Shere Village and Church: the Finished Painting

Shere Village and Church

Well, the painting is finished, and turned out better than I thought. I dulled down the roof of the lychgate as one critic advised. It had come far too forward, so I scraped it back, and added grey violet which has pushed the image back into the middle distance.

I lifted the paint off the foreground figures and let that dry. I painted shadows in first with dark grey violet, and let that dry hard. I finished them with their local colour, and they turned out well enough. It is possible to correct mistakes in watercolour sometimes

I added shadows cast by the figures, and deepened shadows under eaves and around windows. As soon as you do that,  it is like the sun coming out. Pure illusion but it always works

I might still tackle this subject again but from a different angle. As someone pointed out, it would have been nice to show more of the old church, and I accept that argument. I do have references taken closer to the church, and may well do that later, but not just yet. I need a change from this subject

Perhaps something from France would be nice to do, and perhaps experiment with some different skies, just to make life interesting

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Shere Village and Church Painting which is not going too well

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Usually I like to say that the painting is proceeding nicely. In this case it just isn’t. It is one of those paintings that is popular at exhibitions, or should be. A local scene which people recognise and identify with. The sort of scene I have painted so many times, and yet seem to have made mistake after mistake. Oh well, suitably chastened, perhaps I will be more careful as I continue

Just above the church spire, and out of the camera frame, the sky went awry, and left a large blue patch right in the centre, just where I didn’t want it. This type of cloudy blue sky has to be done wet-in-wet, as we know, and apart from lots of frenetic board tilting, there is only so much control you can exert over the finished item.

The roof over the lychgate came up much too bright, so I have scrubbed that back, and will add less colour next time

Likewise the figures in the foreground were disappointing, and these I have scrubbed back with a lifting out brush. When they are really bone dry, I will attempt them again. I don’t know why but I seemed to lose all sense of colour control. I applied paint too thickly and the shadow areas which I had already put in, just did not show through

The brick colour of the cottage on the left-hand side which usually works well, is almost acidic with the green foliage, or am I being paranoid. Perhaps I have been looking at it for too long

On both sides I have painted more of each building. The camera frame would only take the image shown, which looking at, I prefer. There is certainly a case for cropping top and bottom, and maybe quite a bit from each side, and making a smaller picture of it

I will see what I can salvage. I have some ideas now. Being humbled occasionally, never hurt anyone

Have you ever had a bad picture day? Always pleased to hear about it if you have

Art and Empire: Following on from my post in February

Moslem Burial Ground

The Muslim Burial Ground near Woking built by the War Office in 1917 and restored beautifully in 2014 in time for the Centenary

If you read my post in February about the exhibition at the Tate Art Gallery, London, entitled Art and Empire, much of which had to do with India including the contribution of the Indian Army during World War 1, then you will remember that I finished with the story of the Muslim Burial Ground where Muslim soldiers who died of wounds in local hospitals, were interred.

There were 28 service personnel buried there from both world wars. Their remains were moved to the Brookwood War Graves in 1968, since when, the area within the walls was left barren. With the restoration, this area has now been turned into a Garden Of Remembrance, and includes a stone tablet with the names of the 28 fallen, inscribed on it.

Finally I have been again to look at it, and have taken some pictures so that I can conclude this post. It really is a very tranquil and, I think, sacred place

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The new plaque by the main entrance of the Muslim War Cemetery-Peace Garden. Let us hope the sentiment comes true

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This is the tablet commemorating the 28 service personnel who lost their lives in both world wars. You will need your zoom to read the names, I am afraid. This was as close as I could get

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Looking back towards the main gate, with the pool, landscaping and new trees. The water is being pumped round continuously, giving that delightful trickling sound. Certainly a place for meditation, and perhaps a prayer for peace. Not easy when there is an atrocity every day

I am still working on the painting of Shere Village and Church, which I would hope to finish within the next week or so

Preparing a Painting of Shere Village in the Surrey Hills

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This is a view of Shere Village with its medieval church

Shere stands amongst the Surrey Hills and on the River Tillingbourne. Hard to imagine that in the c13-c15 it was industrial, producing woollen cloth. Today it is idyllic, like a postcard, attracting visitors from far and wide

I have been given an exhibition slot at the Royal Surrey Hospital, for July 2017, which does sound a long way off, but now starts the long slow build-up of exhibits. I need at least twelve that I haven’t shown before, so although I have some, I still want some more in reserve

I haven’t painted Shere for many years and then not from this angle. I think I can make something from this photograph, but for starters all these cars must go. I do sometimes put cars in, but in this case they are just hiding anything attractive. I shall probably broaden the composition by taking in more of the building on the left. I do also want some figures in the foreground looking towards the church, which will be a focal point.

The figures will be from my sketch book. I have drawn them free-hand from the screen, and will transpose them onto the drawing of the village street later. I will leave some pictures of the drawing and will post again when I have done some painting

Sketches of Figures

This is the page from my sketchbook. Figures kindly modelled by members of my family, although they didn’t know it, as we walked up to the old church.  What I do now, is to trace my sketch, and then slide the tracing around the drawing of the street, until the perspective looks right

Figures transposed to Shere Village scene

and so this is the sketch drawing which in turn will be transposed onto watercolour paper, after which it will be enhanced with more freehand drawing. When I have done that I will post the result

Gravetye Manor Hotel: the finished picture

Gravetye Manor Hotel

This is the finished picture of the hotel

The lights and darks helped this painting enormously, which was why I was so grateful for the sun shining just long enough for me to get a shot telling me where they were

The chimneys were hexagonal so each side had a different tonal value. They were fiddly and not sure now whether they were completely accurate, but from the point of view of giving an illusion of their shape, they seemed to work

I used raw sienna mixed with Naples yellow for the sunlit building and also for the path, which is my favourite mix for giving the appearance of sun on stone. The path was a gift for the composition, that bright open gateway surrounded by dark shadow.

Another problem was the plethora of green in the foreground. I used three different mixes which seemed to work, as well as some different plant shapes. The violet flower clump broke some of it up, and that good old favourite, red spots dotted here and there helped to take the eye

I have started to use the odd bit of pastel to get myself out of trouble where I might need a bright light colour over a dark background. I find that is a useful device and a nice change from gouache which isn’t always successful anyway

Will I have to call myself a mixed media artist? I don’t think so

Gravetye Manor Hotel in Sussex, UK

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This is Gravetye Manor Hotel which is near East Grinstead in Sussex, UK.

A beautiful old building dating from the c16 set in acres of woodland, which has been converted some years ago to a very luxurious country house hotel. The grounds are awe inspiring. This view is from the Flower Garden, which is one only of 11 separate garden spaces

The hotel has numerous accolades. Hotel of the Year England 2013/2014, Best Countryside Hotel 2014, Rural Hotel of the Year 2014 and more besides

So I was very pleased and indeed flattered to be commissioned to paint this view of the hotel, on behalf of a delightful couple for whom this hotel has become a special place during a significant time in their lives.

I went there about a month ago, hoping to get a sunny day. I say hoping, because our weather has been so very changeable lately , with sun going in and out of clouds all the time. That is even if one was lucky enough to pick a dry day to start with. I wanted sun and I wanted shadows to make the building look more interesting

This photograph is one of many that I took on the day. The sun came out reluctantly and I got a few shots with shadows cast on the building yet with a few highlights left, on the porch, on the chimneys which were a bit of a nightmare to draw, and also lit the front of the building brilliantly

The interesting part of the composition was the path to the right with the garden gate itself in shadow yet giving onto bright light beyond. Where was that going to? Well, the car park but in artistic terms it could be leading somewhere more romantic

I made some sketches and transferred them onto watercolour paper as a finished drawing, ready to paint which can be the subject of another post

Gravetye Transferred Drawing

A little bit pale as I tried to avoid dark pencil lines, but the gist of the composition is there

Medieval Undercroft in Guildford High Street

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Not so much art this time, but architecture. I do say in my profile too, that I am a history freak.

Together with other volunteers, my wife and I take turns to open this gem to the public on certain hours throughout the season. It is one of those local treasures that even local people are largely unaware of. I use the words gem and treasures without wishing to sound melodramatic as English Heritage tell us that this undercroft is one of the best preserved in the country

It is in fact a c13 shop, probably selling wine. That is an assumption but a safe one. We have records of wine merchants in the High Street during the c13 but we cannot make a direct link to this building . But that is what informed opinion believes.

The wine would have come from Gascony in SW France, which was English then, hence the trade connection. Wine would have come through Southampton and then by bullock cart overland to towns like Guildford

Guildford was wealthy in the c13. Wealth was derived from the wool trade and especially the trade in woollen cloth, the Guildford Blue for which the town was well known. The population of Guildford was probably less than 1000 in those days, and most would have been employed either directly or indirectly from the wool trade. Guildford controlled every aspect of manufacture. Sheep were raised on the Downs by the monks at Waverley. Weaving, fulling, dyeing, spinning, carding all were done locally

The processes are remembered in local place names. Racks Close was where the cloth was hung out to dry on “tenterhooks” after dyeing. Unscrupulous traders would stretch the damp cloth and make another metre or two. There are records in the Guildhall of such merchants being brought to book and fined. Finally a lead seal of approval was to be affixed to every roll of cloth that left the town to ensure that standards had been met.

Most went to export, especially to Antwerp which was the staple market, and from there across the then world, Europe and the Near East. The word staple is interesting. From the French word “etaple” meaning “main”. The main market or one of them. That is clear. So that buyers could see what they were buying, a small sample of wool was fixed to the label with a metal pin. The metal pin came to be known as a staple.

To come back to the undercroft, the reason that we are so proud of ours is that it was never restored in any way. What we look at is pure c13. The building is of chalk blocks or clunch which is the hard chalk dug deep from the earth. Guildford is on chalk. It was the only building material at the time. The stones are cut with a precision only possible from a master mason. Expensive to employ so the owner was indubitably a wealthy man. Another pointer to the merchant being a dealer in expensive goods.

To this day the c13 vaults take the weight of buildings above

On Saturday from 12 until 2 we had nearly 40 visitors, mostly shoppers who were passing and had never seen us before. Always their jaw drops as they come in, and they are fascinated with the story. Considering we were competing with the tennis, we didn’t think that was bad

Exhibition at Tate Art Gallery: Painting With Light

We went to see this exhibition recently. Painting with light explored the relationship between painting and photography, and was a thought-provoking exhibition. Purists still tend to be critical of painters who use photographs, and yet at the time, artists saw great merit in the use of the camera

John Ruskin was never easy to please, being most exacting in his standards. He drew meticulous architectural studies which would have taken him hours. I cannot remember the quote verbatim, but words to this effect he said that if he could have been saved many hours of detailed drawing with a device that did the job in half a minute, then there would have been no doubt in his mind as to which he would use.

Photography was invented in 1839, and was to lead to a development in new techniques and materials which were to influence painters

Edinburgh was home to a progressive movement amongst scientist and artists. In 1843 the young Robert Adamson was to establish one of the first photographic studios where he was joined by the painter David Octavius Hill and Jessie Mann. Together they took something like two thousand photographs during their four year partnership

Their photographic portraits were admired during their lifetime and their views of Edinburgh were an influence on Hill’s landscapes. These works came to be recognised as some of the earliest collaborations between photographer and artist

Holman Hunt painting of Nazareth

Holman Hunt’s painting of Nazareth

Photography was a gift to the Pre-Raphaelites  of which Holman Hunt was one of the founder members. They looked for inspiration to the medieval period, and their works are known for sharp detail and vivid colours. This was almost a quasi-religious movement, and partly because of the medieval influence and partly because of his deep Christian conviction, many of Holman Hunt’s pictures are of Biblical or religious subjects.

Together with his friend Thomas Seddon, he stayed in Jerusalem for two years at the home of James Graham, a pioneer photographer. Together they took many landscape photographs. The reference material that photographs gave artists certainly helped painters like Holman Hunt in their chosen philosophy of sharper detailing.

Many photographers had trained as painters, and had set up studios. They used models whose posing time was cut dramatically with the use of the camera, especially when complex or spontaneous poses were called for. Photographs were used for preparatory references, which meant that props, costumes and models could be dispensed with.

Thus began the successful collaboration between photography and painting, the former even becoming an art form in its own right.

For me the camera has become the sketch book, enjoyable as sketching might be. I shall never again feel bad about that