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

A Hidden Gem near London: The Dorich House Museum

Dorich House, Kingston

We went here a few days ago. An amazing gallery which I didn’t know existed, which had fallen into disrepair, was rescued by Kingston University, and stands a few feet from the wall around Richmond Park. A distance known as a “deer’s leap”

The house was designed by Dora Gordine, a Latvian sculptor, and completed in 1936. She lived there with her husband the Hon.Richard Hare, a scholar of Russian literature and art.

The house is a splendid example of a studio house of the period. The ground and first floor levels were designed for the production and display of her work. A more modest top floor apartment with a roof terrace overlooking Richmond Park, served the couple’s domestic needs

Richard Hare died in 1966. Dora lived until 1991, after which time the house was acquired and renovated by Kingston University. The house now holds the world’s largest collection of Gordine’s work as well as an important collection of Russian art acquired by Hare and Gordine.

There are some wonderful architectural features in the house. My favourite is the Moon Door

Moon Door, Dorich House

The house is on Kingston Vale next to Richmond Park, and is worth a visit if you are able

House Portrait Completed

The Finished Portrait

There was quite a lot of detailing in this one. Different things were asked to be included, which I have done, but because of the scale, they have ended up as rather tiny. I was worried about that. Things like different coloured pots and also some blooms slightly out of season. Let’s hope they don’t disappoint

The car port and furniture store relationship on the left hand side, took some working out so that each was distinguishable. I did wonder afterwards whether I should have recommended leaving the furniture store out completely. The car port is a nice building, almost barn-like with its hipped roof, and it would have stood alone quite easily. However I didn’t. I painted what was there, which is the honest thing to do.

I reduced the enormous expanse of gravel with shadows coming in from trees which were off stage. I think that improves. Not really a follower of feng shui, I have left, nevertheless, an uninterrupted view of the path leading to the front door.

Some of the colours I have changed as well as scaling down the sizes of some of the shrubs. Generally a mix of reds and greens , I think the colour scheme works well, although some might disagree.

I now have another commission, another house portrait, which I went to see a couple of days ago. This is a rather charming cottage out in the woods, built around 1830, so lots of character, which I am shortly to start.

Just when it looked straightforward, I was asked to include the dog. Oh well, another challenge

House Portrait : the painting commenced

The house portrait so far

Still in early stages, the painting appears to be coming out of the mist

The drawing is done and some colour has been applied. Cobalt blue sky and raw sienna as a base for nearly everything else. Some very pale and distant trees, and guidelines for shadows I have put in along the side to the left.

As far as the house is concerned I have put in shadows in blue which has managed to build up the general form of the building. The house at the back I have formed in brown and blue.

The car port, I have done more work on, with the final roof colour and the skylights. The furniture store in front of the car port makes the grouping ambiguous. I wish now I had insisted on just the car port but I didn’t so I am stuck with it. This will require some thought

Before strengthening the brick colour, I have put in the wisteria and the virginia creeper, as I shall have to paint round them

Very easy to lose heart in this stage of the painting, but the painting must be finished so I carry on. In fact since writing this I have put a coat of Burnt Sienna on the brickwork and already the house is starting to move towards me

That’s all I can say at the moment

House Portrait: the Preliminary Sketch

The Preliminary Sketch

I’ve just done this from the photograph. This is,of course, a commissioned work and I have to visit the site next week. Seasons have changed so may well look different, but this will do for now to work from. I will take some photographs of my own which I prefer, so that I can clear up some details which are ambiguous at the moment.

For now, there is little more that I can do before I see the actual building, and as I say, the colours have changed. The original photograph that I had was from the summer, and now everything is autumnal. As far as colour schemes are concerned, I prefer that. There should be some bare branches as well.

I just have to hope that the sun will be out, so that we get some lights and darks. For weeks now, the weather has been wet and the skies have been heavy. This is quite hopeless for painting, but as always we must work with what we have got.

Some news from the exhibition at the hospital. I have sold one painting entitled Canals of Venice, so not out for a duck, which is something

I shall be able to add more next week

Rex Whistler at Plas Newydd in Anglesey

Rex Whistler includes himself in his painting

Last week we were in North Wales, staying in Caernarfon, never sure about the spelling, and spending the week looking at some very good National Trust properties

The house I had wanted to see for a long time was Plas Newydd on Anglesey, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey. This houses the magnificent mural painted by Rex Whistler, unfinished due to his untimely death in 1944 in France.

The mural, painted on canvas and at 56 feet reputed to be the longest in the country, is such a wonderful work that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. I took some pictures, but because of the understandable light level in the viewing chamber, these are poor, and I am still debating whether to include them or not.

Whistler had fallen madly in love with Lady Caroline, daughter of the then Marquess, and there are references in the painting. His self portrait I have included above. There is also a painting of Lady Caroline in the picture too

At the far right of the painting are two trees intertwined, one of which is dying. That one represents Whistler who is dying of unrequited love.

The whole thing is of a fantastical scene of a classical harbour with magnificent buildings and ships with an atmospheric backdrop of mountains based on Snowdonia with dramatic cloud formations

At the time he was in great demand for stage sets and murals in great houses. Many times I have admired his work at Mottisfont in Hampshire, and of course in the restaurant at the Tate

The Plas Newydd mural is staggering and just holds you for hours if necessary. My pictures disappoint so I will not include them. There are websites or go and see the real thing

The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, finished painting

The Royal Crescent Hotel

This commissioned painting is finished and approved, and once I have cut a mount and signed and dated, then this will be going off to its new owner

Testing in many ways, classical architecture doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, nonetheless enjoyable to do, and I am happy with the way it has turned out

I shall be otherwise engaged for a few days, but as soon as I can, I need to start on another commission, which is a really interesting looking house portrait. That will need a shetch for approval before getting started.

Added to that I have an important exhibition coming up mid October at one of the local hospitals. This is one where I usually sell. I pray that I sell something as I am bulging with framed pictures. It’s lovely to sell on the internet, but I get left with frames. However, a happy problem

So quite busy for a while

I don’t know what made me do it, but I started going through boxes of slides which I took in the 1970s. Some of us can remember that colour photographs were made into slides at one time, for projecting onto a screen, for amusement of family and friends with our holiday pics, or not as the case may be.

I found amongst the many, a lovely shot of a fishing harbour in Brittany where we stayed in 1972. I have had it printed so that I can work from it, and that will be up after the commissioned work.

Much to do

Mary Wollstonecraft Exhibition at Chawton House in Hampshire

Chawton House associated with Jane Austen

An exhibition of work by Louisa Albani, not an artist I’m familiar with, opened at Chawton House in Hampshire, yesterday, and goes on into November. Not a large exhibition, held in one of the garret rooms,but powerful none the less, and deals with the period that Mary Wollstonecraft spent in Paris during the French Revolution

Known as a writer and legendary advocate of women’s rights, she was in Paris from December 1792, a month before Louis XVI was guillotined, until April 1795 when she returned to London. The artwork in the exhibition was inspired by what she saw and what she did during her stay, and what she wrote, whilst acting as a war correspondent for the English journal Analytical Review

I was struck by one of her quotations.

People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice,than any government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be suddenly overturned

Written during the French Revolution by Mary Wollstenecraft

Hint of a warning there for someone perhaps

Chawton House is a gem in itself. An Elizabethan Manor House. of which there are not too many. It belonged to Edward, Jane Austen’s brother who had inherited from the Knight family. Jane was a frequent visitor to the house which is only a short walking distance from the village. The lovely tea room served teas to visitors back in the c19

Lapsed into disrepair during the c19, for lack of funds, the house was rescued by the North American branch of the Jane Austen Society, and has been splendidly restored whilst retaining the character of a country house of the Elizabethan style

Artwork from the exhibition referring to the quote above:

The caption would have to be her quotation above

A delightful visit

The Royal Crescent in Bath : the Preparatory Sketch

The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath

I went to Bath a few days ago and took some pictures as reference for sketch ideas for the commission I have been given. I have been commissioned to paint the Royal Crescent Hotel which is dead centre of the crescent of that name. I have never stayed there, although I believe it is magnificent, and certainly world famous

This is my black and white sketch in ink and wash which covers the points that the client wanted. The large window is included which is about the only thing that identifies the hotel, that and the tubs by the railings. There was no signage that I could see, presumably not allowed. I managed to get some idea of the crescent shape in the roof line

Georgian architecture is certainly magnificent, drawing on classical details. It is certainly quite testing to draw. Having said that, I try not to include too much detail, as this will be a painting, not an architect’s drawing. That is my excuse anyway

If the sketch is approved then I move on to the drawing proper ready for painting, which will keep me out of mischief for a while

It may be some time before I post again, but I haven’t gone away

One day I shall have to count and see how many categories I have covered over the years. Certainly quite a lot and all things that have interested me

The Royal Crescent in Bath

I have been commissioned to paint the facade of the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath. which is a beautiful building in a beautiful city

Bath was made especially fashionable in the c18. It was a spa town. The rich and the famous went there for their health, to take the waters and to see and to be seen. It had been famous for its natural spring waters since Roman times, and the Roman baths today are a favourite tourist attraction. The Roman name for Bath was Aquae Sulis, or the waters of Sul. Sul was a British god whom the Romans adopted, so presumably the spring waters were venerated long before the Romans arrived.

The Royal Crescent

This is a long shot of the famous crescent. Sadly a dull day when I was there so the light does no justice to the lovely Bath stone which is a gorgeous honey colour. I have been commissioned to paint the hotel which is in the middle of the crescent and has a larger central window than the rest of the houses in the terrace

The terrace was designed in 1774 by an architect called John Wood the Younger. It looks out over parkland to this day, and has earned the soubriquet of “rus in urbe”. The Royal Crescent is considered to be the finest example of neo-classical architecture in the country, and has been imitated in Brighton, Buxton and London

I now have the task of doing this fine building justice in paint, which should prove challenging to say the very least.