Saturday, 19 November 2011

With The Wappers

Michael Richardson, who is a member of the prestigious Wapping Group, invited me to join in the 'Brass Monkey' sessions that they have in Winter.  Last Wednesday the venue was Green Park.  I set off from Oxford at 6am on a cold and overcast-but-dry day and for 3 hours appeared to be the only painter in the park.  Then John Killens came by and reassured me that I was indeed painting with the Wappers, even if only he and Rob Adams had turned up for the morning session.  I guess others came later as the weather brightened but I had to head off after a particularly enjoyable pub lunch in Ye Grapes, Shepherd Market.  The Market used to be the red light district of Mayfair but now has an air of respectability - at least in the daytime.

I managed two small panels.  This was the first one:

And this the second one:

I could have done with another inch on the bottom of the second one as the foreground figure is too near the lower edge.  I tend to add the figures after the rest of the composition has been developed (and so risk this sort of problem) whereas one ought to include them from the start.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


That's what I call them anyway: they hold a panel (like an easel) and have a built-in palette.  I started making them when I needed a 6x8 pochade box.  Eventually Maddy (who had bought me my first pochade box) got me a proper box for Christmas but not before I had made good use of my lashed-up version.  I wanted something really light that would take two boards and mount on a standard photo tripod.  This is it - still in regular use.  Of course it doesn't have anywhere to store stuff but sometimes that is actually an advantage.

Now I think of it, this is not the very first palette-easel I made.  Eight years ago we had a short stay in Barcelona.  I made a very crude palette-easel out of two pieces of marine ply, hinged using piano hinge and kept rigidly open by a piece of coat-hanger wire.  I used it for several small acrylic sketches when we weren't being Gaudi-ed to death or rambling the Ramblas.  I now keep it set up for very lightweight acrylics work - with formica sheet taped to the palette part:

My next effort was early this year.  I built it so that I could use up all those odd-sized panels that don't fit in pochade box slots.  With the two panel carriers of similar design I can return from painting with three, wet, odd-sized panels stored safely.

The impending Venice trip has set me off again on the quest for a very light, 'high-capacity' palette-easel: one that can take panels up to 14 inches high and 15 inches long.  Here is my latest effort with a 16x12" board in place.  I bought the marine ply in Lydney 37 years ago!  The worst technical problem is making the screw-set that bears on the top panel gripper.  The gripper slides in a channel at the back and has to be locked by pressure from the screw. 

I reckon I could do better but I think I am getting close to the limits of what is achievable with a schoolboy carpentry set!  The alternative is to buy a commercial pochade box - expensive but labour-saving and the good ones are very good indeed: the two that Maddy bought me 11 years ago are still going strong.

Monday, 14 November 2011


Yesterday, as I tried unscrewing the tops of my paint tubes in the middle of Bernwood Forest, I realised how long it has been since I have used them - over two weeks.  Apart from sketchbook work the only painting I have managed in all that time has been a quick portrait of Bob Bixby at our village art group last Friday.  Bob is Liz's husband and she founded the group.  He kindly agreed to sit for us and was so good at it that he could easily get a job as a professional model.  Otherwise it has been a lot of necessary socialising and going to other people's shows - good fun but does not 'feed the rat'!

I did Bob's portrait in acrylics, which I have not used for a while.  It took just over 2 hours.  I still find the marked tonal shift when acrylics dry a serious disadvantage.  It was painted contre jour and has a distinct blue cast to it:

Monday, 7 November 2011

Royal Institute of Oil Painters

To my surprise and delight I had a painting selected for this year's Open Show in December.  I was equally delighted that David Pilgrim got 4 in - the maximum for a non-member.  I also had another small oil through the initial trawl (ie a 'doubtful') that was cut out of the final selections.  Both paintings were the ones that David P and Maddy my wife had tipped for selection.  Having betted Maddy that I wouldn't get any selected this time, I am now ten quid the poorer!

The one that got in (8x10 inches) was dashed off on a cold afternoon early this year:

The 'doubtful but not selected one was Clearing Snow (6x8 inches):

I thought this little one with the bronze hare was good fun (about 7x8 inches I think) but I can understand why it was not selected:

I also submitted one of the recent Punts paintings, a Radcliffe Camera scene and this 8x10 of swans nesting in front of the new hide on Otmoor:

I have not submitted for 3 years so think myself lucky to have got another one in at this attempt.  The standard is phenomenally high and the only way to have the slightest chance is to submit one's very best work.  In the past I have overworked paintings in an attempt to make them more selectable but of course that just has the opposite effect.  It was also interesting to look at the ROI blog and discover that the selection panel consisted almost entirely of my 'heroes' in the Society - their approval, and that of my painting pals, means more to me than anything else.