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

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 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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Notre Dame de Paris finished

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The finished painting which has had enough description already probably. An improvement on the first one so I am glad that I did it.

The little girl in the picture, modeled by my granddaughter, Lola,  although she didn’t know it, is struggling to put her hood up, so that she can continue chasing the poor pigeons. She loved to watch them take off as a flock, and then shortly afterwards settle back in more or less the same place again

The rest of my gallant family had gone into the cathedral, as the other grandchildren wanted to climb the tower. Lola didn’t want to, and frankly nor did I, so we stayed below on terra firma. My wife, who hates flying but doesn’t mind tall buildings, went with the others. I don’t mind flying but don’t like going up tall buildings. Curious really.

I prefer looking at cathedrals, studying the architecture, and trying to imagine the history surrounding the building. My first thought was of the wonderful story written by Victor Hugo, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and visually for me, going to see that wonderful film in 1956 of the same name, starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida. Quinn played Quasimodo the hunchbacked bellringer, and as a schoolboy then, I was very impressed as Quasimodo sat astride each bell in turn, urging them on like horses. An exciting story, which has been remade subsequently.

On 18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay, with others was burned at the stake in front of this cathedral. He was the last Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templars, an organisation of warrior monks, formed originally to protect pilgrims visiting the shrine of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Pilgrims no doubt rewarded them, as they became rich, as religious orders so often do. They were astute money managers and became in effect, international bankers, lending enormous sums to crowned heads of Europe.

They became super rich and powerful, and thus attracted enemies, including the then Pope Clement V. It was alleged that the Templars had started to identify with their Moslem counterparts, and accusations of heresy were made. Without doubt Templars learned much from their eastern contacts, especially in the field of architecture. What they learned was kept a secret, always suspect, and laid the foundations to the Masonic Order.

Philip IV of France, taking his cue from the Pope started to arrest Templars. Also please note that he owed fortunes to the Templars who were pressing for payment. Templars were tortured horribly to obtain confessions of heresy. De Molay himself confessed to stop the pain and retracted afterwards. He was ordered to be burned at the stake, and it was so arranged that he was consumed very slowly by the fire. Most died within minutes

De Molay at the stake, cursed those who had colluded in his murder, that they should die within the year, and their descendants meet a violent end likewise. Clement V died the following month, and Philip IV had a stroke whilst hunting shortly afterwards. Philip’s descendants did meet premature deaths, so much so that the Capetian line died out

I snap out of my reverie, Lola is still chasing pigeons, and everything seems normal again

 

Notre Dame de Paris :Halfway

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After another false start which I won’t go into, I decided to paint this subject in a vignette style, which I quite enjoy for a change. When there is a lot of peripheral detail which you just don’t need, this is a good way of getting rid of it and just focusing on the main subject.

I also happen to think they look attractive when they are finished, and certainly they seem popular with everyone

Talking of detail, I had to simplify the facade of the cathedral quite a lot, as even with a small detail brush, there is a limit to what you can include, bearing in mind the perspective.

I have chosen to depict the scene in soft winter sunlight, which is possibly my personal favourite. This is the sort of day that gently warms the stonework, and when the sun leaves long shadows on the ground and along the sides of buildings.

For the base colour of the stonework and of the square in front of the cathedral, I have used my typical mix of raw sienna and Naples yellow. For the shadows on the buildings I used violet ultramarine, and as they became deeper like some of the recesses on the cathedral, I toned the violet down with some Transparent Brown. For really dark corners I went over this again with pure violet straight from the tube.

Blue with a dash of brown to provide the grey slate roofs, and some cadmium red pale for the awnings of the restaurant next to the cathedral, finishes what I have done so far. I will echo the red amongst the figures in the foreground, either bags or jackets, so that the eye gets led into the centre of the picture.

Putting the shadows into the figures will be next. Detailing some of the foreground figures will be a long job, and how I’m looking forward to those pigeons, not. Still every painting is a lesson, so we shall see what I get out of this one

Notre Dame de Paris: back to the drawing board

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It is now nearly a month since I last did any painting, and I have missed it. Either because of festivities or through illness, I have not been able to get to my easel. Even last week, I had a relapse and have been given a second course of antibiotics which I have to say, have made me feel much better.

The next item on my to-do list, was to rework the painting that I did last year of Notre Dame de Paris in the Rain, except leave out the rain and inject some sunshine. I showed this painting a couple of times last year, without any interest being shown. Although to paint a scene in rain is skilled in its way, nevertheless the subject matter in itself is quite depressing . The colours become muted and everything looks dark. Would you want to buy a painting that lowered your mood? Probably not, so I am going to try to paint the same subject on a bright day, with colours more vibrant. Still could be autumn or winter time, but one of those bright days with long shadows.

What I have done more or less immediately, is to remove that unsightly marquee from the left of the picture. You may remember it, or you can scroll back in the gallery and find the original. I managed to find on the net, the buildings to the left of the cathedral, distant apartments and shops possibly, and these have been substituted

I have also rearranged the figures in front of the cathedral. By removing some, I have taken out the queue that was filing towards the entrance to get in. Looking back on this, it seemed quite mournful, like figures queuing for the dole. I have given the crowd, I hope, a more random look, so that hopefully they do now look like tourists, and consequently looking more interesting.

To the right of the cathedral, and out of sight, is the wonderful statue of Charlemagne. I considered moving it into the picture, but decided not too. Too much of a statement, which would have competed for attention with the cathedral itself

So, a start has been made which is always the hard part. I’ll get on with some painting and come back when I have something more to say