Still Life as far as it will go

Still Life as far as it will go and now to be abandoned

As the title says, this is really as far as I can go with this painting, which was only supposed to be a learning exercise, and I have learned from it. There was no question of producing a finished piece of work, unless by happy accident.

I have sharpened up some of the detail and also removed the mask since the last post. The highlights were a bit blobby and needed tidying up, and I am far from happy with them even now. The mask needs to be applied with a pen for this sort of subject, which I didn’t have with me at the time. The metal cap on the lamp on the right is meant to be copper. I could not remember how to portray copper in watercolour, but found a website that told me, burnt sienna and a little raw umber. An example of a painting was shown which was beautiful. Hmm, I need to practice this, as the result is far too ginger for my liking

I prefer of the three, the glass cylinder on the left. Not sure whether it is a candle holder or a piece of laboratory equipment. A group of glass items from a laboratory would make a very interesting composition for a still life painting.

The real lesson that I have learned is not to attempt this sort of painting without the proper references, either the items themselves or an accurate photograph. Going from an old painting, and trying to remember where the highlights were, really dooms you from the beginning

I will return to my comfort zone next with a subject I am more used to, but useful to do something like this from time to time,(not to mention humbling)

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A Lesson in Still Life Painting

Still Life Exercise

This is not the finished painting!

Not by a long way. On this occasion I am the student, and am preparing to follow a demo on Thursday at our local art club. We have been told to prepare in sketch form, a group of objects, and if we wanted to, put in some basic colour. The demonstration is to show how to provide an effective background wet-in-wet, which will one hopes transform this rather ordinary little group of objects into a painting

One of the many advantages of belonging to an art club, is that it gives you the opportunity to experiment with something totally different. Normally I paint town or seascape, so with this I shall be out of my comfort zone as it is called

More after Thursday

More work has been done

Still a lot more to do

We had the demonstration yesterday which really centred around negative painting. The spaces around the glass bottles were made wet, but only a manageable space at a time. Pigment was dropped in and allowed to spread, which gave quite a pleasing effect. Of course, as my subjects were glass, I had to allow the shadows to be visible through the bottles. My problem was that I didn’t have actual bottles to refer to, only a sketch from twenty years ago. I went darker than anyone else, looking for something dramatic, presumably.

The edges are finely masked with Frith masking fluid.

This exercise is by no means finished. Some more shadows need to go in around the base of the jars. The top of the lamp on the right is copper so some red needs to go on which will alleviate the green, and of course the masking needs to come off

I think I will try and finish it, although I don’t have to. it is one of those exercises where learning the method is the aim, not to produce a finished piece of work

Some more interesting topics to come from the art club, including painting with acrylic inks which I haven’t done for many years, so something to look forward to.

A Vignette in Watercolour entitled Salt Mills near Marsala, Sicily

Just occasionally, and by way of a change, I quite like to paint a vignette of something, something small which lends itself to that style of finished painting. It is more immediate, rather like making a sketch, and it can look like that, but if successful, can work as a framed painting too.

They are quick which is what I like about them. I draw direct onto the watercolour paper which saves me so much work in the planning stage. Invariably the subject matter doesn’t need too much drawing, like these windmills, although having said that the sails were tricky

The painting itself didn’t involve wetting the paper, as there was very little sky or any other underpainting involved. Mostly the work was small brush detail, and put sky and water in afterwards. I am not going to pretend this result is brilliant but the image is charming and usable either as a reference for a larger work, or framed in itself as a finished piece.

They can too, be framed without mounting because of the white surround. Not sure whether I would do that but I have seen that done

I am still drawing paintings together for updating my website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk which should be done soon. There are some vignettes on that, some sold and some still available.

Also pulling paintings together for my next solo show in April which is being held at the Guildford Institute.

Istanbul: Ferry Crossing the Bosphorus, Finished Painting

ferries Crossing the Bosphorus

This time I used the camera on my phone. I think I prefer the result. The colours seem more faithfully represented, or so I think

I have stopped working on this painting as I just don’t feel I can add any more. The ferry boat in the centre I have painted as sharply as I can, but as always when the paint has dried then some of the intensity goes with it. Sometimes that can be a good thing but on this occasion I would have liked the boat to be coming towards the viewer just a little more. I even finished off the waterline with dark pastel which has helped

Possibly I put too much definition into the background, but then I needed deep shadow to accentuate bright daylight. As always a slight dilemma. Maybe next time I will paint the foreground first and work backwards.

However I have another painting towards the next exhibition in April, and will soon have to think about my annual update of my own website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk. Looking back over the year, a number of sales, certainly a quantity of amendments together with a collection of new work which always attracts attention.

Last year was very good for commissions, six in total, which for some artists I know would be unimpressive, but for me exceptional. We’ll see what 2019 brings!

Istanbul Painting: Initial Stages

Crossing the Bosphorus by ferry

This is very much work in progress. I have got as far as putting in the shadows with a mix of Cobalt and Phthalo Blue, the mix I like using in any scene that is southern European or nearby

I have done the sky in the same, and the sea also but over an orange wash which gives it a greenish hue, and as always I hope this works. I have put some more orange here and there into some of the buildings as highlights as the shoreline was getting monotonous. There will be some more shadows yet going in to the buildings and also the boats that are still tied up

The boat mid channel I hope to do in much more detail, as much as my shaky hand will allow, and I want to introduce some red into this boat to bring it forward from the shore. That is the theory anyway.

Annoyingly the camera has picked up the texture of the paper so that it looks as though I am painting on onion skin. I seem to get a better result with the camera on my phone these days so might use that for the finished image.

Since this photograph was taken I have done some more work on the painting. Nothing startling, just deepening the shadows, and deepening the sea colour in the foreground. The shoreline is starting to take on a cubist look, unintentionally but interesting nonetheless.

I need another painting of Istanbul

This one I quite like,as a reference, not my own but similar to the ones that I took of boats crossing the Bosphorus. I won’t be copying it as such but using the content for inspiration.

I think I will attempt to change the lighting. I have several Bosphorus shots of my own to refer back to, so will experiment a little and see what I end up with. The construction will remain much the same, as the composition would be difficult to improve on

It has all the ingredients, the mosque, the ferries and the water. No mistaking where it is. This is rather a dark shot, evening time and dramatic, quite a clever photograph, and all credits go to the photographer, if only I knew who it was

For the moment, I am just doing some free-hand sketches, and may just include those at the end of this blog. Those minarets are proving something of a problem to pin down. One minute they are leaning too far to the left, and when I correct that, too far to the right. The mosque building itself is a delightful exercise in geometry though, which may be forgiving because of the distance. I had the same problem when I painted the Blue Mosque which is in the archive somewhere

Both Istanbul paintings sold from my Artfinder site which was gratifying especially as I don’t have much success on that site, hence I need another Istanbul painting for my next exhibition which is in April, which will come round fast enough

The Fountain of Love commission was very well received, I am happy to report

Free hand preparatory sketches

Fountain of Love: the finished painting

The Fountain of Love 

Well, this painting is finally finished. Towards the end, although commissioned, it was starting to become a labour of love, no pun intended.

I found myself wondering whether I would finish or fall at the last hurdle. I feel pleased with it, which is dangerous to say, as the image for approval has only just gone to the client, and if it doesn’t match what he had in mind, then I shall be in difficulties. Worst case scenario, it will be rejected, but even then I would find this one useful for the web-site

In terms of technique, there isn’t much to add to the last post. The jets of water were achieved by flicking white gouache onto a blanked off section of the painting. Always a bit hit and miss, but mostly they have worked, and in some cases provided a realistic white mist

Unless I have to make any last-minute adjustments, I should be free to think of something else, for which I have built up a long list. I am at least at the end of my commissioned work ( for which I am truly grateful), and can now think of my next exhibition which is March/ April as I remember. I have paintings ready but will need more, and so we go on.

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

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.