Sunday, 31 July 2011

Storm Over Fort George

Storm Over Fort George
Watercolour on Paper
26cm x 35.5cm (10.25" x 14")

Fort George is a relic of the British Empire in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was the site of some battles in the Anglo American war of 1812.

During our recent visit, Elaine and I had a mixture of brilliant sunshine and storms. One afternoon, we cycled passed the fort as a storm rumbled towards us. The mood seemed symbolic of the stronghold's violent history; the wind wrestled with the Union Jack and the dark blue of the flag almost merged with the colour of the threatening clouds.

I paused to gawp and take some photos, which may be why we lost our race with the storm and were soaked before we got back to Britaly (see – our home away from home in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The painting contains a compositional gaffe, which is highlighted by the work in progress I posted a couple of weeks ago (Works In Progress). It has a bottom section and a top section separated by a horizontal line with nothing linking the two sections together. I should have done something about it, but I liked the impression of the buildings crouching behind the barricades and the horizontal line accentuated it.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Ned Hanlan II

Ned Hanlan II
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

During our holiday in Canada, Elaine and I spent a sunny afternoon cycling on the Toronto Islands with Lori and Peter. The Ned Hanlan II was moored in front of the bike hire shop.  It is a Toronto Works Department tug and is named after a famous 19th century Toronto resident and world champion rower (thank you Wikipedia).

I set out to paint a stormy scene instead of the wonderfully sunny reality because I wanted to simplify the background and experiment with an inclement sky for some paintings I have planned for the winter.

Last week, I posted a work in progress (see Works In Progress). At the time, I thought it was going to be reasonably easy to finish, but it took more effort than I anticipated.

I wanted to darken the sky around the boats, but leave the top of the painting light and cloud like. Unfortunately, I ended up with an ugly dark halo around the boats (I’ve had this problem before - see Short Tempered Swan). I kept adding more and more indigo and eventually, I managed to get rid of the halo, but I had lost all the light from the top of the painting. Fortunately, I was able to restore this by adding washes of gouache and feathering them out with a hake brush – a technique I learnt from the books and DVDs of John Lovett (see

It has ended up more of a nighttime picture than a stormy picture, but it is not too far away from what I intended.

One of the most important skills I am learning is not to give up on a painting - there is usually something you can do to salvage them. The discipline of blogging every Sunday is a major incentive to stick with a painting because I always need something to post.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Works in Progress

Ned Hanlan II
(Work in Progress)
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

I haven't finished a painting to post today. So, I am using this as an opportunity to try something new and to post some works in progress.

The pictures have a lot in common. They both feature moody weather, they both went through a stage when I thought they were irretrievably ruined and they are both at a point where I can see what I need to do to finish them.

The sky is a key element in both paintings and neither of them has turned out exactly as I wanted, but I am sure I can fix them.

There are stories to go with both pictures, but I will save them until they are finished.

At least one of them should be ready for next weekend.

Storm Over Fort George
(Work in Progress)
Watercolour on Paper
26cm x 35.5cm (10" x 14")

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Daily Composition

Reading on the Balcony
Daily Composition - 27 June 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
22cm x 14cm (8.5" x 5.5")

The daily composition is another exercise from the Natural Way to Draw. It is drawn from memory in the scribbled style of a gesture drawing (see Gesture Drawing).

The aim is to draw a person or people and their environment. The instruction is to do a daily composition every day for a year and if you are serious, to do one a day for the rest of your life. These drawings should initially be gesture drawings, but eventually we should develop our own approach. You are allowed up to 15 minutes for a drawing. Most of mine take about 7 or 8 minutes.

Initially, the biggest challenge was to draw a scene without being able to see it. It is strange because as a child I think most of my drawings were taken from memory or imagination.

My memory for scenes is improving and I am gradually including more details into each drawing. The other benefit of which I am aware is that at least once a day I pause and think, “How would I draw this scene?”

The picture at the top of the post is Elaine reading on our balcony at the Queen and Albert B&B. I drew this a little while after I drew the modelled drawing on the previous post (see Modelled Drawing in Ink).

The pictures at the bottom are a group of us drinking wine after dinner at John and Petra’s and the bar at the Bracknell Hilton.

Dinner at John and Petra's
Daily Composition - 29 June 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
24cm x 18cm (9.5" x 7")

Hilton Bar
Daily Composition - 3 July 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
20.5cm x 16.5cm (8" x 6.5")

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Modelled Drawing in Ink

Sunbathing Frog
Modelled Drawing - 29 June 2011
Ink on Paper
29.5cm x 39cm (11.5" x 15.5")

The modelled drawing in ink is a continuation of the modelled drawing exercise from the Natural Way to Draw (see Modelled Drawing).

The instructions are the same. The only difference is this exercise uses a pen instead of a lithograph crayon.

Now, I can see what a pleasure it was to use the crayon. It is the perfect tool for the exercise. It lends itself to the sculpting metaphor. It is easy to imagine that as I rub with the side of the crayon I am adding clay to a sculpture or altering the surface.

In comparison, the narrow nib of the pen is a nightmare. All you can do is scribble. Even the choice of pen is difficult. The instructions say not to use a fountain pen, but don’t specify the right pen. I tried a variety (including a fountain pen) and eventually settled on a Staedtler pigment liner.

I shouldn’t complain too much because I have benefited from the exercise. It has helped me to learn more about observing the subtle changes in direction on the surface of an object.

Both of the drawings are from Elaine and my recent holiday in Canada - we got back yesterday. We started and finished the holiday with friends. We spent the first few days with Lori and Peter in Toronto and the last few days with John, Petra and Jane in Guelph. We enjoyed our visits and are grateful to them for their generous hospitality.

The sunbathing frog is an ornament in John, Petra and Jane’s garden.

The second drawing is Elaine reading on our balcony at the Queen and Albert B&B in Stratford, Ontario. We spent a couple of nights in Stratford. The Queen and Albert has comfortably spacious rooms, excellent breakfasts and a friendly host (William Broad).

On the Balcony
Modelled Drawing - 27 June 2011
Ink on Paper
35.5cm x 23cm (14" x 9")