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

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To Continue with the Docklands Commission

Five Image Docklands Commission Partway Only

Well, out of the mist, some definition is starting to appear here and there

They wanted the Canary Wharf skyline to run along the top. Incidentally I photographed this on the easel so I am sorry that the images appear slanted. Also there are some shadows and stuff which shouldn’t be there. Just to make Canary Wharf more interesting I have used sunset colours building up oranges and vermillion across the windows. I have used vermillion and cobalt blue blended for soft shadows, which works, I believe. Little cranes help the feeling of distance. I think that picture is pretty well there, and I was asked to make that image soft anyway. I like to take the client’s instruction into account if I can, but sometimes they have to be persuaded to do things differently.

I finished the little ferry boat. Once I started I just could not stop. I think she will be my favourite image of the five, probably because I like painting boats anyway. For the background I have repeated the Canary Wharf Skyline, which is geographically impossible, but infinitely more interesting.

The pub in the bottom right, is ready for its next coat, which will be Transparent Brown over the Violet, which will give more definition to the building itself. I think yellow for the umbrellas, but I just need to work out which one.

The image which scares me and which I have made a start on is the crescent shaped building of Lensbury Circus. At the moment it is looking rather bleak, as though the area is run down, which of course it isn’t, far from it. All those windows too. They may have to succumb to a sort of lost and found treatment

But there are more positives than negatives so I will get back to it, but not tonight. I have spent hours on this one, but there are five pictures instead of one, which I should have realised when I took it on. Luckily I’m not on piece work or I would starve.

London Docklands Commission

Canary Wharf Skyline

The iconic skyline of Canary Wharf which makes a nice silhouette against an evening sky. The sky has a dull orange glow which should take some pale blue outlines nicely, whilst at the same time, get some orange reflections into some of the windows.

This is only one of the images I have been asked to paint, and then arrange them on one sheet.

Probably one of the more testing commissions that I have been given. This is being commissioned for a work colleague who is returning to his native land in August, so one wants to get it right. Scale and perspective have been abandoned as I try to get everything to fit, but we are moving forward inch by inch

Two of the other images are office blocks, and I have to say that glass and concrete are subjects that I tend to avoid in watercolour. The only saving grace of glass buildings is that they mirror the sky and can appear dramatic. One of them has a tint of green in the glass which makes it more interesting

The pub where they all went has something about it in style, and so,  that I can make something of. The other shot is of the ferry that crosses the Thames from the Docklands Hilton Pier, and of course, anything to do with boats is always a good subject for painting

This has already taken me a long time and will take more. Basically five drawings instead of one, so I should have charged more but never mind

Bosham Harbour goes on hold yet again. Incidentally the lady collected her wedding venue painting and was thrilled with my interpretation, for which I am relieved and delighted.

Churchill place (1)

A different aspect of Bosham Harbour

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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

Bosham Panorama for the Long Frame

Bosham Panorama Starting to emerge

Emerging from the sea mist almost

This is the start of the panoramic painting for the long frame which I mentioned recently, which I am hopeful for, but we shall see

For sky and sea I used a mix of phthalo blue and cobalt. For the sunset sky and reflection in the water, I have used a mix of Cadmium Orange and Permanent Rose. I was not pleased with the initial result, as the sky came up very orange indeed. I applied coat after coat of Permanent Rose, wet on dry, which when dry, appeared to have made very little impact. Eventually the sunset turned pinky red, and I quite liked the effect of the pink over the blue. Where the blue had gone on sparsely, the pink soaked in, and started to look like pink clouds on the blue sky. I am not sure whether this shows in the photograph.

In order to get the effect of the low sun on the rooftops, I will need to glaze the buildings with something like Light Red and if that goes too brown, then a thin wash of Cadmium Red. Sparingly, of course, as that is powerful stuff.

There is masking fluid to come off, where white buildings have caught the strong light. I should have mirrored that in the sea, but forgot, but I think I can rescue that with White Gouache.

Dark shadows to go in with dark Brown which will accentuate the light, I hope. Also some small boats for which I will use the same blue mix, and white masts, should add to the effect

I am hoping so, as exhibition time draws near

Bikes and Canals: the Finished Painting

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The finished painting of bicycles, canals and houseboats in one frame

Since the last post, there is not a lot to add. The bicycles have been finished from the sharpest detail retreating backwards. I find it easier to adapt the focus doing it that way, so that the perspective works out correctly. This was a real jumble of mechanical detail to sort out, but amusing nonetheless

This will go towards my exhibition in the spring, in the Guildford Institute. The theme is Waterways in Watercolour, which on the face of it is straightforward enough, but trying to think of a subject that I haven’t done before, does make me scratch my head

I need twelve pictures within the theme. I think I have five so far. Ah well, press on

Bikes and Canals : Work in Progress

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Some work done over the last few days

The buildings on the far bank have received some colour, some pink and some violet and some a mix of the two, to establish as near as I need the local colour of the brickwork. So far I have added little detail to the windows and doors, as I want them to fade against a sharp foreground of bicycles. I have done a little work on the reflections of the buildings on the water but not much, and will go back to that

The houseboats have been rendered in sharper focus, without necessarily detailing them too much. The bright yellow I think has worked on the distant boats, giving them an illuminated effect from the light source on the horizon. The hulls have been darkened with indigo, as they are in deep shadow, and I have let this colour bleed down vertically to provide the reflections in the water

I have extended the canal to the left, which I quite like as it gives the composition some extra depth. The bikes will be in the sharp foreground, but if they weren’t exactly centre stage, I wouldn’t mind

I was looking forward to tackling a bicycle, just to get a better idea of the relationship between foreground and background. I have painted the first one. The colour of mud guards etc was yellow, and I have kept to that, and in fact have used Indian Yellow, which I think works well against the violet/pinks. Just my opinion

What to use for tyres, chain guard etc which are really black in the photograph, made me ponder, as I veer away from black generally if I can. I mixed some ultramarine blue with transparent brown and made a very dark grey. I went back in with the indigo, which worked, I think as dark highlights on tyres etc, and produced a nice blue-black on the chain guard and seat. Some more detailing still to be done on pedals and rear-lights but I have enough to work with at the moment

I feel there should be long shadows, and don’t know what to do about them. Too many lines will be confusing, but once laid cannot be removed. Such is watercolour. I may leave them out altogether and claim artistic immunity. We’ll see

 

Bikes and Canals in Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a lovely city. I have been there many times, and have often thought I should try to paint it, with its canals and barges and its tall houses. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographic references to speak of, so that has held me back, until now

As it happened, my son and daughter-in-law were there recently, only for a short while but managed to take a few pictures for me. I asked them to include, if they could, bikes, canals, tall buildings and houseboats. Well, they got all those in this one shot

Now it is down to me to make a painting out of it. Hmm, I do like a challenge.

Something has to be done with the composition. I don’t know what yet though. That barrier rail on the right-hand side will go, I’m sure. Thousands of bikes, literally, go into the canals every year, so a few more will make little difference

I have started to draw the bikes, and it is not easy to sort out, which handlebar belongs to which bicycle. Maybe there is a case for cutting down on some of the detail in that group of bikes, so that the image is less muddled. I will let that evolve as I go on, I think.

I will have to alter the light to make the picture more interesting, otherwise the scene is very grey and could appear tedious as a painting. Add some sunlight in the background perhaps and deepen shadows in the foreground, which should add to the depth of the picture, otherwise could be very flat indeed.

This one has possible disaster written all over it, so if successful, I will have cause to celebrate

We shall see

Canals of Venice

Venice Drawing

Today my colleague in paint, Elaine and I set up our joint exhibition at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford. I have to say that it did look good. It will be on for four weeks, and now one has to forget about it, which is never easy, as it is so tempting to check one’s emails

Having said that my exhibition work is over for a while, I am reminded that on the 29th July, our local club, the Pirbright Art Club are holding their summer exhibition. We call it the “Railings” as we hang our paintings from the iron railings around the old village hall. It does look quite effective

However all my best stuff is at the hospital and will be until mid August, so a bit of a problem

There was a Venice picture which I wanted to do, and I have attached the photograph as well as my line drawing version of it. I am going to try and complete this by the 25th when we have our “auditions” for this exhibition, so at least it will look as though I am trying to support our local show.

The photograph, I found startling, with the brightness of the colours and the deep shadows, both complimentary and both fascinating to attempt. Some lovely deep oranges and some texture work with these bright colours, should be very satisfying to do. There are too some really good architectural shapes, such as the Gothic window which I hope to give more prominence. I have omitted the window next to it, shown in the photograph. The architectural iron work of he balconies is a study in itself

Anyway that is my next task, which promises to be fun