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.