Willpaint Blog

Carnival Weekend

A Weekend at Fonthill

I have never been to an Indian wedding but have heard that the party goes on for 3 days and nights and that they are both spectacular and great fun. Last weekend we went to the party for my stepson Declan’s 21st at his father’s house Fonthill. It turned out to be an event to rival any Indian celebration.

We spent Thursday night at Splendens, a pair of studio cottages in Fonthill Park that are managed by the Beckford Arms. I would highly recomend staying there.

Lodges

That night we had dinner at The Lamb at Hindon with Declan and a number of his friends.

On Friday, Declan and his friends spent the day enjoying the superb shooting at Fonthill. There are a large number of people involved in a day’s shooting, The keepers need to raise all the birds and protect them from disease and predators; The land needs to be looked after; special crops planted for cover; woods swept, but some areas made for more cover. The drives must be planned and the day organised to suit the prevailing conditions – wind direction and speed, rain, cloud cover and temperature are all factors to be taken into account.

Some hours before it starts the beaters go out with sticks and bring the birds to where they are needed to start the drive. When the drive starts it is all beautifully timed. The keeper directs everyone so that the birds fly out at regular intervals over the guns. They need to fly high as shooting at low flying birds is both unsporting and dangerous.

I have always wanted to paint a shoot, but when I go shooting I am generally invited as one of the guns, and to put ones gun down and pick up a brush in its place would be unforgivable. This however was a great chance. I found a really good place to stand for the last drive before lunch where i was out of the way of the guns, but with a good view of the pegs where they would stand.

wt painting the shoot at Fonthill
wt painting the shoot at Fonthill

At 9.30am I started on the landscape. Everyone turned up at about 12.30pm by which time I had the landscape more or less done. The action is fast and doesn’t last more than about 15 or 20 minutes but I managed to get Declan in as the main figure, some other guns standing further down the line, a few partridges flying past and a shot bird falling.

Last Drive Before Lunch 8x10
Last Drive Before Lunch 8×10

In the afternoon I loaded for a couple of people. Then, in the evening there was the Estate Party in the Tithe Barn. I thought of having a rest but instead I went across the road and found a view of Fonthill House from the park.

Fonthill House 8-x-10
Fonthill House 8-x-10

The party started at 6pm but my stepdaughter said she would take my wife to it in her car which gave me until just before 7pm to do something. I got down to painting and the time flashed by. In the end, I only just got to the party in time to hear Declans speech thanking everyone. I was a good speech and he got in a fair number of jokes to cheer it all along. We were pretty tired after all that and as I had taken full advantage of the canapes, I was ready for bed.

Horsebox at Fonthill Stud 9x7
Horsebox at Fonthill Stud 9×7

On Saturday I got up early and went to the stable yard to paint. The day’s work there starts early so it was all fairly peaceful by 9am. I found a good spot looking into the yard by one of the two entrances and asked for the horsebox to be put on the left. I had until 12 to get that done as my stepdaughter’s filly which is named Kitten was going to a show and would be travelling in the box. I love painting yards, there is tranquility with bursts of great excitment. Kitten came back at about 3pm. She won second prize and a blue rosette.

Sophy and I dressed up for Carnival
Sophy and I dressed up for Carnival

By 3.30pm it was time to leave for the station collect my son Lewis, drop him off at his hotel on the way, come back and change and then rock-on to the party. It was a great evening. Everyone made a real effort to dress up in the Carnival theme and we danced until 2.30am. Lewis and his girlfriend Andreea danced on until 9am and said that Declan was still going when they left!

The next morning I was up early again and, looking at my painting of the yard, I decided to go up there and change the values of the stables, I had done them fractionally too light. That didn’t take too long so I then turned the other way to a view of an old black barn where hay and bedding for the horses is kept. There was a nice red tractor which had caught my eye so I got an 8 by 6 inch sketch done of that. I finished it in perfect time to get back to our billet and change to go for lunch.

Red Tractor at Fonthill Stud 9 x 7
Red Tractor at Fonthill Stud 9 x 7

3 days of great fun and four paintings to show for it. However I’m not getting any younger and I felt somewhat jaded most of Monday. A truly memorable time.

Birthday weekend Invitations

Invitation to Carnival Party
Invitation to Carnival Party

I was very pleased to be asked to do  the invitations for the weekend of my stepson Declan’s birthday celebrations.

There were to be two parties; the first for tenants and employees on the estate plus a few local friends,  and the second bash for friends, relations and godparents.

I started off with some sketches which I sent to Declan and his father Al Margadale for approval and feedback. A scanner and email mean you can do this very easily and is one of the joys of modern life.

Dec party Rough 1
Dec party Rough 1
Dec party Rough 2
Dec party Rough 2
Dec party Rough 3
Dec party Rough 3
Dec party Rough 4
Dec party Rough 4

We worked out the design and lettering between all of us  after which I worked up the design for the second invite first using gouache with bits of watercolour. The theme of the party was to be Carnival, most specifically South American carnivals, inspired by Declan’s trip there in his gap year. When I had finished I realised that the name of the person being invited would be a bit cramped and hard to see on the dark background. My solution was to add a wide oval shield to the top. I did this on a separate piece of watercolour paper and photo-shopped it together. In the end I think it strengthened the design, one of those situations like a lucky accident that happen in deisgn. I believe that post-it notes were invented as a result of trying to create an immensely strong glue which resulted in the scientists involved finding  a weak glue suitable for tacking bits of paper temporarily to various surfaces.

Carnival invite pre-photoshop
Carnival invite pre-photoshop

The main focus of the invitation to the first party was the completion of the re-thatching  and refurbishment of the tithe barn at Place Farm in Tisbury. This was an enormous project and a major expense for the  estate as it is the largest tithe barn in the country. I tried to include a few things about the estate into the design.

Estate party rough 1
Estate party rough 1

Estate party rough 3

Estate party rough 2
Estate party rough 2

Estate party rough 3

The pheasant, the tractor and horse representing the shooting, the stud and the farming that take place at Fonthill. The woodcock and the red deer are references to an estate on Islay which is also owned by the Morrisons. The rider is my step daughter Nancy wearing the Morrison racing silks and riding her coloured horse Kitten which was bred at Fonthill. I gave myself a bit of license here, the filly is only a yearling so in no way ready to be ridden over jumps.

Estate Party Invitation
Estate Party Invitation

Birthday weekend Invitations

Invitation to Carnival Party
Invitation to Carnival Party

I was very pleased to be asked to do  the invitations for the weekend of my stepson Declan’s birthday celebrations.

There were to be two parties; the first for tenants and employees on the estate plus a few local friends,  and the second bash for friends, relations and godparents.

I started off with some sketches which I sent to Declan and his father Al Margadale for approval and feedback. A scanner and email mean you can do this very easily and is one of the joys of modern life.

Dec party Rough 1
Dec party Rough 1
Dec party Rough 2
Dec party Rough 2
Dec party Rough 3
Dec party Rough 3
Dec party Rough 4
Dec party Rough 4

We worked out the design and lettering between all of us  after which I worked up the design for the second invite first using gouache with bits of watercolour. The theme of the party was to be Carnival, most specifically South American carnivals, inspired by Declan’s trip there in his gap year. When I had finished I realised that the name of the person being invited would be a bit cramped and hard to see on the dark background. My solution was to add a wide oval shield to the top. I did this on a separate piece of watercolour paper and photo-shopped it together. In the end I think it strengthened the design, one of those situations like a lucky accident that happen in deisgn. I believe that post-it notes were invented as a result of trying to create an immensely strong glue which resulted in the scientists involved finding  a weak glue suitable for tacking bits of paper temporarily to various surfaces.

Carnival invite pre-photoshop
Carnival invite pre-photoshop

The main focus of the invitation to the first party was the completion of the re-thatching  and refurbishment of the tithe barn at Place Farm in Tisbury. This was an enormous project and a major expense for the  estate as it is the largest tithe barn in the country. I tried to include a few things about the estate into the design.

Estate party rough 1
Estate party rough 1

Estate party rough 3

Estate party rough 2
Estate party rough 2

Estate party rough 3

The pheasant, the tractor and horse representing the shooting, the stud and the farming that take place at Fonthill. The woodcock and the red deer are references to an estate on Islay which is also owned by the Morrisons. The rider is my step daughter Nancy wearing the Morrison racing silks and riding her coloured horse Kitten which was bred at Fonthill. I gave myself a bit of license here, the filly is only a yearling so in no way ready to be ridden over jumps.

Estate Party Invitation
Estate Party Invitation

Bookplate

DJM Bookplate adj web

My step son Declan is 21 and I wanted to give him something to mark the occasion. He is a country boy who loves country persuits such as fishing and shooting and although I am in two minds about giving pictures as presents, I thought I would do him something connected with his interests so I have designed a bookplate.
I have done various bookplates in the past. They are an old fashioned idea that should not be allowed to die out. You stick them in the front of your books to identify them as your own. There is a long tradition of Artists doing them and they are not all just crests and heraldry; people have had nudes and all sorts of exciting things done for them.

Declan’s bookplate shows the following:
the arch at Fonthill, where his father lives,
him mounted on his hunter,
the view of Fonthill House in the Park,
a lurcher and a hare,
a salmon,
a fishing rod,
a shotgun,
a Cessna, the type of plane he leaned to fly,
a game bag,
a stags head, mounted,
a map of Islay, a place he loves and where his family have property,
a map of Africa, where he went on his gap-year.

William Hogarth, Aubrey Beardsley, Rex Whistler and John Piper all designed wonderful bookplates. I aspire to join them.

Bookplate

DJM Bookplate adj web

My step son Declan is 21 and I wanted to give him something to mark the occasion. He is a country boy who loves country persuits such as fishing and shooting and although I am in two minds about giving pictures as presents, I thought I would do him something connected with his interests so I have designed a bookplate.
I have done various bookplates in the past. They are an old fashioned idea that should not be allowed to die out. You stick them in the front of your books to identify them as your own. There is a long tradition of Artists doing them and they are not all just crests and heraldry; people have had nudes and all sorts of exciting things done for them.

Declan’s bookplate shows the following:
the arch at Fonthill, where his father lives,
him mounted on his hunter,
the view of Fonthill House in the Park,
a lurcher and a hare,
a salmon,
a fishing rod,
a shotgun,
a Cessna, the type of plane he leaned to fly,
a game bag,
a stags head, mounted,
a map of Islay, a place he loves and where his family have property,
a map of Africa, where he went on his gap-year.

William Hogarth, Aubrey Beardsley, Rex Whistler and John Piper all designed wonderful bookplates. I aspire to join them.

Two Summer Landscapes

Ferne-View-w

Morning view over the Chalke Valley 7″ x 8″, Oil on gesso

 We went to say with friends for the Chalke Valley History Festival. It only takes about an hour and a half to get there by car from where we live but it is always much more fun to stay with friends. I got up reasonably early the next day and spent a few hours painting the view from the south front of the house. I then had an attack of FOMO; which you may know is Fear Of Missing Out and so went inside for a considerably large breakfast of scrambled eggs and kippers and a pleasant discussion on the general state of the world. It is only a small picture, so I had the bones of it done and decided to finish it off in my studio. As a rule; I don’t really like to touch a painting when I’m away from the subject but I have been reading quite a bit on light and colour of late and feel that on this occasion I did manage to bring the thing to a satisfactory conclusion. There was a curious lemony light bathing the fairly dry panorama and a streak of blue from a field of Flax which had just come into flower. This played off against a pink orange I put into the gravel in the foreground. It was hard to make the bright yellow flowers of the Verbascum Bombicyferum stand out as much as they appeared to, as the flowers are so small in the painting but you can sort of make them out as they stand proudly from the otherwise bareness of the drive.

 Stooks,-Chirton-w

Stooks at Chirton 6″ x 8″, Oil on aluminium panel

At the other end of summer and the linseed in the Chalke Valley will be harvested soon but in a field next to our village the corn had been cut. Instead of rectangular or cylindrical bales as we are now used to, stooks are carefully arranged to dry, set fairly regularly about the field. It is a wonderful sight and although I have seen the same thing here now for about 3 years, I have never got round to painting it. This year I got out and put that right. I don’t know if I was the cause of inspiration as I stood painting but several people stopped to take photos.

 Delivery man

Delivery man, parked and snapping.

Artists are often dismissive of “the general public’s” visual sensibility but this little scene certainly brought out the Artist in quite a few. The farmer was very pleased with his crop and asked that I didn’t put the stook that had blown over in the wind into the picture. A bit like asking the portrait painter to make your bum a bit smaller

 Farmer

Farmer in his field

Strange and sometimes interesting thoughts go through ones head while painting. One of the first things that struck me was that the composition had a lot of pyramids sitting in it and it reminded me of the topiary in my friend’s garden. Although I was painting this mid morning from about 8.30am to midday so at a roughly similar time, I was looking north rather than south and the light was quite different, less lemony. I started to think of Sir William Gillies. I was introduced to his paintings by one of my tutors at the Slade, Jeffery Camp. He had been taught by Gillies at Edinburgh and had shown me several paintings by him that he owned, they were stacked up in his studio behind a curtain and they gave me quite a surprise and a thrill when I first saw them. So Gillies taught Jeffery and Jeffery taught me. Ergo Gillies taught me.

 (c) Royal Scottish Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 Landscape with a House and a Field by William George Gillies

© Royal Scottish Academyphoto credit: The University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection

The Scottish painters of that time seemed to love purples and maroons in their landscapes and once you see one of their paintings you start to see those colours whenever you walk in an overcast British landscape. It’s a strange thing as purple can be a very garish colour in the wrong hands and is very hard to pull off successfully in interior decorating. When I was a school boy my housemaster’s wife had one of our dorms painted a particularly ugly shade of purple and we found it was hard to rest your eyes anywhere in the room. It was a tough year and I expect it was that which drove us to drinking Bacardi and orange redoxon in the evening. I think purples worked for the Scottish painters as you can make very grey greens and when placed next to or near those purple hues they will read greener than they otherwise would have as they are a kind of split complimentary.   If you want to try a Bacardi and Orange Rodoxon here is a link for the Rodoxon

Orange Redoxon

Two Summer Landscapes

Ferne-View-w

Morning view over the Chalke Valley 7″ x 8″, Oil on gesso

 We went to say with friends for the Chalke Valley History Festival. It only takes about an hour and a half to get there by car from where we live but it is always much more fun to stay with friends. I got up reasonably early the next day and spent a few hours painting the view from the south front of the house. I then had an attack of FOMO; which you may know is Fear Of Missing Out and so went inside for a considerably large breakfast of scrambled eggs and kippers and a pleasant discussion on the general state of the world. It is only a small picture, so I had the bones of it done and decided to finish it off in my studio. As a rule; I don’t really like to touch a painting when I’m away from the subject but I have been reading quite a bit on light and colour of late and feel that on this occasion I did manage to bring the thing to a satisfactory conclusion. There was a curious lemony light bathing the fairly dry panorama and a streak of blue from a field of Flax which had just come into flower. This played off against a pink orange I put into the gravel in the foreground. It was hard to make the bright yellow flowers of the Verbascum Bombicyferum stand out as much as they appeared to, as the flowers are so small in the painting but you can sort of make them out as they stand proudly from the otherwise bareness of the drive.

 Stooks,-Chirton-w

Stooks at Chirton 6″ x 8″, Oil on aluminium panel

At the other end of summer and the linseed in the Chalke Valley will be harvested soon but in a field next to our village the corn had been cut. Instead of rectangular or cylindrical bales as we are now used to, stooks are carefully arranged to dry, set fairly regularly about the field. It is a wonderful sight and although I have seen the same thing here now for about 3 years, I have never got round to painting it. This year I got out and put that right. I don’t know if I was the cause of inspiration as I stood painting but several people stopped to take photos.

 Delivery man

Delivery man, parked and snapping.

Artists are often dismissive of “the general public’s” visual sensibility but this little scene certainly brought out the Artist in quite a few. The farmer was very pleased with his crop and asked that I didn’t put the stook that had blown over in the wind into the picture. A bit like asking the portrait painter to make your bum a bit smaller

 Farmer

Farmer in his field

Strange and sometimes interesting thoughts go through ones head while painting. One of the first things that struck me was that the composition had a lot of pyramids sitting in it and it reminded me of the topiary in my friend’s garden. Although I was painting this mid morning from about 8.30am to midday so at a roughly similar time, I was looking north rather than south and the light was quite different, less lemony. I started to think of Sir William Gillies. I was introduced to his paintings by one of my tutors at the Slade, Jeffery Camp. He had been taught by Gillies at Edinburgh and had shown me several paintings by him that he owned, they were stacked up in his studio behind a curtain and they gave me quite a surprise and a thrill when I first saw them. So Gillies taught Jeffery and Jeffery taught me. Ergo Gillies taught me.

 (c) Royal Scottish Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 Landscape with a House and a Field by William George Gillies

© Royal Scottish Academyphoto credit: The University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection

The Scottish painters of that time seemed to love purples and maroons in their landscapes and once you see one of their paintings you start to see those colours whenever you walk in an overcast British landscape. It’s a strange thing as purple can be a very garish colour in the wrong hands and is very hard to pull off successfully in interior decorating. When I was a school boy my housemaster’s wife had one of our dorms painted a particularly ugly shade of purple and we found it was hard to rest your eyes anywhere in the room. It was a tough year and I expect it was that which drove us to drinking Bacardi and orange redoxon in the evening. I think purples worked for the Scottish painters as you can make very grey greens and when placed next to or near those purple hues they will read greener than they otherwise would have as they are a kind of split complimentary.   If you want to try a Bacardi and Orange Rodoxon here is a link for the Rodoxon

Orange Redoxon

Weekend in the South of France

psl am
PSL Morning Light

 

A weekend in the South of France: we could have been characters from F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night or even St Tropez, queuing to get into cordoned off VIP areas for overpriced drinks but it was neither of those. Apart from the total lux of the billet it was a normal weekend with our friends and their family. I was free to paint and had no washing up or other daily tedium to impair my fun. All I had to do was turn up on time for lunch and dinner.

We went in comfort by train and on arrival I started a picture straight away. I only had an hour or so but I had made a start. I had decided to try using a viewfinder with a red cellophane filter that I had put together and which slips nicely into a slot in the new Pocharde box I have been making. Basically the red causes the colour to be removed from what you see and allows you to judge the composition purely on tone, similar to the way squinting at the subject does the same thing

red1
Red Viewfinder
red2
A red filtered view
red3
View without the red

The next day I started a picture of the back of the house. After a bit one of the children said I should sketch her so, never one to refuse the chance of a free model, I broke off to do a small 6 by 4 inch oil sketch.
In the afternoon the light had shifted and the front of the house was looking good so I started that.

wt psl
WT Painting the PSL.

I find that when the light is very directional having a couple of paintings or more on the go is the best approach. Not too many though as it becomes like spinning plates on sticks; some or all of them will crash to the ground!

Very near by the town of Roussillon stands on a hill of red ochre. On the last day I went with my host to buy local pigment and ice cream there. The ice cream was heavenly, I’ll try the pigment before long and write about it.

ochre
Tubs of Roussillon pigment, various shades of Ochre

I had an hour free to try and finish the first picture. The problem was that I had conceived the composition in the evening and I only had a bit of morning to do it in. So I changed the painting to a morning scene – it was not good. The shapes that had been so strong in the evening had disappeared and the composition was all too flat with not much else to hold it together – probably not a keeper. I wonder if  I hadn’t used the red filter whether I would have composed a picture that was so reliant on tone. |I could perhaps have done one that was less sensitive to the change in the light. Moreover observing tone to the exclusion of other elements does tend towards very dull and academic work, something I would like to guard against.

Even though they are quite small, four paintings in three days is fast as hell for me and I was really pleased with how I had done. It was a wonderful weekend. Being with our friends would have been fun enough but painting does add an extra layer to the enjoyment.

PSL_PM
PSL Afternoon light,

 

House Prices

Some time ago I went to a party where I was introduced to the well know politician Roy Jenkins. I was interested to meet him and find out what he was like “off duty”, if a politician can ever be said to be off duty. Unfortunately my mind went blank and I couldn’t think of anything to say to him.

I mentioned this later to my friend Mary Anne Sieghart, who was a staff writer on The Times and well used to meeting politicians and their ilk. “Why not ask them what they think of property prices?” she replied “everyone is interested in property.”

Well I suppose that is true and with that in mind I’m going to paint a few more houses. Yesterday the weather was good so I went outside to paint our house, a Georgian old Vicarage with nice proportions. It then clouded over so the light was not what I had in mind.

 Old-Vicarage-web

The Old Vicarage, oil on board 6“ x 8“

 

If I get a nice evening soon I’ll be tempted to pop out side and put in some stronger highlights. Sometimes it is hard to leave paintings alone even when they are finished.

Sadly Roy Jenkins died not long after I met him. He was an interesting man as his biography on Wikipedia will testify. I’m sure that the House prices conversation would have been fascinating, had it taken place.

Painting a country house and Julian Barrow

Views of Thornton Manor, The Wirral, Liverpool

Thronton Manor by Julian Barrow.jpg

I had heard of Julian Barrow and seen his paintings long before I met him. I had heard that he would travel the world, arriving somewhere with perhaps two letters of introduction. He would paint a collection of pictures, have an exhibition, then sell all the paintings to the large number of new friends he had made since arriving. He would then move on to another country and do the same again. Actually I didn’t just admire him; if I’m honest I was also a little jealous.
One day I was painting an interior of the dining room in a very grand London house and I went downstairs and found him painting a view of the hall. He was completely charming and I liked him right away.
We painted together like this for about three days during which time we stopped now and again to look at each others work and to chat. His picture was then finished and he went off to paint a house in St John’s Wood. My painting took a further two months and although he was very nice about it and said that I was doing something really much greater and that his was rather slight in comparison, I couldn’t help feeling that somehow he had the best of it all.
A few years later I bumped into him and he took me to see his studio in Tite Street, Chelsea,. It had once belonged to Augustus John and the living and working areas were situated on various different floors. The rooms were tastefully decorated in a Bohemian and rather opulent way and the walls were covered in his paintings, all beautifully framed. Here he held annual parties that were renowned throughout London and the home counties. All pictures were for sale and sell they did. As I left we swore undying friendship and promised to meet up in Wiltshire very soon.
Sadly he died last year and his memorial service was crowed out with his friends, more friends than most people would make in ten lifetimes. The address captured him so well and you can read it on line here and also see some of his work

http://www.julianbarrow.com/

He was famously known as one of the pin-stripe painters, after the sort of clothes worn around the St James’ area of London, where all the gentleman’s clubs are. Certainly, I noticed a number of pictures by him when I was painting a portrait interior at White’s a few of years ago. He told me he trained at Signorina Simi’s, an atelier in Florence where young people went to study painting 30 or more years ago. I think there was a large emphasis on tonal value there and this may have helped him see compositions in a simplified way which enabled him to paint so quickly and yet convincingly. I have read that he studied under Annigoni so I may have mis-remembered what he told me but the end result is the same. Many people who train in the Ateliers in Florence now seem to come out as clones, it can be hard to tell their work one from another but Julian Barrow’s work is easily recognised even before seeing his hand written style signature in the bottom corner.

signature

I still think of him and his paintings, particularly when I am trying to capture something quickly. In fact I have been painting in a house recently where I counted 6 of his pictures so far – there may well be more – and as I go past them I have a look to see how they were done.

Julian Barrow1

I love paintings of country houses and I thought I would try and do one. I painted this at Fosbury in Wiltshire a couple of weeks ago and I have to say it probably owes more than a little to Julian.

 

Fosbury w

Fosbury, oil on canvas laid in board

Easel Fosbury