Windsor Castle–preparing the painting

Windsor Castle-the preparatory drawing

Windsor Castle, a royal residence since Saxon times, was developed by William the Conqueror in 1070, on the south side of the River Thames. Henry II built the central round tower, Edward III added the royal apartments, Charles II and George IV both made alterations. It dominates the town of Windsor, is surrounded by Windsor Great Park and is frequently used by Queen Elizabeth II

It is a wonderful architectural study. It is a long castle covering different periods of architecture. At one end a fortress and royal apartments, at the other St.George’s Chapel. Monarchs have been buried there since Henry VIII. There have been no less than 17 royal weddings in the chapel, one of the most recent being that of Princess Eugenie to Mr. Jack Brookbank in 2018.

So far I have drawn the skyline which I found enjoyable with so many details. I wanted to put in the shadows but these would be disturbed by the first wash. I remembered an exercise that I did many years ago, from a book by the late Rowland Hilder. When I first started painting in watercolour, I was lent a battered copy of a book by Hilder, and was literally bowled over. His skies were like something by an old master, and he explained them step by step for the benefit of students. Later I managed to find a copy online and bought it and I refer to it still today

The exercise I was referring to, was his painting of Knole House in Kent. Before anything else, he put in the shadows of the building, in ink, sepia I think. That is what I have done, with my first step when painting Windsor Castle. The structure of the drawing is now immediate. Also I can paint across the drawing without these shadows being disturbed. Another advantage of ink, is that when dry, the colour is the same as when wet. How often have I put down a dark watercolour, and when I came back later, the colour had disappeared into the paper.

I shall leave that for a while to go hard before painting. There are some deep shadows under the trees where I might use ink again. I used to do quite a lot of ink and wash work, but haven’t for a while now. Refreshing to come back to it.

Thames Estuary Sea Forts: Finished Painting

Sea Forts Thames Estuary

This is the finished painting

I had intended to post another work in progress shot, but as I got into the rhythm of the painting, it was as easy to finish, and more interesting to look at anyway

I had one false start, which normally I wouldn’t admit to. I decided the sea looked too pale and insipid, so I scrubbed back the bottom half of the platform legs, so that I could paint over the sea again and deepen the colour. Especially the area around the platforms needed to be darker even though it wasn’t in the photograph. I used Viridian mixed with a little Lamp Black for the sea colour, which works well I always think, with a nod of thanks to Rowland Hilder.

This alteration did leave me with two hard lines which normally I would have been able to blend. I have disguised them a bit with white caps, so not too bad

As for the structures themselves, I used Burnt Sienna with a little Crimson to get close to the colour of rust, and drybrushed as much as possible to look like rusty paintwork. The very deep shadows on the platforms I did with Ultramarine Violet, neat straight out of the tube with as little water as possible and straight over the rust colour. The barnacles at the bottom were painted with Olive Green, but still not dark enough, so I overlaid with the Violet.

There were some red marks where brackets had been fitted, which was probably red oxide base coat in its day. Again some Crimson, with a little free expression, seemed to get that effect.

This turned out better than expected, I am pleased to say. I have learned from it, and it was a welcome change from the usual scenes. Not a painting anyone is likely to buy, so pure self-indulgence really.

My Workspace

My Workspace

I have been asked on a couple of occasions to show my work space. As I am still working on the snow scene, this seems like a good opportunity.

As you can see, it is rather cramped. We live in a Victorian cottage, built 1889, which is charming but not intended for 21st century living. There is an extension on the back, built around 1980, but that extended the ground floor only, so the kitchen is a good size which is the main thing, but sometimes could do with more space upstairs. But it is enough

This is really the third bedroom which we don’t need so converted to an office. Computer, books and files are all here, and  I also paint here. I recommend an easel with a drawer, so that you can get the colours you need, ready to use. Nothing worse than rummaging through boxes looking for a colour with the paint drying on the paper.

I am rather particular when it comes to lighting too. I buy from a company called Serious Readers who specialise in lighting for people who do close work, and also for people with less than perfect sight. Some of their lights emulate daylight. The light that I use is brilliant but warm, which I prefer to daylight. As you can see, my window space is small and faces north. My neighbour’s hedge does not help!! The bulbs are low-energy despite their brilliance, and long-lasting, 25,000 hours as I remember. Mine is floor-standing but they do table models. Their web site will tell you anything you need to know

You can just about make out where I have laid out my favourite brushes on the side, and also my old white dinner plate which I use for mixing and which I prefer to a pallette. Brushes that I use all the time are the large hake for overall washes,and  a range of squirrel brushes which are a joy to use, as they hold so much water that you can paint on and on. Also they will come to a point despite their size, so you can use them for detailing too. I do also have a couple of detail brushes as well, and a square edged brush for straight lines

I don’t tend to go in for very fine detailing even with architecture, probably because I can’t but do admire people who can. My excuse is, that I have a tremor in my hands which is not to worry about, just a nuisance. I think it must be genetic, as my father who is close to 100 years old, writes like a lie detector, so that will be me trying to paint one day, I guess. Perhaps I will do Jackson Pollock look-a-likes insteadSome of my reference books

Just some of my reference books.

These books are like recipe books for artists, and just as well thumbed. Many of them are American, really excellent, from whom I have learned a lot, and maybe I will do a post on one or two in the future. Some of their methods are really interesting, especially when portraying texture in watercolour. Next are my favourite two authors, both British, coming up.Two favourite authors

David Curtis produces mouth-watering watercolours in gentle, gentle colours that somehow lift off the page. I can never get anywhere near his work. The other painter, whose work I often refer back too is, Rowland Hilder, now sadly deceased. He is known for winter landscape, especially in his native Kent, in south-east England. The landscape is fairly flat there, so big threatening skies are a speciality of his, some of which I have attempted, sometimes successfully I am pleased to say. He also did a lot of seascape especially around the Thames estuary, as he was also a sailor, and spent a lot of time in and around east-coast harbours

That pretty well completes my article on my work space. If anything I suppose, it does show that you can work in a confined space with just the basic tools. If you need to know anything else about equipment, if I can help then I will

Langstone Harbour: The Finished Painting

When I finished the last post, I was about to put in the background trees and then the shadows on the buildings themselves

The trees I painted with a fan brush with crinkly bristles. Wide brushes like these are useful, as they can be used to pick up two colours at once, in this case French Ultramarine and Light Red. I used Sepia as well, where I needed to create definition, along the side of white buildings for example.

Imagining a low, bright light coming from the right-hand side, I used a blue – grey wash to put in shadow on every left-hand surface of each building including shadows that would have been cast on the ground. On the mill tower, which is round obviously, and which in real life is black, I again wanted to create the effect of bright light striking the round surface.  To get this effect. I painted blue-black down the left side whilst down the right half I brushed clean water. Then I let them meet. They did the job for me, and obligingly dried as I wanted. Along the left-hand perimeter, I brushed a thin line of neat Indigo, which gave the look of deep shadow on the far left.

Probably best to look at the image at this stage.

Langstone Harbour & Mill

Sadly, the camera leeches out some of the colour no matter how many different lights I use for the photography. The colours are subtle, anyway, so notices on the jpeg, whereas the painting itself works perfectly.

As I said, when I started out, I was going to attempt the style of Rowland Hilder, the famous watercolourist. I have used his colours, but I think my own style has crept through. Nevertheless, I am still happy enough with the finished painting

So let’s talk through the detailing

On the left-hand building, I have defined the window recesses with Indigo, as well as the guttering and down-pipe, and the roof line with Sepia

On the centre building, again I defined the roof-line and painted a rickety fence in front of the sluice gate. I may have mentioned earlier, that this was a tide mill as well as a windmill, so seawater flowing through this tunnel would have powered grinding machinery somewhere. I can’t tell you more than that, I’m afraid, as these buildings were derelict when I was a boy in the 1950’s, and had been for many years, so nobody knew their history. Thankfully, they were restored for residential use.

The right-hand building took more work, as the space underneath where the house is standing on brick stilts, is very dark, and took various coats, even using some black eventually. Window recesses were defined as was the balcony.

It just left the masking fluid to be removed, and to paint in the posts and flag, which was a splendid opportunity to use Cadmium Red, nice and bright to guide the eye into the picture. The gulls were tinged with grey under the wings and black at the tips. We were done!

I hope that you enjoyed this long journey. Thank you once again,  for reading my blog