Erquy in Brittany: the Finished Painting

Erquy in Brittany

The painting is now finished, in that I have started to fiddle, which is a good time to stop

Getting the sand/mud to look waterlogged has been a problem, and I have settled for what I’ve got, rather than end up with a surface which looks dark and unconvincing. I did mask out some tyre tracks which had filled with water, and then touched them in afterwards. They seemed to work well enough.

I have taken the mask off the lighthouse, and painted that in, with its red domed top, that attracts the eye. Two tricolor flags on the boats give another opportunity for small dabs of red too. I tend to use vermilion now rather than cadmium red, which seems to work.

Some of the figures and dinghies have bled into the wet, which I have allowed, as I think that gives a hint of reflection.

I think I have taken it as far as I dare without spoiling, so will leave it now as complete.

I have a new commission arrived, a house portrait, which is highly convenient so will start on that soon

Erquy: the Drawing

Erquy in Brittany

I have done some drawing and also started to paint as you can see. Nothing startling, just the background. The lighthouse has been masked out, so it can stand out stark white with red at the very end

I have also masked out some of the tyre marks in the sand which are full of water, hopefully to recreate that image. The composition itself I have altered slightly, but only slightly, as really not much improvement is necessary. The fishing boats have been beached at low tide, which immediately offers an interesting picture for watercolour. There is light coming from the left, offering shadows as well as possible reflections.Some boats were left out, and one different one added. Otherwise the scene is much the same as it was in 1972

I needed some human activity so added the two figures in the foreground. They are actually copied from the figure in the distance. I had to guess the perspective, so I hope it looks convincing. Both figures are bent over as though hauling on some imaginary chain, so a little bit of narrative

I have added shadow to the boats just to give them form, and to guide me when I go to paint them in. One or two extra dinghies as well. I may well have to add somehting small in the centre, but I am not sure yet.

That is as far as I have got. So far so good I think

Painting Someone Else’s Photo

With their permission of course

A typical square in the south of France

This was really something of a diversion, while I considered where my priorities lay, for the next painting.

This exercise is really part of a competition, which appealed to me. I don’t usually enter competitions as I never get anywhere, but what intrigued me with this one, was, that it was using ball-point pen with watercolour. Something I had thought of doing but for some reason, not got round to .

This took me back to the days before I retired. I worked for a company that made specialist furniture and fittings for the hotel and restaurant industry. I designed things to customer specification, which is a grand term for drawing out from people what they wanted, and then sketching them during the conversation, until we arrived at a solution. This is very good drawing practice and I can recommend it.

Ball point works well on a hot pressed surface, the motion is fluid and the image is instant. You can’t rub out of course which can be a problem. It doesn’t work very well on cold-pressed watercolour paper which is what I use. The ball clogs and pulls at the paper

Nonetheless it was a useful exercise and interesting to see how it ended up. I sent my entry in after all, very much tongue in cheek. If I never mention it again, you will know that it bombed

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!

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre: the finished painting

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The finished version of Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre

There are still things I look at and feel like going back and fiddling with, but I have learned to resist that, and have finally decided that the painting is finished

Since posting the underpainting, I have been back in with stronger versions of the Transparent Brown and Violet mix, bringing, I hope,  the image closer to the eye, as the detailing becomes sharper

I have had to resist making the detail of the basilica too sharp in order to give the impression of distance. The shadows in the garden and on the steps I have deepened. Likewise the foreground figures, with the obligatory spots of red in the foreground, which are discreet, but they are there.

If I can find a suitable frame, I should be able to include this one in my July exhibition at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford

I bought recently an interesting frame in a driftwood texture, which is comparatively long with the mount divided into four spaces. They are usually used for photographs. I bought it at a craft fair recently. At the same fair, a watercolour artist was showing , and had included one of these frames with four individual pictures making up a wide scene, which looked very effective. I thought I might try something similar. Not the same picture, I hasten to add, but a retake on something I have done before of a long line of beached fishing boats in Devon

I have finally launched my Artfinder shop. The application form was a bit of a marathon, but the support staff were very helpful indeed. I know they are supposed to be, but sometimes they aren’t. The young woman at Artfinder who I think, took pity on me and patiently answered my questions, helping me over the hurdles, was truly excellent.

I have only listed six paintings so far, as the uploading can take a time, if like me you don’t get the sizing right always, but there will be more as time goes by. We’ll see how it goes

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre: Underpainting

Sacre-Coeur Underpainting

From the drawing I have got as far as providing a base coat for the painting. As you can see, I have added some foreground figures from my archive, just to deepen the composition

Basically I have put in the shadows, which in effect gives the subject its form. For the church and figures I have used a mix of transparent brown and violet, which has gone a bit too grey for my liking, so colder than I wanted. I had run out of Ultramarine Violet which I normally use, so used Windsor Violet instead which is more blue than I expected. I will run a wash of transparent brown over the shadow, when bone dry, just to warm them up, and then work in the detail.

I sometimes prefer this stage to the finished painting, when the buildings seem to loom out of the mist.

For reasons best known to myself, I have finished the trees and shrubs first. I don’t usually do that, and have probably made it hard for myself to strike the right tonal balance. Oh well, let’s hope it works out

I am also in the middle of trying to set up an online shop with Artfinder, who come recommended. Nothing like the sales that I enjoyed last year, either locally or from my own website. Maybe it is the Brexit effect slowing down our economy. Anyway I have to try something different, so I will doubtless post when I have done it successfully, and also on social media

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre , Paris

 

This has always been a favourite area of Paris. I have wandered around many times taking pictures, and have used them for paintings afterwards. The artist’s quarter, the steps, the views over the roof tops and the Consulat have all featured in my paintings and have been popular at exhibitions, but for some reason, I have never painted the basilica itself

The basilica was planned or started about 1870, and was part of a Catholic revival in France. It was said to be partly a penance following defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war, and partly to expiate the sins of the Communards during the Commune which followed the exile of Napoleon 111.

Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians after the battle of Sedan. His son, the Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, present at the battle, was spirited away to Ostende and thence to England by boat. His mother the Empress Eugenie, dropped everything and fled to England to join her son. In fairness, all was up with the imperial rule. her husband Napoleon III  was released by the Prussians and allowed to travel to England. Already a sick man, he died in exile in 1873.

The Commune , following the fall of Paris, saw much anti-church rhetoric and atrocities. The building of the Sacre-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre, a scene of much insurrection, was intended to heal the divisions in France, and create a church come-back. Certainly this was  a significant building

Using various photographs, I have made this pencil sketch on which to base a painting. I just haven’t worked out colours yet, although something sunlit I suspect. No doubt my favourite warm shadows using Sennelier Transparent Brown mixed with Violet will be present.

I have the task now of moving the sketch in very basic terms onto watercolour paper and then finishing a drawing ready for painting. So, as always we shall see.

Notre Dame de Paris finished

notre-dame-finished

The finished painting which has had enough description already probably. An improvement on the first one so I am glad that I did it.

The little girl in the picture, modeled by my granddaughter, Lola,  although she didn’t know it, is struggling to put her hood up, so that she can continue chasing the poor pigeons. She loved to watch them take off as a flock, and then shortly afterwards settle back in more or less the same place again

The rest of my gallant family had gone into the cathedral, as the other grandchildren wanted to climb the tower. Lola didn’t want to, and frankly nor did I, so we stayed below on terra firma. My wife, who hates flying but doesn’t mind tall buildings, went with the others. I don’t mind flying but don’t like going up tall buildings. Curious really.

I prefer looking at cathedrals, studying the architecture, and trying to imagine the history surrounding the building. My first thought was of the wonderful story written by Victor Hugo, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and visually for me, going to see that wonderful film in 1956 of the same name, starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida. Quinn played Quasimodo the hunchbacked bellringer, and as a schoolboy then, I was very impressed as Quasimodo sat astride each bell in turn, urging them on like horses. An exciting story, which has been remade subsequently.

On 18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay, with others was burned at the stake in front of this cathedral. He was the last Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templars, an organisation of warrior monks, formed originally to protect pilgrims visiting the shrine of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Pilgrims no doubt rewarded them, as they became rich, as religious orders so often do. They were astute money managers and became in effect, international bankers, lending enormous sums to crowned heads of Europe.

They became super rich and powerful, and thus attracted enemies, including the then Pope Clement V. It was alleged that the Templars had started to identify with their Moslem counterparts, and accusations of heresy were made. Without doubt Templars learned much from their eastern contacts, especially in the field of architecture. What they learned was kept a secret, always suspect, and laid the foundations to the Masonic Order.

Philip IV of France, taking his cue from the Pope started to arrest Templars. Also please note that he owed fortunes to the Templars who were pressing for payment. Templars were tortured horribly to obtain confessions of heresy. De Molay himself confessed to stop the pain and retracted afterwards. He was ordered to be burned at the stake, and it was so arranged that he was consumed very slowly by the fire. Most died within minutes

De Molay at the stake, cursed those who had colluded in his murder, that they should die within the year, and their descendants meet a violent end likewise. Clement V died the following month, and Philip IV had a stroke whilst hunting shortly afterwards. Philip’s descendants did meet premature deaths, so much so that the Capetian line died out

I snap out of my reverie, Lola is still chasing pigeons, and everything seems normal again

 

Notre Dame de Paris :Halfway

notre-dame-halfway

After another false start which I won’t go into, I decided to paint this subject in a vignette style, which I quite enjoy for a change. When there is a lot of peripheral detail which you just don’t need, this is a good way of getting rid of it and just focusing on the main subject.

I also happen to think they look attractive when they are finished, and certainly they seem popular with everyone

Talking of detail, I had to simplify the facade of the cathedral quite a lot, as even with a small detail brush, there is a limit to what you can include, bearing in mind the perspective.

I have chosen to depict the scene in soft winter sunlight, which is possibly my personal favourite. This is the sort of day that gently warms the stonework, and when the sun leaves long shadows on the ground and along the sides of buildings.

For the base colour of the stonework and of the square in front of the cathedral, I have used my typical mix of raw sienna and Naples yellow. For the shadows on the buildings I used violet ultramarine, and as they became deeper like some of the recesses on the cathedral, I toned the violet down with some Transparent Brown. For really dark corners I went over this again with pure violet straight from the tube.

Blue with a dash of brown to provide the grey slate roofs, and some cadmium red pale for the awnings of the restaurant next to the cathedral, finishes what I have done so far. I will echo the red amongst the figures in the foreground, either bags or jackets, so that the eye gets led into the centre of the picture.

Putting the shadows into the figures will be next. Detailing some of the foreground figures will be a long job, and how I’m looking forward to those pigeons, not. Still every painting is a lesson, so we shall see what I get out of this one