St Katherine’s Dock Commission

This is the drawing so far of the boat I was commissioned to paint. Rather faint I am afraid, not only because it’s in pencil but also because she has had a wash of phthalo blue and cobalt mix. Some orange and vermillion went in to the tops of the boats to give that evening sun look, but that will need strengthening

I have already sketched this scene just to realise the composition and to get that agreed. This is the real thing. Just a tad apprehensive, as although I have painted boats enough times, this would be the first boat portrait that I have tackled.

So much of the boat is white, and not even many shadows to relieve the situation. The vessel is beautiful, streamlined and highly polished, in fact all the things that don’t work so well in watercolour. A rough-textured old steamer, dirty and rusty, with plenty of smoke really lets the watercolourist’s imagination run riot. 

But we don’t have that. We have a sleek yacht instead. In the background of the reference photograph which I haven’t published here, are a row of houses, which were not only superfluous, but actually crowded the composition, and didn’t look good against the boats. I have left them out altogether, and I have not regretted doing so. The depth of the painting has increased whilst still preserving the look of a marina

So for the moment I shall just carry on building up the colours on the items that matter. The yacht centre stage of course is the star attraction and needs to come forward

We shall see how this goes

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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

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 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

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

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

A different aspect of Bosham Harbour

DSCF3969

i think I may have mentioned ad nauseam that Bosham Harbour with its ancient church is a favourite subject for painting, and is widely known

If I am preparing for an exhibition, I usually like to have at least one view of this beautiful little place. The problem is that everyone wants the same shot, across the harbour with the church against the skyline, so painters, like me, are continually looking for a way to paint this view, and yet make it look different every time.

I came across the attached photograph a few months ago, which interested me. As you can see, it is a gentle evening shot, with some bright sky and some very deep silhouettes. The details are blurred, which is not something I usually do, but found myself intrigued nonetheless. The effect could be impressionistic, which again is not something I usually do. The other thing I liked, is that, when translating this into a painting, one could use a very limited pallette, which I find improves the effect very often. In this case, we are looking at yellow and violet basically, which generally work together very well.

I haven’t used these two colours for a while, so the idea is attractive

I am not sure about how I feel about the beached boats in the immediate foreground. They are certainly an aid to perspective, which I can appreciate, and yet in your face just a bit. I think I will draw some of these separately on tracing paper and chase them round the composition to see what I like best. I have been through my archives of boats too, and have sketched one or two of those, again to see what works.

Despite what I said about getting away from detail for a change, I don’t want meaningless shapes either, and unlike photographers, artists can choose what goes into a composition, which gives us an advantage, so I might be able to get away from that rather shapeless foreground.

I think there will be quite a lot of work with little bits of tracing paper, before we hit on the right composition, so we will see what happens. Yet another journey into the unknown.

Finished Bosham Panorama Painting

Finished Bosham Panorama

and there it is waiting to go into its long frame

That will then complete a collection of twelve paintings for the coming exhibition at the Guildford Institute from 19th of this month

Since the last post, really the work was purely detailing, using dark brown, white and cadmium red. I have drawn in some buoys and odd details like that

I bought a new detail brush the other day, designed by Matthew Palmer. It has a large bole which holds a good supply of water, but the tip comes to a very fine point, which produces a line rather like you’d expect from a pen. I think it was designed for painting very thin branches and twigs. It also works well for fine rope work, and window frames

Huge sigh of relief now that the exhibition collection is finished, all but framing the last one

I can now look at catching up with a few paintings for pleasure. I love doing horses and have made some initial sketches, from which I think I can put an interesting composition together. I have gone back to drawing by eye instead of using a grid, which not only saves time, but also is comforting to know I can still do it ( or think I can)

I will publish the horse drawings at another time