Horses in the Mist

Horses with acknowledgements to Image by Artower from Pixabay

I am grateful for the loan of this image provided by the royalty free website Pixabay. I thought that painting my own version in watercolour would provide me with quite a challenge. The horse that worried me most was the chestnut mare in the centre. How to get the colour that vibrant was a question I couldn’t answer. Obviously a glazing exercise, but where to start. I consulted the mighty Google and looked at various options. One was interesting, starting with an under painting of dilute sap green, but I drew back from that and went for something safer

I decided to do two trials, and start with drawings in coloured pencil. I have never done that before and it seemed so obvious, after it was pointed out. One I drew in terracotta and the other in golden brown. I washed in the coloured lines so that it started looking like a painting. I then gave both a coat of Cadmium Orange and I photographed them both for the record.

Drawing with terracotta pencil and orange wash
Drawn with the golden brown pencil and washed in with orange

There isn’t much between them, although I quietly favour the golden brown

These can harden overnight, and I will start tomorrow on successive coats. Burnt Sienna with a dash of red. Shadows in burnt umber with a dash of indigo. That should give quite a sharp finish, I hope but we shall see. The whole thing is like nothing I have attempted before

If I haven’t mentioned before, my own website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk was completely redesigned recently. It is now set out better, in subject headings, so that things are easier to find, and is working well

Wisley Gardens–latest painting

The last painting from Wisley Gardens

This was the last painting of Wisley, which I did about two years or more ago. I was pleased with this one, especially the long shadows. It sold at a local exhibition fairly soon after I painted it.

Wisley is the main national garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. I forget the acreage but is big. This particular shot is of the canal and the laboratory, a fine modern but Tudor styled building, which works well with the plants.

Unlike previous lockdowns, gardens including Wisley are open, but with strict control of numbers. We went in December, one of those fine winter days that makes walking around pleasant. I thought I would try another painting, something like this one but with changes

This is the main composition. I am further away from the main building with some figures in the foreground. I am being more selective in the way I paint this one, just for a change. Usually I wash straight across and wait for that to dry, and then paint onto a coloured background. Just for the moment I have put the shadows in before painting, although they may need reinforcing later

the drawing

It will be interesting working out the sequence. Sky first or bushes first?

I’ll come back to it later

Windsor Castle – the finished painting

Windsor castle on the Thames

The finished item. Quite a lot of trees, relieved by the building to a certain extent, but nevertheless the greens took some sorting out. Mostly they are a mix of sap green with something else. Quite a lot with raw sienna, which is the one I use mostly for vegetation, and works I think for the lighter trees.

The boats have been useful, bringing in some red to relieve all that green, and also stop the eye going off the page. As I said in the last post, I have used sepia ink for the shadows on the castle. I was a little hesitant about that, but seems to have worked out ok.

I seem to be working my way through the list of paintings that I always wanted to do and couldn’t find the time. Lockdown plus very wet weather does keep us indoors a lot. Looking back at these favourite places does make us wonder if we’ll see them again. Vaccination programme seemed to be going well, but now they have found two tested positive for the South African variant, in our village, without them going to South Africa

Oh well. More incarceration

The Cartwheeling Dean–an old friend returns

The Cartwheeling Dean

I did this painting in 2011, the year of the Royal Wedding, when William married Kate in Westminster Abbey. You may remember after the ceremony, that the Dean of Westminster did a cartwheel down the aisle, after the royal party had left, of course. Just something he did out of pure joy I imagine

The village of Pirbright, not far from where I live, and where I paint from time to time, used to put on an annual scarecrow festival, and the skill and artistry that went into making these scarecrows had to be seen. Tableaux usually of different things, book titles, events etc. In the parish church, a complete tableau of the wedding was created. It was amazing. I didn’t take a picture. I wish I had

Included in the scene, was the cartwheeling dean. I did photograph him and painted him later. I took him to local exhibitions, thinking someone would want him but nobody did. Eventually I sold him online and he went to someone in the north-east, and how strange is that. The man who bought him, wrote to me, and told me that he looked at this painting every morning and it made him smile. It was worth painting him just for that.

However, years later someone in the village is writing a book entitled ” Pirbright in Art”, and artists have been asked to submit paintings of, and around the village. I have sent in a selection, including the cartwheeling dean. It would be nice if he was included. We shall have to see.

Planning Painting of Portsmouth Harbour

Portsmouth Harbour and Spinnaker Tower

A view I know well, having sailed out of Portsmouth at one time or another over the years, either to the Isle of Wight or to Cherbourg or to Jersey

I knew the Harbour before the Spinnaker Tower was erected and before the great shopping centre of Gunwharf Quays was built underneath. On the immediate right hand side is Old Portsmouth, as the name suggests the historic part which is associated with great names and with great events. Admiral Lord Nelson sailed from here on numerous occasions, including the last fateful expedition when he engaged the French fleet under Admiral Villeneuve off Cape Trafalgar in 1805. Most people know what happened and both admirals were killed.

The masts of Nelson’s flagship Victory is visible in this picture on the left hand side in the distance. Victory is in dry dock in Portsmouth dockyard, and has been for many years, certainly since I was a schoolboy.

Samuel Pepys the diarist was here often in his role as First Sea Lord. The Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, favourite of King James 1, was assassinated in 1628 in the local hotel. Catherine of Braganza from Portugal disembarked here to be betrothed to Charles II, and there are many more famous instances.

So far I have only just finished the drawing, which may be too faint to show up, but I will try later. The big problem will be showing the Spinnaker Tower to its best advantage. It has the sun on it, so needs to be bright white against the sky. I think it will have to be masked out, despite its size, which I am not looking forward to. All that before I start to paint

This is a busy time anyway, but I have had to finalise the book illustrations as these are being called for, so I have had to leave this painting for quite a while unfortunately. I have really enjoyed the illustrating work which has taken me to fresh fields, which is always satisfying. Sadly the one and only real exhibition that I would have done this year, due to have started on the 21st, was cancelled as our area moved into Tier 4. Great shame as this would have been at Denbies Winery, the large vineyard near Dorking, where I haven’t shown before. But I must not lose sight of the fact that this year has been amazing for me, as far as online sales are concerned. Eleven sales this year, of which three are international, perhaps unimpressive for many artists, is for me a record. Due to the Covid factor I know, with people locked down at home.

Sketch of Portsmouth Harbour

Not brilliant but perhaps will show where I am at.

Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, completed painting

Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire

I have completed this painting and very much enjoyed doing it. It seemed to come together without too many mishaps which is why I pushed on and completed it before publishing

We came here some years ago. It is a very tranquil spot. The painting only shows part of the ruined abbey church, which would be the chancel, I think, and the tower which was on the crossing. The rest of it, the long nave would be way to the right. Although ruined the abbey nonetheless is very impressive, and is indicative of its importance and wealth in its heyday

Strange to think that but for the greed of Henry VIII it might still be there today, functioning in some form or other. Henry VIII, always short of money, seized the monasteries in about 1536, and dissolved them. The properties were seized and sold off. This was a Cistercian monastery, and they had become wealthy through sheep rearing especially. Wool was the basis of national wealth at the time. Hence this monastery must have been a prize for the taking

Monks were dispersed. Not all were treated brutally although some were, especially if they protested about the Act of Supremacy which put the king at the head of the church. Some received pensions, some became parish priests and some became teachers in the new grammar schools

A lovely spot to stop and reflect on what might have been

As far as painting is concerned, the weir was tricky and you need to stand back for that to come together. The greens seemed to work . They are often my main worry, and can take some sorting out. Anyway as usual I will let others judge

Planning a Painting of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

I have been busy of late, preparing drawings for a book illustration amongst other things, so have neglected painting for my own pleasure. This will be my next subject, Fountains, a lovely spot and very paintable. I have wanted to paint it for years literally, and now finally got round to it. This is my own photograph, following our visit about seven years ago, so I am a bit slow off the mark with this one.

Fountains Abbey, near Ripon in Yorkshire was one of the most important Cistercian monasteries in England. The photograph shows the tower and part of the nave from the abbey church. Monks from Citeaux in france founded the first monastery which was near Farnham in Surrey, founded in the twelfth century. Gradually they spread up the country, Fountains and nearby Rievaulx becoming two of the most important. The monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, monks were dispelled, sometimes given alternative employment or sometimes pensioned off. The buildings and land were usually sold off to Henry’s cronies, sometimes referred to as the biggest privatisation in history. The king kept the money as you might expect.

I have just finished the pencil drawing. I like the building and I like the reflections in the water. I have drawn the dark trees out further and I may scale the colour down, as they are a bit overpowering. I need a few human figures to give some life and also some proportion

I like the colours generally, although may put some pink in the sky which will also appear in the water. That will also soften the stonework which is a tad grey at the moment. Could be an interesting painting if I get it right. As always we shall see

Langstone Mill Completed

Langstone Mill

I think I have managed to disguise the hard line between the blue and the pink near the bottom of the picture, mostly by putting in some extra boats, which was not the composition that I set out to do, but the best I could do in the circumstances

I have also put in some white foam along the water’s edge, and converted part of the hard line, to shore line and again I have convinced myself that this was successful

This was to have been the last of the collection going on show in December at Denbies gallery near Dorking. This still may happen if the lockdown finishes in early December, but the gloomy side of my nature fears that it will continue, in which case the exhibition will be cancelled. Rather sad as I was looking forward to doing a real exhibition this year finally, although online sales have helped balance things out, I must admit

As always there are other interesting things going on. The book illustrations are going on apace, although the author thinks of something new, every time I think I’ve finished. I had a call from the University of Creative Arts in Farnham, from students who are producing a documentary on art. They interviewed me on the telephone for about an hour, so quite intensive almost philosophical. They want to film me working, but that will have to be shelved now for a while. To be looked forward to, one day

Langstone Painting Emerging

The painting emerging

This is the moment when the painting starts to emerge from the mist, quite literally for a painting by the sea.

My big problem was the hard line between blue and pink at the bottom of the painting. It was impossible to eradicate. I tried a small section and it was worse if anything

One of the marks fortuitously formed the shape of a stern of a small boat. That was something of a gift and I painted in the bottom right hand boat with canvas cover. Ok, what next? I think I have already said that I painted in the two dinghies in tow from the sailing boat, and the last one does help to cover that hard line.

That still leaves the left hand side of the picture. I scoured my files for images, and found one that would work. The boat is not afloat, rather propped up in the shallows, so the bottom length of painting will now be shallow water, about ankle deep. That will be amusing, trying to give that illusion. The propped up boat will help and I have made a start. A ladder is alongside and so are props. You will be able to see the keel standing out of the water. After that, I haven’t worked out

I have started to deepen the colours of the mill buildings. They look quite brightly lit now by a low sun. The photograph doesn’t do it justice, but then does it ever.

Still plenty to do

Partway through the Langstone Painting

This painting has given me some problems, even though it should have been straightforward. Never be complacent, and think you will dash something off. I needed a Langstone picture for a forthcoming exhibition, and thought I would fall back on an old favourite, namely Langstone Mill. This lovely spot is on the edge of Chichester Harbour and just before you cross the road bridge to Hayling Island. You may know it. If not, enough to know that it was once a bustling medieval port which died in the twentieth century, and now is a quiet creek. The old mill, wind and tide, is a very paintable subject.

I thought I would give it a sunset look. Again straightforward. For some reason, beyond my comprehension, the lower half did not work. The transition line from red to blue which should have blended seamlessly, just did not do so. In fact I had one of the roughest edges that I can remember. Not just hard but erratic looking like nothing I could understand

I have tried washing in carefully with clean water, but that was not a success and left an even more unseemly mess. Watercolour, as all will know, is difficult. Mistakes are hard to correct. I should know that. I have painted in nothing else for about twenty five years

The last resort is always to paint something over the blemish, if you can. I painted an extra boat in the bottom right to cover the very worst mark, and was lucky enough to use the lines of the blemish as part of the composition. So far so good, but there is a long way to go. In the centre I added a dinghy to the same purpose, and then another to make a small convoy to the sailing boat. I have seen two dinghies in tow to a larger boat before , so not too fanciful

And now what am I going to do. Well, when I know I will let you know. There will either be a finished painting or nothing at all. We shall see after I have done a lot of thinking and a lot of playing around