Wild Horses of the Camargue: the finished painting

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Well, this is the finished painting

Quite a lot of work building up the shadows on the horses. They have so much muscle which has to be shaded correctly. in order to look right. Having stared at this painting for so long, I just can’t tell any longer if it looks right or not

As well as showing horses, I also wanted to show speed and independence of spirit which these animals possess in the wild.

I wanted to paint the flamingos from the Camargue as well but commissions are backing up which is a happy problem, so sadly flamingos may have to wait for a while

I have been asked to paint something for Egypt Equine Aid which I am pleased to do, which may well be one of my donkey paintings which I have not done for years, so that should be interesting. They have a Christmas auction but paintings have to be in in November so not that much time

A Week in Sicily

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The Rooftops of Ragusa

We have just returned from a wonderful week in Sicily. I am exhausted as we packed a lot in, and did more walking than I am used to. The city of Ragusa is beautiful built on the sides of gorges, so dramatic in themselves. However everything is steep, and the climb we did to get this picture was no exception. I am not sure how many steps as I lost count at 150.

We were about ten minutes too early for the lovely baroque church in the background, so our guide took us to the top for the view, one picture and straight back down. Bit of a killer in the hot sun

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This is the way down, only more of it, as the steps wind on round the houses.

Sicily has been hit by several earthquakes in its history, but the big one in the c17 destroyed nearly everything. Consequently all the churches seem to be in the Baroque style following a massive rebuilding programme, in whichever town you visit.

Syracuse was fascinating with its wonderful archaeological park. Sicily was Greek from 750BC, and the park shows where slaves quarried massive stone blocks from the hillside for their building programme. Greek theatres followed by Roman amphitheatres abound. The Romans took Syracuse from Greek hands in the early third century, and also drove out the last of the Carthaginians

Sicily changed hands so many times throughout its long history. Goths and Vandals after the Romans, Arabs and then the Norman Conquest in the c11, creating the Kingdom of Sicily, curiously matching England which became Norman in 1066 just before Sicily

You often see images of St Thomas a Becket in churches in Sicily. Henry II of England’s daughter, Joan married King William II of Sicily. You may remember that Henry had Becket murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, an act that horrified the rest of Europe. William venerated Becket in Sicily in order to distance himself from Henry’s crime, which later Henry was to do penance for

Of more recent interest, were the location shots for the Montalbano  detective series shown on TV. These were in Raguso, Scipli and Punta Secca. Lost on me as I never watched the series however

Some superb shots for paintings, including the roof top view which I have shown, and also the beautiful Medieval windmills on the west side of the island. Still, for now, I shall be getting back to the drawing of the Camargue horses which I left before I went away

A nice message waiting for me when I got back. Someone is buying the painting of Langstone Harbour, which is shown in the archive of this blog somewhere

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The Medieval windmills and saltpans near Trapani

Horses of the Camargue: Preparing to Paint

Line Drawing on Watercolour Paper

The Line Drawing on watercolour paper

I have transferred the sketch just as a line drawing onto the watercolour paper. The size of the image is roughly what I want, about 30×40 centimetres

The painting will be interesting to say the least. The horses should be lighter than the background, and as you know, you can only go from light to dark with watercolour and not vice versa. The manes and tails in the photographs seem to glow as though they have light behind them. I think they will have to be masked out for that to happen. I may have to put background in first, which will be amusing

I won’t have a lot of time this week as we are going away soon to Sicily, another wonderful source of material. I think before I go, I will hopefully have time to give the painting an all-over wash of Naples yellow and Raw Sienna, which should give the glow of low sunshine that I want. Fingers crossed on that one

So, it may be nearer the end of the month before I can finish the painting completely. This won’t be an easy painting to do for the reasons stated. We shall just have to see how it turns out

 

Van Gogh and Arles

I have been away for the past week. We cruised down the River Rhone from Lyon to Arles which was lovely, and took three places off my bucket list. One was the Pont du Gard, that amazing section of Roman aqueduct still remaining crossing the River Gard. Very hot that day but still summoned the energy to go down to the water’s edge and look up at this amazing structure whilst envying the people in the water. The second place was the Camargue National Park to see the famous white horses and the black bulls, as well as of course the flamingos who breed there, the only breeding ground of this bird in Europe. Curiously they are not very pink. The third place, as an artist that I wanted to visit was Arles made famous by Van Gogh, and those of us who wanted, were treated to a fascinating walking tour taking in some of the places made famous by the artist.

Van Gogh arrived in Arles in 1888, and took a room in a house near the railway station. he called it the Yellow House and it is depicted in one of his paintings. The house isn’t there anymore. It was destroyed by bombing in WW2. The house next door is still there, not yellow but a sort of buttermilk colour, and curiously enough still a cafe.

The light in Arles is extremely attractive for artists. The sun shines and the sky is blue nearly every day. More importantly, the famous wind, the Mistral blows down the Rhone like a corridor and clears the air of water vapour, dust etc, and produces a clarity of colour that would be hard to find elsewhere. The Mistral in summer is like a cooling breeze, like an electric fan in the heat of the city. In winter, I am told, it is something of a tyrant, getting inside your head, making you ill, and in some cases inducing madness. It goes in three-day cycles. If it doesn’t stop after three days, it will go on for another three, and so on

Vincent’s time in Arles was highly productive, producing something like 300 paintings.He was bi polar so was capable of great energy at times.  On our walk we visited some of the sites made famous by van Gogh. One of them was the Night Cafe or Le Cafe la Nuit. The exterior of the cafe is depicted in Cafe Terrace at Night painted in September 1888. My picture follows.

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Another shot with the van Gogh painting as a reference

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He wanted to set up a society of artists in Arles, and to this end, persuaded his brother Theo, who was already financing him, to persuade Gauguin with financial inducements, to come to Arles, which he did. The two of them had a turbulent relationship which turned violent and Gauguin left.

Van Gogh’s despair and self recrimination led to the famous self mutilation incident, when he took a razor to his ear and sliced off a lobe. He wrapped it in newspaper and gave it to a prostitute whom he knew. She reported him to the police, who thought he had killed Gauguin. He was admitted to a hospital in Arles for treatment, where he continued to work, and produced the following painting of the hospital garden

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The garden which he painted is not dissimilar today. Later his condition was to worsen and he was admitted to a nearby asylum in St.Remy.He was estranged from Theo who was about to marry. As we know he was to shoot himself in a nearby field, amidst some controversy. He shot himself in the chest and did not die immediately. People usually shoot themselves in the head and then death is instant. How did he come by a gun. He was unpopular in the town, because of his strange behaviour. Had someone else shot him? All unanswerable questions

I have tried to condense the walk down to as few words as possible. Not easy to convey so much information, but hope you find it interesting nonetheless

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

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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

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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

Sitges Beach: the finished painting

Sitges Beach

The finished painting!

Pleased with it, and pleased to finish as well. The sea seemed to work in this painting. It doesn’t always. I like the way the wet sand finished up too.

So this one goes for framing and will form part of “Watercolour Wanderings” exhibition. I think I have enough now, so might be able to do something more experimental, if I have both exhibitions sorted

Wouldn’t mind having a go at portrait work again. Not successful with faces. Might try again

I expect that I will persuade myself that one more Venice picture is needed though!

Sitges: the Painting so far

Sitges Interim

I don’t normally publish halfway through a painting if I can help it, but I have several family commitments over the next few days, so doubt if I will get away to the easel for a while

But the painting is underway, and with the usual reservations about my photography, I am reasonably happy so far. If you remember the photograph from a previous post, there is bright sunshine and consequently deep shadow. These are always fun to do, as they give depth and heighten the drama of the picture

i used my usual “Mediterranean” mix for the sky of Phthalo blue and Cobalt and let that run down for the first wash of the sea. I let that run down onto the buildings and let it mix with the Raw Sienna/ Naples Yellow mix I used for them.In the case of the building far left top, this worked quite well as these buildings were white yet in shade, so the effect was ethereal, and I let that stay. The rest I have sharpened up with detailing

The tricky part will be the sea with white foam. I have masked out here and there to give myself a guideline, but will have to do some work with white body paint. Also wet sand with reflections will be challenging too. The dog walking couple I have part masked to provide a sunlit edge coming in from the left, otherwise I can just paint across them

I will cautiously call this “so good so far”, and leave it there