West Horseley House and Grange Park Opera Company

West Horseley Place in Surrey

This is the side elevation of the house, medieval but clad in c16 brick. This is the old part as if any of it is recent! Not exactly art but certainly architecture and the Arts

The house is associated with Henry VIII who gave it to one of his favourites in 1534, a man called Courtenay. This was about the time that Thomas Cromwell was gathering strength, and being more proficient in the black arts, managed to persuade the king, that Courtenay was a Catholic and a subversive. Courtenay was executed. This was about the time of Henry’s break with Rome which was unpopular, and which increased Henry’s paranoia. He was prone to striking down anyone whom he suspected of subversion, with or without evidence

The Raleighs later owned the house. Sir Walter the well-known colonist of North America, who fell foul of James I, was executed in 1618. The house, through his brother-in-law, was left to Raleigh’s surviving son Carew. There is a story, well-known, that Raleigh’s head was rescued from its pike on London Bridge, and dropped onto a waiting boat on the river. The head was kept by his widow wrapped in a velvet cloth, for some years at West Horseley. Later Carew’s two sons and baby daughter, all of whom died of an epidemic, were buried under the floor of St.Mary’s Church nearby. The head was buried with them

To come up-to-date, the house was bequeathed two years, unexpectedly, by the then owner the duchess of Roxburgh, to Bamber Gascoigne. People of my age will remember him as the host of that erudite TV quiz University Challenge, which he presented for many years since its inception. Today it is still running and hosted by Jeremy Paxman, who is good, but not the same. We toured the house recently, with a group from Guildford museum, and were privileged to be shown round by Bamber himself. His voice still sounds the same despite the years. I kept expecting him to say, “Jesus, your starter for ten………………”

And now the most exciting development, the creation of the Theatre in the Woods. About a year or more ago, the Gascoignes were visited by one Lasfi Kani, the major force behind the Grange Park Opera Company. At the time this company had been based at another mansion in Hampshire, and had had their lease summarily terminated, and were looking for a new home. West Horseley was agreed upon and work started

Incredibly from the first sod being cut in June 2016, the programme was published and world class voices engaged with performance dates set for June 2017. Within that last twelve months, Ms Kani raised the £8 million needed to fund the building. The theatre stands now ready for performances next month. The first, Tosca is sold out already. The theatre is ready in that it has seats, and is weatherproof. There is still finishing work to be done

There is no doubt that this will be a venue to rival Glyndebourne

The house itself needs about £8 million spent on it to bring it up to standard, and the surrounding estate houses, another three. A charity has been formed to raise funds necessary

The opera company has its own web site should you want to read more

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One of two c16 century dog kennels near the front door. Two outside the same house are unique. Both are Grade 1 listed

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre: the finished painting

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The finished version of Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre

There are still things I look at and feel like going back and fiddling with, but I have learned to resist that, and have finally decided that the painting is finished

Since posting the underpainting, I have been back in with stronger versions of the Transparent Brown and Violet mix, bringing, I hope,  the image closer to the eye, as the detailing becomes sharper

I have had to resist making the detail of the basilica too sharp in order to give the impression of distance. The shadows in the garden and on the steps I have deepened. Likewise the foreground figures, with the obligatory spots of red in the foreground, which are discreet, but they are there.

If I can find a suitable frame, I should be able to include this one in my July exhibition at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford

I bought recently an interesting frame in a driftwood texture, which is comparatively long with the mount divided into four spaces. They are usually used for photographs. I bought it at a craft fair recently. At the same fair, a watercolour artist was showing , and had included one of these frames with four individual pictures making up a wide scene, which looked very effective. I thought I might try something similar. Not the same picture, I hasten to add, but a retake on something I have done before of a long line of beached fishing boats in Devon

I have finally launched my Artfinder shop. The application form was a bit of a marathon, but the support staff were very helpful indeed. I know they are supposed to be, but sometimes they aren’t. The young woman at Artfinder who I think, took pity on me and patiently answered my questions, helping me over the hurdles, was truly excellent.

I have only listed six paintings so far, as the uploading can take a time, if like me you don’t get the sizing right always, but there will be more as time goes by. We’ll see how it goes

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre: Underpainting

Sacre-Coeur Underpainting

From the drawing I have got as far as providing a base coat for the painting. As you can see, I have added some foreground figures from my archive, just to deepen the composition

Basically I have put in the shadows, which in effect gives the subject its form. For the church and figures I have used a mix of transparent brown and violet, which has gone a bit too grey for my liking, so colder than I wanted. I had run out of Ultramarine Violet which I normally use, so used Windsor Violet instead which is more blue than I expected. I will run a wash of transparent brown over the shadow, when bone dry, just to warm them up, and then work in the detail.

I sometimes prefer this stage to the finished painting, when the buildings seem to loom out of the mist.

For reasons best known to myself, I have finished the trees and shrubs first. I don’t usually do that, and have probably made it hard for myself to strike the right tonal balance. Oh well, let’s hope it works out

I am also in the middle of trying to set up an online shop with Artfinder, who come recommended. Nothing like the sales that I enjoyed last year, either locally or from my own website. Maybe it is the Brexit effect slowing down our economy. Anyway I have to try something different, so I will doubtless post when I have done it successfully, and also on social media

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre , Paris

 

This has always been a favourite area of Paris. I have wandered around many times taking pictures, and have used them for paintings afterwards. The artist’s quarter, the steps, the views over the roof tops and the Consulat have all featured in my paintings and have been popular at exhibitions, but for some reason, I have never painted the basilica itself

The basilica was planned or started about 1870, and was part of a Catholic revival in France. It was said to be partly a penance following defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war, and partly to expiate the sins of the Communards during the Commune which followed the exile of Napoleon 111.

Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians after the battle of Sedan. His son, the Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, present at the battle, was spirited away to Ostende and thence to England by boat. His mother the Empress Eugenie, dropped everything and fled to England to join her son. In fairness, all was up with the imperial rule. her husband Napoleon III  was released by the Prussians and allowed to travel to England. Already a sick man, he died in exile in 1873.

The Commune , following the fall of Paris, saw much anti-church rhetoric and atrocities. The building of the Sacre-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre, a scene of much insurrection, was intended to heal the divisions in France, and create a church come-back. Certainly this was  a significant building

Using various photographs, I have made this pencil sketch on which to base a painting. I just haven’t worked out colours yet, although something sunlit I suspect. No doubt my favourite warm shadows using Sennelier Transparent Brown mixed with Violet will be present.

I have the task now of moving the sketch in very basic terms onto watercolour paper and then finishing a drawing ready for painting. So, as always we shall see.

The Basilica of la Sagrada Familia

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The Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. An amazing structure, quite, or perhaps almost, unique

We have been staying in Sitges for the last five days, enjoying the sun and the warmth, although as our perverse climate would have it, the temperature in southern England shot up to 25c, whilst in Spain only 20c but nevertheless very agreeable.

We took the train into Barcelona, which proved very straightforward, not to mention cheap in comparison to the steep fares charged around the London area. The journey took about forty minutes. I had already bought timed tickets for the Sagrada Familia on line before I left home. What a boon that proved to be as the crowds queuing for tickets when we arrived were formidable

We were, of course, very early, so time for a coffee, and a stroll round the outside of the building, taking in the details. We were last here twenty years ago, and the place, even inside, was a construction site. High up in the heavens magnificent cranes are working with the sensitivity and lightness of touch that you might expect from an artist.

After lunch and another stroll, our tickets allowed us to enter and we went inside. I don’t often use the word “breath taking” but we were looking at a masterpiece.

We associate this building, sometimes called the third cathedral, with Antoni Gaudi, the incredible architect in the Art Nouveau style, who adapted Gothic architecture to produce this wonderful building. He took over the project in 1883, and stayed with it until his untimely death in 1926. During all this time he is also completing other large projects for the Guell family and also for the Church.

So much has been achieved since our last visit. The nave with its paraboloid arches which seem to reach up into the heavens, will be my enduring memory. Colour is everywhere, as the light streams through stained glass. Detail is everywhere, small animals, leaves, vegetation as well as so many human figures representing the Nativity and other stories. Gaudi was devoted to nature. He was also extremely devout, and his interpretations of the liturgy, I found moving. So much detail, too much to record here.

In the cloister which surrounds the building, is situated the museum, now open, which records the timeline of the whole construction period. Gaudi’s models are on show and his drawings, which enabled successive craftsmen to carry on his work. Still much to do, with a projected finish date of 2026. I wonder if I will get back to see that. Could do, I certainly hope so

Venice Painting Completed

Venice Painting Completed

The finished painting with San Giorgio Maggiore in the background, which I enjoyed doing, although trying to hit the right colours was testing to say the least

I have already mentioned the mooring posts. In the photograph they looked red in the evening light. This turned into a glazing exercise, wet on dry, although nothing like as tricky as the hull of the gondola which I will come to in a minute

For the posts I started with a Burnt Sienna wash which is pretty safe. When the paint had dried, the pigment had disappeared. I applied another coat of the same colour, followed by a coat of Permanent Rose which should have given these posts a nice evening red glow, but still pasty. I had been waiting to use quinacridone red, of which I have a fairly limited experience, so perhaps risky. The colour worked well, I thought, giving me what I wanted. I used Indigo for the strips of bark hanging onto the wood. Indigo makes an alternative to black which I avoid if I can

Now the real challenge, to use that overworked word, was how to treat the hull of the gondola. I may have said before that gondolas are black by regulation. The finish is of a very high gloss, the sort one sometimes gets on pianos, in fact it used to be called piano finish. I think polyurethane was involved which may have been universally banned by now because of health risks.

Black gloss in certain lights obviously won’t look black, because of the other bright colours it picks up in this mirror like shine. If you remember the original photograph that I worked from, the vessel looked a sort of bright copper colour.

Again this was a long and drawn out glazing exercise. At least five coats as I remember and twenty four hours natural drying in between each coat. I used Quinacradone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Van Dyke Brown, Transparent Brown and Permanent Rose

I looked at it in the morning from a distance. I think it worked but I will have to put it away and get it out again another time, before I can make an objective view

As always comments are welcome

Venice Painting so far

Venice painting to date

 

Not the best of photographs I am afraid

The sky is much pinker than the picture shows but try as I might, I can’t stop the camera leeching out the background colour. Also too much camera distortion making the posts lean inwards which I will try to correct on the finished version

What I did to colour match the original photograph, in which the sky and most of the water is a deep salmon pink, was to brush all over first with a red-orange mix, which did dry quite pale. I then built up with dilute coats of alizarin crimson until I reached the depths of colour that I wanted.

When that was hard-dried, I started on the background buildings, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, always a favourite. Being in deep shadow I gave all the buildings a wash of French Ultramarine, and then another one. When that was really dry, I painted the rooftops and brickwork in Burnt Sienna.

The mooring posts I started with Burnt Sienna, but I wanted them to be more red than that. I glazed them with Permanent Rose. They were still too brown, so went over them again with quinacrodone red ( it doesn’t matter which way I spell that word, it always seems to be wrong). This was getting nearer the shade

I now had the colour relationship between the foreground posts and the background church. I felt the church could go darker still, with another coat of Ultramarine, and this time bring the wash down a little way over the water, to cast a shadow. There is one small building in front of the church, which I think is the customs house, which in reality stands well out on a promontory coming towards us. I missed this out with the last coat so that it didn’t disappear altogether

That is as far as I have gone as yet. I still have to darken the posts and finish the gondola, probably with some indigo on the seating. How I tackle the hull, I still have to work out, so we shall see.

Venice Tonal Sketch

Venice Tonal Sketch

The exhibition at the Guildford Institute has been running for a working week now. There have been a crop of complimentary comments, otherwise fairly quiet. Not unexpected ,as although the Institute is a delightful venue, it is not a very busy place, and I tend to get more publicity than sales there. Having said that, I usually sell something even if it is after the show

Now is the time I have to think about my next solo show which will be at the Royal Surrey Hospital in July.  This is held in the Peter Thompson Gallery, which is quite a busy place. Taking the worst case scenario and assuming I sold no paintings whatsoever at the Institute, I still wouldn’t take the same collection to the hospital. I will take some but also freshen the gallery with some new stuff which I will work on between now and July. This sounds a long way off but there are holidays in between, so I cannot slacken the pace

I need a couple of Venice pictures which are always popular, so I am working on the view above.  The lovely church of San Giorgio Maggiore near the mouth of the Grand Canal is always a favourite, and I have painted it several times before, but not this particular shot. It always sold in the past, which I know is no guarantee for the future.  Everyone wants the same view so the test is to provide the same image, yet giving it some twist that stretches the artist at the same time.

I am going to give this painting some different colours which will make me think. This will be an evening scene, so a reddish sky which will reflect on the water. The church will fade into the background, and the foreground will be taken up with this solitary gondola. Gondolas are traditionally black. I think there is a regulation which says that they have to be. But it won’t have to look black. The high gloss finish will reflect the colour of the water and the shadows on the water, and also include the dancing highlights

This will certainly test me, and I am not at all sure that I can pull this one off. However it will be interesting to say the very least, and an experience I shall learn something from

As always I will post my progress stage by stage

 

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Salt Mills of Trapani: the finished painting

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The painting finished, and that now completes my quota for the exhibition coming up at the Guildford Institute on the 13th. Something of a relief that I am in time, and only have some framing left to do.

For the conical roofs on the mills, I used a different red. Quinacridone Red which I haven’t used before, makes a nice deep pinky red and was virtually an exact colour match to the photograph. Indian Red is not dissimilar but I remembered buying the quinacridone some while ago for some purpose or other, so thought I would trial it. I quite like it by way of a change

I then went on to run a dilute shade of the same colour down the sides of the mills themselves which again brought the masonry colour closer to the original in the photograph.

The stones along the walkway between the salt pans, were quite bright in the sunlight, so I used quinacridone gold instead of raw sienna

There was little else to do. I deepened the blue in the foreground. Sadly little or nothing to put there, so I have made the reflections more pronounced in order to break up the expanse of blue water  I could use red for my signature. I will think about that

But life does not stop here. I have another exhibition coming up in July at the Royal Surrey Hospital, which is another favourite venue. This time I shall be sharing the space with my colleague, Elaine. She does more abstract and adventurous stuff than me, so our paintings seem to compliment one another

Taking a pessimistic view, with no sales at the Institute, I shall just move these paintings to the next exhibition. However there would be one or two changes that I would like to make anyway, and I would like to include some more paintings of Venice which are always popular. I have come across a very good source of photographs that I can work from and leave the next one with you

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San Giorgio Maggiore, an old favourite which I have painted before but the light and colours on this shot are delightful

We will see what I make of it. Suggestions by the way, are always welcome

Salt Mills at Trapani: the part finished painting

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Well, I am moving along slowly, which is the best I can say

There have been quite a few problems over the last couple of weeks, which have demanded my attention. Sadly things that I enjoy, like painting, have had to take second place. Still, every now and then, I creep back to my easel and manage an hour or so. I treat painting as r&r at the moment, and there is no doubt that it soothes the troubled spirit.

I have called this the part finished stage. perhaps more accurate would be to call it the part unfinished stage.

I have put in a Mediterranean sky and water. Phthalo Blue and Cobalt blended seem to work quite well for this. Again I have worked up the distant background in the same colour only deeper, which I think gives it a more faraway look

I have been putting detail into the three mills and adjacent buildings. I have been trying to gradate the tone from one to the other to create the feeling of distance. The nearest will require more work, as this one will have to look really sharp. Detailing the sails will be testing, knowing how much to put in and how much to leave out. I want them to look accurate without looking like a photograph. Oh well, if it were easy it wouldn’t be fun, I suppose

Ironically, the furthest mill presented the least difficulties when it came to painting the sails. Just a flick of a wet brush and that was it. I still have to think about the middle one which will be difficult to get just right. The three bears had the same problem!

I have had to rearrange those low walls to help the composition and to get some reflections in, otherwise there will be nothing in the foreground. No boats here.

Some interesting problems to tackle!