Shere Village and Church Painting which is not going too well


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


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

Watts Chapel and Gallery, Compton

Watts Chapel,Compton

Watts Cemetery Chapel, Compton, Surrey designed by Mary Watts

The winter street scene of Guildford is going to take me some time. Not only do I have to use my imagination, which is not my strong point, I also have to do a fair bit of research and also calculation, which I have to take my time over.

This does give me an opportunity to post something local which we visited not that long ago, which is Watts Cemetery Chapel or sometimes known as the Watts Mortuary Chapel.This is in the village of Compton, near Guildford in Surrey. I painted the above after our visit. Financed by the famous Victorian painter, George Frederick Watts, through his paintings,he donated it to the village of Compton.The Watts Gallery is also nearby. Recently restored after years of dilapidation, it houses a wonderful collection of his paintings and sculpture. The chapel was designed by his wife Mary Watts who also oversaw the building

In 1895 Mary started giving evening classes to the villagers at their home Limnerslease, teaching them how to model the local clay, and producing decorative tiles in terra cotta. They modelled the symbolic and beautiful patterns that she had designed, which would be used in the interior decoration of the chapel. The chapel she designed is in the Arts and crafts Style, the nearest we get in England to Art Nouveau, although I maintain many of the interior details are really Art Nouveau

In England, we never really had an architect who epitomised Art Nouveau, as they did in Scotland with Rennie Mackintosh. I sometimes think Mary Watts was our Art Nouveau heroine.

Close by, her husband’s gallery. A very famous Victorian painter, G.F.Watts, known for allegorical and symbolic works. His paintings hang all over the world, yet many are here at Compton, and this gallery is so worth a visit.

If I were to be asked to pick a favourite painting, it would be that very famous one “Hope”. There are many to choose from, but this female allegorical figure, clutching a wooden lyre with only one string left, is very poignant.

There were two versions painted and when we were last there, the version from the Tate was on loan to Compton.

This painting has been an influence on many great names. On Picasso during his Blue Period for his hunched figure The Old Guitarist, is one example. Martin Luther King referenced it in his collection of sermons. Nelson Mandela allegedly had a copy on the wall of his cell in prison on Robben Island.

Later in the 1980s the painting was the subject of a lecture by one Dr.Frederick Sampson in Richmond, Virginia who described it as a study of contradictions. One Jeremiah Wright apparently attended the lecture and in his sermon in 1990 on Hope, coined the phrase “audacity of Hope”. Having attended the sermon, Barack Obama adopted the phrase later as the title for his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address, and more well-known to most of us, as the title of his second book.

I think the quote runs something like : to have one string left and to have the audacity to hope that you can still make music

How some things echo down the ages!800px-Assistants_and_George_Frederic_Watts_-_Hope_-_Google_Art_Project


Critics of the day called it Despair but obviously missed the point

Snow Painting Completed

St.Nicholas Church, Pyrford, Surrey

St.Nicholas Church, Pyrford, in Surrey

This is the finished painting of the church to start with, and I will put up one of the stage paintings next, which deals with the masking out and the sky. The sky is probably the trickiest part of the operation as this is done wet-on-wet, and needs some handling, and I will talk about that with the next image

For the trees and bushes I used a fan brush loaded with two  colours at once, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. These mixed on the paper giving a nice brown/grey or didn’t mix and gave the two colours in the tree which is fine too. Just needed to add some branches with a detail brush

Masking and sky

Masking and sky

I was asked where I would put the masking fluid in this picture. Well, along the snow line on the church roof, as when I come to put the sky in next, there will be quite a lot of water sloshing about, and it will be difficult to keep the blue colour off the virgin snow. Having said that, I have drawn the snow line down the roof line, as though it is thawing slowly, and that is just me, as I think it looks more interesting like that.

Also on the roofs of the house in the background, plus window ledges, grave stones and buttresses. Anywhere you think snow will cling

The sky is a subject in itself. I wanted to have a sky with movement in, and to look cold even though the sun was shining. That was the intention. I have a method which I have evolved and which I prefer, although obviously there are different ways of tackling this

Firstly I wet the area thoroughly with a large brush with clean water, so the paint can move around quickly. Next I brush on cobalt blue mid strength, and then pat out some cloud shapes with paper towel. Whilst the paper is still glistening, and that is very important otherwise the paint will not move, pump in ultramarine blue pigment, where you think you will want to see blue sky. I suggest not too much

I should have said at the beginning, make sure that your board is loose from the easel, as you are now going to pick it up and you won’t have a lot of time. Hold the board vertically and watch the ultramarine blue bleed downwards, and then turn the board on 90 degrees and watch the pigment bleed again this time across the sky, if that makes sense. You will have to decide when you think you have the right effect, and of course the colour will dry lighter than it is now

Put the board back on the easel. Phew!

Let this dry rock hard. I leave it overnight usually. What you should end up with is a swirling sky because with all this water swirling around that is the effect you should get. The cobalt blue will become dark cloud, and where you have blotted out will be the white tops of the clouds. The ultramarine will be the sky showing through

Obviously, when you are doing this, water will run down onto your snow. Just be ready with paper towel to mop that quickly and you should be ok

Apart from the sky, these are simple little paintings to do, yet effective in their simplicity. Hope you liked this

Snow Painting: the Working Sketch

Snow Painting Sketch

This is my sketch, done fairly quickly, which, I think will give me some sense of direction. I need to use the photograph less now and my sketch more

The snow will be denoted by the paper that I shall leave white. There will be some masking out to be done, and as I don’t have a photographic reference for the snow, I shall have to be thorough in planning where the snow would lie. One thing that masking fluid is good for, is making a blobby line which does give the appearance of snow

I must remember to put snow on both sides of the roof. This is easily forgotten. I have certainly forgotten to show this on the drawing. Some will gather in the trough of the broach spire. Window ledges, tops of grave stones, buttresses, snow will cling to horizontal surfaces of these. The ground level must look uneven as snow piles up the wall of the church

I usually like to paint snow-covered buildings as though some slight thaw has taken place, so that the ridge-tiles and part of the roof show through. This makes a bit more interest and relief from all that white.

The church stands on high ground. I have exaggerated the gradient in the drawing, slightly, to increase the interest. Shadows, when I put them in, will tell the eye where the ground lies, and pick out the ups and downs. Also I have put a couple of houses in the background, which are dropped down behind the slope.

I usually put in some frozen looking bushes and dead-looking grasses, strategically, so that hopefully they will indicate that the ground slopes down towards us

So, plenty to do. Best get on.

Snow Painting

Pyrford Parish Church

Using the charming little church of St.Nicholas at Pyrford, one of the Woking villages. To give an idea of the sort of effect I want to achieve, the following painting of Wanborough Barn near Farnham, was done from a photograph without snow, just adding snow from imagination. We don’t get enough snow, I am afraid, to get good snow scene shots to work from, so we will just have to adapt what we haveWanborough Barn near Farnham

Wanborough Barn near Farnham, with added snow

So that is the task to be tackled next. I need a snow scene for my next exhibition, as usually they sell quite well.

Just a word about St.Nicholas Church. It is an unspoiled but humble village church of the 12th century, retaining many of its original Norman features. Unexceptional apart from having a porch on both sides, which is unusual. It is built from local materials, naturally, using pudding stone and clunch, which is the hard form of the local chalk, used quite a lot for building materials in the area. In some parts of the church, not on the shot I have shown, the walls have been stuccoed over, which was done to give the appearance of stone

That should keep me busy for a little while. I will publish the working sketch just out of interest, just to see which way we go with this

Different people have asked to see photographs of my workspace. I have been taking some pictures and will run a post on that. Not very impressive as we live in a 19th century cottage, and space is at a premium, but it is always surprising how well you can operate from a little corner. Good lighting is essential, and the rather expensive lighting I use, I actually prefer to daylight

I will go into detail on that at a later date