Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre: the finished painting

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The finished version of Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre

There are still things I look at and feel like going back and fiddling with, but I have learned to resist that, and have finally decided that the painting is finished

Since posting the underpainting, I have been back in with stronger versions of the Transparent Brown and Violet mix, bringing, I hope,  the image closer to the eye, as the detailing becomes sharper

I have had to resist making the detail of the basilica too sharp in order to give the impression of distance. The shadows in the garden and on the steps I have deepened. Likewise the foreground figures, with the obligatory spots of red in the foreground, which are discreet, but they are there.

If I can find a suitable frame, I should be able to include this one in my July exhibition at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford

I bought recently an interesting frame in a driftwood texture, which is comparatively long with the mount divided into four spaces. They are usually used for photographs. I bought it at a craft fair recently. At the same fair, a watercolour artist was showing , and had included one of these frames with four individual pictures making up a wide scene, which looked very effective. I thought I might try something similar. Not the same picture, I hasten to add, but a retake on something I have done before of a long line of beached fishing boats in Devon

I have finally launched my Artfinder shop. The application form was a bit of a marathon, but the support staff were very helpful indeed. I know they are supposed to be, but sometimes they aren’t. The young woman at Artfinder who I think, took pity on me and patiently answered my questions, helping me over the hurdles, was truly excellent.

I have only listed six paintings so far, as the uploading can take a time, if like me you don’t get the sizing right always, but there will be more as time goes by. We’ll see how it goes

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Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre: Underpainting

Sacre-Coeur Underpainting

From the drawing I have got as far as providing a base coat for the painting. As you can see, I have added some foreground figures from my archive, just to deepen the composition

Basically I have put in the shadows, which in effect gives the subject its form. For the church and figures I have used a mix of transparent brown and violet, which has gone a bit too grey for my liking, so colder than I wanted. I had run out of Ultramarine Violet which I normally use, so used Windsor Violet instead which is more blue than I expected. I will run a wash of transparent brown over the shadow, when bone dry, just to warm them up, and then work in the detail.

I sometimes prefer this stage to the finished painting, when the buildings seem to loom out of the mist.

For reasons best known to myself, I have finished the trees and shrubs first. I don’t usually do that, and have probably made it hard for myself to strike the right tonal balance. Oh well, let’s hope it works out

I am also in the middle of trying to set up an online shop with Artfinder, who come recommended. Nothing like the sales that I enjoyed last year, either locally or from my own website. Maybe it is the Brexit effect slowing down our economy. Anyway I have to try something different, so I will doubtless post when I have done it successfully, and also on social media

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre , Paris

 

This has always been a favourite area of Paris. I have wandered around many times taking pictures, and have used them for paintings afterwards. The artist’s quarter, the steps, the views over the roof tops and the Consulat have all featured in my paintings and have been popular at exhibitions, but for some reason, I have never painted the basilica itself

The basilica was planned or started about 1870, and was part of a Catholic revival in France. It was said to be partly a penance following defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war, and partly to expiate the sins of the Communards during the Commune which followed the exile of Napoleon 111.

Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians after the battle of Sedan. His son, the Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, present at the battle, was spirited away to Ostende and thence to England by boat. His mother the Empress Eugenie, dropped everything and fled to England to join her son. In fairness, all was up with the imperial rule. her husband Napoleon III  was released by the Prussians and allowed to travel to England. Already a sick man, he died in exile in 1873.

The Commune , following the fall of Paris, saw much anti-church rhetoric and atrocities. The building of the Sacre-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre, a scene of much insurrection, was intended to heal the divisions in France, and create a church come-back. Certainly this was  a significant building

Using various photographs, I have made this pencil sketch on which to base a painting. I just haven’t worked out colours yet, although something sunlit I suspect. No doubt my favourite warm shadows using Sennelier Transparent Brown mixed with Violet will be present.

I have the task now of moving the sketch in very basic terms onto watercolour paper and then finishing a drawing ready for painting. So, as always we shall see.

Notre Dame de Paris finished

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The finished painting which has had enough description already probably. An improvement on the first one so I am glad that I did it.

The little girl in the picture, modeled by my granddaughter, Lola,  although she didn’t know it, is struggling to put her hood up, so that she can continue chasing the poor pigeons. She loved to watch them take off as a flock, and then shortly afterwards settle back in more or less the same place again

The rest of my gallant family had gone into the cathedral, as the other grandchildren wanted to climb the tower. Lola didn’t want to, and frankly nor did I, so we stayed below on terra firma. My wife, who hates flying but doesn’t mind tall buildings, went with the others. I don’t mind flying but don’t like going up tall buildings. Curious really.

I prefer looking at cathedrals, studying the architecture, and trying to imagine the history surrounding the building. My first thought was of the wonderful story written by Victor Hugo, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and visually for me, going to see that wonderful film in 1956 of the same name, starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida. Quinn played Quasimodo the hunchbacked bellringer, and as a schoolboy then, I was very impressed as Quasimodo sat astride each bell in turn, urging them on like horses. An exciting story, which has been remade subsequently.

On 18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay, with others was burned at the stake in front of this cathedral. He was the last Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templars, an organisation of warrior monks, formed originally to protect pilgrims visiting the shrine of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Pilgrims no doubt rewarded them, as they became rich, as religious orders so often do. They were astute money managers and became in effect, international bankers, lending enormous sums to crowned heads of Europe.

They became super rich and powerful, and thus attracted enemies, including the then Pope Clement V. It was alleged that the Templars had started to identify with their Moslem counterparts, and accusations of heresy were made. Without doubt Templars learned much from their eastern contacts, especially in the field of architecture. What they learned was kept a secret, always suspect, and laid the foundations to the Masonic Order.

Philip IV of France, taking his cue from the Pope started to arrest Templars. Also please note that he owed fortunes to the Templars who were pressing for payment. Templars were tortured horribly to obtain confessions of heresy. De Molay himself confessed to stop the pain and retracted afterwards. He was ordered to be burned at the stake, and it was so arranged that he was consumed very slowly by the fire. Most died within minutes

De Molay at the stake, cursed those who had colluded in his murder, that they should die within the year, and their descendants meet a violent end likewise. Clement V died the following month, and Philip IV had a stroke whilst hunting shortly afterwards. Philip’s descendants did meet premature deaths, so much so that the Capetian line died out

I snap out of my reverie, Lola is still chasing pigeons, and everything seems normal again

 

Notre Dame de Paris :Halfway

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After another false start which I won’t go into, I decided to paint this subject in a vignette style, which I quite enjoy for a change. When there is a lot of peripheral detail which you just don’t need, this is a good way of getting rid of it and just focusing on the main subject.

I also happen to think they look attractive when they are finished, and certainly they seem popular with everyone

Talking of detail, I had to simplify the facade of the cathedral quite a lot, as even with a small detail brush, there is a limit to what you can include, bearing in mind the perspective.

I have chosen to depict the scene in soft winter sunlight, which is possibly my personal favourite. This is the sort of day that gently warms the stonework, and when the sun leaves long shadows on the ground and along the sides of buildings.

For the base colour of the stonework and of the square in front of the cathedral, I have used my typical mix of raw sienna and Naples yellow. For the shadows on the buildings I used violet ultramarine, and as they became deeper like some of the recesses on the cathedral, I toned the violet down with some Transparent Brown. For really dark corners I went over this again with pure violet straight from the tube.

Blue with a dash of brown to provide the grey slate roofs, and some cadmium red pale for the awnings of the restaurant next to the cathedral, finishes what I have done so far. I will echo the red amongst the figures in the foreground, either bags or jackets, so that the eye gets led into the centre of the picture.

Putting the shadows into the figures will be next. Detailing some of the foreground figures will be a long job, and how I’m looking forward to those pigeons, not. Still every painting is a lesson, so we shall see what I get out of this one

Notre Dame de Paris: back to the drawing board

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It is now nearly a month since I last did any painting, and I have missed it. Either because of festivities or through illness, I have not been able to get to my easel. Even last week, I had a relapse and have been given a second course of antibiotics which I have to say, have made me feel much better.

The next item on my to-do list, was to rework the painting that I did last year of Notre Dame de Paris in the Rain, except leave out the rain and inject some sunshine. I showed this painting a couple of times last year, without any interest being shown. Although to paint a scene in rain is skilled in its way, nevertheless the subject matter in itself is quite depressing . The colours become muted and everything looks dark. Would you want to buy a painting that lowered your mood? Probably not, so I am going to try to paint the same subject on a bright day, with colours more vibrant. Still could be autumn or winter time, but one of those bright days with long shadows.

What I have done more or less immediately, is to remove that unsightly marquee from the left of the picture. You may remember it, or you can scroll back in the gallery and find the original. I managed to find on the net, the buildings to the left of the cathedral, distant apartments and shops possibly, and these have been substituted

I have also rearranged the figures in front of the cathedral. By removing some, I have taken out the queue that was filing towards the entrance to get in. Looking back on this, it seemed quite mournful, like figures queuing for the dole. I have given the crowd, I hope, a more random look, so that hopefully they do now look like tourists, and consequently looking more interesting.

To the right of the cathedral, and out of sight, is the wonderful statue of Charlemagne. I considered moving it into the picture, but decided not too. Too much of a statement, which would have competed for attention with the cathedral itself

So, a start has been made which is always the hard part. I’ll get on with some painting and come back when I have something more to say

Flamingos in the Camargue: Finished Painting

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This follows on from the last post on flamingos which just showed the preparatory drawing. I think this is one occasion where I prefer the coloured version to the black and white. The colours are really vivid

We were in the Camargue region in the Rhone estuary watching the white horses which I have already painted, and also the flamingos which breed there. This is apparently the only place in Europe that flamingos breed, although I have subsequently seen them in Sicily. Matbe they were just stopping over.

Curiously these flamingos were more white than pink, which is the image we tend to have of these birds. I have probably used more pink wash than necessary in order to get some definition between the birds. In actual fact their heads were pale pink, whilst under their wings they were bright red/orange. I used cadmium red for these markings and that was spot-on accurate

The legs again were a very deep and bright pink. I read somewhere of someone using permanent rose with some cadmium orange to get a good flamingo colour. I tried that and got cadmium red !  Oh well, two routes to the same destination, which is not necessarily such a bad thing.

I started with a light pencil drawing taken from the original sketch. I used violet to put in the shadows on the birds and on the water, which gave me the form to base the painting on. Underneath the birds, and running down the paper, I laid a very dilute wash of Windsor Yellow, as an  experiment really, which I was glad of later, and I will explain why when I get there.

I then started to put in the red markings, and the birds started to take shape. I put in reflections of the legs in the water. I left this for 24 hours to harden off, and then laid a dilute wash of phthalo blue and cobalt mix, for the water. Over the yellow, this glaze turned a soft green, and I think, made a better water colour The red reflections showed through and looked convincing. So far so good

The shadows on the water made by the birds, I deepened with Indigo. Likewise some of the deep shadows on the birds and especially on the legs, I put in with Indigo. The same colour worked well for the tips of the beaks

So there we have the finished painting. I keep looking at it and thinking it looks bright but then again it was a bright subject

Always pleased to hear from anyone else who has experience of painting these colourful birds

Flamingos in the Camargue: first sketch drawing

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I took a number of photographs of the flamingos when I was in the Camargue. None of them were usable, so I took this group from someone else’s picture as the birds had formed a natural composition which, I thought, would make an interesting painting.

This is just the sketch done in my favourite Payne’s Grey. What is it about black and white, that I often prefer the sketch to the finished painting

They breed here apparently, the only place in Europe where they do that. I have seen them in Sicily as well, but perhaps they don’t have a breeding ground there

These birds are white, with bright pink flashes under the wings. Legs are a very bright deep pink. Always interesting trying to paint a white bird on white paper. I don’t really want any background against those long white necks, as I want them to stand out sharply. I will have to give that some thought

There will need to be colour around the undercarriages as reflections will be important and part of the composition, probably a blue of some sort. Phthalo with some Cobalt mixed in is a good Mediterranean colour, and could work with the deep pink legs. The pink will probably be Permanent Rose with a little Cadmium Orange.

Whether I shall have this finished for the Pirbright Art Club December exhibition remains to be seen. Let’s see how it turns out first!

The Contented Donkey: finished painting

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This is the finished donkey painting supplied to Egypt Equine Aid for their next auction which is early next month. Full details on their Facebook page, as well as news of the wonderful work that they do

I don’t think I deserved the build up they gave me. I didn’t really recognise myself. I was just happy enough to do something to help.

Let’s hope it sells after all that. Embarrassing otherwise

Flinging myself now into exhibition work for pre Christmas and into the new year, as am rather behind. Just starting a drawing of flamingos, as seen on our recent holiday in the south of France. Not drawn these birds before. I have to say that they are rather a strange shape

Just a short post this time, but wanted to mention the finished donkey painting

 

The Contented Donkey

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I was pleased to be asked to provide a painting for auction for a well-known charity involved in the rescue of horses and donkeys in Egypt

Many years ago I painted from the charming photograph inset, a watercolour study. I sold it subsequently and then forgot about it. Trying to remember what horse or donkey study I could paint, I remembered this one and finally found the photograph

We were coming back from the Cotswolds, and pulled off the highway at Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire A beautiful village in that lovely honey-coloured Cotswold stone which was the home of Francis Lovell, close confidante to Richard III, who limped home to Minster Lovel Hall to lick his wounds after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He continued to resist the Tudors and was killed at Stoke in 1487. The whole setting is delightful and the old dovecote is still there to see. The donkeys were part of the setting and I photographed one or two including the one inset. They are fun to draw but remember the long ears otherwise they will become a horse

The pencil study I did just now, and will transfer onto  watercolour paper. I actually have a commission on the easel at the moment which is a view of Bosham in Sussex, with a lovely sweep of the harbour with the Saxon Church in the background. Bosham Harbour is a delight to paint and I have done many times. When the painting is more complete, I will blog about it, as the history is fascinating.

For now, we are talking about the donkey. I am painting this alongside Bosham and also working up a picture of flamingos brought back from the Camargue. Very rarely do I do three easels at once, so let’s hope I don’t come unstuck

I attach a picture of the painting of Christmas Shopping in Guildford , now framed,which goes on sale at the end of this month for charity in St. Nicholas Church, Guildford with all the Christmas cards, one of which, of course, is from this painting.   I am attaching also the framed picture of the Wild Horses in the Camargue, which is now ready for the next exhibition

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The framed version of Christmas Shopping in Guildford High Street, which has been donated to Cards for Good Causes. Sorry about the reflections

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Wild Horses of the Camargue framed ready for exhibition. Again the reflections are annoying but I couldn’t get rid of them

Quite a bit to do, so hope to have something to show you next time