Sunday 29 July 2012

local colour

Red Tulips in a Blue Glass Vase among the cakes in Taste Buds

For the past month two of my watercolours, Red Tulips in a Blue Glass Vase and View from my Back Bedroom Window, have been on view as part of the 2012 Hitchin Art Trail, during this year's Hitchin Festival.  Nearly seventy shops and businesses in this historic Hertfordshire market town were kind enough to choose at least one piece of art for their windows.

the paintings were on view to passers by

Both of my paintings had been chosen by venues in Bancroft, one of the main shopping streets, and purely by chance had ended up almost next door to each other. Tulips was on display in the window of Taste Buds, a catering business with a mouth-watering range of cakes on display which were selling like - well, like hot cakes - when we arrived.

View from my Back Bedroom Window
alongside another exhibit in Home Extension Team

Back Bedroom Windows could be seen in the shopfront of home improvements specialists Home Extension Team, alongside a similarly home-themed watercolour by another artist.  A feature of the the Art Trail is the way that the businesses choose a piece: perhaps the subject matter reflects their work, or the colour blends cleverly with a window display.

the HET forms part of the historic roofline of Hitchin . . .
Hitchin is a lovely place with some very old buildings at the heart of it.  The Hitchin Festival - which includes the Rhythms of the World music festival and numerous cultural events, as well as the Art Trail, is a great way to promote the town and encourage visitors.  Long may it continue!

. . .  as does Taste Buds!
Many thanks to the proprietors of Taste Buds and Home Extension Team for choosing to display my paintings, and to Tim and the team at Tim's Art Supplies for organising yet another excellent Art Trail for so many local artists.

Sunday 15 July 2012

a lesson in leaving well alone

source material and colour swatches

For some time I've been meaning to do another watercolour based on photos taken on our honeymoon in Venice over a year ago.  I finally settled on a shot of some Gondoliers, waiting for passengers on the Riva del Schiavoni.  This time I stretched some grey-tinted watercolour paper, which I hoped would add a wintry atmosphere to the finished article.

the basic sketch

The painting was going to be a fairly big one, so the basic sketch for it had to be done on two pieces of A4.  Somehow if I make a sketch from a photo before doing a painting, it doesn't feel so much like painting from a photo - and it gives an opportunity for editing. When I transferred the sketch to the watercolour paper, I hit the first snag: the two halves didn't quite match up, so some sleight of hand was needed.

transferring the sketch to the paper
Because the subject is a watery one, I decided to use plenty of water in the washes - keeping them pale and building them up if necessary.  I was so busy sloshing the water on, I realised too late that I'd hit a second problem:  the paper had buckled so much that it had come right away from the tape at the top, which was supposed to keep everything in place.

some very wet washes . . . 
Panicking slightly, I considered my options: (a) chuck the whole thing away (b) cut the paper away from the board completely, re-soak and re-stretch it or (c) wait until it had dried before deciding what to do.  Sheer indecision led me to choose option (c), which was basically 'do nothing'.  Just as well, because when the painting had dried completely it was still glued perfectly flat, as though nothing had happened!

a background in search of a subject
Carrying on with the background, I added layer upon layer of pale wash to build things up without overdoing it.  At one point I realised that the gondolier who was supposed to be leaning on the rail was actually leaning on nothing at all.  I fiddled with the idea of changing the angle of his arm, but decided to leave well alone again - he could be gesticulating instead!! Much of the subject is black (gondolier's coats and trousers, and the gondolas themselves) so I began to add darker, thicker washes of various colour combinations to distinguish one area of black from another.  By the time the painting was finished, the gondoliers had about six or seven layers of paint on them . . .

Gondoliers in Winter
So here's the finished article.  True, I've taken a few liberties with San Giorgio Maggiore; the gondolier on the left is reading a book rather than texting, another gondolier is missing completely and the chap on the right has sprouted a red stripy sweater (the gondoliers do wear a variety of red-striped or black-striped tops, sometimes on top of their padded coats, and either red or black ribbons on their hats).  I'm enjoying painting figures!!