I suppose most of us at some time or another have been faced with the question, “where do your ideas come from” in addition to the customary “how long did it take you to do that?”
This blog item shows the development of one of my paintings from inception to completion.
The accompanying pages from my sketchbook illustrate some of my initial design ideas for the painting.
I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted the atmosphere to be, but unsure as to the amount of detail and type of shipping that might be included.
An artist friend of mine says that almost 80% of his painting is done sitting in an armchair in his studio. I haven’t the patience for that and need to scribble down these rough sketches to get the grey cells fired up! Probably why his works first time and mine often don’t.
Having considered these for a couple of days I settled on an idea that I felt had the balance I was looking for.
To see how the composition might look I decided to first make a loose pastel sketch before committing anything to paint. I could have done this in charcoal, or pencil of course but using pastels allowed me to add a little colour.
I normally paint with acrylics but this time it was a toss up between that medium and oils. In the end I stuck with acrylic. I am often too impatient for my own good and acrylic allows me to build the painting faster than I can with oils.
I had already prepared a piece of “smooth both sides” hardboard by painting both sides with two coats of a good quality household emulsion with a very light ochre colour. I always do this with board since I believe that it completely seals the support . When the painting is finished I will give it two coats of matte varnish back and front to fully protect against damp long into the future.
Here I have sketched in the bridge and given the painting a rough wash over with Ultramarine blue. One thing I forgot to do was to make sure my easel was sitting square and level. I would suffer for this later.
The following images show the progress of the painting and the creeping lean of the left had tower and the joining horizontal structure between the two.
I tend to use Golden Open Acrylics as they have a longer drying time and although Titanium White and Burnt Sienna will remain moist over long periods not all of the colours will. Ultramarine and some of the Ochre/Browns, for example will dry out more quickly.
Here are my palette of colours;
Brushes were mostly filbert, synthetic long handle. Although on this painting I used Nos 5 and 6 short handle synthetic pointed brushes for almost all of the painting excluding the sky and scumbling fog/smoke over the face of the board.
My studio is quite small and it wasn’t until I took it back to the house that I was able to stand back far enough to see clearly the lean that had developed. It also showed up when I put the photos through IPhoto and began to crop them. Some close measurement and a check of the easel with a spirit level cured the problem.
As to the painting techniques used. You will know that the sky and general atmosphere have been scumbled and glazed. The ice floes were first blocked in with a mixture of Ultra /White and Alizarin. This gave me a dark enough base to work on to bring up the lighter ice and highlights.
At one point having used too much Hookers Green in the grey mix I found myself looking at a moonlit River Thames. Not what I had intended at all. However, a happy accident that is stored away for use another time.
You will also have noted no doubt that the river traffic in the background beyond the bridge gradually diminished as the painting progressed. Once I had added St Paul’s Cathedral the rest of that area seemed far too busy and cluttered. I was determined not to get bogged down into too much detail. This was to be a painting about atmosphere. Therefore there is not a lot of rigging shown and details of the hulls are reduced to a level that, I hope, will still allow them to be read as a Freighter, Spritsail Barge or Tug.