History of Langstone Harbour and Warblington,Hampshire Coast

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Just as a change from painting, whilst I work on my Alhambra picture, before I have anything else to say about it, I am at the same time, researching the history of Havant in Hampshire based on my postcard collection, for a talk I am due to give to my local history group in Guildford in November

Havant is an unprepossessing town. I say that as someone who grew up there and therefore has an affection for the place. Nevertheless there is plenty of interesting history around and about. I keep within the confines of my collection, and on the eastern periphery lies Warblington, a Saxon foundation, a remote place by the side of a marshy creek, eerily quiet when I was a boy and still the same today. A week or so back I went to the old church to take some pictures to back up my postcards, and wandered around the churchyard. We were within half a mile of the Havant by-pass with its buzz of traffic and yet within the churchyard you could hear a pin drop. In my mind, I went back to my childhood when I first discovered this place as a schoolboy

The church is c13 and something of an enigma. Why build it there in the middle of nowhere? It still stands in the middle of nowhere. We are told there was a Saxon settlement, and the word Warblington stems from the name of the chieftain, a woman apparently, and there are Saxon elements in the foundations of the church . The church served nearby Emsworth, which still doesn’t explain why it was built at Warblington. On the site of a holy place perhaps? We don’t know

More interesting than the church despite its age, are the two huts, in diametrically opposed corners of the churchyard. If I say they are c19, I am sure you will guess that they had something to do with bodysnatching.  They are nightwatchman’s huts used to watch out for bodysnatchers who had posed  a huge problem until the Anatomy Act of 1832, which required anatomy teachers to be licensed, which effectively put an end to this lucrative trade. Also the medical fraternity were allowed the bodies of executed criminals or even donations from poor families.

In the churchyard of this creekside church are gravestones of sailors drowned at sea, and I quote the one I have always found fascinating.

Sailor's Gravestone

This the gravestone of William Palmer, and perhaps we should start with the inscription

This is in the memory of William Palmer that lost his life and his vessel going into Dublin the 24th February 1750 aged 38 years

The carved relief is intriguing and the work of a very skilled mason. Even the rigging stands out and would need very careful carving. Huge waves are rolling and the ship obviously capsized. The object behind the capsized vessel, I cannot make sense of

So we have a local mariner, a master mariner with his own boat, most likely involved in coastal trade as so many around here and Langstone were, and with a small crew, perhaps ambitiously attempting the crossing of the Irish Sea, not to mention the treacherous rocks around Lands End, and coming to a sad end. Or perhaps this was his regular run, and he was unlucky due to treacherous weather conditions. Dublin was very English in those days, and would be looking to regular supplies of day-to-day items, so one can easily imagine mariners plying a regular and profitable trade.

There are several Palmers buried in the churchyard. William’s wife is buried in the same grave but I can’t make out the dates. I imagine them being a prosperous family, judging from the quality of William’s gravestone

I remember seeing this stone when I was about twelve. It fired my imagination then and still does. It doesn’t look any different

I had thought to talk about Langstone close by, but another time. I have painted Langstone often but never Warblington which perhaps I should add to my list

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A different aspect of Bosham Harbour

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i think I may have mentioned ad nauseam that Bosham Harbour with its ancient church is a favourite subject for painting, and is widely known

If I am preparing for an exhibition, I usually like to have at least one view of this beautiful little place. The problem is that everyone wants the same shot, across the harbour with the church against the skyline, so painters, like me, are continually looking for a way to paint this view, and yet make it look different every time.

I came across the attached photograph a few months ago, which interested me. As you can see, it is a gentle evening shot, with some bright sky and some very deep silhouettes. The details are blurred, which is not something I usually do, but found myself intrigued nonetheless. The effect could be impressionistic, which again is not something I usually do. The other thing I liked, is that, when translating this into a painting, one could use a very limited pallette, which I find improves the effect very often. In this case, we are looking at yellow and violet basically, which generally work together very well.

I haven’t used these two colours for a while, so the idea is attractive

I am not sure about how I feel about the beached boats in the immediate foreground. They are certainly an aid to perspective, which I can appreciate, and yet in your face just a bit. I think I will draw some of these separately on tracing paper and chase them round the composition to see what I like best. I have been through my archives of boats too, and have sketched one or two of those, again to see what works.

Despite what I said about getting away from detail for a change, I don’t want meaningless shapes either, and unlike photographers, artists can choose what goes into a composition, which gives us an advantage, so I might be able to get away from that rather shapeless foreground.

I think there will be quite a lot of work with little bits of tracing paper, before we hit on the right composition, so we will see what happens. Yet another journey into the unknown.

Finished Bosham Panorama Painting

Finished Bosham Panorama

and there it is waiting to go into its long frame

That will then complete a collection of twelve paintings for the coming exhibition at the Guildford Institute from 19th of this month

Since the last post, really the work was purely detailing, using dark brown, white and cadmium red. I have drawn in some buoys and odd details like that

I bought a new detail brush the other day, designed by Matthew Palmer. It has a large bole which holds a good supply of water, but the tip comes to a very fine point, which produces a line rather like you’d expect from a pen. I think it was designed for painting very thin branches and twigs. It also works well for fine rope work, and window frames

Huge sigh of relief now that the exhibition collection is finished, all but framing the last one

I can now look at catching up with a few paintings for pleasure. I love doing horses and have made some initial sketches, from which I think I can put an interesting composition together. I have gone back to drawing by eye instead of using a grid, which not only saves time, but also is comforting to know I can still do it ( or think I can)

I will publish the horse drawings at another time

Bosham Panorama for the Long Frame

Bosham Panorama Starting to emerge

Emerging from the sea mist almost

This is the start of the panoramic painting for the long frame which I mentioned recently, which I am hopeful for, but we shall see

For sky and sea I used a mix of phthalo blue and cobalt. For the sunset sky and reflection in the water, I have used a mix of Cadmium Orange and Permanent Rose. I was not pleased with the initial result, as the sky came up very orange indeed. I applied coat after coat of Permanent Rose, wet on dry, which when dry, appeared to have made very little impact. Eventually the sunset turned pinky red, and I quite liked the effect of the pink over the blue. Where the blue had gone on sparsely, the pink soaked in, and started to look like pink clouds on the blue sky. I am not sure whether this shows in the photograph.

In order to get the effect of the low sun on the rooftops, I will need to glaze the buildings with something like Light Red and if that goes too brown, then a thin wash of Cadmium Red. Sparingly, of course, as that is powerful stuff.

There is masking fluid to come off, where white buildings have caught the strong light. I should have mirrored that in the sea, but forgot, but I think I can rescue that with White Gouache.

Dark shadows to go in with dark Brown which will accentuate the light, I hope. Also some small boats for which I will use the same blue mix, and white masts, should add to the effect

I am hoping so, as exhibition time draws near

Bosham Harbour and Church: the finished painting

bosham-harbour-finished-painting

The finished painting finally!

There wasn’t too much to do since the last post. The boats had to be detailed and their reflections put in.

The boat in the foreground had a dark blue spinnaker tightly wrapped, which is probably the wrong word. I am not a sailor, and although I enjoy painting them, I am not up in boating terminology. The next nearest boat, had a spinnaker in orange and red which was highly convenient for the colour composition. I used a red buoy, and the reefed sail was also red. Again apologies to sailors if I have that term wrong. The furthest boat almost did itself really

So there it is. After the commissioned painting of Bosham worked out so well, I really wanted one myself for the March exhibition. This one, I think, will frame up well. Incidentally this is one of those occasions when the jpeg does not do justice to the original, which is softer somehow.

I have been looking at my list for the exhibition, for which I want fourteen framed pictures in all. I need to repaint the Notre Dame with Pigeons picture in a different mood, probably in bright sunshine and also missing out that dreadful marquee, which will make it look more attractive to people

One of my existing local pictures needs to be reframed, and there is also a painting I want to do of Sicily which I hope will turn out well. With what I have already, I could put fourteen pictures into the field, without doing more

Not that I will stop, of course, because I never do, and anyway there are other exhibitions coming up throughout the year, so still much to do. Inevitably if I have something better, I will change the entries for the March exhibition too

Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be talking about more work as I complete it

Bosham Harbour: continue with the painting

bosham-harbour-continued

It seems a long time ago that I touched this painting, and in fact it is the best part of a month, which for me, in between stages this is too long. I have totally lost the thread of what I had planned for this picture, so I shall have to rethink it

We went to Germany for the markets, where I became ill with some virulent chest infection, and then celebrated a family Christmas over three days. Now different branches of the family have flown off to Spain and to Thailand, and so peace descends.After a morning sorting a few things out, I started to look at my easel again, and with confidence surprisingly ebbed away, I picked up my brushes and started to get my mind round the picture and how to tackle it.

If you remember the first post that I did on this painting, you will see that I have added the reflections of the quayside houses and the Saxon church. It may not look much for an afternoon’s work, but that is what it took me

I find with reflections that I do an awful lot of zooming in and out again. That is, I paint a bit and then go to the door and look back. I don’t do a mirror-image reflection, I never do. Some people do and do it well. I like a reflection to look as though it is on water, and not on glass. In other words, it has to wobble a bit, and the colours don’t reach the same intensity as the buildings themselves. But that is me!

I altered some of the houses and gave them a white facade. They were a bit too gloomy, and no distinction between any of them. There were also some flagpoles and masts of boats outside the yacht club to be added.

I am generally happy with the reflections. I think they look like reflections, although one or two need tidying up

The other thing I did was to put shadows into the boats. That has to harden and then I can start on detailing them which will be a long job. I still have to decide on colours. Red for one of the reefed sails and also the spinaker, as that will make a nice reflection. The others to be decided

Decisions, decisions!

Bosham Harbour: the painting started

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Some while ago now I finished the drawing of Bosham Harbour and Church, and I posted that. I left it, as I completely messed up the initial wash. It wasn’t something I could correct, so I abandoned the whole thing. Very,very rarely do I do that, but sometimes it is the only way.

I find in situations like that, that walking way is the best thing to do.  Walk round the block, metaphorically speaking and then come back, otherwise you just get more and more frustrated, and make more and more mistakes

My way of walking round the block, was to do the Conkers painting. Completely different and completely unimportant, I was able to unwind and get myself back into finding the colour recipe for conkers which was in my head somewhere. After all that, my little bit of therapy produced a quite usable painting, and I framed it not so long ago, and was pleased with the result. This will go towards my next exhibition which will be in the Guildford Institute in March, not that far away now, so I need to work.

Back to Bosham Harbour, after redrawing the village with sailing boats, I put in a different wash, and played safe. I have no time to experiment. Phthalo blue and Cobalt produce a nice sky/sea colour and across the horizon a band of sunset produced with permanent Rose and Cadmium Orange. I started the blue wash downwards whilst at the same time starting the sunset colour at horizon level and worked upwards so the two met, and blended comfortably. Tricky using two brushes and two palettes at the same time, but it seemed to work

As you can see, I have just been detailing the church and other buildings in various reds and browns. I needed to get those roof tops really bright, and after several different glazes used cadmium red to give them some zing, so that they looked as though bright red evening sun was bouncing off them.

Still a lot of work to do, on reflections and those boats, but that is to come

Shere Village and Church: the Finished Painting

Shere Village and Church

Well, the painting is finished, and turned out better than I thought. I dulled down the roof of the lychgate as one critic advised. It had come far too forward, so I scraped it back, and added grey violet which has pushed the image back into the middle distance.

I lifted the paint off the foreground figures and let that dry. I painted shadows in first with dark grey violet, and let that dry hard. I finished them with their local colour, and they turned out well enough. It is possible to correct mistakes in watercolour sometimes

I added shadows cast by the figures, and deepened shadows under eaves and around windows. As soon as you do that,  it is like the sun coming out. Pure illusion but it always works

I might still tackle this subject again but from a different angle. As someone pointed out, it would have been nice to show more of the old church, and I accept that argument. I do have references taken closer to the church, and may well do that later, but not just yet. I need a change from this subject

Perhaps something from France would be nice to do, and perhaps experiment with some different skies, just to make life interesting

Shere Village and Church Painting which is not going too well

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Usually I like to say that the painting is proceeding nicely. In this case it just isn’t. It is one of those paintings that is popular at exhibitions, or should be. A local scene which people recognise and identify with. The sort of scene I have painted so many times, and yet seem to have made mistake after mistake. Oh well, suitably chastened, perhaps I will be more careful as I continue

Just above the church spire, and out of the camera frame, the sky went awry, and left a large blue patch right in the centre, just where I didn’t want it. This type of cloudy blue sky has to be done wet-in-wet, as we know, and apart from lots of frenetic board tilting, there is only so much control you can exert over the finished item.

The roof over the lychgate came up much too bright, so I have scrubbed that back, and will add less colour next time

Likewise the figures in the foreground were disappointing, and these I have scrubbed back with a lifting out brush. When they are really bone dry, I will attempt them again. I don’t know why but I seemed to lose all sense of colour control. I applied paint too thickly and the shadow areas which I had already put in, just did not show through

The brick colour of the cottage on the left-hand side which usually works well, is almost acidic with the green foliage, or am I being paranoid. Perhaps I have been looking at it for too long

On both sides I have painted more of each building. The camera frame would only take the image shown, which looking at, I prefer. There is certainly a case for cropping top and bottom, and maybe quite a bit from each side, and making a smaller picture of it

I will see what I can salvage. I have some ideas now. Being humbled occasionally, never hurt anyone

Have you ever had a bad picture day? Always pleased to hear about it if you have

Preparing a Painting of Shere Village in the Surrey Hills

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This is a view of Shere Village with its medieval church

Shere stands amongst the Surrey Hills and on the River Tillingbourne. Hard to imagine that in the c13-c15 it was industrial, producing woollen cloth. Today it is idyllic, like a postcard, attracting visitors from far and wide

I have been given an exhibition slot at the Royal Surrey Hospital, for July 2017, which does sound a long way off, but now starts the long slow build-up of exhibits. I need at least twelve that I haven’t shown before, so although I have some, I still want some more in reserve

I haven’t painted Shere for many years and then not from this angle. I think I can make something from this photograph, but for starters all these cars must go. I do sometimes put cars in, but in this case they are just hiding anything attractive. I shall probably broaden the composition by taking in more of the building on the left. I do also want some figures in the foreground looking towards the church, which will be a focal point.

The figures will be from my sketch book. I have drawn them free-hand from the screen, and will transpose them onto the drawing of the village street later. I will leave some pictures of the drawing and will post again when I have done some painting

Sketches of Figures

This is the page from my sketchbook. Figures kindly modelled by members of my family, although they didn’t know it, as we walked up to the old church.  What I do now, is to trace my sketch, and then slide the tracing around the drawing of the street, until the perspective looks right

Figures transposed to Shere Village scene

and so this is the sketch drawing which in turn will be transposed onto watercolour paper, after which it will be enhanced with more freehand drawing. When I have done that I will post the result