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

Wild Horses of the Camargue: the finished painting

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Well, this is the finished painting

Quite a lot of work building up the shadows on the horses. They have so much muscle which has to be shaded correctly. in order to look right. Having stared at this painting for so long, I just can’t tell any longer if it looks right or not

As well as showing horses, I also wanted to show speed and independence of spirit which these animals possess in the wild.

I wanted to paint the flamingos from the Camargue as well but commissions are backing up which is a happy problem, so sadly flamingos may have to wait for a while

I have been asked to paint something for Egypt Equine Aid which I am pleased to do, which may well be one of my donkey paintings which I have not done for years, so that should be interesting. They have a Christmas auction but paintings have to be in in November so not that much time

Horses of the Camargue: Preparing to Paint

Line Drawing on Watercolour Paper

The Line Drawing on watercolour paper

I have transferred the sketch just as a line drawing onto the watercolour paper. The size of the image is roughly what I want, about 30×40 centimetres

The painting will be interesting to say the least. The horses should be lighter than the background, and as you know, you can only go from light to dark with watercolour and not vice versa. The manes and tails in the photographs seem to glow as though they have light behind them. I think they will have to be masked out for that to happen. I may have to put background in first, which will be amusing

I won’t have a lot of time this week as we are going away soon to Sicily, another wonderful source of material. I think before I go, I will hopefully have time to give the painting an all-over wash of Naples yellow and Raw Sienna, which should give the glow of low sunshine that I want. Fingers crossed on that one

So, it may be nearer the end of the month before I can finish the painting completely. This won’t be an easy painting to do for the reasons stated. We shall just have to see how it turns out

 

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue Horses

White Horses of the Camargue

When we were in the south of France a few weeks ago, we finished our voyage down the River Rhone at Arles. I have already mentioned my walking tour of the city in the footsteps of van Gogh, as well as the magnificent Roman amphitheatre

Just south of the city, and in the salt marshes of the Rhone estuary, is the Camargue region, famous for its semi-wild horses, its black bulls bred for fighting and also flamingos, which breed there, the only breeding ground of that species in Europe.

I say the horses are semi-wild. They roam the region more or less at will until round up time, but also they are used for riding, and the tamer ones used by riding schools and trekking stations. They are, I believe one of the oldest breeds in Europe, and because of the remoteness of the area, the bloodstock remains undiluted

I wanted to paint them. I do paint horses occasionally, usually heavy draft horses as I find them intriguing, but the Camargue horses are something of a challenge, because of their colour as much as anything. You can always find one white horse or two perhaps in a herd, but a complete herd all the same colour is unusual, and would make a striking painting.

I took some pictures of my own, which were shot from the hip very often as an opportunity presented itself, and were ok but not the best. I bought a photograph from a local, which was much more impressive, and am using this to compose something which I hope will make an interesting painting

I have sketched something out as above, using Paynes Grey watercolour which I now prefer to ink, which I think will work. Quite a lot of shadow of course on white and how to make it stand out against white paper will be interesting too. I shall transfer this sketch onto watercolour paper and see how we get on

Van Gogh and Arles

I have been away for the past week. We cruised down the River Rhone from Lyon to Arles which was lovely, and took three places off my bucket list. One was the Pont du Gard, that amazing section of Roman aqueduct still remaining crossing the River Gard. Very hot that day but still summoned the energy to go down to the water’s edge and look up at this amazing structure whilst envying the people in the water. The second place was the Camargue National Park to see the famous white horses and the black bulls, as well as of course the flamingos who breed there, the only breeding ground of this bird in Europe. Curiously they are not very pink. The third place, as an artist that I wanted to visit was Arles made famous by Van Gogh, and those of us who wanted, were treated to a fascinating walking tour taking in some of the places made famous by the artist.

Van Gogh arrived in Arles in 1888, and took a room in a house near the railway station. he called it the Yellow House and it is depicted in one of his paintings. The house isn’t there anymore. It was destroyed by bombing in WW2. The house next door is still there, not yellow but a sort of buttermilk colour, and curiously enough still a cafe.

The light in Arles is extremely attractive for artists. The sun shines and the sky is blue nearly every day. More importantly, the famous wind, the Mistral blows down the Rhone like a corridor and clears the air of water vapour, dust etc, and produces a clarity of colour that would be hard to find elsewhere. The Mistral in summer is like a cooling breeze, like an electric fan in the heat of the city. In winter, I am told, it is something of a tyrant, getting inside your head, making you ill, and in some cases inducing madness. It goes in three-day cycles. If it doesn’t stop after three days, it will go on for another three, and so on

Vincent’s time in Arles was highly productive, producing something like 300 paintings.He was bi polar so was capable of great energy at times.  On our walk we visited some of the sites made famous by van Gogh. One of them was the Night Cafe or Le Cafe la Nuit. The exterior of the cafe is depicted in Cafe Terrace at Night painted in September 1888. My picture follows.

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Another shot with the van Gogh painting as a reference

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He wanted to set up a society of artists in Arles, and to this end, persuaded his brother Theo, who was already financing him, to persuade Gauguin with financial inducements, to come to Arles, which he did. The two of them had a turbulent relationship which turned violent and Gauguin left.

Van Gogh’s despair and self recrimination led to the famous self mutilation incident, when he took a razor to his ear and sliced off a lobe. He wrapped it in newspaper and gave it to a prostitute whom he knew. She reported him to the police, who thought he had killed Gauguin. He was admitted to a hospital in Arles for treatment, where he continued to work, and produced the following painting of the hospital garden

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The garden which he painted is not dissimilar today. Later his condition was to worsen and he was admitted to a nearby asylum in St.Remy.He was estranged from Theo who was about to marry. As we know he was to shoot himself in a nearby field, amidst some controversy. He shot himself in the chest and did not die immediately. People usually shoot themselves in the head and then death is instant. How did he come by a gun. He was unpopular in the town, because of his strange behaviour. Had someone else shot him? All unanswerable questions

I have tried to condense the walk down to as few words as possible. Not easy to convey so much information, but hope you find it interesting nonetheless