On entering the studio we immediately got down to work. John had decided we would do a painting in Sepia. Unfortunately, he hadn’t added it to our list and didn’t have much left of his own to give out. Fortunately, another artist had some and this was shared out. This is quite a powerful medium and not a lot was needed.
We drew out the scene and then followed John, as he talked us through building the picture up tonally; starting with some light washes, then adding darker tones. We had to be careful to make sure that areas dried properly; using a hair drier where needed.
Slowly the picture came together and we picked up several useful tips, such as how he did the water on a pond. Again, he emphasised the use of shadows to bring the picture to life. He even walked us through the scene, as if it was real, talking about the people going into the pub and general village life.
Another fascinating session that will prove useful in future paintings and a chance to work tonally without having to worry about colours.
After lunch I decided to leave early so as not to have to negotiate the narrow country lanes in the dark. I arrived at my stop over hotel early and this gave me a chance to finish the sketch of the boathouse I had done the day before. Using my memory and the colours used in the studio, I was able to complete the painting. I even had some paint left, so did a quick painting of the pond at the end of the lane near the studio.
On reflection, this was a fantastic experience and if I decided to attend one again, I wouldn’t be as apprehensive. The hotel was excellent,as were the facilities and food. You could not wish for a better location, especially as we were so lucky with the November weather. The hosts couldn’t have been any more helpful and even the owners of the nearby cottage came and complimented our work. The other artists were a friendly bunch and we all got on very well.
There was a range of abilities amongst the people who attended but everyone learnt something and came away with renewed vigour to carry on painting. It was interesting to see everyone do the same scene but with different results because of their personal styles. I wasn’t used to using a large brush so freely and did tend to resort to a smaller one for better control at times.
Two of the artists had attended one of John’s courses before and they produced excellent results all the time . Others of us found it hard to always get the right colour even though we were using the same mix. It came easy to John, after painting for over thirty years, and even though he told us which colours to use, his experience meant that he got it right all the time. Another artist was working quite small and when switching to larger paper started to really understand John’s style and develop his own.
To sum up a couple of things I would change, mainly to the list of materials sent out. Otherwise, you couldn’t wish for a better tutor or place to stay for a painting course. I was very lucky to win this as a prize and was very grateful for the experience.
Going into the studio this morning, we were excited to see what lay ahead of us. John had decided to show us how to use the pen that he provided us with. This was a matchstick, stuck in the end of a piece of cane! No expense spared in this instance, and we got to keep them!
We went outside, just down the lane, where he sat and sketched a cottage whilst we watched or did a quick pencil sketch of our own. This showed his draughtsmanship, as he sketched the scene straight away in ink without any pencil guidelines, something I wouldn’t fancy doing.
,We went back and followed him as he first drew the scene and then added colour. It was interesting to see his composition as most of us had concentrated on the cottage, whereas he had considered the whole scene and how it would work as a picture.
We started to draw from the left side, so as not to smudge our work, using the tool to create a range of marks. It proved a useful piece of equipment and meant that you could get a range of lines without it being too uniform. I found it an enjoyable experience and will look forward to developing this style in future.
It was interesting as he told us several things to help us with the composition; like where he added a car on the road to stop our eyes from going off the page, or the use of figures to add scale. Another important thing was the use of shadows to give a structure to the painting, something he always emphasised.
I was quite pleased with my first attempt at this style but felt I had overworked the tree on the left, before I got used to the mark making.
After lunch the weather had improved and we set off again to Burnham Overy Boathouse. Again, we picked our own scene to sketch. I liked the view from the carpark. Unfortunately, as I started working, the sun came out and I was staring straight into it. This made sketching quite difficult, as I had to keep squinting into it. I did manage a quick pen and ink drawing, using a pen, as I didn’t fancy sitting with an open ink bottle! With my luck, it was likely to spill over my clothes. I also managed to do a quick pencil drawing using the same viewpoint as John.
,Upon returning to the studio we then watched John paint the scene he had sketched. We could follow him or use our own sketch. I decided to do a little bit of both. It was fascinating to see him remember the colours, making slight adjustments to tone etc to bring the painting together.
Again, I was quite pleased with my finished picture but was impressed with the slightly different viewpoint John chose, as the affect was quite dramatic. Also, it was interesting to see what he decided to leave out or add to the picture.
A busy day and there was still another session the next day to look forward to.
We were lucky that the weather was quite good for the time of year and we all set off for our first attempt at using our acquired knowledge to paint outdoors. We soon arrived at a small coastal seafront. As we looked out over the mud flats, boats, water and buildings ,the decision became what was the best composition. Having painted buildings earlier, I decided to use this theme again, as well as to include some of the landscape.
After quickly sketching it out, I started by adding the sky. Fortunately, it didn’t fade too much this time. Using broad brush strokes, I then added the foliage and water before carefully painting the buildings and a boat. This all went quite well and I was pleased with the result.
It was soon time for some lunch and we went to a local pub for some food. After a large breakfast, the simple homemade soup was welcome. We then returned to the studio for a quick appraisal of our work. I was pleased that John also thought my painting had been successful and only needed a couple of quick tweaks to finish it off.
Once we back at the hotel, it was time for another paint along session. This time John used a sketch he had drawn on the trip and we painted along with him. This went reasonably well until the end when ,feeling quite tired, I added a sign-come- lamppost on the left, which seemed to keep growing. I wasn’t pleased with this painting, but even John admitted that he wasn’t as keen on the subject matter he had chosen either and his painting was far superior to mine!
I have to admit to being envious at how he manages to find and mix colours from his paint box. However, after thirty years of painting in this style, it must be easy for him. At the moment though, it is beyond me!
A couple of days later I added pen and ink to it and on reflection would cut the picture down to size to remove part of the left side.
At the evening meal we had a chance to discuss the day and the atmosphere around the table was enjoyable with lots of shared experiences. It was interesting to find out about the other artists' work and interests. It was then time for an early night, as we would have a busy day ahead of us.
After a busy time, it’s good to have a chance to catch up with my thoughts on the last few weeks. My exhibition went well, even if the weather wasn’t always kind. I managed to sell about fifteen paintings and the cards I made went well. Lots of good comments about my work and a chance to talk to some old friends and make some new ones. I must say at the end of the four weeks I have changed my mind about the idea of ever working in a gallery. Even though we were only there for three to four hours, three days a week it was hard work; at times it was very quiet and at others quite busy.
I was also lucky enough to win a painting holiday at the Big Sky Hotel in Norfolk, from a competition that I had entered in Painters on Line. I chose to go in November, partly because of other commitments and partly because of the course offered in Watercolour and Pen and Ink. I use these for my small studies but mainly as reference material or small studies. I have not done a large watercolour for over twenty years.
I was a little nervous about this endeavour, partly because I had never done anything like this before and partly because of the distance and chances of inclement weather. I decided to split the journey in half and arrived on the Monday at the hotel early. The Sat Nav had problems on the small country roads and I had to go back to the information sheet for instructions.
I was greeted by the owner with a warm welcome and being the first to arrive had a chance to walk around the grounds. The Hotel and surroundings were exceptional and after a rest, I met my fellow artists and guests and we had our first meeting at four o clock. As all of us were artists, there was an immediate bond and we were soon getting to know each other. We met the tutor John Hoar and his wife before going to our rooms to prepare for the evening meal. This night, as with the meals that followed, were superb.
After the evening meal, we were treated to a demonstration by John, which proved to be impressive. He was supported by his wife, almost as a double act, as she reminded him of things he needed to say at times. An entertaining and thoughtful start to the course, watching how his picture developed.
The next day was our chance to do our first watercolour in a paint along session. I found this quite hard at times, as he used a different range of colours from what I was used to. My sky, which I was quite pleased with, almost vanished as it dried; something for me to remember in future.
I also found it hard to mix my greens using Raw Sienna and Winsor Blue; a task he found quite easy. As well as these two colours, our paints for the course included, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Payne's Grey, Alizarin Crimson and Light Red, as well as Hookers Green for two Land Rovers.
Having not attended any of these before, I took everything I could think of with me, but found that I needed a larger water container, which was solved when I raided the kitchen for and empty milk bottle; also a mid sized brush and a better mixing palette.
My first painting had some areas I liked and others I felt that I could have done better. Hopefully the next one will give me a chance to use the knowledge I have gained.
Just over six weeks now, since we returned and by the Spirit will have left the fleet going to another company. We have been on the Spirit twice before and on boarding, it was like meeting an old friend. Not being too big, it was easy to find our way round again and our favourite band was still playing in the top bar area.
It was a little strange because in the past we had sailed in school holidays and this time there were no children on board. In fact the first week seemed like it was full of all the grandparents enjoying their freedom now that the grandchildren they had been looking after had gone back to school. On the second week a few children did board the ship though.
The entertainment crew must have been the hardest working ones we had ever seen putting on more shows than ever, although it was the first time that a couple of the shows had been repeated on the second week. The top bar had a slightly different feel to it because of the age range on the ship and there were times when it was hard to find a seat. When we had to share a table we were soon in conversation, sharing holiday and cruise stories and general conversation
As with all holidays, there were individuals who you seemed to keep noticing, the man with his Hawaiian shirts, the lady and gentleman who always wore the same hat or the gentleman who wore cowboy shirts and enjoyed his dancing. These made good subject matter for sketching.
We always enjoy Marella cruises because we like the idea of only one sea day and waking up in a new port each day. This cruise visited a number of towns we had never been to and having had a brief glimpse of the places there were a few that we would look forward to visiting again.
As well as the busy days in port, there were several lounges to relax in and again these gave me plenty of chances for quick sketches,
The ship was a little worn in places but always a pleasure to sail in. Some guests even came on this cruise just to say goodbye to it as it brought back so many happy memories. We chose it because of where it was going not knowing about this being its last month. We will now have to look forward to going on the Dream or another one in the fleet and see if these have the same friendly feeing.
Our first port of call was Lisbon. On our travels we like to try different ways of getting around. Here we decided to go on a Tuk-Tuk, which proved to be nothing like the ones you see in some movies.It was the upmarket electric version, leather seats etc and apparently cost about £24,000 plus £4000 for the battery. This was a fantastic way to go around the narrow streets and a fortunate choice as the taxis were on strike. The views from the vantage points were impressive as were the churches we visited, one's interior being completely covered in gold.
After getting back to the ship, we had time to go for a walk to see more of the town. It was interesting to see that one man was building stone sculptures from the rocks and people were giving him money. Another fascinating structure that we saw, was the lift to take you from the lower town to the upper one, unfortunately there was a long queue here, so we had t give it a miss.
A city we would certainly return to for a few days in future.
At Portimao, we had a choice of visiting the town or getting a coach to the seaside town of Pria-da Rocha. Fortunately, we decided to go to the coast and it was a nice change to wander along a seaside resort, taking in the different sights. It also gave us a chance to pick up a few souvenirs.
At the far end of our walk, were smaller inlets to sunbathe in and these were very pretty. As we walked back along the beach the scenery changed and here the coastline was flat and the bars all had their own sunbathing areas. Strangely, the further we walked towards the harbour, a loud thumping beat could be heard and as we came closer its volume increased. This proved to be a large concert area, with hundreds of young people dancing the day away in a cordoned off area. As well as the music, there was a large pool and other facilities. Unfortunately, we hadn't packed our disco shoes and had to get the coach back to the ship, otherwise it would have been our first rave!
In Cadiz we decided to explore the town ourselves. After leaving the ship, we came across the local tourist office. They were giving out maps of the town and we were impressed to find out that on the floor, there were several coloured trails you could follow; depending on what you wanted to see and the time you had.
We set off on the first one and found ourselves in a large square, where a craft market was being set up. After that, we were exploring several narrow streets. We finished one trail and decided to try another. Looking out for the painted lines was great fun, even if they crossed at times or were a little worn. We certainly found parts of the town we otherwise wouldn't have seen.
The architecture was stunning and we even managed to fit in a quick visit to the art gallery, showing more traditional art. Another very impressive town and following the marked routes was a good idea and one that other towns could take on board. These were very helpful and would allow tourists to enjoy their visit more.
Our final port of Gibraltar, proved to be the one that split people's opinions. We booked a tour to the Rock as this was the main attraction that you hear about before you go. This proved to be badly organised as we arrived an hour and a half before the cable car was due to start running.
Fortunately, the driver of our shuttle bus. managed to persuade them to let us go up quite quickly. On arriving, we then found the facilities weren't open as well. Here again, the staff decided to open early for which we were very thankful. As it was rather foggy and cold up at the top with a non existent view. The only thing to do then was sit and drink lots of hot coffee for a while.
Eventually, we ventured outside to see the apes. The ones near the café appeared well fed and were quite docile but as you ventured further away, they were a lot more lively. This trip was partly spoilt by the low cloud and cold, but the whole upper rock seemed run down. I know it is a ruined fortress but there was rubbish everywhere and some of the apes were just rooting through it. Although there was more to see it was hard to venture further because of poor visibility, which was a shame as I'm sure there were some quite interesting things to see.
We went back down on the cable car and once below the cloud, it was pleasantly warm. As we wandered along the main street, it felt very familiar with Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencer and many of the high street stores found at home. Although a tax free port the prices seemed very similar apart from alcohol which was a lot cheaper.
As the day progressed, we knew that it wasn't going to be one of those golden visits. What with the disappointing start and then when we went into a café for something to eat and ordered two pancakes, Sue's arrived first and I waited and waited for mine. Sue had eaten hers before the waitress came and told us that the machine had broken and I never got one!
We left the café and wandered to a large square, which was very lively, and decided to look for the small craft outlets advertised on the upper floor of a craft market. As you can imagine, most of these were closed, but we did have a good view of the start of a small re-enactment by the colonial soldiers.
We then decided to make our way back to the ship, which proved to be quite a difficult task. As we had travelled into the town centre by shuttle bus and leaving on foot, we had to rely on the map given to us on the ship. The area itself was poorly signposted and as I have mentioned before in previous blogs, the maps weren't very good! In our wanderings and after taking many a wrong turn, we did come across the modern port area, which was impressive and then fortunately saw the ships entertainment officer and managed to follow him!
When talking to fellow passengers, we found that some liked the idea of all the local shops and English surroundings, whereas others enjoyed other ports where there was a local feel. We were a little disappointed with the day and could only sit and wish we could have gone up the Rock later in the day, as the clouds disappeared, and maybe then, we would see why people love the town.
Arriving in Porto and having talked to people who had been there before, we decided to catch a Hop on Hop off bus to see the sights.
As we set off along the shore, we immediately saw a sculpture based on a tragedy at sea. The sea at this time was quite rough and you could imagine the plight of these women as they waited for their fishermen husbands and fathers to return.
Further along the coast was a large sculpture, which was a tribute to the sea. This was a large net like structure, which apparently was even more impressive at night when it's lit up. ( I have picture of this later on in the blog)
Along the bus route, we had an excellent tour of the town, taking in all the landmarks. It was difficult deciding where to get off, not really knowing what we wanted to see and being short of time. We mainly used this as a way of deciding if we would like to return for a short break. Some very nice buildings and a few that were in need of some TLC.
Eventually, we saw the Contemporary Art Gallery mentioned and it seemed interesting as it was also a park with outdoor sculptures. As well as giving us a cultural fix, it also gave us a chance to have a walk in the sunshine.
The Serralves Foundation’s Museum of Contemporary Art is very much on the international art map. The building alone is worth a visit – a masterpiece by Álvaro Siza Museu Romântico Vieira. It plays host to exhibitions showcasing Portuguese artists and others from around the world. These arty indoor treats are complemented by the beautiful surrounding park and the magnificent art deco house.
As we entered the grounds, we were immediately faced with a large sculpture near the entrance. This obviously intrigued us and even though there was a cost to enter the gallery, it proved to be well worthwhile.
The first room we entered displayed a selection of models of outside space sculptures, made by Anish Kapoor, a British sculptor. Born in Bombay, Kapoor has lived and worked in London since the early 1970s. I had seen pictures of his Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago, but did not realise that he had produced so much work in cities around the world.
To see his ideas as models gave a good insight into his thought process.
The next room focused on the work of Gilbert and George and this was the first time I had seen a retrospective of their work and it proved to be quite impressive.
Two more rooms followed with some humorous sculptures in one and a photographic exhibition in the other. I always find it hard to decide why some photographs are chosen, as being worthy of an exhibit whilst, to me being similar to ones anyone can take. At other times I am in awe of the photographers subject matter or view of the world.
After viewing the galleries we decided to wander around the park using a map of where to view the sculptures. Having only a short time left, before having to catch the bus, we were selective over the area we could cover. Some sculptures were quirky whilst others, such as the mirrors and stairway, involved the viewer. These made the walk more interesting and it was a shame we didn't have longer to explore. I did get a chance to capture a quick sketch of one of the landscaped features though.
The ship was only a short distance away but in the heat of the afternoon, we decided to catch the bus back. We were surprised to see that, as we approached the dock, everything was cloaked in a mist from the sea. The seagulls seemed quite happy though. In the distance you can see the sculpture mentioned earlier.
Another enjoyable visit to a city. Not one we may go back to as some others we had visited would be higher up our list. A super art gallery and a range of artwork we would never have expected to see.