Friday, 23 October 2015

Venice 2

Continuing the contra-jour theme, here's one from the Campo Santa Maria Della Formosa that I managed to grab when the sun came back out on the afternoon of the penultimate day. I enjoyed this one and was glad I went with a larger board (12x16in) so that I could 'go for it' with broader marks. I was fired up by the fact that my previous painting had been wiped since the sun came out after half an hour into the session, changing all the tones and colours completely. Happy with the tonal range and colour harmonies on this one.

'Cafe culture,  Campo Santa Maria Della Formosa' - oil, 12x16in

The one below is from a similar sort of position in the same square but the rain had arrived and transformed the subject into something quite different. For some reason I decided to work quite large at 12x16in but I think it was worth a gamble otherwise things can all get a bit fiddly. The pavement reflections now replaced the raking shadows but it was still an interesting subject and I was glad I had the umbrella. I debated as to whether to put the pharmacy sign in and decided it was worth including. Poor Tim left his back at camp and got rather more damp but he soldiered on with admirable plein air grit :)

'Rain and reflections,  Campo Santa Maria Della Formosa' - oil, 12x16in

Below is an early morning rainy study of the Piazetta San Marco and was an enjoyable subject with subtle tonal/colour variations. Luckily we were pitched up under the arches so the worst of the rain avoided us. Towards the end of the session the tides had risen and we had to escape before the water had a chance to soak our shoes.

'Rainy morning, Piazetta San Marco' - oil, 10x18in

Below is from the same square but I was positioned further forward towards the water and it was an incredibly awkward spot since the temporary walkway had been hastily put up right next to me and half of Venice seemed to be queuing up alongside. I eventually caved in and went for a hot chocolate.

'Rain and reflections, Piazetta San Marco' - oil, 10x14in

I got completely soaked painting the one below. It started raining after about 15 mins and then just got heavier until it turned into a monsoon! I figured since I'd got all my kit out and was wet anyway I may as well persevere. The others had more sensibly found places to pitch underneath the archways rather than looking across to them from an open spot!

'Archway, fish market - Venice' - oil, 8x16in

This little video snippet pretty much sums up the situation after 3 days of rain. Tim and I were not too enamoured with the deluge but our spirits raised when the sun appeared later in the afternoon


It was nice to end the last day with a final flourish from the sun and a quieter spot to paint from along the Arsenale. It's much less crowded up at that end of the city and there are nice open views across the water with the sun setting behind.

'Towards San Giorgio, evening light' - oil, 8x10in

Finally, here's one I rather enjoyed painting of Tim on a day when the rain was so heavy we found ourselves heading back to Ken's place to escape it all. Tim was tinkering with a couple of studies and I decided to paint the studio setup with all the interesting furniture and equipment that adorns it. Ken's red cap was even perched on the easel on the left for a nice little note of colour :) It's a fascinating subject to paint and no umbrella or crowd avoidance techniques were required!

'Tim, painting at Ken's (as we shelter from the rain)' - oil, 11x14in

All in all a really enjoyable trip and great company to share it all with. Roll on the next one!

Venice 1

Not long back from an enjoyable few days painting with pals in Venice. Among the line-up were David Bachmann, Karl Terry, Tim King, Tony Dakin and myself staying at Ken Howard's impressive studio and we were also joined by Paul Rafferty, Robbie Murdoch and Eric Underwood who stayed in nearby hotels for a few days.

Out of the 5 days of painting we had about 3.5 days of heavy rain combined with a high aqua alta that cut parts of the city off so we needed to be careful where we ended up at the high tide point. The city seems to take the flooding in its stride, shops open with 6 inches of water etc but it's not ideal if you don't have a pair of wellies! On previous occasions I've visited in the winter but this time we were hoping for better weather in early autumn. We made the most of the cameo appearances from the sun with frenetic bursts of activity. I was quite surprised at how much busier it was but after a day or two you start to become immune to the mayhem to a certain extent.

Anyway, onto some of the fair weather paintings. This one above was my first painting, well, actually it was the second but the first was of the same view but with less width and got wiped (no sense wasting a good board!). The weather wasn't too bad on day one so I tried to capitalise whilst we had the chance. To our immediate right was the bridge of sighs so you can imagine it was a busy spot with everyone jostling to take a photo right next to us.

'Towards the salute from the Piazetta' - 6x14in, (click image to enlarge)

David Bachmann and Tim King setting up before the hoardes arrived.

Next one for keeps was the main square and I quite liked having the scaffolding on the right as the asymmetry is quite appealing and it helped emphasize the cast shadow from the Campanile on the right. I wanted to keep everything as crisp and fresh as possible so kept the marks clean and direct. I remember a couple having what seemed to be a brief wedding photo taken on the left and the bride had a lovely yellow dress which I noted down before they swiftly disappeared. I love those little incidental things that bring a subject to life when you're working on location. The light moved so fast it was like watching a sundial with the shadow moving across the screen on the right before it became fully lit in next to no time.

'San Marco, afternoon light' - oil, 8x11in

'Salute from the Accademia Bridge' - oil, 8x10in

I seemed to choose all the busiest places on the first day and the Accademia bridge was no exception. Barely room to set up the tripod but I found a pitch and got stuck in with less than an hour of decent light remaining. Working fast seemed to give the painting an energy that I was keen not to overwork, just aiming to capture the essence of the moment really.

'Rio Del Tolentini, early morning' - oil, 11x14in

Another tantalising glimpse of the sun in this one of a canal near the Scuola Grande di Dan Rocco (a building masterfully painted by the likes of Sargent and Seago). I had to tidy this one up a bit at home afterwards as it was done at breakneck speed with the light all over the place. Managed to get the key tones and colours down on the spot which helped. 

'San Marco, afternoon shadow' - 12x16in

I had another go at St Mark's in the sunshine but this time making the most of the shadows being cast across the square. It was bigger too at 12x16in and I was in two minds as to whether to paint from this spot (standing next to Tim who did a very nice job of the same subject) or stand so I was looking through the arches at the fully lit Basilica. I think this works better as the dark tones of the shadowy arch would probably have spoilt the overall effect or light.

'Bright sunlight, Looking towards the Salute', oil, 8x10in

I was lucky to find a perch on one of the spare walkways used when the city floods and this meant I was blissfully separated from the deluge of tourists passing me on the bridge to my right. It was handy being slightly elevated because it meant I could see more of the water rather than just a sea of people. The light was superb (pretty well contra jour) and I tried to capture it with as much economy as possible.  

More to follow, including the rainy ones!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Buxton Spa Prize - 2nd place prize winner!

Last night I travelled up to Buxton for the show opening and prize awards for the 2015 Buxton Spa Prize. It's an open competition designed to celebrate the heritage/culture of Buxton and invites artists to paint a location from a ballot draw along with one other location of the artist's choosing in the town. There's also a unique sketchbook prize which invites artists to submit their sketchbooks, along with awards for children, young artists amongst others. What a great idea for a competition!

The prizes are very generous and this year both Ken Howard RA and Peter Brown NEAC were amongst the judges (both artists I hold in very high regard) so I opted to give it whirl. Not only that but I've not visited Buxton (or even the Peak District as far as I can recall) before so it was a good opportunity to explore the town and the surrounding area.

I was extremely chuffed to win second prize with this plein air painting done on the Broad Walk in Buxton (my allocated location). A real bonus to find it had sold almost as the doors opened too!

'Evening stroll, Broad Walk - Buxton' (9x23in, oil on board) 
2nd Prize for the Buxton Spa Prize 2015 (click image to enlarge)

I was thrilled to win a prize and to have the judging panel give it the thumbs-up! When I came to get my board stamped in May I chose the spot where I thought it could work as a painting and decided what time of day the light would work best. Late evening seemed to offer the most potential with the opportunity for some long shadows.

My other entry was of the Artisan Market in the main shopping area known as Spring Gardens. I was quite fortunate to have both the market and the sun in town on the weekend I was there painting. It's e a larger canvas by my own plein air standards (18x24in) so I did all I could in about 4 hours on location and then some final tidying up back in the studio. The two paintings were placed in my hand finished frames which seem to take forever to do!

'Artisan Market, Spring Gardens (Buxton)' (18x24in, oil on canvas)

I did a third plein air painting over the weekend whilst I was painting there in June but had to decide between that and the market so I opted to hang onto this one (below) of the Opera House and enter the market scene instead.

'Ice cream at the Opera House, Buxton' (12x16in oil on board)

It was a great evening, meeting judges, organisers, fellow artists and gallery visitors. The standard of entries was very impressive across all categories and it's a great exhibition to go and visit, lots of diversity and the sketchbooks on display add an interesting element to the show too. The overall first prize deservingly went to Rob Wilson and third prize for a super painting by Michael Ashcroft.

Rob Wilson (above) with his vibrant and sensitively worked entry done in mixed media, fully deserving of the first prize.

Michael Ashcroft's lovely third prize oil painting (looked very good in that black/gold frame too). Julie Cross was the winner of the sketchbook prize with an impressive and very honest collection of work.

The awards ceremony above with Trevor Osborne (competition sponsor) on stage along with other members the judging panel which included Ken Howard RA, Peter Brown NEAC,Viscountess Cobham, David Mellor QC, Louise Potter and Ros Westwood. The gallery was packed out with guests/visitors and there was a lively buzz all evening.

Afterwards the prize winners were invited by Trevor Osborne to join the organisers, judges and sponsors for a very impressive dinner in the Old Hall Hotel (apparently it's the oldest in Britain). It meant I had a late night journey back to Milton Keynes (arriving home at 1:30am) but it was certainly worth it. 

The exhibition runs from July 17th - August 31st at the Green Man Gallery in Buxton. Do go and visit if you can.