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

 

Advertisements

Bikes and Canals: the Finished Painting

DSCF3952

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

DSCF3948

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

Bikes and Canals : Preliminary Sketch

Bikes and Canals Sketch Drawings

From the photograph on the last post, trying to make sense of the detail, some of which can be dispensed with, otherwise the composition will become a hopeless jumble

The bicycles, obviously need attention. I have left off the three at the back, as quite honestly, it is difficult to make out their shapes in the photograph, so a drawing would be difficult. I started with the bike in the foreground and have attempted some detail. I will probably go into more detail when I have transferred the image onto watercolour paper. The nice thing about bicycles in Amsterdam, is that they are simple, as bikes used to be. Handlebar with no gears that I can see, a bell which is welcome, a sit-up-and-beg frame and a parcel rack. Purely functional and fit for purpose. I can imagine a brisk trade in second-hand bikes, as I am told, several thousand have to be fished out of the canals every year

I will put in progressively less detail as I work through the pile.

Houseboats and reflections will help. I have extended the picture slightly to the right and have included an extra small boat. This takes the bicycles out of centre stage

The buildings at the rear of the picture, I think I will fade out slightly. Towards the left I have left a space for misty light which will work down the page. I will just have to make this up as I go along, and hope for the best. One should plan with watercolour, but sometimes you have to let instinct take control, and cross your fingers

The tedious part next, transferring the drawing and finishing it off onto watercolour paper. It has to be done

 

By way of a postscript, I don’t think that I have ever commented on the number of visits/views that I get each month. I don’t get an enormous traffic but certainly enough, and spread across all the continents, which is nice. This month I have had an amazing number of hits from Norway, which is nice. A staggering quantity, more than the UK and United States added together, which is just unprecedented. Thank you, Norway. I hope I continue to hold your interest

Bikes and Canals in Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a lovely city. I have been there many times, and have often thought I should try to paint it, with its canals and barges and its tall houses. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographic references to speak of, so that has held me back, until now

As it happened, my son and daughter-in-law were there recently, only for a short while but managed to take a few pictures for me. I asked them to include, if they could, bikes, canals, tall buildings and houseboats. Well, they got all those in this one shot

Now it is down to me to make a painting out of it. Hmm, I do like a challenge.

Something has to be done with the composition. I don’t know what yet though. That barrier rail on the right-hand side will go, I’m sure. Thousands of bikes, literally, go into the canals every year, so a few more will make little difference

I have started to draw the bikes, and it is not easy to sort out, which handlebar belongs to which bicycle. Maybe there is a case for cutting down on some of the detail in that group of bikes, so that the image is less muddled. I will let that evolve as I go on, I think.

I will have to alter the light to make the picture more interesting, otherwise the scene is very grey and could appear tedious as a painting. Add some sunlight in the background perhaps and deepen shadows in the foreground, which should add to the depth of the picture, otherwise could be very flat indeed.

This one has possible disaster written all over it, so if successful, I will have cause to celebrate

We shall see

Basingstoke Canal at St.Johns: the Finished Painting

Basingstoke Canal St.Johns Finished

Well, the painting is finished, and it is what the photograph said it would be, a very traditional waterscape, with all the ingredients, water, barges, reflections and so on.

It is not exciting. I haven’t tried anything unusual or dramatic. Nevertheless it will make a useful addition to my February show, which is themed on waterways, and for which, I have little enough at the moment

I do wish that the sun had been shining into my lens when I took the picture, which would have given it an interesting contre jour look, with some dazzle coming off the water, but it could not be. I had to take what I was given. Not many barges use the Basingstoke Canal, and to see one tie up at St.Johns Village was a fairly rare event, and to see another in the distance coming through Kiln Bridge, rarer still. So I took the picture with the best light possible.

I have done contre jour along the canal in the past and the results are exciting even if the subject matter is simple. The other alternative is to go out early on a bright winter’s morning, when the shadows are long, which I might do on another occasion.

I have much to do before February, so I will move on. My son and daughter-in-law were in Amsterdam recently , and took some pictures along the canals on my behalf. Bikes, canals and tall buildings– all the ingredients which spell Amsterdam, so I think I can make a composition from these.

Quite an interesting one to tackle.

Basingstoke Canal: Watercolour Painting Part Finished Only

Basingstoke Canal Part Finished Only

I haven’t posted for a while, so perhaps now is a good time to publish what I’ve done so far.

I may have said last time that this painting is being based on a scene from my home village of St.Johns in Surrey. The Basingstoke Canal runs through the centre of the village, and in fact the village owes its existence to the canal, really. Cut in the late c18, the canal destined for Southampton, from London, only reached Basingstoke before the coming of the railway made it obsolete. A sort of shanty town grew up at first on the canal side, followed gradually by more prosperous houses as the village became commuter land. It is essentially a c19 working village, not pretty but charming nonetheless. The parish church of St.Johns built by the rector of Old Woking as a chapel of ease, to serve the people, gave the village its name

In the picture, the building in the background is Bellinis, our local Italian restaurant and one which attracts patrons from far afield. Lovely on a summer evening at one of the window tables looking out over the canal. In the painting, the barge is being tied up on the landing strip. The few barges that we get usually tie up here, possibly for coffee al fresco at Bellinis or perhaps access to the village shops.

So far, I haven’t done anything unusual. The palette I have kept simple, starting with my usual raw sienna and Naples yellow mix as a base. Some different greens for different plants. I favour a sap green and raw sienna mix for grass and trees rather than straight sap green. I have also used a yellow mix and also some terre vert for shadows. It was rather a dull day on that occasion, so little in the way of shadows which is a pity, in fact I have added more shadow than actually existed on the day. Warm shadows using Transparent Brown.

I have left the barge with its reflections to do, so something colourful amongst all that green and brown. That I think, will make an enormous difference. We shall see.

PS I had my first sale from my Artfinder site recently, which was the nice little painting of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, so rather pleased about that. Will there be another, I ask myself? We live in hope, but quite a competitive site

Scene from Basingstoke Canal as Painting Idea

Canal Picture

The next exhibition I need to prepare for is themed on waterways, so I need to get busy. I need 10-12 paintings ready to hang in February.

Canals are a good source of subjects. This is the Basingstoke Canal fairly near to where I live. We walk the dog along the towpath, and keep an eye out for something that is looking suitable to paint

The Basingstoke Canal isn’t very long. It was cut in the c18 like so many and came off the Wey Navigation which already ran into the Thames, and thus into the Pool of London. The intention was to cut an inland waterway from London to Southampton. Britain was at war with France, and coastal vessels sailing from London to south coast ports were in danger of attack. However the canal only reached Basingstoke, a small town then, when the railway started pushing out of London towards Southampton in the early c19, and soon the canal became obsolete and started to fall into disrepair. In the 1930s a tunnel close to a place called Odiham, collapsed, and there was no reason to repair it. This old tunnel became a bat sanctuary. Bats are protected, so there is no possibility of the tunnel being excavated, so today the canal only goes as far as Odiham

It was generally run down for years, overgrown and in some parts dried out. Volunteers and enthusiasts cleared out the undergrowth, repaired lock gates, and reflooded the dry sections.

Today the canal exists for leisure craft and for wild life. We don’t get many barges along the Basingstoke Canal unfortunately, as the distance is short and there are many locks to be negotiated, so the one in the picture was worth photographing. Not far behind, just off this picture is another barge coming towards us, under the road bridge, so two together is something of a sight.

So I have started to put a composition together, which I think will be interesting of one barge being tied up on the old wharf of St.Johns, with another one approaching.  St Johns Village where I live, was established by the builders of the canal, Every so often a brick works was established to provide bricks for the walls of the canal. The bridge, which hopefully will appear in the painting is still called Kiln Bridge, as a reminder of the brickmaking .

We will see how it goes.

Canals of Venice: the finished painting

Canals of Venice

The finished painting which I have just framed, which will go in “The Railings” exhibition on Saturday, where I hope it may bring me more luck than those in the Royal Surrey Hospital have done. This exhibition  has been deathly quiet so far. Hard to explain this, as exhibitions at RSCH have always been so busy. Still there is yet time

The railings exhibition is a local show held at Pirbright in Surrey under the auspices of the Pirbright Art Club, with whom I paint. The exhibition is outdoor, so we pray for dry weather, and held outside the Pirbright Village Hall, which is a lovely Victorian building with beautiful iron railings. We hang our paintings on the railings, hence the name. It makes for a colourful and impressive display, and we hope for sales.

I enjoyed doing this painting as I always enjoy painting Venice. I sometimes wish I could get away from it but am always pulled back. There was considerable work in the underpainting on this one which can be tedious, so I took advice from a colleague, who advised finishing one detail, he said, which gives you that necessary boost to carry on. I finished the Gothic window in the middle of the picture, before I did anything else which I do think gave me encouragement to carry on.

When my grandchildren get back from their holiday late this week, we have a painting day lined up so I might try out the Little Green Frog which could amuse us all.