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

Padstow Harbour Painting Completed

This is the completed painting of Padstow Harbour in Cornwall, a very well known and popular place. It is a fishing port and consequently well known for good sea food restaurants. The well known Rick Stein comes from Padstow and has his own restaurants here, not to mention a very good fish and chip shop, and I believe he also had his own cookery school where he trained people in the fine art of good cuisine. Some years though since I have been here, and my information may be a little old.

The reference shots for this painting go back a few years, and I may have mentioned already that I have painted this view before but some years ago. I sold it so can’t compare and in those days was a bit careless about photographing my work. As I remember though this painting is very different to that one

I used a different palette for one thing. Not long ago I bought a new paintbox called Graphitint by Derwent, and I rather like them. I am not here to advertise and I haven’t been asked to, but I used some of these colours on the buildings around the quayside. What these paints do, and there are a dozen of them, different shades, is to granulate, so in other words, the pigment doesn’t dissolve completely but hangs in the water. When the water dries the pigment stays on the paper, usually in the tooth of the surface, and provides a sort of gritty effect. That may not sound attractive the way I’ve described it, but it works very well for stonework on buildings. The colours are a little muted but I don’t mind that. Other people can judge for themselves.

Otherwise quite a time consuming painting, working on the boats, which is quite enjoyable for a while, and then I need to rest. The reflections took a long time building up the depth of colour, and eventually I needed some coloured chalk for the very deep shades

Anyway the painting is finished. It will be in time for my redesigned web site, which I am looking forward to seeing one day

Now perhaps a short break from painting whilst I consider my next subject

Partway through the painting of Padstow Harbour

The Under Painting

This is the stage that I have reached so far, namely the under painting on which hopefully to build

I have chosen a different colourway to anything I have used before, mainly as an experiment and perhaps hopefully to learn something. If it doesn’t work then I may have wasted a painting. I did this painting between 15 and 20 years ago, and just used the local colours. This time I wanted to inject some sunshine and maybe some mood into the painting. The photographs if you remember my last post, were taken in flat light, so no shadows and frankly rather dull

I used a base coat involving a mix of phthalo blue and viridian for a green/blue which I used for the sky and also for the sea in the foreground. I moved from sky colour to a peach for which I mixed orange and yellow and added rose. I quite liked that colour for a change. The sky moved to peach for buildings and boats and then back to sky colour for foreground sea. Remember I haven’t done this before, so could turn out badly

I have started to work on some of the buildings using blue with burnt sienna plus a dab of raw sienna to look like lichen on the roof. I have also drawn in some masts which I missed when I did the initial drawing

That is as far as I am so far. Other things demanding my attention as usual, but I quite like doing a little at a time. I may have said that I am completely overhauling my website which is time consuming but I think will be good when it is done. More of that another time

Painting something again

Padstow Harbour

I sometimes have to stop and think what to paint next. Often I have a list in my head, but when i come to the end of that, then I have to think of what I need in my website

One of my lockdown tasks has been to sort through many years of reference photographs. So many years that many of them were turned into prints rather than being stored more conveniently on the PC. The collage above of Padstow Harbour is a typical example

I painted from this probably ten years ago. I have been to Padstow in Cornwall on several occasions, and I like the harbour there very much indeed. I have painted several different shots, and I am pleased to say that they proved popular. The painting from the view above, sold on its first showing and after that I moved on to other things.

Looking through these photographs reminded me of it, and I thought I would like to tackle this shot again, but of course differently. My style has changed between then and now, hopefully for the better. Not necessarily so, as sometimes I look back at old paintings, and wonder how I got a particular result, and could I do it again

On this occasion, I am going to do a similar composition, but work the changes hopefully with different colour combinations. Last time, as I remember I did local colour which was fine, but now I might try something a little more ambitious. I needn’t tell anyone if it fails

I shall start on some sketchwork soon and after that we’ll see what happens

Wisteria at Wisley: the finished painting

Wisteria at Wisley

We haven’t been able to visit the RHS gardens at Wisley ever since lockdown began. It was a favourite place and we miss going there. Hopefully as things ease they may reopen, although how social distancing will be organised, remains to be seen

Doing this painting reminded me of happier times. We have stood here enough times in the loggia if that is the term, looking through the wisteria along the canal to the laboratory, which is an uninspiring name for the splendid mock-Tudor building in the background

Flowers and foliage are not my strong point. I had to look up how to paint wisteria. I used ultramarine violet, and then dark mauve for the deeper colours. I also dropped some quinacradone gold in here and there for the tips of the flowers. That has a name which botanists will know

The leaves were built up with a succession of colours. Sunlight streamed through in places and cadmium yellow suited that. I used Sap Green mixed with Lemon and finally Olive green for the leaves in shadow

Anyway I think it came close to the photograph, but as always I will leave others to judge

Just to finish off, I have been having a remarkable number of sales, all online obviously. I think this must be the lockdown factor

Ferry across the Bosphorus sold this week and was shipped today in fact, bringing my total to four since January. Chicken feed to many artists I know but significant for me.

Ferry Crossing the Bosphorus



Now gone and missed already

Wisteria at Wisley



Wisley Gardens, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society is fairly near us, and we go there frequently. Since lockdown the place has been closed, like so many other gardens. We’ve missed it enormously especially at this time of year

This photograph appeared in Garden magazine this month, showing the view through the wisteria along the canal towards the laboratory which is the elegant building in the background. I have painted it many times

As I can’t go there I shall paint this view with everyone’s permission, as the next best thing. We look forward to going back when things return to normal.

I have in fact made a start, and I will let you know how I get on

Despite lockdown , I am still selling a few pictures. I sold the painting of the Scottish castle, Eilean Donan a few days, and the buyer collected from my door. We observed social distancing of course

Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence: the second version

Second Version Drawing

I wasn’t overly happy with the first painting of the Ponte Vecchio, as I may have said. I didn’t like the grass bank, which although attractive in real life, meant that I had to introduce another colour which I didn’t want to do. Also it cut out a large section of river, which I think was a pity

Instead of the grass bank, I have constructed a wharf with boats. Fictitious I know and offensive to some. The bridge however remains intact, and is still the subject of the painting.

I much prefer this composition. Not only do I keep my limited palette, but also brings something into the foreground, which is useful

Plenty of time for things to go wrong though. With the gentler colours that I’m using, this is more sunrise than sunset, but I still have to make up long shadows which I find tricky. Where exactly will they fall, and will they look convincing?

Time will tell

I was asked to quote for a commission yesterday, so there is some life in the market, which is of comfort, with all the bad news at the moment

Drawing the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Reference photo with grid

I have used the grid method of transferring an image before, but was reminded of it when I went to the Hockney exhibition at the Lightbox in Woking recently. It is very useful especially when you want to enlarge a picture as I do with this one. This is how my drawing has turned out

Drawing of Ponte Vecchio from the photo

I have now doubled the image size so that it is about the usual size that I paint, ie 30×40 centimetres. I have traced the drawing now and am about to transfer this image to watercolour paper

The nice thing about using this method is that once the grid is in place on both images, then there is very little, if any, measuring to be done. Drawing or copying within each small square is relatively simple, and gives you a check on perspective so very useful for anything architectural

There is no restriction on size so if you wanted to paint a mural and make it ten times or twenty times the photograph, then you could. You can work the other way, of course, and reduce the size of an image too.

I shall paint this when ready and probably use a completely different colourway than shown in the photograph. Not sure what yet, possibly an evening colour, and may even do two different colour ways from the same drawing, which will save me some time

We’ll see how it turns out

Venice:Grand Canal the finished painting

Grand Canal, Venice

This has taken a long time to complete. We were away in Romania over the New Year Break, came home and were ill, and seemed to take weeks to recover.Funeral preparations had to be attended to throughout all this for my father’s burial.

However, on a more upbeat note, working on this painting has been a great support, as painting always is. There has been so much detail to attend to, especially with the buildings on the left. The architecture is very Gothic, so intricate, and the variety of colours was exciting. Trying to colour match the photograph was amusing, especially when it came to the flags.

I may have said that I altered the composition from the original photograph. I have shifted the buildings on the left away from the buildings on the right. This has cured some of the congestion, and has also given a view to the Customs House and beyond to the open sea. We now have depth where before we didn’t

I ended up quite liking the painting, despite the jumble of different colours. Sunny and bright at this grey time of the year, which cannot be bad

What shall I look at next? Staying in Italy, but moving from Venice to Florence, I am going to have a crack at the famous Ponte Vecchio , and see what sort of fist I can make of that