Saturday, 27 November 2010

Townscape: Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden Market by Balthazar Nebot c1744
oil on canvas, 35 x 48¼ in. (86.8 x 122.6 cm.)

Yesterday I was sketching in Covent Garden (see Travels with my Sketchbook) and was reminded of the many artists who have painted Covent Garden Square and market.

This is an eighteenth century painting by Balthazar Nebot of Covent Garden Market.  He did a number of very similar paintings of this view - one of which is in Tate Britain.  This is their description of their painting.
Nebot’s view of Covent Garden looks west towards St Paul’s Church. It records the activities and architecture of Covent Garden which, by the 1730s, was at the heart of London’s artistic community. It was a popular urban subject, also painted by Samuel Scott, amongst others.
The market was first developed in the 1650s. Twenty years later the Earl of Bedford was given permission to ‘hold forever a market in the Piazza on every day in the year except Sundays and Christmas Day for the buying and selling of all manner of fruit, flowers, roots and herbs’.

Paintings of townscapes are fascinating in terms of revealing to the modern eye just how old some buildings are.

The whole of the background of this painting is still in existence - St Paul's Church designed by Inigo Jones is the greek temple looking building left of centre and the brand new Apple Store in Covent Garden now occupied the building on the extreme right (with the colonnades) - which is where I sketched yesterday.  I gather it's the largest Apple Store on the planet!  How things have changed......

This is a description of the artist Balthasar Nebot who was active between active 1730-after 1765 based on that on the Tate website which in turn is based on Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 198.  The links are 
Painter of open-air genre scenes, topographical landscape and some portraits 
Life obscure. Waterhouse (1981, p.255) records that he was of Spanish origin and married in London 1729/30.  Harris (1979, p.160) suggests that he established himself within a circle of genre painters working in and around Convent Garden, including Peter Angellis (q.v., whose subjects of fishmongers' and vegetable-sellers' stalls are close to Nebot's), Joseph van Aken (q.v.) and ?Peter Rysbrack.  Known for his paintings of market scenes in the 1730s
It's always struck me that there are many more artists who specialise in landscapes rather than townscapes - or topographical pictures of towns. 

In future I'm going to try and feature more artists who specialise in this specialist type of "landscape" painting - and to highlight how topographical paintings often tell the story of our culture and history.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

How to draw a tree in a rainforest

One of my favourite nature blogs is Debbie Kotter Caspari's Drawing the Motmot.

This is how to draw a vine-covered tree in the Panama tropical rainforest - while sat in the rain forest. Love the sound track! :)

What's great is the three videos together provide an overview of how a drawing is developed. Those who enjoy drawing trees will enjoy this one.  Note especially that nice big pencil!

These are links to the three videos which follow on from one another.
The embedded video below is the second one.

Debbie's blogging is out of action at the moment.  Her home was blown away in the Oklahoma Tornados this summer and she's got other things to do.  Do let her know if you enjoyed the videos.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Painting snow - in snow

I came across this wonderful short video by artist Lori McNee today - Winter Outdoor Painting Tips for the Plein Air Painter.  She had me from the get go - striding knee deep across snow!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Peter Doig's landscapes and painting process

Peter Doig is a prominent British painter whose work includes landscapes - which are not always related to Britain - often they relate to Canada where he was raised or Trinidad where he lives.

He broke auction records for a living European artist in 2007 when his painting White Canoe sold for $11.7million at Sotheby's.

This is a video of Peter Doig introducing his paintings in his exhibition exhibition at Tate Modern in 2008 and talking about the process of creating art.    This video comes recommended by me.

I've been intrigued by his work for a while and have started to try and find out more him and his approach to painting and landscapes.  If you're interested check out Peter Doig - Resources for Art Lovers - which is very much a work in progress at present.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Arthur Melville's watercolour landscapes

One of the joys of visiting Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900 exhibition when it opened at the Royal Academy of Arts recently was encountering watercolour landscapes by Arthur Melville for the first time.  They are absolutely stunning!  If you are a watercolourist, it's worth going to the exhibition just to stand and stare and absorb what Melville does.

Below is one example - but there are others.

Brig o'Turk, 1893 by Arthur Melville
Watercolour, 60.8 x 86.4 cm

The Robertson Collection, Orkney
Photo The Robertson Collection, Orkney
It looks as if Bruce MacEvoy (Handprint) is also a fan as he's researched Melville and has some information about him on his Handprint site.
Melville's technique (as described by his friend Theodore Roussel) is worth describing: he began by soaking the paper in a bath of diluted chinese white until it was thoroughly impregnated with the color, then let the paper completely dry. He then rewetted the surface, and dropped in pure browns, reds and blues to build the shapes, painting with diffuse blobs of color rather than touches of the brush. Once the values and basic forms were blocked out in this way, Melville gradually intervened with more directed brushstrokes as the paper dried, helping to define forms and figures to produce the final somber, atmospheric effect.
I was so impressedwith Melville that I bought a book about him (Arthur Melville  by Iain Gale ) - in part prompted by yet another stunning landscape on the cover!  His watercolour paintings of Spain - whihc he visited every year from 1890 ubntil his death - and the Mediterranean are amazing.

In truth Melville was never a Glasgow boy proper.  He was older than most of them but did share a kindred spirit.  He'a also been called the Scottish Impressionist - but that's not quite right either.

Between 1890 and 1893 his work transformed.  Gale hypotheses that there was a connection between Melville and the Nabis (Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis became the best known of the group).  This seems to be on the basis that both seemed to have arrived at the same conclusion about how to paint at about the same time - using strong flat areas of colour combined with strong outlines and an element of pattern and decoration.  Melville uses a planar technique and blocks of colour in his watercolours.

Gale suggests that the landscapes he painted in 1893 at Brig o'Turk in the Trossachs should be seen as arrangements in pattern and harmony.  (Brig o'Turk is of course where Millais painted Ruskin's portrait and got to know his wife rather well!)

I'm guessing the reason I feel him appealing is that in reading about his approach in the Gale book,  I can find a lot of resonance with the way I tend to think about landscapes and to draw them.  However I'm nowhere as bold as he is - but it now makes me want to develop confidence in working more in this way since I find it so attractive.

Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880 – 1900 is an exhibition from Glasgow Museums in association with the Royal Academy of Arts.   It is on display in the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts, London until 23 January 2011.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

How to draw and paint trees

Autumn Forest in oil pastels by Martin Stankewitz (How to draw a tree)

The trees are fabulous at the moment - and we should all be out making the most of them as landscape motifs!

For those who need some help in how to approach this, here are some links to very experienced artists and bloggers who have been writing about and drawing trees this year.

Stapleton Kearns -

In the earlier part of 2010, Stapleton was writing about tree anatomy and how to look at trees - to understand their structure - and how to paint trees
He also has some tips for drawing and painting sky holes - those bits of trees that the birdies fly through - and various other aspects of drawing and painting trees
  • Skyholes part 1 - about trying to find some order and relationships within the grouping of sky holes
  • Sky holes 2 - about what colour to paint the sky holes so they don't jump out
  • Sky holes 3 - studies sky holes in paintings by master landscape painters

How to draw a tree -

This is Martin Stankewitz's blog - his emphasis is much more on drawing trees.  His recent posts have included:

Pastel Pointers -

Richard McKinley also has some tips for

    and finally....

    Here's a link to a newspaper article about Stourhead - one of the classic tree landscapes in the UK - which is always renowned for its autumn leaves