Busy week with the painting and drawing. I went up to the centre of London, to attempt a slightly larger than normal plein air… and it did not go well. I set up in Long Acre in Covent Garden, as it was a Saturday it was very busy. Nonetheless I found a spot with my back to a bin and a signpost that did not discommode passers by. The light was beautiful it was one of those days with broken clouds where the sun suddenly lights up the street and then is gone. I soon realised that with the complexity of the scene and the transience of the light completing a big panel was not going to happen, so I just tried to block in the most important things, pausing when the sun came out to take quick snaps with my camera. I had barely covered over the last of the ground when I was asked to move on by the law, I considered arguing, but from experience I know it’s best not. They probably thought I was commissioned by Al Qaeda to paint possible terrorist targets! In truth I was not sorry to stop. Thinking what I would need to finish the painting I sketched and photographed the shoppers so I would have a good selection of figures when I came to finish the painting off.
Painting can be clicked for a bigger view. This was quite a challenge as it had a lot of elements to balance. I drew out my shoppers on black paper and
moved them around until I felt I had a decent flow of activity. I wanted the eye to end up going off down to the distance and the sky so I opened up a
river of light reinforced by the strong perspective of the road. I was very glad to have my rough sketch underneath as the photos just didn’t convey the
brilliance of the light. I spent quite a while at the end suppressing unneeded detail and toning back areas that caused interruption to the eye.
I have been intending to paint some historical views of the docks and the Thames for a while. Some weeks ago I painted a plein air of the Tate modern at Bankside that had lighting that I thought could well give the mood to another painting. I decided to substitute Battersea power station in full operation rather than the sad hulk it has become. I had a couple of old photos, but they were not wide enough for the painting I had in mind which was a double square, a proportion I have been wanting to try out for a while. I had recently bought stretchers from the wonderful Russell and Chapple in Drury Lane. So it was off to the internet to find old pictures of what was there upstream and down stream of the power station. While looking for these I also, as luck would have it, came across a perfect picture of a tug butting it’s way upstream. With these ingredients assembled and my plein air perched in view I spent a very rewarding afternoon gluing them all together with paint!
I had to be very careful with the tones here, I wanted the focus to be subtle and the mood to be the most important thing so nothing dominates… not
an easy ambition when a monster like Battersea Powerstation and its chimneys fill half the canvas! This is actually the reason why the tug is important
as weakens the presence of the looming building. I was interrupted by a delivery and when I got back upstairs and saw it afresh it suddenly looked
complete so I added only a few tidy ups and called it done.
I have been trying to do more sketches… and made up some books with paper I like, sadly I’ve only done two, both are dry runs for oil paintings. These and a few life drawings rounds off this post and my week.
This is of a russian sub on the Medway.
I’ve drawn and painted this path in Greenwich by the Naval Hospital many times… but once more won’t harm!
It’s a great pleasure to draw the figure, absurdly difficult but wonderful.