This is the Newgate, not the latest of the modern gates, but definitely Twentieth Century. I always call it the Pepper Gate, for it stands at the end of Pepper Street, and a very fine and imposing gate it is, too, worthy of the ancient Walls. It stand adjacent to the Wolfgate shown in the first three blogs of this series, though this image in taken from the other side of the Walls.
It is painted in pastel on sandy coloured velour paper. I love the feel of pastel on velour, very luxurious, and good edges so easy to achieve. (“Good edges” are those that are right for the job!) Most of my pastels are from “Unison”, but all the labels are gone so I can’t tell you the numbers of the colours and tones. But you can see I have used a very restricted palette, brightening the red-brown of the sandstone, blueing the greens and greening the blues to get the complimentaries working.
It is a chunky building with clean lines and neat roofs. The little garden is a useful foil for the mass of sandstone. I wanted to keep it simple, so I didn’t break up the surface with mortar lines or detailed decorative elements. Working mainly with the side of the pastel, I mixed the browns, tans, and reds on the paper. Equally, the garden is only sketched in – it never ceased to amaze and delight me that so much can be indicated with so few marks. If, like me, you’ve fallen in love with the illusion of paint, you will know what I mean.
I’ve drawn much more with the wax crayons characterising the stonework, suggesting the undergrowth behind the tree and finishing the wrought iron gates. I added Viridian to the tree both as paint and as crayon together with some brown and black. I also intensified the colour washes on the wall but I was working in electric light, and may have been too enthusiastic. The colours seem to be working better now.
I think I like the effect of the crayon, but the curvy tree trunk needs attention and something – but what? – needs to be done to join the “Brusho” part to the rest of the picture. I seem to have painted myself into a corner. Time to sleep on it, maybe.
I returned to my source photograph. I have missed out the grass edge at the front of the picture, thinking that yet another horizontal line right across the picture is unhelpful. But there is the ghost of neatly cut grass at the extreme right hand side of the flower border which might break up the horizontal I do have, at least suggesting why we have that edge. Maybe a little more “Brusho”to take the yellow and purples over the line in places?
It doesn’t look very different, but I have straightened the wavy trunk, extended the roots to imply some continuity with the pansies in front, and added more “Brusho” yellow, lemon this time to suggest distance,to the upper edge of that section.
This is as far as I want to take it in this picture, but I do like the different effect the wax crayon makes. Contrary to my prejudiced expectations, the crayon has given a delicacy and airiness to the finished picture. I shall certainly try this combination on media again!
As you see, I have introduced my first washes, taking my colouring from those used in wax crayons. I like the two textures together, and can see where more of the same will enhance the image. It is helping me to move away from a strict representation of the scene, something I have been battling with for years.
However, I think the wax crayons are too emphatic, so I need to intensify the washes, and do more crayoning so that the marks don’t look like currants in a bun.
The foreground is rather interesting. If you remember I had stuck down some crumpled tissue paper. I then sprinkled that area with “Brusho” – how I wish they had thought of a better name – then sprayed with water. I used only purple and yellow at first as being more appropriate for pansies then added green and brown to suggest foliage and shadow. There was no variation in tone so that part stood up like a wall. White gouache was floated over the upper edge penetrating into the garden a little which dulled the colour and made it lie down again. I need to introduce Viridian into the tree. It looks strident just careering around among the purples and yellows.
Mixed media is not something I have been successful with – it feels vaguely like cheating! – one should be able to achieve the desired effect in the medium of choice. However, I did overcome many of my personal prejudices when painting for my book, “The Bridges of Dee” so it’s about time I dealt with this one.
The first necessity was to change the way I viewed painting in this way. It’s not a cheat, it’s using things to express a different interpretation not in competition with a single medium but beside it. It’s using the strengths and delights of all to show a new way of looking. In truth, I’m only half convinced, but enough to give it a go.
I chose one of the City Gates of Chester. The Walls enclose the entire old city, based on the original walls of the Roman Fort, though most of what you now see is medieval. The Gates through the Walls have all been re-built or created since then except of this one and maybe the Kaleyard Gate, the most famous being the Eastgate with its ornate Victorian Clock.
Dipping my toe gently into this new pool, I chose to work first with wax crayon emphasising some of the stones of the arch and the wrought iron gate. the brighter reds and yellow are to the right hand side while the purples and blues predominate in the increasing shadow on the left. It’s all a bit tentative, but I’ll be able to do more on top of the watercolour wash.
Near the bottom of the paper (Bockingford) I have stuck down crinkled tissue paper to create the bed of pansies. I have used this on a whole painting before and do like the textured finish it achieves. Integrating it as part of a painting will be interesting as the “join” has to be managed. I’m sure I will need to do more in wax, but I am getting nervous of all that white paper. Usually, the paper/canvas has an initial wash of colour within the first half hour.