The Fountain of Love Commission continued

original photograph of fountain at Cliveden House

I am starting with a photograph which has been published before, as events forced me to abandon the blog on this particular commission, other paintings being needed more urgently. I thought therefore that repetition of the original reference made sense, to remind us all where this story starts.

This is the very ornate fountain in the grounds of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The style is Baroque so the statues are extremely Mannered in their style. As an architect once said to me, “If statues on a building wave to you, then it’s Baroque”. Very detailed therefore and consequently tricky to paint

The drawing is done, and I have started to paint, just to get some form of definition into my head. I see that I haven’t filed my photograph of Work in Progress  yet, so I will do that and then come back later

Well, this where I have got to, and it is a bit of a mess at the moment. The drawing was done a few weeks back, and as I said earlier, I have started to paint. I have masked out three trees in the background so that the trunks could be white as silver birch or pale green, whichever I think works best

I have also masked out the edges of some statues so that I get a really crisp edge and don’t lose any detail, having fought to keep it so far. No doubt this painting will be difficult. May even be my nemesis! Again I ask myself why I accept some of these commissions, except perhaps for the sheer challenge. Also the client is a regular who keeps coming back, so one wants to help

Since taking this photograph, I have sprayed masking fluid in certain areas to serve as spray from the fountain’s various jets. I kicked myself for not remembering right at the beginning, before I put colour into background foliage. Well, too late for that now. I will have to fall back on white gouache instead.

For now, that is all I can say. I shall remove the masking on the tree trunks and on the statues, so that I can define those edges. We will see how we get on

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St.Katherine Docks Commission : The Finished Painting

The finished boat portrait

This took me about three weeks, working on it every now and then. I have come to prefer working that way, doing a little and then letting it dry right out, looking at it in different lights and revising my plan as I go along. All this wet weather has meant that even during the day, the natural light has been poor. Flat light is fine but all these dark skies have not been helpful.

I don’t think that I have included the original photograph, so I will do that at the very end. Apologies for that. I have kept to the photograph as much as possible, certainly for the boat which is what it is really all about.

The main difference is that I have removed completely the row of houses at the back, which cluttered the scene and made the composition very gloomy. Now we can see the evening light catching the stern ends of the boats and reflecting on the water. This was useful, too, introducing a little orange into what has become a very blue painting.

Also the masts and sails now stand out against the sky whereas in the photograph they are lost amongst the buildings.

Never before attempted a boat portrait, so I am pleased with the way it turned out, whether I should be or not. The client likewise pleased which is the main thing. I will end with the original photograph, and any different ideas on how to tackle this one would be gratefully received.

The boat subject in St.Katherine’s Dock

This is the image that I should have started with, so hopefully still makes sense

London Docklands Commission Base Coat

Docklands Commission Base Coat

Almost too faint to record on the camera unfortunately, but I haven’t written anything for a while, so I shall just have to record where I am with the Docklands commission, which has become extremely time consuming as really we are talking about five pictures where normally there would be one

But, the five vignettes I managed to fit on the page, which in itself was no mean feat. Also I have managed to fit them in the order the client wanted. Along the top runs the iconic Canary Wharf skyline. I have gone for sunset colours, so I have built up coats of dilute orange followed by very dilute Vermilion. This vignette is still at an early stage. I have been mixing vermilion with Cobalt Blue to get a soft grey for some of the darker areas. I am doing this bit by bit as I don’t want to cover the red glow which I have at the moment. Just not apparent with the jpeg alas

Next down, Westferry Circus which has only had a coat of Raw Sienna so far and then Churchill Place, which has had shadows put in and a unifying wash of Phthalo Blue to give that effect of glass reflecting sky.

Below that the ferry with Docklands skyline, which I haven’t touched yet. Finally the Ledger Building, which is the pub. So far I have given the facade a coat of blue/violet to put the building in shadow. The flowers and the umbrellas are caught by the sun, so they escaped the shadow treatment. Again this is only base coat stuff, with more wet on dry as the days go by

We have time. The presentation won’t be until early September, although I would like to see this one gone by July

I have grossly undercharged this one, but that is my fault. I could not tell how much work this commission would entail, so I must just get on and finish it, and not grumble.

I am starting to have grounds for optimism with this one now, and think it will turn out ok.  Certainly I have learned from it and how. Thinking of adding the Canary Wharf skyline to my list of potential paintings for forthcoming exhibitions

Goathland Interim

Goathland Interim

I have made a start as you can see

There was rather a lot of woodland. Usually the background is pale, sky, perhaps a few distant trees, and that makes a clear backdrop for the foreground to stand out against

This time we have trees and lots of them, and so the foreground has to stand out against this darker background. For the moment, I have just started to detail some of the buildings, and for me there is insufficient definition. They need to come forward otherwise they will just go back into the trees

Looking back at the reference photograph, there is a tremendous amount of red in the picture. The ironwork is red. The trucks are red. Paintwork is red. The brickwork could do with a coat of something, as it appears anemic . I think a coat of Permanent Rose or Light Red would help, and that is probably what I will do

The buildings and rolling stock should when completed come towards the viewer and throw the trees back, which I think might prove a relief to the eyes

I haven’t had time to work on it today so will try tomorrow to get something moving

Until then

Schooldays in the 1950s: Part Two

One of the most important aspects of grammar school life was sport and sporting achievement. Sporting heroes were venerated, whilst scholars were not. I haven’t given this piece a title, quite deliberately, but if I did it could be Sport and Entertainment, which sounds like a quiz round. We had a lot of sport, but very little entertainment. Our antidote to work was sport. There was no place for the frivolous

I have not named my old school yet, I don’t know why, there is no need for me to be coy about it. The college was founded in the c18, by an East India merchant named Richard Churcher, to train boys in mathematics and navigation, before entering the service of the East India Company. The school is Churcher’s College, still very much there, but independent since the introduction of the comprehensive system. It stands alongside the old Portsmouth Road, built of local sandstone, it boasts clocktower, quadrangle,refectory and all those other ingredients of a traditional boy’s college from a distant past. It could be Greyfriar’s or Hogwarts

Sport was very well catered for. Rugby in the autumn term, cross-country running in the spring term and cricket in the summer, were obligatory, and enjoyed by many. I hated all three. My extreme odium was reserved for cross-country running, always on a Tuesday afternoon for juniors, straight after a lunch of corned beef, lumpy mash potato and some mixed salad leaves, with a boiled suet pudding to follow. Running three miles over rough farmland straight after that, was not good for the digestion. Several boys lost their lunch on the way.

I said this took place in the spring term. This ran from early January to Easter more or less so took in the worst two months of the year. Today,  thanks to global warming, we have comparatively mild winters, and rarely have snow in the south. In the 1950s snow was more or less guaranteed straight after Christmas, and would hang around for weeks

We changed in the pavilion, which doubled as a gym. One afternoon sticks in my mind, as our games master opened the doors to start us off. The sky was black, and large flakes of snow fell in blizzard conditions. Surely the run would be cancelled, and we could spend the afternoon in the library.  Dream on.  Smiling, if not laughing, our games master dressed in duffle coat, scarf and gloves waved us on our way. We had rugger shirts and shorts and Plimsoll shoes to protect us against the elements. Today, I think, people would be horrified to run in those conditions. Most runners in the winter seem to wear leggings, hood and anorak today, something about keeping muscles warm.

Across the playing fields and out into Love Lane, we ran en masse. Gradually the good runners pulled ahead, with the boys not built for speed lagging further and further behind. I was usually somewhere in the middle , I have to say

After a mile or so of road running, we approached that terrible first obstacle, the “muddy bridge” which really did sort out the good from the awful. This was an old railway bridge, one of many, which carried the Petersfield to Midhurst railway. The railway was in use then, but later would be axed by Doctor Beeching.  Beneath the bridge never saw the light of day, was very deep mud. It never dried out, not even in good weather. The local farmer drove his cattle through it. The cattle sank above their knees in this ooze, creating holes that filled with water with a crust of ice on top. We forged through this lot, likewise well over our knees, so that it took a very great effort to extricate our feet from this sticky morass of mud and excrement. Plimsolls were lost,  sometimes for ever.

After this we were on to open farmland, which we took in our stride, quite literally. It was expected, and we had to do it, so we did. No one was in touch with their feminine side in those days, if we had one to be in touch with. We were told it was good for us, as we arrived back at the pavilion, our characters built, glad to be alive, glad the ordeal was over for yet another week but yet strangely satisfied as we took our hot shower, forged anew by this arduous test. I felt sorry for the tail-enders, as they trickled in, sometimes in the dark, suffering derisive comments from the games master. I don’t remember any concern being shown for boys late back, only irritation. They could have been face down in a ditch for all that anyone knew.

Reading this back, it looks as though I had a miserable time at school, but not so.  I enjoyed my studies, and also enjoyed my time in the CCF or Combined Cadet Force, which once must have been an Officers Training Corps. You could join either of the three services. I chose the army. Everything was still WW2 issue,  uniform, weapons etc. Give a boy of 14 a .303 rifle and a magazine of blanks, and have him charging round the countryside shooting at the”enemy”, this had to be enjoyable. Health and Safety today would be horrified. This deserves, one day, a chapter of its own, so I will talk about what served as our only light relief in those days.

We read a great deal, it is fair to say. We read the classics without being told to. I read H.Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stephenson, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and H.G.Wells. These authors wrote wonderful adventure stories which appealed to boys, then. Stories of exploration and of empire, which remember we were only just leaving behind us. The humiliation of the Suez Crisis in 1956 taught us that our days as a world power had come to an end, and that America was taking over.

In our wonderful library, we had, amongst many other things, leather-bound copies of Strand Magazine, a Victorian publication which serialised stories that we know well today. Conan Doyle published his adventures of Sherlock Holmes in this magazine in serialised form, and I remember especially reading Hound of the Baskervilles. I can say truthfully that I read it in the original.

We had comics. I bought the Eagle from W.H.Smith on Havant Station. One of the first comics to run stories of space travel, it was a runaway success. Dan Dare was the great hero with his sidekick Digby from Wigan. Together they thwarted the plans of the Mekon and his reptilian band of Treens

Recently I researched and gave a talk on H.G.Wells and his time in Woking, his most prolific time, from 1895-6, where he wrote works that made him famous like War of the Worlds. He also wrote something called The Man from the Year Million, where humans had developed massive brains with massive heads to match, and atrophied bodies and limbs which had shrunk because they were no longer being used. Interestingly, the illustrators of the Dan Dare stories borrowed from Wells when they created the Mekon character, and somewhere I have a picture.

Mekon_Big

and there is the rascal himself

Dan Dare stories were also broadcast on Radio Luxembourg , which I was not allowed to listen to, in our authoritarian household.

There was very little in the way of titillation. Censorship was strong and minors had to be protected. Nevertheless we sometimes bought a paper called Reveille, which might contain a picture of Diana Dors in a one piece bathing costume! She was Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, a blond bombshell and a very popular model. She died quite young in 1982, married to a gangster as I remember, and living an orgiastic lifestyle. On a more serious note, she was also RADA trained and a very competent straight actress. I can remember seeing her in character parts in TV dramatisations of different works by DIckens, in which she was excellent.

I became very interested in photography in my mid teens, an interest way out of my meagre budget. I did buy each week, the Amateur Photographer magazine, which cost me 1/6d in old money, out of my pocket money of 3/6d, which left me strapped for the rest of the week. My father liked to read it too, but never thought to cough up a bit more money to cover the outlay. Maybe this propagated in me a latent interest in art, who knows

Bits and pieces come back as I write. I started learning German when I was 14. You were only allowed to do this, if you were already proficient in French. We were encouraged to have pen friends in Germany, and I started to write to Brigitte who lived in Wilhelmshaven, a naval port on the Baltic coast, a place better known for U-boat pens than anything else, but enough of that. We were the same age. She wrote in English and I wrote in German. Her stuff was very girly, as one might expect, and I wasn’t mature enough to say anything interesting either, so the arrangement foundered fairly quickly. She was very good-looking though.  Who knows what became of her.

I think I will stop

Using a Long Frame

Bosham Harbour at Sunset

You will remember this as the picturesque harbour and church of the village of Bosham on the West Sussex coast. A beautiful place, its history goes back beyond the Saxons, who built the parish church in the picture. It was a favourite of the Danish king , Cnut who reigned before the Norman conquest. The apocryphal story of Cnut attempting to turn back the waves to demonstrate his power is alleged to have happened here. What is true, however, is that his daughter, a child who drowned, is buried in the church, close to the massive chancel arch

Bosham church features on the Bayeux tapestry, which is really an embroidery and which was made in England, not Bayeux, but never mind, it is nevertheless an amazing work of art which has survived. The church doesn’t look like the one in the photograph, but is represented by the enormous Saxon chancel arch, so perhaps it was only the chancel which was there then. Why was it shown on the tapestry? Harold Godwinsson who was in the running to become king of England, as was William of Normandy, sailed from here on his ill-fated voyage to Normandy to meet William. Later he was shipwrecked on the French coast, handed over to William, who kept him as a house-guest cum prisoner for some months, and as the story goes, tricked him into swearing an oath to support his, William’s, bid for the English throne.

Shortly after writing this in draft form, a matter of hours in fact, came the announcement that France is very kindly loaning the embroidery to England, to be put on display. How strange is that. The first time in 950 years that the embroidery would be coming back to England, and I have just written about it.  It is thought that the embroidery was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, who was made Duke of Kent, but who was also Bishop of Bayeux. The work was most likely carried out by Anglo-Saxon needlewomen. Their needlework was famous throughout Europe, called, I think, Opus Anglicanorum. Also we are told that there are hints of Anglo-Saxon amongst the Latin titles, although I have not checked that

Later it came to force of arms, at Senlac Hill further along the Sussex coast, called the Battle of Hastings, although not at Hastings, in 1066, and the result is well-known. But this piece is about Bosham, and how to paint it, which I have done many, many times in so many moods. Always popular at exhibitions, and has also been commissioned, the problem is that everyone wants that same view, naturally enough, because it is so very tranquil and delightful to look at.

How can I do something different? I thought of this frame, which will allow an image of about 50×15 centimetres, so will appear as a panorama of the shoreline, with no foreground at all, so completely different to the previous paintings of this view. I did something like it before, of the fishing boats at Beer, and that sold, so I will try it again for this exhibition and see what happens.

long frame

This is the actual frame to give you more of an idea

Turner in Surrey Exhibition at Lightbox in Woking

Turner's Newark Priory

I can highly recommend this exhibition at the Woking Lightbox. Their exhibitions just get better. I had no idea that Turner did so much work in Surrey, especially around Guildford in or around 1805

He painted Newark Priory Church plein air long before the Impressionists, and you may be able to tell from my bad photograph that his style then was getting towards an impressionist one. His later paintings like Rain, Steam and Speed were all about colour and not form, very much like the Impressionists. The ruined priory church is all that remains of a once complete Augustinian foundation, coming under Chertsey as I remember. It stands on private land so it cannot be visited only viewed from the towpath on the Wey Navigation, or from the road, and I rather think Turner made his study from the road. There was probably less traffic on the road than on the canal towpath in those days

He also stayed at the White Lion Inn in Guildford High Street, one of the many old coaching inns in the town. Demolished despite local protest to make way for Woolworths store, the white lion model inn sign was kept, and brought forward again, when Woolworths itself was demolished to make way for the White Lion Walk shopping centre in the 1980s

From his room in the hotel, Turner sketched Quarry Street opposite. The scene is much the same as today, with the historic Star Inn on the right-hand corner and St.Mary’s, the Saxon church behind that. You can see the castle too. The building on the left, which is now Thomas Cook, has changed. I tried to photograph the sketch, but not too successfully

Turner's Sketch Book

I have painted this view myself, so slightly eerie

He also painted and etched a very fine view of St.Catherine’s Chapel which stands just outside of the town on the Portsmouth Road. Ruined 13c, it stands roughly on the old pilgrim’s way, near where pilgrims would have been ferried across the river. No connection with pilgrims though, as it was built as a chapel of ease for the parishioners of Artington, to save them the long journey to St.Nicholas’ Church

There is more and I shall go back

 

 

 

Bikes and Canals: Base Coat

Bikes and Canals Base Coat

This is the first coat on the bikes drawing, which looks like grey in the photograph, but which isn’t really. The definition between all the colours just isn’t great enough to show on this photograph

One of the watercolour painters I admire is David Curtis, and I looked at one of his exercises and thought I might try the same method here. I didn’t see the point of sticking to local colours on this occasion. The photograph was flat, and if not careful, the painting could be the same

What he did in a crowded harbour scene was to wet the paper thoroughly, so that the colours moved and merged, but most importantly not mix into one muddy finish. Mine haven’t by the way, even though the photograph looks grey.

Following as closely as I could to his example, I selected four strong colours, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Violet and Cadmium Yellow. I then laid in, without much brushing, the four colours where I thought they would be most appropriate. I wanted the yellow in that misty background section and falling vertically. The pinks and violets falling on the buildings and the blue somewhere in between. Some control and some letting the colours find their own path.

I mix my colours on a large white dinner plate. I plant the pigment on the rim and as I add some water, the dilute pigment runs down into the centre of the plate. Sometimes that can be a nuisance but on this occasion, it was helpful as I also let some of the crimson mix with some of the violet which produced another shade for the buildings and also for the reflections

I have by now started to sharpen up some of the buildings and the houseboats. The whole thing is still looking a complete mess but hopefully will turn out well in the end. This one is a complete unknown. I can’t remember tackling such an awkward composition. You can’t get at the canal through the tangle of bikes, which with watercolour is very tricky. I thought about masking out but there is such a lot, so when the background is finished I shall lift paint off the bike frames and pray whilst I am doing it.

Could be a disaster but pleasing if it works

Horsemanship in Hungary

Horsemanship Drawing

I may have said already that, the painting called Wild Horses in the Camargue, I sold recently from my exhibition at the Royal Surrey Hospital. As can sometimes happen, there were two people who wanted that picture, and so, of course, someone had to be disappointed.

I didn’t want to paint Wild Horses again. I always resist doing that as not only is it boring but also I do prefer every painting to be unique. As it happened, on my list of subjects is the one that I have just drawn up. You may remember, a few posts ago, that I wrote about the Danube. One place where we stopped was near the town of Mohacs ( spelling hopefully correct), where we were treated to a wonderful display of horsemanship by the cowboys out on the plains.

I did include the photograph on that particular post, which will show the detail more clearly, but in case not, I can tell you that the rider is standing astride the rumps of two horses at the rear of the team. He is controlling a team of eight horses, and mostly by the sound of the voice, we are told

Anyway, I have said to the gentleman who missed out on the Wild Horses painting, that I would give him first refusal on this painting which I shall just call Horsemanship. If he doesn’t like it, well no harm done, it was going to be painted anyway, and can go towards a subsequent exhibition. If he does take it, then it will be a good deal for us both.

On the subject of exhibitions, the summer exhibition organised by our art club, the Pirbright Art Club, which is held outdoors, had to be cancelled due to very wet weather. We are just setting up a Facebook shop to compensate our members who got exhibits ready and couldn’t show. I believe it is on the Pirbright Art Club  Facebook page now although the three paintings which I have submitted haven’t been loaded yet, and there should be many more submissions to come

I will publicise when it is complete

The Little Frog Painting Finished

Finished Frog

This is the finished painting of the little frog from the Danube Delta. I am generally pleased with the way he has turned out, and certainly something different from me

There was very little for me to add since the last post, just putting in the very deep shadow with Transparent Brown. Also one or two highlights on the water I have added with white gouache

I don’t know if I mentioned before, but two people wanted the painting of Wild Horses in the Camargue. Of course, sadly someone had to be disappointed. However, I am about to start another horse painting which I hope will be equally dramatic, and the gentleman concerned has been offered first refusal

The inspiration for this next painting comes from a photograph which I posted a few weeks back, showing extreme skill in handling a team of seven horses by one rider, standing on the backs of the rear two.  This was actually a photograph which I took myself, when we went to visit cattle country in Hungary, and unusually,  good enough to paint from.

However, many a slip betwixt cup and lip, so we shall have to see how the painting turns out, before we get too pleased with ourselves.