Alhambra Palace, Spain

Alhambra Palace, Spain

We went here four years ago. We were staying in Seville at the time, so our visit to the Alhambra Palace and Granada meant we had to make a really early start, and tour the palace in the cool of the morning. This we did, and the tour went well. Some while ago I painted something called Wandering round the Alhambra Palace, which featured the Patio de Leones or Lion Square because of the magnificent fountain in the middle, with its superb carvings of lions.

Nearby Granada, with its magnificent cathedral, we visited later in the searing heat of the afternoon, which I did not enjoy. I don’t know what the final temperature was, but certainly passed 40c. I spent most of the time in the cathedral, to escape the sun, but also to visit the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella. This royal duo liberated Granada from the Moors in 1492, including the Alhambra Palace where they themselves held court. Christopher Columbus went there in 1492 to receive royal instructions before leaving on his voyage.

I had wanted to paint a long view of the palace but time did not permit me time to take any long view photographs. I was pleased to find a helpful reference shot on the Pixabay website, taken by Dennis Doukhar, which was available royalty free for commercial purposes. My thanks to the photographer for the use of this shot.

There is a red shade to much of the building which I have used. Quite a lot of trees around the outside of the palace, so that problem wit unremitting greens, yet again. I have done my best with the trees and will let others judge

Horses in the Mist — the finished painting

My version

This is my finished version of the photograph for which I am grateful to Pixabay

I am not sure about the marbling, not that I have tried to emulate the original exactly. I have used more orange and more blue, which has made the painting brighter, rightly or wrongly. My eye at the moment, is going from one image to the other. I don’t think I have captured the same feeling of movement as the original . When I look at the original I can almost hear the hoofbeats. My horses seem to float on a cloud, which is weird or ethereal depending on your preference.

Still it has been an interesting exercise and one of the most taxing that I have tried for a long time. Certainly a change from architecture

Horses in the Mist

Horses with acknowledgements to Image by Artower from Pixabay

I am grateful for the loan of this image provided by the royalty free website Pixabay. I thought that painting my own version in watercolour would provide me with quite a challenge. The horse that worried me most was the chestnut mare in the centre. How to get the colour that vibrant was a question I couldn’t answer. Obviously a glazing exercise, but where to start. I consulted the mighty Google and looked at various options. One was interesting, starting with an under painting of dilute sap green, but I drew back from that and went for something safer

I decided to do two trials, and start with drawings in coloured pencil. I have never done that before and it seemed so obvious, after it was pointed out. One I drew in terracotta and the other in golden brown. I washed in the coloured lines so that it started looking like a painting. I then gave both a coat of Cadmium Orange and I photographed them both for the record.

Drawing with terracotta pencil and orange wash
Drawn with the golden brown pencil and washed in with orange

There isn’t much between them, although I quietly favour the golden brown

These can harden overnight, and I will start tomorrow on successive coats. Burnt Sienna with a dash of red. Shadows in burnt umber with a dash of indigo. That should give quite a sharp finish, I hope but we shall see. The whole thing is like nothing I have attempted before

If I haven’t mentioned before, my own website davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk was completely redesigned recently. It is now set out better, in subject headings, so that things are easier to find, and is working well

Strolling through Wisley Gardens– the finished painting

A stroll round Wisley Gardens

Somewhere we could go during lockdown. Wisley is the main national garden centre and headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society. We can go there as we live within five miles radius and if we make a booking. Over many years and as members we were used to going on the spur of the moment, so Covid conditions, which we fully applaud, do take some getting used to

I did this picture fairly fast, rather like a sketch. The sky was put in fast and furious, to get some feeling of movement. Usually I just go straight across with a large wide brush, and maybe use two colours. The detail on the building I have left hazy and slightly out of focus because of the distance. The photography hasn’t helped on this occasion, and has left me feeling that the foreground figures need more depth, which wasn’t apparent from the original. Still, that I can attend to

Last time, when I painted Windsor Castle, I used sepia ink for the shadows on the building. I rather wish I had done that this time. Watercolour does disappear into the paper, and often needs reinforcing, whereas the ink is instant, but i don’t think I will go back over it now, so have published with its faults.

I shall leave it there. The machine is giving me trouble today. I altered the font size so that I can read it, and the machine keeps taking me back to default, so I am getting a rather jerky post, for which I apologise. Too much incarceration perhaps is bad for the brain

Wisley Gardens–latest painting

The last painting from Wisley Gardens

This was the last painting of Wisley, which I did about two years or more ago. I was pleased with this one, especially the long shadows. It sold at a local exhibition fairly soon after I painted it.

Wisley is the main national garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. I forget the acreage but is big. This particular shot is of the canal and the laboratory, a fine modern but Tudor styled building, which works well with the plants.

Unlike previous lockdowns, gardens including Wisley are open, but with strict control of numbers. We went in December, one of those fine winter days that makes walking around pleasant. I thought I would try another painting, something like this one but with changes

This is the main composition. I am further away from the main building with some figures in the foreground. I am being more selective in the way I paint this one, just for a change. Usually I wash straight across and wait for that to dry, and then paint onto a coloured background. Just for the moment I have put the shadows in before painting, although they may need reinforcing later

the drawing

It will be interesting working out the sequence. Sky first or bushes first?

I’ll come back to it later

Windsor Castle – the finished painting

Windsor castle on the Thames

The finished item. Quite a lot of trees, relieved by the building to a certain extent, but nevertheless the greens took some sorting out. Mostly they are a mix of sap green with something else. Quite a lot with raw sienna, which is the one I use mostly for vegetation, and works I think for the lighter trees.

The boats have been useful, bringing in some red to relieve all that green, and also stop the eye going off the page. As I said in the last post, I have used sepia ink for the shadows on the castle. I was a little hesitant about that, but seems to have worked out ok.

I seem to be working my way through the list of paintings that I always wanted to do and couldn’t find the time. Lockdown plus very wet weather does keep us indoors a lot. Looking back at these favourite places does make us wonder if we’ll see them again. Vaccination programme seemed to be going well, but now they have found two tested positive for the South African variant, in our village, without them going to South Africa

Oh well. More incarceration

Windsor Castle–preparing the painting

Windsor Castle-the preparatory drawing

Windsor Castle, a royal residence since Saxon times, was developed by William the Conqueror in 1070, on the south side of the River Thames. Henry II built the central round tower, Edward III added the royal apartments, Charles II and George IV both made alterations. It dominates the town of Windsor, is surrounded by Windsor Great Park and is frequently used by Queen Elizabeth II

It is a wonderful architectural study. It is a long castle covering different periods of architecture. At one end a fortress and royal apartments, at the other St.George’s Chapel. Monarchs have been buried there since Henry VIII. There have been no less than 17 royal weddings in the chapel, one of the most recent being that of Princess Eugenie to Mr. Jack Brookbank in 2018.

So far I have drawn the skyline which I found enjoyable with so many details. I wanted to put in the shadows but these would be disturbed by the first wash. I remembered an exercise that I did many years ago, from a book by the late Rowland Hilder. When I first started painting in watercolour, I was lent a battered copy of a book by Hilder, and was literally bowled over. His skies were like something by an old master, and he explained them step by step for the benefit of students. Later I managed to find a copy online and bought it and I refer to it still today

The exercise I was referring to, was his painting of Knole House in Kent. Before anything else, he put in the shadows of the building, in ink, sepia I think. That is what I have done, with my first step when painting Windsor Castle. The structure of the drawing is now immediate. Also I can paint across the drawing without these shadows being disturbed. Another advantage of ink, is that when dry, the colour is the same as when wet. How often have I put down a dark watercolour, and when I came back later, the colour had disappeared into the paper.

I shall leave that for a while to go hard before painting. There are some deep shadows under the trees where I might use ink again. I used to do quite a lot of ink and wash work, but haven’t for a while now. Refreshing to come back to it.

The Cartwheeling Dean–an old friend returns

The Cartwheeling Dean

I did this painting in 2011, the year of the Royal Wedding, when William married Kate in Westminster Abbey. You may remember after the ceremony, that the Dean of Westminster did a cartwheel down the aisle, after the royal party had left, of course. Just something he did out of pure joy I imagine

The village of Pirbright, not far from where I live, and where I paint from time to time, used to put on an annual scarecrow festival, and the skill and artistry that went into making these scarecrows had to be seen. Tableaux usually of different things, book titles, events etc. In the parish church, a complete tableau of the wedding was created. It was amazing. I didn’t take a picture. I wish I had

Included in the scene, was the cartwheeling dean. I did photograph him and painted him later. I took him to local exhibitions, thinking someone would want him but nobody did. Eventually I sold him online and he went to someone in the north-east, and how strange is that. The man who bought him, wrote to me, and told me that he looked at this painting every morning and it made him smile. It was worth painting him just for that.

However, years later someone in the village is writing a book entitled ” Pirbright in Art”, and artists have been asked to submit paintings of, and around the village. I have sent in a selection, including the cartwheeling dean. It would be nice if he was included. We shall have to see.

Portsmouth Harbour — the finished painting

Portsmouth Harbour with Spinnaker Tower

A view I have seen a few times, having sailed out of this port on several occasions. Years ago ferries ran to the Isle of Wight and that was about it. Ferry crossings to France and the Channel islands followed, and subsequently cruise ships use Portsmouth frequently, or did until they were mothballed due to the virus. I think the last time I sailed from Portsmouth was on a cruise ship, which circled the British Isles

Behind the Spinnaker Tower is the historic dockyard, preserving three old men-at-war. The Mary Rose the remains of which was lifted from the seabed off Southsea in 1982, Nelson’s famous flagship Victory, and the Victorian warship Warrior, which combined sail with steam. The Mary Rose sailed out to meet the French, watched by Henry VIII from Southsea castle. She was equipped with broadside of cannon, a new innovation. As she turned into the wind, she took in water through the cannon hatches, which should have been closed, and sank quickly. That was in 1545. Henry died in 1547. Had she engaged the French, it would have been the first engagement using broadside of cannon. Ah well. The French camped on the Isle of Wight should have invaded but were decimated by disease. The same was the case with the English troops. Eventually both sides went home.

The Victory is well known and so is the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson lost his life and was brought home in a barrel of brandy aboard the Victory. The barrel containing the admiral’s body had to be guarded by marines, to stop sailors siphoning off the brandy!

The Warrior, as far as I know, never fired a shot in anger. She commanded the Home Fleet and was on patrol in the English Channel. Portsmouth itself was heavily fortified with forts on Portsdown Hill and forts in the Solent. We feared an invasion from our old friends the French, which mercifully never materialised

So a lot of maritime history in and around Portsmouth as you might expect. A town I knew well, having grown up in the area

The area to the right, is still referred to as Old Portsmouth. We used to go there a lot, for fascinating old pubs and spectacular views across the harbour of an evening, sitting out with a drink enjoying the sunset over the water. Some of those are shown but the old names seem to be gone. Sic transit gloria mundi.

The Spinnaker Tower and the shopping centre, Gunwharf Quays just below, is comparatively new to me. I never did make it to the top, as there was always a queue to go in whenever I was there. Not that I am a great lover of heights anyway. I found it tricky to draw, that I do know, and probably it is far from perfect

It is a painting that I always wanted to do, so finally done. Now I have to move on, as I have been given a commission, which is always nice, although again not going to be the easiest to make a composition of, but I think I have arranged it in my head

Planning Painting of Portsmouth Harbour

Portsmouth Harbour and Spinnaker Tower

A view I know well, having sailed out of Portsmouth at one time or another over the years, either to the Isle of Wight or to Cherbourg or to Jersey

I knew the Harbour before the Spinnaker Tower was erected and before the great shopping centre of Gunwharf Quays was built underneath. On the immediate right hand side is Old Portsmouth, as the name suggests the historic part which is associated with great names and with great events. Admiral Lord Nelson sailed from here on numerous occasions, including the last fateful expedition when he engaged the French fleet under Admiral Villeneuve off Cape Trafalgar in 1805. Most people know what happened and both admirals were killed.

The masts of Nelson’s flagship Victory is visible in this picture on the left hand side in the distance. Victory is in dry dock in Portsmouth dockyard, and has been for many years, certainly since I was a schoolboy.

Samuel Pepys the diarist was here often in his role as First Sea Lord. The Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, favourite of King James 1, was assassinated in 1628 in the local hotel. Catherine of Braganza from Portugal disembarked here to be betrothed to Charles II, and there are many more famous instances.

So far I have only just finished the drawing, which may be too faint to show up, but I will try later. The big problem will be showing the Spinnaker Tower to its best advantage. It has the sun on it, so needs to be bright white against the sky. I think it will have to be masked out, despite its size, which I am not looking forward to. All that before I start to paint

This is a busy time anyway, but I have had to finalise the book illustrations as these are being called for, so I have had to leave this painting for quite a while unfortunately. I have really enjoyed the illustrating work which has taken me to fresh fields, which is always satisfying. Sadly the one and only real exhibition that I would have done this year, due to have started on the 21st, was cancelled as our area moved into Tier 4. Great shame as this would have been at Denbies Winery, the large vineyard near Dorking, where I haven’t shown before. But I must not lose sight of the fact that this year has been amazing for me, as far as online sales are concerned. Eleven sales this year, of which three are international, perhaps unimpressive for many artists, is for me a record. Due to the Covid factor I know, with people locked down at home.

Sketch of Portsmouth Harbour

Not brilliant but perhaps will show where I am at.