This is a big painting – it’s nearly as big as me! Now and again, I like to use my shoulders when painting. It’s very satisfying.
My friends are relaxing on their rooftop terrace not long after they had finished it, so there is a certain amount of relief in their pose. The ceramic pots adorning the pillars are a brilliant turquoise which I am eager to paint. The pillars themselves are built in rough pale stone. The shady garden crowding his shoulder shows dark greens, while the distant landscape is, I’m told, “very Cezanne”, no pressure there, then.
I am delighted to report that I actually drew this freehand, so my regular sketching is beginning to pay off. When the basic colours and tones were painted in, I saw that I had made both heads too big for their bodies, such a common mistake which I should be able to avoid by this time, and I’m not sure about his legs. I made the necessary adjustment to the heads – oil paints are so forgiving. This first pass of colour and tone, which took about an hour, sets the painting going and allows gross errors to be eliminated early. Now I can concentrate characterising the differing textures and tones.
This term my painting group are examining canals as they wanted to improve on trees and water, and I wanted to add some interesting shapes.
The second boat painting, in acrylic this time, concentrates on the boats and their reflections. My starting image is a reasonably good composition, though I would want to fade the sheds as they are rather dominant and detract from the collection of narrowboats.
However, my canvas is long and thin, and that encouraged me to crop the image top and bottom and lose most of the boat on the right. This will place the boats and their reflections in sharp focus.
When I come to painting, I intend to blur the shed, trees etc using the tones to show or hide the cabins. It’s all drawn up ready for action.
I suppose it’s a small journey from bridges over a river to canal boats! A watery theme perhaps?
Water colour paper has a big influence on how a painting appears. I am trying some new paper, much recommended by Hazel Soan, one of my favourite painters. It’s called Khadi paper and I found it in Jackson’s on-line Catalogue. This is hand-made in India, so each sheet is separately produced rather than in a continuous roll using 100% cotton rag. It’s acid free, and has a texture all its own.
As you can see, it works beautifully for dry brush work, making it easy to create all those broken edged trees and bushes, yet it is possible to produce a smoother wash as in the canal itself. It bellied quite a bit when I used a very wet wash but reverted to its former self as it dried.
There is more to do – the shadows are too pale for a start – but I like the way it takes the paint.
After all the painting, all the planning, all the panics, and all the brilliant ideas, collectively we made it. Setting up took a mere two hours, partly because some of the paintings are rather big, and partly because we had actually thought about it beforehand.
As you can see, we had a goodly crowd at the Private View. It was great to see so many of my friends and to meet those I have only met on-line before. There were many pleasing comments (well, they were my friends, after all), and sales were healthly too!
Among our guests were the Mayor and Mayoress of Llangollen on what turned out to be their last official engagement of their year of office. I expected a quarter of an hour visit, but they were both interested in painting and stayed for over an hour. This photo shows the Lady Mayoress (with the beautiful blonde hair which goes with the picture) and me (in red). The picture is called “Flintshire gold” and show the last and latest bridge over the Dee near Flint. Just beyond it is “Inundation” showing the Dee in Flood in Farndon.
Well, here we are! Finally I have an exhibition of all the paintings in my book “The Bridges of Dee”. We have lots of guests coming to the private view, and many others coming during May.
This time we have done lots of advertising, much more than I have done in the past. For the exhibition is not in my home area, and the book sales have been nation wide. It will be interesting to see if the increased advertising pays off, but I don’t mind if it doesn’t as it has been a fascinating experience. Besides Art Magazines and the local press, we have spread posters up and down the valley, bi-lingual ones too. The paintings encompass the whole valley and there are many people, especially in the upper valley, where Welsh is the mother tongue. So this is what it looks like in Welsh and English.
We have printed the sales cards in Welsh and English too, and have separate Welsh and English Catalogues.
The Private View is on the day this post is published, and we have the Mayor and Mayoress of Llangollen coming. I hope to bring news of the launch party next week.
I decided that the best thing to do was introduce one colour at a time and see what happened. Orange was my first choice, a good, strong, cheerful colour. That’s him near the middle of the canvas. Now orange partners well with turquoises and blues, so I tentatively surrounded my orange tile with bluish ones trying always to keep to the tones in my corresponding reference. The lemon yellow tile was my next offering, which in turn suggested a grey-green. I used this on quite a number of tiles on the left hand side, though I think the sharper green tiles are a mistake, taking too far from my original blues.
Then I stood back and looked at it for a while. The juxtaposition of oranges blues and greens made me think of a fish pond so I explored that idea by introducing textures on some of the tiles. There are some ripples on the blue tiles and some scaly shapes on the orange ones. I don’t think the detail should dominate or over-complicate matters, and I haven’t worked out what sort of detail I should suggest on the green Lilypad! Work in Progress!
My students have been working on tonal value this term. We started with a grey scale and a black and white print of a still life.
As you can see, there is a pleasing collection of simple shapes. All were white, but the varying depths of shadow gave a variety of tones. These we checked against the grey scale to assess just how dark a white surface can be! And painting the image wasn’t too easy either. It’s so hard to believe that “white” can be that dark.
The next part of the exercise was to reinterpret the image in any way possible. some turned the shapes into buildings, some selected one or two shapes to create their own design in colour, one even found ballerinas in the upper outline! I decided to cut the whole shape into “tiles”, rearrange them, and use colour to paint the tones on each segment. This gives you some idea of the guidelines I used. I had seen an image of an entirely white set of tiles mounted in sunlight, the varying raised lines on each tile caught the light, and the whole image changed as the sun passed over it. I was hoping to achieve something as interesting using colour. The lines you see show the top of the little box and the curve of the drum.
The pockets in the book are very small by my standards, so I thought I’d try portraits in watercolour. They are largely foreground making such detail as I could manage contribute usefully to the finished painting. That sounds like a piece of woolly thinking, and it is! I don’t know where I’m going with this.
The lady is my first attempt. She graced the front cover of a book I am reading at the moment, and I loved her headdress. My new-found courage to pick up a pencil and draw helped me here – none of my usual “crutches” would have worked at this size anyway. I sketched her out with surprising ease, certainly enough to encourage me to introduce paint. I enjoyed the delicacy and lightness of touch demanded by working so small. (Sorry to be going on about “Small”, but it really is new ground for me). She looks younger, pert even, in comparison with the original image.
Faces, then are possible. I own a book of self-portraits, “A Face to the World” by Laura Cumming, a great study if you are interested in painting and paintings, which fell open at Jan van Eych wearing his trademark red turban. This is turning into a “hats” project! He is contemporary with my lady and very striking. I really enjoyed his many folded turban.
My second painting is a painter, and my favourite of all time is Turner. I discovered him in the Lady Lever Art Gallery aged about 15, and thought I found an unrecognised genius! His self-portrait is of his young self and he isn’t wearing a hat. It’s a very direct stare and as it has good strong shapes making it smaller will be possible. It’s interesting how dark the darks are in these portraits, even on faces.
Well, that looks better! Altogether more cheerful! which is what I had in mind. The painting is not longer influenced by the original one – the lighting has changed. The picture is no longer brooding, mysterious perhaps, with a storm brewing. In fact the storm had passed leaving an immense amount of flood water, but nothing unusual to residents, as the flood plain of the Dee is still used to manage the river. Winter floods are part of scene most years.
I’m still learning about my camera and what happens when I move a photo on to the blog. The colours in the painting are brighter than my first pass but not as glowing as they appear in this photo. The apparent florescent pink is more brown so does not dominate. The high water level and the reflected light under the bridge arches give an altogether lighter feel to the piece. It Seems to me that blogs are more about photography than I thought.
You may remember I made a New Year’s resolution to draw every day. The not unexpected news is that I haven’t done that, but I have done some drawing.
I thought that the best way of ensuring that at least some was done, was to start my classes by arranging that my students, (and therefore me!) did a ten minute sketch at the beginning of each session. We would work in biro so that we were not distracted by rubbing out, and no one need show their work to me or anyone else unless they wanted to. There is a lot of apprehension for many people when drawing is mentioned and I wanted to make the whole practice as pleasant as possible.
Here are some of the things we drew. The Class are enjoying their mini drawing sessions, and we all find that we are looking more analytically as we draw. I don’t think my drawing as improved yet, it’s early days after all, but I do find I have more willingness to draw for painting without employing any of the “crutches” I have used in the past.