Line Drawing Preliminary Study for Boats on Beach at Beer, Devon

Boats at Beer Drawing

Rather a faint study from the collage of photographs that I posted a few weeks ago, but sufficient, I think to form the basis for a painting. I have done this study before only differently, so this painting will be the usual journey of discovery that they all are, that fine line between success and failure

I mentioned before, I think, that this shot is from a visit some years ago now to the fishing village of Beer, on the south Devon coast. The fishing boats are dragged up on the beach, and make a colourful line-up, a mixture of bright reds and blues

This is the first time that I will have done this painting as a long horizontal shot. It should work, he says, hopefully. I will have to cut a different mount, though. The original one with the four slots just is not going to suit

So for now, it just remains to titivate these drawings and check that I have everything, including all those small props like chains, anchors etc. Then I can start mixing the underpainting

We will see how we get on

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre , Paris

 

This has always been a favourite area of Paris. I have wandered around many times taking pictures, and have used them for paintings afterwards. The artist’s quarter, the steps, the views over the roof tops and the Consulat have all featured in my paintings and have been popular at exhibitions, but for some reason, I have never painted the basilica itself

The basilica was planned or started about 1870, and was part of a Catholic revival in France. It was said to be partly a penance following defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war, and partly to expiate the sins of the Communards during the Commune which followed the exile of Napoleon 111.

Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians after the battle of Sedan. His son, the Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, present at the battle, was spirited away to Ostende and thence to England by boat. His mother the Empress Eugenie, dropped everything and fled to England to join her son. In fairness, all was up with the imperial rule. her husband Napoleon III  was released by the Prussians and allowed to travel to England. Already a sick man, he died in exile in 1873.

The Commune , following the fall of Paris, saw much anti-church rhetoric and atrocities. The building of the Sacre-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre, a scene of much insurrection, was intended to heal the divisions in France, and create a church come-back. Certainly this was  a significant building

Using various photographs, I have made this pencil sketch on which to base a painting. I just haven’t worked out colours yet, although something sunlit I suspect. No doubt my favourite warm shadows using Sennelier Transparent Brown mixed with Violet will be present.

I have the task now of moving the sketch in very basic terms onto watercolour paper and then finishing a drawing ready for painting. So, as always we shall see.

Salt Mills at Trapani, Sicily

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When I last posted about the painting that I finished of Marzamemi in the south eastern corner of Sicily, I referred to the salt pans and the salt mills of Trapani near Marsala in the north western end of the Sicilian island

The mills aren’t used any more I am told, but stand as monuments to an industrial past. They are striking, as windmills always are. Something about them standing against the skyline, which makes you want to paint them, and these are no exception.

The design is somewhat different to the ones you see in Northern Europe. Six sails instead of the four we are used to. The sails themselves seem less sturdy too. Maybe that is why there are so many ropes strung from one sail to the next. I don’t know, and I could not find anyone to tell me either. The conical roof can be rotated manually with a lever behind, to turn the sails into the prevailing wind. English mills have something similar although not the same.

But whatever, they are impressive and very paintable although what surrounds them is not inspiring, so will have to be sorted somehow

The actual salt extraction continues as of old. The sea water floods the pans and is allowed to evaporate in the hot sun. The salt as it is exposed is turned by hand until it dries, and then piled on the dockside awaiting removal by truck and further processing later

I have got as far as making  a perspective drawing and transferring it onto watercolour paper, and I will include a shot of the drawing at the end. I have masked the edges of the mills and other buildings, to allow me to sweep across with my usual Mediterranean sky mix of phthalo and cobalt blue. You will see from the drawing that I have added one more mill to deepen the perspective. I have actually just added the blue and will let it harden for 24 hours before removing the mask

I would love to think that this will make a pair with the last Sicilian painting of Marzamemi. Probably too much to hope for, but we will remain optimistic

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As clear as I can get it for the moment, so hope that makes sense

Marzamemi, Sicily : Composed Drawing

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Using the boat photograph and various other photographs which I took at the time, I have put together quite a simple composition, which I hope nonetheless will be effective

As a drawing, it is none too exciting, but when painted up, I am hoping that these bright, Mediterranean colours will provide the stimulus

With the exception of buildings on the far shore, nearly everything is blue or white. Different shades of blue, too, which will be challenging ( please excuse that overworked word) to do successfully as a watercolour

Textures will be interesting too. The boats in the foreground look as though their hulls have been reinforced with fibre glass, not too professionally, so that consequently the surface of them is quite rough. How to achieve that with a watercolour painting, I am not sure, probably with gouache applied thickly to give an impasto finish. Anyway we can play around with that.

We only had a short stop off here. Just enough time for a coffee, in one of the lovely little cafes in the main square, which was charming, and a walk round the harbour, which is a mix of boat repair workshops, restaurants and boutiques. That may sound an unlikely mix but seemed to work well.

Marzamemi is fairly close to Syracuse, the history of which is fascinating, and a chapter in itself. Around that eastern part of the island, we had spent quite a lot of time visiting spots used on location filming for the TV cop series Montalbano. If you are not familiar with the series it was broadcast from 1999 until now, something like 11 separate series, so very popular. Marzamemi was not one of those places, so something of a relief in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I have watched the series at home, and it is very good, and we knew what we were going to look at before we joined the tour, but there was a lot of it

As I say, I enjoyed watching Montalbano at home, except I would have preferred subtitles to a dubbed voice. Dubbing never works for me, always slightly out of sync, and you don’t have to be a lipreader to see the face doesn’t match the dialogue. I much prefer the Scandinavian crime dramas like “The Bridge” which we get which are subtitled.

But I am going off the point. Enough to say that Marzamemi was delightful and I look forward to doing this painting.

Conkers:producing the painting

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I managed to dig back into one of my old reference books and remind myself how I painted my first conkers still-life originally. As you can see, I have just drawn the nuts with their husks from the photograph. I have also put a base coat of yellow/green over the husks, and for this I have mixed sap green with raw sienna, which I find produces quite a natural green, for want of a better word

They look unassuming, and quite uninteresting, do they not. So I thought, what I would do, would be to finish off one conker, one nut, completely just to see if I could still do it.

This was the method I used.

I gave the nut, a base coat of bright orange, in this case Cadmium Orange with a touch only of Cadmium Red, and then let it dry hard. I should have said that I left a soft spot of white paper, working from the photograph, to simulate the point where strong light bounces off a glossy surface.

I then worked a succession of reds and browns wet-in-wet, almost sculpting the shape of the conker, finishing with Burnt Umber for the very dark surfaces. I also put in the shadow and darkened up the right-hand side. I let that dry hard, and put a unifying wash of Burnt Sienna across the whole of the conker, and left it until the following day

The next day, I felt quite pleased with the result. This was probably the nearest that I had come to trompe-l’oeil, where something painted in two dimensions looks solid enough to be picked up. I am not saying that every artist would be pleased with this, but I was, and confident enough to go on

The paper I am using is worth a mention. It is made from pressed rag, and I believe comes from Pakistan. It is similar to hot pressed paper, so that the surface is smoother than the cold-pressed paper that I normally use. It was sent to me as a sample some time ago, and I never used it, but it has proved perfect for this type of work

I shall probably finish the painting completely now and post again when it is done

Bosham Harbour: Second Version, Preparatory Drawing

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I painted Bosham Harbour in West Sussex as a commission a few weeks ago. I painted it in evening light which I hadn’t done before, and was very pleased with the way it turned out, and relieved too seeing as it was a commission. The colours worked exceptionally well, and I was left wishing that I had something like it, to include in next year’s crop of exhibitions.

Using a number of different photographs, some of my own and some from different sources, especially the boats, I compiled the composition which I have drawn above. The church and houses I have thrown back into the distance, and extended out at the left past the boat house. The boats themselves are entirely different to my previous painting, so everything will be new, which I prefer.

One day I will be stumped as to how to paint Bosham Harbour without referring to something I have painted previously. There are other views, but this is the one people always want, with the church in the background and boats in the foreground. Move along the coast, I suppose, but there is something about Bosham which is hard to find elsewhere. Perhaps it is the historical associations with Saxon kings like Cnut and Harold, with the symbolic Saxon church as a reminder, or maybe just the sheer charm of the place, that makes it difficult to replicate

Anyway, I am going to attempt this composition as a watercolour painting and see what happens. I shall use my previous painting as a colour guide but may still experiment along the way, but still the objective will be to create a painting in evening light

We shall see how we get on

Flamingos in the Camargue: first sketch drawing

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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!

The Contented Donkey

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I was pleased to be asked to provide a painting for auction for a well-known charity involved in the rescue of horses and donkeys in Egypt

Many years ago I painted from the charming photograph inset, a watercolour study. I sold it subsequently and then forgot about it. Trying to remember what horse or donkey study I could paint, I remembered this one and finally found the photograph

We were coming back from the Cotswolds, and pulled off the highway at Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire A beautiful village in that lovely honey-coloured Cotswold stone which was the home of Francis Lovell, close confidante to Richard III, who limped home to Minster Lovel Hall to lick his wounds after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He continued to resist the Tudors and was killed at Stoke in 1487. The whole setting is delightful and the old dovecote is still there to see. The donkeys were part of the setting and I photographed one or two including the one inset. They are fun to draw but remember the long ears otherwise they will become a horse

The pencil study I did just now, and will transfer onto  watercolour paper. I actually have a commission on the easel at the moment which is a view of Bosham in Sussex, with a lovely sweep of the harbour with the Saxon Church in the background. Bosham Harbour is a delight to paint and I have done many times. When the painting is more complete, I will blog about it, as the history is fascinating.

For now, we are talking about the donkey. I am painting this alongside Bosham and also working up a picture of flamingos brought back from the Camargue. Very rarely do I do three easels at once, so let’s hope I don’t come unstuck

I attach a picture of the painting of Christmas Shopping in Guildford , now framed,which goes on sale at the end of this month for charity in St. Nicholas Church, Guildford with all the Christmas cards, one of which, of course, is from this painting.   I am attaching also the framed picture of the Wild Horses in the Camargue, which is now ready for the next exhibition

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The framed version of Christmas Shopping in Guildford High Street, which has been donated to Cards for Good Causes. Sorry about the reflections

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Wild Horses of the Camargue framed ready for exhibition. Again the reflections are annoying but I couldn’t get rid of them

Quite a bit to do, so hope to have something to show you next time

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?  Something 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