Swans on Basingstoke Canal Painting Completed

Swan Family on the Basingstoke Canal

The painting is completed. I can see plenty wrong with it, but I still like it and it was interesting to do. You may remember that I started with quite a lot of masking fluid, in fact I painted with masking fluid. The only problem with that, is that you can’t tell what you have done, until you remove the masking, and that is further on in the process. By then, it is too late.

However, despite mistakes which I regret, I think I have covered my tracks sufficiently for the painting to be acceptable. Others will, of course, make the judgement for me

The cygnets, I like, and these were done in a mix of transparent brown and ultramarine violet. Undiluted brushfuls of the same pigment put in the darks in the reeds, where the bank joined the water. The original is more dramatic than the photograph, which always happens despite all my efforts.

I put some white body paint into the water to strengthen the reflections, otherwise the highlights on the birds is from the white paper.

This one will go forward for my next exhibition which is at the Guildford Institute in April, and now I must think of painting something else.

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The Swan Painting at an Interim Stage

Swan Painting about halfway

Well, some work has been done on the background

I have used successive coats of darker and darker green amongst the reeds and grasses of the river bank. Towards the end I was mixing the green with a dark blue still trying to get that feeling of deep shadow amongst the reeds

I have now removed all the masking fluid, which took me a little while as there was a lot of it. Also I had to go carefully in case I tore the paper. I am happy to say that I didn’t , which was good because often when masking is left on for a while, it can prove difficult to remove.

The result is still a mess, but as I always say, finish the painting

The swans need tidying and finishing in detail. The painting is about them after all

Likewise the reeds where I have gone back to the white paper, need finishing in a light but realistic colour, raw sienna probably or a pale green

If I cannot get sufficient definition using just watercolour, then I could use some gouache or even pastel if absolutely necessary

Swan Family on the Basingstoke Canal

Something near home this time.

The Basingstoke Canal runs through our village, and originally ran as a branch from the Wey Navigation, and ended up in the town of Basingstoke in Hampshire. It was cut in the late c18 by navvies or navigators who dug canals by pick and shovel in those days.

The intention was to link London with Southampton by inland waterway, which would prove a vital link in war time. The advent of the railway stopped the canal in its tracks, and it lapsed into disuse

Rescued by enthusiasts comparatively recently, the canal is in use by leisure craft, not going as far as Basingstoke due to a tunnel cave-in the 1930s but nevertheless, still offering a valuable resource to the area.

Needless to say, the canal offers a haven for wildlife. Generally we have a family of swans near the village most years, and I have painted them in the past. The photograph above is one of many that I have taken, and I am going to work with that.

The swans are feeding off the reeds in the bank. Reeds are more tricky to paint in watercolour than swans in my opinion. So many shades of green. So I am going to try something different for me and use masking fluid almost like paint. This came to me from the last exercise with the glass jars. This is as far as I have got

Not too easy to see what I ‘ve done I know but basically I have done a pencil sketch of the swans, and then masked them off with the Frisk liquid which is blue and easier to see than the natural. I have also done a few strokes for grasses and highlights in the water. When that was bone dry, I put a very wet solution of green into raw sienna around the birds

The green went bone dry overnight and today, still painting with masking liquid, I have brushed in many more reeds and grasses. Hopefully after I have put darker green over the top of these, and that dries, then removing the mask will reveal light green reeds against the dark or so I hope. All this because you can’t go from dark to light with watercolour. I may still have to do a rescue job with body paint but I hope not

That is the theory. I hope it works. You shouldn’t really leave masking fluid on for too long for fear of tearing the paper when you remove, so this is risky but different.

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!

Galloping Horses, the finished painting

Galloping Horses

The finished painting.

It took great restraint not to add some more colour to the horse on the left. I still think I made the right decision. It looks as though it is appearing out of the mist and the spray kicked up by the animal in front, which is the effect that I wanted.

As far as what I did since the last post, well, apart from stopping myself touching the horse on the left, not that much really. I have removed the spattered masking fluid to give, hopefully , that effect of spray from the hooves. I added a little dark spatter as well, but really didn’t need much

I added more detailing to the lead horse, so he is now well-defined and, hopefully, coming out of the picture, and added some more colour to the water and reflections at the bottom of the page

And that is really it. If I keep looking at it, I shall be tempted to fiddle, and that as we all know is fatal

Galloping Horses Partway

Galloping Horses Partway

I have moved on a bit from last time

So far I am using two colours only, Cobalt Blue and Vermillion Hue which I spoke about before, which does make a very pleasant grey with a sort of glow about it. I don’t think that I have worked with two colours before, so this will be interesting

I have spattered heavily with masking fluid around the hooves of the lead horse. This is showing as blue as I am using the Frisk product, so this will be white when I remove and hopefully the removal won’t give me a problem. I will probably spatter with some dark paint as well.

I have started to detail the lead horse, if only to judge the tones between him and the others further back. The pink background seems to work well. I will just go on defining the shadows on the horses and see how we end up

Preliminary Sketches of Galloping Horses

Galloping Horse Drawing

I’ve transferred the drawings to watercolour paper now, and kept them as line drawings only, which is why they are faint. I have assembled the individual drawings that I had and strengthened, I hope , the composition into a more horizontal arrangement.

Since posting this drawing, I have liberally spattered with masking fluid, around the lower regions of the horses to look like, again hopefully, the spray that the lead horse was throwing up

I have put on a base coat of colour. A band of pthalo blue modified with cobalt for a sky colour, followed by a pink horizon, followed by a ground colour the same as the sky. For the pink, I have used something I bought long ago from SAA called Vermillion Hue, a colour outside of my experience. It was described as very good as a warm grey when mixed with Cobalt, and a very good shadow colour on snow. Likewise, without the Cobalt  it can provide a warm glow. No snow here I know,  but plenty of water and grey horses. The horses in the photograph were just catching the light on one side from a very watery sun

So this is an experiment and could fail, but I am hoping to catch this pink light on the horses, if I can

That is as far as I have got

Wild Horse Painting

Wild Horses

Now that my exhibition entry is complete, I can start to look at painting something for pure pleasure, whilst at the same time, having something very different in my portfolio, knowing that local exhibitions will be cropping up during the summer.

Horses are something of a favourite. I rode for many years. Nothing very serious, just hacking out but still exhilarating. Christmas rides over the Downs were the best, with a couple of long gallops thrown in. Some parts of the ride were on sandstone, so sandy tracks to gallop along which just went on and on.

My son and I used to go to the north-east several years running, and go post-trail riding spread over the week. Quite hairy galloping across the moors, but the horses were like goats, so you just let them take you

So after a while, you form an affection for horses, whether they are ponies or drays. In fact I loved watching the big dray horses delivering beer in certain parts of London, especially Wandsworth, home of Youngs Brewery which had a team of drays up to the time they closed down not that long ago. Now I just enjoy looking at them and taking photographs, hopefully to get some shots good enough to paint.

I am getting one or two different sketches together, hopefully to create something dramatic, perhaps even wild-looking. I haven’t finished my deliberations yet, but for the moment will just show the sketches which I’ve prepared so far, which might change as I go along

Galloping Horse

Horsemanship Painting Finished

Horsemanship in Hungary

Well, this is the finished item

From the last painting, this was really just an exercise in detailing

There were many instances where the brush went too far, when putting in the shadows, so here I have repaired with white gouache. This was mostly around the legs of the second lead horse, so his forelegs do now, I think, look as they are catching the sunlight. Also I have redefined the ears and manes of some horses, which look a bit brighter now.

I kept looking and looking at what I thought was the finished item, thinking it was very black and white. Not that I have used any black whatsoever in this painting, just my usual mix of violet and transparent brown, but the darks did seem to veer towards black which bothered me. To get some colour back into the picture, I glazed the horses with dilute Alizarin Crimson, which has helped considerably, I think. It isn’t quite so obvious from the jpg, but better in the original, where some of the horses have taken on a strawberry hue, which is more convincing than before.

I have reinforced the pink muzzles, and given the rider a pink waistcoat in stead of a black one. He was wearing a white cockade in his hat, which I have changed to a crimson one.

The last horse painting Wild Horses in the Camargue did well. Let’s hope this one does too

I have just signed off my entry papers for next February’s exhibition in the Guildford Institute which is very much themed on paintings of waterways, so I shall be busy now preparing for that. Still, it is good to have that pressure

Horsemanship Painting Partway

Horsemanship painting partway

This is the story so far

Since the drawing I have lightly put in the shadows with Ultramarine violet, and allowed to rest for a while. The background trees and fence posts I have made deliberately hazy, hopefully to give the effect of the dust storm kicked up by the horses’ hooves. The horses were travelling at a decent canter, as I remember, and the day was hot and dry, so plenty of dust for us all to enjoy.

I have started to finish detail, starting with the front row of horses. I have used the same violet mixed with Transparent Brown by Sennelier, which I usually find to be quite a good warm weather shadow colour. In some cases, I needed more than one glaze, and then when that had dried out thoroughly, I started to wonder if I had gone too far. Just as an experiment, I lifted some colour out which enabled me to define muscles on the horses. It was not unlike sculpting in a way, almost carving the horses, and because it is a slow process it gives you time to get this fine detail, correct, hopefully

The characters of the horses seem different. Second from the left looks the most spirited. His head is up, and I see he is wearing the Martingale harness to stop him throwing his head back, which would tempt him to bolt. I think that is what it is called. A long time since I rode, but I remember that danger signal when the horse would throw its head back and then charge. Great fun if you have a long run for him to do it in. Scary otherwise.

The one on the left seems to be feeling the heat. They had worked hard, that is for sure

I would like to introduce a splash of hot colour somewhere, either Cadmium Red or Orange. Maybe something attached to the bridle like a ribbon or cockade. Not sure yet so will have to think. It needs something, I feel