This is a house portrait that I am working on at the moment, which just serves to illustrate the value of the preliminary sketch. The drawing is very loose, which I often think adds to the effect. Unnecessary detail has been removed. The power is in the tone. The dimensions are to scale. All I that I need is there for producing the final painting. Any changes that I want to make or mistakes that I want to correct, I can do now so that hopefully I won’t be rubbing out on sensitive watercolour paper.
What is it about black and white that captures atmosphere so well, perhaps better than colour? Something in the drama of light and dark perhaps. In this sketch, I haven’t used black, which tends to flatten a painting as it drains all the light. Ink is even worse in my opinion, and although I like black ink for line drawing, I use watercolour for large blocks of dark. Instead of black, I have used Payne’s Grey, which is grossly undervalued in my opinion. It produces a beautiful blue/grey and the end result is a painting in its own right.
Purists tell us that we should mix our own greys, depending on the grey we want for a particular purpose. I agree and I do that too, but Payne’s Grey has its place. It makes superb skies giving pale greys through to black clouds, and I believe was the reason for William Payne inventing it. It also works superbly well as an alternative to ink for sketching.
William Payne, 1760-1830, Devonshire born, lived in Plymouth, until moving to London in 1790. He was a watercolourist and etcher, and above all, an innovator. His style, we are told, could be easily learnt and he became the most fashionable drawing master in London. His innovations include” splitting the brush to give forms of foliage, dragging the tints to give texture to his foreground, and taking out forms of light by wetting the surface and rubbing with rag and bread”
And of course Payne’s Grey.
Later in life he was surpassed by other artists, and sadly forgotten before his death in 1830
I mentioned a few posts back that I wanted a smaller picture for the exhibition as they are popular sometimes. I will repeat the photograph later, which was one that I took when we were there in October
The light was very good and the shadows were long and distinct. I couldn’t make my mind up, whether to use the local colours or whether to try a sunset picture. I think as the shadows are good that I will stick with the local colours, with maybe a mental note to do a sunset picture another time. As we were driving from the airport to pick up our ship,the day before, the sun was setting over Istanbul, and especially over the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent, another beautiful building. The sky was orange going towards pink and the buildings were violet. Sadly my camera was still packed in the luggage hold. Maybe I will try that shot from memory one day.
I think the sketch will be very helpful. I have moved some trees away from the front of the building, and I think I have sorted out the shaded areas. I didn’t use ink this time for the sketch. Instead I used Paynes Grey watercolour, which I quite like for sketching. You can’t tell from the photograph, but the colour is a blue-black shade, which is quite pleasing. I sometimes think that I prefer the sketch to the finished painting. There is something about a sketch, perhaps because it is done quickly and without inhibition, that the work retains spontaneity and freshness. Easy to lose this, when working carefully on the actual painting.
I now have to transfer the sketch to the watercolour paper, which is the uninteresting part and then start the painting. Colours to be decided, so I will be a little while
As you can see, some unnecessary stuff left out, and I have moved closer to the building itself
I am hoping on Saturday to get up to London and go to another exhibition at the Tate Gallery. The exhibition is entitled Art and Empire which should be interesting. When we were there for the Frank Auerbach exhibition, we looked in quickly, but this is quite a big exhibition so we left it for another day. If it is good I will write something about it. Certainly it will be as different to the Auerbach collection as chalk is to cheese
This is my sketch, done fairly quickly, which, I think will give me some sense of direction. I need to use the photograph less now and my sketch more
The snow will be denoted by the paper that I shall leave white. There will be some masking out to be done, and as I don’t have a photographic reference for the snow, I shall have to be thorough in planning where the snow would lie. One thing that masking fluid is good for, is making a blobby line which does give the appearance of snow
I must remember to put snow on both sides of the roof. This is easily forgotten. I have certainly forgotten to show this on the drawing. Some will gather in the trough of the broach spire. Window ledges, tops of grave stones, buttresses, snow will cling to horizontal surfaces of these. The ground level must look uneven as snow piles up the wall of the church
I usually like to paint snow-covered buildings as though some slight thaw has taken place, so that the ridge-tiles and part of the roof show through. This makes a bit more interest and relief from all that white.
The church stands on high ground. I have exaggerated the gradient in the drawing, slightly, to increase the interest. Shadows, when I put them in, will tell the eye where the ground lies, and pick out the ups and downs. Also I have put a couple of houses in the background, which are dropped down behind the slope.
I usually put in some frozen looking bushes and dead-looking grasses, strategically, so that hopefully they will indicate that the ground slopes down towards us
So, plenty to do. Best get on.