Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Return of the Native

At last I have a new machine and super-fast broadband.  Yes, fibre has come to sleepy Beckley.  It is wonderful to load Facebook almost instantly but  now I can see it properly I have been staggered by what is on it.  You could spend all day wandering through the labyrinth.

And so to the inevitable backlog.  Some of my painting pals must be wondering if I was with them on the Norfolk trip in September - yes folks it was me, the Old Git out on the mud with you!

We had a great time over those five days and I fell in love with the NW Norfolk coast.  Even the mud was interesting.  Seven Brits and 2 Americans, plus John Dobbs who came up to paint on the 19th.

Some of our valuable time was spent visiting Sandringham where we each spent a fortune only to be underwhelmed by the show of Seago paintings.  Nothing wrong with Mr Seago of course but we know how good his works in the Royal Collection are and we felt a little short-changed by the quantity on show and many were not his best.  Still any Seago exhibition is always instructive and it was a pleasant way to spend a dull afternoon.

Messrs Dobbs, Dakin, Terry, Bachmann and Connelly at Morston

David Pilgrim and Karl Terry working on the mud
My first efforts were on Wednesday 17 September, at Burnham - where we were staying - and then at Brancaster.

Slack Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe 8x10

Blue and white Boat, Brancaster 10x8

The next day we started at Burnham again.  In fact we just walked out of our kitchen at the Old Almhouses and started:

Early Morning, Burnham Overy 12x10

Then off to Brancaster again.  My first one was a 'wiper' and I wasn't too sure about this view either but it seems to have paid off.

Green Boat, Brancaster 8x15

Actually I liked this so much I enlarged it in the studio:

Green Boat, Brancaster 12x20

The 19th was dull and misty so we painted mud at Morston.  There was plenty of it as we were in the neaps while we were there and the low tides were really low:

Low Tide Morston 10x14

Our trip to Blakeney on the 19th was interesting but I was unhappy with my choice of subject.  Somewhere in the week I also painted more at Burnham.  All these are from very near our accommodation.

Low Tide Burnham 8x10

Five Boats, Burnham 8x10

Looking Back At Burnham Overy 8x15

Mike Richardson made a splendid job of the famous Crab Hut at Brancaster but my effort was pretty scrappy.  I would love to paint it again in decent weather.

The Crab Hut - After Rain  10x14

On the final morning, after everyone else had left, David Pilgrim and I installed ourselves in the picture window of the second floor bedroom at Burnham and did 'plein air' from indoors.  We were cheating of course but we had had enough of fighting the weather and we could sit with a hot coffee to hand and paint at our ease.  We both did 2 versions of the scene looking out NW over the flats. David's second one was a tour de force of quick, bold work and I am sure it is going to find its way into a show if it hasn't already.  I was quite pleased with both of mine but could have worked much bigger, as David did.

From The Window1, Burnham 10x14

From The Window2 10x14

Must go there again!

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Back Log 5 - Pintar Rapido

Once again this was a very enjoyable day, when I saw many of my painting friends on the streets of Chelsea.  We have all been pretty busy lately and it was good to catch up on news and paint together.  I met up with Valérie Pirlot first and then we found David Pilgrim down by the river.  I had actually arrived super-early so had done this little 10x8 opposite Gail's bakery in the Kings Road:

Gail's 10x8
David and I tried a river scene on the East side of the Albert Bridge whilst Valérie went up river and painted near the next bridge.  This was the one I submitted for the show on Sunday.  I told the organisers that it was an oil but they still managed to smudge the whole of the central portion!  I will clean it up some day.

Bunting By The Albert Bridge 8x10
David and I then moved to Carlisle Place where we found a shady spot in the corner of the square:

Carlisle Place 8x10
That was it for Saturday 19 July.  On Sunday 20th I was heavily involved with handing out our show from the Mall Galleries, including a long walk with a heavy bronze that I had promised to collect for a customer.  I had stayed at the Union Jack Club near Waterloo and by 6am I was painting on the Embankment side of the river.

Early Morning Near Embankment Station 12x8
I then went to the gallery but by 2pm we had finished the handing-out and I was able to get back to Chelsea.  I tried one of the Albert Bridge from Rober Falcon Scott's house in Oakley Street:

Albert Bridge From Oakley Street 10x8
My final painting was from West of the Albert Bridge looking looking up river contre jour.  The painting itself is a lot more colourful than this rather bleached out image:

Towards Chelsea Harbour from the Embankment 10x8
I really enjoyed getting back to 'proper' painting, despite being very rusty and the incredibly hot weather.  I did not sell my painting in Sunday's show but several of my friends did - Haidee Joe Summers, Mo Teeuw, Tom Hughes and others.  It was also good to meet up with Chris Miers, Roy Connelly, David Bachmann. Pauline Hazelwood and Paul Rafferty plus many new acquaintances.  Despite her new role as mother of little Louisa I think Valérie had lost none of her touch and her painting of the river from next to Battersea Bridge was probably my 'fave' with the two that David did being the usual gems.  My money was on Haidee for the big prize but I am not sure who got it.  There is always next year - or Pintar Rapido Amsterdam!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Back Log 4 - AFAS Show

As a full member I was allowed to show 6 works in our regular show as well as the 2 in Out of Line.  Here they are:

Winter Sunrise Blackwater Wood 18x24

The Salute, Venice16x12

Ice Cream In The Mall 11x11

Mint Tea at Bab Skala, Essaouira 16x14

Evening Promenade, Essaouira

San Giorgio from the Riva 16x12

I also did two small oils at the back of the Mall Galleries, one when we handed in and one when we hung the show:

Early Morning Shadows, Carlton House Terrace 10x7

Drying Rain, Carlton House Terrace 9x7

The Back Log 3 - Golf

A friend of ours has become the Lady Captain of the Studley Wood golf course near us.  She asked me if I could paint a view from the 18th that could be auctioned for charity.  If anything is a challenge to a landscape painter it is a golf course but I did my best on a 9x11 box canvas and Claire seemed quite pleased with it.  The painting raised £450 for colon cancer research.  I wish I could sell my 9x11s regularly for that sort of money!  I was a bit worried about the painting and tried a winter view as well on a 8x10 canvas.  Here are both of them:

Studley Wood Golf Course From 18th Hole 11x9

Studley Wood Golf Course in Winter 8x10

The Back Log 2 - The Many Men So Beautiful

The second piece that I put into the AFAS OOL show was The Many Men So Beautiful.  The concept for this was quite complex and I was worried that the literary references would be too obscure but most people who saw the piece and studied it closely said they were very moved by it. 

I used 'The Many Men' quote from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner because in fact all the discernible faces in the piece are of soldiers of both sides of WW1 (and WW2) who are now dead. I wanted to imply that they were all in their way 'so beautiful' but were sacrificed, hence the connection between that idea and the ERIT AUTEM AGNUS ABSQUE MACULA MASCULUS inscription, which is a quote from the Latin Vulgate bible, loosely translated - 'It must be a perfect male lamb'.

I used acrylic transfers to get the bigger faces onto the panels.  The rest is made up.  Trench systems were very convenient for joining sections of transferred image and I wanted to get the effect of an old-fashioned tinted photograph so applied paint all over the piece, including the faces.

The quotes in English, French and German are from the Hail Mary prayer or from In Parenthesis by David Jones or from Ivor Gurney's poems.  I have corrupted the Hail Marys.  For example, the German version refers to 'kanonenfutter' - cannon fodder - and the French lines are a prayer to Notre Dame des Tranchées - Our Lady of The Trenches.

As many of my family, Maddy's family and her sister-in-law Anna's family were in the Forces in both wars I have been able to use a good number of family photos for the faces.  The rest are from out-of-copyright material.

The carcass took 12 hours to make and gild, including time spent on ageing it. This is it at an early stage:
Bare Wood - After 8 hours Carpentry

Before gilding the carcass I gave it a coat of acrylic primer:

A Complete Covering of Primer

Then an imitation red 'bole' to go under the gold leaf:

Bole Applied - Ready For Gilding

Then it was time for the gold leaf - very tedious!

Shiny Gold

This was a bit shiny and new so I distressed it and added Rottenstone and othe 'gunge' to the crevices, wire woolled the gold, scratched through and drilled worm holes in places, put dents and bumps in, etc:

Gilding Distressed and Carcass Aged
I planned the images very roughly and because the transfers are in reverse I had to do quite a bit of composing in reverse too.  This mock-up does not look much like the finished piece but it gave me confidence that it would work in terms of design and scale:
Putting The Mock-Up in Place

At this stage I still had 8 of the 25 hours it took me to make the piece left.  I applied the transfers and started painting.  I changed many things and applied many more transfers before i was satisfied.  This is an early point in the process:

Making Progress At Last

This final picture is the finished 'altered altar panel' in the show, alongside an exquisite watercolour by Francesca Bex that won the Cohort prize for the best small painting:

The Many Men So Beautiful - Mall Galleries

The Back Log - You Are Not Your Stuff

A lot has happened since March.  I have been involved in 2 big group shows and sold over 20 paintings but most of my efforts on the art front have been directed towards The Armed Forces Art Society show in mid July.  I have just taken over from John Ashton as the Chairman of the Society (we don't have a President as others do but we do have HRH Prince Charles as our Patron) and so felt that I ought to take a lead, especially in our contemporary show we call Out of Line (OOL).

I put 2 paintings in to OOL, the first one being You Are Not Your Stuff.  I saw this graffiti on a wall in Moss Side, Manchester.  The wall has gone now as it was part of a disused factory that has been demolished but I remembered the 'message' and thought that it would be worth making into a painting with a 'messenger' and recipient in it.  After many tries at ideas I went for a simple approach.  Maddy would be the angel and I would be some old bloke with a suitcase.

Here is the start.  I had part of a photograph of the wall gicleé printed onto the centre of a large piece of canvas and developed the painting round that.  The bricks were a nightmare to paint as I kept on having to add courses to expand the composition.

I added the angel and put Maddy's face on it and prepared a space for me on the right:

Angel And Surrounding Landscape Added

I painted the angel and me and then worked for ages on all the brickwork.  I had to design a new landscape and get the perspective right so there is a tiny dot marked 'VP' (vanishing point) in the middle somewhere.

Angel Painted and Self About To Be Added On Right

 Here is the final version hung in the Threadneedle Space, the Mall Galleries.

The Final Version in The AFAS Show

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Essaouira Part Five - The Cantina Square

I am sure this has a proper name but it is a small square at the north end of Avenue Sidi Mohamed ben Addellah and in one corner is La Cantina, a café owned by a lovely english lady.  I only have a pen sketch of La Cantina and the shop next door:

La Cantina from the sketchbook

I had two sessions in the square, both very enjoyable.  The first one tackled the shop in the NW corner:

Clothes and Art Shop, Cantina Square (12x8)
 Then I had a long stretch doing three paintings in the square from the closed shop next to La Cantina, on our last full day:

'Mosaique' (10x7)

Two Doors, Cantina Square (7x10)

Cantina Square, Early Evening (10x8)

One morning early I pitched at some closed shop doorways at the Cantina end of Ave Sidi Mohamed ben Addellah.  I started to paint but then the shop owner arrived and opened up.  He was trying to put out his beautiful wooden wares - boxes and lanterns - but I was in the way so I said I would move.  He insisted I stayed put and later on offered me a cup of tea.  I wonder if I would have got the same kindness from a British shop.

By The Box-Maker's Shop (10x7)

When I had finished and waited for him to finish his prayers, I bought a small box.  Michael and I returned there to buy two much larger boxes for our wives and were shown round his tiny workshop.  We were both amazed at how, with a few handtools and some old blocks of Thuya wood and lemon tree, he could create such exquisite things.

Essaouira Part Four - The Port

The port is one of the busiest on the coast with large and small vessels landing their catches and constant activity both in the water and on shore.  Most of the day-to-day fishing (well night fishing really) seems to be done from very small open boats of a dictinctly 'Portugese-looking' design and powered by outboards.

My first proper excursion was not a happy one.  I was nursing a monumental headache that painkillers just didn't want to shift.  I took acrylics and managed to drop some brushes into the harbour, get myself covered in Titanium White when my sleeve caught it without me realising and almost lose my water pot when I tipped it over and it rolled to the edge of the harbour wall.  Somehow I managed two acrylic paintings, neither of which I was particularly pleased with:
Boats And Slipway (9x7)

Large Boats On Slipways (9x11 approx - acrylic)
Things improved later.  The headache began to recede and i then enjoyed doing this one of small boys diving into the area where some of the small boats are moored:

Blue Boats And Boys (8x10)

On the other side of the arch is another little mooring pool that drains at high tide.  I had three goes at the scene, the best one being this view caught just as the tide was coming in:

Rising Tide (10x8)
The other two were 12x8s in which I tried to catch more of the foreground water but they are rather dull and will need livening up or 'wiping'.

Michael Worthington and I also had a morning in the port later on.  Again, I was not particularly happy with my efforts - just too much going on and I should have chosen really simple subjects:

Small Boats In The Port (10x8)

Large Boats In The Port (10x8)

I think the first painting could be turned into something bigger as I did a couple of pen sketches, took notes and actually remembered to get out my camera.  The next part of the Essaouira blog will concentrate on the 'Cantina' square inside the Medina.