History of Langstone Harbour and Warblington,Hampshire Coast

Watchman's Hut Warblington.JPG

Just as a change from painting, whilst I work on my Alhambra picture, before I have anything else to say about it, I am at the same time, researching the history of Havant in Hampshire based on my postcard collection, for a talk I am due to give to my local history group in Guildford in November

Havant is an unprepossessing town. I say that as someone who grew up there and therefore has an affection for the place. Nevertheless there is plenty of interesting history around and about. I keep within the confines of my collection, and on the eastern periphery lies Warblington, a Saxon foundation, a remote place by the side of a marshy creek, eerily quiet when I was a boy and still the same today. A week or so back I went to the old church to take some pictures to back up my postcards, and wandered around the churchyard. We were within half a mile of the Havant by-pass with its buzz of traffic and yet within the churchyard you could hear a pin drop. In my mind, I went back to my childhood when I first discovered this place as a schoolboy

The church is c13 and something of an enigma. Why build it there in the middle of nowhere? It still stands in the middle of nowhere. We are told there was a Saxon settlement, and the word Warblington stems from the name of the chieftain, a woman apparently, and there are Saxon elements in the foundations of the church . The church served nearby Emsworth, which still doesn’t explain why it was built at Warblington. On the site of a holy place perhaps? We don’t know

More interesting than the church despite its age, are the two huts, in diametrically opposed corners of the churchyard. If I say they are c19, I am sure you will guess that they had something to do with bodysnatching.¬† They are nightwatchman’s huts used to watch out for bodysnatchers who had posed¬† a huge problem until the Anatomy Act of 1832, which required anatomy teachers to be licensed, which effectively put an end to this lucrative trade. Also the medical fraternity were allowed the bodies of executed criminals or even donations from poor families.

In the churchyard of this creekside church are gravestones of sailors drowned at sea, and I quote the one I have always found fascinating.

Sailor's Gravestone

This the gravestone of William Palmer, and perhaps we should start with the inscription

This is in the memory of William Palmer that lost his life and his vessel going into Dublin the 24th February 1750 aged 38 years

The carved relief is intriguing and the work of a very skilled mason. Even the rigging stands out and would need very careful carving. Huge waves are rolling and the ship obviously capsized. The object behind the capsized vessel, I cannot make sense of

So we have a local mariner, a master mariner with his own boat, most likely involved in coastal trade as so many around here and Langstone were, and with a small crew, perhaps ambitiously attempting the crossing of the Irish Sea, not to mention the treacherous rocks around Lands End, and coming to a sad end. Or perhaps this was his regular run, and he was unlucky due to treacherous weather conditions. Dublin was very English in those days, and would be looking to regular supplies of day-to-day items, so one can easily imagine mariners plying a regular and profitable trade.

There are several Palmers buried in the churchyard. William’s wife is buried in the same grave but I can’t make out the dates. I imagine them being a prosperous family, judging from the quality of William’s gravestone

I remember seeing this stone when I was about twelve. It fired my imagination then and still does. It doesn’t look any different

I had thought to talk about Langstone close by, but another time. I have painted Langstone often but never Warblington which perhaps I should add to my list

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Walking Round the Alhambra, the Tonal Sketch

Alhambra Sketch Lion Courtyard

From the photograph, I have made a fairly quick sketch in black and white, just to give myself a tonal guide for when I attempt the actual painting

This is not intended to be an architectural drawing of any merit. The actual painting will, I trust, be better, but even then the detailing of the architecture is such that with the best will in the world, some simplification will have to be permissible. I am more interested at this stage in working out the light and dark areas. Hopefully the finished work will reflect the dazzling floor of the courtyard, and also suggest the intense heat from outside. It was about 35c whilst we were wandering around, but we were fine in the shaded areas. It must have been much the same for the original owners who built the citadel, and of course it would get much hotter in July/August

As I’m writing this in south-east England, the temperature is around 32c with no prospect of rain in the foreseeable future. It seems strange to be nostalgic for our unreliable climate of yesteryear, when the possibility of rain was always a worry when planning an event.

I didn’t use ink this time. I used Paynes Grey watercolour which I quite like. It is underrated, I think, and gives a pleasant blue/black shade to a sketch which I find preferable.

I have exaggerated the bleached out look of the arches on the other side of the courtyard. Whether I will get away with doing that in colour, remains to be seen. The small round fountain in the foreground does nothing for me and will be left out of the finished work

My poor sales record for the year received a boost at the week-end. I delivered successfully the Docklands Commission, and that will be going out to Sweden next month. The same day, I sold Bosham Panorama from my website and that is being collected next week. So very pleased about that.

It meant that I had to rush round and frame my latest painting of Bosham Creek, so that I had something to show on Saturday at the Railings Exhibition in Pirbright. That though is a happy problem

 

Walking around the Alhambra, Spain

DSCF4217

Walking around the Alhambra Palace, there was so much that I wanted to paint, but there was no chance of getting a long shot of the citadel, without going to the next mountain, or so it would seem. Also on this occasion I had plenty of photographic material of my own, so I didn’t want to borrow anyone else’s

This is why I have entitled this piece Walking around the Alhambra, as there are so many corners which would make a study in themselves

This is the one I have picked for now, which is a view through Islamic arches into the Courtyard of the Lions, with its magnificent lion fountain. This picture doesn’t home in on the fountain, although I have others that do

I am actually more interested in how the shadows fall, strange as it may seem. The courtyard is in blazing sunshine, and very hot, I may say. Around the perimeter we have the cool, where the rulers would perambulate in relative comfort. The cool areas are defined geometrically by the shadows thrown by the arches almost like a reflection

There are some things to leave out, of course, there always are. The rope barrier in the foreground will have to go, as will the ladder in the background. Some figures might be moved although I don’t want to interfere too much with the shadows that they throw down. I have another picture of the same shot, with different figures in it and I may well borrow a couple of them

So, starting to look forward to it

A date for anyone near enough to go, Pirbright Art Club are holding their annual Railings Exhibition out side the Lord Pirbright’s Hall in Pirbright, Surrey, on Saturday 28th July between 12 and 4. Last year it had to be cancelled because of wet weather. This year after weeks of blistering heat, that would be cruel indeed if it happened again. The forecast is dry

Bosham Creek, the finished painting

Bosham Creek

This is the finished painting, which I happen to like, although I will admit to one or two scary moments

I have managed to keep to a rather limited palette. Cadmium Yellow which I mentioned before and Ultramarine Violet, together with Transparent Brown which I softened with Violet. This is still my favourite shadow colour. I used Vermilion for some distant red clouds behind the trees, and also for the red paint along the hull of the hulk on the beach.

After getting the sky about right or so I thought, as the dark clouds coming in from the sea might have been darker, I put in the distant buildings along the shore line of Bosham village. The steeple of the Saxon church, so well-known as to need little introduction, is probably the only building that needs to be recognisable, although I have done my best with the others, plunged in shadow as they are.

To the right are two beached boats, one clinker built and the other which looks as though made of fibre-glass, so not the easiest to convey in watercolour. The dunes with some coarse grass rise in front of them, and make a convenient break

The beached hulk is one of those things that are fun to paint. So many details and textures with rusting metal and flaking paintwork on the timber. I mentioned that someone had daubed white paint on the prow, which I could have left off but decided to include. I daubed masking fluid on and then overpainted several times with the dark brown mix. When the masking is removed, then that should look like white paint over rough brown planking. That was the plan. I hope it has worked.

The real test of course is getting the light right and the highlights in the right place. I hope I have done that. The camera again has bleached out the colours, try as I might, so in reality the shadows are much deeper, and appear more convincing. Oh well, in the scheme of things, not the worst problem one could have.

Going back to the Bosham Painting

Bosham Underpainting

We are going back now to before the last two commissions, which I was pleased to take on, challenging though the last one was. I still await the final judgement from the client on that one, as she comes back from holiday on the 16th only, so fingers crossed under the table on that one.

I had started this painting of Bosham Creek, or rather drawing, with just the main elements in place.

So far I have added two dilute coats of watercolour across the page. Violet running into yellow, mostly with a watery coat of vermilion over the whole thing when bone dry. I dashed some pure yellow pigment into the area where I think the sun is setting. In the photograph this yellow shrieks at you. In reality it doesn’t. I am often intrigued how the camera sometimes disagrees with the human eye. Possibly one of those paintings which won’t sell on the internet, alongside a few others.

The hulk on the beach, I am hoping will provide most of the interest. The detailing on this sort of subject is usually a lot of fun, and tends to draw the eye. I noticed in the photographic reference, that someone has daubed white paint along the prow. I have used masking fluid here in a dry-brush fashion. Going over this later with dark brown pigment, and then removing the masking, should leave the illusion of white painted roughly over dark brown. I hope that makes sense. We will see later if it works or not. I have done it successfully in the past, which is of course no guarantee of success in the future

Since taking this picture I have started to darken the clouds and will gradually go on, wet over dry until I like what I see, hopefully. That will be the judgement, not getting them too dark or yet too wishy-washy. We shall see, and much still to do.