Tag Archives: artist

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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Drawing Camels

Drawing from Observation

Drawing of Camels

I thought I’d begin my first blog post of 2013 featuring Drawing Camels by wishing you all God’s blessings for 2013 and by sharing one of my favourite quotes from the American artist John Singer Sargent:

“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh”.

It’s a statement which every artist will benefit from if applied on a regular basis. Varying the subject matter (sketch everything) gives you a deeper appreciation of shape, form, line composition and tone. Drawing from observation not only helps one’s hand to eye co-ordination, but also helps to increase one’s visual awareness in a way which taking photographs or simply “just looking” does not.

Last year some friends gave a present of two rather unusual sculptured camels, made from what seems to be leather. Over the last few evenings I’ve taken to Drawing Camels in my moleskine sketchbook. These amazing creatures have been beautifully crafted in leather. I’ve used a fibre tip italic pen to draw with which has enabled me to vary the thickness of the line.

You can see that I’ve started off with a very light, delicate thin line to get the basic outline and then intensified it when I’ve been happy with the overall shape and shadow areas. I’ve painted  a more finished watercolour of camels which has also been published as a limited edition print.

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Longsands Beach, Tynemouth

Watercolour of Longsands Beach, Tynemouth Sketch

Longsands Beach, Tynemouth Sketchbook Study 1

I recently heard from one of my clients that a North East artist has been spreading false rumours that I never paint on location. Here is a blog post to put that nonsense to rest. I often paint “en plein air” and have lots of sketchbooks filled with watercolours painted on the spot. Above is one of two sketchbook watercolour studies painted on location Longsands Beach at Tynemouth, Monday 3rd September.

On my website you can watch a video of me painting Dunstanburgh Castle on location. There is also a video on youtube of me painting the Launceston Place Restaurant on location too. Of course I do paint in my studio and will use my own reference material which will sometimes include photographs, but for over twenty years I have sold lots of watercolours which have been painted from start to finish “plein air”.

 

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Tyne Bridges, Summer Sunset

Tyne Bridges, Summer Sunset

Tyne Bridges, Summer Sunset

Paintings of the Tyne Bridges have always been very popular. Rarely does a week go by without me selling a limited edition print depicting a view of Newcastle’s Quayside showing one or more of its famous bridges. The Quayside itself has some stunning architecture, so it’s not difficult to find some inspirational aspect to paint. Also, it’s an area which has seen massive changes, particularly over the last twenty years, so even the paintings I have done over my 27 years as a full time artist have become historical.

This watercolour was sold recently from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland and shows some of the newer additions to the River Tyne, in particular the Sage and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. In the background you have the Tyne Bridge, High Level Bridge and indications of some of the other more distant bridges, all of which are set against the backdrop of a summer sunset. I love the interplay of curves which combine to link the old with the new which is one of the reasons why I decided to publish it as a limited edition print.

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Shell Catchers by Sherree Valentine-Daines

Shell Catchers

Shell Catchers

One of the current featured paintings in my Spring exhibition is this limited edition, hand embellished canvas by Sherree Valentine-Daines titled Shell Catchers. The print is no longer available from the publishers so it is doubtful that there will be many copies left in retailers as Sherree Valentine-Daines is a hugely popular figurative artist.

This delightful painting shows two small children, nestled amongst the rocks, inspecting their catch before depositing them into the little red bucket by their side. The brush marks are fresh, spontaneous and yet carefully expressed to ensure that the children’s lovely features are correctly defined. My wife and I are great fans of Sherree’s paintings since we first came across her work at the Henley Royal Regatta back in the mid 90’s when we both used to show our original paintings in the Stewards Enclosure during Regatta week. We also have 4 other paintings by Sherree Valentine-Daines on display at our Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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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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Val D’Orcia, Toscana

In the autumn of 2006 my wife and I travelled to Italy for me to do a special commission of a clients property in Umbria. After doing the preparation sketches, we then went on to Tuscany to a little town called San Quirico d’Orcia, close to the towns of Pienza and Siena. We stayed for a couple of nights in a delightful hotel with lovely gardens called Palazzo del Capitano.

The countryside in this region is characterised by gentle rolling hills and cypress trees, a real inspiration for any artist, or indeed photographer, but to really appreciate the regions distinctive beauty, one needs to rise when it’s still dark.

The first morning, I did what was required and made my way to a small olive grove, the grass drenched with dew. as it was October, there was still a definite chill to the air, so despite wearing shorts, I still made sure I wore my heavy leather jacket. A thick mist hung in the valley below, shrouding a small farm building surrounded by cypress trees. As the sun crept over the horizon, I began to paint. Although the experience was wonderful, I was not satisfied with my sketchbook studies so I decided to return the following morning.

This time I captured what I felt was the essence of the scene, and together with some reference photographs I took of the sun rising, I was able to produce a large studio watercolour painting that is available as a limited edition print. The original painting hangs in our bedroom which is a lovely reminder of a fruitful trip to Italy.

If you have one of my prints of Tuscany which evokes special memories which you would like to share, then please feel free to post a comment below.

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The Circus, Bath

I’ve recently been asked to do a painting of the Circus in Bath. I remember looking at the scene in the summer last year, however it was difficult to get a view of the remarkable architecture because of the central trees in full leaf. I knew I would have to return in the spring before the new buds appeared. I made it just in time. They were already starting to spring forth obscuring some of the detail. I spent the afternoon taking reference photographs and did two watercolour sketchbook studies to help me remember the scene.

In 2010 I came 1st runner up in the Bath Painting Prize with my watercolour of the Royal Crescent. I decided to do this scene in the same long landscape formate to emphasise the curve of the architecture. After drawing the main composition in pencil, I put down some base washes of yellow, rose madder and blue to set the tone for the distinctive honey colouring of the stonework and sky. Like the Royal Crescent, The Circus is constructed from Bath stone, a Limestone comprising granular fragments of calcium carbonate.

Before embarking on the architecture itself, designed by John Wood the Elder, I decided to paint in the main aspects of the trees, including the early spring buds. As one is painting, a deeper appreciation of the thinking behind the classic Georgian architecture is formed. Wood’s inspiration was in fact the Roman Colosseum, another great piece of architecture I have painted, both from the inside and out. The Colosseum was designed to be seen from the outside, whereas the Circus faces inwardly. Work began in 1754 and completed in 1768. Sadly, Wood died less than 3 months after the first stone was laid. His son, John Wood the Younger completed the scheme to his father’s design.

Next came the time consuming task of painting the windows and columns. The Circus (Latin for ring, oval or circle) consists of 3 storey townhouses with a mansard roof. Three classical orders are used, Greek Doric, Roman/Composit and Corinthian, one on top of the other. The danger when doing detail of this nature is to make it too tight and photographic. A camera can do a better job than the artist of capturing detail. I wanted to retain the freshness of the location sketchbook watercolours, so as you can see, I kept my leather bound sketchbook open in front of me at all times as a constant reminder.

After laying a fresh green wash for the foreground grass, I returned to the branches of the trees to add more detail. The final painting will form part of the Inspired Exhibition at the Octagon in Bath which opens on the 25th April and ends 10th May..

P.S. You may have noticed an Origami camel on my drawing board. It was made by my talented 9 year old nephew, Noah last weekend in a matter of minutes!

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Rowland Hilder

Mixed media

Farm Buildings by Rowland Hilder

The first artist that I really began to study as a young, enthusiastic watercolourist was Rowland Hilder. My parents used to buy a calendar every year called Artists Britain which would always contain several outstanding paintings by Rowland Hilder. I found myself captivated by his work and after a few disappointing attempts at using watercolour, I decided to copy some of his paintings, an exercise which I would advocate for anyone wishing to learn any painting technique. What I discovered was, my own paintings improved dramatically after these studies of Rowland Hilder’s work. I gradually began to develop my own style of painting.

Rowland Hilder was not a slave to the medium, breaking many of the rules of watercolour painting. He would often use mixed media in his paintings as this particular study of farm buildings and trees demonstrates. There are a number of books available on his work which I would encourage anyone who is serious about watercolour painting to take a look at.

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