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 outside Bellinis Restaurant in 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.

The Finished Venice Painting

Peaceful Reflections of Venice

This is the completed version. I call it Peaceful Reflections of Venice, because that is what these quiet corners of Venice are, very peaceful. The city can be busy, but then turn off into one of the side canals, and you are alone with your thoughts.

This should give me enough now for both exhibitions, I hope. The first I may have mentioned already starts on May 3rd, so some framing and stuff to do now, and then hopefully I should be ready. Guildford Institute is a lovely, friendly venue to show at and always attracts good publicity. Sales are never high there but as I say, the coverage is good, so I still like to do it

Following on, on 27th May I am at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford, in the Peter Thompson gallery. Sales are usually good there as the place is so busy. Having built up this stock, I am looking for sales now of framed pictures, just to give myself space to carry on painting.

Quite a few lovely people from around the world have written in to say how much they enjoy watching the painting come together in stages, starting with the drawing and ending with the finished picture. Thank you for that feedback. That is so helpful. Sometimes I think I sound like a teacher, which I am not.  I have no teaching qualifications, but I am happy for anyone to watch me paint, and if that helps, that is fine.

Some useful reaction to the website over the last few months. Three sales and two very interesting commissions. The most recent which I shall start first because of the deadline, is from a national charity, for a painting of a local high street in snow, to be, hopefully used as a Christmas card. I shall donate the work, of course, but nevertheless, the publicity will be valuable

This will take me a little while to work out but I will post in stages as time goes by.

Venice Painting: Halfway Through

Venice Painting Halfway

About halfway through the painting, and if I were smart I would wait for the painting to be finished completely, before showing it. However there are things to be talked about before they are covered by further work.

We left the picture as a drawing with some items masked out, namely the washing on the line. The sky in my usual mix of phthalo blue and cobalt blue, I washed down through the bridge and used for the water. I scrubbed out the distant buildings and painted them in with their reflections.  The tricky bit was the shadows which I had worked out with the sketch. I painted them in twice to get some depth whilst still allowing some transparency and continued into the reflections in the water.

In the photograph you may remember the building at the end was red. I have painted that in using Venetian Red appropriately enough, and have taken that through the reflections.

Venetian Red goes back to the days of the Renaissance. It is a warm red earth colour derived from Ferric Oxide, which always sounds like rust to me. It was used by Renaissance painters mixed with white to make skin tones. It was also called Sinopia, because the best quality pigment came from Sinop in Northern Turkey

It was expensive. If your house was painted in this colour, then you were a man of some means.

Francesco da Mosta in his lovely book, Francesco’s Venice tells us that the art of mixing pigments in Venice was something akin to alchemy. The secrets were closely guarded. Venice was a city of painters, who demanded the best

Still some shadow to be deepened, as well as detailing to be done. I need to work out a green for the shutters, which should also work with the red buildings. So more to do!

Someone phoned with a commission today which is always welcome. Someone who has bought my paintings before wants me to paint somewhere memorable, so something to look forward to.

Venice Painting: the Final prepared Drawing

Another Venice Painting Masked out drawing

The masked out drawing

This follows on from the last post that I wrote, hoping to include one more Venice painting in my exhibition starting 3rd May. It was a while ago that I started this, and progress has been slow I am afraid.

It is that stage which I  find the most tedious, after making an initial sketch working out the composition, as well as the tonal values, which is interesting, you then have to transfer the whole thing onto watercolour paper. A very important task, obviously, but a mechanical one which is time-consuming

However, it is done and we are pretty well ready to lay on the first wash. I am sorry by the way, for the alarming camera distortion. Those walls do not lean in to that degree, or anything like on the original drawing. I shall have to do better than that when I photograph the finished painting!

As you can see, I have masked out some items, namely the washing on the line, the street lamp and one or two flecks on the water. Not just that but I have also painted in the tarpaulins on the boats with waterproof ink colour Cyan, as well as one of the garments on the line. I can now just sweep down with the initial wash without hindrance

One of the reasons that I didn’t start painting today, was because I wanted the masking and the ink to be rock hard before I did so. The shadows have been worked out already with the sketch, so tomorrow hopefully I will at least be able to lay on the first wash, and then we shall be underway.

An interesting bit of news that has come up. I was approached at the end of last week by a national charity which is interested in getting me to design a Christmas card for their fundraising effort. They have seen some of my street scenes on the web site, which is the sort of thing they want with obvious modification. I have a meeting with them next Monday, and if that goes ahead, could be an interesting project. I have my fingers crossed on that one!

Just one more painting of Venice

2007_04010096

I remember saying that as my exhibition quota was pretty well filled, I might relax a bit, and do something experimental, perhaps tackle some portrait work which I have neglected for a long time. I also said that I would probably weaken, and convince myself that I needed another Venice picture for the exhibition.

Well, in fact both are true in a funny sort of way. I could use another Venice picture which are always popular, and yet making something out of the photograph above will be a different sort of a challenge. This was one of many pictures that I took when last there. It was Easter time, and rained a lot. This photograph is especially gloomy, and not what I want to capture in paint.

The subject matter and general composition is fine though. This is a typical quiet backwater of Venice, taken on a Sunday morning, which like so many offers a tranquil retreat away from the crowds. It is rather dreary though, and needs light and deep shade to make the subject matter more interesting.

The problem is always how to work out where the shadows fall. I ended up making a simple cardboard model, which I have not photographed, and then placed it under the spotlight, the position of which I moved continuously.

After I was satisfied with what I had, I then did a very quick sketch in ink and washed in the shadows. The sketch is rough, done without taking measurements, but I think will serve as somewhere to start. Anyway, I will reproduce it now

DSCF2941

As I say, the sketch is rough, but shows me shadows of roof tops projected onto the buildings on the right hand side. Mediterranean blue in the sky and water and bright colours on the lit buildings should, I hope, prove convincing. perhaps too the odd shaft of light catching the boats. It is something to build on

We shall see