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

Starting a Painting of Langstone Mill

Langstone Mill

Still proceeding as though real exhibitions are going to take place, I am looking for one more painting for the Denbies Exhibition in December. Langstone Mill is or was a favourite, although I haven’t painted it for a while now, so thought I would try it albeit in different colours and moods

So far I have got as far as a basic drawing on tracing paper which I will transfer to watercolour paper, and then see where I go with it

I think I might try a deep sunset which has worked with paintings of Bosham. Langstone is quite well known. It used to be a port from Medieval times until the early part of the 20th century, and was very important in its day. It was known as a haunt for smuggling as so many of those little creeks on the Hampshire coast were. I always thought that they would bring ashore brandy and tobacco, and possibly they did, but the big earner was tea. Tea was wrapped in a waterproof cover and stowed in barrels, which were roped together to make a raft. Small boats from Langstone went out and met foreign luggers mid Channel, and towed these rafts back to port. Plenty of local people happy to make storage available in return for a cut. There is even one instance of the local rector storing contraband in the church cellars

So quite a romantic place, which is quiet now. The old mill is still very paintable. The tower is all that’s left of the old windmill. The sails were removed in the late 19th century, and the place left to rot. The building far left was the old tide mill, and I remember as a boy watching the water from the mill pond thunder through. Rescued in the 1930s by local artist Flora Twort, the old mill was fully restored for residential use, and has been inhabited ever since. The architect was a Freud, son of Sigmund Freud. I have sadly never been invited inside but from what I can judge, the restoration has been very successful.

The mill has been associated with artists and writers ever since. Let’s hope they approve

Boats on the Beach at Beer in Devon

Boats on the Beach at Beer

I went to Beer some years ago when staying with friends. The fishermen there pull their boats up onto the beach, and arrange them in a row. I’m not sure whether deliberate or coincidental, but the result is very colourful, and for years photographers and painters alike come here to record them

I have painted them before but from a different angle, and I don’t have a photographic reference for this painting, so I have had to imagine the perspective. I have always found it difficult to get the colour right for a brightly coloured painted finish cast in shadow. I generally put shadow in first, so a coat of blue or violet left to dry, and then the local colour glazed over, usually works. It doesn’t work with these strong colours, so I have had to experiment with different blues and reds to get the result. It took a long time and even now I am looking back and wondering

The result is sunny and bright, however, in these worrying times. I have simplified a lot of the detail, so would class this painting as more impressionistic than realistic. I find it cheerful to look at, so hope others do too

Horses in the Wetlands: the finished painting

Horses in the Wetlands

This is the finished painting

I changed some of the colouring on some of the horses as I wasn’t pleased with the way that they were turning out.I used some very dilute rose in a glaze over some as well as a very dilute gold over the lead horse, just to see what that did for the effect

I found I quite liked it. That is why I have changed the name to Horses in the Wetlands as they don’t look like Camargue horses any more, although arguably the rose colour could come from a low sun. Anyway, I am quite pleased with the overall effect

I am not going to feature this one on the internet just yet as I am starting to build up a collection for my show in December, and this one I think will work well. Strange to think my first bricks and mortar exhibition of 2020 will be in December, unless cancelled of course. Life is getting restricted again

For the moment we can only plan and hope