Rob Adams a Painter's Blog

July 24, 2011

Saumur View, a step by step.

Filed under: France,How to do,Painting — Tags: , , , , — Rob Adams @ 10:51 pm

This post is a simple step by step, these are rather annoying to do as you have to remember to take regular pictures. I tend to get carried away with the painting and then the whole thing is no use as three steps are missing. This time I managed it though. I must get better lighting for this sort of thing, at present it takes ages to adjust every image until they are more of less true. Enough intro, on with the painting.

 

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Saumur, France oil painting, tutorial

Here is my starting point, a view in Saumur. I also have a plein air done on my recent visit.

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Saumur, plein air, oil, painting, France

This was about an hours work so quite rushed but there are elements I wish to use from both.

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saumur, france, oil painting, tutorial

First comes the drawing out, I am not trying to produce a pretty drawing I just want the relevant information. This stage is very important as by going over the whole image you can take a measure of the job in hand and start to work out what can be left out.

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Saumur, france, oil painting, tutorial

Here we are all transferred. I print my line drawing to size then use Tracedown which is non greasy to draw it on. I am using a grey brown ground which will give me a mid tone to start from. Canvas size is 18in by 14in.

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Saumur, france, oil painting, tutorial

Taking just three tones I start first with the shadow areas. I keep the paint very thin and dry. Every now and again I lay kitchen towel over it to absorb any thick or wet paint. This is known as “Tonking” after the painter of the same name.

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tutorial

Next stage, I have laid in the sky in three tones which are then patched together. I don’t blend with a fan I just drop strokes either side of the colour boundaries. Too smooth and the surface looses life and vibrancy. I have also knocked in the shadow colour for the trees and the white houses.

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Oil painting, tutorial

Next comes the lit surfaces. I am all the time trying to choose a base hue that is the middle tone for an area. That is to say if a building front goes from white to a pale ochre to a slightly greyer darker ochre, then I lay in the middle hue so I can accent it darker or lighter later on. This is a very important stage since I am establishing both my atmospheric perspective and for the first time I can “see” my image taking shape.

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Oil painting, tutorial

Another step forward. I am systematically working from large areas to small. So far I have only used two brushes both the same size one for mid and light, the other for dark. I never move to a smaller brush until I am done with the areas that can be dealt with at that size. It is all to easy to start working away with a tiny brush on areas that are too large, which is time consuming and produces a poor paint surface. Also I don’t mix another hue unless I absolutely have to. The colours I am using are: Titanium White, Crimson lake, Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre Deep, Cadmium Yellow Light and Paynes Grey. All are Michael Hardings.

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Oilpainting, tutorial

Now I have dropped a size and am creating half tones with the already mixed colours. I have also started “grounding” the cars with a stronger dark. Again I am just defining things enough to bring the whole thing more into focus, I don’t want to add unnecessary  detail.

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oil painting, tutorial

Almost there, I am adding detail to the lit facades. If you look back to the photo you can see I am leaving a lot out and I am trying to add all elements in single clean strokes of the brush. For straight lines I am running the rigger down a mahl stick.

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Oil painting, tutorial

Here we are all done for now, about 4 hrs work in all, including photos. I have left all the darkest darks and the lightest lights until the very last thing. Looking at this on screen there are a few things I will adjust when it’s dry, the figures need tweaking and I don’t like the grass in the road much. I may also glaze a few areas to adjust the hue here and there. Picture above can be clicked for larger view.

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oil painting, tutorial

Well it’s next day. Do you know the expression “The cold light of day”? For painters the mornings can be quite chilly! When you look at a painting first thing the day after you have a moment to see it afresh. Though this is often depressing it is very valuable because you see underlying errors. What I saw this morning was that the whole righthand side needed freshening up and the far right building was much too dominant. So I added a shadow to act as a full stop and send the eye back into the painting and repainted the facades with fresher colour. The other thing was the figures drew the eye too much so I made them more incidental. I also re photographed it under natural light so the colours above are truer to the original. The foreground shadow got softened too, but after I photographed it so it doesn’t show here! Picture above can be clicked

July 19, 2011

Watercolour Inspirations Part Deux

Filed under: Art History,Watercolour — Tags: — Rob Adams @ 5:31 pm

Here we are again moving gently through watercolour history. Being inspired by the work of others is a good thing, being overwhelmed by the influence of a single artist is probably not… I personally feel that influences should be absorbed and digested, intermixed and subsumed by your own muse. That said copying an artist you admire is often worthwhile. I do warn that sometimes it can lessen your appreciation of an artist, rather like knowing how a magic trick is done, it can remove the mystery. If you have stumbled upon this then Part one is here: Watercolour Inspirations so I will not rehash my intro here. We start in around 1820.

 

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Clarkson Stanfield, watercolour

This is by Clarkson Stanfield the master of panoramas along with is business partner David Roberts. Rather overlooked now he has a wonderful sense of drama. Many artists of the period worked in the theatre as designers and painters. Then of course the Designer was the Painter, unlike today where the Designer is better dressed and connected but less talented and the painter a mere tradesperson.

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Watercolour, Bonnington, Parkes, painting

I had always thought this to be by Thomas Shotter Boys, but research tells me it is by his contemporary Richard Parkes Bonnington. Compared with Turner and Girtin and their interest in romantic ruins we are right up to date. This painting is all about modern life, the lines are cleaner and crisper the people are well dressed and fashionable… no room for yokels in their smocks here! Bonnington was born in 1802 and sadly died in 1828, he was a young Turner in the making, the influence of whom is I think quite pronounced in his work.

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Parkes Bonnington, watercolour, art, painting

Here we see Bonnington in a very Turneresque mood. The harmonies are a little softer though and the colours less insistent. Confident stuff from a man in his early 20′s.

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Richard Parkes Bonnington, watercolour. painting

Another deliciously simple work by Bonnington a perfect balance of loose washes and crisp detail working together. For many watercolour artists today the twin aims of looseness and expressive freedom become the be all and end all of painting, but I feel they are merely different tools in the box, important but not overarching. The search to achieve such technical facility can often overtake the prime purpose which is to make the best picture possible.

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Richard Parkes Bonnington

Here is Parkes Bonnington in David Cox mode, what can you say he has everything, simplicity, a perfect sense of composition and atmosphere.

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Thomas Shotter Boys, watercolour

Here is Thomas Shotter Boys turning a jaundiced eye on what looks like Paris street life. He is best known for illustrating London As It Is and various architectural scenes of Ghent and Antwerp. He studied under Richard Parkes Bonnington though only a year younger.

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Samuel Palmer, watercolour

Here is an unfinished watercolour by Samuel Palmer, painted maybe after he recovered from the influence of William Blake. Unfinished paintings are always fascinating to other artists as they give an insight as to how a artist works. Here you can see far from following the rule to bring the whole picture forward together he is working across finishing as he goes, even as far as the touches of Chinese white for the smoking chimneys. You also wonder why he gave up on it… looks fine to me!

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David Cox, watercolour

Here is David Cox in dramatic mood. Many might think the surface overworked but I love its busy texture and the marvellously positioned touch of red of the distant fire. David Cox is another Theatrical Scene painter.

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David Cox, watercolour

Cox again, beautiful delicate handling of the simple areas of sea and sky with all the action strung out along the horizon line.

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Miles Burkett Foster

Here is a delicious evening painting by Miles Burkett Foster, who went on from this to be the originator of the “chocolate box” by painting romanticised illustrations for Cadburys. He is the beginning of the slippery slope into syrupy sentiment that the Victorians adored.

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watercolour

Here we are in the fully fledged Victorian mode. The RWS exhibitions were full of these, some used to varnish them to ape oil paintings as much as possible. This one is by Harold Sutton Palmer. There is much to admire here, but somehow the life has gone out of the medium and everything is just too perfect and safe.

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Winslow Homer, watercolour

There was more life on the other side of the pond with Winslow Homer producing beautiful marine paintings such as this. There is the horizon slap bang halfway up the picture, and the boat halfway across… things we are told are “bad” composition, well it works here so that’s another rule to bin! He is of course playing with us, the boat is “balanced” on the crest of the wave we know it will dip down on the next moment he has reinforced that breathless feeling of suspension by his placement of the boat. The drive of the boat’s sail is balanced by the heavy dark steamer pulling in the opposite direction.

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Winslow Homer, artist, watercolour

Here is Winslow Homer again showing his mastery of the medium. A very restricted palette all to set off the pink of the sun.

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Singer Sargent, watercolour

Here we are with an artist that we don’t usually associate that much with watercolour, but in my opinion he is one of the best ever and very influential on modern trends in watercolour. Sargent has everything really, sublime drawing skills, an eye for seeing beauty in the simplest of things, supremely confident handling. It is interesting to note that although he grew tired of portraits he never wearied of painting watercolours of his friends on their trips and indeed towards the end only painted the former to finance the latter. How perfect is the judgement of tone to capture the sun shining through the canvas? The cool white of the plate on the ground. You might also note where the poles meet… it’s that half way point again.

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Singer Sargent, water colour

Here he is again, there is just enough detail to capture the feel of a tree but no more. I particularly admire the handling of the two yellowy foreground bushes, there is almost nothing there but we somehow know exactly how they are.

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Singer Sargent, watercolour

Here he is in Venice, a subject I get tired of in the paintings of others, But Sargent brings a freshness to it that is very beguiling. I love the caustic reflections on the white hull of the yacht.

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Singer Sargent, watercolour

As I said before he has everything. I always notice that below the freedom of the bravura handling there is extremely tight drawing. Just look at the lamp and the hanging cups.

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Singer Sargent, watercolour

Last one from Mr Sargent, I suspect this took him less than an hour.

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Russell Flint, watercolour

A final work by Russell Flint, a wonderful watercolorist who wasted most of his career painting rather tedious pictures of dusky maidens, a lesson to us all that it takes more than talent. That’s it my review ends here as I hit the land of copyright, but watercolour goes from strength to strength and seems to inspire new exponents in each generation. If I was a curator and art historian I would now move on to a few half hearted splashings by Brit Art types just to show that watercolour can be really, you know, contemporary… but I don’t think I’ll bother, just as they didn’t.

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