Last weekends colours and images have stayed with me and are reflected in more Istanbul watercolours this week (at least influenced by something from Istanbul if not a painting of Istanbul itself.
The sights, smells and sounds of the city are more than memorable. The streets are filled wit vendors – of hot roast chestnuts and freshly squeezed juices (orange, grapefruit and pomegranate). Seagulls by the thousand shriek incessantly as they follow the ferries, looking for offerings from commuters. Beautiful sunsets across the water, silhouetting the towers and minarets of the mosques and the museums. And then there’s the intense (almost to the point of sensory overload) sights and sounds of the markets, the historic buildings, and the interiors of the palace.
Istanbul Watercolours – Colour
Blue is the dominant colour of the wall decorations. Ancient turquoise tiles, beautifully hand painted adorn vast areas of wall space in the Topkai Palace, the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya. I had the urge to paint in Turquoise this week. Lori always says that the colours you wear influence the colours you paint. This may be because you see them all the time while you’re wearing them. It’s certainly true that turquoise tones and teals are my favourite colours. I wear them a lot and they often feature in my paintings. Watching the Ray is part of my Wash a Week Challenge for this week, and will be making an appearance on Running With Brushes very soon.
The sunsets over the Bosphorus are wonderful. Clouds waft across orange and pink skies revealing the many towers and minarets across the city silhouetted elegantly in windows of colour. A little sketch in my colour journal captures the image and will always remind me of a ferry ride across the water, looking back towards the old city at sunset.
I’ve continued gradually sorting through paintings and refreshing my Artfinder portfolio. It has been sorely neglected and I find there are many paintings on my walls which haven’t yet found themselves onto the Artfinder page. The update will continue over the next few weeks.
Two paintings went up this week – both abstracts:
Outeniqua Mountain Mist was painted from the platform of a treehouse as I looked out over the mountain range in the distance.
Rain and Spray is exactly what it says on the can – a study of water in various states. Specifically, water in motion as rain and as ocean spray.
My Daniels Smith quinacridone watercolours came out to play this weekend. Last weekend I explored the differences and synergies between Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Deep Gold. You can see my findings in the Wash a Week challenge.
The nectarines on the kitchen table seemed an ideal subject for the colours I was working with for the blog. Once opened, the smooth, juicy, translucent flesh contrasted temptingly with the many folds and hard edges of the stone in the centre.
Quinacridone Watercolours blending on the paper
The perennial challenge for watercolourists is resisting the urge to be too fussy. There’s always the temptation to add one more brushstroke, embellish with a bit more detail, change an edge or a shape.
In this painting, I aimed to avoid this challenge by completing the whole painting with one flat brush. Painting a rounded shape with smooth edges using a flat brush makes it very difficult – almost impossible to get too detailed.
Using quick, energetic brushstrokes, my aim was to simply capture the essence of the fruit. My focus was specifically on the smooth quality of the flesh, and the area of rosy colouring where the hard stone emerges from the body of the fruit.
The combination of the transparent, single pigment quinacridone watercolours, and resisting the urge to fiddle with the paint once it’s been laid down on the paper, leaves the colours clear and translucent in the painting.
I’ll be sharing more quinacridone colours in future Wash a Week posts.
In other news, I’m starting the planning process for my 2015 exhibitions and Open Studios. There are a few visits to London exhibitions and a watercolour festival for inspiration. And I’ll be creating the opportunity for UK watercolour artists to attend workshops with two exceptional artists from Moldova and France. More news on these later.
I’m back from my trip and have just completed some another piece of Belle Île Orchard art.
When we arrived on Belle Île the first thing that struck me was the glorious sunset. The following morning, I noticed the field across the road that was filled with meadow flowers. This is where the material came from when we started painting flowers from a French field. They were quite literally picked from the field a few minutes before we sat down to paint.
There were other subjects to paint during the week, some of which I will come back to. We saw sea, rocks, lighthouses, fabulously coloured houses and so much more. But the Belle Île Orchard art subject matter really captivated me. The field with it’s flowers seemed to epitomise the name of the place, and as the sunflowers and cosmos blossoms waved gently under the island sun, they seemed to invite more painting time. So I conceded and painted more flowers – just for now. The rest will come later.
Belle Ile Orchard Art
There’s a fascinating juxtaposition in this painting between the loose randomness of the meadow full of flowers, and the tidy, conforming lines of the Brittany house just behind the hedge. Even more so, when you consider the straight upright of the flag pole in the garden. The fruit trees in the orchard march neatly down the field in obediently productive lines.
Amongst all of this tidiness and order, the wild flowers display a delightful touch of nature’s rebellion against the order of the man-made world – creating their very own Belle Île Orchard art, at least during the summer months.
I now have a head full of other images that need to be painted so I’m off to the studio for a short evening painting session. I may come out for supper.
Painting flowers is always harder than it seems. It’s all too easy to make them stiff and un-natural looking.
Despite the fact that we see flowers all over the place, on a daily basis, it’s often quite difficult to capture the essence of a particular flower – the shape, the tone, the angle of the stem. It all adds up to making the general impression.
So why am I painting flowers from a French field?
About a year ago my friend, Olivia Quintin called to tell me about a painting week she was organising on Belle Ile. I would have jumped at the chance to paint on the island, and when she told me that the other tutor was to be Fabio Cembranelli, I was completely hooked. Fabio’s atmospheric painting style is one I have admired for some time, and Olivia paints with stunningly vibrant colour mixes. Fantastic combination of tutors and some dedicated painting time on a beautiful island. What could be better?
This is the result of my second day of working with Fabio and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve loved doing this painting and have now been spurred on to do more like it.
Painting Flowers from a French Field
The field opposite our little complex of chalets is a mass of wild flowers. There are sunflowers, wild crysanthemums, pink cosmos, white cosmos and cornflowers. Painting flowers is almost unavoidable when you have that much fantastic material on the doorstep. Here’s one bunch that provided inspiration for the artists who wanted to spend time painting flowers.
Fabio’s approach to painting flowers is not to slavishly follow the bouquet in front of him. Instead he uses the shapes and colours as inspiration, but takes artistic licence on the composition and in adding new flowers to bring in colours and form to enhance the original image.
Plein Air painting with Olivia tomorrow. What surprises will that bring?
My next showing will be an exhibition at Windmill Art in Linton with Mark Judson.
Mark’s ceramics are well known in South Cambridgeshire where he exhibited for many years while teaching and heading the art department at The Perse School. I recently posted a photo on Facebook of the pot I decided I just had to have after seeing a picture of it. It was far too big to mail so we took a long weekend trip to France to collect it. It now stands proudly in our lounge and is a frequent conversation piece because of the beautiful delicate colours in the glaze.
Mark’s work can usually only be seen at exhibitions in central France where he now lives. This is a rare opportunity to see them on show in the UK again.
I will be showing watercolours themed by my travel experiences. Every country has it’s own special atmosphere and I aim to capture some of this in my landscapes. These are the works that will be on show in October.
Today I leave for my latest trip – a painting week on Belle Ile, France. I’ve been sailing in this part of the world before and some of the sights and sensations of Island life are bound to make their way into the exhibition at Windmill Art. There will be some paintings to see that are ‘hot off the easel’.
About the Exhibition at Windmill Art in Linton
Windmill Art is, as the name states, exhibition space in a windmill. The venue has ample parking and is close to the A14 and M11. For an invitation to the Preview evening, please sign up for my newsletter. The invitations will be going out very soon. I hope you can join us at Windmill Art on the first weekend in October.
Yesterday was a day for considering painting darks. There was one last tomato and a bag of glorious big field mushrooms in the kitchen when I was looking for my subject yesterday. The mushrooms caught my eye.
There’s a lovely tonal contrast between the dark underside frills and the creamy top of a field mushroom that just invites the artist’s brush so I decided that painting darks was going to be the day 3 project.
I couldn’t leave the poor lonely tomato out of the frame so I added it just for fun. Next time I might go for a purely mushroom composition, because in hindsight, I’m not sure the tomato adds anything particularly fabulous to the image – and it’s not really in sync with the painting darks theme. You may also notice that I lost interest when I was painting the tomato vine. It seemed unimportant to my purpose – the painting darks thing.
Despite its title, this painting really is all about the insides of the mushrooms (which, tasted fantastic when we ate them for supper, by the way).
Raw umber was the main colour for shaping and detailing the smooth edges of the mushroom. I deliberately chose two with quite different edge shapes so that I could work on capturing the juicy roundness of the fat specimen on the right, as well as the slightly tattered frill on the other.
Burnt Umber was my dark of choice. I added some lovely rich blues to emphasise the deep shadows under the upper lip of the mushroom, and some lovely perylene maroon in the nearer part of the frill to provide some warmth.
I was hampered for colour as I was just using a little box of paint blocks rather than my normal range of colours. So while I’m not under any illusions that this is a masterpiece, it’s achieved it’s purpose: I had a good play with painting darks.
Following the discipline of practicing active observation in a form of listening with my eyes, my attention kept coming back to a basket of autumn apples in the garden. They were originally put there waiting to be eaten, but to my mind that were really waiting for me to start painting autumn apples.
The rich reds and crisp yellows were a dream colour combination and I set myself the challenge of capturing the diverse range of reds (in particular) that I could see in the fruit.
Painting Autumn apples
This painting is as much about tonal values as it is about colour. Given the dominance of reds in the subject, its critical to get the tonal values right. Without that, the painting is flat and lifeless. My initial focus was on the bright yellow of the apple furthest to the back of the basket.
By luck (although I would love to say that I had the foresight to arrange them that way) the darkest piece of fruit was in right next to it which gave me a natural focal point. But, the yellow apple is too close to the centre of the page for my liking. Lightening the green around the stalk of the darker piece of fruit in the process of painting autumn apples shifted that point of interest enough to the left to give me comfort in the composition.
I started this with water soluble pencils to mark out the basket and the basic positions of the apples. A few of the marks are still visible from the pencils. I find it less easy to get the intensity of colour with them, so I went on to painting autumn apples with pure watercolour once I had got my basic positions right.
Here’s a photograph of the actual basket of apples where you can see the colours that inspired this little exercise in painting autumn apples.
It may seem completely obvious to talk about painting colour. After all how could you painting without painting colour? But bear with me. Hopefully this will make sense by the end of this post.
Monday marked Day 1 of the current 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. I’ve done a couple of these in the past and found them to be both demanding, and hugely valuable at the same time. They create a structure and a focus for painting time, and in the past have also provided a boost to the Running With Brushes collection.
I had actually decided that I wasn’t going to take part again this time, mainly because I’m pushed for time (as always). But I signed up nevertheless thinking that I could just dip in from time to time during the month and post what I could.
But then last weekend we spent time with some very warm and wise friends. It was a grounding couple of days in which we walked, talked, ate, wandered through beautiful gardens and along windswept beaches. We talked about family, history, books and life in general. We talked about the value of slowing down the pace of life and paying really focussing on the here and the now.
Listening – and I mean really listening, with full attention – is something we know is a huge gift. Not many of us are very good at it. We’re distracted by the noise of daily life.
So I got thinking about 30 Paintings in 30 Days and I will take part. Rather than post a fully formed painting every day, I am using this challenge as an opportunity to ‘listen with my eyes’. This is a marvellous opportunity to practice active looking and recording what I see. I’ll write more about my thinking on this theme as the challenge progresses, and as patterns in my perceptions emerge.
Painting Colours – Day 1:
On a walk through the woods I came across three fully grown Silver Birch trees that have been downed – probably by some huge storm: the roots are exposed and at least one of them is now growing horizontally. Tree shrapnel is scattered across the meadow and I found this wonderful strip of bark with it’s lovely textures and colours. It made me want to spend some time focused on painting colour as I see it in the bark.
Here’s the beautiful piece of bark with all is delicate colour variations. tree bark clearly isn’t just brown or grey. There are shades of green, blue and reds in this piece of nature’s art – inviting you to have a go at painting colour.
I’ve been working on a secret project for a little while. It’s still a secret so I’m not going to tell you everything about it yet. But I just couldn’t wait to share the paintings I’ve been doing for it – so here’s a little sneak preview.
As usual, my method has been to think about the project for some months. While I do that, vague images start to crystalise in my mind. These are the first two sketches for the project. I think there will be more. In fact I’m sure there will be more paintings before my secret project is done – I have a few images in my head already.
There have been a few criteria to this project.
In the first place, it has to be predominantly, if not exclusively, deep red and grey/silver. Black might be an option as an extra colour or an alternative within the design.
The paintings need to have a feel of winter, but not be literal. This is an exercise in abstraction within a theme.
It has to appeal to a special person in my family. At the moment, the initial deliberations are in progress and some decisions will be forthcoming soon.
Next steps in my Secret Project:
– More paintings
– Finding a supplier who will screen print a small run of fabric
– You’ll have to wait to find out the rest….
I know which of these two I prefer – I’d love to hear what you think.
The Martello Tower at Aldeburgh, seen across the water, was painted in a workshop with my friend, Stephen Higton.
Stephen has been my oil painting guide right from the start. I did my first ever oil painting in one of his workshops and knew then that I wanted to do more at some stage.
Unpacked – First oil painting
The image was quite simple (which was good thinking on Stephen’s part as it was easier to focus on technique and not have to worry too much about composition). I have a fondness for my ‘firsts’. The pastel from my first painting session hangs in our lounge and Unpacked has a home of a bedroom wall in our house.
As soon as I posted a photo of my first painting online I was asked to paint a commission of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Conscious of my inexperience in this medium, I took a deep breath and had a go. Fortunately, the recipient was happy with the result and this painting now lives in Edinburgh.
Getting back to painting in oils after a long break was great. I always have the best intentions, but somehow my watercolours kept calling me back. The martello tower photograph Stephen gave us as a reference had more complexity in it than either of the previous two oils I’d done. I wanted to capture the early morning light on the water, the scattering of boats and the moody, dark shape of the martello tower on the horison.
I’ll have to find more time for oil painting.
A little more about the Martello Tower at Aldeburgh:
Built to defend the UK against Napoleon, the martello tower at Aldeburgh is the northern most in the chain. Now owned by the landmark trust, the tower can be rented for a holiday. Trivia: Almost a million bricks were used in it’s construction.
Note to art lovers: Stephen and Mita Higton are holding an open studio on June 29th, 2014. Worth a visit if you’re in Suffolk.