Walking Round the Alhambra, the Tonal Sketch

Alhambra Sketch Lion Courtyard

From the photograph, I have made a fairly quick sketch in black and white, just to give myself a tonal guide for when I attempt the actual painting

This is not intended to be an architectural drawing of any merit. The actual painting will, I trust, be better, but even then the detailing of the architecture is such that with the best will in the world, some simplification will have to be permissible. I am more interested at this stage in working out the light and dark areas. Hopefully the finished work will reflect the dazzling floor of the courtyard, and also suggest the intense heat from outside. It was about 35c whilst we were wandering around, but we were fine in the shaded areas. It must have been much the same for the original owners who built the citadel, and of course it would get much hotter in July/August

As I’m writing this in south-east England, the temperature is around 32c with no prospect of rain in the foreseeable future. It seems strange to be nostalgic for our unreliable climate of yesteryear, when the possibility of rain was always a worry when planning an event.

I didn’t use ink this time. I used Paynes Grey watercolour which I quite like. It is underrated, I think, and gives a pleasant blue/black shade to a sketch which I find preferable.

I have exaggerated the bleached out look of the arches on the other side of the courtyard. Whether I will get away with doing that in colour, remains to be seen. The small round fountain in the foreground does nothing for me and will be left out of the finished work

My poor sales record for the year received a boost at the week-end. I delivered successfully the Docklands Commission, and that will be going out to Sweden next month. The same day, I sold Bosham Panorama from my website and that is being collected next week. So very pleased about that.

It meant that I had to rush round and frame my latest painting of Bosham Creek, so that I had something to show on Saturday at the Railings Exhibition in Pirbright. That though is a happy problem

 

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Flamingos in the Camargue: first sketch drawing

flamingos-in-the-camargue

I took a number of photographs of the flamingos when I was in the Camargue. None of them were usable, so I took this group from someone else’s picture as the birds had formed a natural composition which, I thought, would make an interesting painting.

This is just the sketch done in my favourite Payne’s Grey. What is it about black and white, that I often prefer the sketch to the finished painting

They breed here apparently, the only place in Europe where they do that. I have seen them in Sicily as well, but perhaps they don’t have a breeding ground there

These birds are white, with bright pink flashes under the wings. Legs are a very bright deep pink. Always interesting trying to paint a white bird on white paper. I don’t really want any background against those long white necks, as I want them to stand out sharply. I will have to give that some thought

There will need to be colour around the undercarriages as reflections will be important and part of the composition, probably a blue of some sort. Phthalo with some Cobalt mixed in is a good Mediterranean colour, and could work with the deep pink legs. The pink will probably be Permanent Rose with a little Cadmium Orange.

Whether I shall have this finished for the Pirbright Art Club December exhibition remains to be seen. Let’s see how it turns out first!

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue Horses

White Horses of the Camargue

When we were in the south of France a few weeks ago, we finished our voyage down the River Rhone at Arles. I have already mentioned my walking tour of the city in the footsteps of van Gogh, as well as the magnificent Roman amphitheatre

Just south of the city, and in the salt marshes of the Rhone estuary, is the Camargue region, famous for its semi-wild horses, its black bulls bred for fighting and also flamingos, which breed there, the only breeding ground of that species in Europe.

I say the horses are semi-wild. They roam the region more or less at will until round up time, but also they are used for riding, and the tamer ones used by riding schools and trekking stations. They are, I believe one of the oldest breeds in Europe, and because of the remoteness of the area, the bloodstock remains undiluted

I wanted to paint them. I do paint horses occasionally, usually heavy draft horses as I find them intriguing, but the Camargue horses are something of a challenge, because of their colour as much as anything. You can always find one white horse or two perhaps in a herd, but a complete herd all the same colour is unusual, and would make a striking painting.

I took some pictures of my own, which were shot from the hip very often as an opportunity presented itself, and were ok but not the best. I bought a photograph from a local, which was much more impressive, and am using this to compose something which I hope will make an interesting painting

I have sketched something out as above, using Paynes Grey watercolour which I now prefer to ink, which I think will work. Quite a lot of shadow of course on white and how to make it stand out against white paper will be interesting too. I shall transfer this sketch onto watercolour paper and see how we get on

Sketch Painting

Lavant Tonal Sketch

This is a house portrait that I am working on at the moment, which just serves to illustrate the value of the preliminary sketch. The drawing is very loose, which I often think adds to the effect. Unnecessary detail has been removed. The power is in the tone. The dimensions are to scale. All I that I need is there for producing the final painting. Any changes that I want to make or mistakes that I want to correct, I can do now so that hopefully I won’t be rubbing out on sensitive watercolour paper.

What is it about black and white that captures atmosphere so well, perhaps better than colour? ┬áSomething in the drama of light and dark perhaps. In this sketch, I haven’t used black, which tends to flatten a painting as it drains all the light. Ink is even worse in my opinion, and although I like black ink for line drawing, I use watercolour for large blocks of dark. Instead of black, I have used Payne’s Grey, which is grossly undervalued in my opinion. It produces a beautiful blue/grey and the end result is a painting in its own right.

Purists tell us that we should mix our own greys, depending on the grey we want for a particular purpose. I agree and I do that too, but Payne’s Grey has its place. It makes superb skies giving pale greys through to black clouds, and I believe was the reason for William Payne inventing it. It also works superbly well as an alternative to ink for sketching.

William Payne, 1760-1830, Devonshire born, lived in Plymouth, until moving to London in 1790. He was a watercolourist and etcher, and above all, an innovator. His style, we are told, could be easily learnt and he became the most fashionable drawing master in London. His innovations include” splitting the brush to give forms of foliage, dragging the tints to give texture to his foreground, and taking out forms of light by wetting the surface and rubbing with rag and bread”

And of course Payne’s Grey.

Later in life he was surpassed by other artists, and sadly forgotten before his death in 1830