Saturday, 5 May 2018

Crossing the Pyrennees

I have been watching a series of programmes on BBC about people who escaped from German Prisoner of War camps (in World War II) and then had to travel immense distance, often across mountain ranges, in order to get home.  We have heard of people who had to travel down through Italy and crossing the Dolomites, others for whom the Alps were their greatest challenge, but this week I watched an episode about the freedom trail across the Pyrennees from France into Spain (the Spanish never joined with Hitler and so were neutral territory).

I have been across the Pyrennees myself but in a car and remember the long and winding road running alongside deep chasms with views of long ranges of mountain peaks.  What forbidding country it is.  Anyway,  I felt inspired to seek out a scene I could paint of this spectacular countryside and soon found one on the website of Collett's Mountain Holidays.  Here is my painting, followed by the photograph on which it is based. 

On gentler territory, the fine weather we have had this week encouraged me to paint from a photograph I took a couple of years ago of two women walking on Lullington Nature Reserve, near where I live in East Sussex.

This is so typical of the countryside around here - chalky paths crossing gently rolling hills, always with white cliffs and blue sea in the distance.  I hope these two enjoyed their walk on the South Downs Way - they seemed to sum the easy companionship of two walkers on a fine morning, in no hurry to get anywhere.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Pixabay as a useful source of images

I'm loving Pixabay which is a huge resource of photographs which can be reused for any purposes you want with no copyright or royalty issues.  It says in the Pixabay FAQ,

You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist.

I never think copyright is much of an issue anyway when using photographs for paintings, especially as in my case, you never sell them.  Whenever I've used "Internet-found" photographs I've usually based my paintings on several images and grabbed bits which I like where I can find them.  The SAA support my view by stating on their website

You won't infringe copyright if you use someone else's work for private research or study - so you can copy a photograph, a picture from a book, or a painting by another artist, whether you're working at home, at your local art dub or visiting a gallery.  However, if you decide to exhibit, publish or sell that painting, you are then benefiting financially, so would need to seek permission from the artist or photographer who owns the copyright. If you want to copy a famous work of art or sculpture, you won't infringe copyright if the artist who did the original has been dead for more than 70 years"
Anyway, here is a painting I based on a Pixabay image - its Ivar's fish restaurant in Seattle (I am grateful to @helloheidilh on Instagram for identifying it as the Pixabay image didn't reference the exact location.

Friday, 13 April 2018

The bridge at Ronda, Spain

Still watching the BBC TV series Great Continental Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo which I've got stored up for watching at my leisure. The episode on Southern Spain was full of images which you could paint if you wanted to - the flamenco dancer dancing with a specially trained  Andalusian horse, the fair in Cordoba, the wonderful buildings in Seville.

However, this bridge in Ronda grabbed my attention first and so I had to have a go at it.  The first job was to do a drawing.

Not too bad, but then I had to work out how on earth to tackle those cliffs!  I painted them first with a loose wash, varying the colours from Raw Sienna to Raw Umber with bits of Alizarin Crimson and French Ultramarine to give some variety.  After that it was just a matter of adding more layers to bring some definition into it.  I don't usually work into a painting like this but with this one it was never just going to work with only one layer of paint.

I'm reasonably pleased with the result but if I was to do it again I would try not to put so much detail in the cliffs as they could be a little overdone. 

Here is a photograph of the bridge from a different position

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Recent work

One of my favourite television programmes is Michael Portillo's Great Continental Railway Journeys, in which each week he travels through a European country by train, stopping off at various places to see what the place is like and to meet various interesting people.  This week the journey was through the little-known country of Georgia but last week we were in the Ukraine, a fascinating place with several different culture exhibited as you travel north to south.

I find that my watching the programme on catch-up on the computer, I can pause when I see a paintable scene and capture the image with Windows Snipping tool. I then print off the "photo" and do a sketch of it - here is St Sophia's Orthodox cathedral in Kiev.

I don't paint many still-lifes but was inspired by looking at our "Pebble" tea-pot to set one up on the dining table and have a go.  With the addition of a Denbigh cup and saucer and a box of jasmine tea I think it came out well enough - its a very small painting - sketchbook size..

Finally, here are a couple more doorways, both based on photos I found on Instagram (with the photographer's permission!).

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Pen and ink

Its been fun revisiting memories of France and it wonderful architecture.  The chateau at Amboise is second to none, aided perhaps with its prominent position above the majestic River Loire.  I really enjoyed drawing it and remembering a lovely afternoon with Margaret, wandering around the streets of this ancient town.

A couple of days later I decided to give a similar treatment to the castle at Chinon, a few miles up the Loire, which also enjoys a commanding position above the river.  This time I added some watercolour - not sure it was a good thing, but there it is.

That year we were staying in a pretty village called Montrichard which was also full of beautiful perspectives with a small castle of its own.

I probably overdid the hatching marks on this one but its too late to do anything about it now.  Lesson learned for the future!

Friday, 16 February 2018


In my daily readings I've been working through the book of Ezekiel with the John Goldingay's wonderful book Ezekiel for Everyone by my side to guide me.  John has a very historical approach to the Bible, looking at is firstly as a record of an ancient people and then finding those aspects which may apply to us today.  There is a lot in Ezekiel about angels and other spiritual creatures such as "cherubs" and "cherubims".  Forget about rosy-cheeked winged babies fluttering around paintings by Venetian masters. Ezekiel's cherubs are fearsome creatures with faces of lions and wings like eagles, which make you collapse on the ground in fear when you see them.

I did a bit of research and found that these creatures are found in the art of many Near Eastern cultures and in fact the Phoenicians of roughly Ezekiel's time were carving images out of ivory which resembled Ezekiel's visions.  Perhaps they were a frequent sight in those days!

Anyway, they looked pretty good to paint so hear are two Phoenician cherubim from the archealogical site at Arslan Tash in Syria, drawn in pencil then painted with watercolour.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Welcome 2018

Well during 2017 I seem to have done about 70 small paintings, about six or seven a month.  My creativity took off when I gave up on trying to do large, formal works and began to concentrate on small format sketches instead.  The biggest paintings I do are now 7" x 10" and quite often I work smaller than that.  Posting them to Instagram too has been a spur to further work - its a joy to be part of a huge community of artists who watch each other's progress.  I now post a new painting on Instagram and between 200 and 300 people will look at it - much better than just sticking it in a cupboard somewhere - but more importantly, the opportunity to learn from others is key.  You can see my Instagram stream here

Here are just two or three recent painting.

The first is a scene from the village of Broadway in the Cotswolds.  I saw the photograph from which this come in The Times last week and just had to have a go at it.

I had some fun with the next one.  I love the work of Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) an artist and illustrator from the last century.  He worked for a while at Newhaven, East Sussex which is very near where I live (the next town in fact) and I copied his painting of the harbour by using a combination of Inktense water-soluble pencils and watercolour.  You can see the original here.

Finally, I went for a photowalk in Brighton with my photographer friend Steve. These three shops are just by the Theatre Royal and I just had to have a go at painting them.  A happy scene I hope.

I wish my readers a very happy and successful New Year.