Painting in someone else’s style

An example of someone else’s work

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.

My scene from Venice

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

I will see what I can do with this

A Street in Florence–the finished painting

A Street in Florence–latest version

So here it is, the recent version, which I had attempted in a different style, but despite which turned out much the same as my version of four years ago.

As a group we were trying to produce something in the style of Tom Haugamat, the illustrator. Not someone I knew but impressed with his work when I looked him up. Most of our group were working on ipads and produced some very credible if not impressive work.

Mine veered off course as my own style crept back in. I still kept the painting simpler, that is less detailed, than my norm, and I fancied started to have a cubist feel. I thought that maybe that is how cubism started to evolve. Not that I would have been clever enough to develop a major movement like cubism, but I might recognise it happening

Anyway, this is how it turned out, and others can judge, as always

The streets are deserted today in our local neighbourhood despite the warm weather. We are becoming more disciplined in our efforts to check this pandemic. I took a short walk this afternoon, which we are still allowed to do, for exercise, just one walk.

It was very eerie out there. I took some pictures for a possible painting. I don’t usually do social commentary, but maybe something as a record would be of interest one day. I have lived for nearly eighty years, and never experienced anything like this. I wonder how many people are thinking the same

There was something very like this happening in 1665, when the bubonic plague travelled from London to a village in Derbyshire called Eyam, in a bolt of cloth which had been ordered by a cloth finisher in the village

When the cloth was unrolled the infection spread to the cloth finisher and he died within three days. The infection spread quickly, people died and survivors buried them, in gardens and in fields. The village elders closed the road in and out of the village, total lockdown. People left food and supplies outside of the village

Gradually the plague burned itself out. Not everyone died because they never do in an epidemic, hence this dreadful expression herd immunity. One woman, a farmer’s wife buried her husband and three sons in a field. She survived and went to live afterwards with her sister in Sheffield.

Today Eyam is known as The Plague Village and is a tourist attraction.

A Street in Florence-Revisited

A Street in Florence– first version

This was the painting that I did some years ago from one of my own photographs. We had toured Tuscany by rail, and went to Florence of course as one of the most important destinations. I took a photograph looking down this street, and painted it when we got back. I gave it to a friend as a leaving present

I thought I would like to do it again, using different colourways, and that is what I am setting out to do

So far. and I haven’t photographed a stage painting yet, I have put in less detail. The images are very simple blocks of colour, almost cubist in effect. I didn’t think I would like doing it this way, but having let my work dry out. the result is starting to grow on me. But I have a long way to go yet

For now I will just publish the stage I’ve reached. It is working out differently to the first version. I’ve used a different colour for the distant buildings, which somehow I prefer. We’ll have to see how it finishes

Part Finished

Photograph was taken quickly and is poor but will give us an idea

Ponte Vecchio, Florence : the finished painting

Ponte Vecchio by Evening Light

Well, I prefer this version to the previous one. I have removed the grass bank, and the need to introduce a different colour. Also I prefer opening out the riverscape too.

The quayside with boats, of course, is fanciful, I know, but the picture needed something else coming towards the foreground. Even now I wonder whether this was enough. A large boat heading towards the bridge would have worked but too late now. the painting will have to stand as it is

In common with so many, I am in self isolation. Art exhibitions cancelled. Holidays cancelled. History groups cancelled and so on. It is the same for everyone I know

My wife and I are just grateful that we were able to celebrate our golden wedding on March 7th, just before restrictions started to bite.

Anyway, a good time to paint and get ready for end of year exhibitions. I am also updating my web site, something I get round to about once a year

Keep well, wherever you are

Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence: the second version

Second Version Drawing

I wasn’t overly happy with the first painting of the Ponte Vecchio, as I may have said. I didn’t like the grass bank, which although attractive in real life, meant that I had to introduce another colour which I didn’t want to do. Also it cut out a large section of river, which I think was a pity

Instead of the grass bank, I have constructed a wharf with boats. Fictitious I know and offensive to some. The bridge however remains intact, and is still the subject of the painting.

I much prefer this composition. Not only do I keep my limited palette, but also brings something into the foreground, which is useful

Plenty of time for things to go wrong though. With the gentler colours that I’m using, this is more sunrise than sunset, but I still have to make up long shadows which I find tricky. Where exactly will they fall, and will they look convincing?

Time will tell

I was asked to quote for a commission yesterday, so there is some life in the market, which is of comfort, with all the bad news at the moment

Ponte Vecchio, Florence the finished painting

Ponte Vecchio Sunset

I was duty bound to publish the finished painting having started, but this is not one that I take pleasure in. This is me on an off day

I am at odds with the composition to start with. The grass bank which is there in the photograph, I do wish now I had left out. I was worried about introducing another colour, and the green has not worked well at all. Some parts are not too bad. The deep red of the building on the right with the evening shadow, I quite like, but the rest is disappointing. Everything is laboured where I have tried to rectify mistakes instead of starting again

I think in time I might try this picture again in another colourway, still with long shadows but omitting the grass bank, so that I can keep to a two colour palette which should prove more palatable, no pun intended. Not sure what I will put in the place of the grass yet. Perhaps bring the building down to the water with a quayside which offers more interest. I will have to see

For now, playing around with a cat picture, which is unusual for me. I think I will only publish this one if I like it

Read a very interesting article in one of the art magazines, about knowing when to stop, or in other words , less is more. Also this artist did the drawing in ink which I haven’t done in a long while, and which I would like to try again. That could be refreshing. I am starting to repeat myself which is bad

A Street in Florence

On the subject of Florence, this is one that I did a few years ago and gave to a friend. This is more me, and another project is to do a second version for my gallery. I needed to look at this again to restore my faith

Drawing the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Reference photo with grid

I have used the grid method of transferring an image before, but was reminded of it when I went to the Hockney exhibition at the Lightbox in Woking recently. It is very useful especially when you want to enlarge a picture as I do with this one. This is how my drawing has turned out

Drawing of Ponte Vecchio from the photo

I have now doubled the image size so that it is about the usual size that I paint, ie 30×40 centimetres. I have traced the drawing now and am about to transfer this image to watercolour paper

The nice thing about using this method is that once the grid is in place on both images, then there is very little, if any, measuring to be done. Drawing or copying within each small square is relatively simple, and gives you a check on perspective so very useful for anything architectural

There is no restriction on size so if you wanted to paint a mural and make it ten times or twenty times the photograph, then you could. You can work the other way, of course, and reduce the size of an image too.

I shall paint this when ready and probably use a completely different colourway than shown in the photograph. Not sure what yet, possibly an evening colour, and may even do two different colour ways from the same drawing, which will save me some time

We’ll see how it turns out

Venice:Grand Canal the finished painting

Grand Canal, Venice

This has taken a long time to complete. We were away in Romania over the New Year Break, came home and were ill, and seemed to take weeks to recover.Funeral preparations had to be attended to throughout all this for my father’s burial.

However, on a more upbeat note, working on this painting has been a great support, as painting always is. There has been so much detail to attend to, especially with the buildings on the left. The architecture is very Gothic, so intricate, and the variety of colours was exciting. Trying to colour match the photograph was amusing, especially when it came to the flags.

I may have said that I altered the composition from the original photograph. I have shifted the buildings on the left away from the buildings on the right. This has cured some of the congestion, and has also given a view to the Customs House and beyond to the open sea. We now have depth where before we didn’t

I ended up quite liking the painting, despite the jumble of different colours. Sunny and bright at this grey time of the year, which cannot be bad

What shall I look at next? Staying in Italy, but moving from Venice to Florence, I am going to have a crack at the famous Ponte Vecchio , and see what sort of fist I can make of that

Grand Canal Venice Painting-Partway

Grand Canal Part Finished

Photography poor. I have had to use my phone as after upgrading, I am having difficulties loading from my camera, as everything is different and I don’t know why. I shall fathom in the end but for the minute I don’t have time

Suffice to say, I have painted the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and put in detail as well as the houses on the opposite side in deep gloom. In reality they are much gloomier. The sunlit rooftops look orange which works, otherwise the detail on the house fronts disappears into the shadows.

Two coats of Phthalo Blue and Cobalt Blue mix on the water gives depth although the original is not quite as deep as this photograph

Still a long way to go as I will put the gondolas in with shadow colour and probably the vaporetto too

looking forward to tackling the bright colours on the foreground buildings and the flags

Grand Canal Venice– an old favourite, a different view

Grand Canal, Venice

This is the picture that I am going to work from. I have done this view before, but it is so magnificent that I come back to it every now and then. Incidentally, this is a different take to the one that I did last time, and also I am going to rearrange this photograph. I am going to push back the buildings on the left so that we can see the mouth of the Grand Canal and the horizon beyond. This should hopefully give us a feeling of distance as we look out to sea.

So far I have done the drawing which I will use for painting, and you will be able to see the changes for yourself, and I will show that now, although the lines are faint so may not stand out well

Grand Canal Drawing

Perhaps not too bad, and perhaps you can see where I have moved the buildings to the left. We can see the mouth of the canal, and the building I believe to be the Customs House, and then out to sea, but that won’t be apparent until after painting

For sky and water I will start with my mix of Cobalt and Phthalo Blue, which I know I have said before is a good Mediterranean colour. I will need to mask off the buildings to the left, including the balconies and awnings which stick out over the water.

They will need to be in yellow and pink, so important to paint on white paper.

The buildings on the right will need a cover of raw sienna as a base coat, before building up with other colours, and before covering with deep shadow.

Coming back to writing this blog, I have now done just that and have detailed the domes, and all I can say is so far so good.