Month: December 2014

Watercolour project

Hanging on a quiet wall at my Mothers house is a rather dour Victorian watercolour of a river and winter trees. It’s largely been overlooked but I was peering at it the other day when I realised the skill in the painting is outstanding. I’ve borrowed it for a short while in order to make a study of it.


The Ouse at Sunset

Normally I post a story of my work but this time the story will unravel as I work through the project, learning as I go.

Janet will appreciate the fresh and stretched piece of watercolour paper. Langton 140Lb not. 420x297mm


Stretched watercolour paper

So, it’s already not quite gone to plan. The old tape I’ve used to stretch the paper has not completely stuck around the edges and the paper is ‘not’ where it should be extra smooth. These items may cause the paper to buckle and restrict the detail on the painting. I’ve a feeling the original artist used poorer quality paper so his skill is extraordinary.

Next is to draw out the line work.

I am now realising that I’m opening up myself to actually having to complete this project and show every mistake – but here goes…

Well, the drawing didn’t take long. The trees will be added later so I needed to get the sky and some of the ground and water painted in. look hard and you will see some line work.

Simple line work

Simple line work

The first painting must be the oranges and yellows of the sunset. I can then place the base washes upto and around this strip of colour.



The ground base colour now goes in…


The artist I’m following has managed to get the clouds in with very soft edges. I’m not really sure of the technique so I’ve been trying a few out on the paper.


Now for the base line of clouds and trees in the distance and a little bit more experimenting.

clouds5Adding the tree line has provided more depth and balances the sky. Next is a little tinkering around the  center of the painting and and adding edges to the water. Its starting to look more like a landscape. Scary trees tomorrow.


I’ve now been working on the trees for a couple of session and they are hard. I can’t get the quality this artist has achieved. Every limb, branch and twig has been painted with such individuality and depth – its almost photographic. My work is very sketchy. It also takes so long and I can’t spend so much time at the desk. I have to really concentrate to get this done but I’ve developed a nasty toothache and this is not helping.


Well, with so many branches, twigs etc where do I finish? Also the original is so much darker should I take the picture to the limits? I find the original too dark so I’ve chosen a lighter side of dusk. I’ve learnt a lot and its shown me that I’ve still a long way to go. But the picture works and I now need to use my own composition and storytelling.


The Ouse


Sailing in the Solent

When I was a teenager I used to race dinghies in the Solent with my brother. Always edged with fear and cold it was not a pastime I felt drawn to but it did have its moments. I do remember open spaces, wonderful colours, coastal sights and a sense of awe over the elements.  I’ve been watching a series of excellent Art Tutor videos with Rob Dudley as the artist and tutor. His ‘sparkling water’ reminded me of the  Solent and days on the water and I felt drawn to trying the lesson out.

I’ve added a dingy and crew of a ‘Fireball, which is the class of boat we used to race. I was the one at the front, on the trapeze.

Of course the first attempt with these lesson never goes quite right as you can’t help comparing the perfection of Robs work with my clumsy attempts. However, I’ve learnt new techniques and used a new colour – Windsor Blue (green shade) for the sky, which I love. Also Indigo has been added to my palette.

I’ve  a question about the clouds – do they work? They aren’t as subtle as the tutors and I need many more trials but it would be good for a second opinion.

Fireball sailing

Racing in the Solent


Tower Poppies

A request for a painting by a work colleague has resulted in a strange painting. She sent me some atmospheric photos of the tower and the poppies at night. I’ve never painted night time before and these very emotive pictures were always going to be a challenge. I didn’t want to lose the strong contrasts and the distance on the battlements and felt there wouldn’t be too much detail required – I as wrong. However, it was a study mainly of colours and contrast and this meant more time painting than normal.

The question I had was – paint in light washes or get the mop out and use almost pure pigment.  In the end the pure number of washes to achieve the density meant I went for saturation. Photo quality is bad but this picture does give a feel for the outcome.


Poppies at the Tower

Not quite my cup-of-tea, reminds me of a Daliesque hades.

Porto Barcos

Laid up at home with a sore throat I’ve been working on a picture from a photo I took on my recent trip to Porto. Taken on the south bank looking across the Douro to the steep side of the city, I liked the composition. The boats are dark in the foreground and the river flows to the left hand with a bridge in the distance adding a little bit of mystery. The impressive north bank rising up high, with a mass of buildings, roofs and windows, were details I felt I wanted to attempt painting.


Barcos on the Douro

The first washes were laid on the drawing after placing a few key highlights with masking fluid. Soft, wet on wet basic colour washes, producing a guide for the whole picture, especially the sky and water.


Base washes

Then adding the second level washes that provide more detail but not much contrast

Sky and water washes

Sky and water washes

I wasn’t sure about sure about the detail on the headland – how far do I go? But once started then I must continue. However, as I progressed I gained new insight, found new ways of tackling the buildings so probably I would do them differently again. (another painting project).


Porto Barcos

Finished? Not really but as much as I want to do for now. Likes? the river going into the distance, the buildings on the right hand side , the shadows in the town, parts of the water. Dislikes? Muddy reflections, foreground out of scale, too many windows badly done, poor masts. Still to do? Change foreground, more depth to the water on bottom right, rigging on the boats.