Rooftops over Ragusa

View of the rooftops of Ragusa in Sicily

We spent a lovely holiday in Sicily a few years back. One of the many towns we visited was Ragusa, built on two hills as I remember, certainly high up.

We were given a walking tour by a local guide, a young man who was fit and agile. Members of our party were mostly not, some had sticks and needed time. He took us to the vantage point in the picture, behind the cathedral. We were faced with what looked like hundreds of steps and very steep at that. Our guide skipped up them like a young goat. We climbed slowly pausing for breath. We caught him up at the very top. He looked impatient. He gave us a matter of minutes to take photographs, and gather our strength , then trotted down at a speed which we could not match

I remember thinking ” One day, young man, you’ll be like us”

At the top I took pictures from the hip. It was quite a view and needed more time. I remember thinking ” I’ll paint this one day”. That was a few years back, and now thanks to isolation I have finally found time and I have made a start. So far so good but nothing worth showing yet

I will just finish with a view of the steps which might give an idea of the ascent

Those steps

I still remember that feeling of vertigo when I looked back down

It should make for an interesting composition if I get it right

Painting in someone else’s style completed

Corner of Venice

So this is my version of the original photograph, something I took some while ago, and frankly was something of a muddle. It lent itself to the “less is more” concept, if anything did. I am not saying this is a masterpiece by any means but does improve on the photograph.

The corner of the Doge’s Palace has been detailed although not heavily so and so has the street lamp. The rest has been trailed out, although you can just make out what it is. As I remember the shot in the background forms part of the Basilica of St.Mark, but not enough showing to be recognisable, so not really missed when phased out

I haven’t found someone else’s style easy, as one’s own creeps back, but I have been as disciplined as I could. Nice to draw in ink again, too. I had forgotten the satisfaction that brings. I tend to draw in ink over my pencil lines and then erase the pencil. My pencil lines rarely go in the right place and need a few more tries. When inking over you can pick the line you like and then erase the rest. Ink or ball point, both work well with watercolour

Looking back I can see that I didn’t attach the original photo which I will do now

The original photo

This was the original photograph that I worked from, which is as you can see something of a muddle. A good candidate for “less is more” !

One corner of the Doge’s Palace and behind the street lamp, unrecognisable bits of the Basilica. I took this years ago. I don’t remember why, but it served its purpose with this exercise

Painting in someone else’s style

An example of someone else’s work

This isn’t something that I usually try. The example above is one of many hundreds of images by celebrated watercolour artist Judi Whitton. She starts with a line drawing in ink, and then uses watercolour. It would never have occured to me to imitate this style, had I not read her article in one of the recent painting magazines in which she outlined her method. It seemed like an invitation

The point that she was illustrating was what to leave out, as much as what to put in. In other words ” less is more”

That would be a useful lesson for me, as I never know when to stop, which is a common fault, so it might be worth me trying this exercise to see what I can learn. More importantly what will I remember for the future

Likewise, and this is something I have always tried to do, is the power of suggestion, rather than painting in every detail. If that comes out of this exercise, even better

For now I have done a line drawing from one of my old photographs of Venice. Quite a lot of her work is architectural, and she has written a book about Venice. In case anyone finds architectural work daunting, her method can be used on a variety of subjects. Probably best to look at her website.

My scene from Venice

I have used an old photograph from one of my visits, which looks like a corner of the Doge’s palace, and have drastically reduced the detail

I will see what I can do with this

A Street in Florence–the finished painting

A Street in Florence–latest version

So here it is, the recent version, which I had attempted in a different style, but despite which turned out much the same as my version of four years ago.

As a group we were trying to produce something in the style of Tom Haugamat, the illustrator. Not someone I knew but impressed with his work when I looked him up. Most of our group were working on ipads and produced some very credible if not impressive work.

Mine veered off course as my own style crept back in. I still kept the painting simpler, that is less detailed, than my norm, and I fancied started to have a cubist feel. I thought that maybe that is how cubism started to evolve. Not that I would have been clever enough to develop a major movement like cubism, but I might recognise it happening

Anyway, this is how it turned out, and others can judge, as always

The streets are deserted today in our local neighbourhood despite the warm weather. We are becoming more disciplined in our efforts to check this pandemic. I took a short walk this afternoon, which we are still allowed to do, for exercise, just one walk.

It was very eerie out there. I took some pictures for a possible painting. I don’t usually do social commentary, but maybe something as a record would be of interest one day. I have lived for nearly eighty years, and never experienced anything like this. I wonder how many people are thinking the same

There was something very like this happening in 1665, when the bubonic plague travelled from London to a village in Derbyshire called Eyam, in a bolt of cloth which had been ordered by a cloth finisher in the village

When the cloth was unrolled the infection spread to the cloth finisher and he died within three days. The infection spread quickly, people died and survivors buried them, in gardens and in fields. The village elders closed the road in and out of the village, total lockdown. People left food and supplies outside of the village

Gradually the plague burned itself out. Not everyone died because they never do in an epidemic, hence this dreadful expression herd immunity. One woman, a farmer’s wife buried her husband and three sons in a field. She survived and went to live afterwards with her sister in Sheffield.

Today Eyam is known as The Plague Village and is a tourist attraction.

A Street in Florence-Revisited

A Street in Florence– first version

This was the painting that I did some years ago from one of my own photographs. We had toured Tuscany by rail, and went to Florence of course as one of the most important destinations. I took a photograph looking down this street, and painted it when we got back. I gave it to a friend as a leaving present

I thought I would like to do it again, using different colourways, and that is what I am setting out to do

So far. and I haven’t photographed a stage painting yet, I have put in less detail. The images are very simple blocks of colour, almost cubist in effect. I didn’t think I would like doing it this way, but having let my work dry out. the result is starting to grow on me. But I have a long way to go yet

For now I will just publish the stage I’ve reached. It is working out differently to the first version. I’ve used a different colour for the distant buildings, which somehow I prefer. We’ll have to see how it finishes

Part Finished

Photograph was taken quickly and is poor but will give us an idea

Ponte Vecchio, Florence : the finished painting

Ponte Vecchio by Evening Light

Well, I prefer this version to the previous one. I have removed the grass bank, and the need to introduce a different colour. Also I prefer opening out the riverscape too.

The quayside with boats, of course, is fanciful, I know, but the picture needed something else coming towards the foreground. Even now I wonder whether this was enough. A large boat heading towards the bridge would have worked but too late now. the painting will have to stand as it is

In common with so many, I am in self isolation. Art exhibitions cancelled. Holidays cancelled. History groups cancelled and so on. It is the same for everyone I know

My wife and I are just grateful that we were able to celebrate our golden wedding on March 7th, just before restrictions started to bite.

Anyway, a good time to paint and get ready for end of year exhibitions. I am also updating my web site, something I get round to about once a year

Keep well, wherever you are

Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence: the second version

Second Version Drawing

I wasn’t overly happy with the first painting of the Ponte Vecchio, as I may have said. I didn’t like the grass bank, which although attractive in real life, meant that I had to introduce another colour which I didn’t want to do. Also it cut out a large section of river, which I think was a pity

Instead of the grass bank, I have constructed a wharf with boats. Fictitious I know and offensive to some. The bridge however remains intact, and is still the subject of the painting.

I much prefer this composition. Not only do I keep my limited palette, but also brings something into the foreground, which is useful

Plenty of time for things to go wrong though. With the gentler colours that I’m using, this is more sunrise than sunset, but I still have to make up long shadows which I find tricky. Where exactly will they fall, and will they look convincing?

Time will tell

I was asked to quote for a commission yesterday, so there is some life in the market, which is of comfort, with all the bad news at the moment

Cat in the Snow

The cat in the snow

This was pure self-indulgence for me. I needed a break from more involved paintings. No planning with this one needed. Just do it, and do it quickly.

The subject appealed to me, as it was so amusing. I don’t usually paint cats. This one was simple as only half a face and no legs to paint. Eyes I had to be careful with and look up how to do them. The white spot on the eye should be more pronounced, but not too bad.

I can’t offer this painting for sale as I copied a photograph, and can’t trace the photographer, so this one is for internal consumption only. Still, nothing wrong with that

Ponte Vecchio, Florence the finished painting

Ponte Vecchio Sunset

I was duty bound to publish the finished painting having started, but this is not one that I take pleasure in. This is me on an off day

I am at odds with the composition to start with. The grass bank which is there in the photograph, I do wish now I had left out. I was worried about introducing another colour, and the green has not worked well at all. Some parts are not too bad. The deep red of the building on the right with the evening shadow, I quite like, but the rest is disappointing. Everything is laboured where I have tried to rectify mistakes instead of starting again

I think in time I might try this picture again in another colourway, still with long shadows but omitting the grass bank, so that I can keep to a two colour palette which should prove more palatable, no pun intended. Not sure what I will put in the place of the grass yet. Perhaps bring the building down to the water with a quayside which offers more interest. I will have to see

For now, playing around with a cat picture, which is unusual for me. I think I will only publish this one if I like it

Read a very interesting article in one of the art magazines, about knowing when to stop, or in other words , less is more. Also this artist did the drawing in ink which I haven’t done in a long while, and which I would like to try again. That could be refreshing. I am starting to repeat myself which is bad

A Street in Florence

On the subject of Florence, this is one that I did a few years ago and gave to a friend. This is more me, and another project is to do a second version for my gallery. I needed to look at this again to restore my faith

Drawing the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Reference photo with grid

I have used the grid method of transferring an image before, but was reminded of it when I went to the Hockney exhibition at the Lightbox in Woking recently. It is very useful especially when you want to enlarge a picture as I do with this one. This is how my drawing has turned out

Drawing of Ponte Vecchio from the photo

I have now doubled the image size so that it is about the usual size that I paint, ie 30×40 centimetres. I have traced the drawing now and am about to transfer this image to watercolour paper

The nice thing about using this method is that once the grid is in place on both images, then there is very little, if any, measuring to be done. Drawing or copying within each small square is relatively simple, and gives you a check on perspective so very useful for anything architectural

There is no restriction on size so if you wanted to paint a mural and make it ten times or twenty times the photograph, then you could. You can work the other way, of course, and reduce the size of an image too.

I shall paint this when ready and probably use a completely different colourway than shown in the photograph. Not sure what yet, possibly an evening colour, and may even do two different colour ways from the same drawing, which will save me some time

We’ll see how it turns out