Sunday, 12 May 2013

Seville 3

The urns in the palace gardens made great painting subjects. My first attempt was an 8x16in, focusing exclusively on the urn and framed nicely by the dark foliage. The sun couldn't decide whether to stay in or out but I opted for a 'sun in' rather than 'sun out'.

'Urn study, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (8x16in, oil on board)

'Fountain and urns, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (10x14in, oil on board)
It was the sense of light/heat that I wanted to nail in this piece and I was lucky to find a spot where I could paint in the shade. I liked the contrast of the architectural structures with the more organic elements of foliage. Once again, palm placement needed to be thought out and close observation of tone/temperature was needed. The sunlit paving area in the foreground was surprisingly cool compared to the path in the middle distance. It was nice to have the complimentary blue/orange notes from the urn pillars and benches. Quite a lot of drawing too for a subject that appears quite simple. 

'Garden fountain with urns, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (10x14in, oil on board)
I was so taken with the urns I fancied another shot and this was my last painting in the Royal Palace gardens. I thought the tall hedges and palms made it sufficiently interesting to warrant another attempt.  Notice the hint of warm reflected light on the underside of the fountain. Light seemed to bounce into all sorts of places and it was great fun to paint. I decided not to put in the lady with an iPad who decided to sit against the urn pillar for the best part of 20 minutes.

'Plaza De Alianza, Seville' (9x10in, oil on board)
Another one that was too good to resist having a go at. The light moved so fast but those cool shadows on white walls were irresistible.
'Puente De Isabel, Seville' (10x13in, oil on board)
Eric and I wanted to try this mid morning view across the river and we found a handy spot of shade behind a large sculpture. There was a loose wooden cycleway over the cobbles behind us and a constant rattle as cyclists went past on their bikes. Still, we didn't have much trouble focusing as it was such a good subject. The light shifted surprisingly quickly and by the end of the session the yellow side of the tower facing us was almost entirely in shadow. It's amazing how many people you see rowing on the river. Apparently it's used as a training destination for many athletes so it seemed wrong not to put one in!
Eric Davis paints the bridge in the relative cool of the shadow from a piece of public sculpture. Eric and Tony kindly treated us all to a barbeque on Eric's roof terrace one evening which coincided with a freak thunderstorm! A quick dash inside and we all had a good laugh :)

'Palm, Evening in Cathedral Square' (8x12in, oil on board)
This was a 'bonus' study, done after a full day at the easel but just enough left in the tank to have a quick go. Behind me were several wedding processions, outside the gates of the Royal Palace. Not a bad place to get married, I'd say! I enjoyed painting palms, they can add quite a dynamic element to the design of a subject. Even though the building on the right is in shadow it was quite light in tone. The palm trunk brought a nice dark punch to the proceedings. The smaller distant trees are Seville orange trees which were dotted around in many places.
It was a great trip with great company/hosts and I now have a real taste for painting in the sunshine. I really wanted to try and capture something of the essence of Seville and say something about the light, colours and atmosphere. I didn't wanted to get too fiddly or fussy with detail and since much of the subject matter demanded plenty of drawing this approach was better suited to the slightly larger formats (mostly 10x13in and 11x14in). I would certainly recommend Seville as a fantastic place to paint, especially this time of year when the temperatures are so pleasant.
The fantastic view from David Bachmann's roof terrace!

Seville 2

We spent a fair amount of time in the grounds of the Royal Palace of Alcazar and despite it being busy with tourists it still felt like an oasis/sanctuary. The Moorish influences are quite evident in the architecture and there are some really impressive plants including palm trees.

'Royal Palace of Alcazar', (12x16in, oil on board)
I really wanted to try a 12x16in of this subject as it allowed for plenty of breathing space with the foliage and foreground fountain. David had painted from the same spot earlier in the week and done a cracking job and I was keen to have a go, albeit with a slightly different light. I really enjoyed it and was conscious of not messing about too much with the colours on the building, especially the shadow colours/tones. The notes of interest/colour from the ceramic work add an extra touch to the subject. It was nice when Tim came to have a look and said I'd captured the sense of heat/light and we departed contentedly for coffee and cake :)
'Royal tennis court, Alcazar' (10x13in, oil on board)
I found a shady spot under the arches of the royal tennis court which was the first tennis court ever built in Spain. Today, you wouldn't know it had been a tennis court but I liked the dappled light, arches and the glimpse of the Giralda behind. It was quite symmetrical so I tried to position things slightly off centre whilst attempting to keep everything balanced. The two palms were positioned either side of the fountain but I shifted them slightly to avoid a 'prison bar' effect! I also played down the red flowers as they would have been too dominant. The notes of red complimented the green foliage quite nicely.
One of the many elaborate courtyards. Our pass allowed us to paint in the gardens but it was nice to wander round the palace every now and again.

I'm actually quite relieved we didn't have to take on some of those complex arches!

David Bachmann and Tim King enjoying their painting in the grounds.

The statue of Mercury is a lovely feature and was painted by Sorolla. It was VERY busy around the water tank and I managed one early morning study before the masses arrived. I would've liked to have painted it in the evening light (as per the photo above) but that'll have to wait for another trip.

There were amazing ceramic tiles throughout the palace grounds. This is one of the benches!
Another lovely urn in the early morning sunlight. If it wasn't for being one of the busiest spots in the palace I would have stayed to paint this.
'View from raised walkway, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (8x10in, oil on board)
The piece above was painted from a narrow, covered walkway which gets extremely busy with tourists. I managed to get something down before it got too crowded. I moved the palms a bit to improve the composition. There was a water organ below where I was standing and it kept repeating the same tune which I couldn't get out of my head for hours!
'Cenador Del Leon, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (10x13in, oil on board)
I liked the way this pavilion nestled amongst the foliage from this angle. The cloudy conditions allowed me to focus on the subtle range of greens and the earthy red on the building contrasted quite nicely against this.

'It's not supposed to rain in May, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (10x13in, oil on board)
Well, the title sums up this session. In fact, I quite enjoyed working with the closer tones and trying to pull everything together. I was conscious of not wanting to have a forced tunnel composition so I used the figures and foliage to try and break things up a bit. Owing to the conditions it's not quite as finished as I like and I might need to tidy up a couple of areas but I prefer not to fiddle once away from the subject.
Once the paint started to emulsify it was time to get the umbrella out!

'Statue of Mercury, Royal Palace of Alcazar' (8x15in, oil on board)
Back to the sunshine! It was quite a challenge judging the colour of rendered walls in shadow. The more you looked at them the more they changed! The deep, naples yellow glowed in sunlight and the shadows had an unusual warmth and even greenish tint. You can just make out the cascade of water on the right which came from a raised outlet and dropped into the tank. For some reason it got switched off later in the day but it did make for some nice ripples on the water surface. There were other times of day when it would have been good to tackle this subject but the early morning slot provided some shade and a quiet hour or so before the tourists flocked in. The shadow behind moved very quickly indeed. At the start it looked like this:
Quite shady and the patterns on the wall were too 'messy' for my liking. The statue would contrast better against a brightly lit wall (and we'd clocked that the sun would do exactly that within the hour).

Towards the end, after about 1.5 hours...a completely different scene!
This was one of those subjects where it made more sense to map the drawing in with a bit more care at the start and then work in the colours and tones once the light had settled to the ideal level.





Just returned from a great few days painting with friends in the beautiful city of Seville. Amongst the painting crew and providing some fine company were Tim King, Mike Richardson, Tony Dakin , Eric Davis and our fantastic host David Bachmann. David lives with his family in the heart of Seville and both he and his wife Herme are talented artists.

It makes such a difference when there's plenty of sunshine on tap, that's for sure! Mind you, even on the couple of cloudy days we had at the start there were painting subjects to be found. The sun can be quite fierce (mid to high 80's) so we were always looking for shady spots to paint under. Tim was the only one of us who had a decent umbrella shade, constructed in a self confessed 'Heath Robinson' manner (often they're the best!). Admittedly I'm yet to crack the tripod/umbrella conundrum.

David kindly provided us with special passes to the Royal Palace of Alcazar which became one of my favourite painting spots throughout the week. With fabulous architecture and stunning gardens it's a visual feast. I loved the detailing in the ceramic tiles and urns. There were lots of tourists but we soon discovered a knack for finding quieter/shady spots. Towards the end of the day it became ever more peaceful and I have fond memories of painting the urns from the cool shade and listening to the birds with water trickling from the elaborate fountains. Bliss!

(You can enlarge the images below by clicking on them).

There was so much drawing in the painting below but I wanted to have a crack at it as the wedge shaped building was so imposing and the perspective was quite a challenge. I decided to crop off the dome at the top as I preferred the composition without too much sky and didn't want to paint too small and fiddly. Once again, we lucky to find a shady spot. On the left is the side of the gothic cathedral. The raking shadows across the foreground only lasted a few minutes at the start.

'Mid morning from Plaza Nueava, Seville', 11x14in, oil on board

'Palms, Cathedral Square, Seville' (oil on board, 10x13in)
Tim and I spotted these palms on our first scout of the cathedral square and vowed to paint them at some point. With the added bonus of the horse carriages passing by regularly we could use them to our advantage and I enjoyed trying to suggest their essence without fussing over detail. Since they move past quite quickly it made sense not to make them too well defined to give a sense of movement.

'Blackbird bathing - Place Elvira, Seville' 9x10in, oil on board
I liked the way the yellow punched against the dark tree trunk. A little blackbird landed on the fountain for a quick bath towards the end. Very peaceful with the trickling water too!


'Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, Seville', 11x14in, oil on board

This is the bull ring and the light/colours were nice and vibrant. David and I pitched in a spot shown in the photo below and highlights some of the issues involved in selecting a spot to paint from. The main issues here were finding somewhere shady where buses wouldn't park in front of us (in this case solved by being in front of a pedestrian crossing).
Our pitch across the road from the Bull Ring.
'Carriage Station, Seville' (10x13in, oil on board)
The sun kept popping in and out on this painting of a carriage station but I was keen to try and make something of the horse carriages which, of course, kept moving!



'Cypress tree, Cathedral Square, Seville' (oil on board, 8x10in)
The painting above was done in cloudy conditions and it was quite a challenge to make the tones of the white buildings work against the grey(ish) sky. As with much of the subject matter in Seville there was plenty of drawing and subtle shifts in tone and temperature which seem to change quite rapidly.

'Cypress and bell tower, Cathedral Square, Seville' (oil on board, 8x12in)
This is almost the same view painted on a hot day and it wasn't until the end of the session that I realised that the slight warm cast on the shadow side of the building on the right was being created by reflected light from the sun hitting the fa├žade of the adjacent cathedral. One thing I learnt quickly was that you couldn't just rely on general rules (e.g. warm light=cool shadows). I found I needed to look at everything really closely because sometimes the reflected light was so strong it seemed to defy belief. As one of my favourite artists Ken Howard has said, 'paint what you see, not what you know'. 
'Sunny square with parasols, Seville' (10x14in, oil on board)
This was painted around lunchtime and the sun was pretty strong. I really enjoyed this one. The parasols were initially in shadow from the buildings on the right but as the sun moved they became lit and made a nice contrast against the dark windows behind. The building behind with blue tiles was a beauty and there was a lot of drawing (with paint). I really do like that deep yellow you see throughout Seville. Pitching the tone and temperature of it in the shadows is quite tricky and I was mindful of not overstating the yellow too much, otherwise it can dominate. As ever, people offer a few notes of colour interest and the shadowed building on the right helped to accentuate the lights and frame the composition.
I have my serious painting face on (and trusty painting hat) but I was enjoying it!
Tim gets stuck into another winner, no shade this time round though!

Mike adds the finishing touches to a cracking painting of the same view in the cathedral square

Tim in action with his ingenious parasol/umbrella set up, with Eric and David pitched futher back. 

Ah yes, looking more relaxed in the sunshine, Cathedral Square.