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A Room with a View

Looking towards Prestwick

View from my Studio Window

For most of my career as an artist I’ve had quite small cramped studios to paint in. In 2006 we decided to look into the possibility of building a Studio in the loft space of our home in Ponteland. The plans were passed in 2007 and building commenced later that year. In July 2008 we were finally able to re-located our Studio & Gallery from Ponteland village to our home at 17 Cheviot View. This has provided me with a Room with a View.

The main benefit of this working space is the consistent north light I have over my drawing board but I also have some stunning views from one of the other windows looking north west towards Prestwick Hall, a lovely Georgian building designed by North East Architect John Dobson. I was actually commissioned to do a painting of it a number of years ago by the owners.

Of course much of my painting work these days is on location both in the UK and overseas so I’m able to enjoy the best of both enviroments.

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Painting of Dhows

Arabian Dhows on Gold Leaf

Dhows, Oman – Oil on Gold Leaf

There’s a story on how I ended up doing a Painting of Dhows on Gold Leaf. In 2010 I was involved in a painting of a very large Biblical scene which was to go in a church building. It was a massive project and painting, executed on 5 panels of gold leaf in oil paints. I had several small boards coated with gold leaf to experiment with and decided to do my own paintings on this unusual and expensive surface.

I did two quite different scenes, one of the Grand Mosque in Oman, the other of some Arabian Dhows at low tide in Sur, Oman. I sold the Grand Mosque to a client in Oman, however, this one of the dhows is available to purchase. Other original paintings and prints of the Gulf can be seen on my website.

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Commission a Portrait Painting

I’m currently working on a number of portraits for various clients in oil paints and I thought it may be helpful to see the process developing over the sittings, each one over a period of three hours. The model has at least thirty minutes of breaks.

The first sitting is about getting the basic proportions and likeness using a limited palate of Lead White, Yellow Ochre Deep, Light Red and Ivory Black. After laying in the background I lightly skimmed the paint surface with a cloth to soften the colours and to provide a more gentle image to paint into the next day.

A more accurate rendition of the model’s features is needed for the next sitting, ensuring that measurements and distances between the eyes,nose and mouth are correct. Once established, I painted them in with some stronger tones and built up the flesh tones.

In the third sitting I could see that the background needed to be much stronger to make the hair stand out more, so using a touch of Indian Red with Ivory Black I intensified the background to match the same tonal values of the wooden panelling. I also used a glaze to richen the shadow areas on the model’s face.

The glaze from the third sitting was a little too warm, so the following day I toned it down using some cooler colours. Throughout each sitting I made small adjustments to various parts of the painting to help create a better characterisation.

On the fifth afternoon I concentrated on refining some of the brush marks that I had made the previous couple of sittings and added a touch of pink to Isabella’s cheeks.

The Portrait Painting will benefit from at least one more sitting to improve some of the shapes further but at this stage I’m happy with the progress that has been made so far.

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Commission a Painting

 

Watercolour commission of Rockcliffe, Dumfries

Original Watercolour of Rockcliffe, Dumfries

I regularly have customers contact me to Commission a Painting. I was recently commissioned to paint an original watercolour by a client for her husbands 50th birthday present of Rockcliffe in Dumfriesshire. It’s a place that holds particularly fond memories for them as a family. Fortunately I had been to exactly the same spot last year with my wife, daughter and grandchildren and I had actually painted a small sketchbook study of the bay and taken some suitable photographs which I could work from.

It made me realise just how easy it is to Commission a Painting, so to re-enforce the process on how to go about the initial discussions I’ve had a short video filmed by Gavin Dowd of Word Out Media. Follow the link to watch the video.

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Painting of Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle Painting

Painting of Dunstanburgh Castle

I don’t need much of an excuse to paint Dunstanburgh Castle. Northumberland’s Castles are well photographed and painted by amateurs and professionals alike. I’ve often been commissioned to do paintings of castles and I have to say, it’s always a delight. One such project came in 2003 when I was commissioned to do around a dozen large watercolours of the regions castles for a major North East Company for their boardrooms. Dunstanburgh Castle was one of the chosen paintings and I decided to paint it on a summer evening just as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon.

I recently went back to the reference I gathered on that evening to do a watercolour demonstration for a painting class. They asked me to show them how to tackle a seascape in watercolour. The painting above is the result. I’ve painted a similar version of the scene which is available as a limited edition print.

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BP Portrait Awards 2012

Moleskine Sketchbook - Charcoal Studies

Sketchbook Charcoal Studies on Tube

The BP Portrait Awards 2012 Exhibition is currently on at the National Portrait Gallery.

Over the years I’ve received many a commission to do a painting of a client’s home. Sometimes this has been overseas in countries like Italy. I always enjoy travelling to see the property which is usually impressive and to do some sketchbook studies on location.

On Friday I travelled to London to get some suitable reference for a commission of a lovely house for a client. I was fortunate with the weather and managed to capture the sun catching the front of the building. I had a few hours to kill before my flight home to Heathrow so I went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the BP Portrait Award 2012 Exhibition.

My favourite was by a young lady called Isabella Watling who received a fitting compliment in the Independent’s review of the exhibition, so she received my public vote.

“BP regulars like the annual game: choose your own winner. Here’s mine: for being not too proud, at only 21, to apprentice herself to Velazquez, Boldoni and Singer Sargent, for her romantic, and, yes, painterly The Importance of Being Glenn, for daring to enjoy the dashing and romantic, my vote goes to Isabella Watling. If she can do this now, what a lot could follow”.

There were some excellent paintings on view and it inspired me to continue my work for the day in my Moleskine sketchbook. Remembering a quote from John Singer Sargent “You can’t do sketches enough, sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh”, I did a couple of charcoal pencil studies of some of John Singer Sargent’s oil paintings on display in the National Portrait Gallery, then on the tube back to Heathrow I did the 4 drawings of various folk seated nearby which you can see above.

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Paintings of Newcastle, Central Arcade

Newcastle's Central Arcade

Central Arcade, Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle upon Tyne is full of architectural treasures, one of which is the Central Arcade, a stunning Edwardian shopping arcade built in 1906 within the Central Exchange, a triangular building built by Richard Grainger in 1836-1838 to the designs of John Wardle and George Walker. I’ve painted the outside of the building on many occasions as it appears in my paintings of Grey StreetGrainger Street and Market Street. Folk in Newcastle will best remember the Central Arcade as the home of J.G. Windows music. I recall going in to the basement to check out the latest rock music releases as a long haired Genesis fan many years ago!

Back in 1993 I was commissioned to do an original watercolour of the Central Arcade in Newcastle. At the time, I was doing a series of paintings of Newcastle taken from ariel perspectives. The client had commissioned two other paintings along that theme and wanted the one of the arcade to be viewed from above too. This was a challenging task, as the Central Arcade is enclosed by a glass roof and there is no public access to the balcony that is on the first floor. I managed to persuade the caretaker at the time to allow me to climb through a small window from a room that overlooked the shopping area below, for me to be able to take some photographs.

There’s nearly always somebody busking in the arcade but unfortunately on this occasion there wasn’t so a few days later I drew my son Oliver playing his violin on our driveway from an upstairs bedroom window to get the correct perspective. I was so pleased with the end result that I decided to reproduce the original watercolour as a limited edition print with only 250 in the edition.

A few years ago I decided to paint the Central Arcade again, but at ground level. This time however, I became the busker playing the violin. The original watercolour can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Chelsea, Centenary Champions

Stamford Bridge

Chelsea, Centenary Champions

After watching on television Papiss Cisse’s two wonder goals last night against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, I was reminded of my one and only visit to Chelsea’s ground.

In 2006 two of my clients who are Chelsea fans, commissioned me to do a watercolour painting of Stamford Bridge where they are season ticket holders. They invited me to a match so that I could get suitable reference of the fans going to the ground on match day to enable me to produce a painting similar to my successful Toon Army print. I arrived at the ground a couple of hours before kick off so I could do some sketchbook studies and take suitable photos to use as reference.

Chelsea are known for playing in blue, so it was important to repeat the colour throughout the painting, not just in the tops that the fans were wearing but also in the sky and elements of the stadium. It was a bright, sunny day, so I began the studio painting with a gentle warm wash of Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Lemon to set the tone and mood for the painting. I deliberately kept the brush marks crisp and sharp to keep the architectural elements of the stadium defined and strong. This provided a contrast to the more fluid rendering of the figures making their way to the ground.

The clients decided to reproduce the original watercolour as a limited edition print titled Chelsea, Centenary Champions which is available on line with only 95 copies in the edition. Papiss Cisse describes his second goal against Chelsea as his best ever. It has to be of the contenders for goal of the season.

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River Tyne Sunset

River Tyne Sunset, Near North Shields

River Tyne Sunset

In one of my recent blog posts I talked about a commission I received when I first went full time as an artist back in 1984 at the age of 22. It was to do two watercolours of the River Tyne near North Shields for a leading North East businessman. He wanted me to depict the industry on the River Tyne, in particular the cranes, docks and ships.

Last year I decided to re-visit the reference I gathered over 27 years ago to do a fresh take on the scene. I stretched a massive sheet of Arches watercolour paper around 40″ x 30″ and drew out the basic composition in pencil. Then the real fun began!

First I wet the paper and flooded specific areas of the sky and all of the river with a mix of Cadmium Lemon and orange to create the effect of low winter sun catching the clouds. Once that first wash dried (about one to two hours) I wet the paper again around the yellow parts, however this time I brushed in some subtle washes of Rose Madder, intensifying the colour nearer the horizon.

An hour or so later, when that wash had dried, I wet the paper once again in carefully planned out shapes around the yellow parts to indicate where the next application of colour was going to go, some nicely painted in Manganese Blue for the sky. Finally, when the blue wash dried, I completed the sky with some much darker cloud shapes with a mix of Paynes Grey, Rose Madder and Manganese Blue.

Next came the fun of painting in the main subject of the boats, cranes and docks using a wet on dry technique with all of the colours mentioned previously and some Raw Sienna, Vandyke Brown and Lamp Black. All the colours are Winsor and Newton Artists quality and the entire painting was done with a Stratford and York size 20 synthetic brush. Sadly, this particular brush is no longer available but I do have a few for sale at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

The painting titled River Tyne Sunset is currently on view at the North East Art Collective in Eldon Gardens, Newcastle upon Tyne where I also have a number of other original watercolours on display.

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Portrait in Charcoal

Dominic- Charcoal

Dominic in Charcoal

I’m currently undertaking a number of portrait commissions at the moment, mostly in oils but some in charcoal. Dominic was commissioned as a present for his 50th birthday in December 2011. I managed only one afternoon sitting with Dominic, however that was sufficient to capture a very good likeness of a man who ticks all the boxes of being tall, dark and handsome. After the sitting I was able to check all the aspects of his features for size, proportions and positioning from the reference photographs I took of him next to the drawing. I made a few minor changes and refined the marks I made during the sitting with my stump.

A stump is an artists tool, usually made of soft paper, (but can be made of leather or felt), that is tightly wound into a stick and sanded to a point at both ends. It is used to blend drawing marks made with charcoal, conte crayon, pencil and similar media. By moving it carefully over drawing marks, gradations and half tones can be produced. I like my charcoal drawings to look like drawings, rather than being too photographic, so I kept the use of the stump to a minimum.

I’m pleased to say that Dominic is delighted with his portrait and it is now framed and hanging proudly in their family room.

 

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