Work Started on the Fountain of Love Commission

Fountain of Love Detail

I have been working on the drawing of the Fountain of Love commission, which has been testing to say the least. I have just included a detail here, otherwise the image would be too faint to show

The photograph of the fountain itself was included in my last post, and I may have explained that the fountain is in the grounds of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The house is magnificent and is now an hotel but the grounds are run by the National Trust and are extensive.

Over the ages, Cliveden was associated with powerful women. One of the more recent being Nancy Astor, American heiress as well as an MP in Westminster, possibly the first woman MP. More recently still, Cliveden was the scene of the scandalous liaison between Christine Keeler and John Profumo, a married government minister

Again I have been balancing two commission projects, as I have just finished the sketch study of a rather lovely yacht in St.Katherine’s Dock, just to agree the composition with the client before going on the finished painting. I drew this with the help of a grid but there is something about the sleek almost feminine lines of a boat which seem to elude me, no matter how many measurements I take.

Dancing Girl Sketch

As usual the camera leaches out the colour but the essence is there. I did find it useful to make a sketch on this occasion. So many mistakes could be made and were made. At least these have been cleared out of the way, hopefully not to reappear

There is something about highly polished surfaces like plastic or metal, which don’t work well in watercolour. Give me some rough old wood or rusty iron any day, and that will look realistic enough to touch. Still, if you owned a rusty old tub, you probably wouldn’t want it commemorated in a painting

We will await the client’s comment to see whether I have got the composition right as a first step

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Morning in Bosham Finished Painting

Morning in Bosham

The finished picture entitled Morning in Bosham

This was the first of the two paintings which I was hoping to plan together. But it was not to be. As the poet said, or something like, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

They certainly do. I have done a few sketches of the horse picture, but last Thursday the phone rang and a regular client phoned with a commission for an extremely ornate fountain called the Fountain of Love which is in the grounds of a mansion called Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire

I went to look at it, at the week end and took some reference shots and append one for your interestDSCF4449

I have just had to arrange a professional copy so that all the detailing is picked out clearly. This will be a test of drawing skill and no mistake. Too late however, as I have said yes.

Cliveden House is now an hotel. It is c18 I believe and is associated over the years with a succession of powerful women. The latest was Nancy Astor, the American heiress who became a Westminster MP, the first woman MP I think, and certainly a forceful lady.

The house is remembered for being the scene of the scandal involving Christine Keeler a model, and John Profumo the then Minister of Defence during the 1960s. She was also having an affair with a Russian diplomat, so the whole thing was considered a threat to national security. Profumo lied to Parliament and the whole thing nearly brought down the MacMillan government

The same day i received another commission to paint a boat in St Katherine’s Dock which might be postponed and give me a breather. Today I received a request to do yet another view of beloved Bosham Harbour and Church

That will teach me to boast about doing two paintings simultaneously.  The gods have a habit of looking down and teaching you a lesson if you appear over-confident. They have, and it serves me right.

Langstone Mill Finished Painting

Misty Morning in Langstone

Well, this is the finished painting in its frame which I have entitled Misty Morning in Langstone, as I have deliberately kept the colours pale to give that effect. That is my story anyway. In reality it works well, I think but photographing it was difficult. I had to wait for really flat daylight so as not to get reflections in the glass.

I quite like the trick of leaving out the horizon line which gives the scene a more misty look. I read this somewhere not so long ago.

Maybe another time I will try and deepen the colours a little, but always the danger that the misty effect might be lost

I am just packing up paintings for the Leatherhead exhibition which starts on Tuesday and goes on for two weeks. We will see what that brings. Nothing last time, but we live in hope

A very rare happening a couple of weeks ago, I actually sold a painting from my Artfinder site, thus proving that everything comes to he who waits. The painting was of the Bosphorus Waterfront, and went to a collector in the United States, which I am very pleased about

Langstone Mill Part Finished

Langstone Mill Part Finished

When this is finished I hope the misty look will still be apparent. I would like the painting to have an early morning look, the problem being, the more detail that one adds, the sharper the image becomes. All I can do is finish the painting and see which way it goes.

As you can see, colour has been added since the last post. I have used two pigments initially, Vermillion and cobalt blue, and also a mix of the two to produce a grey blue for the shadows. I have also brought in good old Burnt Sienna for the brickwork.

To the right, out of shot are three small sailing ships waiting to be finished. I have deliberately not put in an horizon line, to accentuate the mistiness of the scene. That is the plan anyway.

Details still need to be added to the buildings like verandahs etc, and soft interrupted reflections in the water. Masking fluid wants to come off, revealing the marker posts which are red and white like barber’s poles, as well as the flag post which will be white with a red flag. The boats might get a red pennant each. Not forgetting the seagulls which have to be added, as the only sign of life in this remote spot at a very quiet time of day.

If that works I will be quietly amazed!

A pleasant surprise a couple of days ago! I made my first international sale from my Artfinder site, Bosphorus Waterfront, which has been bought by a client in the US of A. It has only taken me two years to achieve this! The painting can be found on my website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk should you wish to look

Now I am on tenterhooks about it arriving safely, and am tracking periodically. The package is currently at New York City Gateway, and needs to be transshipped mid west. They estimate delivering on Monday so fingers crossed for a rapturous welcome. The client has 14 days to return the painting if not delighted, which must be really demoralising for the artist, but we will see

Langstone Mill Drawing Stage

Langstone Mill Drawing

This will be rather faint, I’m afraid, as I only want faint guidelines before applying any colour

Two posts which mark the depth, and painted red and white like barber’s poles I have masked out. Also the flag pole which is white and the flag, both have been masked out for now. To the right of the drawing, which couldn’t be included are three small boats. They are near the horizon line, with one side in light and the other in shadow.

I am going to use pink as a background sky, moving in to a blue grey across the buildings and then pink again across the water. I need the background to look misty ideally, so not too deep in colour but not so pale that everything looks white still.

When that is good and hard I shall work on some of the details. I usually put the shadows in first, which I will do with more of the blue-grey, and that will give the picture some structure, on which to build. Likewise background trees in the grey behind the rooftops. The colour of these I haven’t quite decided, but they need some sort of red in them

I will need to check the sea-level so that it doesn’t look wrong against the buildings.

If I can do that and make sure that the shading is right around the pillars under the mill store, then I might have the basis of a decent painting

We shall see

Langstone Mill Reworked

Langstone Mill

This is probably the last painting that I made of Langstone Mill, a couple of years ago, and which sold easily, being a popular subject. I am going to do it again, but differently. I have been painting what I call “panoramics”, which are completely horizontal subjects in  frames about 60 centimetres long but only 21 high, and they have been successful so far

I have done this twice now, and both sold relatively easily. One was of the beached fishing boats at Beer in Devon, and the other was of Bosham Harbour, again an old favourite. They can both be viewed on my website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk.

Langstone is a little way down the coast from Bosham, and again a place beloved of sailors and painters alike. Another salt water creek, a misty and lonely shoreline even today, the place exudes atmosphere, especially when the weather is on the turn. I am hoping to do a totally different sky to anything I’ve done before. So far I have just started some drawing work but nothing to show as yet

It does have some history. It was a medieval commercial port for the neighbouring town of Havant, trading in exports of leather goods, especially parchment from Havant whilst engaged in coastal traffic generally. It was the link with nearby Hayling Island, either by causeway which was built by the Romans from chalk and flint, we are told, or by boat bringing in supplies to the priory on Hayling at the time.

Barges went out from Langstone to the sandbanks, where they grounded themselves and loaded shingle until the tide turned and they headed back to port. This was sold up and down the country for road mending, and carried on until the early c20.  Skeletons of some of these old hulks can still be seen sticking out of the mud, and again add to the atmosphere

There are two pubs, and the older of the two, now called The Royal Oak, commemorates the escape of Charles Stuart after the Battle of Worcester. He and his comrade in arms, Henry Lord Moffat hid in an oak tree to avoid capture. After making their perilous way south to the coast, they reached Lyme Regis in Dorset where they tried to get a ship to France. Without any luck, they made their way eastwards port by port, and eventually came to Langstone. No luck there either, although they did eat oysters at the pub,and as everyone knows, they met someone in Shoreham further east, who ran a coal barge and he took them to France.

Yet another romantic story attached to Langstone to add to the atmosphere. Let’s hope I can catch some of this in the painting

 

History of Langstone Harbour and Warblington,Hampshire Coast

Watchman's Hut Warblington.JPG

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

Bosham Creek, the finished painting

Bosham Creek

This is the finished painting, which I happen to like, although I will admit to one or two scary moments

I have managed to keep to a rather limited palette. Cadmium Yellow which I mentioned before and Ultramarine Violet, together with Transparent Brown which I softened with Violet. This is still my favourite shadow colour. I used Vermilion for some distant red clouds behind the trees, and also for the red paint along the hull of the hulk on the beach.

After getting the sky about right or so I thought, as the dark clouds coming in from the sea might have been darker, I put in the distant buildings along the shore line of Bosham village. The steeple of the Saxon church, so well-known as to need little introduction, is probably the only building that needs to be recognisable, although I have done my best with the others, plunged in shadow as they are.

To the right are two beached boats, one clinker built and the other which looks as though made of fibre-glass, so not the easiest to convey in watercolour. The dunes with some coarse grass rise in front of them, and make a convenient break

The beached hulk is one of those things that are fun to paint. So many details and textures with rusting metal and flaking paintwork on the timber. I mentioned that someone had daubed white paint on the prow, which I could have left off but decided to include. I daubed masking fluid on and then overpainted several times with the dark brown mix. When the masking is removed, then that should look like white paint over rough brown planking. That was the plan. I hope it has worked.

The real test of course is getting the light right and the highlights in the right place. I hope I have done that. The camera again has bleached out the colours, try as I might, so in reality the shadows are much deeper, and appear more convincing. Oh well, in the scheme of things, not the worst problem one could have.

Going back to the Bosham Painting

Bosham Underpainting

We are going back now to before the last two commissions, which I was pleased to take on, challenging though the last one was. I still await the final judgement from the client on that one, as she comes back from holiday on the 16th only, so fingers crossed under the table on that one.

I had started this painting of Bosham Creek, or rather drawing, with just the main elements in place.

So far I have added two dilute coats of watercolour across the page. Violet running into yellow, mostly with a watery coat of vermilion over the whole thing when bone dry. I dashed some pure yellow pigment into the area where I think the sun is setting. In the photograph this yellow shrieks at you. In reality it doesn’t. I am often intrigued how the camera sometimes disagrees with the human eye. Possibly one of those paintings which won’t sell on the internet, alongside a few others.

The hulk on the beach, I am hoping will provide most of the interest. The detailing on this sort of subject is usually a lot of fun, and tends to draw the eye. I noticed in the photographic reference, that someone has daubed white paint along the prow. I have used masking fluid here in a dry-brush fashion. Going over this later with dark brown pigment, and then removing the masking, should leave the illusion of white painted roughly over dark brown. I hope that makes sense. We will see later if it works or not. I have done it successfully in the past, which is of course no guarantee of success in the future

Since taking this picture I have started to darken the clouds and will gradually go on, wet over dry until I like what I see, hopefully. That will be the judgement, not getting them too dark or yet too wishy-washy. We shall see, and much still to do.

Sketchwork on Bosham Harbour

DSCF4101

I have been away for the last five days or so, in Spain with perfect temperatures of around 20 with gentle sunshine plus sea air. I’m back now to something like 12 and wet so feeling cold. Yesterday I rescued my garden and allotment. Today I am catching up on other things like my blog

I started last time with an indistinct photograph of Bosham Harbour, which I have done so many times, but this time in evening colours.  Before I went away I prepared some sketches and finally decided on the one which I have illustrated.

I have kept the distinctive distant shore line without much detail. That broach spire identifies the village of Bosham unmistakably.  From my archives I have included a different boat, which will add something to the foreground.  There were beached boats in the photograph which in my opinion did little, although I did include a couple of these to close off the side of the painting to he right.

I think I will use a mixture of violet, yellow and brown for the painting. I am more interested in how the colours work, than in the actual image, so the result may look like an impression of Bosham rather than a record of the harbour itself.

Before leaving this subject, I will mention that I am setting up an exhibition in Leatherhead, in the theatre on Monday morning.  Leatherhead is a town about twenty miles distant, so new territory, which is always exciting

Coming back to the Bosham painting, I will finish with another image, which is the basic line drawing transferred to watercolour paper. We are now ready to paint.

DSCF4100