Marzamemi, Sicily : Composed Drawing

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Using the boat photograph and various other photographs which I took at the time, I have put together quite a simple composition, which I hope nonetheless will be effective

As a drawing, it is none too exciting, but when painted up, I am hoping that these bright, Mediterranean colours will provide the stimulus

With the exception of buildings on the far shore, nearly everything is blue or white. Different shades of blue, too, which will be challenging ( please excuse that overworked word) to do successfully as a watercolour

Textures will be interesting too. The boats in the foreground look as though their hulls have been reinforced with fibre glass, not too professionally, so that consequently the surface of them is quite rough. How to achieve that with a watercolour painting, I am not sure, probably with gouache applied thickly to give an impasto finish. Anyway we can play around with that.

We only had a short stop off here. Just enough time for a coffee, in one of the lovely little cafes in the main square, which was charming, and a walk round the harbour, which is a mix of boat repair workshops, restaurants and boutiques. That may sound an unlikely mix but seemed to work well.

Marzamemi is fairly close to Syracuse, the history of which is fascinating, and a chapter in itself. Around that eastern part of the island, we had spent quite a lot of time visiting spots used on location filming for the TV cop series Montalbano. If you are not familiar with the series it was broadcast from 1999 until now, something like 11 separate series, so very popular. Marzamemi was not one of those places, so something of a relief in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I have watched the series at home, and it is very good, and we knew what we were going to look at before we joined the tour, but there was a lot of it

As I say, I enjoyed watching Montalbano at home, except I would have preferred subtitles to a dubbed voice. Dubbing never works for me, always slightly out of sync, and you don’t have to be a lipreader to see the face doesn’t match the dialogue. I much prefer the Scandinavian crime dramas like “The Bridge” which we get which are subtitled.

But I am going off the point. Enough to say that Marzamemi was delightful and I look forward to doing this painting.

Paintings of Sicily

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I really need two more paintings for my exhibition in March. I love painting Italy, and am going to pick two locations from our trip to Sicily last year. One lovely little spot was the fishing village of Marzamemi, which is on the southern side of the island, not far from Syracuse. Actually it is more for the tourists than anything else now, but there are some nice little boats tied up in the harbour, obviously old but cared for. They are not pristine, but I don’t want that anyway. What I prefer are something like the boats in my photograph, painted by hand in these bright Mediterranean colours. How to get that bright blue will be challenging in itself and whether I can capture that thick hand-painted effect will be another matter

I took several pictures, and I will have to cull bits and pieces for the far distance, which is the far side of the harbour. I can generate something from these for the composition. There are buildings like cafes on the shore as well as other craft both on and out of the water

It could be an interesting task putting these together, but as I say, making something out of all that bright blue will be fun

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On the north west side of the island near the town of Marsala, is a quiet area where salt is evaporated from the sea-water in large pans. We watched the salt being piled high, and then being taken away for processing , with a constant shuttle of trucks. The mills are picturesque. I don’t think any of them work now, but they are still part of the scene

I thought I could make a painting from the pictures I took. I hope so, I will have juggle them about and see

I also bought two nice frames at a fair recently in a distressed finish, which look very Italian, so I hope that works out. I just have to get down to it

I received the brochure from the Tate the other day, and a new David Hockney exhibition starts next month, with special viewing times for members, which is me, which is a very welcome innovation. To be looked forward to

Notre Dame de Paris finished

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The finished painting which has had enough description already probably. An improvement on the first one so I am glad that I did it.

The little girl in the picture, modeled by my granddaughter, Lola, ¬†although she didn’t know it, is struggling to put her hood up, so that she can continue chasing the poor pigeons. She loved to watch them take off as a flock, and then shortly afterwards settle back in more or less the same place again

The rest of my gallant family had gone into the cathedral, as the other grandchildren wanted to climb the tower. Lola didn’t want to, and frankly nor did I, so we stayed below on terra firma. My wife, who hates flying but doesn’t mind tall buildings, went with the others. I don’t mind flying but don’t like going up tall buildings. Curious really.

I prefer looking at cathedrals, studying the architecture, and trying to imagine the history surrounding the building. My first thought was of the wonderful story written by Victor Hugo, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and visually for me, going to see that wonderful film in 1956 of the same name, starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida. Quinn played Quasimodo the hunchbacked bellringer, and as a schoolboy then, I was very impressed as Quasimodo sat astride each bell in turn, urging them on like horses. An exciting story, which has been remade subsequently.

On 18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay, with others was burned at the stake in front of this cathedral. He was the last Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templars, an organisation of warrior monks, formed originally to protect pilgrims visiting the shrine of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Pilgrims no doubt rewarded them, as they became rich, as religious orders so often do. They were astute money managers and became in effect, international bankers, lending enormous sums to crowned heads of Europe.

They became super rich and powerful, and thus attracted enemies, including the then Pope Clement V. It was alleged that the Templars had started to identify with their Moslem counterparts, and accusations of heresy were made. Without doubt Templars learned much from their eastern contacts, especially in the field of architecture. What they learned was kept a secret, always suspect, and laid the foundations to the Masonic Order.

Philip IV of France, taking his cue from the Pope started to arrest Templars. Also please note that he owed fortunes to the Templars who were pressing for payment. Templars were tortured horribly to obtain confessions of heresy. De Molay himself confessed to stop the pain and retracted afterwards. He was ordered to be burned at the stake, and it was so arranged that he was consumed very slowly by the fire. Most died within minutes

De Molay at the stake, cursed those who had colluded in his murder, that they should die within the year, and their descendants¬†meet a violent end likewise. Clement V died the following month, and Philip IV had a stroke whilst hunting shortly afterwards. Philip’s descendants did meet premature deaths, so much so that the Capetian line died out

I snap out of my reverie, Lola is still chasing pigeons, and everything seems normal again

 

Notre Dame de Paris :Halfway

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After another false start which I won’t go into, I decided to paint this subject in a vignette style, which I quite enjoy for a change. When there is a lot of peripheral detail which you just don’t need, this is a good way of getting rid of it and just focusing on the main subject.

I also happen to think they look attractive when they are finished, and certainly they seem popular with everyone

Talking of detail, I had to simplify the facade of the cathedral quite a lot, as even with a small detail brush, there is a limit to what you can include, bearing in mind the perspective.

I have chosen to depict the scene in soft winter sunlight, which is possibly my personal favourite. This is the sort of day that gently warms the stonework, and when the sun leaves long shadows on the ground and along the sides of buildings.

For the base colour of the stonework and of the square in front of the cathedral, I have used my typical mix of raw sienna and Naples yellow. For the shadows on the buildings I used violet ultramarine, and as they became deeper like some of the recesses on the cathedral, I toned the violet down with some Transparent Brown. For really dark corners I went over this again with pure violet straight from the tube.

Blue with a dash of brown to provide the grey slate roofs, and some cadmium red pale for the awnings of the restaurant next to the cathedral, finishes what I have done so far. I will echo the red amongst the figures in the foreground, either bags or jackets, so that the eye gets led into the centre of the picture.

Putting the shadows into the figures will be next. Detailing some of the foreground figures will be a long job, and how I’m looking forward to those pigeons, not. Still every painting is a lesson, so we shall see what I get out of this one

Notre Dame de Paris: back to the drawing board

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It is now nearly a month since I last did any painting, and I have missed it. Either because of festivities or through illness, I have not been able to get to my easel. Even last week, I had a relapse and have been given a second course of antibiotics which I have to say, have made me feel much better.

The next item on my to-do list, was to rework the painting that I did last year of Notre Dame de Paris in the Rain, except leave out the rain and inject some sunshine. I showed this painting a couple of times last year, without any interest being shown. Although to paint a scene in rain is skilled in its way, nevertheless the subject matter in itself is quite depressing . The colours become muted and everything looks dark. Would you want to buy a painting that lowered your mood? Probably not, so I am going to try to paint the same subject on a bright day, with colours more vibrant. Still could be autumn or winter time, but one of those bright days with long shadows.

What I have done more or less immediately, is to remove that unsightly marquee from the left of the picture. You may remember it, or you can scroll back in the gallery and find the original. I managed to find on the net, the buildings to the left of the cathedral, distant apartments and shops possibly, and these have been substituted

I have also rearranged the figures in front of the cathedral. By removing some, I have taken out the queue that was filing towards the entrance to get in. Looking back on this, it seemed quite mournful, like figures queuing for the dole. I have given the crowd, I hope, a more random look, so that hopefully they do now look like tourists, and consequently looking more interesting.

To the right of the cathedral, and out of sight, is the wonderful statue of Charlemagne. I considered moving it into the picture, but decided not too. Too much of a statement, which would have competed for attention with the cathedral itself

So, a start has been made which is always the hard part. I’ll get on with some painting and come back when I have something more to say

Chichester and Pallant House Art Gallery

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Chichester Market Cross and Cathedral

We were here on the 31st. A lovely cathedral town with its c14 market cross, and one I remember from my youth. Pedestrianised many years ago and rightly so, I remember when traffic drove round the cross, and double decker buses clipped bits off it. Now it is safe from that sort of damage. There are still a few of these market/preaching crosses about, Winchester has a good one for example, and they need to be cherished

The city is Roman originally. Noviomagus, the new market, I believe. There was a straight road to London built by the Romans, called Stane Street. It is still there, but now called A24 and A29. It has one or two kinks in it, as it had to get through the gap in the Downs for example, but basically is straight as a die from Chichester to London Bridge.

The cathedral needs a separate chapter, and is one of the finest in England, but our main reason for going there was to visit our old favourite , the Pallant House Art Gallery, which houses a wonderful collection of modern art.. The collection includes names like Hepworth, Moore, Piper and Sutherland. Incidentally in the cathedral, there is a magnificent tapestry backdrop to the altar, designed by Sutherland. There is also a wonderful window by Marc Chagall, not always remembered for stained glass, although he did many. But I digress from the art gallery

Founded on the collection made by Dean Hussey of Chichester Cathedral , it was bequeathed to the city in 1977, on condition that it was housed in Pallant House, a Grade 1 listed Queen Anne townhouse built in 1712, for a wine merchant called Peckham and his wife Elizabeth.

The collection was added to by further donations over the years, and the impressive collection of artists represented, includes now Cezanne, Leger,Sickert,Lucien Freud, Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi

As well as paintings, there is an excellent collection of c18 Bow porcelain

The new wing, a superb example of a modern building blending well with a Queen Anne townhouse, won the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize and was also listed for a RIBA award the same year

I try to stop after 300 words but have rattled on

Thanks for your comments on Bosham Harbour, now framed up and in store ready for the March exhibition. Thank you to those of you who enquired about this exhibition. The details are:

Guildford Institute, Ward Street, Guildford, Surrey, UK in the Assembly Rooms

Dates from 13th to 31st March this year

Thanks again