It rained most of yesterday, which didn't bode well for today. Woke up to wet, overcast morning and gathered the last of my painting kit together. By 7am when I left the house the sun was just breaking through and the wind was getting up too. Walking and carrying easel, canvas, box of paint and tools and a backpack with water and cleanup kit to the station, my shoulders were aching badly.
Feeling apprehensive with the fear of failure that precedes the creative unknown. Crazy, as there is no pressure to produce anything and whose to judge anyway?
I had prepared a roughly 3' x 2' canvas with a golden yellow with the vague idea of creating yellow palette tones in the distance and more darks to the foreground - we'll see....
Arrived at Chelsea Old Town Hall with 15 minutes to spare. Queue forming in corridor, so went for a coffee near by. Interesting to see the different means of transporting kit other artists use as they arrived. Wheelie bags are popular (and sensible) along with back pack, pochade box easel and canvas carriers.
Meet a few familiar faces along the way to registration, volunteers and artists (but I don't know anyones name!). Buy a newspaper for collage, then stop off for water to drink and they kindly filled my gallon container with tap water for painting too. I walk down to the embankment. Looking left to Chelsea Bridge looks great but I reccy back to Albert Bridge and look West but still prefer my original view so head back and set up by 'lamp 50' East of Albert Bridge.
Start by making small compositional studies in my sketchbook to decide on the layout. Then start flicking through the newspaper to cutout headings and pieces to stick on to the canvas to start establishing the layers. This helps build the layout and gives some structure and texture to imagine the scene appearing from. It doesn't matter how far out it is, it can all be painted over and adds to the richness of the result. Next a build up of bold washes using a large varnishing brush and not being too fussy. Some rollered areas add more texture and composition.
After layering more dark washes and scraped inks I wanted to establish the silhouette of the buildings that form the main focus by painting a lighter 'sky' behind them. This I did by cutting the shape out of paper and scraping up brighter painter over the 'stencil' leaving the buildings dark. It took three goes and drawing and cutting stencils before I got one I was happy to use and fortunately this work well. After pushing and pulling the less defined silhouettes either side I started working in fine detail - dark first - with fine lining brushes using the straight edge of my paint box tray as a guide. When the darks were done I was able to do the same with some light details such as the cables on Chelsea Bridge.
With the main structure well established by now I moved all over the painting adding smaller details and washes to balance things out.
By now the weather was threatening and some other artists had already left. I worked on for a bit then started to pack up. Before I finally took the easel down I stood back for one more look and decided it might be improved with a lighter central streak to add emphasis to the central focus and divide it more clearly into three areas. It was a scary thing to do at such a late stage, running a loaded 4 inch roller across the centre sky and water but I'm glad I did as it has added greatly to the impact I intended.
Comments from the few people that have seen it as I handed it in for the exhibition have been positive so I will be interested to see how it fares tomorrow in the exhibition and sale.
I thought there was a higher standard of painting generally from the artists I saw painting mostly the West side of Albert Bridge. Mostly small oils on pochade boxes but some looking very nice in their unfinished state.