Painting in someone else’s style

An example of someone else’s work

This isn’t something that I usually try. The example above is one of many hundreds of images by celebrated watercolour artist Judi Whitton. She starts with a line drawing in ink, and then uses watercolour. It would never have occured to me to imitate this style, had I not read her article in one of the recent painting magazines in which she outlined her method. It seemed like an invitation

The point that she was illustrating was what to leave out, as much as what to put in. In other words ” less is more”

That would be a useful lesson for me, as I never know when to stop, which is a common fault, so it might be worth me trying this exercise to see what I can learn. More importantly what will I remember for the future

Likewise, and this is something I have always tried to do, is the power of suggestion, rather than painting in every detail. If that comes out of this exercise, even better

For now I have done a line drawing from one of my old photographs of Venice. Quite a lot of her work is architectural, and she has written a book about Venice. In case anyone finds architectural work daunting, her method can be used on a variety of subjects. Probably best to look at her website.

My scene from Venice

I have used an old photograph from one of my visits, which looks like a corner of the Doge’s palace, and have drastically reduced the detail

I will see what I can do with this

House Portrait Completed

The Finished Portrait

There was quite a lot of detailing in this one. Different things were asked to be included, which I have done, but because of the scale, they have ended up as rather tiny. I was worried about that. Things like different coloured pots and also some blooms slightly out of season. Let’s hope they don’t disappoint

The car port and furniture store relationship on the left hand side, took some working out so that each was distinguishable. I did wonder afterwards whether I should have recommended leaving the furniture store out completely. The car port is a nice building, almost barn-like with its hipped roof, and it would have stood alone quite easily. However I didn’t. I painted what was there, which is the honest thing to do.

I reduced the enormous expanse of gravel with shadows coming in from trees which were off stage. I think that improves. Not really a follower of feng shui, I have left, nevertheless, an uninterrupted view of the path leading to the front door.

Some of the colours I have changed as well as scaling down the sizes of some of the shrubs. Generally a mix of reds and greens , I think the colour scheme works well, although some might disagree.

I now have another commission, another house portrait, which I went to see a couple of days ago. This is a rather charming cottage out in the woods, built around 1830, so lots of character, which I am shortly to start.

Just when it looked straightforward, I was asked to include the dog. Oh well, another challenge

House Portrait : the painting commenced

The house portrait so far

Still in early stages, the painting appears to be coming out of the mist

The drawing is done and some colour has been applied. Cobalt blue sky and raw sienna as a base for nearly everything else. Some very pale and distant trees, and guidelines for shadows I have put in along the side to the left.

As far as the house is concerned I have put in shadows in blue which has managed to build up the general form of the building. The house at the back I have formed in brown and blue.

The car port, I have done more work on, with the final roof colour and the skylights. The furniture store in front of the car port makes the grouping ambiguous. I wish now I had insisted on just the car port but I didn’t so I am stuck with it. This will require some thought

Before strengthening the brick colour, I have put in the wisteria and the virginia creeper, as I shall have to paint round them

Very easy to lose heart in this stage of the painting, but the painting must be finished so I carry on. In fact since writing this I have put a coat of Burnt Sienna on the brickwork and already the house is starting to move towards me

That’s all I can say at the moment

Preparatory Drawing for Bosham Painting

Bosham Harbour in Evening Light

I have made a start. Bosham, always a favourite subject for exhibitions, and I don’t have one ready for my next exhibition which is in October, having sold Bosham Creek at the Guildford Institute.

The drawing is based on an old postcard, which gave me part of the composition, and helped with the relationship of the boat in the foreground, with the shoreline. The other boats I have added from my own library of sketches.

I have added some dark ink lines on the shadow sides of the two boats, and have masked out a tiny boat in the background.

I started to lay in a wash as a base colour. I used Cobalt Blue together with Vermillion. As they mixed on the paper, they have made grey as a basis for shadows to come. Still plenty of red in the sky and sea, although I can play with that when it has dried right out.

I have dabbed out a mark for the evening sun and its reflections across the water, which at the moment is not easy to see.

I am hoping this wash will be enough for background. I don’t want the sky competing with the foreground, but until the painting has dried right out, it will be impossible to say

Venice, the Old Fishmarket Painting, Work in Progress

The Old Fishmarket in Venice, Work in Progress

In between doing other things, I have been working on this long painting of the Old Fish Market and neighbouring buildings along the Grand canal.

I started with my favourite Mediterranean sky colour, Phthalo Blue mixed with Cobalt Blue, worked into a mix of Raw Sienna and Naples Yellow as a basis for the buildings and then back into the sky colour for the water.. I have given the water one coat of Phthalo Green, which has had no effect whatsoever, so will have to go over it again. I do want it to look green rather than just a mirror image of the sky

The rest of the painting is mostly painstaking detailing. I have put in some deep shadow in places and have done a few windows, but must summon up the strength to do more. But this where we are for the moment, crossing my fingers that all will be well in the end.

I quite enjoyed putting in the red and green blinds on the market building. They were part of the attraction of the scene. But as I always say, the painting must be finished before a judgement can be made

Just a reminder of the actual scene

My very bad photograph can act as a reminder of the scene that I am trying to capture in paint.

Whilst writing, I extend deepest sympathy to the people of France for the fire at Notre Dame de Paris. Very sad moment. It will be rebuilt and be glorious again but upsetting for now

The Original before cutting down

The Original Sea Gazers

The comment was made, quite fairly, that I didn’t include the original painting, before it was reduced.

This is it. As I said, I felt the eye ran off the page to the right, and was possibly rather boring anyway. By removing the right hand side, I effectively made more of a central group with the figures and the distant headland.

I found the breakers rather strange here, as they rolled in, roughly the same size each time, so rather monotonous, really

Please feel free to comment, should you want to. Your opinions are important to me

Cutting Down an Old Painting

Sea Gazers in Nice

Sometimes a painting creates no interest whatsoever, even though I might have been pleased with it at the time. Occasionally, and only when I think appropriate, I remove a section of the painting, which perhaps detracts from the overall composition, and reduce the image to a smaller painting. Hopefully an improvement.

So it was with this picture, Sea Gazers in Nice. We were in Nice for New Year, a few years ago. The weather was mild compared with the rest of Europe, which was deep-frozen. We walked along the famous Promenade des Anglais, and watched the sea and watched people watching the sea. This couple were alone with their thoughts and almost mesmerised by the breakers rolling in.

They kindly kept motionless, unaware of me sketching them and taking photographs. Not often that sitters are so obliging. I did the painting some years later, but then I included a long expanse of sea and breakers to the right of the couple. It was a mistake, looking back, as the eye of the viewer went right off the page.

I showed the painting a few times, but it impressed no-one. I prefer this version, so will see if others do

I have used this method only a few times. Occasionally only a central detail from a larger painting, seems to work. The last time I rescued a painting in that way, was to cut a small scene about the size of a postcard, and this worked on its own. The rest wasn’t worth keeping. The reduced painting, of the London Embankment, with a small section of London Eye, I sold, so that was worth doing.

We’ll see what happens to Sea Gazers!

The Swan Painting at an Interim Stage

Swan Painting about halfway

Well, some work has been done on the background

I have used successive coats of darker and darker green amongst the reeds and grasses of the river bank. Towards the end I was mixing the green with a dark blue still trying to get that feeling of deep shadow amongst the reeds

I have now removed all the masking fluid, which took me a little while as there was a lot of it. Also I had to go carefully in case I tore the paper. I am happy to say that I didn’t , which was good because often when masking is left on for a while, it can prove difficult to remove.

The result is still a mess, but as I always say, finish the painting

The swans need tidying and finishing in detail. The painting is about them after all

Likewise the reeds where I have gone back to the white paper, need finishing in a light but realistic colour, raw sienna probably or a pale green

If I cannot get sufficient definition using just watercolour, then I could use some gouache or even pastel if absolutely necessary

Still Life as far as it will go

Still Life as far as it will go and now to be abandoned

As the title says, this is really as far as I can go with this painting, which was only supposed to be a learning exercise, and I have learned from it. There was no question of producing a finished piece of work, unless by happy accident.

I have sharpened up some of the detail and also removed the mask since the last post. The highlights were a bit blobby and needed tidying up, and I am far from happy with them even now. The mask needs to be applied with a pen for this sort of subject, which I didn’t have with me at the time. The metal cap on the lamp on the right is meant to be copper. I could not remember how to portray copper in watercolour, but found a website that told me, burnt sienna and a little raw umber. An example of a painting was shown which was beautiful. Hmm, I need to practice this, as the result is far too ginger for my liking

I prefer of the three, the glass cylinder on the left. Not sure whether it is a candle holder or a piece of laboratory equipment. A group of glass items from a laboratory would make a very interesting composition for a still life painting.

The real lesson that I have learned is not to attempt this sort of painting without the proper references, either the items themselves or an accurate photograph. Going from an old painting, and trying to remember where the highlights were, really dooms you from the beginning

I will return to my comfort zone next with a subject I am more used to, but useful to do something like this from time to time,(not to mention humbling)

A Lesson in Still Life Painting

Still Life Exercise

This is not the finished painting!

Not by a long way. On this occasion I am the student, and am preparing to follow a demo on Thursday at our local art club. We have been told to prepare in sketch form, a group of objects, and if we wanted to, put in some basic colour. The demonstration is to show how to provide an effective background wet-in-wet, which will one hopes transform this rather ordinary little group of objects into a painting

One of the many advantages of belonging to an art club, is that it gives you the opportunity to experiment with something totally different. Normally I paint town or seascape, so with this I shall be out of my comfort zone as it is called

More after Thursday

More work has been done

Still a lot more to do

We had the demonstration yesterday which really centred around negative painting. The spaces around the glass bottles were made wet, but only a manageable space at a time. Pigment was dropped in and allowed to spread, which gave quite a pleasing effect. Of course, as my subjects were glass, I had to allow the shadows to be visible through the bottles. My problem was that I didn’t have actual bottles to refer to, only a sketch from twenty years ago. I went darker than anyone else, looking for something dramatic, presumably.

The edges are finely masked with Frith masking fluid.

This exercise is by no means finished. Some more shadows need to go in around the base of the jars. The top of the lamp on the right is copper so some red needs to go on which will alleviate the green, and of course the masking needs to come off

I think I will try and finish it, although I don’t have to. it is one of those exercises where learning the method is the aim, not to produce a finished piece of work

Some more interesting topics to come from the art club, including painting with acrylic inks which I haven’t done for many years, so something to look forward to.