Gravetye Manor Hotel: the finished picture

Gravetye Manor Hotel

This is the finished picture of the hotel

The lights and darks helped this painting enormously, which was why I was so grateful for the sun shining just long enough for me to get a shot telling me where they were

The chimneys were hexagonal so each side had a different tonal value. They were fiddly and not sure now whether they were completely accurate, but from the point of view of giving an illusion of their shape, they seemed to work

I used raw sienna mixed with Naples yellow for the sunlit building and also for the path, which is my favourite mix for giving the appearance of sun on stone. The path was a gift for the composition, that bright open gateway surrounded by dark shadow.

Another problem was the plethora of green in the foreground. I used three different mixes which seemed to work, as well as some different plant shapes. The violet flower clump broke some of it up, and that good old favourite, red spots dotted here and there helped to take the eye

I have started to use the odd bit of pastel to get myself out of trouble where I might need a bright light colour over a dark background. I find that is a useful device and a nice change from gouache which isn’t always successful anyway

Will I have to call myself a mixed media artist? I don’t think so

Gravetye Manor Hotel in Sussex, UK

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This is Gravetye Manor Hotel which is near East Grinstead in Sussex, UK.

A beautiful old building dating from the c16 set in acres of woodland, which has been converted some years ago to a very luxurious country house hotel. The grounds are awe inspiring. This view is from the Flower Garden, which is one only of 11 separate garden spaces

The hotel has numerous accolades. Hotel of the Year England 2013/2014, Best Countryside Hotel 2014, Rural Hotel of the Year 2014 and more besides

So I was very pleased and indeed flattered to be commissioned to paint this view of the hotel, on behalf of a delightful couple for whom this hotel has become a special place during a significant time in their lives.

I went there about a month ago, hoping to get a sunny day. I say hoping, because our weather has been so very changeable lately , with sun going in and out of clouds all the time. That is even if one was lucky enough to pick a dry day to start with. I wanted sun and I wanted shadows to make the building look more interesting

This photograph is one of many that I took on the day. The sun came out reluctantly and I got a few shots with shadows cast on the building yet with a few highlights left, on the porch, on the chimneys which were a bit of a nightmare to draw, and also lit the front of the building brilliantly

The interesting part of the composition was the path to the right with the garden gate itself in shadow yet giving onto bright light beyond. Where was that going to? Well, the car park but in artistic terms it could be leading somewhere more romantic

I made some sketches and transferred them onto watercolour paper as a finished drawing, ready to paint which can be the subject of another post

Gravetye Transferred Drawing

A little bit pale as I tried to avoid dark pencil lines, but the gist of the composition is there

Exhibition at Tate Art Gallery: Painting With Light

We went to see this exhibition recently. Painting with light explored the relationship between painting and photography, and was a thought-provoking exhibition. Purists still tend to be critical of painters who use photographs, and yet at the time, artists saw great merit in the use of the camera

John Ruskin was never easy to please, being most exacting in his standards. He drew meticulous architectural studies which would have taken him hours. I cannot remember the quote verbatim, but words to this effect he said that if he could have been saved many hours of detailed drawing with a device that did the job in half a minute, then there would have been no doubt in his mind as to which he would use.

Photography was invented in 1839, and was to lead to a development in new techniques and materials which were to influence painters

Edinburgh was home to a progressive movement amongst scientist and artists. In 1843 the young Robert Adamson was to establish one of the first photographic studios where he was joined by the painter David Octavius Hill and Jessie Mann. Together they took something like two thousand photographs during their four year partnership

Their photographic portraits were admired during their lifetime and their views of Edinburgh were an influence on Hill’s landscapes. These works came to be recognised as some of the earliest collaborations between photographer and artist

Holman Hunt painting of Nazareth

Holman Hunt’s painting of Nazareth

Photography was a gift to the Pre-Raphaelites  of which Holman Hunt was one of the founder members. They looked for inspiration to the medieval period, and their works are known for sharp detail and vivid colours. This was almost a quasi-religious movement, and partly because of the medieval influence and partly because of his deep Christian conviction, many of Holman Hunt’s pictures are of Biblical or religious subjects.

Together with his friend Thomas Seddon, he stayed in Jerusalem for two years at the home of James Graham, a pioneer photographer. Together they took many landscape photographs. The reference material that photographs gave artists certainly helped painters like Holman Hunt in their chosen philosophy of sharper detailing.

Many photographers had trained as painters, and had set up studios. They used models whose posing time was cut dramatically with the use of the camera, especially when complex or spontaneous poses were called for. Photographs were used for preparatory references, which meant that props, costumes and models could be dispensed with.

Thus began the successful collaboration between photography and painting, the former even becoming an art form in its own right.

For me the camera has become the sketch book, enjoyable as sketching might be. I shall never again feel bad about that

Winter Street Scene Current Progress

Winter Street Scene Interim

Well, I have made a start with the painting, after staring at the drawing for ages.

The blue sky is in. As a bright winter sky, I am happy with that. There will be shadows, quite long ones for that time of the year. The shady side of the street has had one wash of blue but is still quite pallid. Those shadows will have to be deepened considerably, if we are to get the effect of bright sunshine over the rooftops. I think I will put a little red in with the blue next time, which I prefer as a shadow colour, when I glaze over the existing

The large white space in the sky is, of course, the large clock. This I will have to redraw and paint as accurately as I can. I have done the clock a few times now. I tend to do it freehand, and I have always been lucky. Watch it go wrong this time, as I have a lot riding on it.

This clock, if I haven’t mentioned it before, has become the iconic image of Guildford. It dates from 1683, and was the gift from a London clockmaker called Thomas Aylward, who wanted to set up in Guildford, so presented this as a gift to the town to accompany his application. Today we would call it a bribe. It hangs from the old Guildhall, just off the picture to the left, a building which served amongst other things as the town law courts until well into the twentieth century. The clock works perfectly today, and is lovingly maintained.

Back to the picture, quite a lot of laborious masking out, to preserve the snow on window sills etc.That took a lot of time with little to show, but happily we are on with the actual painting now, so starting to see something taking shape.

Quite a lot of detail in this picture, and I am taking my time, just doing a little, letting it dry, so that I get the true colour, and then going on from there. It is hard to say when I will finish, but I have promised it for the end of the month, which once looked a long way off, but now doesn’t. Oh well, crack on.

Preparing the Winter Street Scene

Guildford High Street

This is the photograph that I am going to use as a reference for my winter street scene. I may have already mentioned that I have been asked to do this by a national charity, to be used as a Christmas card for fund-raising, so rather thrilled to be involved.

I have already used this photograph to produce a hot weather painting, similar to what is already depicted. That worked well and sold recently from my web site. You can see it if you want in my gallery. I now have to transform it completely, and all I can use is imagination, which for me, is never easy.

I have to add snow. Well, that is ok. I have done that many times, and that is fun, so I will enjoy doing that. I now have to imagine everyone in warm weather gear. The weather here is warming up slowly, and people are starting to walk around in light clothing. Already I cannot remember what people look like in heavy coats and hats, so I have been looking at web sites of winter overcoats for women and men, as well as hats and boots

I did some sketches straight off the screen. They are very rough so I will have to ask you not to be too judgmental as they are just to use as a guide when I put figures into the painting. I may even change some of the figures altogether, although I think the three in the front centre work quite well

I am attaching, I hope, my squiggles on winter overcoat designs and winter hat styles.

This is as far as I have got at the moment, so will come back when I have something more to say, which will hopefully  be a first draft tonal sketch of the whole scene

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Sketches of Winter Coats for Women and Hats for men and Women

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The Finished Venice Painting

Peaceful Reflections of Venice

This is the completed version. I call it Peaceful Reflections of Venice, because that is what these quiet corners of Venice are, very peaceful. The city can be busy, but then turn off into one of the side canals, and you are alone with your thoughts.

This should give me enough now for both exhibitions, I hope. The first I may have mentioned already starts on May 3rd, so some framing and stuff to do now, and then hopefully I should be ready. Guildford Institute is a lovely, friendly venue to show at and always attracts good publicity. Sales are never high there but as I say, the coverage is good, so I still like to do it

Following on, on 27th May I am at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford, in the Peter Thompson gallery. Sales are usually good there as the place is so busy. Having built up this stock, I am looking for sales now of framed pictures, just to give myself space to carry on painting.

Quite a few lovely people from around the world have written in to say how much they enjoy watching the painting come together in stages, starting with the drawing and ending with the finished picture. Thank you for that feedback. That is so helpful. Sometimes I think I sound like a teacher, which I am not.  I have no teaching qualifications, but I am happy for anyone to watch me paint, and if that helps, that is fine.

Some useful reaction to the website over the last few months. Three sales and two very interesting commissions. The most recent which I shall start first because of the deadline, is from a national charity, for a painting of a local high street in snow, to be, hopefully used as a Christmas card. I shall donate the work, of course, but nevertheless, the publicity will be valuable

This will take me a little while to work out but I will post in stages as time goes by.

Venice Painting: Halfway Through

Venice Painting Halfway

About halfway through the painting, and if I were smart I would wait for the painting to be finished completely, before showing it. However there are things to be talked about before they are covered by further work.

We left the picture as a drawing with some items masked out, namely the washing on the line. The sky in my usual mix of phthalo blue and cobalt blue, I washed down through the bridge and used for the water. I scrubbed out the distant buildings and painted them in with their reflections.  The tricky bit was the shadows which I had worked out with the sketch. I painted them in twice to get some depth whilst still allowing some transparency and continued into the reflections in the water.

In the photograph you may remember the building at the end was red. I have painted that in using Venetian Red appropriately enough, and have taken that through the reflections.

Venetian Red goes back to the days of the Renaissance. It is a warm red earth colour derived from Ferric Oxide, which always sounds like rust to me. It was used by Renaissance painters mixed with white to make skin tones. It was also called Sinopia, because the best quality pigment came from Sinop in Northern Turkey

It was expensive. If your house was painted in this colour, then you were a man of some means.

Francesco da Mosta in his lovely book, Francesco’s Venice tells us that the art of mixing pigments in Venice was something akin to alchemy. The secrets were closely guarded. Venice was a city of painters, who demanded the best

Still some shadow to be deepened, as well as detailing to be done. I need to work out a green for the shutters, which should also work with the red buildings. So more to do!

Someone phoned with a commission today which is always welcome. Someone who has bought my paintings before wants me to paint somewhere memorable, so something to look forward to.

Venice Painting: the Final prepared Drawing

Another Venice Painting Masked out drawing

The masked out drawing

This follows on from the last post that I wrote, hoping to include one more Venice painting in my exhibition starting 3rd May. It was a while ago that I started this, and progress has been slow I am afraid.

It is that stage which I  find the most tedious, after making an initial sketch working out the composition, as well as the tonal values, which is interesting, you then have to transfer the whole thing onto watercolour paper. A very important task, obviously, but a mechanical one which is time-consuming

However, it is done and we are pretty well ready to lay on the first wash. I am sorry by the way, for the alarming camera distortion. Those walls do not lean in to that degree, or anything like on the original drawing. I shall have to do better than that when I photograph the finished painting!

As you can see, I have masked out some items, namely the washing on the line, the street lamp and one or two flecks on the water. Not just that but I have also painted in the tarpaulins on the boats with waterproof ink colour Cyan, as well as one of the garments on the line. I can now just sweep down with the initial wash without hindrance

One of the reasons that I didn’t start painting today, was because I wanted the masking and the ink to be rock hard before I did so. The shadows have been worked out already with the sketch, so tomorrow hopefully I will at least be able to lay on the first wash, and then we shall be underway.

An interesting bit of news that has come up. I was approached at the end of last week by a national charity which is interested in getting me to design a Christmas card for their fundraising effort. They have seen some of my street scenes on the web site, which is the sort of thing they want with obvious modification. I have a meeting with them next Monday, and if that goes ahead, could be an interesting project. I have my fingers crossed on that one!