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

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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

Langstone Mill Reworked

Langstone Mill

This is probably the last painting that I made of Langstone Mill, a couple of years ago, and which sold easily, being a popular subject. I am going to do it again, but differently. I have been painting what I call “panoramics”, which are completely horizontal subjects in  frames about 60 centimetres long but only 21 high, and they have been successful so far

I have done this twice now, and both sold relatively easily. One was of the beached fishing boats at Beer in Devon, and the other was of Bosham Harbour, again an old favourite. They can both be viewed on my website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk.

Langstone is a little way down the coast from Bosham, and again a place beloved of sailors and painters alike. Another salt water creek, a misty and lonely shoreline even today, the place exudes atmosphere, especially when the weather is on the turn. I am hoping to do a totally different sky to anything I’ve done before. So far I have just started some drawing work but nothing to show as yet

It does have some history. It was a medieval commercial port for the neighbouring town of Havant, trading in exports of leather goods, especially parchment from Havant whilst engaged in coastal traffic generally. It was the link with nearby Hayling Island, either by causeway which was built by the Romans from chalk and flint, we are told, or by boat bringing in supplies to the priory on Hayling at the time.

Barges went out from Langstone to the sandbanks, where they grounded themselves and loaded shingle until the tide turned and they headed back to port. This was sold up and down the country for road mending, and carried on until the early c20.  Skeletons of some of these old hulks can still be seen sticking out of the mud, and again add to the atmosphere

There are two pubs, and the older of the two, now called The Royal Oak, commemorates the escape of Charles Stuart after the Battle of Worcester. He and his comrade in arms, Henry Lord Moffat hid in an oak tree to avoid capture. After making their perilous way south to the coast, they reached Lyme Regis in Dorset where they tried to get a ship to France. Without any luck, they made their way eastwards port by port, and eventually came to Langstone. No luck there either, although they did eat oysters at the pub,and as everyone knows, they met someone in Shoreham further east, who ran a coal barge and he took them to France.

Yet another romantic story attached to Langstone to add to the atmosphere. Let’s hope I can catch some of this in the painting

 

Alhambra Painting Finished

Walking Round the Alhambra

The watercolour version of the black and white sketch that I posted a week or two back

Hmm sometimes I prefer the black and white, and this may be one of them

The intricacies of Islamic tracery are beyond compare, and maybe one shouldn’t attempt them in watercolour. Much of the detailing had to be left out as beyond the scope of the brush, or certainly mine at any rate. Really I was  interested in shadows as much as anything else, and even then not perhaps my best work

For spontaneous watercolour painting of architecture, I am a great admirer of John Singer Sargent, who is usually remembered as a society portrait painter, but he travelled and painted  in Europe a great deal, especially in Italy. He would draw architecture with a brush, which is a skill I admire, but haven’t yet aspired to, as I need pencil guidelines for something like architecture where accuracy is essential. I looked at some of his work recently and have started collecting his paintings on Pinterest, so stimulating are they.

Looking into some of his paintings of Venice for example, he paints enough detail to create the effect, not quite Impressionism but going that way, and feels confident enough to leave things out. The results and the colours are stunning, and each one is a collector’s piece, which of course they are. Perhaps I could convince myself that I was attempting something like that with this painting.

Coming back to my Alhambra piece, the camera has once again bleached out some colour, and reveals brushwork which the naked eye cannot see. A lame excuse but I offer it anyway

I may come back to it one day, but I have one or two things I want to do for an exhibition in October, one of which is to paint the view of New Haw Lock which I drew on site last week, so that will be my next project.

Plein Air Painting at New Haw Lock

DSCF4301

Something I rarely find time for is painting outdoors, but recently did, with our local art group at New Haw Lock, which is one of the many locks along the Wey Navigation in Surrey. The Navigation dates from the c17, and made the river Wey navigable by cutting canals across the meanders and shallows. Thus this mix of river and canal made the Wey navigable for barge traffic from Guildford to the Thames. Amazingly this traffic by horse drawn barge went on until 1959. By then the navigation had been cut through to Godalming in the south, and had been especially useful in carrying gunpowder from nearby Chilworth Mill through to the Thames and on into the Port of London

During the c18 the Wey Navigation linked with the River Arun, and on down to the south coast, but that leg was short lived and proved uneconomic to run. That section fell into disuse, although some sections have been revived by conservationists

In the picture, one of the many lock keeper’s cottages, very charming and very paintable still. New Haw is somewhat underrated and is easily missed when driving by.

We found shade to sit, as the day was hot and became hotter towards midday. The morning was enough for me, so for about 2-3 hours during which time, I worked out my composition, and just sketched putting in the shadows which of course changed quickly. Photography helps the sketch book and I recorded several stages. It is my intention to finish the painting in my “studio”, but for the moment need to finish my Alhambra painting

I shall look forward to painting the New Haw lock. This is a typical Surrey scene and a typical Surrey cottage. I will attach my drawing. I regretted afterwards only taking an A3 pad which didn’t give me enough space but at home i can use a half sheet which will enable me hopefully to include the lock in its entirety

DSCF4307

Now all I have to do is to decide whether or not to include the foreground tree which obscures much of the cottage but nevertheless provides some interesting lights and darks

Walking Round the Alhambra, the Tonal Sketch

Alhambra Sketch Lion Courtyard

From the photograph, I have made a fairly quick sketch in black and white, just to give myself a tonal guide for when I attempt the actual painting

This is not intended to be an architectural drawing of any merit. The actual painting will, I trust, be better, but even then the detailing of the architecture is such that with the best will in the world, some simplification will have to be permissible. I am more interested at this stage in working out the light and dark areas. Hopefully the finished work will reflect the dazzling floor of the courtyard, and also suggest the intense heat from outside. It was about 35c whilst we were wandering around, but we were fine in the shaded areas. It must have been much the same for the original owners who built the citadel, and of course it would get much hotter in July/August

As I’m writing this in south-east England, the temperature is around 32c with no prospect of rain in the foreseeable future. It seems strange to be nostalgic for our unreliable climate of yesteryear, when the possibility of rain was always a worry when planning an event.

I didn’t use ink this time. I used Paynes Grey watercolour which I quite like. It is underrated, I think, and gives a pleasant blue/black shade to a sketch which I find preferable.

I have exaggerated the bleached out look of the arches on the other side of the courtyard. Whether I will get away with doing that in colour, remains to be seen. The small round fountain in the foreground does nothing for me and will be left out of the finished work

My poor sales record for the year received a boost at the week-end. I delivered successfully the Docklands Commission, and that will be going out to Sweden next month. The same day, I sold Bosham Panorama from my website and that is being collected next week. So very pleased about that.

It meant that I had to rush round and frame my latest painting of Bosham Creek, so that I had something to show on Saturday at the Railings Exhibition in Pirbright. That though is a happy problem