Monday, 31 December 2012

Last Post of 2012

Happy New Year folks!

In between dealing with the mince pie mountain and the even tougher job of testing various champagnes for my daughter's wedding I have (in a rather desultory way, ie without any great hope for a masterpiece) scribbled down some pastels based on the Venice trip.  It kept me sane and allowed me to try out a new way of keeping the support's surface from clogging so quickly.

I paint pastels on mountboard.  I prime it front, edges and back with acrylic primer and then use a mixture of pigment, marble dust and primer to put a darkish surface on it that will take pastel.  As I tend to overdo the pastel marks (I guess that I still think I am painting in oils) and I don't want to keep fixing the painting too much, the support surface clogs up quite quickly.  Recently I have been using a thin acrylic underpainting to provide a starting layer that does not affect the 'bite' of the surface.  I have even mixed marble dust with the colours in an attempt to keep everything 'rough'.  I am not sure about the technique but it has been fun to try when the chances of being allowed out to paint are nil and all is dark and wet out there anyway.

This one of the Salute is pretty extreme for me but helped to prove the concept:

Salute - Evening

I was starting another one of the Salute from the Accademia Bridge - actually I had 10 pastels on the go at that stage - when Maddy came in and shouted: 'Stop - leave it as it is - you have already overworked the first three'.  'But I am just getting started and there is hardly any pastel on it'.  'Leave it alone'.  Like any good Dalek I obeyed. I can see what she means but the temptation to keep developing it is irresistible. 

Salute from Accademia Bridge - First State

 Probably the most successful so far has been this one of the San Marco facade.  Maybe the 'architectural' views are more suitable for pastel but I shall persist with the watery ones as well and see what comes out.

San Marco Facade

The days are getting longer, my autumn-flowering snowdrop (galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae) will soon be joined by Galanthus 'John Gray' and the other early snowdrops and I can't wait to get out there and paint once the rain stops!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


On Monday night (17 Dec) I joined many painting pals at the annual Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) 'Art Evening' in the Mall Galleries after an afternoon painting in Green Park with Michael Worthington.

I am in the ROI show with two paintings and many friends have managed to 'get one (or more) in' this year but I barely had time to check where mine had been hung or view any friends' work before the bun fight began.  This year it seemed more crowded than ever.  Because I was ill when I might have remembered to book I thought I would just be watching but as luck would have it some booked places were not filled so I paid my £10 and found a place among the easels.  There were three models: Yvonne, Sophie and Lewis.

Lewis is a lovely lad and although clearly not a professional model was brilliant at holding the pose.  I really enjoyed painting him and in the end the small format (13x10 inches) did not really affect the portrait.  In fact I seemed to have a lot more time this year and as the wine and mincepies were only available towards the end of the session my head was a lot clearer!

'Lewis'  13x10 Oil on board

It was a great evening, with some lovely work, nicely capped by Haidee-Jo Summers winning the first prize for the best non-member painting (of Yvonne) and Pauline Hazelwood winning the runner-up prize (for 'Sophie').  Pauline's son took the third prize (for another 'Yvonne') and I was particularly chuffed about that because I was able to lend him my spare dipper as he had mislaid his.

I felt very rusty on the afternoon session with Michael but as my recent chest X-Ray indicates 'all clear' I was just glad to be outdoors again after 2 weeks of inactivity.

Lansdowne House from Green Park 10x7 inches

I am now looking forward to many more 'en plein air' sessions and in the studio I am working on some pastels based on the Venice trip so will try to post some next time.  

Let us all remember the homeless at this time of the year and give what we can.  A very Happy Christmas to everyone.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Venice - The Last Hurrah

The 26th looked like being another misty day and while the girls set off for the Accademia Bridge David and I joined David Bachmann in the Piazetta for something small to get us going.  I chose the clock tower and the others the ever seductive St Mark's facade.  At one point David B got the giggles and when I asked him what was up he pointed to the 5 - yes 5 - men changing a light bulb on one of the Piazetta lamps: one (in suit) to direct proceedings and be on the phone all the time, one to steady the working platform, two to do the job and one who seemed to be truly spare.

Clock Tower from Piazetta. 10x6ins

The three of us then jumped on a '2' going to Accademia and each did two versions of the view from the bridge.  I had to cut my second version short because we wanted to get one more in and went to San Barnaba to find it but we had no luck with a good pitch before the light went and it was time to go home.

Grand Canal form Accademia Bridge 12x8ins
I will probably work on this a bit more because the building shadow on the left foreground is too pronounced.  It will still be essentially 'plein air' or whatever the correct term is for a painting that is 93.457% done on the spot rather than only 93.238% (which of course is not plein air - or is it?).

Salute From Accademia Bridge 10x13ins
Again, some work needed but there is also the potential for ruining it!  For the open air painter 'to touch or not to touch' is a constant dilemma.

On the final day (27th) it looked as though, at last, David and I would be rewarded with a chance to catch the San Giorgio from the point of the Dogana with a decent sky behind it.  We dashed off on the '1' from Rialto and sped quickly to the end of the Dogana from the Salute stop.  David finished his first one in double-quick time and i struggled to keep up, completing my two long after he had departed for our next plannned stop near the Gesuati.  
San Giorgio from Punta Dogana 1 - 8x10ins

San Giorgio from Punta Dogana 2 - 8x10ins

The green lighters are the Venice refuse disposal boats.  They spend all day taking away mountains of mostly tourist rubbish.  On my way to catch up David I was struck by how the water to the right of the Zitelle church on the Giudecca was catching the light.  I used up another 30 minutes on that before dashing off to meet David. As I finished the rain started.

The Zitelle from the Dogana 8.5insx6ins

I had only been at the next pitch for 30 minutes when David announced that he was off to St Mark's, so I decided just to relax and enjoy painting in the rain.  

 Rain in Dorsoduro 12x8ins

When I finished this view back towards the Giudecca I realised that there was still time for one last painting.  I caught a '1' from Accademia to the first San Marco stop and going along the Molo I noticed that there was a big gap between the boats, allowing me a good view of the San Giorgio Maggiore.  By then the lagoon was choppy and boats had started to wear navigation lights.  I spent most of the next hour hanging on to my kit with one hand while I tried to mix and apply paint with the other.  I was soaked, my palette was soaked but my painting was deliciously fresh.  I knew I had finished when my umbrella blew off it's stand and hit me just above my left eye! It was a lucky escape but at the time I was not amused and when it hit the deck some yards away I chased it and booted it into a crumpled mass.  Done with my cursing I looked up and saw two men in the Vaporetto ticket office staring at the psychopathic Brit outside.  Covered in embarrassment I slunk away into the Piazza to dry off as best I could.

San Giorgio from the Molo - Rain  8x12ins

On our final morning there was an aqua alta so we decided to join the tourists in flooded St Mark's.  The following photo of the A Team looking relaxed is copyright David Pilgrim (Mr Tall).

 Tim, Haidee, David and Valerie

Venice - The Misty Middle Days

The four of us were on our own for the first 2 days but after that the others began to appear.  At one point there were pochade boxes on tripods all round St Mark's square.  The weather was extremely foggy - a favourite situation for some but I can take only so much of it.  On 24 November we started in the Piazza:

Corner of St Mark's 12x8ins

San Marco Facade 12x10ins

The Haidee, Valerie and I went up to see what Campo Santa Maria Formosa offered: in the mist not much but it cleared a little at one point so we had a go:

Campo Santa Maria Formosa 10x13ins
I still regard this picture as 'unfinished business' and will maybe take it back next year for another try.

On 25 November the weather was till very foggy but, full of hope,  we still started early and pitched at the West end of the Rialto Bridge.  Each of us chose a different view.

Fondamenta Del Vin 10x7ins

We decided to go our separate ways for the rest of the day, to save time waiting for each other to finish.  I followed the girls into and excellent coffee shop near the fish market and then caught them in paint as they went across to Ca D'Oro on the traghetto gondola:

San Sofia Traghetto 10x6ins

I caught a vaporetto down to Ca Rezzonico and walked into St Barnaba square to paint two gondolieri waiting for custom:

'Gondola, Gondola', San Barnaba 10x6ins
For some reason the gondolieri are midgets - must correct them to their proper size!
I then walked to the Dorsoduro side of the Accademia Bridge and crossed into Campo San Stefano.  By this time the light was going but I thought I would have one last fling:

 Campo San Stefano 10x6ins
This took me 30 minutes and I suppose it shows but the lights were coming on and I had to break off or try a nocturne.  That would make me late for our first eating extravaganza with all the others so I sacked it and plodded off.  Someone more dedicated to their calling would have stuck it out but, hey ho, I am not that soldier and anyway I was hungry.

Now we enter the final, somewhat exhausting, two days...............................

Venice - The First 2 Days

What a great time we had in the A Team: a great apartment (thanks to Haidee), plenty of variable weather for painting, lovely meals in (thanks to Valerie and David), plenty of socialising with the 9 other plein air painters spread around the city (thanks to you guys who provided us with a slap-up dinner twice), some nicely weird experiences with tourists, an aqua alta (no trip to Venice should be without one) and 75 paintings done between the four of us in 6 days, plus some dashed off sketches. Others were even more prolific (nocturnes being a favourite form of self-flagellation) so among the 13 of us the total number of once blank panels now covered in paint must be around the 300 mark.

I coughed my way around but the warmer weather helped to keep the chest infection quiet and my obviously diseased state may have saved me from some of those Chinese tourists who just love to get too close.

I did 20 panels in all so I thought I would put up the first 2 days worth on this post and follow with two more posts.  I have 'tidied' some of them but (for all you purists out there) I still regard them as 'plein air'.  If you had seen me drenched and wind-battered on the Molo on our final day, fighting one-handed to get paint mixed and applied while the other hand kept everything from being blown away, you would understand why. Anyway I am with the famous French painter ( I am still trying to remember who it was - can anyone help?) who said 'nothing counts but the painting'.

Here goes then: Day 1 - 22 November 2012.

San Giorgio from the Straw Bridge 12x8ins

San Marco Facade 12x10ins

The next day we had our only fine day:

Salute, Early Morning 10x8ins

Palazzo Contarini Fazan 10x8ins

Palazzo Barbaro from Campo San Vio 10x12ins

Now we enter the misty period folks!............

Saturday, 1 December 2012

I Must Get This Off My Chest

The Infection I mean!  A cocktail of antibiotics and 9 days of almost continuous coughing has left me with half a chance to survive Venice.  I leave for the airport in half an hour.

It has not been all bad news.  I got off my sick bed to go to the Army Arts Soc private view in Salisbury and was surprised and pleased to win second prize in the Chemring Painting Competition for the little Venice picture I posted on the last blogand also sell some pieces.  A few days later I learnt that I had had two paintings accepted for this year's Royal Institute of Oil Painters show, which is a great privilege.  They are another, larger Old Harry and a painting of Irish Lady in Cornwall.

Old Harry

You can see and buy both pics on the Mall Galleries web site (under ROI)

Whilst being ill I have tried to keep going with some pastel studies based on work by Ken Howard, Tom Coates, Peter Kuhfeld, etc.  Here is one of them - I will post some more on return from Venice:

Salute, after Ken Howard RA.  Pastel

Salute, after Ken Howard RA. Pastel

San Toma, after Peter Kuhfeld NEAC.  Pastel

Sunset from the Molo, after David Sawyer. Pastel

Salute and Orange Wall, after Tom Coates PPNEAC.  Pastel

Salute, after Ken Howard RA.  Pastel
The red stripey poles are no more!  I guess they just rotted out