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.

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

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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.

Framed Painting: Fishing Boats at Beer

Fishing Boats at Beer Framed

I framed the fishing boats painting the other day as I said I would. I bought this frame at a craft fair recently, because it was an interesting size and shape. Originally it was intended for photographs, so I have changed the mountboard, for this cinemascope style of painting.

The finish is driftwood which makes it appropriate for any seascape style of painting

This makes number twelve for my show at the Royal Surrey Hospital next week. We set up in fact a week today, so let’s see if we can break my duck. So far this year, this is my worst year for sales ever. Were I just starting I would probably give up!

But no need. I have had record years before and hopefully will again. In the meantime, now I can do one or two little exercises just for fun!

The Basilica of la Sagrada Familia

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The Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. An amazing structure, quite, or perhaps almost, unique

We have been staying in Sitges for the last five days, enjoying the sun and the warmth, although as our perverse climate would have it, the temperature in southern England shot up to 25c, whilst in Spain only 20c but nevertheless very agreeable.

We took the train into Barcelona, which proved very straightforward, not to mention cheap in comparison to the steep fares charged around the London area. The journey took about forty minutes. I had already bought timed tickets for the Sagrada Familia on line before I left home. What a boon that proved to be as the crowds queuing for tickets when we arrived were formidable

We were, of course, very early, so time for a coffee, and a stroll round the outside of the building, taking in the details. We were last here twenty years ago, and the place, even inside, was a construction site. High up in the heavens magnificent cranes are working with the sensitivity and lightness of touch that you might expect from an artist.

After lunch and another stroll, our tickets allowed us to enter and we went inside. I don’t often use the word “breath taking” but we were looking at a masterpiece.

We associate this building, sometimes called the third cathedral, with Antoni Gaudi, the incredible architect in the Art Nouveau style, who adapted Gothic architecture to produce this wonderful building. He took over the project in 1883, and stayed with it until his untimely death in 1926. During all this time he is also completing other large projects for the Guell family and also for the Church.

So much has been achieved since our last visit. The nave with its paraboloid arches which seem to reach up into the heavens, will be my enduring memory. Colour is everywhere, as the light streams through stained glass. Detail is everywhere, small animals, leaves, vegetation as well as so many human figures representing the Nativity and other stories. Gaudi was devoted to nature. He was also extremely devout, and his interpretations of the liturgy, I found moving. So much detail, too much to record here.

In the cloister which surrounds the building, is situated the museum, now open, which records the timeline of the whole construction period. Gaudi’s models are on show and his drawings, which enabled successive craftsmen to carry on his work. Still much to do, with a projected finish date of 2026. I wonder if I will get back to see that. Could do, I certainly hope so

Wild Horses in the Camargue: Continued

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I have started back on the Camargue Horses painting. Bit of a mess at the moment. This is the point where it is easy to lose heart and abandon the whole the thing. However I have always told myself to finish the painting. come what may, and so that is what I shall do.

So far I have masked the edges of manes and tails, as I would like them to appear white and flowing against the dark background. I have gradually built up the dark background using violet and transparent brown, sometimes mixed and sometimes alternately

Soon I shall have to take the masking off, and tidy up those rough edges where I have overlapped with paint, despite all my best efforts. The forms of the white horses will need to be built up carefully, light against the dark and dark against the light

I am hoping too that the light strip around the horses’ legs will look like dust thrown up by the hooves. Hoping is the word. That needs to look convincing.

I received another commission this morning, which is good. It means that I need to clear my easel soon, as there is a deadline. Still, what one might call a happy problem!

Medieval Undercroft in Guildford High Street

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Not so much art this time, but architecture. I do say in my profile too, that I am a history freak.

Together with other volunteers, my wife and I take turns to open this gem to the public on certain hours throughout the season. It is one of those local treasures that even local people are largely unaware of. I use the words gem and treasures without wishing to sound melodramatic as English Heritage tell us that this undercroft is one of the best preserved in the country

It is in fact a c13 shop, probably selling wine. That is an assumption but a safe one. We have records of wine merchants in the High Street during the c13 but we cannot make a direct link to this building . But that is what informed opinion believes.

The wine would have come from Gascony in SW France, which was English then, hence the trade connection. Wine would have come through Southampton and then by bullock cart overland to towns like Guildford

Guildford was wealthy in the c13. Wealth was derived from the wool trade and especially the trade in woollen cloth, the Guildford Blue for which the town was well known. The population of Guildford was probably less than 1000 in those days, and most would have been employed either directly or indirectly from the wool trade. Guildford controlled every aspect of manufacture. Sheep were raised on the Downs by the monks at Waverley. Weaving, fulling, dyeing, spinning, carding all were done locally

The processes are remembered in local place names. Racks Close was where the cloth was hung out to dry on “tenterhooks” after dyeing. Unscrupulous traders would stretch the damp cloth and make another metre or two. There are records in the Guildhall of such merchants being brought to book and fined. Finally a lead seal of approval was to be affixed to every roll of cloth that left the town to ensure that standards had been met.

Most went to export, especially to Antwerp which was the staple market, and from there across the then world, Europe and the Near East. The word staple is interesting. From the French word “etaple” meaning “main”. The main market or one of them. That is clear. So that buyers could see what they were buying, a small sample of wool was fixed to the label with a metal pin. The metal pin came to be known as a staple.

To come back to the undercroft, the reason that we are so proud of ours is that it was never restored in any way. What we look at is pure c13. The building is of chalk blocks or clunch which is the hard chalk dug deep from the earth. Guildford is on chalk. It was the only building material at the time. The stones are cut with a precision only possible from a master mason. Expensive to employ so the owner was indubitably a wealthy man. Another pointer to the merchant being a dealer in expensive goods.

To this day the c13 vaults take the weight of buildings above

On Saturday from 12 until 2 we had nearly 40 visitors, mostly shoppers who were passing and had never seen us before. Always their jaw drops as they come in, and they are fascinated with the story. Considering we were competing with the tennis, we didn’t think that was bad