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
As I said in my last post, I am looking for another horse painting, ideally of horses on the move, to replace Horses in the Snow which sold last week
This one should work hopefully. You can’t tell from this sketch but horses are cantering through water, so a lot of splashing going on which will give the idea of movement hopefully to the picture. A good excuse to do a lot of flicking and splashing during the painting as well. One of those defining moments when you throw paint at the picture or spray with an old toothbrush and hope it lands in the right places
I have painted Camargue horses before. We were there a few years ago, and they are magnificent to watch. I don’t trouble much with background for these shots, just paint the horses and sky the same blue/pink/grey combination, and then build up the horses with dark shadow
It worked last time, which is no guarantee of future success of course
Horses in the Snow, you may remember was the subject of a recent post. It sold extremely quickly from my Artfinder site, which is most gratifying. In fact I don’t remember a painting selling so fast. It is on its way now to its new owner, who I hope will get years of pleasure from it
It leaves me with a happy problem, but a problem no less, of a gap in my collection that I am putting together for my first and only bricks and mortar exhibition this year, which will take place through the Christmas break. This will be at Denbies the winery near Dorking, which has an art gallery, which is let out to groups throughout the year. This will be the first time that I have shown there, and I am very much looking forward to it
Horses on the move are a popular subject, and are fun to do, so I shall be looking through my photo stock for inspiration. There are several to choose from as kind persons have been sending ideas through to me. Mostly excellent screen shots of wild horses galloping through water which do look dramatic, but for the moment I am going for an image I brought back from my visit to the Camargue three years ago, and which I attach
I like the way that the lead horse looks at the camera
For some reason, I couldn’t access my blog until now, so a gap of about 10 days. Something seems to have changed in the format and probably I missed the update. However having taken advice, I have tried something different, and bingo, it seems to work
As you can see, I have finished the painting. I quite like it. The pallette was limited which I like. I used transparent brown with violet blend for the dark horses and cobalt blue with vermillion, which made a sort of pinky brown for the pale ones. The same mix only verging towards grey, worked well for shadows on the snow
The snow on the horses’ backs wasn’t so easy. I used the same blue mix with white gouache stroked across the backs of the horses. I am looking at the original now, and I think it looks convincing. I shall be taking the painting down soon, as I shall soon need the easel for something else
An interesting development this week. It would appear that some exhibitions are starting up again, after some months of lockdown. I have been invited to take part in an exhibition over the Christmas period to be held at Denbies Art Gallery near Dorking. Denbies is a well known wine estate with probaly the largest vineyard in the UK. They also have their own art gallery there. I’ve not shown there before so am quite looking forward to it
I shall need to do some pieces specially for it, and will no doubt show them here as I do them
I am creating an assemblage or collection of images hopefully to create one long painting which will have movement, and with a bit of luck, some drama and excitement. That is the plan and we shall see how it unfolds
For the moment, I have just completed the tonal drawing to give myself a guide for the finished painting. The challenge too will be giving the impression of snow on white paper
I did do an impression of a cat in deep snow which seemed to work ok. This horse painting will be a lot more involved, but should be entertaining.