Tower Bridge, London in early light

Tower Bridge in early light

The original is actually brighter than this photograph. Annoyingly I couldn’t get the reproduction any lighter which is a pity

Tower Bridge is always a good subject. It stands across the river as an entrance to the Pool of London. It doesn’t seem so long ago that cargo ships docked here and loaded or discharged their cargo. The bridge became an icon of its time, when London was a hub of international trade. In my lifetime, with the advent of containerisation, traffic moved downriver to Tilbury, and the London docklands wound down as far as shipping was concerned. It became a financial centre instead, important obviously but perhaps not quite so stirring as shipping

I am grateful to Fietz Fotos for their permission to use their reference photograph. It really was a study in orange and blue. I have painted Tower bridge several times over the years, but not in these colours, so it was still challenging enough and seemed to take me quite a long time

There still is a real exhibition planned which I have entered. This will be at Denbies Winery near Dorking and starts on June 21st. If it isn’t cancelled at last minute, as it was at Christmas, this will be my first real show since lockdown 1. Online sales have been good and one must be grateful, but there is something of a buzz about a real exhibition.

We will keep fingers crossed

Prince Philip : a personal recollection

High Wycombe College 1967

In 1967 I was studying at High Wycombe College of Technology, as it was then. It will have university status by now along with all the other ‘techs’ in the land. The course was a new one, and groundbreaking at the time. we were being trained in export marketing, and the course was a combination of business studies and languages, three to be precise. I say groundbreaking because this country was waking up to the need for a renewed effort in marketing our goods overseas. Other countries had rebuilt their industry since the war, notably Germany and Japan, whose economies were racing ahead of ours. We stayed in the past with outdated plant and methods. Our industrial relations record was lamentable, and held us back. Our balance of payments situation was dire in the extreme

Training was seen as part of the answer. This course was one of those that provided the means. It was an exciting start

Prince Philip, whom we all know was very interested in opportunities for the young, and in rebuilding this country. he paid us a flying visit, literally by helicopter, and spent some hours talking to us individually and informally so that he could learn about what we were doing. In the photograph, one of my colleagues is explaining the project we were involved in. Two students seated, and one is me, are waiting their turn.

I remember he spoke to us in German for a little while, which put us on our mettle. I am happy to say that we acquitted ourselves well. We were greatly impressed by his visit. It was a tremendous boost

Many of us went on to take up overseas sales post in industry. Today in our global economy and instantaneous communication worldwide, selling overseas is a natural function, but at that time it seemed intrepid and trailblazing

We know how much Prince Philip did in encouraging all our efforts and are grateful

RIP Prince Philip

Horses in the Mist Painting Amended

Horses out of the Mist

When I posted this painting previously I thought the horses were floating which was not an effect that I had been trying to get. It was suggested that I add spatter so that it would appear the horses were kicking up mud. So that is what I have done, and I prefer the result. They do now look as though they have feet on the ground

That really finishes this painting, and I can move on to other things

I came across a photograph of Tower Bridge in London, which looks like early morning with very deep orange in the sky and reflected in the water. It is the sort of colouring that I like doing in watercolour. The bridge itself is silhouetted against this bright sky, so not too much detail in the architecture. There are a couple of large boats but little more. It will be very much an exercise in tonal values, which should be enjoyable

I will post some images on my next post

Alhambra Palace, Spain

Alhambra Palace, Spain

We went here four years ago. We were staying in Seville at the time, so our visit to the Alhambra Palace and Granada meant we had to make a really early start, and tour the palace in the cool of the morning. This we did, and the tour went well. Some while ago I painted something called Wandering round the Alhambra Palace, which featured the Patio de Leones or Lion Square because of the magnificent fountain in the middle, with its superb carvings of lions.

Nearby Granada, with its magnificent cathedral, we visited later in the searing heat of the afternoon, which I did not enjoy. I don’t know what the final temperature was, but certainly passed 40c. I spent most of the time in the cathedral, to escape the sun, but also to visit the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella. This royal duo liberated Granada from the Moors in 1492, including the Alhambra Palace where they themselves held court. Christopher Columbus went there in 1492 to receive royal instructions before leaving on his voyage.

I had wanted to paint a long view of the palace but time did not permit me time to take any long view photographs. I was pleased to find a helpful reference shot on the Pixabay website, taken by Dennis Doukhar, which was available royalty free for commercial purposes. My thanks to the photographer for the use of this shot.

There is a red shade to much of the building which I have used. Quite a lot of trees around the outside of the palace, so that problem wit unremitting greens, yet again. I have done my best with the trees and will let others judge

Horses in the Mist — the finished painting

My version

This is my finished version of the photograph for which I am grateful to Pixabay

I am not sure about the marbling, not that I have tried to emulate the original exactly. I have used more orange and more blue, which has made the painting brighter, rightly or wrongly. My eye at the moment, is going from one image to the other. I don’t think I have captured the same feeling of movement as the original . When I look at the original I can almost hear the hoofbeats. My horses seem to float on a cloud, which is weird or ethereal depending on your preference.

Still it has been an interesting exercise and one of the most taxing that I have tried for a long time. Certainly a change from architecture

Horses in the Mist

Horses with acknowledgements to Image by Artower from Pixabay

I am grateful for the loan of this image provided by the royalty free website Pixabay. I thought that painting my own version in watercolour would provide me with quite a challenge. The horse that worried me most was the chestnut mare in the centre. How to get the colour that vibrant was a question I couldn’t answer. Obviously a glazing exercise, but where to start. I consulted the mighty Google and looked at various options. One was interesting, starting with an under painting of dilute sap green, but I drew back from that and went for something safer

I decided to do two trials, and start with drawings in coloured pencil. I have never done that before and it seemed so obvious, after it was pointed out. One I drew in terracotta and the other in golden brown. I washed in the coloured lines so that it started looking like a painting. I then gave both a coat of Cadmium Orange and I photographed them both for the record.

Drawing with terracotta pencil and orange wash
Drawn with the golden brown pencil and washed in with orange

There isn’t much between them, although I quietly favour the golden brown

These can harden overnight, and I will start tomorrow on successive coats. Burnt Sienna with a dash of red. Shadows in burnt umber with a dash of indigo. That should give quite a sharp finish, I hope but we shall see. The whole thing is like nothing I have attempted before

If I haven’t mentioned before, my own website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk was completely redesigned recently. It is now set out better, in subject headings, so that things are easier to find, and is working well

Strolling through Wisley Gardens– the finished painting

A stroll round Wisley Gardens

Somewhere we could go during lockdown. Wisley is the main national garden centre and headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society. We can go there as we live within five miles radius and if we make a booking. Over many years and as members we were used to going on the spur of the moment, so Covid conditions, which we fully applaud, do take some getting used to

I did this picture fairly fast, rather like a sketch. The sky was put in fast and furious, to get some feeling of movement. Usually I just go straight across with a large wide brush, and maybe use two colours. The detail on the building I have left hazy and slightly out of focus because of the distance. The photography hasn’t helped on this occasion, and has left me feeling that the foreground figures need more depth, which wasn’t apparent from the original. Still, that I can attend to

Last time, when I painted Windsor Castle, I used sepia ink for the shadows on the building. I rather wish I had done that this time. Watercolour does disappear into the paper, and often needs reinforcing, whereas the ink is instant, but i don’t think I will go back over it now, so have published with its faults.

I shall leave it there. The machine is giving me trouble today. I altered the font size so that I can read it, and the machine keeps taking me back to default, so I am getting a rather jerky post, for which I apologise. Too much incarceration perhaps is bad for the brain

Wisley Gardens–latest painting

The last painting from Wisley Gardens

This was the last painting of Wisley, which I did about two years or more ago. I was pleased with this one, especially the long shadows. It sold at a local exhibition fairly soon after I painted it.

Wisley is the main national garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. I forget the acreage but is big. This particular shot is of the canal and the laboratory, a fine modern but Tudor styled building, which works well with the plants.

Unlike previous lockdowns, gardens including Wisley are open, but with strict control of numbers. We went in December, one of those fine winter days that makes walking around pleasant. I thought I would try another painting, something like this one but with changes

This is the main composition. I am further away from the main building with some figures in the foreground. I am being more selective in the way I paint this one, just for a change. Usually I wash straight across and wait for that to dry, and then paint onto a coloured background. Just for the moment I have put the shadows in before painting, although they may need reinforcing later

the drawing

It will be interesting working out the sequence. Sky first or bushes first?

I’ll come back to it later

Windsor Castle – the finished painting

Windsor castle on the Thames

The finished item. Quite a lot of trees, relieved by the building to a certain extent, but nevertheless the greens took some sorting out. Mostly they are a mix of sap green with something else. Quite a lot with raw sienna, which is the one I use mostly for vegetation, and works I think for the lighter trees.

The boats have been useful, bringing in some red to relieve all that green, and also stop the eye going off the page. As I said in the last post, I have used sepia ink for the shadows on the castle. I was a little hesitant about that, but seems to have worked out ok.

I seem to be working my way through the list of paintings that I always wanted to do and couldn’t find the time. Lockdown plus very wet weather does keep us indoors a lot. Looking back at these favourite places does make us wonder if we’ll see them again. Vaccination programme seemed to be going well, but now they have found two tested positive for the South African variant, in our village, without them going to South Africa

Oh well. More incarceration

Windsor Castle–preparing the painting

Windsor Castle-the preparatory drawing

Windsor Castle, a royal residence since Saxon times, was developed by William the Conqueror in 1070, on the south side of the River Thames. Henry II built the central round tower, Edward III added the royal apartments, Charles II and George IV both made alterations. It dominates the town of Windsor, is surrounded by Windsor Great Park and is frequently used by Queen Elizabeth II

It is a wonderful architectural study. It is a long castle covering different periods of architecture. At one end a fortress and royal apartments, at the other St.George’s Chapel. Monarchs have been buried there since Henry VIII. There have been no less than 17 royal weddings in the chapel, one of the most recent being that of Princess Eugenie to Mr. Jack Brookbank in 2018.

So far I have drawn the skyline which I found enjoyable with so many details. I wanted to put in the shadows but these would be disturbed by the first wash. I remembered an exercise that I did many years ago, from a book by the late Rowland Hilder. When I first started painting in watercolour, I was lent a battered copy of a book by Hilder, and was literally bowled over. His skies were like something by an old master, and he explained them step by step for the benefit of students. Later I managed to find a copy online and bought it and I refer to it still today

The exercise I was referring to, was his painting of Knole House in Kent. Before anything else, he put in the shadows of the building, in ink, sepia I think. That is what I have done, with my first step when painting Windsor Castle. The structure of the drawing is now immediate. Also I can paint across the drawing without these shadows being disturbed. Another advantage of ink, is that when dry, the colour is the same as when wet. How often have I put down a dark watercolour, and when I came back later, the colour had disappeared into the paper.

I shall leave that for a while to go hard before painting. There are some deep shadows under the trees where I might use ink again. I used to do quite a lot of ink and wash work, but haven’t for a while now. Refreshing to come back to it.