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.

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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

St Katherine’s Dock Commission

This is the drawing so far of the boat I was commissioned to paint. Rather faint I am afraid, not only because it’s in pencil but also because she has had a wash of phthalo blue and cobalt mix. Some orange and vermillion went in to the tops of the boats to give that evening sun look, but that will need strengthening

I have already sketched this scene just to realise the composition and to get that agreed. This is the real thing. Just a tad apprehensive, as although I have painted boats enough times, this would be the first boat portrait that I have tackled.

So much of the boat is white, and not even many shadows to relieve the situation. The vessel is beautiful, streamlined and highly polished, in fact all the things that don’t work so well in watercolour. A rough-textured old steamer, dirty and rusty, with plenty of smoke really lets the watercolourist’s imagination run riot. 

But we don’t have that. We have a sleek yacht instead. In the background of the reference photograph which I haven’t published here, are a row of houses, which were not only superfluous, but actually crowded the composition, and didn’t look good against the boats. I have left them out altogether, and I have not regretted doing so. The depth of the painting has increased whilst still preserving the look of a marina

So for the moment I shall just carry on building up the colours on the items that matter. The yacht centre stage of course is the star attraction and needs to come forward

We shall see how this goes

Work Started on the Fountain of Love Commission

Fountain of Love Detail

I have been working on the drawing of the Fountain of Love commission, which has been testing to say the least. I have just included a detail here, otherwise the image would be too faint to show

The photograph of the fountain itself was included in my last post, and I may have explained that the fountain is in the grounds of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The house is magnificent and is now an hotel but the grounds are run by the National Trust and are extensive.

Over the ages, Cliveden was associated with powerful women. One of the more recent being Nancy Astor, American heiress as well as an MP in Westminster, possibly the first woman MP. More recently still, Cliveden was the scene of the scandalous liaison between Christine Keeler and John Profumo, a married government minister

Again I have been balancing two commission projects, as I have just finished the sketch study of a rather lovely yacht in St.Katherine’s Dock, just to agree the composition with the client before going on the finished painting. I drew this with the help of a grid but there is something about the sleek almost feminine lines of a boat which seem to elude me, no matter how many measurements I take.

Dancing Girl Sketch

As usual the camera leaches out the colour but the essence is there. I did find it useful to make a sketch on this occasion. So many mistakes could be made and were made. At least these have been cleared out of the way, hopefully not to reappear

There is something about highly polished surfaces like plastic or metal, which don’t work well in watercolour. Give me some rough old wood or rusty iron any day, and that will look realistic enough to touch. Still, if you owned a rusty old tub, you probably wouldn’t want it commemorated in a painting

We will await the client’s comment to see whether I have got the composition right as a first step

Morning in Bosham Finished Painting

Morning in Bosham

The finished picture entitled Morning in Bosham

This was the first of the two paintings which I was hoping to plan together. But it was not to be. As the poet said, or something like, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

They certainly do. I have done a few sketches of the horse picture, but last Thursday the phone rang and a regular client phoned with a commission for an extremely ornate fountain called the Fountain of Love which is in the grounds of a mansion called Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire

I went to look at it, at the week end and took some reference shots and append one for your interestDSCF4449

I have just had to arrange a professional copy so that all the detailing is picked out clearly. This will be a test of drawing skill and no mistake. Too late however, as I have said yes.

Cliveden House is now an hotel. It is c18 I believe and is associated over the years with a succession of powerful women. The latest was Nancy Astor, the American heiress who became a Westminster MP, the first woman MP I think, and certainly a forceful lady.

The house is remembered for being the scene of the scandal involving Christine Keeler a model, and John Profumo the then Minister of Defence during the 1960s. She was also having an affair with a Russian diplomat, so the whole thing was considered a threat to national security. Profumo lied to Parliament and the whole thing nearly brought down the MacMillan government

The same day i received another commission to paint a boat in St Katherine’s Dock which might be postponed and give me a breather. Today I received a request to do yet another view of beloved Bosham Harbour and Church

That will teach me to boast about doing two paintings simultaneously.  The gods have a habit of looking down and teaching you a lesson if you appear over-confident. They have, and it serves me right.

Langstone Mill Finished Painting

Misty Morning in Langstone

Well, this is the finished painting in its frame which I have entitled Misty Morning in Langstone, as I have deliberately kept the colours pale to give that effect. That is my story anyway. In reality it works well, I think but photographing it was difficult. I had to wait for really flat daylight so as not to get reflections in the glass.

I quite like the trick of leaving out the horizon line which gives the scene a more misty look. I read this somewhere not so long ago.

Maybe another time I will try and deepen the colours a little, but always the danger that the misty effect might be lost

I am just packing up paintings for the Leatherhead exhibition which starts on Tuesday and goes on for two weeks. We will see what that brings. Nothing last time, but we live in hope

A very rare happening a couple of weeks ago, I actually sold a painting from my Artfinder site, thus proving that everything comes to he who waits. The painting was of the Bosphorus Waterfront, and went to a collector in the United States, which I am very pleased about