Tag Archives: boats

Development of a painting

It is interesting to see the stages that a painting goes through, where changes are made and ideas come up. I took a series of photos of this one, which shows something of the process.
This was the initial charcoal drawing from a life class, done about a year ago. I’ve always liked it, but it was just an exercise. I like the closed pose.
I bought a cheap square canvas and then wondered what to do with it. First stage was to give it an interesting, non-white base, which is easier to paint on. I used burnt sienna acrylic paint. I dug out the old drawing and thought I would work out up into a painting. I had no idea of the context of the finished painting at all at this stage. I sketched the pose in charcoal, rubbing it out several times, until it was a good copy of the original. Then I started painting the negative space around the image. This often works much better than starting with the subject itself. I just used a dark, purplish colour to give me a background.


Before I completed the background I added the towel the model had be sitting on. I liked the look, so thought a waterside/swimming setting might work.
As the canvas was square, not a conventional rectangular one, I decided to formally split it in half with a waters edge. I was thinking of a beach at first.
I quickly decided it was a boarded pontoon edge, rather than a beach. That meant that the boards’ edges would clearly show the perspective, and it avoided painting the change from sea to sand, which is really difficult.
Having given her a basic location, I worked up the surface of her body. Only some light and shade needed adding to the basic burnt sienna base coat to give her some modelling. This was the first point at which I actually painted her body. It was all background up until now.
I thought she looked a bit forlorn, so gave her something to read. Initially is was a newspaper, stretching both sides of her head. That looked ridiculous, so I overpainted the right hand page and turned the left had page into the corner of a book. I also added a mug of coffee. I worked the towel up to look like one of the Turkish hamam towels I use. I also wanted it to seem that things were going on outside the boundaries of the picture, so I added the mooring rope, going up to a boat which is outside the right hand edge. I blocked in her shadow, so she didn’t seem to be floating over the boards.

The final image, just about. I do tend to keep fiddling with paintings for weeks after they should have been finished. I painted out the white bookmark in her book, as I kept seeing it as a cigarette! I made the edge of the red cover catch the light, as you must have some red somewhere. I’ve added some reflected light on her shaded side, a pair of sandals and someone’s wet footprint. I have also put in some vague reflections of boats, masts, whatever, which are just across the water from her. Again, indicating that things are happening all around.

I thought of adding a pile of clothes on the left, but firstly, that is really hard to paint, and secondly, it is such a lovely sunny day, who would want to wear anything anyway?

Thinking of summer


I’ve finished my acrylic of a girl on the dockside. They are my sandals, my swimming towel and a mug I got for Christmas! I added a book to give her something to be doing and it gave a spot of bright red. My general painting rule is that every picture needs a bit of red in it.

Interestingly the colour of her hair and much of her body comes unchanged from the burnt sienna that I scrubbed onto the canvas to give a working background to start from. Once I had picked her out by painting in the dark surround, she didn’t need much alteration.

She’s come on nicely from the original life class sketch.


Still working on the second figure


Major alterations to the second figure. The line of her back looks much better, I think, after close study of some of Klimt’s sketches. Well, if he can’t draw a naked girl, no one can. To sort out her left arm I finally resorted to looking at myself in a mirror (don’t even start to think about it). It is really hard to make it look real, the smallest error in proportion just ends up with a wooden doll-like image. I have repainted the sky with crimson, which still looks bad, but much better than the original insipid sky-blue sky

Happy New Year for 2015: start the year showing how I started a painting

12498060503_6ab15a0e83_bThis was a drawing I did in one of Paul Fowler’s Extreme Poses life classes. The models climbed into  a cradle of ropes, bolted to the floor and ceiling, and this allowed them to adopt poses they could not normally hold for more than a few seconds. This model was a striking, red haired Hungarian who only came once, I liked the pose, so developed it as an acrylic painting on MDF to keep in my boat.

12766663925_716037700c_bThis was the first stage, the MDF covered in a golden brown background and the drawing copied in charcoal. I just did it by eye and there are some problems, but the overall balance is good.

12766663555_16fe848428_oThe figure is blocked out in a thin white wash. Acrylic dries so fast that you can just paint continuously. Both a strength and weakness of the medium.

12766803413_bd3cca9dee_oNext I tried to establish depth with colour, yellow for the nearest arm, orange for most of the body and blue/grey for the most distant leg. I’m not sure this had much effect in the end, other than as a mental guide.

12498416424_fd9f877a19_zThe final layers in ochres, red for that hair and white. The under-painted colours seem to have disappeared, but maybe they help control the tones. I’m still not happy with the line of her back, but time to stop.

15985688518_949db4d1b6_kAnd here she is insitu, over my berth, ready to keep an eye on me during cold stormy nights at sea.

Cornish sketches from 10 years ago

We had a week in Cornwall 10 years ago, staying in Polruan and just wandering round the  area with our old dog, who discovered that she really liked being a pub dog. For once I did a number of sketches on the  ground, which are still good memories.

Pict2022This view of our kitchen window shows the steep lane down to the harbour. We walked it several times each day (the dog wanted to go to the pub…)

Pict2021I’ve seen this lovely ketch, the “Bessie Ellen” several times since in different ports. I hope to go on her myself one day as she is a commercial charter boat. This was the first time I saw her and judging by the speed they raised the sails, it was the first time most of this crew had seen her either.

sketchbook 005

Polruan harbour. I was outside sketching. The dog was in the pub eating crisps.

sketchbook 004On the beach. The Cornish coastline is just spectacular. We were back in Mylor last September and are going again next July. Almost perfect sailing and the pubs are delightful. The old dog, sadly, is no longer with us to beg for crisps.




Travel and boats, an enduring love affair

I took these photos in 1977, when I lived in the middle east for a year. Both are on the beach in Abu Dhabi. I doubt that this area even exists any more. They were building the dhows directly on the sand, almost entirely by hand except for a huge horizontal band saw which was used to cut up teak logs for planks. These are “real” photos, taken on 35mm colour slide film in the gorgeous Olympus OM2 that I bought out there. Hard to remember how long you had to wait to see the photos. I would take time choosing my framing, but once the film was full, I had to send it back to Europe to be developed and then have the slides sent back to me. Anything from three weeks or more before you saw the result. Despite that, we tended to get fewer pictures, but more good ones.


What is fascinating about these beautiful boats, from a European boat builder’s view point, is that even though the hull is perfectly symmetrical, as it has to be, the planking either side does not match at all. The planks are fitted together first, and then the internal framing cut to fit inside. The exact opposite from what we do here.


I called this the Fisherman’s mosque, and looking on Google maps, I think it is still there, but no trace of dhows anywhere near it. I actually won third prize in an architectural photography contest with this shot. I won the first prize as well, for a photograph of the Eiffel tower, which sadly I cannot find any more. It is probably in a box in the attic. I was very proud of it, as the judge was a French photographer, who said he must have seen 10,000 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but he had never seen one like that. Sadly, we may never see it again now.