Yesterday, I was painting at Kew Gardens, in London, with friends. We also visited on a very hot day last week, shown above. Kew has a famous gallery of botanical art, superbly skilled work in the very precise style, originally developed as a method of scientific recording. I was trying to paint watercolour sketches in a freer, more painterly style, more about atmosphere than precision. Well, that is the idea, here are some sketches from yesterday, painted on location.
And here is a scan of the painting which is in the photograph at the top of this post.
Today I have been at the Horniman Museum gardens in South London. I had a small pack of cards and envelopes made of Khadi paper, a handmade watercolour paper from India. I found a quiet place to sit overlooking the formal gardens, seen above. Without much plan of what I would do, I started with a very conventional view of the flowers. I then decided to simplify and enlarge the images, and to start with backgrounds based on the formality of the rows and angles of the flower beds, adding flowers to these backgrounds, working quite quickly.
The project for my watercolour class this week was to paint a landscape influenced by the work of Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979). Hitchens’ most well known works are semi-abstract landscapes painted in oils, and quite large in scale. To take a more bold approach I worked in gouache with quite large, flat brushes. First I painted three smaller studies:
My larger painting is here. An interesting experiment, although not much like the paintings of Hitchens, in either palette or brushstrokes.
This week’s watercolour challenge was to paint a still life influenced by the French painter, Raoul Dufy. His paintings often use a decorative, lyrical line, drawing the subject with a brush, and with bright, light colours – my attempt is above.
Above, a watercolour I have done today, a corner of Kew Gardens in London, of the small garden behind Kew Palace. This is based on the last sketch I did out of doors in London, in mid-February this year. A picture of the sketch taken at the location is below:
Yesterday and today I have painted two new versions at home, altering the scene to imagine the changing season, leaving out the archway on the left of the small building. I have been working in watercolour, with a loose wet-on-wet start, followed by some more detailed brushwork. Yesterday’s version is below. I think today’s version is better on the whole, but, as seems inevitable, there are bits of each I would like to see combined in one. I think today’s version has too much fiddly detail in painting the plants and I quite like the areas in the picture below where I have outlined some of the plants with the brush, leaving quite a bit of white paper. The building below is too bright in colour, and should be more muted. Never mind, I am keeping in practice and one day I will be back painting on location again.
Mirepoix is a small town in southern France, south-west of Carcassonne. At the centre is a cathedral and a medieval town centre with a busy market place. I’ve visited and sketched there several times. Locked down in London, I have been looking through sketchbooks and decided to use some images to paint new versions of places I have been. Here is the sketchbook page, from July 2018:
I decided I wanted to simplify, and focus on the decorative facades of the buildings, and give a sense of strong light and heat. So the trees, for example, are excluded. The first new version is at the head of this post, and here is my second attempt:
My third version was done very quickly, and leaves out the nineteenth century (I’m guessing) covered market building on the right:
Here are some more of my watercolour experiments, working on the portrayal of light and shade. I am also interested in the contrast of defined and less defined shapes, and dropping in colour to wet areas of the painting sketched out with a brush. They are based, fairly roughly, on my own sketches, and the third one on a work by Marc Folly.
Yesterday Urban Sketchers London ran a ‘colour challenge’ art activity which I had devised. As a consequence of the pandemic, the group cannot meet and sketch. So this was an activity for people to do at home but post on line. The task was to choose a subject each individual could sketch safely, such as a view from a window, balcony or garden, prepare three different coloured backgrounds in any chosen medium, and paint or draw quick colour studies in different colour palettes. The colours were not intended to be realistic representations of the colour of the scene, but to give a different mood or effect. As you can see above, I painted in my garden a group of pots and a ceramic sculpture, with studies based on quinacridone gold, terracotta, and cobalt blue. Here, below, are the three colour sketches:
I have been looking at the work of the French watercolourist, Marc Folly. His style combines very skilled drawings, often of dramatically lit interiors, with very free use of watercolour. The first two paintings of mine here are based on a couple of his works, although obviously lacking his skill.
I then experimented with two paintings based on a charcoal drawing of an arboretum I did last year.