Friday, 30 April 2010

Dutch Landscapes

Diutch landscape paintyers have been very influential in terms of their influence over landscape painters who came after them - such as Turner and Constable.

Today marks the opening of an exhibition of Dutch Landscapes at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The exhibition runs from 30th April 2010 until 9th January 2011.

The exhibition will then transfer to and be shown at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from April to October 2011.
an exhibition of 42 works that draws on the Royal Collection’s rich holdings of Dutch ‘Golden Age’ painting. By the 17th century, landscape painting was well established as a distinct art form and one in which Netherlandish artists excelled. Artists turned to the countryside and to the sea to convey a pride in their homeland – the newly formed Dutch United Provinces. While some painters looked to their native surroundings for subject matter, others found inspiration in the mountainous vistas and golden light of Italy.

The exhibition includes outstanding examples by the great masters of landscape, including Jacob van Ruisdael, Aelbert Cuyp, Jan van der Heyden and Meyndert Hobbema.
Two resources are available to those who can't visit the exhibition in person are:
  • the catalogue Dutch Landscapes by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, with contributions by Jennifer Scott (Royal Collection Publications, 176 pages, 110 colour illustrations). Exhibition price £14.95 from Royal Collection shops and online.
  • the exhibition microsite where images if the landscapes can be seen. This part of the site works very nicely. The images are none too big but they are well labelled and there is an explanation of each painting. There's a long or a summarised version depending on whether you want the emphasis on the text or the image.
I'll have to wait to 2011 to se this but I'll certainly be visiting in when it comes to London.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Artist & Illustrators Landscape Painting Competition

Artists and Illustrators' Magazine (in the UK) is running a competition to win one of 10 copies of Mitchell Albala's Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice You can read my review of this book on Making A Mark Reviews.... in Book Review: Landscape Painting by Mitchell Albala
Summary review: This book will become a new classic manual of landscape art.

It takes the core concepts and skills required of those creating any type of representational art and interprets and relates how these apply and work within the context of landscape art. It's an in-depth guide produced by somebody who is an experienced educator. It's written and designed by somebody who is an excellent communicator. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of everybody who takes landscape art seriously - whether they paint plein air or in the studio, whether they are a student or an experienced artist and whether they are self-taught or are an artist who teaches landscape art.
You can also find out more about The Best Books about Landscape Art by reviewing my information site.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Charles Reid's 5 Tips for Painting Water

Water is one of those subjects which can be difficult to master in any media. It's always good to get tips from those who have mastered their media as well as the subject matter.

Today's post comes from the Watercolor Artist blog via the South Africa Society of Artists and their post Charles Reid's 5 Tips for Painting Water

watercolour painting by Charles Reid
Here's a little gem we plucked from our archives:

Charles Reid's
best tips for painting water:

1. Water should be painted with hard edges between the light from the sky and the reflections from trees, buildings or boats.
2. Paint wet-in-wet within the reflections but rarely where the reflection meets the sunlight.
3. For distant water on the horizon, try moist Antwerp blue or peacock blue (Holbein). Sometimes I use ultramarine violet if the horizon line of the sea seems very dark.
4. In shallow water, use diluted Antwerp blue, peacock blue or Winsor blue. These are all transparent blues that retain their color identity when diluted.
5. Sometimes water near the shore can turn a delicate turquoise green. You can add turquoise green to your palette, or simply mix diluted cadmium yellow pale or lemon yellow with one of the diluted blues to achieve the same color.
I can certainly recommend Charles Reid's books about painting in watercolour - as can others. See my information site about The Best Books about Watercolour Painting for more information.

Advice and information from The Watercolor Artist is also available as follows

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Pictures of Britain by David Gentleman

'Reed-beds at Iken Cliff, with skeleton oak and Iken church 
(illustration from Ask The Fellows who cut the Hay)', 2009
The Fine Art Society / copyright  David Gentleman 

A lot of UK readers of this blog will be very familiar with the watercolours and drawings of topographical artist David Gentleman, who was 80 last month.

Many of his images are of landscape scenes and buildings around the UK - in books like David Gentleman's Britain (Phoenix Illustrated

I know the view of Iken Church in Suffolk which is pictured at the top of the page.  It stopped me in my tracks when I saw it and reminded me that it's one of those locations that I need to go back to!

You can see many more images of his work at:
  • 46 works (lithographs etc) online in the Tate Collection
  • in a new exhibition by the Fine Art Society in Bond Street and on their website David Gentleman at Eighty (24th March - 15th April) which unfortunately has just finished.  However you can still see the works online. I have sense that there has been no post-production mainpulation of the photographs - and wonder whether they were actually painted on grey paper or whether it was the lighting when the photographs were taken
  • at Cambridge Book and Print Gallery
You can also read about him and see some of his artwork in:
Theer doesn't appear to be a website - more's the pity.


    Friday, 16 April 2010

    You too can paint a Turner Sunset...

    The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire
    JMW Turner - exhibited 1817
    Tate Britain

    ...or at least you can if you live in the UK and Northern Europe due to the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull!

    The nature of the sunsets in the next few days should be "good" ie much influenced by the volcanic ash in the ash plume which is tracking its way from Iceland across the UK and on into northern Europe.

    What you can see below is the estimated areas being affected by the ash plume from the Met Office's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London (What do you mean you didn't know we had one of those? ;) )

    This is an article Volcano's Eruption Colors World's Sunsets which explains why volcanic ash colours sunsets

    Turner painted his sunsets after the ash plume caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions leading to the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, which was the largest known eruption in over 1,600 years. This turned 1816 turned into the year without a summer as the volcanic ash travelled around the earth.

    Interestingly what I noticed when going through the catalogue of Turner's works for 1815-1818 was how few paintings he painted in 1816 other than some very big 'set pieces' which go with the painting at the top of this post.

    Maybe the explanation can be found in his journals?

    In Andrew Wilton's book about Turner (Turner in His Time, Revised and Updated Edition) he quotes Turner as writing in a letter dated 11 September 1816
    As to the weather, there is nothing inviting it must be confessed. Rain, Rain, Rain, day after day. Italy deluged. Switzerland as wash-pot. All chance of getting over the Simplon or any of the passes now vanished like the morning mist.
    However matters got more interesting when I looked at the sketchbooks.

    This is a link to Turner's Skies Sketchbook of 1816 - after the eruption and the volcanic ash plume were making themselves felt in Europe. If you keep looking, in amongst the studies of clouds, the deep orange sunsets keep popping up.

    and finally....

    Back in 2008, the Guardian had an article about How old masters are helping study of global warming which says

    The team found 181 artists who had painted sunsets between 1500 and 1900. The 554 pictures included works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough and Hogarth. They used a computer to work out the relative amounts of red and green in each picture, along the horizon. Sunlight scattered by airborne particles appears more red than green, so the reddest sunsets indicate the dirtiest skies. The researchers found most pictures with the highest red/green ratios were painted in the three years following a documented eruption. There were 54 of these "volcanic sunset" pictures.

    Prof Zerefos said five artists had lived at the right time to paint sunsets before, during and after eruptions. Turner witnessed the effects of three: Tambora in 1815; Babuyan, Philippines in 1831, and Cosiguina, Nicaragua, in 1835. In each case the scientists found a sharp change in the red/green ratio of the sunsets he painted up to three years afterwards.

    Links: J.M.W. Turner - Resources for Art Lovers

    Monday, 12 April 2010

    What's your favourite place to paint?

    Thomas Girtin 1799
    Pencil, watercolour , scratching out on laid cartridge paper
    41.6cm x 53.7cm (approx. 16 x 21in)

    The Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester

    I've been fascinated recently while reading a biography of Tom Girtin to find that he embarked on a number of sketching tours around the UK - and that Turner then followed him around the country drawing the places he'd already drawn - from more or less the same spot! As they were good friends I had mental visions of them spending time pouritng over maps while Girtin explained where to go and what were the best views!

    It's certainly very apparent from reading his biography that even in eighteenth century England, certain places were very popular. Sometimes because they were easy to sell. Sometimes because they were a great view. Sometimes because they fitted with the romantic notions of the time about what was a 'a good view'.

    Durham Cathedral (see top) has been a favourite subject for visual artists for hundreds of years. I used to stare at it for many years while travelling back and to school on the train. I could see why it worked as a view but it really didn't appeal to me personally.

    I also remember puzzling a lot when I started to draw and paint about how one was supposed to select 'a good view'. Gradually I found that the more I looked and looked the more I began to see possibilities. I knew I was in trouble when I'd find myself driving in new areas mentally framing and then ticking off 'good views' as I passed them as placed to go back to if I had the time!

    However it took quite a while for me to discover that I love doing really big views.

    I have in fact driven long distances across France to go back to views I've seen once and never had the chance to draw at the time. Or wanted to draw again. I haven't got a clue as to why they attract me. I didn't even realise they did until I started to put my website together and realised I had an awful lot of big views. What I think used to be called "a vista" - hence the title of the gallery Views and Vistas.
    vista noun (vistas) 1 a view into the distance, especially one bounded narrowly on both sides, eg by rows of trees. 2 a mental vision extending over a lengthy period of time into the future or past.
    ETYMOLOGY: 17c: Italian, meaning 'view', from Latin videre, visum to see.
    View from the l'Esplanade at Domme
    12" x 16", coloured pencils on Arches HP

    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    This one was started while I had lunch on the terrace overlooking this view of the River Dordogne beneath the bastide town of Domme in the Périgord Noir area of France.

    Interestingly Wikipedia says remarkably little about what is a 'view' - and yet artists spend a lot of time trying to find a 'view' to paint.

    I talked in the previous post about how I've always used maps to try and find good places to draw and paint. I've also listened a lot to what other people have had to say about their favourite places to paint and why they liked them.

    Hence this post is an invitation to say a bit about what's your favourite place to paint.

    Even better if you've done a blog post about it I'd like to highlight this on this blog.

    I'm also going to try and develop an inventory of 'good places to paint' in the Location Page (see top - underneath the title). A sort of reference site for if you're going somewhere new and want to know good places to paint.

    Of course you can't beat finding somewhere that only you know about - but if you'd like to share - feel free to say what's your favourite place to paint. (You don't have to stop at just one!)

    Note: Girtin's painting at the top is a salutary lesson in what happens when you use fugitive colours - the blue in the sky faded long ago! (See What are fugitive colours?)

    Sunday, 11 April 2010

    Old Volcanoes in Gran Canaria

    The Virtual Paintout in April - my contribution
    coloured pencils on Saunders Waterford HP

    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    This is my interpretation of the landscape which can be viewed from the street in front of 35 Lugar Diseminado la Degollada, Tejeda, on Gran Canaria in the Canary islands - it's quite something! I liked it because it's got that combination of the weird contours you can get with volcanic geomorphology and the acid greens often seen where cultivation occurs.

    I think this is also the view of what is left of the central cone of the extinct volcano which is Gran Canaria. The location is close to the centre of the island and the view is towards the very centre.

    The Canary Islands are located off the coast of Western Sahara and Morocco, Africa. The Islands are located on a volcanic hotspot, away from plate boundaries. The island chain is approximately linear with a rough decrease in age of the volcanism is recognized from east to west.

    Volcano Live
    What I like about the The Virtual Paintout and using Google Maps Streetview to find a view to draw is it is almost exactly like what I do in real life.

    Being a geographer from way back I almost always study maps before trying to find new views. Given I can read contours I can often find good places to draw just from studying the map. Not always though. Many is the time I've got there only to find that trees completely obscure the view!

    When I'm using Streetview I start by studying the map and then try various locations. I then spend ages going backwards and forwards trying to find the 'perfect' perspective. Just like I do in real life when I'm sketching plein air and hauling ` sketching stool and backpack backwards and forwards as I try to find where to put the stool down!

    It all feels very familiar! :)

    How is it for you?

    Thursday, 8 April 2010

    Desert sandhills and an elephant

    Desert Sandhills stretching to the Horizon
    Elephant Skull Plate XXII 1969
    etching by Henry Moore

    all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell / Courtesy The Henry Moore Foundation

    You can find landscapes in odd places.

    When I saw this etching by Henry Moore at the Sheep Barn Galleries in Perry Green I was convinced it was a landscape - which I thought very odd since Moore wasn't given to drawing landscapes.

    When I walked over the title confirmed it.

    What's odd is that he found this landscape while drawing an elephant skull.

    Henry Moore at work on an etching plate in 1968 (Elephant Skull album)
    original photo by Errol Jackson in 1968 / Henry Moore Archive

    You can see my review of the latest Henry Moore Exhibition Henry Moore Deluxe: Books Prints & Portfolios on Making A Mark.

    I think this one was my favourite of all the etchings I saw when visiting the exhibition last week.

    Have you ever found a landscape somewhere unexpected?


    Monday, 5 April 2010

    Ambrogio Lorenzetti - the first panorama

    The Allegory of Good and Bad Government
    Siena in 1340: 

    Good Government: (top) the town (bottom) the countryside (1338-40)
    Ambrogio Lorenzetti
    about 6 foot 6 inches high

    In the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena is one of the most amazing paintings ever created. It's actually a fresco on three walls.

    It's a painting of the town of Sienna and the countryside round about in the fourteenth century - under good government and bad. It's not in the best of conditions but that's partly because it was painted in 1340.

    However the real significance of The Allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti is that these frescos are probably the first landscape and the first townscape paintings ever completed. They are certainly the oldest paintings which have survived

    I've seen them, very fortunately in the company of a painter who used to teach art history, and these frescos are sensensational. I could have spent a very long time in in the Hall of the Nine (also known as Sala della Pace). I came away with a very long scroll which shows the frescos in their entirety.

    It's just worth bearing in mind that this fresco is 6 foot 6 inches tall and each of the long walls are about 45 feet long. You can get a sense of its size in this photograph which shows most of the good government side.

    The paintings were created as a symbolic way of the government of Siena impressing on local people what was needed. This at a time when famine and pestilence were not uncommon features of everyday life in the dark ages.

    The idea was that the business of government should be left top the nine merchants who were responsible for commissioning it - and who met in the room in which it is now situated. In essence under good government Siena prosperred and under bad government it disintegrates.

    The principles which were symbolised in the frescos were those which meant Siena had enjoyed some 70 years of good government.

    This is an extended extract from an excellent lecture by Dr. Richard Ingersoll, Rice University which is the best explanation of the painting which I can find on the Internet.
    In the meeting chamber of the Noveschi, the Sala della Pace, is one of the great documents of the political ideology of a medieval citystate, part inscription and part painting, known as the cycle of Good and Bad Government. The frescoes were painted in 1340 by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, who was evidently a member of the group of the ruling class and known, aside from his skill as an artist, for his wide knowledge of political theory. It is an extraordinary painting, quite unlike anything that came before or after it: it combines realistic visions of the landscapes of the good city and of the bad city with allegorical formulas of the virtues needed to accomplish good government. Using pre- perspectival spatial recession, Lorenzetti creates a marvelously unified view of the city and the country. The painting is a manifesto, and like all propaganda was intended as a reinforcing vision to those who were already convinced-- a lesson for the members of the Nine, who rotate every two months, reminding them of their values and goals.
    I want to spend some time analysing Lorenzetti's painting as a way of concluding about the Medieval city. You were meant to view it from left to right, from the Bad city to the good city. The wall devoted to the Bad city is a reminder of the "Landscape of Fear" mentioned earlier from which society had emerged. It is inhabited by monsters, commonly reported in the harder times before the year 1000. Flying above the city gate is a ragged harpy figure labeled "Timor", or Fear, who brandishes a sword and carries a sign reading "Because each seeks only his own good, in this city, Justice is subjected to Tyranny; wherefore along this road nobody passes without fearing for his life, since there are robberies outside and inside the city gates." Below her we see the countryside ablaze with burning buildings and looting, abandoned fields, bridges blocked by soldiers. The gate to the city is also blocked by soldiers and inside the city is a mess, buildings are being torn apart, people are fighting, women are being raped. This city is like Dante's description of hell as "una citta dolente," a suffering city, and lives up to the city of the old feudal order. Next to the scene of the Bad city are the allegories of bad government with the horned figure of Tyranny in the center and with Justice bond at his or her feet.
    On the next wall is the allegorical chart of Good Government where the figure of Justice as a fulcrum for the scales, is balanced with the crowned figure of il Buon Comun (the common good); they are linked by a rope, which passes by a figure named Concord (a pun for "with the rope") and 24 well-fed figures holding on to the rope in solidarity. The figure of peace, lounging on armor occupies the center of the composition and has given her name to the room. The appeal to justice is everywhere: "This holy virtue (justice) wherever she rules, induces to unity the many souls of citizens and they gather together for such a purpose to make the Common Good their Lord. Quite literally common good has precedence over self-interest. The picture makes clear that this is not a regime based on amnesty: justice is seen beheading those who deserve it and opposite the burghers is the city's militia having captured the thieves and enemies of the state and put them in chains: one of the major construction projects of the age will be the prison added to the rear of the Palazzo Pubblico.
    Finally there is the portrait of the Good city, an idealization of Siena that showed it not in realistic detail but in rhetorical detail. As an answer to the other wall's Timor is the inscription Securitas (safety) and a blithe victory figure semi-clad holding a gallows and flying over the city gate with the inscription: "Without fear every man may travel freely and each may till and sow, so long as this commune shall maintain this lady Justice as sovereign, for she has stripped the wicked of all power." The composition is divided into two equal parts as if to say that the good city is an isomorphic balance of the city with its territory.
    Inside the walls of the city, which has only a few identifiable details that make it Siena, like the campanile of the Duomo and the figure of the she-wolf over the gate. It is quite interesting that unlike renaissance views of the ideal city, Lorenzetti's ideal city boisterously full of people, dense to the point of bursting with a heterogenious variety of buildings, and unfinished. The message is much more about letting things be than forcing them into a new geometric order. There are no spaces as coherent as the Piazza del Campo (which incidently was paved five years after the painting) in the picture, but rather the casual collection of buildings, open at their base for business and with a multitude of windows. The population is a mix of nobles shown on horseback, merchants and shopowners and the popolino or peasants. There are no clergy present, nor any soldiers, which is quite contrary to the demographic statistics which would show several thousand religious people and at least 3000 troops used as police for the Commune. The nobles all seem to be leaving the city--they are free to circulate but in one view are leaving a gate in a wedding party and in another are going out of the gate to the hunt. In the archways of the shops you will find a wine shop where people are playing chess, a goldsmiths, a tailor, a shoemaker, a teacher with his class. The peasants are bringing wood and produce. Merchants have mules loaded with sacks, there are mean and women working on looms in the background. It is a city of work and exchange that is not immune to play or children and seems wonderfully free from conflict. The most bizarre set of out of proportion figures, nine girls dancing while one beats a tamburine, is clearly an allegory perhaps of the harmony of the Noveschi. There were laws against public dancing or wearing suptuous outfits in public. The buildings in the cityscape mostly have biforium windows, with flowerpots in them; there is construction going on, a sign of a healthy economy then as now, since a significant part of the economy was linked to the building trades.
    Outside the gate we find the falconer, whose realistic turning of the body indicates a modern conception of space. Near him is a beggar and farmers bringing pigs and produce to merket. The countryside is well tended with villas and farms. Merchants are coming to the city across a bridge, and everything looks well watered. The allegorical nature of the picture is made clear by the presence of farmers planting in one part of the landscape and harvesting in another. In the distance is the sea, indicating Siena's port town of Talamone. The message is clear that in order to maintain prosperity, the Noveschi must continue to sponsor the maintenance of the roads. As the city had suffered a famine the year before the painting was begun, the abundance of the countryside is clearly a myth, that a coherent water policy was trying to substanstiate. Both the vision of the country and that of the city was recognizable as Siena, yet clearly one in which social conflicts and scarcity had dissolved. The ideology that the regime can justify its monopolization of power only if it serves an accountable system of justice penetrates all levels of this vision
    Today it is a painting which can be enjoyed because it shows what a medieval city and countryside looked like in Italy in the fourteenth century. Other painters showed us interiors or single buildings but Lorenzetti shows us the masons, shopkeepers, shoemakers, tailors, farmers and travellers located within their normal environment.

    The paintings have no perspective as such that we would recognise today. However they do convey spatial recession especially in the countryside sections.

    So far as anybody knows there wasn't another painting like this for at least a century - and what's more there aren't many that have ever been painted which have the impact or significance of this one.

    Sad to say Lorenzetti died of the plague.

    He left behind a painting which is now rated one of the top ten sights in Tuscany. However I'd personally rate it a bit higher than that in terms of its significance in all sorts of different ways.........

    You can see more of the frescos on Wikimedia Commons. There are also a couple of other sites which provide good images of the frescos
    Plus some visitors who have written about it:

    Saturday, 3 April 2010

    Sculpture in the garden at Hoglands, Perry Green

    A view of the the sculpture garden and the rear of Hoglands
    I do like a good sculpture garden. Not only do you get art in the landscape but it also makes me want to draw art in the landscape. Not this week though as Perry Green at the end of March was being absolutely typical - blue skies and sunshine one minute and then grey sky, looming clouds and driving rain the next!

    Below you can find images of a small sample of the Henry Moore sculptures which can be seen in the garden of his former home Hoglands in Perry Green, Hertfordshire. The website provides an interactive map of the garden of Hoglands and where they all are in the garden and the fields around and about.

    The garden and his studios are now open through until the end of August. I'm intending to go back and draw when the weather becomes a tad more reliable!

    There is also an exhibition of his prints and portfolios in the gallery there - see Henry Moore Deluxe: Prints and Portfolios

    You need to ring and book if you want to visit. Visits in the week are guided tours (I'd advise avoiding the school party mornings.) but you are free to wander around on Fridat, Saturday and Sunday.

    This is the link to my Flickr set Henry Moore Sculptures, Hoglands, Perry Green

    Large Standing Figure - Knife Edge 1976 by Henry Moore

    Upscaling Henry Moore at Perry Green

    Family Group 1948-49 by Henry Moore at Perry Green

    The Arch 1963-69 by Henry Moore at Perry Green

    Sheep Piece 1971-72 by Henry Moore

    all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell / courtesy of the Henry Moore Foundation

    For those who are interested:
    • Henry Moore - Resources for Artists is an information site which celebrates his life and work
    • Hoglands by David Mitchinson - is a book about Hoglands but focuses more on Moore and his home than on the sculpture in the garden.

    Friday, 2 April 2010

    Canary Islands - The Virtual Paintout in April

    The number of people participating in The Virtual Paintout each month is growing. In March there were 117 submissions and there were over 100 in both January and February. Of course some people submit more than one but whichever way you look at it that's a very big number.

    All of this means that Bill Guffey needs to look at ways to make this project and blog an exercise which continues to be pleasureable for him rather than onerous.

    Consequently, he's made some changes to how the Virtual Paintout works which we all need to pay attention to. Karin Jurick did pretty much the same sort of thing with her Different Strokes from Different Folks blog so this is pretty much par for the course when it comes to a successful blog project.

    Size your picture correctly

    With Bill now posting well over 100 entries each month, the last thing he needs is to have to adjust the images of people who don't submit them according to the rules. However I gather from Bill that around a third of the submissions are not correctly sized.

    So - if you've not paid attention to the sizing rules in the past, Bill has now highlighted in the sidebar of the Virtual Paintout all the reasons why an image might not get posted. It's worth a careful read!

    Don't forget to make a note of the link to your location

    Bill has also introduced a new rule - which will help those of us (like me) who find a spot and then lose it again. From now on when you submit your picture you also have to submit the link to the view you used.

    I think this is a really great idea for making sure everyone really is participating in a Virtual paintout as opposed to submitting a work they'd already painted - which I gather may have happened.....

    and finally....

    View Larger Map

    Bill Guffey has selected the Canary Islands for the Virtual Paintout in April - which means two islands to look at!