Sketchwork on Bosham Harbour

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I have been away for the last five days or so, in Spain with perfect temperatures of around 20 with gentle sunshine plus sea air. I’m back now to something like 12 and wet so feeling cold. Yesterday I rescued my garden and allotment. Today I am catching up on other things like my blog

I started last time with an indistinct photograph of Bosham Harbour, which I have done so many times, but this time in evening colours.  Before I went away I prepared some sketches and finally decided on the one which I have illustrated.

I have kept the distinctive distant shore line without much detail. That broach spire identifies the village of Bosham unmistakably.  From my archives I have included a different boat, which will add something to the foreground.  There were beached boats in the photograph which in my opinion did little, although I did include a couple of these to close off the side of the painting to he right.

I think I will use a mixture of violet, yellow and brown for the painting. I am more interested in how the colours work, than in the actual image, so the result may look like an impression of Bosham rather than a record of the harbour itself.

Before leaving this subject, I will mention that I am setting up an exhibition in Leatherhead, in the theatre on Monday morning.  Leatherhead is a town about twenty miles distant, so new territory, which is always exciting

Coming back to the Bosham painting, I will finish with another image, which is the basic line drawing transferred to watercolour paper. We are now ready to paint.

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A different aspect of Bosham Harbour

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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

Impressionists in London Exhibition at Tate Britain

Charing Cross Bridge by Pissarro

Charing Cross Bridge by Camille Pissarro

I took my grandson to see this fascinating exhibition at Tate Britain, a week or so ago, as he is studying Pointillism as part of his Art GCSE syllabus. The work of Camille Pissarro was much in evidence, so a lot for him to have a look at. This was his first visit to a major gallery, so significant, and as he pointed out, we were looking at originals, so the actual canvases that these painters worked on. I sometimes lose sight of that fact myself.

The exhibition was centred around the work of French painters who fled to Britain in the 1870s to escape the horrors of the Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III had been captured after the Battle of Sedan, and on his release went into exile with his wife, Eugenie, and their son the Crown Prince, in England, living in Chislehurst. All three are entombed in Farnborough, in the abbey founded by Eugenie. After the fall of the Second Empire the fight went on, culminating in the horrific Siege of Paris in 1871. Civil war followed after a popular uprising by the Paris Commune. Thousands died. Many of the Communards were amongst those who fled to Britain, and who were received without question or restriction.

Many well-known painters arrived and stayed in London. Claude Monet had a suite of rooms in the Savoy Hotel, and painted the Thames and Houses of Parliament in all its moods. He loved the London fog, as did Whistler, credited by Oscar Wilde with the “invention of the fog”

Camille Pissarro, whose house in Louceviennes was commandeered by the Prussians, fled to south London with his mother and other relatives, ruined by the conflict. He lived at Kew, and paintings of his, of the Gardens and Kew Green are on display. He was another fascinated by the Thames and painted similar views to Monet, of the Houses of Parliament through the mist, as well as Charing Cross Bridge in the picture shown.

Not all the arrivals were Impressionists. James Tissot having been introduced by his friend Thomas Bowles, made a name for himself as a painter of High Society. With a great eye for colour and fashion, his paintings of ball gowns and uniforms are magnificent.

Many well-known dealers also followed the painters, and there are many more names that one could mention, but in the final room, is displayed the work of Andre Derain, who was inspired by the London paintings of Monet. He was sent to London in 1906 by the dealer Vollard, and produced thirty canvases from this trip. These were in homage to Monet and covered the same subjects , Charing Cross Bridge, the Thames and the Houses of Parliament. Not to my taste, I think he belonged to a group called the Fauvistes, which believed in the arbitrary use of colour. However, his work is successful, and rounds off this exhibiton nicely

Paintings are on loan from galleries across the world, so a one-off opportunity for most of us to see them. Worth going to, more than once if you can

 

Finished Bosham Panorama Painting

Finished Bosham Panorama

and there it is waiting to go into its long frame

That will then complete a collection of twelve paintings for the coming exhibition at the Guildford Institute from 19th of this month

Since the last post, really the work was purely detailing, using dark brown, white and cadmium red. I have drawn in some buoys and odd details like that

I bought a new detail brush the other day, designed by Matthew Palmer. It has a large bole which holds a good supply of water, but the tip comes to a very fine point, which produces a line rather like you’d expect from a pen. I think it was designed for painting very thin branches and twigs. It also works well for fine rope work, and window frames

Huge sigh of relief now that the exhibition collection is finished, all but framing the last one

I can now look at catching up with a few paintings for pleasure. I love doing horses and have made some initial sketches, from which I think I can put an interesting composition together. I have gone back to drawing by eye instead of using a grid, which not only saves time, but also is comforting to know I can still do it ( or think I can)

I will publish the horse drawings at another time

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

Basingstoke Canal Bridge

Basingstoke Canal Bridge

Continuing my theme of Waterways in Watercolour which is my next solo exhibition in February, and for which I am worryingly behind schedule, I am going to look again at the Basingstoke Canal which runs near where I live

This is a typical Sunday morning walk to exercise the dog and buy a newspaper in the village shop. The tow path is often quite busy with walkers and annoyingly sometimes, bicycles who use their weight to make people jump out of the way. Most are courteous but just a few are inconsiderate

The bridge in the picture is one of the original ones from the c18, brick built with bricks which would have been made in St.Johns nearby, most likely. It is a typical canal bridge, with shaped  walls that curve out on to the tow path. This enabled the bargee to bring the horse over from one side to the other without snagging the rope

I have painted this stretch of the canal many times, and it remains a favourite at exhibitions. My personal favourite which is in the gallery, is of one of the lock gates and which is into the light, contre-jour I think it is called. That sold at one of my exhibitions to a couple who were going back to New Zealand, and I helped them with the packing. I sometimes think of these paintings and where they are, rather like worrying about the children. How stupid can you get!

There is a flight of seven locks along this stretch of the canal, all fairly close to one another. An enormous amount of work for the barge people, getting out and opening the gates, and then closing gates behind the barge when in the lock. Fun to watch though

So far, I have just started to make some sketches, and there are some details I want to change, so nothing to show at the moment

For the future, I came across a lovely photograph which I took along the Amazon, a couple of years ago, of local boys with their pet alligators, small ones obviously, which they had on leads like dogs. This would make a lovely painting if I could bring it off, but might upset some people, so would have to give that one some thought

 

Bikes and Canals: the Finished Painting

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The finished painting of bicycles, canals and houseboats in one frame

Since the last post, there is not a lot to add. The bicycles have been finished from the sharpest detail retreating backwards. I find it easier to adapt the focus doing it that way, so that the perspective works out correctly. This was a real jumble of mechanical detail to sort out, but amusing nonetheless

This will go towards my exhibition in the spring, in the Guildford Institute. The theme is Waterways in Watercolour, which on the face of it is straightforward enough, but trying to think of a subject that I haven’t done before, does make me scratch my head

I need twelve pictures within the theme. I think I have five so far. Ah well, press on

Bikes and Canals : Work in Progress

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Some work done over the last few days

The buildings on the far bank have received some colour, some pink and some violet and some a mix of the two, to establish as near as I need the local colour of the brickwork. So far I have added little detail to the windows and doors, as I want them to fade against a sharp foreground of bicycles. I have done a little work on the reflections of the buildings on the water but not much, and will go back to that

The houseboats have been rendered in sharper focus, without necessarily detailing them too much. The bright yellow I think has worked on the distant boats, giving them an illuminated effect from the light source on the horizon. The hulls have been darkened with indigo, as they are in deep shadow, and I have let this colour bleed down vertically to provide the reflections in the water

I have extended the canal to the left, which I quite like as it gives the composition some extra depth. The bikes will be in the sharp foreground, but if they weren’t exactly centre stage, I wouldn’t mind

I was looking forward to tackling a bicycle, just to get a better idea of the relationship between foreground and background. I have painted the first one. The colour of mud guards etc was yellow, and I have kept to that, and in fact have used Indian Yellow, which I think works well against the violet/pinks. Just my opinion

What to use for tyres, chain guard etc which are really black in the photograph, made me ponder, as I veer away from black generally if I can. I mixed some ultramarine blue with transparent brown and made a very dark grey. I went back in with the indigo, which worked, I think as dark highlights on tyres etc, and produced a nice blue-black on the chain guard and seat. Some more detailing still to be done on pedals and rear-lights but I have enough to work with at the moment

I feel there should be long shadows, and don’t know what to do about them. Too many lines will be confusing, but once laid cannot be removed. Such is watercolour. I may leave them out altogether and claim artistic immunity. We’ll see

 

Bikes and Canals: Base Coat

Bikes and Canals Base Coat

This is the first coat on the bikes drawing, which looks like grey in the photograph, but which isn’t really. The definition between all the colours just isn’t great enough to show on this photograph

One of the watercolour painters I admire is David Curtis, and I looked at one of his exercises and thought I might try the same method here. I didn’t see the point of sticking to local colours on this occasion. The photograph was flat, and if not careful, the painting could be the same

What he did in a crowded harbour scene was to wet the paper thoroughly, so that the colours moved and merged, but most importantly not mix into one muddy finish. Mine haven’t by the way, even though the photograph looks grey.

Following as closely as I could to his example, I selected four strong colours, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Violet and Cadmium Yellow. I then laid in, without much brushing, the four colours where I thought they would be most appropriate. I wanted the yellow in that misty background section and falling vertically. The pinks and violets falling on the buildings and the blue somewhere in between. Some control and some letting the colours find their own path.

I mix my colours on a large white dinner plate. I plant the pigment on the rim and as I add some water, the dilute pigment runs down into the centre of the plate. Sometimes that can be a nuisance but on this occasion, it was helpful as I also let some of the crimson mix with some of the violet which produced another shade for the buildings and also for the reflections

I have by now started to sharpen up some of the buildings and the houseboats. The whole thing is still looking a complete mess but hopefully will turn out well in the end. This one is a complete unknown. I can’t remember tackling such an awkward composition. You can’t get at the canal through the tangle of bikes, which with watercolour is very tricky. I thought about masking out but there is such a lot, so when the background is finished I shall lift paint off the bike frames and pray whilst I am doing it.

Could be a disaster but pleasing if it works