House Portrait: the Preliminary Sketch

The Preliminary Sketch

I’ve just done this from the photograph. This is,of course, a commissioned work and I have to visit the site next week. Seasons have changed so may well look different, but this will do for now to work from. I will take some photographs of my own which I prefer, so that I can clear up some details which are ambiguous at the moment.

For now, there is little more that I can do before I see the actual building, and as I say, the colours have changed. The original photograph that I had was from the summer, and now everything is autumnal. As far as colour schemes are concerned, I prefer that. There should be some bare branches as well.

I just have to hope that the sun will be out, so that we get some lights and darks. For weeks now, the weather has been wet and the skies have been heavy. This is quite hopeless for painting, but as always we must work with what we have got.

Some news from the exhibition at the hospital. I have sold one painting entitled Canals of Venice, so not out for a duck, which is something

I shall be able to add more next week

Swan Family on the Basingstoke Canal

Something near home this time.

The Basingstoke Canal runs through our village, and originally ran as a branch from the Wey Navigation, and ended up in the town of Basingstoke in Hampshire. It was cut in the late c18 by navvies or navigators who dug canals by pick and shovel in those days.

The intention was to link London with Southampton by inland waterway, which would prove a vital link in war time. The advent of the railway stopped the canal in its tracks, and it lapsed into disuse

Rescued by enthusiasts comparatively recently, the canal is in use by leisure craft, not going as far as Basingstoke due to a tunnel cave-in the 1930s but nevertheless, still offering a valuable resource to the area.

Needless to say, the canal offers a haven for wildlife. Generally we have a family of swans near the village most years, and I have painted them in the past. The photograph above is one of many that I have taken, and I am going to work with that.

The swans are feeding off the reeds in the bank. Reeds are more tricky to paint in watercolour than swans in my opinion. So many shades of green. So I am going to try something different for me and use masking fluid almost like paint. This came to me from the last exercise with the glass jars. This is as far as I have got

Not too easy to see what I ‘ve done I know but basically I have done a pencil sketch of the swans, and then masked them off with the Frisk liquid which is blue and easier to see than the natural. I have also done a few strokes for grasses and highlights in the water. When that was bone dry, I put a very wet solution of green into raw sienna around the birds

The green went bone dry overnight and today, still painting with masking liquid, I have brushed in many more reeds and grasses. Hopefully after I have put darker green over the top of these, and that dries, then removing the mask will reveal light green reeds against the dark or so I hope. All this because you can’t go from dark to light with watercolour. I may still have to do a rescue job with body paint but I hope not

That is the theory. I hope it works. You shouldn’t really leave masking fluid on for too long for fear of tearing the paper when you remove, so this is risky but different.

New Haw Lock the drawing ready for painting

Girls on New Haw Lock 2Girls on New Haw Lock

Since the last post on the subject of New Haw Lock, I started to come off the idea of just painting the lock keeper’s cottage with the lock gates. It was a little bit cliche d. very attractive and very popular but I decided to put my sketch aside, and ran through the photographs that I had taken during the course of the morning

There were many of them on the camera and also on the phone camera which was quicker to use if anything interesting came up

These two girls came up as possibles. They had jumped off their boat whilst boyfriends did the steering, and each manned the winding mechanism of a lock gate, really putting their backs into the work. I picked the best action shots that I could find, and compiled them into a drawing

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I am sorry that the drawing is faint and I hope you can make out the figures. I drew them freehand from the screen onto tracing paper, and then moved them around the paper until they looked right, I hope.

What I like about them is that their tops are bright white which will stand out against the deep shadows behind them. It was a very hot day, one of the last of our heatwave, and they are wearing baseball caps with big peaks, which we nearly all wear nowadays as they are so effective against bright sun. So no faces to draw which is for me a great bonus.

This may prove to be a bad decision. I have actually started the painting and I will not publish an interim as it is such a mess but will post the finished item, no matter how it turns out

If anyone missed my previous post, this came from one of my very rare plein air painting days next to New Haw Lock on the Wey Navigation in Surrey. An ancient waterway from the c17, it connected Guildford and then Godalming commercially with the Thames right up to 1959. It still does but only for pleasure craft nowadays.

Plein Air Painting at New Haw Lock

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Something I rarely find time for is painting outdoors, but recently did, with our local art group at New Haw Lock, which is one of the many locks along the Wey Navigation in Surrey. The Navigation dates from the c17, and made the river Wey navigable by cutting canals across the meanders and shallows. Thus this mix of river and canal made the Wey navigable for barge traffic from Guildford to the Thames. Amazingly this traffic by horse drawn barge went on until 1959. By then the navigation had been cut through to Godalming in the south, and had been especially useful in carrying gunpowder from nearby Chilworth Mill through to the Thames and on into the Port of London

During the c18 the Wey Navigation linked with the River Arun, and on down to the south coast, but that leg was short lived and proved uneconomic to run. That section fell into disuse, although some sections have been revived by conservationists

In the picture, one of the many lock keeper’s cottages, very charming and very paintable still. New Haw is somewhat underrated and is easily missed when driving by.

We found shade to sit, as the day was hot and became hotter towards midday. The morning was enough for me, so for about 2-3 hours during which time, I worked out my composition, and just sketched putting in the shadows which of course changed quickly. Photography helps the sketch book and I recorded several stages. It is my intention to finish the painting in my “studio”, but for the moment need to finish my Alhambra painting

I shall look forward to painting the New Haw lock. This is a typical Surrey scene and a typical Surrey cottage. I will attach my drawing. I regretted afterwards only taking an A3 pad which didn’t give me enough space but at home i can use a half sheet which will enable me hopefully to include the lock in its entirety

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Now all I have to do is to decide whether or not to include the foreground tree which obscures much of the cottage but nevertheless provides some interesting lights and darks

Basingstoke Canal outside Bellinis Restaurant in St.Johns: the Finished Painting

Basingstoke Canal St.Johns Finished

Well, the painting is finished, and it is what the photograph said it would be, a very traditional waterscape, with all the ingredients, water, barges, reflections and so on.

It is not exciting. I haven’t tried anything unusual or dramatic. Nevertheless it will make a useful addition to my February show, which is themed on waterways, and for which, I have little enough at the moment

I do wish that the sun had been shining into my lens when I took the picture, which would have given it an interesting contre jour look, with some dazzle coming off the water, but it could not be. I had to take what I was given. Not many barges use the Basingstoke Canal, and to see one tie up at St.Johns Village was a fairly rare event, and to see another in the distance coming through Kiln Bridge, rarer still. So I took the picture with the best light possible.

I have done contre jour along the canal in the past and the results are exciting even if the subject matter is simple. The other alternative is to go out early on a bright winter’s morning, when the shadows are long, which I might do on another occasion.

I have much to do before February, so I will move on. My son and daughter-in-law were in Amsterdam recently , and took some pictures along the canals on my behalf. Bikes, canals and tall buildings– all the ingredients which spell Amsterdam, so I think I can make a composition from these.

Quite an interesting one to tackle.

Basingstoke Canal: Watercolour Painting Part Finished Only

Basingstoke Canal Part Finished Only

I haven’t posted for a while, so perhaps now is a good time to publish what I’ve done so far.

I may have said last time that this painting is being based on a scene from my home village of St.Johns in Surrey. The Basingstoke Canal runs through the centre of the village, and in fact the village owes its existence to the canal, really. Cut in the late c18, the canal destined for Southampton, from London, only reached Basingstoke before the coming of the railway made it obsolete. A sort of shanty town grew up at first on the canal side, followed gradually by more prosperous houses as the village became commuter land. It is essentially a c19 working village, not pretty but charming nonetheless. The parish church of St.Johns built by the rector of Old Woking as a chapel of ease, to serve the people, gave the village its name

In the picture, the building in the background is Bellinis, our local Italian restaurant and one which attracts patrons from far afield. Lovely on a summer evening at one of the window tables looking out over the canal. In the painting, the barge is being tied up on the landing strip. The few barges that we get usually tie up here, possibly for coffee al fresco at Bellinis or perhaps access to the village shops.

So far, I haven’t done anything unusual. The palette I have kept simple, starting with my usual raw sienna and Naples yellow mix as a base. Some different greens for different plants. I favour a sap green and raw sienna mix for grass and trees rather than straight sap green. I have also used a yellow mix and also some terre vert for shadows. It was rather a dull day on that occasion, so little in the way of shadows which is a pity, in fact I have added more shadow than actually existed on the day. Warm shadows using Transparent Brown.

I have left the barge with its reflections to do, so something colourful amongst all that green and brown. That I think, will make an enormous difference. We shall see.

PS I had my first sale from my Artfinder site recently, which was the nice little painting of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, so rather pleased about that. Will there be another, I ask myself? We live in hope, but quite a competitive site