Using a Long Frame

Bosham Harbour at Sunset

You will remember this as the picturesque harbour and church of the village of Bosham on the West Sussex coast. A beautiful place, its history goes back beyond the Saxons, who built the parish church in the picture. It was a favourite of the Danish king , Cnut who reigned before the Norman conquest. The apocryphal story of Cnut attempting to turn back the waves to demonstrate his power is alleged to have happened here. What is true, however, is that his daughter, a child who drowned, is buried in the church, close to the massive chancel arch

Bosham church features on the Bayeux tapestry, which is really an embroidery and which was made in England, not Bayeux, but never mind, it is nevertheless an amazing work of art which has survived. The church doesn’t look like the one in the photograph, but is represented by the enormous Saxon chancel arch, so perhaps it was only the chancel which was there then. Why was it shown on the tapestry? Harold Godwinsson who was in the running to become king of England, as was William of Normandy, sailed from here on his ill-fated voyage to Normandy to meet William. Later he was shipwrecked on the French coast, handed over to William, who kept him as a house-guest cum prisoner for some months, and as the story goes, tricked him into swearing an oath to support his, William’s, bid for the English throne.

Shortly after writing this in draft form, a matter of hours in fact, came the announcement that France is very kindly loaning the embroidery to England, to be put on display. How strange is that. The first time in 950 years that the embroidery would be coming back to England, and I have just written about it.  It is thought that the embroidery was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, who was made Duke of Kent, but who was also Bishop of Bayeux. The work was most likely carried out by Anglo-Saxon needlewomen. Their needlework was famous throughout Europe, called, I think, Opus Anglicanorum. Also we are told that there are hints of Anglo-Saxon amongst the Latin titles, although I have not checked that

Later it came to force of arms, at Senlac Hill further along the Sussex coast, called the Battle of Hastings, although not at Hastings, in 1066, and the result is well-known. But this piece is about Bosham, and how to paint it, which I have done many, many times in so many moods. Always popular at exhibitions, and has also been commissioned, the problem is that everyone wants that same view, naturally enough, because it is so very tranquil and delightful to look at.

How can I do something different? I thought of this frame, which will allow an image of about 50×15 centimetres, so will appear as a panorama of the shoreline, with no foreground at all, so completely different to the previous paintings of this view. I did something like it before, of the fishing boats at Beer, and that sold, so I will try it again for this exhibition and see what happens.

long frame

This is the actual frame to give you more of an idea

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Schooldays in the 1950s

Occasionally, very occasionally, a painting goes wrong. Sometimes it can be rescued, but now and then it can’t, and has to be abandoned. That is what has happened now, with the painting of the Canal Bridge. I know I shall never be happy with it, so I am going to move on to something else, probably a Venice waterside for the exhibition, which is galloping towards me

That leaves me with no paintings to write about for the moment, so something completely different, which may or may not be of interest. I am going to jot down some of my memories of my grammar school years, which ran from 1954 to 1959. The world was a different place. We were emerging from the Second World War. I don’t remember the war, but I experienced the aftermath. Bomb damage and reconstruction, rationing, real austerity and the effect on my parents who had lived through this terrible time. My father in Burma, the so-called forgotten war, returning home wrecked and my mother building a business from nothing . So this may ramble as it won’t be chronological, but will just be aspects of my school life, as they come back to me.

At the age of eleven, which for me was 1954, one year following the coronation of our present queen, we sat an examination which decided our future for life. This was the socially divisive eleven plus exam, which really did separate the sheep from the goats. Such was the competition for grammar school places, that from a class of 36 boys and girls, only six were able to pass. The rest were condemned to the so called secondary modern system, where they received a second class education fitting them out for a second class life. This system would change but not yet.

But this is about me, and I was a lucky one. I was enrolled for a well-known grammar school in Petersfield, a small town in the South Downs. Founded in the c18 by an East India merchant for the purpose of training boys in mathematics and navigation before enlisting them in the East India Company. You can imagine that a school immersed in tradition and history such as this,  would be a serious place to study in. It was

After leaving a fairly comfortable council- run primary school, entering this college was something of a culture-shock. It was an all boys school for a starter. We had not been used to segregation of the sexes. We did meet girls from the nearby Petersfield High School, on the train going home, so there was some solace in that. Otherwise our life had something of a monastic feel to it, study, compulsory sport and showers. No not cold I’m happy to report. Mens sana in corpore sano it was though

Wearing a uniform felt strange. Blazer with badge, tie and cap were de rigueur. We rebelled against the cap by bending the peak into a serpentine shape. Perched on the back of the head, it made us look cool, we thought. Yes, we had that word then too. Elbows on the blazers wore first. My parents patched them with pieces of leather. Ironically this came in as a fashion statement, a few years ago. I still have a sweater in my wardrobe, which I smile to look at.

Punishment, terrifying at first, was new to us. Corporal punishment, illegal today, could be given by masters but not prefects. Prefects could give detention for any misdemeanor up to one hour, which was served after school, which was miserable in the winter, walking to the railway station alone. What you could do, if you wanted, was trade your detention in for two strokes of the cane, delivered by the headmaster. After the sting and the heat had worn off, and you no longer had to hop around, you thought you had done a good deal.

Only masters could beat boys, but very few did. One exception was our English master, one William Kershaw, whom the boys called Gus. Nobody knew why. He was one of the few masters to wear his university gown during class, and occasionally he would sport the mortar board too. Once agitated in class, he would wind his gown round and round his arm, rather in the manner Roman senators did with their togas, which we know was for protection against violent attack. So much wear did he give it, that the arms shredded and hung off him like rags on Cinderella.

In his pocket he carried the sole of a Plimsoll shoe, which was all we had for PE and running in those days. This slipper saw action in every lesson, with amazing good humour. The class deteriorated into pure theatre. The hapless victim leaned over the desk, whilst the rest of us bayed for blood, not literally, I hasten to add. Gus waited for the thumbs to go up or down. Always down, and he proceeded with the execution. The victim blinked manfully and returned to his seat. The crowd roared. We were a dreadful spectacle, master and boys presenting this awful drama. Gus was amazingly popular. An erudite scholar in Latin and Greek, and Anglo-Saxon too I believe, there was little that he didn’t know about poetry and prose in all those languages as well as English

We were very fond of him. Towards the end of term, and if we had been good, he would read to us from the ghost stories of M.R.James, which he loved, and reading aloud he would lose himself in the story, doing the voices and the actions, whilst all the time winding his tattered gown around his arm like bandages torn from a black sheet. We boys, starved of any sort of entertainment, were spellbound and never wanted this lesson to finish. I still read them occasionally to this day, and wallow in the nostalgia. He also read from the Border Ballads, especially the tale of Little Musgrave, which was exceptionally naughty. One verse he omitted as too disgusting. After the class finished, there was a mad stampede to the library to get a copy to read the forbidden verse. He also lightly tossed into the conversation that of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Titus Andronicus was too disgusting to read. Likewise we devoured the library copy. There was psychology at work there, for sure.

I see that I have quickly reached 1000 words, with these few snatches. Maybe I will do some more one day

Turner in Surrey Exhibition at Lightbox in Woking

Turner's Newark Priory

I can highly recommend this exhibition at the Woking Lightbox. Their exhibitions just get better. I had no idea that Turner did so much work in Surrey, especially around Guildford in or around 1805

He painted Newark Priory Church plein air long before the Impressionists, and you may be able to tell from my bad photograph that his style then was getting towards an impressionist one. His later paintings like Rain, Steam and Speed were all about colour and not form, very much like the Impressionists. The ruined priory church is all that remains of a once complete Augustinian foundation, coming under Chertsey as I remember. It stands on private land so it cannot be visited only viewed from the towpath on the Wey Navigation, or from the road, and I rather think Turner made his study from the road. There was probably less traffic on the road than on the canal towpath in those days

He also stayed at the White Lion Inn in Guildford High Street, one of the many old coaching inns in the town. Demolished despite local protest to make way for Woolworths store, the white lion model inn sign was kept, and brought forward again, when Woolworths itself was demolished to make way for the White Lion Walk shopping centre in the 1980s

From his room in the hotel, Turner sketched Quarry Street opposite. The scene is much the same as today, with the historic Star Inn on the right-hand corner and St.Mary’s, the Saxon church behind that. You can see the castle too. The building on the left, which is now Thomas Cook, has changed. I tried to photograph the sketch, but not too successfully

Turner's Sketch Book

I have painted this view myself, so slightly eerie

He also painted and etched a very fine view of St.Catherine’s Chapel which stands just outside of the town on the Portsmouth Road. Ruined 13c, it stands roughly on the old pilgrim’s way, near where pilgrims would have been ferried across the river. No connection with pilgrims though, as it was built as a chapel of ease for the parishioners of Artington, to save them the long journey to St.Nicholas’ Church

There is more and I shall go back

 

 

 

The Finished House Portrait

Finished House Portrait

Well, the portrait is finished and shown to the client who is delighted. I don’t usually allow myself satisfaction, but even I think that this one turned out well. It just has to be mounted, which I shall do in the new year. It isn’t required until the middle of January so that should work out nicely

Basically, all that I needed to do since the last post, was to put in the shadows. Half the gravel drive was covered by shade from a large tree just off-stage, which also darkened the hedge. Some intricate shadow underneath the porch gave shape to the covered interior, and even the cartwheel stands out more now from the wall

Some dark detailing was added to the shrubs on the left. Somewhere in the deep tunnel made by those shrubs is a white garden gate, which I have shaded. Most of this I had to guess, with the help of some alternative references

I enjoy house portraits. I’m not sure why. This one will go on my website one day

But for now to resume my exhibition work, as time does not stand still

At this time of year, may I wish all who read my blog,warmest greetings and good fortune in the coming year

House Portrait: Part Finished

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Getting there but not quite. Still some detailing to be done

Apart from changing some of the trees on the right-hand side, I have kept as faithfully as possible to the subject. I have left out some of the dark coniferous foliage that was intruding in the right-hand corner. I didn’t like it, and it was very much “in your face”, and so detracted from the house, which should remain the star of the show. I hope the client agrees with me, but I could always put some in, if she insists.

I put a distant tree in behind the ridge of the roof, just to alleviate that line. The sky itself is bland, as I wanted the building to come forward. For the roof colour I glazed burnt sienna over raw sienna, and then when bone dry, glazed light red over the burnt sienna. I did the same for the brickwork, hopefully to give an impression of bricks being sunlit.

I have just started to put in some of the shadow, but have by no means completed. As soon as you do that, the building takes on a third dimension, and I love watching the house come towards me. Once the shading on the house is complete, I shall put some dark shadow on the hedge to the right. As well as that, dark shadow on the gravel, about halfway, which will help to make the rest of the drive, look bright. That is the plan

On the left-hand side I see from other pictures, that there is a white gate deep amongst the bushes which is just visible, so I will need to include that, as well as some extra dark in the shrubs, as well as shadows from them.

Still some way to go, but being a mad time of the year, I am reduced to little and often, which I don’t mind, as I can judge each stage as it dries out. As we all know, the difference between the wet pigment and the dried-out colour is quite significant.

Every so often, I take pains to point out, that I am not formally qualified to teach painting, but if you like watching me work, and if you find what I do to be helpful, then I am very pleased to welcome you to my blog. Especially welcome are more recent followers, whom perhaps I haven’t addressed before

House Portrait

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I have interrupted the study of the bridge over the Basingstoke canal, as I have been lucky enough to be given a commission for a house portrait. This is the first this year and it is only December. Last year I was doing something from the web site every other month.

This will be a gift for a couple moving after 40 years in this lovely house, and a painting will make a lovely memento. I do always feel privileged to be entrusted with this sort of task, and naturally will give the job my very best attention

This will be presented by another family member, and will be a surprise for the couple concerned. My job will be to make it a pleasant one

Crazy time of the year, of course and many things happening, year end, which I am involved in, so I am working on the project during spare moments. Luckily I am not under much pressure to complete to a deadline

So far I have prepared a working sketch with tonal work, which will help me place the details in my head and also let me know where the shadows are. I will flash the sketch up next, so you can see where I have got to. Next, the tedious bit, moving the drawing onto watercolour paper, but it has to be done

By way of a PS, we had our annual art exhibition at the week-end. By we I mean the Pirbright Art Club, and I am pleased to say that I sold “Salt Mills at Trapani, Sicily”. The painting is somewhere in the archives if you wanted to check it out. So, after a very slow start, sales have not been too bad during the second half of the year

Working Sketch

Again, because of the importance of the task, I have used a grid to get architectural details in the right place, I hope

I love house portraits, and am looking forward to getting back to this one

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

 

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