14 October 2014

A London collection.

As October rolls in with a chill  and some rain, my days of leisurely picking a painting spot are over.  More gear and preparation are required in this urban weather. Every weekend I look forward to explore this city and its amazing views as the leaves turns to golden. Oh yes, it remains a pain in the rear to live in a rented room with no access to a work space,  the work schedule at the film studio leaves no time for the most basic chores and then, there's the crowds.... Who needs sleep? I do.

Whitechapel, a street that on Saturdays could very well be somewhere in BanglaDesh or Pakistan.

And despite it all,  I'd say I am gathering a decent collection of plein air sketches. They are all 8"x10" because that's the size of the carrier I built. Two of them are on their way to collectors in the USA. One watercolor found a home here in London  and other people have expressed interest. Not bad for a weekend warrior.

"limehouse basin". I like the direct no fuss approach which not surprisingly, came after seeing a Matisse painting at the Courtauld gallery. I could not get it out of my head.
In London, as long as you remain in the urban sprawl, a trolley might be more useful than a backpack to carry things around as I've discovered. Other improvements I've acquired this October: a jacket. In Los Angeles I painted in short sleeves all the time. Here, that's just silly..

As I mentioned in a previous entry the best subject matter in London as far as I can tell :  a) The sky, b) The river Thames in all its glory c) All the rest. When in doubt, look up or head to the water. The architecture is phenomenal all around even when the colors tend to be muted. Early morning is probably the best time to set out to paint.

"Tower Bridge". I dare say Monet was the reference of choice on this one. 

"Greenwich street" Sun drenched this time. SOLD
The passers-by have been nothing but nice, well, with the usual exceptions of the drunk guy dismissing my lack of realism or the Chinese lady insisting I comprehend what she says..in Chinese.

One funny thing, the Brits seem to have a thing for accuracy, precise drawing and careful technique. Also, watercolor occupies a higher rank here than in the U.S.,   by a long  stretch. Even the casual observers feel the need to point out and search for details I might have missed or miss-observed. One guy asked where did I see pink in the sky (he seemed satisfied with my mumbled answer: something about "vibration of color"). Another was surprised I considered a painting done.  I hadn't added numbers to a clock  in the church tower.  Almost 50% asked me for my card or number. Only one gentleman actually called back but the call ended in a sale.

"Waterloo Place" A watercolor done in haste after a whole lot of rain allowed the sun to come out splendidly.

Sketching also has deep roots here. I've seen others do it. You could look at people all day and never tire of drawing. If nothing else, every artists visiting London should have a sketchbook at all times. Museums allow sketching as well even if it has to be with dry media. The city urban furniture is a bit lacking in benches but there's coffee shops galore.

Vauxhall train station sketched from a Starbucks, a much maligned coffee chain. 

And of course there are the museums which would require a few blog entries each. From the incredible Wallace Collection to the Courtauld Institute, from the Royal Academy to the Soane Museum...it never ends. Most are free but the temporary exhibits will cost you a pretty penny.
Anselm Kiefer, Turner, Constable and Egon Schiele are some of the blockbuster shows on view. 

My sketchbook at the Royal Academy well appointed cafeteria.

Isn't it always fascinating when you go to a place and realize that the native artists of the place were quite exact portraying their environment?  If you've seen early Flemish paintings you've seen the thin poplars, the bug-eyed pale women, the tight lips...and you'd think it's all the product of an artistic "style". Only when you get to Belgium, you notice the artists weren't making it up. Same with Italian, Spanish, French art. So when I painted this little study of the Syon House in Richmond, it struck me because it wouldn't look out of place among those English paintings of country states popularized in the XVIII century. Just add cows. My palette has become a lot cooler as well.

"Syon House from Kew" The Thames is the river in the front.

Mary Le Strand. A church in a traffic island. watercolor