The Fountain of Love Commission continued

original photograph of fountain at Cliveden House

I am starting with a photograph which has been published before, as events forced me to abandon the blog on this particular commission, other paintings being needed more urgently. I thought therefore that repetition of the original reference made sense, to remind us all where this story starts.

This is the very ornate fountain in the grounds of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The style is Baroque so the statues are extremely Mannered in their style. As an architect once said to me, “If statues on a building wave to you, then it’s Baroque”. Very detailed therefore and consequently tricky to paint

The drawing is done, and I have started to paint, just to get some form of definition into my head. I see that I haven’t filed my photograph of Work in Progress  yet, so I will do that and then come back later

Well, this where I have got to, and it is a bit of a mess at the moment. The drawing was done a few weeks back, and as I said earlier, I have started to paint. I have masked out three trees in the background so that the trunks could be white as silver birch or pale green, whichever I think works best

I have also masked out the edges of some statues so that I get a really crisp edge and don’t lose any detail, having fought to keep it so far. No doubt this painting will be difficult. May even be my nemesis! Again I ask myself why I accept some of these commissions, except perhaps for the sheer challenge. Also the client is a regular who keeps coming back, so one wants to help

Since taking this photograph, I have sprayed masking fluid in certain areas to serve as spray from the fountain’s various jets. I kicked myself for not remembering right at the beginning, before I put colour into background foliage. Well, too late for that now. I will have to fall back on white gouache instead.

For now, that is all I can say. I shall remove the masking on the tree trunks and on the statues, so that I can define those edges. We will see how we get on

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St.Katherine Docks Commission : The Finished Painting

The finished boat portrait

This took me about three weeks, working on it every now and then. I have come to prefer working that way, doing a little and then letting it dry right out, looking at it in different lights and revising my plan as I go along. All this wet weather has meant that even during the day, the natural light has been poor. Flat light is fine but all these dark skies have not been helpful.

I don’t think that I have included the original photograph, so I will do that at the very end. Apologies for that. I have kept to the photograph as much as possible, certainly for the boat which is what it is really all about.

The main difference is that I have removed completely the row of houses at the back, which cluttered the scene and made the composition very gloomy. Now we can see the evening light catching the stern ends of the boats and reflecting on the water. This was useful, too, introducing a little orange into what has become a very blue painting.

Also the masts and sails now stand out against the sky whereas in the photograph they are lost amongst the buildings.

Never before attempted a boat portrait, so I am pleased with the way it turned out, whether I should be or not. The client likewise pleased which is the main thing. I will end with the original photograph, and any different ideas on how to tackle this one would be gratefully received.

The boat subject in St.Katherine’s Dock

This is the image that I should have started with, so hopefully still makes sense

St Katherine’s Dock Commission

This is the drawing so far of the boat I was commissioned to paint. Rather faint I am afraid, not only because it’s in pencil but also because she has had a wash of phthalo blue and cobalt mix. Some orange and vermillion went in to the tops of the boats to give that evening sun look, but that will need strengthening

I have already sketched this scene just to realise the composition and to get that agreed. This is the real thing. Just a tad apprehensive, as although I have painted boats enough times, this would be the first boat portrait that I have tackled.

So much of the boat is white, and not even many shadows to relieve the situation. The vessel is beautiful, streamlined and highly polished, in fact all the things that don’t work so well in watercolour. A rough-textured old steamer, dirty and rusty, with plenty of smoke really lets the watercolourist’s imagination run riot. 

But we don’t have that. We have a sleek yacht instead. In the background of the reference photograph which I haven’t published here, are a row of houses, which were not only superfluous, but actually crowded the composition, and didn’t look good against the boats. I have left them out altogether, and I have not regretted doing so. The depth of the painting has increased whilst still preserving the look of a marina

So for the moment I shall just carry on building up the colours on the items that matter. The yacht centre stage of course is the star attraction and needs to come forward

We shall see how this goes

Burne-Jones Exhibition at the Tate Art Gallery

Golden Stairs by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)

One of many well-known paintings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones featured in a special exhibition currently at Tate Britain until February 2019 which is the first major retrospective to be held for forty years. Inspired by the church and the medieval period, his work represented the antidote to the ugliness and the materialism of the Victorian period.

We went there recently. As always a superlative exhibition. To be seen if you can

There were seven rooms of drawings and paintings. Burne Jones was a superlative draughtsman . The second room deals with his time in Fulham, when he finally had space enough to embark on major projects for which he needed countless preparatory drawings, each one of which could be considered a work of art in its own right.

Renaissance art and four visits to Italy encouraged his approach to the body. His male figures appeared troubled while women were portrayed beautiful yet sinister. About this time he was experimental with media, using gouache with chalk and later metallic pigments.

His attitude to the male figure caused him to resign from the Old Watercolour Society which had been shocked by his work. . He was becoming known as one of the most daring artists of his time. After a blissful period of working to his own pace, his exhibition pictures started to take London by storm, and later Paris, so that he became known throughout Europe.

Most impressive were the rooms containing his Series Paintings, massive works commissioned by serious clients with rooms that can show these works as they should be shown. This was of course the era of the seriously wealthy patron who could command works like these., such as the Perseus series, commissioned by the young future prime Minister Arthur Balfour for his London residence.  Curiously Balfour was later to be president of Woking Golf Club, close to where I live. The only prime minister to be president of a golf club. I wondered what these wonderful paintings would look like in the golf club lounge, but that was me being facetious.

I cannot describe the paintings of the Perseus Story, as they were too magnificent. Like wise the Briar Rose which is really the story of Sleeping Beauty. Wonderful illustrations of knights and princesses. Burne Jones I think today would have been in his element illustrating Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter stories.

He worked closely with William Morris, from whom he derived the bulk of his income. He became especially well-known for designing stained glass windows for churches and cathedrals the breadth of the land and indeed the old Empire.

One of the last great figures of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. This is a wonderful collection gathered together for a short time

Work Started on the Fountain of Love Commission

Fountain of Love Detail

I have been working on the drawing of the Fountain of Love commission, which has been testing to say the least. I have just included a detail here, otherwise the image would be too faint to show

The photograph of the fountain itself was included in my last post, and I may have explained that the fountain is in the grounds of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The house is magnificent and is now an hotel but the grounds are run by the National Trust and are extensive.

Over the ages, Cliveden was associated with powerful women. One of the more recent being Nancy Astor, American heiress as well as an MP in Westminster, possibly the first woman MP. More recently still, Cliveden was the scene of the scandalous liaison between Christine Keeler and John Profumo, a married government minister

Again I have been balancing two commission projects, as I have just finished the sketch study of a rather lovely yacht in St.Katherine’s Dock, just to agree the composition with the client before going on the finished painting. I drew this with the help of a grid but there is something about the sleek almost feminine lines of a boat which seem to elude me, no matter how many measurements I take.

Dancing Girl Sketch

As usual the camera leaches out the colour but the essence is there. I did find it useful to make a sketch on this occasion. So many mistakes could be made and were made. At least these have been cleared out of the way, hopefully not to reappear

There is something about highly polished surfaces like plastic or metal, which don’t work well in watercolour. Give me some rough old wood or rusty iron any day, and that will look realistic enough to touch. Still, if you owned a rusty old tub, you probably wouldn’t want it commemorated in a painting

We will await the client’s comment to see whether I have got the composition right as a first step

Morning in Bosham Finished Painting

Morning in Bosham

The finished picture entitled Morning in Bosham

This was the first of the two paintings which I was hoping to plan together. But it was not to be. As the poet said, or something like, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

They certainly do. I have done a few sketches of the horse picture, but last Thursday the phone rang and a regular client phoned with a commission for an extremely ornate fountain called the Fountain of Love which is in the grounds of a mansion called Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire

I went to look at it, at the week end and took some reference shots and append one for your interestDSCF4449

I have just had to arrange a professional copy so that all the detailing is picked out clearly. This will be a test of drawing skill and no mistake. Too late however, as I have said yes.

Cliveden House is now an hotel. It is c18 I believe and is associated over the years with a succession of powerful women. The latest was Nancy Astor, the American heiress who became a Westminster MP, the first woman MP I think, and certainly a forceful lady.

The house is remembered for being the scene of the scandal involving Christine Keeler a model, and John Profumo the then Minister of Defence during the 1960s. She was also having an affair with a Russian diplomat, so the whole thing was considered a threat to national security. Profumo lied to Parliament and the whole thing nearly brought down the MacMillan government

The same day i received another commission to paint a boat in St Katherine’s Dock which might be postponed and give me a breather. Today I received a request to do yet another view of beloved Bosham Harbour and Church

That will teach me to boast about doing two paintings simultaneously.  The gods have a habit of looking down and teaching you a lesson if you appear over-confident. They have, and it serves me right.

Two Paintings worked on simultaneously

Camargue Wild Horses

I was kindly sent images of Camargue horses, which frankly have spoiled me for choice. Many were of the herd charging through the shallow water kicking up spray, and these make for very dramatic paintings of the type I love to do, and which I will do. For the moment I do have one such painting in my collection ready for exhibiting and that is currently on my Artfinder site and also on my own web site.

As I went through the images again, I was drawn to the one shown. Completely different to the others, it is almost pastoral in quality, with that feeling of peace that one gets after a long gallop, when everybody gets their breath back before moving on. I think I will try using this one for inspiration. Drawing will be a challenge as the shapes are so dark but nonetheless will be fun to try.

We watched them when we were there. I took some pictures but the quality just wasn’t there, so I have to look at other images which made a better job of capturing these lovely horses

I have also been asked to provide another Bosham picture similar to ones that I have sold so often. There is only one shot that people want, so I have to scratch my head to think of ways to make each one individual so in this case, I will be changing background colours to something I haven’t tried before

Just as a by the way, I am pleased and relieved to be able to report that my Artfinder sale reached its American buyer safely and promptly. If I have already mentioned this, my apologies and please ignore. I had a very nice text back from a happy buyer, telling me how pleased she was with the painting, so pleased with that

Back to the easel!

Langstone Mill Finished Painting

Misty Morning in Langstone

Well, this is the finished painting in its frame which I have entitled Misty Morning in Langstone, as I have deliberately kept the colours pale to give that effect. That is my story anyway. In reality it works well, I think but photographing it was difficult. I had to wait for really flat daylight so as not to get reflections in the glass.

I quite like the trick of leaving out the horizon line which gives the scene a more misty look. I read this somewhere not so long ago.

Maybe another time I will try and deepen the colours a little, but always the danger that the misty effect might be lost

I am just packing up paintings for the Leatherhead exhibition which starts on Tuesday and goes on for two weeks. We will see what that brings. Nothing last time, but we live in hope

A very rare happening a couple of weeks ago, I actually sold a painting from my Artfinder site, thus proving that everything comes to he who waits. The painting was of the Bosphorus Waterfront, and went to a collector in the United States, which I am very pleased about

Langstone Mill Part Finished

Langstone Mill Part Finished

When this is finished I hope the misty look will still be apparent. I would like the painting to have an early morning look, the problem being, the more detail that one adds, the sharper the image becomes. All I can do is finish the painting and see which way it goes.

As you can see, colour has been added since the last post. I have used two pigments initially, Vermillion and cobalt blue, and also a mix of the two to produce a grey blue for the shadows. I have also brought in good old Burnt Sienna for the brickwork.

To the right, out of shot are three small sailing ships waiting to be finished. I have deliberately not put in an horizon line, to accentuate the mistiness of the scene. That is the plan anyway.

Details still need to be added to the buildings like verandahs etc, and soft interrupted reflections in the water. Masking fluid wants to come off, revealing the marker posts which are red and white like barber’s poles, as well as the flag post which will be white with a red flag. The boats might get a red pennant each. Not forgetting the seagulls which have to be added, as the only sign of life in this remote spot at a very quiet time of day.

If that works I will be quietly amazed!

A pleasant surprise a couple of days ago! I made my first international sale from my Artfinder site, Bosphorus Waterfront, which has been bought by a client in the US of A. It has only taken me two years to achieve this! The painting can be found on my website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk should you wish to look

Now I am on tenterhooks about it arriving safely, and am tracking periodically. The package is currently at New York City Gateway, and needs to be transshipped mid west. They estimate delivering on Monday so fingers crossed for a rapturous welcome. The client has 14 days to return the painting if not delighted, which must be really demoralising for the artist, but we will see

Langstone Mill Drawing Stage

Langstone Mill Drawing

This will be rather faint, I’m afraid, as I only want faint guidelines before applying any colour

Two posts which mark the depth, and painted red and white like barber’s poles I have masked out. Also the flag pole which is white and the flag, both have been masked out for now. To the right of the drawing, which couldn’t be included are three small boats. They are near the horizon line, with one side in light and the other in shadow.

I am going to use pink as a background sky, moving in to a blue grey across the buildings and then pink again across the water. I need the background to look misty ideally, so not too deep in colour but not so pale that everything looks white still.

When that is good and hard I shall work on some of the details. I usually put the shadows in first, which I will do with more of the blue-grey, and that will give the picture some structure, on which to build. Likewise background trees in the grey behind the rooftops. The colour of these I haven’t quite decided, but they need some sort of red in them

I will need to check the sea-level so that it doesn’t look wrong against the buildings.

If I can do that and make sure that the shading is right around the pillars under the mill store, then I might have the basis of a decent painting

We shall see