Tag Archives: photographs

John Singer Sargent

Charcoal Studies After John Singer Sargent

Charcoal Drawings After John Singer Sargent

The American artist John Singer Sargent was born this day 12th January 1856. The word “awesome” is used rather flippantly these days to describe things and events that are everyday and somewhat ordinary. John Singer Sargent was truly an awesome painter, an absolute genius when it came to applying paint in what appeared to be an effortless manner. My appreciation of his skills only grows as I regularly make my own studies of his work in my moleskine sketchbook seen above and also oil paintings.

Sargent made his fame on both sides of the Atlantic in the late nineteenth century, mainly through his outstanding portrait paintings of the rich and famous of his day. It’s appropriate to give him a mention today, not only in remembrance of his birthday but also because of the unveiling of the first official portrait of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. The oil painting was by Paul Emsley who won first prize in the BP Portrait Award in 2007 and although the Duchess gave Paul two sittings, it was painted predominantly from photographs.

Sargent rarely worked from photographs but relied on sketches and formal sittings with his subjects. The result was, he produced paintings that were expressive, fluid, full of light, life, character and, most importantly, captured the likeness and perhaps something of the personality of the sitter.

Paul Emsley’s portrait of the Duchess has received a mixed reaction from the critics. I can admire the undoubted skill Paul has in painting a very lifelike portrait of the Duchess but it is a little too photographic for my tastes. I cannot help wondering what John Singer Sargent’s rendition would have been like had he been alive today.

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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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Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building was originally called the Fuller Building and was one of the tallest buildings in the world when it was completed in 1902. Today it is dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers but its distinctive shape gives it an almost aerodynamic feel. The name “Flatiron” comes from its resemblance to an old clothes iron. I was drawn towards its stunning slender wedge shape when I visited New York in 2008 and painted a small sketchbook watercolour at street level of this ground breaking skyscraper.

Back in the studio I painted an A5 watercolour from the sketchbook study and my own photographs and reproduced it as an A4 limited edition print. As I’m writing this blog post, a customer called in to my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland to collect a framed copy he had ordered of my other print of New York titled New York, Dusk and is delighted with 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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The Needle’s Eye Painting

A few weeks ago I was asked by one of my clients to paint a specific view of the Needle’s Eye which is situated at the south part of the beach at Newbiggen by the Sea on the Northumbrian coast. He provided me with several photographs of the view he had in mind, however they were taken on a dull day and were not really suitable to paint from. In any case, I much prefer to paint on location and use my own photographs if necessary.

I went to find the spot that the client had in mind of the Needle’s Eye but I’d didn’t check the tides before setting off. It was high tide when I arrived, so it was not possible to paint from the view which the client had in mind. I decided to take advantage of the good weather and after exploring the area, I did a sketch book study from some rocks on the other side. I had to finish the study in my studio as waves were starting to land on my paint box!

Two days later, the weather was perfect, so after checking when low tide was, I arrived at 1:30 pm and found a suitable rock from which to paint from which gave me a great composition of the Needle’s Eye with foreground rocks and water. In typical fashion, I did two studies, one in my leather bound sketch book, the other on a 12″ x 9″ Arches watercolour block of rough paper.

The tide was starting to come in and the paint was taking too long to dry, so I had to finish the larger painting from the warmth of my studio, however I did manage to complete the sketch book study in situ. I showed the client the finished study and he was delighted. I’m going to frame it to match the other paintings he has purchased from me.

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