Saturday, 28 April 2012

Break in Venice - Part 1

As reported a couple of weeks ago I had managed to organise a break in the beautiful city of Venice with the express purpose of working on my painting and it turned out to be a fascinating experience and instructive as far as my painting pretensions go.

The planning for the trip involved a week of anticipation while I worked out how to transport all of the gear that would allow me to paint in oils and watercolour, not an easy task given the restrictions on luggage. I think at this stage I should say that my aspirations for the trip were just a bit over ambitious, hoping to make pictures in both mediums and in significant numbers. More of that later.

I arrived in Venice at lunchtime last Thursday and found my way to my lodging for the week. These were  a five minute walk from Piazzale Roma and very easy to find. The accommodation was beautiful and I have to thank artist Michael Richardson for alerting me to the existence of this establishment. The house is owned by an English expatriate, Nicholas Blair-Fish, and he provides a bed and breakfast service in his lovely home. After emptying the luggage I headed out to get a feel for the city that I hadn't visited for about four years in the hope of clarifying my mind about possible painting venues. In Venice that's an almost impossible task as it's actually harder to find things that are not worth painting. Every corner presents a new view that entrances. Therein lies the first difficulty, making decisions about venues. Almost inevitably one gets drawn to some of the well known spots and views. That can be a mixed blessing as I hope to explain.

My first picture here was the view from my bedroom window, sketched on a day when the changeable weather was giving us a mix of rain and sunshine.

 Fondamenta Gaffaro - Watercolour on Not paper

I was keen to attempt some oil painting on my trip and headed out after a night's sleep to try my hand at translating my plein air experience at home into a means of rendering the city. As part of my preparation for the trip I'd spent some time watching videos of Ken Howard at work in Venice. The facility with which he goes about his business is deceptive and maybe persuaded me that I might at least work as quickly. I was to be mistaken, my rate of paint application cannot live up to the standards of speed exhibited by some never mind being able to emulate the accuracy of line and value of the best.

The next two pictures are oil sketches, not completed, one made at one of the more famous views and the other a detail from somewhere less celebrated. The view of the Salute was my first effort and it was not sensible to make that the first picture of the trip. The subject is difficult and would have been better left until I'd got my eye in. Consequently my over enthusiasm in attempting this subject early resulted in a poorly drawn and executed image. A bump to the confidence that gave me food for thought. It did in fact result in me trying a less daunting view when I took out the oils on the following day.

Campo Santa Margherita - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Santa Maria della Salute - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

The experiences of my first two days made me reassess my objectives for the week and I'll return to that issue in my next post.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sketch Book Days

Weather has been a problem over the last week. At present the days lurch from bright spells to rain and hail. Lengthy sessions are difficult when that is the case so the answer is to grab the opportunities given by the occasional breaks in the nasty bits. One disadvantage I find when working in these conditions is that I tend to hurry and not take as much care with my drawing as I would in more benign conditions. Whilst not my best work these sketches have provided a chance to wet brushes before I head off to Venice on Thursday.

The first two were done yesterday when I went out with two artists that I met after signing up to the Plein Air Group on Facebook. They are both accomplished artists and worth looking up on the net. Their names are Colin Joyce and Pete Dimmock. We didn't have a lot of time and our efforts were interrupted by the aforementioned weather pattern.

Bridges - Watercolour on Not paper 11"x 8"

The above is a complicated subject that really needs some time spent to produce a sound drawing and I'll have to think about returning to try and do it justice.

Seaburn - Watercolour on Not paper 11" x 8"

With this one I was interested in the changeable sky with grey clouds starting to gather. I remembered too late some advice I was given about avoiding painting in feet with the obvious result of my poorly drawn effort.

The last picture was done while waiting to meet a couple of friends for lunch in Durham. The sun was out so I sat for an hour in the Market Place and made a few passes with brush.

Market Place - Watercolour on Not paper 11" x 8"

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Blown to Sea

The weather forecast promised a week of mixed blessings, showers and sunshine so Jed and myself decided to risk it and hope to catch a gap between the bouts of precipitation.
A change of scenery was called for so we headed for the beach at South Shields and see if we could find a view of interest. It took no time at all, Littlehaven beach gives a lovely view of the mouth of the Tyne. The only problem when we got out of the car was the really strong wind that made it impossible to put up an easel without lots of guy ropes. Solution, out comes the trusty watercolour sketch book and the sketching palette. After that it was a case of settling down behind a sand dune and pretend that the flying grains of sand that were embedding themselves in the wet paint were an artistic addition of texture.
Then the rains came and the bar beckoned.

Mouth of the Tyne - Watercolour on Not paper 12" x 9"

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Little bit of Excitement

Or maybe a big bit of excitement. Sheila and her college friends are in the habit of taking a holiday together and after sitting down to consider what I might do in her absence it seemed to me to make sense to get away myself. That decided it only remained to decide on where to go. A trawl around the web sites of the budget air lines informed me that I could fly to Venice for a modest fee. It just remained for me to find some reasonably priced accommodation and the trip became a real possibility. I remembered another painter recommending a place to stay and a quick phone call established availability and cost that rapidly became a booking. So I'm off to Venice for a week with bushes and paints.

Venice is obviously a mecca for painters and some would say overdone by the artistic community but for me it's a place that is impossible to tire of. My visits there in the past have just reinforced my urge to return. On previous visits, since starting to paint, I've had little time to devote to my art so a concerted week's work is a real bonus.

The next job is to select the kit to take with me, check my stocks and sort out any necessary purchases.

Having organised the trip I dug out my photographs from my last visit and got a sudden urge to do a quick watercolour sketch. The result is below.

San Giorgio Maggiore - Watercolour on Not paper 14" x 11"