Sunday, 31 July 2011

June/July Challenge

The June/July Challenge between Mick Carney was selected by me. I chose four photographs taken at Dartmouth and Slapton Sands on a recent day trip. The ones at Dartmouth were of the inner harbour with boats marooned as the tide was out. Slapton Sands is some miles away further down the coast and is not so photogenic so I picked only two, one of the Inn there - supposedly the `best fish and chips in Devon' - and another of a beach scene.  The fish and chips were average but that's by the way. Dartmouth is an attractive small coastal town in South Devon and Slapton Sands a long stretch of coastline of no great attraction. Slapton Sands was the scene of a notorious WW2 disaster- details were suppressed until after the war - when a large pre DD landing exercise was attacked by German E boats and nearly a thousand American troops lost their lives. There is a memorial there, a Sherman tank fished out of the bay, and a large plaque giving details of those who died. I'm a WW2 amateur enthusiast, if that's the right word, so having read about Slapton Sands have long wanted to visit.

The Sherman Tank at Slapton Sands

At this stage I don't know what Mick has selected as his subject but I decided to attempt one of boats in the inner harbour.

Dartmouth Inner Harbour

For me the main problem was the background as the shapes (boats) all connected very well. How to handle the harbour wall in the background? I confess the painting I've posted is my third attempt as I was unhappy with the previous two, mainly due to my treatment of the wall, although some problems were also obvious with the boats. 

Boats marooned in the inner harbour. Fabriano Artistico 18" x 14" Not

I first made a loose but fairly accurate drawing trying not to be over fussy with detail. This was one of the problems with the first two. I then painted starting with the largest boat on the foreground and continuing across the painting connecting the shapes. I also partially painted the wall where the boats met. Finally I completed the wall and also added some detail of the mud the boats sat in. A John Yardley painting of boats on the beach was used for inspiration and simplification. 

 I actually tried some different tecniques for the wall with stippling, using a sponge dipped in paint, and also some Indian ink put on with a quill pen. Some of these marks were softened using a small bristle brush. I'm currently studying a John Blockley book (Watercolour Interpretations 1987 -William Collins & Sons) obtained from the library and he used a lot of  `marks' as he calls them. The asking prices for used copies are ridiculous. He says `marks', others might say tips and tricks, but his work illustrates the remarkable effects one can attain.

In order to avoid fussiness I used only two brushes. The main one was my Da Vinci Artissimo 44 Kolinsky mop No 2 plus a rigger. The Da Vinci is roughly equivalent to a standard Size 14 round.

Paints used were Cobalt and Cerulean Blue with some Avignon Orange (Maimeri PR206) and Permanent Carmine for the red boat, A mix of Viridian and Cerulean for the boat on the extreme left. Darks were mainly a mix of Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber and Ultramarine, while Raw Umber and Raw Sienna were used for the mud and also wall colours. Greys on the wall were heavily diluted Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine. Touches also of Cadmium Orange (Maimeri PO20). I think that's it. Where two colours feature I mostly mix on the paper. Comments welcome.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Plein Air

Last Saturday 23 July I painted in the garden at Pats house at Bitton.  This has been an annual event for several years, often twice during the Summer, but sadly this is the last occasion as Pat, who is quite elderly, is selling the house and moving to a much smaller property. We get coffee and biscuits on arrival and tea and cake after we have finished! I shall miss these occasions. 

Alan Coster painting last Saturday.

Alan has known Pat for many years and previously arranged similar outings at her former home which was a large converted farmhouse. It is actually arranged for members of Hanham Art Club, but I was once  a member and get invited because Alan and I also belong to the Avon Valley Artists. Alan is recovering from a serious knee operation and this was  only his second  time painting in nearly three months. 

On this occasion I decided to paint a small section around a window at the rear, having previously done mainly front views.

Window and Pots. Fabriano Artistico 18" x 12" Not

I used mainly two brushes Escoda series 1214 retractable Kolinsky-Tajmyr  sables sizes 12 and 8. Colours for the walls included Gold Ochre, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and greys mixed from Cyan Blue and Cadmium Orange (both Maimeri). Although the walls look grey there are many subtle colours and representing them is a challenge. Gold Ochre for the window surrounds and various mixes to achieve a wide range of greens. Hookers Green (Maimeri) was used as a base, adulterated with other colours like Burnt Sienna and  Avignon Orange (Maimeri PR206). Faience Blue (Maimeri PB60) was used to darken the greens and Green Gold (Rowney PY129) to get a lighter yellow-green. Probably some Ultramarine in there somewhere and also touches of Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15). Take care with Gold Ochre (W & N PY42) as it is on the opaque side and used full strength is very powerful. A lovely rich colour nevertheless.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Pin Mill & Woodbridge

Last week my wife and I with two friends spent a few days in Suffolk. I had intended to paint at Pin Mill but the weather forecast, prior to going, was so bad with rain predicted every day that I only took a couple of sketchbooks with me.

The Tide Mill

 On the way to our B & B we stopped off at Woodbridge, a delightful small town just off the A12, a few miles North of Ipswich. This is another great painting location on the River Deben and has a famous Tide Mill. On this occasion the Tide Mill was under repair and swathed in what looked like pink plastic sheeting.  A short distance before you reach it is a building that is the home of the Woodbridge Art Club, who run regular exhibitions and indeed one was current. I spoke to one of the ladies there, explaining my interest, and she told me they had 200 members with a waiting list. This includes 25 potters and I was shown a small room with a kiln. The building is superb and on enquiring I was told it was owned by the council. It is actually quite big with one large room, a slightly smaller one and the potter's annex of two small rooms.  The standard of paintings was mixed, as is usually the case with amateur exhibitions, but there were some good works and a variety of media including watercolour. I wondered how on earth an art club, even one with 200 members could afford such a relatively palatial home. Apparently the group maintain the building, with no cost to the council, and pay a peppercorn rent as they are regarded, with continous exhibitions, as a tourist attraction. They have regular weekly painting sessions, workshops and longer courses with well-known artists tutoring. It is a hive of activity. To cap it all the annual fee is only £35! I took a number of photographs on the front here for possible future paintings.

 Woodbridge Art Club Exhibition

Another view

Taken just outside the Art Group building

Two days later we went to Pin Mill. Where is Pin Mill? It is on the River Orwell, near the village of Chelmondiston which is approximately six miles South-East of Ipswich. Pin Mill is a fabled location where many famous artists like Edward Seago painted, and in recent times John Yardley. Charles Reid made a video here for Town House Films in 2009. I believe on any decent day you will find artists at work  from the well-known professional to the humble amateur.

Pin Mill. The famous Butt & Oyster 17th Century pub in the right background

On the day we visited I indeed spotted some artists at work and wandered down to where they were.  I was careful not to interrupt but one particular man actually spoke first and said he was happy to talk. It turned out he was from a group known as `The Maritime Art Group' and he was there with two others. I think he said it was his eighth visit. It appears they are a group of 17, holding regular exhibitions at various locations.

One of the Maritime members at work

Another view

And another

Unfortunately it isn't ideal to go on holiday, intending to paint, when you have friends who don't. My wife is fine as she will read a book for a couple of hours but it is different with others, even good friends. It just doesn't work well especially somewhere like this. As a result of this and the weather being very unsettled (to put it mildly) I only made a couple of rudimentary sketches but took lots of photographs and  hope to use some of this material in coming months. Plein air is great but if you want to paint regularly then photographs play a large part.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Wildflowers (and Fruit)

Being very discontented with my last offering I followed my normal procedure and instead of sulking pressed ahead with another painting. There are some wonderful wild flowers in a large open meadow, part of the Community wood, near my home. Last week I collected some intending to paint them, but fate intervened in that my youngest grandson was unwell so grandparenting duties intervened.  Fortunately he has recovered but by then the flowers were dead! I determined to have another shot and there were still plenty of fresh flowers so I collected a bunch yesterday. I'm not sure as to the exact legality by doing this  but I didn't dig them up and none were rarities so ........!
Wildflowers with added fruit

I added the fruit as I felt the area around my favourite jug looked a little lonely.

I did the intial drawing with a loose outline to start, erasing some of the marks later and then commenced the drawing proper, avoiding becoming too detailed, with the pink flowers in the centre. Once completed I started painting those same pink flowers.


Wildflowers & Fruit. Fabriano Artistico 90lb Not 15" x 11"

As you will note I painted on 90lb Fabriano and find this weight perfectly satisfactory for my sort of painting with no large washes. Colours used were Permanent Rose and Opera Rose (both W & N) for the pink flowers. As they had a violet tinge, particularly in the shadows I added Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15). Yellows are mainly Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97) and a little Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153). Ultramarine Violet was also used for some of the flowers plus Permanent Carmine (W & N PR N/A) with a little Cadmium Orange (Maimeri PO20). The greens were mainly Hookers Green (Maimeri) adulterated with eithers Burnt Sienna or darkened with Faience Blue (Maimeri PB60), Burnt Umber also. The jug was mostly Cerulean (W & N PB35) with some Ultramarine Violet. On to the fruit with the grapes Perylene Maroon (Rowney PR179), the orange Cadmium Orange and Raw Umber and the apple mainly Permanent Carmine with touches of yellow and green. Raw Sienna in the background.

Brushes used were Rosemary series 33 No 9 and Da Vinci Maestro Size 6.

I'm much happier with this than the previous painting. I intend to do more still lifes incorporating flowers but also studies of fruit and  possibly vegetables. I like the shapes and brilliant colours of peppers. Having been studying Shirley Trevenas work recently and her treatment of fruit, together with that of my guru Charles Reid, I will be striving to improve my treatment of these subjects.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Eyes Have it!

This was the caption on the photograph below which was on the cover  of the Guardian weekend magazine 26 June. I was so taken by it that I decided to try and paint the subject, who was an Indian gentleman in an article entitled `The People and Portraits of Steve McCurry'.

I initially did a loose drawing, getting it as accurate as I was able and then painted the features beginning with the eyes, nose and mouth. The eyes are a little on the small side I can see that. I then painted his hand and then began the turban just to see how it would look. At that stage I finished for the day, partly to enable me to think about how to proceed with the rest of the painting. I am very conscious that paintings can go wrong at any stage and you always reach a certain point where it either succeeds thereafter or bombs. I was also feeling that I needed an extended break rather than just a few minutes. This was session one.

An Indian gentleman -16" x 12" Fontenay Rough

Looking at the original photograph I was first of all struck by the brilliant red of his turban, followed by the deep brown/sienna colour of his face and the cream of his shirt. I don't aim for a super realistic result, as this is watercolour after all but an almost impressionistic effect, although obviously it has to resemble the subject. I finished the painting the following day in one session, taking regular little breaks to review progress. The whole thing took about two hours.

I painted the features with my Isabey Series 6201 size 6 (Jacksons) and followed up with the Rosemary series 33 size 6.. These two brushes were used for the face. The rest of the painting was completed with my Da Vinci Artissimo 44 No Kolinsky mop, approximately the size of a 14 round.

Colours used for the features were a mixture of Perylene Maroon  (Rowney or Graham PR179), my first real use of this colour, and Faience Blue (Maimeri PB60) added for the darker areas. I also used Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) in the lighter areas. The odd touch of Cerulean ( W & N PB35) was added. Touches of Ivory Black (Maimeri PBk9) around the moustache. This was a new approach for me in terms of skin colours.  The turban comprised Cadmium Red Pale (Rowney PR108), Quinacridone Rose & Scarlet (Daniel Smith PV19, PR206 respectively) and  Avignon Orange (Maimeri PR206). Although the Daniel Smith and Maimeri above are both PR206 the colours are quite different. Touches of Faience Blue  were used in the shadow areas, both on the turban and more heavily on the right and left sides of the face. 

The shirt was painted with diluted mixes of Raw Sienna (Maimeri PBr7), some Gold Ochre (W & N PY42), and a little Cerulean. 

I am generally pleased with the final result although I realise, as always , it could be better. Comments welcome.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Quinacridone Gold - Pigment PO49 (2)

As a follow up to my previous post this is the current position. Only one manufacturer of artists  watercolours offers the genuine article - described by the famed Australian watercolourist Robert Wade in his 2002 book, `Robert Wade's Watercolour Workshop Handbook', as "the best thing for years". The sole source of genuine Quinacridone Gold (PO49) is the American company Daniel Smith.

According to Bruce McEvoy of Handprint manufacture of the pigment, a mixed crystal form of PV19 alpha and beta (don't ask me what this means because I don't know!), ceased in 2001.The reason was that the automotive industry, the prime source of demand, dropped it. Pigment volumes for paints is a drop in the ocean compared to that from the automotive, ceramics and chemical industries so  paint makers are at the mercy of the market. They follow demand rather than drive it and get what they can.

Confusion has been caused by Maimeri continuing to put out `Golden Lake' with PO49 Quinacridone listed as the pigment ingredient. Soon after PO49 manufacture ceased Maimeri changed their formulation. Actually the information on both tubes and chip charts was wrong as they said `PV49', and still do although it also says `Quinacridone' which PV49 is not, an error never corrected. When I enquired about this from Maimeri they did not reply but Bruce McEvoy of Handprint has considerably more clout than little me and sent me a copy of an e-mail from them in Italian which nevertheless translated that PO49 had been replaced by PY42 `a similar pigment'. PY42 is a yellow oxide which is widely available from up to 30 producers Worldwide. It varies considerably in colour and tone depending on a number of factors affecting manufacture. The other main source of `true' Quinacridone Gold was Winsor & Newton who ran out of the pigment pretty quickly and have replaced it with a three pigment mix of PR206, PV19 and PY150, all excellent pigments but do not call it a `hue', which it is, and using it for mixing will give a different result.

What then of Daniel Smith? It is assumed they bought up a large consignment of PO49 and this is why they are able to continue to offer it. I shall have to ask my friend Hap, who lives not far from the Daniel Smith headquarters, to see if he can clarify this. How long will stocks last? Hap offered to take me there, should I visit Seattle again, and introduce me to the chief chemist. Much as I'd like to visit Seattle once more our days of long haul flights are more or less finished. Now if I were to win the lottery and could travel first-class things might be different.....

One problem is the price. The Daniel Smith UK price via Jacksons is £9.55 for a 15ml tube. Daniel Smith's website list the price as $10.45 or $9.40 if you buy 12 tubes overall. This is under £6 so once again we in the UK get the short straw. What are the alternatives?

The swatches above show Quinacridone Gold compared with Gold Ochre, Raw Sienna and purely for comparison, a true yellow Azo Yellow. The first three are earth colours but note Gold Ochre. This is the Winsor & Newton version made with PY42, a commonly used pigment, widely available from pigment manufacturers and (apparently) capable of a quite wide colour range. This is a favourite of Bruce McEvoy of Handprint and I think he is onto something. It is shown almost full strength but can be diluted down and is even touted as a possible alternative to Raw Sienna. Is it an alternative to Quinacridone Gold? One big advantage is that it is much cheaper, certainly in the UK and can be purchased from the online suppliers at under £7, much cheaper than the DS paint. In the USA this is reversed with W & N paints amongst the dearest so the DS Quinacridone Gold is a viable purchase but for how long?.