Cefalu in Sicily

Cefalu in Sicily

I went here many years ago on a trip out from Palermo. Lovely stretch of beach which I have featured although I had to rely on someone else’s photograph for reference. Many thanks to Websi for the use of their photograph

Not only the beach but a lovely town square and a delightful Norman cathedral from the 12th century, which we remember visiting

The brightly coloured fishing boats are fun to paint. I have added a different red to my stock as I have been trying to get away from cadmium red, as I have used it so often. Someone suggested Sennelier Red, and this painting gave me a chance to use it. It really is a magnificent poppy red and I have used it on these boats. Sennelier say that they put honey in their pigment mix, and certainly their paints do go on very smoothly

I put this painting on my online site on Wednesday and it sold yesterday Thursday. Not quite wet from the easel but getting that way. Certainly a record for me, although friends of mine have done that more than once. I think it must be Sicily which is certainly very popular or are we just looking for sun after the winter lockdown

Maybe

Windsor Castle – the finished painting

Windsor castle on the Thames

The finished item. Quite a lot of trees, relieved by the building to a certain extent, but nevertheless the greens took some sorting out. Mostly they are a mix of sap green with something else. Quite a lot with raw sienna, which is the one I use mostly for vegetation, and works I think for the lighter trees.

The boats have been useful, bringing in some red to relieve all that green, and also stop the eye going off the page. As I said in the last post, I have used sepia ink for the shadows on the castle. I was a little hesitant about that, but seems to have worked out ok.

I seem to be working my way through the list of paintings that I always wanted to do and couldn’t find the time. Lockdown plus very wet weather does keep us indoors a lot. Looking back at these favourite places does make us wonder if we’ll see them again. Vaccination programme seemed to be going well, but now they have found two tested positive for the South African variant, in our village, without them going to South Africa

Oh well. More incarceration

Planning Painting of Portsmouth Harbour

Portsmouth Harbour and Spinnaker Tower

A view I know well, having sailed out of Portsmouth at one time or another over the years, either to the Isle of Wight or to Cherbourg or to Jersey

I knew the Harbour before the Spinnaker Tower was erected and before the great shopping centre of Gunwharf Quays was built underneath. On the immediate right hand side is Old Portsmouth, as the name suggests the historic part which is associated with great names and with great events. Admiral Lord Nelson sailed from here on numerous occasions, including the last fateful expedition when he engaged the French fleet under Admiral Villeneuve off Cape Trafalgar in 1805. Most people know what happened and both admirals were killed.

The masts of Nelson’s flagship Victory is visible in this picture on the left hand side in the distance. Victory is in dry dock in Portsmouth dockyard, and has been for many years, certainly since I was a schoolboy.

Samuel Pepys the diarist was here often in his role as First Sea Lord. The Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, favourite of King James 1, was assassinated in 1628 in the local hotel. Catherine of Braganza from Portugal disembarked here to be betrothed to Charles II, and there are many more famous instances.

So far I have only just finished the drawing, which may be too faint to show up, but I will try later. The big problem will be showing the Spinnaker Tower to its best advantage. It has the sun on it, so needs to be bright white against the sky. I think it will have to be masked out, despite its size, which I am not looking forward to. All that before I start to paint

This is a busy time anyway, but I have had to finalise the book illustrations as these are being called for, so I have had to leave this painting for quite a while unfortunately. I have really enjoyed the illustrating work which has taken me to fresh fields, which is always satisfying. Sadly the one and only real exhibition that I would have done this year, due to have started on the 21st, was cancelled as our area moved into Tier 4. Great shame as this would have been at Denbies Winery, the large vineyard near Dorking, where I haven’t shown before. But I must not lose sight of the fact that this year has been amazing for me, as far as online sales are concerned. Eleven sales this year, of which three are international, perhaps unimpressive for many artists, is for me a record. Due to the Covid factor I know, with people locked down at home.

Sketch of Portsmouth Harbour

Not brilliant but perhaps will show where I am at.

Langstone Mill Completed

Langstone Mill

I think I have managed to disguise the hard line between the blue and the pink near the bottom of the picture, mostly by putting in some extra boats, which was not the composition that I set out to do, but the best I could do in the circumstances

I have also put in some white foam along the water’s edge, and converted part of the hard line, to shore line and again I have convinced myself that this was successful

This was to have been the last of the collection going on show in December at Denbies gallery near Dorking. This still may happen if the lockdown finishes in early December, but the gloomy side of my nature fears that it will continue, in which case the exhibition will be cancelled. Rather sad as I was looking forward to doing a real exhibition this year finally, although online sales have helped balance things out, I must admit

As always there are other interesting things going on. The book illustrations are going on apace, although the author thinks of something new, every time I think I’ve finished. I had a call from the University of Creative Arts in Farnham, from students who are producing a documentary on art. They interviewed me on the telephone for about an hour, so quite intensive almost philosophical. They want to film me working, but that will have to be shelved now for a while. To be looked forward to, one day

Langstone Painting Emerging

The painting emerging

This is the moment when the painting starts to emerge from the mist, quite literally for a painting by the sea.

My big problem was the hard line between blue and pink at the bottom of the painting. It was impossible to eradicate. I tried a small section and it was worse if anything

One of the marks fortuitously formed the shape of a stern of a small boat. That was something of a gift and I painted in the bottom right hand boat with canvas cover. Ok, what next? I think I have already said that I painted in the two dinghies in tow from the sailing boat, and the last one does help to cover that hard line.

That still leaves the left hand side of the picture. I scoured my files for images, and found one that would work. The boat is not afloat, rather propped up in the shallows, so the bottom length of painting will now be shallow water, about ankle deep. That will be amusing, trying to give that illusion. The propped up boat will help and I have made a start. A ladder is alongside and so are props. You will be able to see the keel standing out of the water. After that, I haven’t worked out

I have started to deepen the colours of the mill buildings. They look quite brightly lit now by a low sun. The photograph doesn’t do it justice, but then does it ever.

Still plenty to do

Partway through the Langstone Painting

This painting has given me some problems, even though it should have been straightforward. Never be complacent, and think you will dash something off. I needed a Langstone picture for a forthcoming exhibition, and thought I would fall back on an old favourite, namely Langstone Mill. This lovely spot is on the edge of Chichester Harbour and just before you cross the road bridge to Hayling Island. You may know it. If not, enough to know that it was once a bustling medieval port which died in the twentieth century, and now is a quiet creek. The old mill, wind and tide, is a very paintable subject.

I thought I would give it a sunset look. Again straightforward. For some reason, beyond my comprehension, the lower half did not work. The transition line from red to blue which should have blended seamlessly, just did not do so. In fact I had one of the roughest edges that I can remember. Not just hard but erratic looking like nothing I could understand

I have tried washing in carefully with clean water, but that was not a success and left an even more unseemly mess. Watercolour, as all will know, is difficult. Mistakes are hard to correct. I should know that. I have painted in nothing else for about twenty five years

The last resort is always to paint something over the blemish, if you can. I painted an extra boat in the bottom right to cover the very worst mark, and was lucky enough to use the lines of the blemish as part of the composition. So far so good, but there is a long way to go. In the centre I added a dinghy to the same purpose, and then another to make a small convoy to the sailing boat. I have seen two dinghies in tow to a larger boat before , so not too fanciful

And now what am I going to do. Well, when I know I will let you know. There will either be a finished painting or nothing at all. We shall see after I have done a lot of thinking and a lot of playing around

Starting a Painting of Langstone Mill

Langstone Mill

Still proceeding as though real exhibitions are going to take place, I am looking for one more painting for the Denbies Exhibition in December. Langstone Mill is or was a favourite, although I haven’t painted it for a while now, so thought I would try it albeit in different colours and moods

So far I have got as far as a basic drawing on tracing paper which I will transfer to watercolour paper, and then see where I go with it

I think I might try a deep sunset which has worked with paintings of Bosham. Langstone is quite well known. It used to be a port from Medieval times until the early part of the 20th century, and was very important in its day. It was known as a haunt for smuggling as so many of those little creeks on the Hampshire coast were. I always thought that they would bring ashore brandy and tobacco, and possibly they did, but the big earner was tea. Tea was wrapped in a waterproof cover and stowed in barrels, which were roped together to make a raft. Small boats from Langstone went out and met foreign luggers mid Channel, and towed these rafts back to port. Plenty of local people happy to make storage available in return for a cut. There is even one instance of the local rector storing contraband in the church cellars

So quite a romantic place, which is quiet now. The old mill is still very paintable. The tower is all that’s left of the old windmill. The sails were removed in the late 19th century, and the place left to rot. The building far left was the old tide mill, and I remember as a boy watching the water from the mill pond thunder through. Rescued in the 1930s by local artist Flora Twort, the old mill was fully restored for residential use, and has been inhabited ever since. The architect was a Freud, son of Sigmund Freud. I have sadly never been invited inside but from what I can judge, the restoration has been very successful.

The mill has been associated with artists and writers ever since. Let’s hope they approve

Boats on the Beach at Beer in Devon

Boats on the Beach at Beer

I went to Beer some years ago when staying with friends. The fishermen there pull their boats up onto the beach, and arrange them in a row. I’m not sure whether deliberate or coincidental, but the result is very colourful, and for years photographers and painters alike come here to record them

I have painted them before but from a different angle, and I don’t have a photographic reference for this painting, so I have had to imagine the perspective. I have always found it difficult to get the colour right for a brightly coloured painted finish cast in shadow. I generally put shadow in first, so a coat of blue or violet left to dry, and then the local colour glazed over, usually works. It doesn’t work with these strong colours, so I have had to experiment with different blues and reds to get the result. It took a long time and even now I am looking back and wondering

The result is sunny and bright, however, in these worrying times. I have simplified a lot of the detail, so would class this painting as more impressionistic than realistic. I find it cheerful to look at, so hope others do too

Bosham Harbour in Sussex: the finished painting

Bosham Harbour in Sussex

Before I put the background wash in, I scrubbed literally a good deal of the yellow away. On the original painting the yellow blends nicely as a sunset colour. In this photograph it stands out again, and I fail to see why. I can do no more with it, so must show it, warts and all.

The yellow scrubbed back down almost to white was probably the colour I was looking for originally. I did a faint yellow wash on the front of the white buildings, and that worked well too, but lost on the photograph. Oh well!

The composition extends further to the left including more boats and more sunset. I could put this in a long frame and it would work well. It could only be shown in a bricks and mortar exhibition though, but I have one booked in December, subject to virus spike. I will give it a showing on line first and see how it goes. If no interest, I will keep it framed for local shows

In the meantime, I will start thinking about my next subject

Bosham Harbour: along the Causeway

Bosham Harbour from the Causeway

I am starting another painting of Bosham, this time from a different angle. This started because I want something to use in one of those long frames I bought. Bosham has worked well in the past but I can’t repeating that same shot, so this time I am standing on the causeway which floods at high tide and which gives good possibilities for an interesting composition

So far I have drawn the cottages on the water’s edge and the church behind. I am not sure whether you can make that out and will include a close up at the end

What is that splash of yellow? Something I haven’t tried before. I have laid down the basis of a low sun across the water. The plan is to wash over that with the sky and sea colour. I may well live to regret doing that, but sometimes you have to try something a little different.

I shall wash over with a mix of blue and vermillion, and hopefully get a low lit subject. We shall see.I will leave the close up of the drawing

I hope that is a bit clearer. The wall on the corner is foreground. The posts mark the edge of the road which will be flooded in this picture