Canals of Venice: the Painting Partway

Canals of Venice partway

The story so far

I have been concentrating on the building opposite with all that orange rendering and patchy paintwork. The walls took me quite a while, as I used several undercoats starting with my favourite raw sienna and Naples yellow mix, which gives it some backlighting. It took several coats of dilute orange before it started to look orange, and finally I scrubbed orange pigment straight from the tube to get that patchy, water-damaged effect

I decided to finish detail the Gothic window. I do that sometimes so that I can look at something which encourages me to go on. I was pleased with it, once I had finished, says he who shouldn’t. I think I colour matched correctly the timber screen or whatever it is in the window. That took several coats of cadmium red over Burnt Sienna, which surprised me as that red is so strong. The texture looked like dry, flaky varnish so I hope I got that right. I used some blue in the windows which gave a pleasant relief to all that orange

Once I had put the brown shadow in, the window suddenly came to life. The carvings stood out, and the window under the screen took on some depth. So far so good

I then detailed the two windows on the ground floor, including the one with a rusty iron grille, which seemed to work quite well

I ploughed some cadmium red into the far left building which started to look authentic Venetian. I shall probably lose that when I mount the picture. How often does that happen

There is still plenty of detailing to do, which becomes tiring after a while which is why I have stopped to write this. I would like to finish and frame this for The Railings exhibition in Pirbright, as all my other work is at the Royal Surrey. May do possibly

Still no news from the Royal Surrey, but one of my paintings has been put on reserve on my Artfinder site, which indicates interest at least. I think one sale would be like a starting pistol for this year to finally get going.

I must not moan. I love painting and would continue to do it even if I never sold another picture, although what I would do with them I do not know!

Canals of Venice

Venice Drawing

Today my colleague in paint, Elaine and I set up our joint exhibition at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford. I have to say that it did look good. It will be on for four weeks, and now one has to forget about it, which is never easy, as it is so tempting to check one’s emails

Having said that my exhibition work is over for a while, I am reminded that on the 29th July, our local club, the Pirbright Art Club are holding their summer exhibition. We call it the “Railings” as we hang our paintings from the iron railings around the old village hall. It does look quite effective

However all my best stuff is at the hospital and will be until mid August, so a bit of a problem

There was a Venice picture which I wanted to do, and I have attached the photograph as well as my line drawing version of it. I am going to try and complete this by the 25th when we have our “auditions” for this exhibition, so at least it will look as though I am trying to support our local show.

The photograph, I found startling, with the brightness of the colours and the deep shadows, both complimentary and both fascinating to attempt. Some lovely deep oranges and some texture work with these bright colours, should be very satisfying to do. There are too some really good architectural shapes, such as the Gothic window which I hope to give more prominence. I have omitted the window next to it, shown in the photograph. The architectural iron work of he balconies is a study in itself

Anyway that is my next task, which promises to be fun

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 Painting so far

Venice painting to date

 

Not the best of photographs I am afraid

The sky is much pinker than the picture shows but try as I might, I can’t stop the camera leeching out the background colour. Also too much camera distortion making the posts lean inwards which I will try to correct on the finished version

What I did to colour match the original photograph, in which the sky and most of the water is a deep salmon pink, was to brush all over first with a red-orange mix, which did dry quite pale. I then built up with dilute coats of alizarin crimson until I reached the depths of colour that I wanted.

When that was hard-dried, I started on the background buildings, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, always a favourite. Being in deep shadow I gave all the buildings a wash of French Ultramarine, and then another one. When that was really dry, I painted the rooftops and brickwork in Burnt Sienna.

The mooring posts I started with Burnt Sienna, but I wanted them to be more red than that. I glazed them with Permanent Rose. They were still too brown, so went over them again with quinacrodone red ( it doesn’t matter which way I spell that word, it always seems to be wrong). This was getting nearer the shade

I now had the colour relationship between the foreground posts and the background church. I felt the church could go darker still, with another coat of Ultramarine, and this time bring the wash down a little way over the water, to cast a shadow. There is one small building in front of the church, which I think is the customs house, which in reality stands well out on a promontory coming towards us. I missed this out with the last coat so that it didn’t disappear altogether

That is as far as I have gone as yet. I still have to darken the posts and finish the gondola, probably with some indigo on the seating. How I tackle the hull, I still have to work out, so we shall see.

Salt Mills of Trapani: the finished painting

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The painting finished, and that now completes my quota for the exhibition coming up at the Guildford Institute on the 13th. Something of a relief that I am in time, and only have some framing left to do.

For the conical roofs on the mills, I used a different red. Quinacridone Red which I haven’t used before, makes a nice deep pinky red and was virtually an exact colour match to the photograph. Indian Red is not dissimilar but I remembered buying the quinacridone some while ago for some purpose or other, so thought I would trial it. I quite like it by way of a change

I then went on to run a dilute shade of the same colour down the sides of the mills themselves which again brought the masonry colour closer to the original in the photograph.

The stones along the walkway between the salt pans, were quite bright in the sunlight, so I used quinacridone gold instead of raw sienna

There was little else to do. I deepened the blue in the foreground. Sadly little or nothing to put there, so I have made the reflections more pronounced in order to break up the expanse of blue water  I could use red for my signature. I will think about that

But life does not stop here. I have another exhibition coming up in July at the Royal Surrey Hospital, which is another favourite venue. This time I shall be sharing the space with my colleague, Elaine. She does more abstract and adventurous stuff than me, so our paintings seem to compliment one another

Taking a pessimistic view, with no sales at the Institute, I shall just move these paintings to the next exhibition. However there would be one or two changes that I would like to make anyway, and I would like to include some more paintings of Venice which are always popular. I have come across a very good source of photographs that I can work from and leave the next one with you

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San Giorgio Maggiore, an old favourite which I have painted before but the light and colours on this shot are delightful

We will see what I make of it. Suggestions by the way, are always welcome

Salt Mills at Trapani: the part finished painting

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Well, I am moving along slowly, which is the best I can say

There have been quite a few problems over the last couple of weeks, which have demanded my attention. Sadly things that I enjoy, like painting, have had to take second place. Still, every now and then, I creep back to my easel and manage an hour or so. I treat painting as r&r at the moment, and there is no doubt that it soothes the troubled spirit.

I have called this the part finished stage. perhaps more accurate would be to call it the part unfinished stage.

I have put in a Mediterranean sky and water. Phthalo Blue and Cobalt blended seem to work quite well for this. Again I have worked up the distant background in the same colour only deeper, which I think gives it a more faraway look

I have been putting detail into the three mills and adjacent buildings. I have been trying to gradate the tone from one to the other to create the feeling of distance. The nearest will require more work, as this one will have to look really sharp. Detailing the sails will be testing, knowing how much to put in and how much to leave out. I want them to look accurate without looking like a photograph. Oh well, if it were easy it wouldn’t be fun, I suppose

Ironically, the furthest mill presented the least difficulties when it came to painting the sails. Just a flick of a wet brush and that was it. I still have to think about the middle one which will be difficult to get just right. The three bears had the same problem!

I have had to rearrange those low walls to help the composition and to get some reflections in, otherwise there will be nothing in the foreground. No boats here.

Some interesting problems to tackle!

Salt Mills at Trapani, Sicily

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When I last posted about the painting that I finished of Marzamemi in the south eastern corner of Sicily, I referred to the salt pans and the salt mills of Trapani near Marsala in the north western end of the Sicilian island

The mills aren’t used any more I am told, but stand as monuments to an industrial past. They are striking, as windmills always are. Something about them standing against the skyline, which makes you want to paint them, and these are no exception.

The design is somewhat different to the ones you see in Northern Europe. Six sails instead of the four we are used to. The sails themselves seem less sturdy too. Maybe that is why there are so many ropes strung from one sail to the next. I don’t know, and I could not find anyone to tell me either. The conical roof can be rotated manually with a lever behind, to turn the sails into the prevailing wind. English mills have something similar although not the same.

But whatever, they are impressive and very paintable although what surrounds them is not inspiring, so will have to be sorted somehow

The actual salt extraction continues as of old. The sea water floods the pans and is allowed to evaporate in the hot sun. The salt as it is exposed is turned by hand until it dries, and then piled on the dockside awaiting removal by truck and further processing later

I have got as far as making  a perspective drawing and transferring it onto watercolour paper, and I will include a shot of the drawing at the end. I have masked the edges of the mills and other buildings, to allow me to sweep across with my usual Mediterranean sky mix of phthalo and cobalt blue. You will see from the drawing that I have added one more mill to deepen the perspective. I have actually just added the blue and will let it harden for 24 hours before removing the mask

I would love to think that this will make a pair with the last Sicilian painting of Marzamemi. Probably too much to hope for, but we will remain optimistic

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As clear as I can get it for the moment, so hope that makes sense

Marzamemi in Sicily: the finished painting

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Marzamemi, the fishing village near Syracuse in Sicily, almost a study in blue. The painting itself is more striking, but the photograph is as good as I can get it.

There is very little that I can add from the last post. I have detailed the boats in the foreground and you can check back against the original photograph. The only difference , I think, is that I have added a brighter red to the hull along the waterline.

I like it and it will be going into my exhibition in March

Next, well, there is one more painting of Sicily that I would like to try, and that is of the salt mills at Trapani. Salt is still extracted from the sea, by evaporation in salt pans. The majestic windmills that stand there still against the skyline no longer work, but they look marvelous. You couldn’t imagine the horizon without them

We will see how they come up in a painting

Marzamemi, Sicily: the story so far

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The painting of Marzamemi, the fishing village in Sicily, which I have started and which is in its early stages.

Not much sky in this paicture which is useful, as I wanted the roof tops of the buildings to remain sharp if possible against the skyline. I used my old friend, the Mediterranean mix of Phthalo Blue and Cobalt for the sky, not wetting the paper beforehand, so that the colour didn’t run all over the place

I have tidied up the buildings to a certain extent and let the colour of the buildings bleed down into the sea. The sea colour is the same as the sky. I let that dry hard before going any further.

After a day or so, I picked up the painting again, and put some more colour into the sea. I avoided going over the reflections of the buildings, but just went over the rest with sweeps of sea colour, to give the effect of breeze ripples, I hope

I went right across the boats, risky I know but I think all the colours to be used on the boats will cover what I have done

Since taking this photograph I have introduced indigo into the foreground boats, for the detailing and deep shadow. I really want these two boats to come out at the viewer and command most of the attention.

Toying now which colours to use to be faithful to the original whilst at the same time, I want the combination to work as a painting. Winsor Blue perhaps which I haven’t used for some time, red along the waterline and white gouache. There will be some trial and error I think, so we shall see.

Every now and then I repeat that I am not an art teacher and have no qualification other than experience. I am very happy for people to watch, and if  what I do is helpful, then great. By the same token, I like to learn so alternative suggestions are always welcome