Tag Archives: Sur

Arabian Dhows

Alan Reed

Dhows, Sur

When we first visited Oman in 2007 we were fortunate to go on a day trip to the coastal town Sur, famous for its dhow building. I recall doing a couple of sketchbook watercolours in the heat of the day, the high sun catching the top of the clouds.

These studies of Arabian Dhows became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including one on gold leaf, and a number of watercolours which are available as a limited edition prints from alanreed.com.

I’ve recently painted a 14” x 10” watercolour capturing these beautifully shaped sailing vessels lying out of water which I’ve filmed for a new Painting Video which you can watch on Youtube.

For your interest, here is the script for the voice over for the video to save having to take notes.

First step is to get my usual wash down of Cadmium lemon and Cadmium Yellow which is used to harmonise all the other colours and to take away the stark white of the paper. I’ve wet some of the paper with clean water so that the first wash spreads easily, avoiding hard edges. This initial wash always seems to look wrong to begin with but remember, it always dries lighter.

I forgot to film the second wash of Rose Madder, but again, I wet the paper in places allowing some of the yellow to show through. As you can see, the Rose Madder doesn’t cover the whole sheet.

Once dry, another application of clean water and it’s time to add Manganese Blue for the sky. This time the brush marks are even more carefully considered. I want to re-create the effect of the sun bursting through the clouds from the top right hand side corner. The brush marks echo the direction that the rays of sunlight are coming from. I’ve added a touch of purple to the blue to bring a sense of depth to the lower foreground cloud.

Using a smaller brush it’s time to paint the areas of sky being reflected on the sand that is still wet from the receding tide. The brush marks I’m making are more horizontal and I’m working wet on dry. At times I’m just catching the surface of the paper to replicate the patterns in the sand. As with the sky, I’m dropping in the occasional purple for variation. You can also see that I’m leaving the first wash of yellow to come through in places to suggest the sunlight sparkling on the surface of the water.

A subtle mix of purple and Raw Sienna is used to paint in the areas of wet sand. I’m careful not to overload the brush, almost dabbing it on the surface of the paper.

I’m using this colour, not just for the wet sand but also for the hull of the dhow that is in shadow. Taking the shadow area back into the sand, always leaving parts of reflected blue and sparkle to shine through. Also a few very small details to indicate the ripples of wet sand. Where the shadow is darkest, I’m adding a slightly more intense purple to deepen the shadow.

Arabian Dhows on Gold Leaf

Dhows, Oman – Oil on Gold Leaf

The distant dhow has a base of Manganese blue to suggest a cool shadow, intensifying it with a darker blue for the keel.

A much finer brush is required to paint the fine wooden details that are another distinctive feature of the dhows. You need to be very careful at this point because it’s difficult to lift out any mistakes against such a light background.

It shouldn’t be necessary to say that this 12 minute video does not represent the entire time it took to do this painting. I’m just showing the main areas of interest.

I’ve mixed a lovely rusty red for the sides of the dhows. Again, I’m being very precise as to where I’m adding the colour, varying the intensity of the colour.

The same rusty red is used “wet on wet” for the distant dhow.

A darker purple and the thin brush is used again for these other detailed areas which take a bit of time to work out. I’m keeping the brush marks simple, not too niggley or fiddly but still varying the tonal values of the linear brush marks for interest.

I’ve decided that I’d like the hull slightly lighter so I’m painting some clean water on to the hull then just dabbing the water with some tissue to lift off the colour.

This dark shadow area almost looks black. It’s actually a mix of purple, Paynes Grey and perhaps a touch of Lamp Black. Carefully defining the gentle curve of the hull then contrasting that mark with some freer more expressive brush marks to suggest the more uneven ground where there are some rocks.

The left hand side of the hull needs to go darker so I’m running a slightly lighter version the same shadow colour over the rusty red.

On this close up you can see many other details that I’ve added like the anchors and rocks.

So there you have it. Arabian Dhows resting at low tide at the coastal town of Sur in Oman.

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A History of Art in Three Colours

Sur, Oman, famous for Dhow Building

Sur, Oman

I’ve been watching with some interest “A History of Art in Three Colours” on BBC 4 on Saturday evenings. The first episode, narrated by Dr James Fox, looked at the way gold has been used in art over the centuries. Last Saturday it was the turn of the colour Blue.

The programme began on the Venetian Lagoon and told the story of how the precious stone Lapis Lazuli was brought 3500 miles across the Mediterranean from a land that is now Afghanistan, to the edge of Europe. The Lapis Lazuli was ground to dust and the precious powder was then purified into a pigment which could be painted with. The colour blue was to transform the world of art.

It’s a colour which I’ve used extensively throughout my 32 years as an artist but none more so in the last 5 years when I have been painting on location in Oman. In 2007 I visited Sur for the first time, a coastal town renowned for its building of dhows. From that trip I produced this small original watercolour which I’ve reproduced as a limited edition print. I remember the day as being incredibly hot and the sky being a very intense blue as I sketched the dhows not far from the  spot where I’ve painted the old watch tower in the painting above.

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Paintings – Dhows Oman

Dhows, Sur, Oman

Dhows, Sur

It’s almost 5 years since I first visited Sur in Oman. It had been badly hit by Cyclone Gonu a few months previously and there was still much evidence of the damage caused. Sur has been associated with ship building for centuries and today there is a Dhow Maritime Museum dedicated to Oman’s history of sea trade.

I had been asked to do some paintings of Omani doors as well as dhows so I spent a few hours wandering around getting reference and making sketchbook studies of these Arabian vessels. I’ve published a number of my paintings of Dhows as limited edition prints since then which have proved to be popular. Some of the sketchbook studies have also been published in my signed limited edition Sketchbook of Oman.

The watercolour above is one of several new paintings to be exhibited at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland as part of my Christmas Exhibition starting 9th November.

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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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Razha Dancing, Oman

Razha Dancing, Sur

Razha Dancing, Sur

In November 2010 I was working in the Gulf on a number of painting projects, one of which took me to Sur, a town on the coast of Oman. Sur is famous for dhow building and has its own maritime museum. I had been before and I’ve produce a number of paintings of dhows. We decided to call in to the museum in the afternoon and were given an unexpected treat of Razha Dancing which was taking place outside the museum.

The Razha is an Omani dance where local men leap into the air carrying either a heavy sword or rifle. As they land, they must not falter. They will also throw their weapon into the air and catch it as it comes down displaying their strength and prowess. Singing, and what sounds like chanting, will also be accompanied by the beating of a drum to three distinct rhythms to which the participants match their movements.

At first glance, the whole proceedings can look quite unnerving. Indeed, the dance would originally been used as a way to announce war, victory, the mustering of troops or to mediate between warring factions, however the locals made us feel very welcome offering us Omani coffee, bottled water and dates whilst I produced sketchbook studies of the poetic movements. In the evening I returned where the dancing was continuing well into the night. I gathered more reference material which I hope to develop into some more finished paintings. The image above is actually a small Christmas card which I made for Susan that year. The back of the card contains the following appropriate inscription from Psalm 30 verses 11 & 12:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

The verses are appropriate because just after that trip, on returning to the UK, Susan had to be rushed to hospital to have emergency surgery for a twisted bowel. She had complained of stomach pains on the trip which could have been the early signs of problems. We are so pleased that it didn’t flare up whilst we were in Sur!

 

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