Horse and Rider

I would first like to acknowledge with thanks Rebecca Photography on Pixabay who kindly allowed me to use her reference photograph, when preparing this watercolour painting

I like, as many will know, painting horses and horses in water. This image intrigued me and presented problems from the start. Horse and rider were a complete silhouette. So? Well, there were no details to help me with the drawing or very few at least. It was difficult, if nigh impossible to check my measurements as I proceeded with the drawing. Likewise the rider, which I don’t normally include but they were the same image. They could not be separated. If you have ridden horses, and I have a little when I was younger, you will know that you have to adopt certain attitudes or body shapes, otherwise you will just fall off. Legs must be in the right place for example. You can’t see the legs in this image so what to do?

I ended up doing a separate drawing of the horse with rider showing her legs and stirrups. I had to match the correct leg position with the rest of her body. That took me some time. It was quite a long time of experimentation, before I was ready to paint. Sky and water were comparatively straightforward in comparison. I had to give horse and rider two coats of burnt umber before I had a perfect silhouette.

I must have done something right. The painting sold on its first announcement

I would have liked her for my current show at Denbies Wine Estate but you can’t have everything, and anyway you can only sell a painting once

I hope you enjoy looking and reading my blog

The Dreaming Spires of Oxford

The Dreaming Spires of Oxford

Our grandson went up to Oxford about a year ago. He sent us a postcard during his first term. The view was of the dreaming spires which was an ideal picture for painting. All those old favourites, Tom Tower and the Ratcliffe Camera plus a few that I’ve forgotten

A tremendous amount of national history took place in Oxford. The university is one of the four oldest in Europe, and I believe that Merton is the oldest college, although happy to be corrected on that score. I haven’t been there for years, unfortunately. I remember in the cathedral, there is the notch in the wall which supported the dais on which Cranmer sat during his trial.There was only one outcome to this trial. He was going to burn. Queen Mary had already decided. She hated him for the way that he had treated her mother, Catherine of Aragon in the past. And, of course, burn he did, and the spot is still marked.

During the Civil War that followed about a century later, Oxford was the seat of the King and the Royalist Party. London had declared for Parliament.

In this painting, I struggled to capture the soft light on the honey-coloured stone, and hopefully a quiet peaceful atmosphere. Others may judge me on that score

I haven’t shown this painting publicly yet. My first opportunity is at the end of this month, when I show with the Village Artist at Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking, Surrey. They have been kind in the past, so we shall have to see what the reaction is.

Farewell to an old friend

Autumn Swans

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

Local Church in Morning Light

Pirbright Church in Early Morning

This is one of our local churches in the village of Pirbright, Surrey. In the grave yard is buried Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer who found Livingstone, and uttered the immortal phrase “Doctor Livingstone I presume”

I have painted this church a few times in all seasons and these have always proven popular locally. What to do, to do something differently? Always a problem, especially heading for a local exhibition, as I am in December. I have chosen an early morning light which sometimes bathes everything with a red light. I have been cautious with the colour , perhaps too much. \i could have used a dilute wash of Permanent Rose over the tree trunks which would have made them pop, as the word seems to be.

I used four colours in this painting. Quinacradone Gold with a slight Vermillion tinge to it for background, Burnt Sienna with vermillion mix and for the very dark shades , Transparent Brown again with a tinge of the red.

The painting is on display at the moment. The art club have taken over the old post office in the centre of the village which will be very helpful as a permanent exhibition

We shall see. We shall get opinions if nothing else

Istanbul Waterfront

The busy waterfront in Istanbul

I love Istanbul, although we haven’t been there for some years, and maybe won’t get back . We have made three or four separate visits to Turkey, and most included Istanbul. Many wonderful things to see there of course, but one of the most enjoyable, was our trip along the Bosphorus. There are so many sights on this stretch of water, and the ferries crisscrossing the water are certainly one of them. I should remember the name of the mosque in the background. I think it was the one devoted to Suleiman the Magnificent Let’s hope I’m right

For this painting, I used a simple palette of blues and orange reds. I made the city background hazy and put more detail into the boats. As usual the photograph does no justice to the painting.

I mixed Cobalt and Phthalo Blue for the sky and for the water. I used various reddish colours for the buildings ranging from Burnt Sienna to Orange to Cadmium Red. Blue works well for the shadows on the buildings. I kept the buildings including the mosque hazy and soft.The boats I painted in sharper detail.I used watercolour pencils for the underdrawing and then went over the whole thing with clean water and let the picture dry hard. The result was a soft outline ready to paint but avoiding pencil lines. The result looks as though I have painted with a brush, which I am not good at.

This will go on show at Denbies Wine Estate in September

Marzamemi in Sicily- a different view

Fishing Boats in Marzameni Sicily

I have painted a view of Marzameni before some years ago. It is a delightful fishing village, where we stopped just for a coffee break, and then wandered down to the water’s edge. Many of the boats were obviously old and maintained by their owners, Some of them were hand painted, just bright Mediterranean colours, vivid reds and blues, together with dazzling whites.

The sea was the brightest blue, and as always I hope I do the colours justice. I used Pthalo Blue modified with Cobalt Blue for the sky and the sea, which seemed to work. The same colour strengthened seemed to work for the boats as well, although I did get an opportunity to use Windsor Blue for a really deep blue stripe on one of the boats

As we watched ,the boat with the umbrella hove into view and rowed slowly by, eventually finding a place to tie up. This boat was smarter but the colours were more muted

I enjoy painting Sicily. Always the colours are so vibrant, and the shadows so pronounced

I am exhibiting at the moment at Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking, and have sold a painting of Horses in the Wetlands, another favourite subject

Langstone Mill in Evening Glow

A favourite place and a favourite subject. My boyhood was spent in the area, and Langstone was a favourite haunt. There was and is, a lot for boys to do here, bathing and canoeing, digging for shellfish and running from aggressive swans when we interrupted them on the nest. It is an historic place. It was the ancient port serving nearby Havant, the main town about a mile inland. I say ancient. Coal was still coming in here from the north, in the early part of the twentieth century. Today it is just a delightful creek, used by sailors and photographers, and of course painters.

The tower is what is left of the c18 windmill. The sails were removed in the c19, and the building left to rot. The building to the left of the tower was the original grain store, and the one to the far left was the tide mill. In the 1930s the mill was rescued by the famous artist Dame Flora Twort and restored for residential use. The architect was Ernst Freud, well-known for his work in Germany and later in London.

Langstone Mill has a connection with Neville Shute, the novelist, who lived here during the last war, and did some of his writing here. Shute was an aeronautical engineer, and was a director of a company making aircraft in nearby Portsmouth

I have painted this subject many times. On this occasion I tried something slightly different, and used Quinacradone Gold which puts a glow in the sky, which you get with early evening. Then I added the long shadows which hopefully finish the effect

Mont St Michel, Normandy

The island fortress of Mont St Michel

Firstly my thanks to Oska Siobhan photographer in Mont St Michel, for the use of her photograph as reference

We first visited Mont St Michel when our children were small, so nearly fifty years ago, and went back again much later, both times on holiday in Brittany, such a beautiful region of France

Steeped in history, high tide gave protection from would be assailants, whilst at low tide access was allowed to pilgrims to the abbey. The island remained unconquered during the hundred years war despite two sieges by the English. In fact the island’s spirited resistance inspired the French and Joan of Arc.. Louis XI recognised the benefits of the location and turned it into a prison. The abbey was used regularly as a prison during the Ancien Regime

In England we have a look-alike off the coast of Cornwall. In 1067 the Mont gace full support to William the Conqueror’s claim to the English throne. William rewarded this with lands on the other side of the channel, including a small island off the coast of Cornwall, on which the Norman monks built their priory, called St Michael’s Mount of Penzance

Mont St Michel also features on the Bayeux Tapestry. Scenes 16 and 17 show William and Harold there . Harold is rescuing knights from quicksand. This would have been during the period from Harold’s shipwreck on the coast of France, when he was entertained by William

My painting, as usual is in watercolour. Quite a lot of drawing in this one as you might expect

An alternative view of the Grand Canal, Venice

Grand Canal, Venice from the Rialto Bridge

I am indebted to Pixabay for the use of their photograph. I have stood on this spot a few times and looked down the canal, but this picture was taken with a distant golden evening light which is very attractive. I hope I have done justice to this view. Standing on this spot, reminds me of the many little shops, in one of which I bought a piece of Murano glass, which was over-priced , but difficult to go home without something

I love the feeling of depth. Close to us are the embarkment stations used by passengers boarding the many vaporettos which chug along the canal, going to many destinations. In the far distance you can just see the canal bending out of sight. In between are the old palaces now mostly hotels

The sky was always going to be the biggest challenge. I used some cobalt and phthalo blue mixed, layered in orange for lower sky, and back to blue for the lower picture. I had to repeat this twice to get any sort of brightness to the orange sky. Later when bone dry, I put in some red clouds wisping along the top . The orange worked well as a reflection in the water too. As always the camera has leeched out some of the colour. The painting is so much more vibrant. I wish I could stop this happening

Venice continues to be popular, and I never tire of painting her. Just by way of a change I am trying to put together a composition around a cat in Ephesus. We have been there a couple of times. Very atmospheric treading in the footsteps of St.Paul, also very hot and dusty, but amazing nonetheless. On my last visit and just in front of the Library of Celsius, a cat was sitting motionless on a pedestal. There are always plenty of feral cats living amongst ruins. This one somehow added to the spiritual quality of the scene, not Christian, but more like an object of worship in Egypt. Fanciful I know, but that is how the view struck me. I wonder if I can convey that in a painting

Venice: a different treatment of a favourite view

Venice, Early Morning

This is what I meant by an old favourite. The lagoon viewed looking out onto the magnificent church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which I have painted several times before in different lights. I don’t seem to have kept many, so must have been some time ago that I last painted this view, before I started keeping a file of all my pictures. Anyway, this one I was pleased with. The light seemed to work. A misty still morning before the sun broke through, there is very little in the way of colour as yet

I have used mostly just two colours, Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Orange. Here and there they have mixed and produced an interesting grey/green which I rather like and use from time to time. Burnt sienna for the brick buildings in the background, but not much of it

I put this one on social media to get some comments. Someone bought it which is always the ultimate accolade

I am doing a real exhibition this coming Saturday, and it would have been nice to have taken it, but you can only sell a painting once. I am happy with that