I am grateful to Vicky Stovell of Smiley Sunshine Photography for the use of her amazing photograph as a reference
I was intrigued by the photograph, not just for the composition bu also for the effects of the colours, which I hope that I have done some justice to. Yet another superb sunrise over the sea photograph to work to, yet challenging whilst exhilarating
The colours seemed to go in bands. Deep yellows and pinks in the lower sky beneath the blue, which are then repeated in reverse order through the horizon and into the sea, finishing with blue around the swans as we get into shadow.
The pebbles were time consuming. There were a variety of colours amongst the stones, blues and browns which I have tried to pick out, whilst at the same time, subduing the effect slightly so as not to compete with the detail of the birds. Something of a balancing act. Have I been successful. I will let others judge
I have trieed a different image and with it a different style
I was intrigued by this image, having decided in my mind to give horses a rest for a while. I was struck by the simplicity of the subject, and wanted to capture that. Detail has been kept to a minimum. Despite the activity, the horses seem calm. The water is churned up, yet the painting gives a feeling of peace
I think this is a painting that you can look at for quite a long time.
I would first like to acknowledge with thanks Rebecca Photography on Pixabay who kindly allowed me to use her reference photograph, when preparing this watercolour painting
I like, as many will know, painting horses and horses in water. This image intrigued me and presented problems from the start. Horse and rider were a complete silhouette. So? Well, there were no details to help me with the drawing or very few at least. It was difficult, if nigh impossible to check my measurements as I proceeded with the drawing. Likewise the rider, which I don’t normally include but they were the same image. They could not be separated. If you have ridden horses, and I have a little when I was younger, you will know that you have to adopt certain attitudes or body shapes, otherwise you will just fall off. Legs must be in the right place for example. You can’t see the legs in this image so what to do?
I ended up doing a separate drawing of the horse with rider showing her legs and stirrups. I had to match the correct leg position with the rest of her body. That took me some time. It was quite a long time of experimentation, before I was ready to paint. Sky and water were comparatively straightforward in comparison. I had to give horse and rider two coats of burnt umber before I had a perfect silhouette.
I must have done something right. The painting sold on its first announcement
I would have liked her for my current show at Denbies Wine Estate but you can’t have everything, and anyway you can only sell a painting once
I painted Autumn Swans about ten years ago. A breeding pair nest most years on the Basingstoke Canal, which runs through our village,and bring up their family. I have painted them often, sometimes with their brood of cygnets and sometimes before they are hatched. This pair are foraging on the leaves that have fallen on the canal water. Their beaks are tricky to draw and get right. They are shovel shaped for sifting through mud. So often it is easy to draw them pointed which is wrong
The canal water at this time of year is brown, as their is no reflection. You just look through and see the muddy bottom. Deads leaves float on the surface, gradually sinking. The white of the swans is the plain paper, with some blue shadow and also a little raw sienna, as these birds are not pristine
I have another swan picture ion my website, which shows the cygnets as well as mother swan
This painting finally found its new owner a few days ago. Paintings can sometimes wait a long time for the right person. The new owner is delighted and so am I. At the same time, I shall miss these swans, part of my life for a long time, but it is right for them to go, and fly the nest
I never tire of looking back to our visit to the Camargue, where tributaries of the Rhone flow into the Mediterranean sea. This wetland area is famous for its wildlife, flamingos which breed here in possibly their only breeding ground in Europe, bulls which are bred for fighting, and, of course, the famous white horses which run wild throughout the area. They are magnificent to watch
I have painted them before. Always a delight. I hope you enjoy looking at this painting. As far as I remember I have only used two watercolours, Cobalt Blue and Vermillion which work well together as a sunset effect.
I am grateful for the loan of this image provided by the royalty free website Pixabay. I thought that painting my own version in watercolour would provide me with quite a challenge. The horse that worried me most was the chestnut mare in the centre. How to get the colour that vibrant was a question I couldn’t answer. Obviously a glazing exercise, but where to start. I consulted the mighty Google and looked at various options. One was interesting, starting with an under painting of dilute sap green, but I drew back from that and went for something safer
I decided to do two trials, and start with drawings in coloured pencil. I have never done that before and it seemed so obvious, after it was pointed out. One I drew in terracotta and the other in golden brown. I washed in the coloured lines so that it started looking like a painting. I then gave both a coat of Cadmium Orange and I photographed them both for the record.
There isn’t much between them, although I quietly favour the golden brown
These can harden overnight, and I will start tomorrow on successive coats. Burnt Sienna with a dash of red. Shadows in burnt umber with a dash of indigo. That should give quite a sharp finish, I hope but we shall see. The whole thing is like nothing I have attempted before
If I haven’t mentioned before, my own website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk was completely redesigned recently. It is now set out better, in subject headings, so that things are easier to find, and is working well
I referred to the illustrations I have been doing in a previous post. I have enjoyed doing these, and as always when you try something different, you tend to surprise yourself.
John the author, a professional actor, whose tour has been interrupted by lockdown, which as everyone knows has closed theatres throughout the land, produced delightful sketches and memories on social media. Such was the response, that he collected them together into an anthology. I was asked to provide illustrations for the various chapters, just as visual footnotes, which I hope has done justice to the book.
The works of Shakespeare, as with many other well known pieces, crop up often. The Scottish play is no exception. Why is it unlucky to mention that play by name? Theatre folk are notoriously superstitious. Who else would say “break a leg” to someone just going on? I don’t know but must check it out before going further
One view put forward is that Shakespeare used actual spells during the witch’s incantations, by which I mean spells that witches used. I am not able to say whether they worked or not. It has also been pointed out that MacBeth, being a short play, was put on, at times of emergency, such as sickness amongst the cast. It came to be associated with misfortune. That sounds more feasible, but we don’t really know
As you can see the three witch mice are in full incantation. They are wearing their masks or their ‘blinds’, and they are looking convincing. If they are not convincing, they certainly look frightening. I wonder if we shall see them in print. I believe there is interest from two publishers, but of course it will depend on the deal. We shall have to see
Changing tack for the moment, I sold Horses in the Wetlands yesterday to a buyer in America. Always an extra buzz when the sale is international, I’m not sure why. Anyway the picture was picked up at lunchtime, and is probably going through Heathrow as I write this. In a year when real exhibitions were not possible, online sales have proved a godsend . I will leave with a reminder of the image
A good friend of ours, a professional actor and director, asked me if I would do some illustrations for a book he was writing. Only once before had I done that sort of work, so I was apprehensive, but still said yes
Covid 19 hit the acting community hard, as theatres were closed. John was on tour for the second year of the Mouse Trap, which had had a very successful first year. The decision to cancel the tour was quick. This all happened as we moved into Lock Down 1, which seems a long time ago now, March/April I think
A gloomy time. We, my wife and I were classed as vulnerable and had to stay in. Food was brought to us by family and friends and where possible in food boxes from businesses that sprang up to cater for the need. Queues at supermarkets became normal, as did senseless shortages caused by panic buying. Our health service was overrun, and staff close to breaking
During this miserable time, social media inter alia provided light relief. People wrote poetry, some painted and so on, and put their offering on Facebook or similar, just for us all to read something light
John was one of those who posted regularly. Poetry, quotations, charming anecdotes from his boyhood in Swansea, and with his gift for characterisation, the people he wrote about came to life. We started to look forward to his readings, as by now he was delivering them in person. As time went on friends suggested that he compiled these readings into a book and so he began to do just that
This is about the time that I started to get involved. We none of us knew where to start. I read his first posting again. It dealt with the cruel blow of the tour closing abruptly. Theatre lights were turned off, technicians and actors said an emotional farewell, or else did what actors always do and went down the pub. The idea came up of Three Blind Mice running through the book as a themed image. If you remember the play, this haunting tune is played from time to time and runs through the background. It was so very apt
I did some sketches and put them up for the team to comment. We had a team by now of talented people all making contributions. I refined the sketches until we were all happy. Thus started a very happy and productive collaboration.
My first finished drawing appears above. This was a bleak time. The theatres are closed and the tour is cancelled. The mice are on the streets and forced to beg. Later on we learn that the mice aren’t really blind, as the glasses and blindfolds slip off, but for now times are hard
Later as we go through lock down, things become more hopeful, and some optimism returns, but anxiety is never far away, as we all know. Now we go into a second lockdown, not as severe as the first, as we learn all the time, but nevertheless worrying. The manuscript is with publishers, and who knows but certainly this charming book will delight many if it is given the chance
I changed some of the colouring on some of the horses as I wasn’t pleased with the way that they were turning out.I used some very dilute rose in a glaze over some as well as a very dilute gold over the lead horse, just to see what that did for the effect
I found I quite liked it. That is why I have changed the name to Horses in the Wetlands as they don’t look like Camargue horses any more, although arguably the rose colour could come from a low sun. Anyway, I am quite pleased with the overall effect
I am not going to feature this one on the internet just yet as I am starting to build up a collection for my show in December, and this one I think will work well. Strange to think my first bricks and mortar exhibition of 2020 will be in December, unless cancelled of course. Life is getting restricted again