Looking Back at Old Work

The London Eye

Do you ever look back at really old stuff? I don’t do that often, but I think it’s a good exercise to do sometimes. Sometimes you can see that you have improved, although looking at some of my old work, i sometimes wonder if I have.

That aside, I found this picture of the London Eye, which was a very good example of rescuing a painting from the jaws of disaster. This had been a much larger painting, crossing the Thames and including the Parliament buildings and some river boats as well,

. Frankly the end result was a mess and I put it away, thinking to reuse the back of the painting for some rough work later on. At another time, someone was talking about cutting down an old painting and using what was left as a presentable picture. I though of that Thames picture and ending up cutting the centre out, leaving out the rubbish, and concentrating on the image shown, which although not perfect, was not too bad.

The final image wasn’t much bigger than a postcard. It centred on the London Eye. I thought it worked well. So did the person who bought it.

So the moral is. Discard nothing until you’re sure there is nothing worth retrieving

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Venice: The Old Fish Market finished and framed

The Old Fish Market, Venice

Finally completed and framed! It seems to have been a long time coming. I have shown it framed as because of its size and shape, I can only offer this painting in a framed condition. That will be fine for a local exhibition, but not sure about sending it, although the shipper I use is very good and is used to packing antiques, so will just have to investigate the cost side of things.

I used one of my own photographs as a reference for this painting. Looking down from one of the old palaces opposite, this view was nicely framed by Gothic windows which I have obviously not included. That could be an entirely different painting at another time.

For now, I will rest this painting in anticipation of the next show, of which there are various coming up

I now have to think of my next subject. The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is in my mind to do, but also is the local church in Shere Village. I will have to think

Venice: Watercolour Painting of Old Fish Market Completed

Detail from Old Fish Market Completed

The painting is finished. All in watercolour, my usual medium. This picture is just a detail, as the complete painting is long, about 50 centimetres , and as the height is only 20 centimetres, is consequently too long for the camera.

I have frames purely for these long panoramics, as I call them. They work well and are popular, and when I have framed this one , will photograph it again, which will show it off to better advantage.

As always, as I finish a painting, I have to start thinking about the next, and trying to decide in my mind what it will be. I think, and especially as I have been there recently, I might well paint something from Barcelona. The obvious candidate is the Basilica of the Sacred Family, which is breath taking. I did bring back some good photographic references, so should be able to do something worthwhile with that subject. I should make a start on that and get it at least part underway, before we undertake our next journey, which will be Rome, and goodness knows what I will bring back from there. Trevi Fountain, St.Peter’s, Spanish Steps, the list goes on and on.

To be thought about.

Venice, the Old Fishmarket Painting, Work in Progress

The Old Fishmarket in Venice, Work in Progress

In between doing other things, I have been working on this long painting of the Old Fish Market and neighbouring buildings along the Grand canal.

I started with my favourite Mediterranean sky colour, Phthalo Blue mixed with Cobalt Blue, worked into a mix of Raw Sienna and Naples Yellow as a basis for the buildings and then back into the sky colour for the water.. I have given the water one coat of Phthalo Green, which has had no effect whatsoever, so will have to go over it again. I do want it to look green rather than just a mirror image of the sky

The rest of the painting is mostly painstaking detailing. I have put in some deep shadow in places and have done a few windows, but must summon up the strength to do more. But this where we are for the moment, crossing my fingers that all will be well in the end.

I quite enjoyed putting in the red and green blinds on the market building. They were part of the attraction of the scene. But as I always say, the painting must be finished before a judgement can be made

Just a reminder of the actual scene

My very bad photograph can act as a reminder of the scene that I am trying to capture in paint.

Whilst writing, I extend deepest sympathy to the people of France for the fire at Notre Dame de Paris. Very sad moment. It will be rebuilt and be glorious again but upsetting for now

Swans on Basingstoke Canal Painting Completed

Swan Family on the Basingstoke Canal

The painting is completed. I can see plenty wrong with it, but I still like it and it was interesting to do. You may remember that I started with quite a lot of masking fluid, in fact I painted with masking fluid. The only problem with that, is that you can’t tell what you have done, until you remove the masking, and that is further on in the process. By then, it is too late.

However, despite mistakes which I regret, I think I have covered my tracks sufficiently for the painting to be acceptable. Others will, of course, make the judgement for me

The cygnets, I like, and these were done in a mix of transparent brown and ultramarine violet. Undiluted brushfuls of the same pigment put in the darks in the reeds, where the bank joined the water. The original is more dramatic than the photograph, which always happens despite all my efforts.

I put some white body paint into the water to strengthen the reflections, otherwise the highlights on the birds is from the white paper.

This one will go forward for my next exhibition which is at the Guildford Institute in April, and now I must think of painting something else.

The Swan Painting at an Interim Stage

Swan Painting about halfway

Well, some work has been done on the background

I have used successive coats of darker and darker green amongst the reeds and grasses of the river bank. Towards the end I was mixing the green with a dark blue still trying to get that feeling of deep shadow amongst the reeds

I have now removed all the masking fluid, which took me a little while as there was a lot of it. Also I had to go carefully in case I tore the paper. I am happy to say that I didn’t , which was good because often when masking is left on for a while, it can prove difficult to remove.

The result is still a mess, but as I always say, finish the painting

The swans need tidying and finishing in detail. The painting is about them after all

Likewise the reeds where I have gone back to the white paper, need finishing in a light but realistic colour, raw sienna probably or a pale green

If I cannot get sufficient definition using just watercolour, then I could use some gouache or even pastel if absolutely necessary

Swan Family on the Basingstoke Canal

Something near home this time.

The Basingstoke Canal runs through our village, and originally ran as a branch from the Wey Navigation, and ended up in the town of Basingstoke in Hampshire. It was cut in the late c18 by navvies or navigators who dug canals by pick and shovel in those days.

The intention was to link London with Southampton by inland waterway, which would prove a vital link in war time. The advent of the railway stopped the canal in its tracks, and it lapsed into disuse

Rescued by enthusiasts comparatively recently, the canal is in use by leisure craft, not going as far as Basingstoke due to a tunnel cave-in the 1930s but nevertheless, still offering a valuable resource to the area.

Needless to say, the canal offers a haven for wildlife. Generally we have a family of swans near the village most years, and I have painted them in the past. The photograph above is one of many that I have taken, and I am going to work with that.

The swans are feeding off the reeds in the bank. Reeds are more tricky to paint in watercolour than swans in my opinion. So many shades of green. So I am going to try something different for me and use masking fluid almost like paint. This came to me from the last exercise with the glass jars. This is as far as I have got

Not too easy to see what I ‘ve done I know but basically I have done a pencil sketch of the swans, and then masked them off with the Frisk liquid which is blue and easier to see than the natural. I have also done a few strokes for grasses and highlights in the water. When that was bone dry, I put a very wet solution of green into raw sienna around the birds

The green went bone dry overnight and today, still painting with masking liquid, I have brushed in many more reeds and grasses. Hopefully after I have put darker green over the top of these, and that dries, then removing the mask will reveal light green reeds against the dark or so I hope. All this because you can’t go from dark to light with watercolour. I may still have to do a rescue job with body paint but I hope not

That is the theory. I hope it works. You shouldn’t really leave masking fluid on for too long for fear of tearing the paper when you remove, so this is risky but different.

Istanbul: Ferry Crossing the Bosphorus, Finished Painting

ferries Crossing the Bosphorus

This time I used the camera on my phone. I think I prefer the result. The colours seem more faithfully represented, or so I think

I have stopped working on this painting as I just don’t feel I can add any more. The ferry boat in the centre I have painted as sharply as I can, but as always when the paint has dried then some of the intensity goes with it. Sometimes that can be a good thing but on this occasion I would have liked the boat to be coming towards the viewer just a little more. I even finished off the waterline with dark pastel which has helped

Possibly I put too much definition into the background, but then I needed deep shadow to accentuate bright daylight. As always a slight dilemma. Maybe next time I will paint the foreground first and work backwards.

However I have another painting towards the next exhibition in April, and will soon have to think about my annual update of my own website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk. Looking back over the year, a number of sales, certainly a quantity of amendments together with a collection of new work which always attracts attention.

Last year was very good for commissions, six in total, which for some artists I know would be unimpressive, but for me exceptional. We’ll see what 2019 brings!

Istanbul Painting: Initial Stages

Crossing the Bosphorus by ferry

This is very much work in progress. I have got as far as putting in the shadows with a mix of Cobalt and Phthalo Blue, the mix I like using in any scene that is southern European or nearby

I have done the sky in the same, and the sea also but over an orange wash which gives it a greenish hue, and as always I hope this works. I have put some more orange here and there into some of the buildings as highlights as the shoreline was getting monotonous. There will be some more shadows yet going in to the buildings and also the boats that are still tied up

The boat mid channel I hope to do in much more detail, as much as my shaky hand will allow, and I want to introduce some red into this boat to bring it forward from the shore. That is the theory anyway.

Annoyingly the camera has picked up the texture of the paper so that it looks as though I am painting on onion skin. I seem to get a better result with the camera on my phone these days so might use that for the finished image.

Since this photograph was taken I have done some more work on the painting. Nothing startling, just deepening the shadows, and deepening the sea colour in the foreground. The shoreline is starting to take on a cubist look, unintentionally but interesting nonetheless.

I need another painting of Istanbul

This one I quite like,as a reference, not my own but similar to the ones that I took of boats crossing the Bosphorus. I won’t be copying it as such but using the content for inspiration.

I think I will attempt to change the lighting. I have several Bosphorus shots of my own to refer back to, so will experiment a little and see what I end up with. The construction will remain much the same, as the composition would be difficult to improve on

It has all the ingredients, the mosque, the ferries and the water. No mistaking where it is. This is rather a dark shot, evening time and dramatic, quite a clever photograph, and all credits go to the photographer, if only I knew who it was

For the moment, I am just doing some free-hand sketches, and may just include those at the end of this blog. Those minarets are proving something of a problem to pin down. One minute they are leaning too far to the left, and when I correct that, too far to the right. The mosque building itself is a delightful exercise in geometry though, which may be forgiving because of the distance. I had the same problem when I painted the Blue Mosque which is in the archive somewhere

Both Istanbul paintings sold from my Artfinder site which was gratifying especially as I don’t have much success on that site, hence I need another Istanbul painting for my next exhibition which is in April, which will come round fast enough

The Fountain of Love commission was very well received, I am happy to report

Free hand preparatory sketches