Tag Archives: London

Thames Sunrise

Thames Sunrise

Thames Sunrise

On Saturday evening I watched an interesting documentary on BBC 2 about the impressionists. I enjoyed it because it was refreshingly light and informative, not just about the artists themselves but about their working methods, techniques and influences. Towards the end of the programme, the presenter, Waldemar Januszczak went to London where Monet and Pissarro spent part of their lives painting different aspects of the city. Monet’s moody paintings of the Thames are well known, particularly those which capture low sunlight and I was reminded of my own paintings of the City of London.

The painting above depicting a Thames Sunrise was painted in 2005. I wanted a painting of contrasts, the linear form and structure of the skyline, contrasting against the fluid, loose washes of the sky and water. Also I wanted the painting to be full of light, not just from the sun breaking through the low lying clouds, but also the last remnants of the artificial light being produced by the city itself before being switched off to be taken over by the full light of day.

This giclee limited edition print has been faithfully reproduced from the original watercolour which was painted on Fabriano Esportazione, a very expensive hand made paper from Italy.

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How do you Paint a Turner Sunset?

Last night I received a tweet containing a link to the Tate blog by Alison Smith from one of my followers Jorgelina Vega. Alison is lead curator of “Watercolour” and Curator (Head of British Art to 1900), Tate Britain.The blog contained a fascinating little video by Mike Chaplin, one of a series he’s made on how to paint with watercolour. In the video he featured one of Turner’s watercolours on display at the Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain. After a careful analysis of Turner’s paper, technique and colours, Mike showed how Turner might have tackled his sunset scene my doing a watercolour of the Thames.

All this reminded me of the difficulties and joy I have experienced as a watercolourist over the last 30 years in painting sunsets and sunrises on location. In May 2007 I was painting in Venice in my small leather bound sketchbook. On one particular afternoon, we were on the island of Burano, famous for its lace and brightly coloured houses. After spending a pleasant afternoon on the island, which included a quick sketchbook watercolour of one of the canals, we waited for the vaporetto to take us back to our hotel, La Calcina formally Ruskin’s house.

I just had time to blast off a rapid watercolour in about 15 minutes where I managed to nail the sky and reflections of a Venetian sunset in two washes. The first was a base wash of Lemon Yellow, the second was a combination of Manganese Blue, purple and Rose Madder. It dried just in time for me to indicate the outline of the nearby island from which the vaporetto seemed to come from. By then, the colours of the sky had completely changed which is the challenge one has when painting sunsets on location. By the time your first wash has dried, the scene has changed. This is why Turner often carried a selection of tinted papers so that he could pick the colour and tone closest to the one he had in front of him.

I have experienced similar challenges when painting sunrises too. In many respects, they are even more difficult as you start off in semi darkness, trying to imagine what the colours are going to be over the next thirty minutes or so. The sketchbook study above of a sunset over Muttrah in Oman was tackled in two washes for the sky, the same colours as mention previously, followed by a combination of Raw Sienna and a purple for the foreground rocks.

In June I went to see the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain. To quote the introduction in the small booklet which accompanies the exhibition, “This exhibition explores what watercolour can achieve in terms of technique and expression that no other medium can, and why it is capable of producing an astonishing variety of effects, from subtle atmospheric washes to brilliant translucent colour.” There are some stunning paintings on display, which is well worth a visit if you are spending any time in London until 21st August.

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London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

London is full of incredible architecture from so many different periods in history. The London Eye has taken it’s rightful place as an iconic symbol of the Thames amongst other famous landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. It was opened in March 2000 to bring closure to the 20th Century and to herald in the new millennium.

For this particular painting I wanted to combine the new with the old and to create a strong visual contrast between the sharp, straight vertical lines of past architecture against the smooth, gentle curve of the giant wheel. By looking into the low afternoon sunlight, most of the shapes became silhouetted which gave me the opportunity to produce some intense golden colours for the sky.

The London Eye is one of two paintings I have reproduced as limited edition prints, the other being Thames Sunrise. The original will be one of the watercolours I will be exhibiting 4-9th July at the CastleGate in Newcastle as part of the charity exhibition titled “INDEPENDENCE” to raise money for OWN IT.

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Show me the Monet

You may recall a blog post earlier in the year where I wrote about being filmed for a BBC Series titled “Show me the Monet. Well, the 10 episode series begins on Monday 9th May on BBC 2 weekdays 5:15-6:00pm. I have been told that I am appearing in the program on Wednesday 18th with my painting of Grey Street viewed from Emerson Chambers.

“The series following the fortunes of amateur and professional artists from all over the United Kingdom, as they battle it out for a spot at the Show Me the Monet grand exhibition and sale at the Royal College of Art in London, where members of the public and the art world alike will bid to buy the best of the art work on show.

Contenders could stand to make some serious cash, but first they need the seal of approval from three of the art world’s toughest critics. To win a spot at the exhibition and the chance to sell and make some money from their work, hopeful artists must first face the Hanging Committee, where their hopes and dreams could be made or dashed.” Quote taken from the BBC Website.

The painting I submitted actually began with me doing a sketchbook study in watercolour on location as preparation for a painting demonstration I was doing at Waterstones the book shop one Saturday morning last September.

Using the sketch and some reference photographs, I drew the basic shape of the buildings and figures in readiness for the demonstration. I was able to work quite quickly on this particular painting and as you can see form the photograph, I managed to complete most of the building on the right hand side of the painting. I was able to finish off the rest of the scene in my studio.

The filming of my appearance on the program was an enjoyable but slightly disappointing experience for me as my work was not selected for the Royal College of Art, but I’d much rather try something and fail than not try at all. I’m looking forward to finding out what artwork the judges did pick in the end.

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