Van Gogh Exhibition at Tate Britain

Van Gogh Self Portrait

Superb exhibition of Van Gogh works as well as some of his influences currently at Tate Britain. We went there on Saturday. It was very crowded, and part of me wished that we had got up earlier and gone to the member’s preview at 8am. It was bound to be popular with so many famous paintings brought in from all over the world. The first Van Gogh exhibition since 1947!

He spent three years in London before he started painting. Firstly in the London office of Goupil, the art dealer, and some of the paintings he would have handled were on show. At Goupil he dealt in black and white prints, and himself became a collector, accumulating some 2000 prints. Whilst in England, he developed a fondness for literature, and especially for the works of Dickens. It is believed that he developed his social conscience through reading Dickens, and many of his works depict the misery of poverty.

He was a teacher and later a preacher in Isleworth before returning to the Netherlands and then moving to France to join his brother Theo, also a dealer.

In France he was painting, and from Paris moved to Arles, hopefully to found a colony of artists. Much of his work from this period is too well known to mention, and then sadly he was overtaken by mental illness, the need to self-harm and eventually to commit suicide

Also shown were some of the works of artists, who had been inspired by Van Gogh. Harold Gilman, Spencer Gore, and Matthew Smith led by Walter Sickert of the Camden Group were particular devotees, and it was said that Gilman would raise his brush to a picture of Van Gogh before he started to paint.

Famous paintings here, too many to mention. Sunflowers which was bought for the Tate in 1928 and then moved to the National, is now back. Also Shoes which was possibly the first painting of shoes to be used as a portrait of their owner. Others followed, and here I always think of our local painter and gardener, Gertrude Jekyll

I’ll finish with a bad photograph of Shoes

n

It’s on until 11 August

Advertisements

Venice, the Old Fish Market Panorama

The Old Fish Market along the Grand Canal, Preparatory Drawing

I was hoping to add one more painting to my exhibition at the Guildford Institute, but owing to a series of accidents the start date had to be brought forward, so there was no time to finish it. The exhibition starts tomorrow but I am continuing with the painting anyway.

A few months back, I bought some long frames which I quite like using. It means I can paint a panoramic scene like coastline or as in this case, what will be hopefully a long stretch of the Grand Canal. I went back through my old photographs, and found a selection running from the Old Fish Market, which is a wonderful building in itself, and one that I have painted before

This is just part of the total shot but will give a better idea of where I am going with it. I took this picture whilst walking round the villa opposite, and I’m afraid I have forgotten the name, other than it was splendid. In the bottom left hand corner is what looks like an heraldic lion or similar, perched on the balcony. I have included him as a useful bit of foreground to aid the perspective.

I am about to paint and for the moment will just put on the first wash, with my usual Mediterranean sky colour and a neutral base for the buildings and sky for the water. I have masked the lion as you can see.

The buildings opposite are in deep shade which is a pity, although I may be able to relieve that here and there. Otherwise I shall just have to work with what I have got.

We will see where this takes us. The free advertising for Jackson’s is accidental, by the way

Barcelona in March 2019

The Church of the Sacred Family

Gaudi’s famous basilica which is nearing completion. The target date is 2026, which will be the centenary of the architect’s death

Lovely to go here again. We were here two years ago, but impossible to tire of the magnificent interior. The colours from the sun, through the stained glass windows are mind-blowing. The colours range from cold to hot, and depend on the time of day, as to which colour bathes the nave. We were there in the afternoon, so everything was red and orange

I did write more about the interior when we were here last, and took more pictures, so possible to go back through the archives if you want to.

The statues on the exterior I find incredible, modern yet seemingly correct. When I say modern, perhaps I should say c20 now, as we are looking at Gaudi’s version of Art Nouveau which I find as elegant and awe inspiring as any style from history. He was a devout man we are told, and certainly his work reads like an act of worship

I took several pictures of the building from outside. This one is from the park opposite, and I might paint from this. I haven’t tried to paint the basilica yet, so might give it a go. The park was solid with people, so had to jockey for position in order to take pictures.

We were staying as before in Sitges and came in by train to Barcelona which only takes about 40 minutes. Trains are frequent and also cheap in Spain. Not like the fares in the UK which are eye-watering these days, and which nobody seems to control. Affordable public transport will take cars off the road, but no one has the message yet. Rant over.

I did manage a painting of Sitges a few years back, of the delightful San Sebastian beach, which I append. Lovely place to chill out

San Sebastian Beach in Sitges

This was done in March a few years back. Not as warm as this year, and deserted except for dog-walkers and everyone in anoraks. This year it was a pleasant 20c with a gentle breeze, as near to perfect as you could get

The Original before cutting down

The Original Sea Gazers

The comment was made, quite fairly, that I didn’t include the original painting, before it was reduced.

This is it. As I said, I felt the eye ran off the page to the right, and was possibly rather boring anyway. By removing the right hand side, I effectively made more of a central group with the figures and the distant headland.

I found the breakers rather strange here, as they rolled in, roughly the same size each time, so rather monotonous, really

Please feel free to comment, should you want to. Your opinions are important to me

Cutting Down an Old Painting

Sea Gazers in Nice

Sometimes a painting creates no interest whatsoever, even though I might have been pleased with it at the time. Occasionally, and only when I think appropriate, I remove a section of the painting, which perhaps detracts from the overall composition, and reduce the image to a smaller painting. Hopefully an improvement.

So it was with this picture, Sea Gazers in Nice. We were in Nice for New Year, a few years ago. The weather was mild compared with the rest of Europe, which was deep-frozen. We walked along the famous Promenade des Anglais, and watched the sea and watched people watching the sea. This couple were alone with their thoughts and almost mesmerised by the breakers rolling in.

They kindly kept motionless, unaware of me sketching them and taking photographs. Not often that sitters are so obliging. I did the painting some years later, but then I included a long expanse of sea and breakers to the right of the couple. It was a mistake, looking back, as the eye of the viewer went right off the page.

I showed the painting a few times, but it impressed no-one. I prefer this version, so will see if others do

I have used this method only a few times. Occasionally only a central detail from a larger painting, seems to work. The last time I rescued a painting in that way, was to cut a small scene about the size of a postcard, and this worked on its own. The rest wasn’t worth keeping. The reduced painting, of the London Embankment, with a small section of London Eye, I sold, so that was worth doing.

We’ll see what happens to Sea Gazers!

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.

Still Life as far as it will go

Still Life as far as it will go and now to be abandoned

As the title says, this is really as far as I can go with this painting, which was only supposed to be a learning exercise, and I have learned from it. There was no question of producing a finished piece of work, unless by happy accident.

I have sharpened up some of the detail and also removed the mask since the last post. The highlights were a bit blobby and needed tidying up, and I am far from happy with them even now. The mask needs to be applied with a pen for this sort of subject, which I didn’t have with me at the time. The metal cap on the lamp on the right is meant to be copper. I could not remember how to portray copper in watercolour, but found a website that told me, burnt sienna and a little raw umber. An example of a painting was shown which was beautiful. Hmm, I need to practice this, as the result is far too ginger for my liking

I prefer of the three, the glass cylinder on the left. Not sure whether it is a candle holder or a piece of laboratory equipment. A group of glass items from a laboratory would make a very interesting composition for a still life painting.

The real lesson that I have learned is not to attempt this sort of painting without the proper references, either the items themselves or an accurate photograph. Going from an old painting, and trying to remember where the highlights were, really dooms you from the beginning

I will return to my comfort zone next with a subject I am more used to, but useful to do something like this from time to time,(not to mention humbling)

A Lesson in Still Life Painting

Still Life Exercise

This is not the finished painting!

Not by a long way. On this occasion I am the student, and am preparing to follow a demo on Thursday at our local art club. We have been told to prepare in sketch form, a group of objects, and if we wanted to, put in some basic colour. The demonstration is to show how to provide an effective background wet-in-wet, which will one hopes transform this rather ordinary little group of objects into a painting

One of the many advantages of belonging to an art club, is that it gives you the opportunity to experiment with something totally different. Normally I paint town or seascape, so with this I shall be out of my comfort zone as it is called

More after Thursday

More work has been done

Still a lot more to do

We had the demonstration yesterday which really centred around negative painting. The spaces around the glass bottles were made wet, but only a manageable space at a time. Pigment was dropped in and allowed to spread, which gave quite a pleasing effect. Of course, as my subjects were glass, I had to allow the shadows to be visible through the bottles. My problem was that I didn’t have actual bottles to refer to, only a sketch from twenty years ago. I went darker than anyone else, looking for something dramatic, presumably.

The edges are finely masked with Frith masking fluid.

This exercise is by no means finished. Some more shadows need to go in around the base of the jars. The top of the lamp on the right is copper so some red needs to go on which will alleviate the green, and of course the masking needs to come off

I think I will try and finish it, although I don’t have to. it is one of those exercises where learning the method is the aim, not to produce a finished piece of work

Some more interesting topics to come from the art club, including painting with acrylic inks which I haven’t done for many years, so something to look forward to.