This painting has given me some problems, even though it should have been straightforward. Never be complacent, and think you will dash something off. I needed a Langstone picture for a forthcoming exhibition, and thought I would fall back on an old favourite, namely Langstone Mill. This lovely spot is on the edge of Chichester Harbour and just before you cross the road bridge to Hayling Island. You may know it. If not, enough to know that it was once a bustling medieval port which died in the twentieth century, and now is a quiet creek. The old mill, wind and tide, is a very paintable subject.
I thought I would give it a sunset look. Again straightforward. For some reason, beyond my comprehension, the lower half did not work. The transition line from red to blue which should have blended seamlessly, just did not do so. In fact I had one of the roughest edges that I can remember. Not just hard but erratic looking like nothing I could understand
I have tried washing in carefully with clean water, but that was not a success and left an even more unseemly mess. Watercolour, as all will know, is difficult. Mistakes are hard to correct. I should know that. I have painted in nothing else for about twenty five years
The last resort is always to paint something over the blemish, if you can. I painted an extra boat in the bottom right to cover the very worst mark, and was lucky enough to use the lines of the blemish as part of the composition. So far so good, but there is a long way to go. In the centre I added a dinghy to the same purpose, and then another to make a small convoy to the sailing boat. I have seen two dinghies in tow to a larger boat before , so not too fanciful
And now what am I going to do. Well, when I know I will let you know. There will either be a finished painting or nothing at all. We shall see after I have done a lot of thinking and a lot of playing around
Still proceeding as though real exhibitions are going to take place, I am looking for one more painting for the Denbies Exhibition in December. Langstone Mill is or was a favourite, although I haven’t painted it for a while now, so thought I would try it albeit in different colours and moods
So far I have got as far as a basic drawing on tracing paper which I will transfer to watercolour paper, and then see where I go with it
I think I might try a deep sunset which has worked with paintings of Bosham. Langstone is quite well known. It used to be a port from Medieval times until the early part of the 20th century, and was very important in its day. It was known as a haunt for smuggling as so many of those little creeks on the Hampshire coast were. I always thought that they would bring ashore brandy and tobacco, and possibly they did, but the big earner was tea. Tea was wrapped in a waterproof cover and stowed in barrels, which were roped together to make a raft. Small boats from Langstone went out and met foreign luggers mid Channel, and towed these rafts back to port. Plenty of local people happy to make storage available in return for a cut. There is even one instance of the local rector storing contraband in the church cellars
So quite a romantic place, which is quiet now. The old mill is still very paintable. The tower is all that’s left of the old windmill. The sails were removed in the late 19th century, and the place left to rot. The building far left was the old tide mill, and I remember as a boy watching the water from the mill pond thunder through. Rescued in the 1930s by local artist Flora Twort, the old mill was fully restored for residential use, and has been inhabited ever since. The architect was a Freud, son of Sigmund Freud. I have sadly never been invited inside but from what I can judge, the restoration has been very successful.
The mill has been associated with artists and writers ever since. Let’s hope they approve
Before I put the background wash in, I scrubbed literally a good deal of the yellow away. On the original painting the yellow blends nicely as a sunset colour. In this photograph it stands out again, and I fail to see why. I can do no more with it, so must show it, warts and all.
The yellow scrubbed back down almost to white was probably the colour I was looking for originally. I did a faint yellow wash on the front of the white buildings, and that worked well too, but lost on the photograph. Oh well!
The composition extends further to the left including more boats and more sunset. I could put this in a long frame and it would work well. It could only be shown in a bricks and mortar exhibition though, but I have one booked in December, subject to virus spike. I will give it a showing on line first and see how it goes. If no interest, I will keep it framed for local shows
In the meantime, I will start thinking about my next subject
I am starting another painting of Bosham, this time from a different angle. This started because I want something to use in one of those long frames I bought. Bosham has worked well in the past but I can’t repeating that same shot, so this time I am standing on the causeway which floods at high tide and which gives good possibilities for an interesting composition
So far I have drawn the cottages on the water’s edge and the church behind. I am not sure whether you can make that out and will include a close up at the end
What is that splash of yellow? Something I haven’t tried before. I have laid down the basis of a low sun across the water. The plan is to wash over that with the sky and sea colour. I may well live to regret doing that, but sometimes you have to try something a little different.
I shall wash over with a mix of blue and vermillion, and hopefully get a low lit subject. We shall see.I will leave the close up of the drawing
I hope that is a bit clearer. The wall on the corner is foreground. The posts mark the edge of the road which will be flooded in this picture
This was by way of an exercise. I’ve used someone else’s photograph as a basis for this painting, so unlikely to use the finished result, unless I can get permission
I wanted to try and achieve this foggy sort of image. The mosque in the background is hardly visible. Until you get to the figure in the foreground, shapes are almost unrecognisable. The clever bit would be to get the feeling that the mist is moving towards you. Whether that has been achieved I will let others judge
The painting did not photograph well. There are some brush marks showing in the foreground which you don’t get with the original
This has been an enjoyable journey to use that expression, which does seem appropriate, as I did feel I went back there. I took photographs with a view to paint, but never found the time. One thing about lockdown is that I don’t feel guilty about making more time to paint. There is always something to do in the house but generally house and garden are tidy and the allotment is up-to-date, which is unheard of
Also I am managing to paint in natural light which is a plus. So often painting time comes in the evening and artificial light is a handicap
Colours were enjoyable with the mix of phthalo blue and cobalt for sky and cathedral. Just a tad of grey in the blue for accuracy and to stand against the sky. For all the old houses, different shades of Burnt Sienna and orange, with some blue in the steps to balance the colour scheme
There is a competition coming up for 70+ year olds in lockdown so might put this one in. There will be thousands of entries from across the country, so no hope of winning, but as we say, it’s the taking part that counts
I have made a start on the actual painting. Quite a lot of drawing work to be done as one might imagine, and working from three photographs, the perspective drawing was interesting to say the least
I do a small amount most days and look at what I have done when the paint has properly dried. The cathedral is virtually finished although I may still go back in with a sharp brush and reinforce some of the finer details.
For some reason the colours in the photograph are more red than in the original painting.
We spent a lovely holiday in Sicily a few years back. One of the many towns we visited was Ragusa, built on two hills as I remember, certainly high up.
We were given a walking tour by a local guide, a young man who was fit and agile. Members of our party were mostly not, some had sticks and needed time. He took us to the vantage point in the picture, behind the cathedral. We were faced with what looked like hundreds of steps and very steep at that. Our guide skipped up them like a young goat. We climbed slowly pausing for breath. We caught him up at the very top. He looked impatient. He gave us a matter of minutes to take photographs, and gather our strength , then trotted down at a speed which we could not match
I remember thinking ” One day, young man, you’ll be like us”
At the top I took pictures from the hip. It was quite a view and needed more time. I remember thinking ” I’ll paint this one day”. That was a few years back, and now thanks to isolation I have finally found time and I have made a start. So far so good but nothing worth showing yet
I will just finish with a view of the steps which might give an idea of the ascent
I still remember that feeling of vertigo when I looked back down
It should make for an interesting composition if I get it right
So this is my version of the original photograph, something I took some while ago, and frankly was something of a muddle. It lent itself to the “less is more” concept, if anything did. I am not saying this is a masterpiece by any means but does improve on the photograph.
The corner of the Doge’s Palace has been detailed although not heavily so and so has the street lamp. The rest has been trailed out, although you can just make out what it is. As I remember the shot in the background forms part of the Basilica of St.Mark, but not enough showing to be recognisable, so not really missed when phased out
I haven’t found someone else’s style easy, as one’s own creeps back, but I have been as disciplined as I could. Nice to draw in ink again, too. I had forgotten the satisfaction that brings. I tend to draw in ink over my pencil lines and then erase the pencil. My pencil lines rarely go in the right place and need a few more tries. When inking over you can pick the line you like and then erase the rest. Ink or ball point, both work well with watercolour
Looking back I can see that I didn’t attach the original photo which I will do now
This was the original photograph that I worked from, which is as you can see something of a muddle. A good candidate for “less is more” !
One corner of the Doge’s Palace and behind the street lamp, unrecognisable bits of the Basilica. I took this years ago. I don’t remember why, but it served its purpose with this exercise
This isn’t something that I usually try. The example above is one of many hundreds of images by celebrated watercolour artist Judi Whitton. She starts with a line drawing in ink, and then uses watercolour. It would never have occured to me to imitate this style, had I not read her article in one of the recent painting magazines in which she outlined her method. It seemed like an invitation
The point that she was illustrating was what to leave out, as much as what to put in. In other words ” less is more”
That would be a useful lesson for me, as I never know when to stop, which is a common fault, so it might be worth me trying this exercise to see what I can learn. More importantly what will I remember for the future
Likewise, and this is something I have always tried to do, is the power of suggestion, rather than painting in every detail. If that comes out of this exercise, even better
For now I have done a line drawing from one of my old photographs of Venice. Quite a lot of her work is architectural, and she has written a book about Venice. In case anyone finds architectural work daunting, her method can be used on a variety of subjects. Probably best to look at her website.
I have used an old photograph from one of my visits, which looks like a corner of the Doge’s palace, and have drastically reduced the detail