paint had dried, the pigment had disappeared. I applied another coat of the same colour, followed by a coat of Permanent Rose which should have given these posts a nice evening red glow, but still pasty. I had been waiting to use quinacridone red, of which I have a fairly limited experience, so perhaps risky. The colour worked well, I thought, giving me what I wanted. I used Indigo for the strips of bark hanging onto the wood. Indigo makes an alternative to black which I avoid if I can

Now the real challenge, to use that overworked word, was how to treat the hull of the gondola. I may have said before that gondolas are black by regulation. The finish is of a very high gloss, the sort one sometimes gets on pianos, in fact it used to be called piano finish. I think polyurethane was involved which may have been universally banned by now because of health risks.

Black gloss in certain lights obviously won’t look black, because of the other bright colours it picks up in this mirror like shine. If you remember the original photograph that I worked from, the vessel looked a sort of bright copper colour.

Again this was a long and drawn out glazing exercise. At least five coats as I remember and twenty four hours natural drying in between each coat. I used Quinacradone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Van Dyke Brown, Transparent Brown and Permanent Rose

I looked at it in the morning from a distance. I think it worked but I will have to put it away and get it out again another time, before I can make an objective view

As always comments are welcome

Venice Painting so far

Venice painting to date

 

Not the best of photographs I am afraid

The sky is much pinker than the picture shows but try as I might, I can’t stop the camera leeching out the background colour. Also too much camera distortion making the posts lean inwards which I will try to correct on the finished version

What I did to colour match the original photograph, in which the sky and most of the water is a deep salmon pink, was to brush all over first with a red-orange mix, which did dry quite pale. I then built up with dilute coats of alizarin crimson until I reached the depths of colour that I wanted.

When that was hard-dried, I started on the background buildings, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, always a favourite. Being in deep shadow I gave all the buildings a wash of French Ultramarine, and then another one. When that was really dry, I painted the rooftops and brickwork in Burnt Sienna.

The mooring posts I started with Burnt Sienna, but I wanted them to be more red than that. I glazed them with Permanent Rose. They were still too brown, so went over them again with quinacrodone red ( it doesn’t matter which way I spell that word, it always seems to be wrong). This was getting nearer the shade

I now had the colour relationship between the foreground posts and the background church. I felt the church could go darker still, with another coat of Ultramarine, and this time bring the wash down a little way over the water, to cast a shadow. There is one small building in front of the church, which I think is the customs house, which in reality stands well out on a promontory coming towards us. I missed this out with the last coat so that it didn’t disappear altogether

That is as far as I have gone as yet. I still have to darken the posts and finish the gondola, probably with some indigo on the seating. How I tackle the hull, I still have to work out, so we shall see.

Venice Tonal Sketch

Venice Tonal Sketch

The exhibition at the Guildford Institute has been running for a working week now. There have been a crop of complimentary comments, otherwise fairly quiet. Not unexpected ,as although the Institute is a delightful venue, it is not a very busy place, and I tend to get more publicity than sales there. Having said that, I usually sell something even if it is after the show

Now is the time I have to think about my next solo show which will be at the Royal Surrey Hospital in July.  This is held in the Peter Thompson Gallery, which is quite a busy place. Taking the worst case scenario and assuming I sold no paintings whatsoever at the Institute, I still wouldn’t take the same collection to the hospital. I will take some but also freshen the gallery with some new stuff which I will work on between now and July. This sounds a long way off but there are holidays in between, so I cannot slacken the pace

I need a couple of Venice pictures which are always popular, so I am working on the view above.  The lovely church of San Giorgio Maggiore near the mouth of the Grand Canal is always a favourite, and I have painted it several times before, but not this particular shot. It always sold in the past, which I know is no guarantee for the future.  Everyone wants the same view so the test is to provide the same image, yet giving it some twist that stretches the artist at the same time.

I am going to give this painting some different colours which will make me think. This will be an evening scene, so a reddish sky which will reflect on the water. The church will fade into the background, and the foreground will be taken up with this solitary gondola. Gondolas are traditionally black. I think there is a regulation which says that they have to be. But it won’t have to look black. The high gloss finish will reflect the colour of the water and the shadows on the water, and also include the dancing highlights

This will certainly test me, and I am not at all sure that I can pull this one off. However it will be interesting to say the very least, and an experience I shall learn something from

As always I will post my progress stage by stage

 

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Sidney Sime Memorial Gallery in Worplesdon, Surrey, UK

A Wild Creature Stalking the Woods by Sidney Simes

A Wild Creature Stalking The Woods by Sidney Sime

This gem of a gallery existed on my doorstep without my ever hearing about, or seeing it even, despite being just off a busy main road that I use often. The gallery has been there since 1956, opened with proceeds from the sale of Simes’ home in Worplesdon on the death of his widow in 1949. There are approximately 500 catalogued pictures of which 86 are hung and on permanent display. The rest are in cabinets and folders.

We went there recently with a group from Guildford Museum, which was, I have to say, a most enlightening visit.

To say something about the man. Sidney Sime was born in Manchester in 1867. As soon as he was old enough he went to work in the pits and for five years pushed “scoops” of coal along rails through tunnels about 75 centimetres high.

He used to scratch little drawings on the walls even then and find odd moments for making sketches

After a succession of jobs including sign-writing which he became successful at, he eventually joined the Liverpool School of Art, part of a network of art colleges stretching down to South Kensington.

His studies complete , he contributed drawings to many well-known magazines, eventually purchasing and editing a magazine himself. Called the Idler, there are copies in the gallery.

He married in 1898. Following a bequest from an uncle in Scotland, the couple settled in Perthshire, where he painted many Scottish landscapes. They felt isolated in Scotland and moved to Worplesdon in Surrey which was accessible to his London studio.

He began to specialise in caricature, drawing local characters in the pub, viewing them in the mirror behind the bar. Many of his most enthusiastic supporters were among the wealthy, and they gave him the stimulus to produce some of his finest pictures. In 1896 he gained membership of the Royal Society of British Artists.

After the Great War, came a prolific period, when he produced much of his visionary work, especially from the Book of Revelation. He staged a well-received exhibition at St.George’s gallery in London in 1924, and another less so in 1927.

Later he was to drift into obscurity, painting for his own pleasure until his death in 1941.

There will be a major exhibition of his work in Woking’s  Lightbox Gallery from 15th April to 28th May 2017

 

David Hockney at Tate Britain

Pool with Two Figures 1972 detail by Hockney

Pool with Two Figures 1972 detail

David Hockney is probably one of the most popular and widely recognised living artists of our time. His work spans the last 50 years from his student days, continually reinventing himself

We went there today. We like Tate Britain on a Saturday morning. Thanks to the kindness of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea you can still park free on a meter on a Saturday. Also no congestion surcharge on a weekend. Anticipating correctly a heavy attendance for this exhibition, Tate Britain has been opening the doors two hours earlier than usual. We were early but not that early. The queues as we drew up looked daunting. This is where the member’s card comes into its own. We swept in effortlessly

Like most people, we have followed Hockney throughout each of his stages. Some of them leave me cold. In his student days he was influenced by Picasso. Everybody copies Picasso at some stage. It is very easy to tire of Picasso

One of my favourite Hockney periods is when he veered towards naturalism. I just like recognisable paintings. He was in Los Angeles for this time in his life, and so lots of swimming pool pictures of athletic young men. I particularly like his double portraits which explores the relationship between the two. Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970 is a favourite. Especially touching is the affectionate portrait of his parents, especially the way they are posed

I remember his work with the Polaroid camera in the 1980s, producing myriads of small images to make up into a collage of quite a large picture. He was dissatisfied with the white border around each small image. I rather like that. The whole composition looked like a ceramic mural.

After many years in America, he moved back to his native Yorkshire, and produced some marvelous work. Massive tableaux of the Yorkshire Wolds. The colours are breathtaking. He moved from paint to video to produce a colossal work entitled The Four Seasons which as the name tells us, was of a single stretch of road in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Incredibly technical work

I am sorry I have no images. Vigilant attendants quite rightly moved in on me every time I tried to take a photograph discreetly with my phone. His charcoal drawings……….one can go on and on, my eyes ached after two hours. I shall go again

Paintings to Google are My Parents 1977, Mr and Mrs Clarke and Percy 1970,the Road to Thwing 2006, A Closer Winter Tunnel February-March 2006 and of course so many more

See it if you are in London. On until 29th May

Salt Mills of Trapani: the finished painting

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The painting finished, and that now completes my quota for the exhibition coming up at the Guildford Institute on the 13th. Something of a relief that I am in time, and only have some framing left to do.

For the conical roofs on the mills, I used a different red. Quinacridone Red which I haven’t used before, makes a nice deep pinky red and was virtually an exact colour match to the photograph. Indian Red is not dissimilar but I remembered buying the quinacridone some while ago for some purpose or other, so thought I would trial it. I quite like it by way of a change

I then went on to run a dilute shade of the same colour down the sides of the mills themselves which again brought the masonry colour closer to the original in the photograph.

The stones along the walkway between the salt pans, were quite bright in the sunlight, so I used quinacridone gold instead of raw sienna

There was little else to do. I deepened the blue in the foreground. Sadly little or nothing to put there, so I have made the reflections more pronounced in order to break up the expanse of blue water  I could use red for my signature. I will think about that

But life does not stop here. I have another exhibition coming up in July at the Royal Surrey Hospital, which is another favourite venue. This time I shall be sharing the space with my colleague, Elaine. She does more abstract and adventurous stuff than me, so our paintings seem to compliment one another

Taking a pessimistic view, with no sales at the Institute, I shall just move these paintings to the next exhibition. However there would be one or two changes that I would like to make anyway, and I would like to include some more paintings of Venice which are always popular. I have come across a very good source of photographs that I can work from and leave the next one with you

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San Giorgio Maggiore, an old favourite which I have painted before but the light and colours on this shot are delightful

We will see what I make of it. Suggestions by the way, are always welcome

Salt Mills at Trapani: the part finished painting

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Well, I am moving along slowly, which is the best I can say

There have been quite a few problems over the last couple of weeks, which have demanded my attention. Sadly things that I enjoy, like painting, have had to take second place. Still, every now and then, I creep back to my easel and manage an hour or so. I treat painting as r&r at the moment, and there is no doubt that it soothes the troubled spirit.

I have called this the part finished stage. perhaps more accurate would be to call it the part unfinished stage.

I have put in a Mediterranean sky and water. Phthalo Blue and Cobalt blended seem to work quite well for this. Again I have worked up the distant background in the same colour only deeper, which I think gives it a more faraway look

I have been putting detail into the three mills and adjacent buildings. I have been trying to gradate the tone from one to the other to create the feeling of distance. The nearest will require more work, as this one will have to look really sharp. Detailing the sails will be testing, knowing how much to put in and how much to leave out. I want them to look accurate without looking like a photograph. Oh well, if it were easy it wouldn’t be fun, I suppose

Ironically, the furthest mill presented the least difficulties when it came to painting the sails. Just a flick of a wet brush and that was it. I still have to think about the middle one which will be difficult to get just right. The three bears had the same problem!

I have had to rearrange those low walls to help the composition and to get some reflections in, otherwise there will be nothing in the foreground. No boats here.

Some interesting problems to tackle!