A Completed Commission

The Final Version

This is the last commission of the year, and it is finished, I am pleased to say. I have had to keep in touch with the client, at every stage of the painting, which I don’t usually do, as it does make a lot of work . Having said that I have enjoyed this commission more than I thought, and maybe stage by stage consultation is not a bad idea, certainly after my last bad experience

However, they were nice people to deal with, and although they made a few changes here and there, basically they were onside.The painting was collected today and I am pleased to say that they were thrilled with the result

The subject of the painting was a Victorian cottage deep in the Surrey woods. Probably it had originally been an estate worker’s cottage, built around 1840 with a later addition.

I went to look at the cottage quite early one morning. The sun had risen. At this time of year, the shadows are long. The woods behind the house were brightly lit, most of the leaves had gone, and the light filtering through the branches gave them a translucent feel. To get that effect on paper needed thinking about. I used a colour that I don’t use often, quinacradone gold. It was perfect for the job and just gave the effect of sun-bathed trees that I was looking for

Most of the house was in shadow. I removed some as I wanted the effect of bright sun hitting the brickwork here and there. The combination of light and dark should be dramatic

When I was on site, the client brought their little dog, a Labrador bitch puppy. She was a beautiful colour, gold. Would I include her in the painting. I like to please, so I said yes, but I was anxious. I have painted dogs before but never done a dog portrait, especially one so tiny. She would be the size of a fingernail

I had taken some pictures. I have to say that for a lively puppy, she was very well behaved and posed beautifully. I picked one of the photographs and did a full sized drawing, which I was pleased with. I then reduced it in size to a thumbnail and put it in the sketch, and went on from there. When the time came to paint, I used the same gold as the trees in the background, and used more of the same for shadows on the dog. It worked better then I thought possible

Mostly straightforward otherwise, except that I could not get definition to stay in the cottage features. Overnight the colour would dry and disappear, which is not that unusual in watercolour. Eventually I reddened the brick colour with vermilion, which darkened the building and somehow improved the brick texture. Again something I have learned for another time

Commissions can certainly be testing, and very occasionally go awry, like my last unhappy experience, but they can also be broadening and make you attempt something you wouldn’t normally tackle. Will I start doing animal portraits? Hmm perhaps not, but animals in landscape are a possibility

Dragon on the Roof : The Painting

Dragon on the Roof, as the restored Pagoda at Kew Gardens

This is my painted submission from the photograph in the last post

Colour matching was a problem. I don’t think that I had ever tried to render gold paint in watercolour before, so I have had to experiment a bit. I haven’t hit the colour square on, but putting the photograph aside, and just looking at the painting, I do feel that my gold does look like gold paint that has been lacquered. Or so I tell myself.

I used a base coat of raw sienna and Naples Yellow. When that was hard, I started to put in shadows with raw sienna. For darker shadows I started to use some more raw sienna but mixing in quinacradone deep gold. For very deep shadows I was using the deep gold straight out of the tube.

The green was more straightforward, a sap green base coat and let that go hard. I mixed some sap green with french Ultramarine to produce that glossy deep green, and started to work in the shadows. For the deep shadows I used more blue. Some artists I know are horrified about putting on several coats of watercolour paint. I don’t agree. I find the finish goes more and more velvety when you do that, and in this case started to look like gloss paint.

Vermilion for the tongue and tail

I have framed this for the exhibition. I cannot imagine this subject being commercial, but with all these dragons we are meeting the requirements of the organisers, and that is good.

The date is the 15th, so we shall see

Dragon on the Roof

Restored Dragons on the Pagoda in Kew Gardens

Our local art club has a presence at the annual fair in Pirbright, which has decided on dragons as its theme for the day. I don’t know why but……Artists have been asked to submit paintings of dragons, so I have had to put Barcelona on hold, whilst I think of something. Totally without inspiration, I remembered going to Kew Gardens about a fortnight ago, and saw the wonderful restoration of the Pagoda

The Pagoda was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1762. The dragons made of wood were part of the original but taken down after twenty years for renovation, but never put back. For years the pagoda was a dreadful shade of red, but now, thanks to a wonderful restoration, the pagoda has been returned to its original colour, and dragons have been superbly made and are back where the original designer had wanted them

The pagoda had been designed as a gift for Princess Augusta, who founded the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’ve not been to the top. I gather that views over London are spectacular. Perhaps one day.

Anyway, i am going to paint, as my submission, one of these rooftop dragons, and see where it gets me. I don’t have long. Paintings must be installed framed early morning on the 15th. We shall see

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.

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