Painting from photographs

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As this is my first post of 2020, it seems appropriate that the painting above is of a walk I took on New Year’s Day.  It is a view of the Peak District near Bakewell; I was walking with my friend Jill.  I did not bravely sit on the hillside painting despite the January weather.  I painted it a couple of days ago, at home, from a photograph I had taken during the walk.

Actually, I rarely paint from photographs.  I am interested in painting on location, partly because I would rather get out of the house than paint at home.  On the whole I have either taken art classes and trips which take this approach, or making paintings from my own drawings.  In mid-winter, it seems worth trying an alternative approach.

I have started a new watercolour class, at London’s Morley College.  This is week three, and we have been painting landscapes from photographs, although next week we paint still life.  In the first class we were trying different watercolour techniques, such as washes and resists.  Week two, we applied these to a landscape, using a muted palette (French ultramarine, burnt umber, yellow ochre) and a photographic reference.  I think mine was a mountain scene in the USA or Canada.  I feel my painting, below, is less than successful, but it was a beginning.

Week two

I put in some practice at home, and I am more satisfied with the painting at the head of this post, which is based on my own photograph taken in the Peak District:

Peak district

Today, week three of the class, the challenge was to paint a snowy landscape, learning how to reserve the white watercolour paper, again using a muted, winter palette of colours (French ultramarine, burnt umber, Windsor yellow).  Here is the photographic reference (I have no idea of the location) and my two paintings:

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Park Life: Nature and the city

Last weekend I joined a workshop run by Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries, taught by Isabel Carmona and Celia Burgos.  We worked out of doors in Hampstead and Highgate in north London.  Our sketches were focussed on two main themes: contrasting the city and nature, using watercolour, and using colour to show tone and depth, using coloured pencils.  Here are some pictures I created.

Day 1: Working on Parliament Hill, one of the highest parts of London, I did several studies which showed a panoramic view of the city through trees, and individual houses framed by trees.

This was quite a challenge, but I learned a lot.  The second and third pictures above had colour washes added later at home – I think the apricot sky helps, and the added blue is overdone.  The warm, apricot sky is not realistic; I added the colour I though the picture needed.  I am not sure why it has taken me such a long time to realise I can do this.  It helps, particularly when a subject is green and more green.

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The painting above I think is better, and benefitted from the experience of doing the others.

Day 2: This looked at using colour, and coloured pencils, to represent tone (light/dark), texture, and depth, in particular the principal that warm colours (reds, oranges, reddish browns) appear to come forward in a painting, and cool colours (blues, bluish greens) to recede. Here are some quick experiments.

Here are two simple tonal drawings drawn with a single colour.  For each one, I painted a simple watercolour afterwards, to remind myself of the principles.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter sun in Dulwich Park

These two drawings were done in Dulwich Park, near my home.  Before setting out, I prepared the pages with diluted Indian ink, acrylic gesso and watercolour.  Then I drew in pencil onto this ground, from observation at a couple of different locations in the park.

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The second drawing also includes some text. I had been on a birdwatching walk in the park a few days earlier, and I included the list of birds we had seen in the park.

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Looking at tree bark patterns

With my tree identification group, I have drawn leaves, pinecones, seedpods – but in winter sometimes these are not available.  So today we met in Peckham Rye Park to investigate how to identify trees from the pattern of their bark.  We also did some rubbings, using wax crayon on paper.  Later, at home, I added some watercolour washes.  I liked the patterns, so here are some images:

 

From top to bottom, left to right: Oak, Turkish Hazel, Japanese Cherry, Copper Beech, Dawn Redwood.

Drawing trees

For some months, I have been part of a U3A (University of the Third Age) group learning to identify different types of tree.  We visit parks in the Dulwich area and also look at street trees, which are surprisingly varied.  Drawing from tree specimens at different times of year helps to improve observation and memory.

This week I have been looking at catkins, one of the most familiar signs of approaching spring.  The Himalayan birch has a brighter white bark than the more familiar silver birch, and is frequently being planted as a street tree in this area.
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