To Continue with the Docklands Commission

Five Image Docklands Commission Partway Only

Well, out of the mist, some definition is starting to appear here and there

They wanted the Canary Wharf skyline to run along the top. Incidentally I photographed this on the easel so I am sorry that the images appear slanted. Also there are some shadows and stuff which shouldn’t be there. Just to make Canary Wharf more interesting I have used sunset colours building up oranges and vermillion across the windows. I have used vermillion and cobalt blue blended for soft shadows, which works, I believe. Little cranes help the feeling of distance. I think that picture is pretty well there, and I was asked to make that image soft anyway. I like to take the client’s instruction into account if I can, but sometimes they have to be persuaded to do things differently.

I finished the little ferry boat. Once I started I just could not stop. I think she will be my favourite image of the five, probably because I like painting boats anyway. For the background I have repeated the Canary Wharf Skyline, which is geographically impossible, but infinitely more interesting.

The pub in the bottom right, is ready for its next coat, which will be Transparent Brown over the Violet, which will give more definition to the building itself. I think yellow for the umbrellas, but I just need to work out which one.

The image which scares me and which I have made a start on is the crescent shaped building of Lensbury Circus. At the moment it is looking rather bleak, as though the area is run down, which of course it isn’t, far from it. All those windows too. They may have to succumb to a sort of lost and found treatment

But there are more positives than negatives so I will get back to it, but not tonight. I have spent hours on this one, but there are five pictures instead of one, which I should have realised when I took it on. Luckily I’m not on piece work or I would starve.


A different aspect of Bosham Harbour


i think I may have mentioned ad nauseam that Bosham Harbour with its ancient church is a favourite subject for painting, and is widely known

If I am preparing for an exhibition, I usually like to have at least one view of this beautiful little place. The problem is that everyone wants the same shot, across the harbour with the church against the skyline, so painters, like me, are continually looking for a way to paint this view, and yet make it look different every time.

I came across the attached photograph a few months ago, which interested me. As you can see, it is a gentle evening shot, with some bright sky and some very deep silhouettes. The details are blurred, which is not something I usually do, but found myself intrigued nonetheless. The effect could be impressionistic, which again is not something I usually do. The other thing I liked, is that, when translating this into a painting, one could use a very limited pallette, which I find improves the effect very often. In this case, we are looking at yellow and violet basically, which generally work together very well.

I haven’t used these two colours for a while, so the idea is attractive

I am not sure about how I feel about the beached boats in the immediate foreground. They are certainly an aid to perspective, which I can appreciate, and yet in your face just a bit. I think I will draw some of these separately on tracing paper and chase them round the composition to see what I like best. I have been through my archives of boats too, and have sketched one or two of those, again to see what works.

Despite what I said about getting away from detail for a change, I don’t want meaningless shapes either, and unlike photographers, artists can choose what goes into a composition, which gives us an advantage, so I might be able to get away from that rather shapeless foreground.

I think there will be quite a lot of work with little bits of tracing paper, before we hit on the right composition, so we will see what happens. Yet another journey into the unknown.

Galloping Horses, the finished painting

Galloping Horses

The finished painting.

It took great restraint not to add some more colour to the horse on the left. I still think I made the right decision. It looks as though it is appearing out of the mist and the spray kicked up by the animal in front, which is the effect that I wanted.

As far as what I did since the last post, well, apart from stopping myself touching the horse on the left, not that much really. I have removed the spattered masking fluid to give, hopefully , that effect of spray from the hooves. I added a little dark spatter as well, but really didn’t need much

I added more detailing to the lead horse, so he is now well-defined and, hopefully, coming out of the picture, and added some more colour to the water and reflections at the bottom of the page

And that is really it. If I keep looking at it, I shall be tempted to fiddle, and that as we all know is fatal

Preliminary Sketches of Galloping Horses

Galloping Horse Drawing

I’ve transferred the drawings to watercolour paper now, and kept them as line drawings only, which is why they are faint. I have assembled the individual drawings that I had and strengthened, I hope , the composition into a more horizontal arrangement.

Since posting this drawing, I have liberally spattered with masking fluid, around the lower regions of the horses to look like, again hopefully, the spray that the lead horse was throwing up

I have put on a base coat of colour. A band of pthalo blue modified with cobalt for a sky colour, followed by a pink horizon, followed by a ground colour the same as the sky. For the pink, I have used something I bought long ago from SAA called Vermillion Hue, a colour outside of my experience. It was described as very good as a warm grey when mixed with Cobalt, and a very good shadow colour on snow. Likewise, without the Cobalt  it can provide a warm glow. No snow here I know,  but plenty of water and grey horses. The horses in the photograph were just catching the light on one side from a very watery sun

So this is an experiment and could fail, but I am hoping to catch this pink light on the horses, if I can

That is as far as I have got

Bosham Panorama for the Long Frame

Bosham Panorama Starting to emerge

Emerging from the sea mist almost

This is the start of the panoramic painting for the long frame which I mentioned recently, which I am hopeful for, but we shall see

For sky and sea I used a mix of phthalo blue and cobalt. For the sunset sky and reflection in the water, I have used a mix of Cadmium Orange and Permanent Rose. I was not pleased with the initial result, as the sky came up very orange indeed. I applied coat after coat of Permanent Rose, wet on dry, which when dry, appeared to have made very little impact. Eventually the sunset turned pinky red, and I quite liked the effect of the pink over the blue. Where the blue had gone on sparsely, the pink soaked in, and started to look like pink clouds on the blue sky. I am not sure whether this shows in the photograph.

In order to get the effect of the low sun on the rooftops, I will need to glaze the buildings with something like Light Red and if that goes too brown, then a thin wash of Cadmium Red. Sparingly, of course, as that is powerful stuff.

There is masking fluid to come off, where white buildings have caught the strong light. I should have mirrored that in the sea, but forgot, but I think I can rescue that with White Gouache.

Dark shadows to go in with dark Brown which will accentuate the light, I hope. Also some small boats for which I will use the same blue mix, and white masts, should add to the effect

I am hoping so, as exhibition time draws near

Salt Mills at Trapani: the part finished painting


Well, I am moving along slowly, which is the best I can say

There have been quite a few problems over the last couple of weeks, which have demanded my attention. Sadly things that I enjoy, like painting, have had to take second place. Still, every now and then, I creep back to my easel and manage an hour or so. I treat painting as r&r at the moment, and there is no doubt that it soothes the troubled spirit.

I have called this the part finished stage. perhaps more accurate would be to call it the part unfinished stage.

I have put in a Mediterranean sky and water. Phthalo Blue and Cobalt blended seem to work quite well for this. Again I have worked up the distant background in the same colour only deeper, which I think gives it a more faraway look

I have been putting detail into the three mills and adjacent buildings. I have been trying to gradate the tone from one to the other to create the feeling of distance. The nearest will require more work, as this one will have to look really sharp. Detailing the sails will be testing, knowing how much to put in and how much to leave out. I want them to look accurate without looking like a photograph. Oh well, if it were easy it wouldn’t be fun, I suppose

Ironically, the furthest mill presented the least difficulties when it came to painting the sails. Just a flick of a wet brush and that was it. I still have to think about the middle one which will be difficult to get just right. The three bears had the same problem!

I have had to rearrange those low walls to help the composition and to get some reflections in, otherwise there will be nothing in the foreground. No boats here.

Some interesting problems to tackle!

Bosham Harbour: continue with the painting


It seems a long time ago that I touched this painting, and in fact it is the best part of a month, which for me, in between stages this is too long. I have totally lost the thread of what I had planned for this picture, so I shall have to rethink it

We went to Germany for the markets, where I became ill with some virulent chest infection, and then celebrated a family Christmas over three days. Now different branches of the family have flown off to Spain and to Thailand, and so peace descends.After a morning sorting a few things out, I started to look at my easel again, and with confidence surprisingly ebbed away, I picked up my brushes and started to get my mind round the picture and how to tackle it.

If you remember the first post that I did on this painting, you will see that I have added the reflections of the quayside houses and the Saxon church. It may not look much for an afternoon’s work, but that is what it took me

I find with reflections that I do an awful lot of zooming in and out again. That is, I paint a bit and then go to the door and look back. I don’t do a mirror-image reflection, I never do. Some people do and do it well. I like a reflection to look as though it is on water, and not on glass. In other words, it has to wobble a bit, and the colours don’t reach the same intensity as the buildings themselves. But that is me!

I altered some of the houses and gave them a white facade. They were a bit too gloomy, and no distinction between any of them. There were also some flagpoles and masts of boats outside the yacht club to be added.

I am generally happy with the reflections. I think they look like reflections, although one or two need tidying up

The other thing I did was to put shadows into the boats. That has to harden and then I can start on detailing them which will be a long job. I still have to decide on colours. Red for one of the reefed sails and also the spinaker, as that will make a nice reflection. The others to be decided

Decisions, decisions!

Bosham Harbour: the painting started


Some while ago now I finished the drawing of Bosham Harbour and Church, and I posted that. I left it, as I completely messed up the initial wash. It wasn’t something I could correct, so I abandoned the whole thing. Very,very rarely do I do that, but sometimes it is the only way.

I find in situations like that, that walking way is the best thing to do.  Walk round the block, metaphorically speaking and then come back, otherwise you just get more and more frustrated, and make more and more mistakes

My way of walking round the block, was to do the Conkers painting. Completely different and completely unimportant, I was able to unwind and get myself back into finding the colour recipe for conkers which was in my head somewhere. After all that, my little bit of therapy produced a quite usable painting, and I framed it not so long ago, and was pleased with the result. This will go towards my next exhibition which will be in the Guildford Institute in March, not that far away now, so I need to work.

Back to Bosham Harbour, after redrawing the village with sailing boats, I put in a different wash, and played safe. I have no time to experiment. Phthalo blue and Cobalt produce a nice sky/sea colour and across the horizon a band of sunset produced with permanent Rose and Cadmium Orange. I started the blue wash downwards whilst at the same time starting the sunset colour at horizon level and worked upwards so the two met, and blended comfortably. Tricky using two brushes and two palettes at the same time, but it seemed to work

As you can see, I have just been detailing the church and other buildings in various reds and browns. I needed to get those roof tops really bright, and after several different glazes used cadmium red to give them some zing, so that they looked as though bright red evening sun was bouncing off them.

Still a lot of work to do, on reflections and those boats, but that is to come

Still Life with Conkers: Finished Painting


This is the finished painting. Rather laborious but we got there in the end! Every now and then I quite enjoy tackling something like this, not botanical painting exactly, but painting a specimen of fruit or flowers, with some expression thrown in. Textures are tantalising, and making an object look solid on a two-dimensional plane likewise.

I hope I have succeeded. One or two conkers, I feel, I can pick up, but I will let others judge

I talked about the story of conker-playing when I last posted, and how sadly, the gentle art has disappeared amongst schoolchildren, thanks to the interference of the health and safety police. No need for me to dwell on that anymore, only to lament the passing of part of our heritage, which had continued effortlessly from generation to generation. Too easy to blame the iPad! Children that I know like traditional games and playing with their iPads

But enough ranting. Let’s get back to the painting and how it takes shape. I remembered to take a picture of an interim stage, so let’s have a look at that


This is the stage following on from where I left the last post. I have completed a couple more of the conkers, this time with their husks, just to make sure the recipe is actually working. It seems to be!

As a base coat, I painted all the conkers with a bright orange, leaving a soft white spot on each, where the bright light is being reflected. I had already used a pale green for the husks, and had they been fresh from the tree. I could have continued with more green, but they had already gone a yellowy-brown colour, so true to nature, that is what I am doing.

The finished conker colour, I achieved using a succession of reds and browns. I did this wet-into-wet, so it is hard to give a blow by blow account. It is rather like sculpting. Do a bit, stand back and do a bit more

I can tell you, that I used light red, burnt sienna and burnt umber. At the very end, I gave nut and husk a unifying wash of light red, which I think gave them the colour I was looking for. And there it is

Thinking ahead, I have two projects taking shape in my head. One is to carry on with the painting of Bosham Harbour which I drew up and went no farther with. The other is to look back at Notre Dame with Pigeons, and redo the whole thing, removing that ghastly marquee on the left, and also improve the weather, and make the whole thing brighter and sunnier, albeit still winter time

I could also be going to Germany soon for the Christmas markets, so may be able to bring some interesting subject matter back with me

All for the future………….