Archive | May, 2014

How I Plan a Painting Pt 2 – the finished work!

Marshside East Kent

Marshside – East Kent My view as I arrived

In Pt 1 click here I explained how I go about the planning of a painting and the importance of deciding about the composition and placing of tonal values, ie: where the darkest darks and the lightest lights will be positioned. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve seen someone take out a photo from a magazine place it in front of them and go to work copying it as neatly as possible! Is that art? The result might be exceptional, but it will always be someone else’s composition and someone else’s colour scheme. When I decide to paint a subject I wouldn’t be happy with another person’s photo. I prefer to work from real life, or sketches, and to play around with composition first, to test the possibilities. The photo above shows Marshside and here are my initial tonal sketches.

Tonal Sketches

Tonal Sketches – I chose the one on the left.

Even if I’m working on a portrait of someone famous, where I don’t have personal access, I would still try to find say, ten photos of the person, then lay them out and design my own composition using the photos and my own sketches as reference material.

Here is my set up for a plein air watercolour painting of the stream at Marshside in East Kent. The stream is important because it used to separate the Isle of Thanet from the mainland, many years ago.

My plein air set up.

My plein air set up – simple and easy to carry.

By squinting I could see that the water was nearly as light as the sky and as the eye naturally seeks out the lightest sections, I chose to darken the sky and some of the nearby water, but leave the lightest patches in the water and through underneath the bridge, to lead the viewers eye underneath the arch. I also thought about removing the signpost. but positioned on the right edge, and pointing inwards it would draw the eye back across to the meadows at the left.

So the eye travels in from the bottom along the stream, under the arch, to the farm buildings, it then meets the signpost and goes left back towards the meadow. I have kept the darkest darks as in the first photo, under the arch, the reflection in the water and the foreground foliage.

Marshside East Kent

Marshside – Watercolour by Julian Lovegrove

From my work in progress photo above, you will see that I don’t always follow the ‘rules of watercolour’ which say you should always paint from ‘light to dark’.  I often like to establish the darks first, and add the lighter colours later, it can lead to a more powerful painting. A favourite watercolourist of mine Jake Winkle, also works this way, and very effectively. Here is my finished work, I hope you like it. By clicking on it, you will be taken to see further photos and details. Enjoy!


Sieze the Day! (Carpe Diem) OK so now I’m a latin scholar!

Pegwell Bay by William Dyce

Pegwell Bay Kent recollection of 5/10/1858 by William Dyce

In a month when I have lost two good friends, who were also fine artists, this is a very apt phrase, for the moment. My friends were certainly very active, trying to learn all they could and to create fresh work, living life to the full, as long as they were able. The alternative to Carpe Diem is Mañana (or Procrastination for short,) meaning, why do something today that could be put off till tomorrow. I hate Procrastination! it is the enemy of creativity. It was Henri Matisse who famously said “Creativity takes courage”. Most artists writers and composers, will understand this. So let’s not waste another moment, lets pluck up some courage and get creating!

May is traditionally the month when us ‘warm weather plein air painters’ wake up from hibernation to discover sunshine and the joys of carrying our equipment, easels, palettes, paints, papers, boards, etc through the woods and along streams or coastal paths to a spot that begs to be painted. The spot that chose me this time was Pegwell Bay. William Dyce who painted the above work, was a geologist, hence his interest in the details of the chalk cliff formations. I chose to paint from the other side of the bay, with these cliffs in the distance. I’ve painted there many times, and many times I’ve returned with nothing except experience, having ruined a perfectly good painting in the final stages.

Pegwell Bay by Julian Lovegrove

Pegwell Bay by Julian Lovegrove

One thing I’ve learned is never to reach those final stages. I aim to get to the point when it is nearly finished and then to leave it alone and take a look a day or two later. I then study it and look for any areas that are not clear or may be confusing to the viewer. Also tonal values, are the darkest darks, dark enough, etc? I then just attend to those issues. When It is complete, I then have to decide if it Is good enough to display or offer for sale? If not, it goes on the ‘also ran’ pile. If yes, it gets mounted and perhaps eventually, framed.

The sun is out again today, hooray! I want to go out painting again, but the lawn needs cutting and how will that get done from Ramsgate I am reminded. A Ha! The life of an Artist is brought back down to earth again!  To visit my on line shop and gallery, click on my painting above. Till the next time!

My Heroes in Art 2 – Claude Lorrain 1604/5 – 1682

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Shepherds 1644

Claude Lorrain – Landscape with Shepherds 1644

For many years I have admired the work of the old master, Claude Lorrain, or to give him his proper name, Claude Gellee. He was born in either 1604/5 no one is quite sure, in Champagne in the Duchy of Lorraine. (Isn’t that the best place to be born)? He was a French painter, engraver and draughtsman who spent all his adult life living in Rome  where he painted the most sublime landscapes. Foreign artists at that time, were excluded from painting religious works, reserved for the Italians, but that suited Claude’s love of landscape painting. His style was paralelled by his contemporary Nicholas Poussin, also French and living in Rome. Claude, as the English knew him, evolved an original and personal style of landscape painting which by the mid 1630’s had developed into an individual mastery of his art, unrivalled by any of his contemporaries. He liked to sketch outdoors, at dawn and dusk, and make small oil studies, on the spot. He was also one of the first to include the sun in his works. He painted an idyllic, pastoral landscape often contrasted with the bustling activity of a seaport, both united by the use of light and aerial perspective.

Claude Lorrain, Seaport and embarkation of the Queen of Sheba. 1648

Claude Lorrain – Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba 1648

By the 1640’s and 1650’s Claude’s broadening atistic journey became more classical and universal, reaching truly heroic proportions, resulting from his extensive studies of the landscape surrounding Rome. He was now in the mainstream of the high Roman Baroque. In 1635/8 Claude made four paintings for Pope Urban 4th and from this point on his reputation was secured. The English were early collectors of his work. and to date, the largest collections remain in the UK.

JMW Turner and John Constable were both strongly influenced by the paintings of Claude. Constable said “he was the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw”.

There is another reason Claude is an art hero of mine! He invented the ‘Claude Glass’. It was a small piece of glass which was stained by smoke from a fire. He took it out sketching and by looking through it at his proposed subject, he could see only the lightest lights and the darkest darks. All other details were lost. Many artists today squint their eyes, to try to see the tonal values as he did. A composition is much improved by use of correct tonal values.

For other exciting posts and photographs click here!

Suddenly – Its the Exhibition Season again!

Folkestone Spring Art Exhibition 2014

Folkestone Spring Art Exhibition 2014

Yes – It’s here again.

That means artists up and down the country are madly charging about trying to get a load of different tasks done in order to prepare themselves. So in my studio, that means taking stock of recent works and deciding which will be exhibited where, and when. What exhibitions or competitions should be entered, shall we have an ‘Open Studio’?

How many works will be needed at any one time? Then its on to mount cutting and framing the watercolours. For convenience, I buy in ready-made frames of specific sizes, so I know that my mounts only have to be those sizes, to fit the frames. I do like to double mount watercolours setting a coloured board between the painting and the top cream coloured board. All these have to be accurately marked up and bevel cut with neat corners. Presentation is so important, I have seen many excellent works, ruined by poor presentation. Consequently they have little hope of selling. Then I have to clean the glass, both sides, insert the painting and mount board assembly, securing and sealing the backs, fitting the hanging cords and lastly, printing labels for the backs and sales labels, as required, for the faces.

Walkers at Kingsgate Bay, Kent

This is very near to my studio, an inspirational place to visit!

Some works will be displayed unframed, in browsers or on table tops, these will be mounted as before, backed with a board and wrapped in cellophane, for a neat presentation. My Acrylic paintings are mostly painted onto stretched canvases, of various kinds. I usually paint the edges of these, so they don’t have to be framed, saving on cost to the buyer. I do varnish them however, to protect the paint surface from dirt etc, and they still need hanging cords and labels fitted. These tasks are In addition to the task of drawing and painting new works for future exhibitions etc. A busy time of the year, but the warmer weather means I can soon start to go outdoors and do some ‘plein air’ painting again! For me, a ‘warm weather plein air painter’ – that is my reward for the extra work!

To see an example of presentation, click on this photo, it will lead you to my online gallery, where it is shown, double mounted and framed and an example, already wrapped in cellophane. Enjoy!