Monday, 7 November 2016

Days Out with Michael

In the late summer and early autumn Michael Worthington and I snatched some days out from our busy schedules.  I think I was on my own for this one in the Oxford Botanic Garden.

Michael wanted to try it so we started before it opened one morning, at the edge of Christchurch meadow.

Magdalen Tower from the meadows 12x8

We then moved into the garden and had two goes at this scene before hunger
forced us to seek sustenance and broke the spell..

Botanic Garden Archway 1 12x8

Botanic Garden Archway 2 12x8

We also went further afield - to Wooton-by-Woodstock and Stonesfield.

Above Fawler 8x12

Ford and Bridge Stonesfield 12x9
Then there was the Abingdon day - a lot of walking and not much painting but at least the weather was good. 

The Old Anchor, Abingdon 9x12

Boy Fishing, Abingdon 12x8
On all these occasions we felt rusty and could have done with 3 or 4 consecutive days to start painting well again but it was not to be.  Maybe the Winter will be more productive and successful.


Just a little note on our trip to see the Italian relations in Puglia - the paternal family of our daughter-in-law Georgie.  I took painting kit so that I could  paint one picture of Torre Giulia, a large wedding venue in the countryside near San Ferdinando and Cerignola.  I gave it framed to Tonino Caputo the head of the family into which Georgi's father married when he returned to Italy.  I used alkyd oils, which were dry within 2 days

The old villa at Torre Giulia
The web site of Torre Giulia is at  Not cheap!

Venice 2016

As usual I am well behind.  Another great trip thanks to David Bachmann - him, me, David Pilgrim, Herme Bachmann and Wyllis Heaton all staying in Ken and Dora Howard's apartment in Venice.

Four nights for me and 5 for the others.  Weather good apart from the last day.  We started on Monday 26 September after settling in at Ken's and having lunch.  Too hot in the SS Giovanni e Paolo and Santa Maria Formosa squares so retreated to Palazzo Soranzo and managed an 8x6 of the door there.

Palazzo Soranzo 8x6

Then started a 10x6 of John Cabot's house on the Riva but switched to catch the sun setting behind the Salute.

Sunset and Salute 9x12
On Tuesday we started rather late and hit crowds at the Rialto.  We ended up in the Campo  Santa Margherita but gave that up and started the day with a view of the Carmini church and Ponte dei Pugni from the San Barnaba square.
Carmini from San Barnaba 12x8
David and I then walked round half of Dorsoduro looking for spots that were new to us, going far up the Zatterre to the West end and in again, ending up on the Fondamente Soccorso with a view of the Yellow House.
Yellow House, Dorsoduro 12x9
We then wasted some time by having a lazy lunch and walking all the way back to the Fondamente Nove where we caught a boat to Murano with David and Herme.  The idea was to paint the church on the Isola di San Michele from the Murano quay but when we got there the light was not quite right, so we legged it back to the Colleoni square for a desperate hour working on sketches of the Ospedale facade before heading home in the dark.
Evening Sun, Ospedale Civile 12x9
By Wednesday (28th) we were beginning to get into our stride.  I skipped breakfast and set off at 6 am on a 5.1 boat to San Zaccharia then back on a 2 to Redentore.  Managed two small panels from here:

Before Sunrise From The Redentore 6x13

Gesuati from the Redentore 6x8
Back to San Zaccharia on a 2 and then took a 1 to San Toma, walking through the area to find DB and DP painting the front side of the Scuola di San Rocco.  I joined them and then they left while I finished off my sketch:
Scuola di San Rocco 12x9
Back to Bar Niki for refreshment and out again to the other side of the Scuola to paint a view that Paul Rafferty painted so brilliantly on our last Venice trip.

Scuola di San Rocco Portico 12x9
David Pilgrim and I then headed back to Ken's at high speed while DB painted the Ca Rezzonico turn from the San Toma stop just as the light was coming onto the water.  We had a very leisurely lunch then walked out to the F. Nove and caught a 4.1 to Madonna del Orto - an area we had not explored before.  We ended up standing on the Punta di Calle dei Mori, painting the lit side of the Fondamemte Gasparo Contarini.  David made a particularly fine job of this.
Evening on the F G Contarini 9x13
Out again on my own the next day (29th) at 6am to the Zatterre, via a 5.1 waterbus,  then walked to the Punta Dogana in time to catch the sunrise over the San Giorgio Maggiore.  10 minutes after this the whole scene was just a silhouette and the water too bright to look at.

Sunrise From Punta Dogana 8x12
Left at 8.20 and took a '2' to San Tomá for a coffee and brioche in Niki Bar, now my fave watering hole in Venice.  Saw Wyllis painting near the Sant Angelo stop so hopped off to ask where the others were.  He did not know!  After a fruitless search around the Rialto area and Ca D'Oro I went back to the Rialto Mercato stop, settled in at the fish market and painted from a pitch I used for a pastel last year.
By The Fish Market 12x8
Back to Niki Bar for lunch then stood at the San Tomá stop and painted up the canal: on a small, wide panel:
Grand Canal from San Tomá 6x13
Walked through the city to the SS Geovanni e Paolo square and painted the door of the church from beneath the Colleoni statue.
San Zanipolo West Door 12x9
Went home for some more solvent and found DB and Herme in but then forgot to take the solvent with me!  After catching a lucky 4.1 to the Madonna del Orto stop I was able to finish the day looking along the Fondamenta Contarini as the sun went down. The lack of solvent was a pain but I managed this view looking the other way from the previous evening's effort.

Wyllis had done an absolute cracker of the fish market from the Ca D'Oro vaporetto stop and I was determined to try it so we set off  together very early the next morning.  W got a bit lost trying to go directly to Ca D'Oro but found some potentially good spots to paint as a result.  He left me at the Ca D'Oro pitch - just enough room for one painter at a time - and I did what I could before the moment when the sun hits the red awnings, working at high speed once it had arrived.  Hendrik Kralle, conducting maestro and oboist was getting onto a vaporetto, saw the painting and offered to buy it on the spot.  It is now on its way to Germany.

Fish Market from Ca D'Oro 9x12
Stupidly decided to brave the Rialto crowds and it was some time before I had wandered all the way down to the Accademia.  I was looking for Herme who needed more kitchen towel (we use tons of the stuff) and knew that the others were heading for San Rocco again so hopped on a 2 to San Toma and found DP painting the Scuola front door again.  Decided to try for the church front door instead:
Chiesa di San Rocco 12x9
Time was now running out, so I took a 1 to San Marco and painted a little sketch of the P Dogana.

Punta Dogana 8x6
Waited ages for a 4.1 to take me home round the East side of Venice and jumped off at Ospedale, almost ran to the famous pitch from where you can paint the Ospedale facade and did my last painting of the trip.
Ospedale (Scuola di San Marco) 12x8

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Suffering Is Important

Lifted from the Spring 2016 edition of The Palette (The journal of the Armed Forces Art Society)..............  I wrote it some time ago.

The Suffering Is Important

By Tim King

One Autumn I was painting in Woodstock in the rain.  Despite my clamp-on umbrella my kit was soaked but I was determined to get some lovely street reflections ‘nailed’ before I gave up.  A passer-by stopped and asked me why I was painting under such awful conditions.  I said, ‘The suffering is important to me’.  He looked into my eyes, thought about it and then turned away, apparently satisfied.

The suffering artist is the butt of much humour and irony.  The irony once came to me very forcibly when I received one of those polite rejection emails from the Woodstock arts festival.  With it was a short promotional film encouraging artists to participate.  That was fair enough but it included footage of me painting.  The organisers obviously saw nothing strange in using me to promote the festival whilst rejecting my actual participation.  The irony was perfect!

Those of us who paint out of doors all year round become inured to the discomforts and inconveniences: being there is too important to succumb to them and run for shelter.  Eugene Boudin (1824-1898) once said ‘Everything painted directly, on the spot always has a strength, a power, a vividness of touch that one does not find again in the studio’ and for observational painters it is so true.  I have lost count of the number of times I have scaled up a plein air sketch in the studio and destroyed the magic.  And one May, as I watched my box easel blow over in Mousehole, scattering my kit along the harbour wall, I realised that I was no longer upset by such a thing – it had become part of the process.

Rejection comes hard (and in my case frequently) and one is forever searching for that elusive thread that will lead out of the labyrinth of failure to the bright light of success.  I am always impressed by the doggedness of my plein air colleagues.  In an almost perverse way, the psychological suffering just makes them more determined.  Buffeted by disappointment, discouraged by the attitude of many gallery owners, often wracked with self-doubt, they just keep going.  I sometimes wonder if we are not all suffering from the same obsessive compulsive disorder.    For studio painters it is no different.  Dennis Syrett, past president of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, once confided that it had taken him 15 years of determined effort to succeed in becoming a member.  Despite years of disappointment the thought of giving up was, well, unthinkable.  For him achievement could only come through endurance.

I have just reread a great statement by Derek Balmer in the Catto Gallery’s catalogue of a one-man show of his work.  In it he lists 19 different categories of people for whom artists create employment, including curators, gallery owners, art critics and white van men.  And of course they all get paid before we do.  Are we mugs?  Was it just for commuters that the graffiti, (now sadly obliterated along with ‘F... Blair’ and ‘Marry Me Pam’), was written on the famous M40 wall ‘Why Do I Do This Every Day'?  Poor sales at a show; a botched attempt at an easy subject; the pressures of work or domestic life; yet another rejection by a gallery: all these must make us wonder why we bother.
St Paul was right.  What makes the difference in the end must be the hope that perseverance will finally be rewarded: a conscious decision to accept all the physical and psychological ‘negatives’ and keep going.  David Curtis ROI RSMA is adamant that it is not always the most talented artists who succeed but those willing to stay the course.  

Creating art is a lonely business but there is strength to be had in like-minded friends – those who are willing to share the difficulties and support each other.  I certainly owe a great debt to my plein air painting pals.  We sometimes think we are crazy painting in those conditions but being crazy together does not seem so bad.  So perhaps the message is ‘Embrace the suffering - it will come anyway – but never give up’.   

Monday, 8 February 2016

Seville 2016

What a fantastic trip thanks to our ever-generous hosts, David and Herme Bachmann, some good weather and great companions.  The UK contingent consisted of Haidee-Jo Summers, Pete (the Street) Brown, Karl Terry and me.  The locals were David, Eric Davis and Robbie Thompson.  Karl and I went for 5 nights and the others 4 nights and we all had one night in Granada, which meant 2 painting days in the Alhambra and a lot of driving for David.

The evening we landed, Haidee, Karl, David and I went straight out and started.  Haidee produced an exquisite study of one of the horse-drawn carriages in the square.  I managed a little 10x8 of the Giraldillo (pronounced something like 'Hiraldeeo') hotel and restaurant.  (The Giraldillo is the weathervane on the top of the Giralda - once a minaret for the city's mosque when the moors were in power but subsequently converted to a bell tower.  It has become an icon for Seville).

Giraldillo Hotel from the Square 10x8

We then went to the river where I did 2 small pastels of the Triana Bridge as dusk came on.

Peter flew in the next day (Monday 1 February) and by then we had gained entry to the Royal Palace and Alcazar Gardens with our 'painter's passes' and had a go at painting them.  I tried a small pastel of a fountain with archway behind to see if it would work in oil and then committed to a 14x11 oil:

Hercules Fountain - 9x7 Pastel
Hercules Fountain, Alcazar 14x11
By the time we were on our third painting and had had a quick bite to eat we heard that Pete had arrived so went to paint with him in the cathedral square.

The gang - joined by Eric Davis at right
I decided to do a quick pastel and then head for the river - on my own because the others were still painting.

From Cathedral Square, Early Evening. pastel
The sun was beginning to set behind the Triana Bridge and half way through my painting all the lights went on!  I tried to re-adjust and somehow this is not too bad:

Triana Bridge, Sunset 8x11
The next day we set off very early for Granada and took a bus up to the Alhambra where there was the usual business of issuing us with our special passes (for which we paid only half the tourist's charge for entry) that last a month.

We went straight to the Partal Gardens and the Torre de las Damas.  Foolishly I tried a pastel first so that by the time I came to paint this oil the others were moving off to try something on the Sierra Nevada side.

Torre de las Damas 10x14
I followed round the walls to a point just short of the Medina where you can look out on this view with the mountains in the background.  I used the pitch where Pete and Karl are in this photo:

They were moving off just as I was setting up.  I tried to do justice to the scene but it was hard to follow the 4 really stunning paintings that  D, H, K and P had just completed.  Still, this was a really enjoyable subject:

Sierra Nevada from the Alhambra 10x12
At that point the others went down to paint in the town but I went round the back of the Carlos V palace to get this view of one of the Alcazaba buttresses with the city below:

Steps To The Alcazaba 8x10
 I managed to find our hotel, down by the river and not far from the main square.  My room on the first floor was just right for one person, with balcony onto the atrium, shower, loo and basin, etc all for 38 euros.  We had the usual hilarious night on the town with Pete and Karl entertaining us.  The Bodegas Castaneda serves the best drinks in town because every time you order drinks you get tapas as well!  Then we had the giant-cream-and-meringue incident recorded by Haidee:

The next day David and I took an early bus up to the Alhambra and had a wonderfully peaceful tour round the Nazrid palaces, including the Court of Lions.  Totally mind-boggling.  Back in the Partal gardens we had another go at the Torre de las Damas.
Torre de las Damas, Alhambra 14x11
I then walked round to the Generalife and looked back across the valley to the main part of the complex:

Alhambra from the Generalife 8x10
On the way back from the Generalife I turned and did a quick pastel of it from the wall between the Torre de las Infantas and the 'Tower At The End Of The Street'.
Generalife from Alhambra - unfinished pastel
I had promised David that I would be at the Placa San Nicolas at 3pm but could not resist entering the Alcazaba and wandering round the battlements there before descending to the city and taking the bus up to Placa San Nicolas.  The others were finishing their masterpieces but the sun had become covered and so I never got the view that they had had the day before, of the whole of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada behind it and had to content myself with this evening view of the Alcazaba section.
Alcazaba from Placa San Nicolas 11x14 (unfinished)
I walked down to the centre where Peter was finishing yet another of those Pete the Street masterpieces and we all piled into the car for the long drive home.

It was very windy on the 4th (Thursday) so Haidee and I headed for the Alcazar gardens while the others braved it by the city hall.  I found a spot near the Carlos V pavilion with my back to the Senador Del Leon:
In the Alcazar Gardens 14x11
Haidee did a lovely fountain view just round the corner and then we snatched a quick sandwich before heading to the cathedral square to find the others.  They had gone off somewhere else so we decided to do a small contre-jour study of the fountain in the cathedral square.
The Cathedral Square Fountain, Seville 10x12
We finally caught up with them in the square with the statue to the sculptor Juan Martinez Montanés in it.  Eric and Robbie had joined them so 7 of us lined up to paint:

This is my rather rushed effort:

Montanes Statue 14x11
Haidee had to be whisked off to her plane and then the rest of us enjoyed a lovely BBQ in Eric's rooftop flat.  It was too cold to use his huge balcony for sitting so we huddled inside while Eric cooked outside. Another 3 bottles of Rioja were polished off but there was no time off for hangovers as we were up early on our final morning for one last go in the cathedral area.

I did a little pastel of a carriage and horse before deciding to whip out my mouth organ and try a bit of busking next to the painters.  After several tunes and the princely sum of 2 euros in my hat I thought better of it and did one last tiny pastel before we headed back to pick up our bags and fly back to a miserably cold and wet UK.
Last Pastel Seville