Basingstoke Canal Bridge

Basingstoke Canal Bridge

Continuing my theme of Waterways in Watercolour which is my next solo exhibition in February, and for which I am worryingly behind schedule, I am going to look again at the Basingstoke Canal which runs near where I live

This is a typical Sunday morning walk to exercise the dog and buy a newspaper in the village shop. The tow path is often quite busy with walkers and annoyingly sometimes, bicycles who use their weight to make people jump out of the way. Most are courteous but just a few are inconsiderate

The bridge in the picture is one of the original ones from the c18, brick built with bricks which would have been made in St.Johns nearby, most likely. It is a typical canal bridge, with shaped  walls that curve out on to the tow path. This enabled the bargee to bring the horse over from one side to the other without snagging the rope

I have painted this stretch of the canal many times, and it remains a favourite at exhibitions. My personal favourite which is in the gallery, is of one of the lock gates and which is into the light, contre-jour I think it is called. That sold at one of my exhibitions to a couple who were going back to New Zealand, and I helped them with the packing. I sometimes think of these paintings and where they are, rather like worrying about the children. How stupid can you get!

There is a flight of seven locks along this stretch of the canal, all fairly close to one another. An enormous amount of work for the barge people, getting out and opening the gates, and then closing gates behind the barge when in the lock. Fun to watch though

So far, I have just started to make some sketches, and there are some details I want to change, so nothing to show at the moment

For the future, I came across a lovely photograph which I took along the Amazon, a couple of years ago, of local boys with their pet alligators, small ones obviously, which they had on leads like dogs. This would make a lovely painting if I could bring it off, but might upset some people, so would have to give that one some thought

 

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Bikes and Canals: the Finished Painting

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The finished painting of bicycles, canals and houseboats in one frame

Since the last post, there is not a lot to add. The bicycles have been finished from the sharpest detail retreating backwards. I find it easier to adapt the focus doing it that way, so that the perspective works out correctly. This was a real jumble of mechanical detail to sort out, but amusing nonetheless

This will go towards my exhibition in the spring, in the Guildford Institute. The theme is Waterways in Watercolour, which on the face of it is straightforward enough, but trying to think of a subject that I haven’t done before, does make me scratch my head

I need twelve pictures within the theme. I think I have five so far. Ah well, press on

Bikes and Canals : Work in Progress

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Some work done over the last few days

The buildings on the far bank have received some colour, some pink and some violet and some a mix of the two, to establish as near as I need the local colour of the brickwork. So far I have added little detail to the windows and doors, as I want them to fade against a sharp foreground of bicycles. I have done a little work on the reflections of the buildings on the water but not much, and will go back to that

The houseboats have been rendered in sharper focus, without necessarily detailing them too much. The bright yellow I think has worked on the distant boats, giving them an illuminated effect from the light source on the horizon. The hulls have been darkened with indigo, as they are in deep shadow, and I have let this colour bleed down vertically to provide the reflections in the water

I have extended the canal to the left, which I quite like as it gives the composition some extra depth. The bikes will be in the sharp foreground, but if they weren’t exactly centre stage, I wouldn’t mind

I was looking forward to tackling a bicycle, just to get a better idea of the relationship between foreground and background. I have painted the first one. The colour of mud guards etc was yellow, and I have kept to that, and in fact have used Indian Yellow, which I think works well against the violet/pinks. Just my opinion

What to use for tyres, chain guard etc which are really black in the photograph, made me ponder, as I veer away from black generally if I can. I mixed some ultramarine blue with transparent brown and made a very dark grey. I went back in with the indigo, which worked, I think as dark highlights on tyres etc, and produced a nice blue-black on the chain guard and seat. Some more detailing still to be done on pedals and rear-lights but I have enough to work with at the moment

I feel there should be long shadows, and don’t know what to do about them. Too many lines will be confusing, but once laid cannot be removed. Such is watercolour. I may leave them out altogether and claim artistic immunity. We’ll see

 

Bikes and Canals: Base Coat

Bikes and Canals Base Coat

This is the first coat on the bikes drawing, which looks like grey in the photograph, but which isn’t really. The definition between all the colours just isn’t great enough to show on this photograph

One of the watercolour painters I admire is David Curtis, and I looked at one of his exercises and thought I might try the same method here. I didn’t see the point of sticking to local colours on this occasion. The photograph was flat, and if not careful, the painting could be the same

What he did in a crowded harbour scene was to wet the paper thoroughly, so that the colours moved and merged, but most importantly not mix into one muddy finish. Mine haven’t by the way, even though the photograph looks grey.

Following as closely as I could to his example, I selected four strong colours, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Violet and Cadmium Yellow. I then laid in, without much brushing, the four colours where I thought they would be most appropriate. I wanted the yellow in that misty background section and falling vertically. The pinks and violets falling on the buildings and the blue somewhere in between. Some control and some letting the colours find their own path.

I mix my colours on a large white dinner plate. I plant the pigment on the rim and as I add some water, the dilute pigment runs down into the centre of the plate. Sometimes that can be a nuisance but on this occasion, it was helpful as I also let some of the crimson mix with some of the violet which produced another shade for the buildings and also for the reflections

I have by now started to sharpen up some of the buildings and the houseboats. The whole thing is still looking a complete mess but hopefully will turn out well in the end. This one is a complete unknown. I can’t remember tackling such an awkward composition. You can’t get at the canal through the tangle of bikes, which with watercolour is very tricky. I thought about masking out but there is such a lot, so when the background is finished I shall lift paint off the bike frames and pray whilst I am doing it.

Could be a disaster but pleasing if it works