Photograph Lefkada, Greece
Leisure Painter readers' work reviewed by Tony Paul
Tony Paul - Posted on 12 Nov 2007
Readers' work reviewed
Tony Paul comments on work inspired by Eric Bottomley's Painting Project in the June 2007 issue of Leisure Painter
Eric Bottomley Lefkada, Greece,
oil on board, 17x17in. (43.5x43.5cm)
It is always a pleasure to see Eric Bottomley’s work in Leisure Painter. In all Eric’s work he is concerned with capturing the effects of light. His painting in oil (left), developed from the photograph, not only captures the languid quality of the scene, but also gives a greater feel of the heat of the day than does the photograph.
There was an excellent response to this Painting Project, mainly comprising watercolour paintings, as is often the case with projects. From the paintings received we selected four paintings for review.
Jean O'Grady, Figure 1, watercolour, 91/2x8in (24x20.5cm)
The first picture is a watercolour by Jean O’Grady (Figure 1, right). Jean has been painting for 15 years but has had no formal training other than the tutorials given in LP, and the occasional painting holiday or course.
Her picture captures the atmosphere of the subject perfectly. Eric’s painting was square, while the photograph and his initial drawing (above) were landscape shaped. By extending sky and water vertically Jean has made the painting a portrait shape. I quite like vertical shaped landscapes and in this case it works well.
As the waterline is exactly halfway, which in the ‘book of rules’ is considered a bad idea, some might say that the composition would have been improved by pushing it up or down an inch or so to break the equality. I don’t mind it as it is. I think it adds to the sense of balance and tranquillity, and anyway some of the best paintings break the rules.
I love the wonderful granulation in the sky and sea – cerulean with a suspicion of permanent rose nearer the skyline. The colour of the hills blends into this, and forms a good tonal contrast to the warm-coloured buildings across the water.
The underlying drawing is sound, the perspective of the buildings reads well, but the line of the near quayside is steeper, putting us closer to its edge. The joints of the edging stones are, however, wrongly angled, and appear tipped up.
The buildings have been painted simply. The photograph shows an incredibly cluttered quayside. In his drawing and painting Eric simplified this, putting in the more prominent elements but otherwise just adding patches of colour and tone to imply the complexity of the area. I am pleased that Jean has done the same and, although perhaps of a more focused quality, it works just as well.
The water itself is a little bland and the shape of the building’s reflection is too solid. I also feel that gentle ripples in the foreground would have given a more watery impression.
The boat shows one of the most common errors I come across – painting what you know, rather than what you see. We know the boat is white, but it doesn’t look white. In the photograph it is greyish, of a darker tone than the buildings, and its reflection is darker still. Looking closely at Jean’s original painting (it might not be as obvious in reproduction) the reflection was originally painted darker, perhaps as dark as in the photograph, but appears to have been lifted out to give a lighter tone. Had the boat’s hull been greyer the original reflection would have been fine.
Finally, Jean has used black ink to draw certain lines and water ripples. The ripples are too hard and do not relate to the rest of the painting, and the lines, subdued as they are, do not add any value. However, despite the errors, Jean has produced a super watercolour.
Good oil colours
David Hall Figure 2, oil, 111/2x16in. (29x40.5cm)
David Hall has used oil paint for his version of the subject (Figure 2, left). He has made the buildings more prominent with the effect that they appear closer. The underlying drawing is reasonably sound, perhaps except for the right-hand building, the roof of which is a little out.
I like David’s use of colour. There is a sunny feel from the Naples yellow in the buildings varied with cadmium red and burnt sienna and blue grey detail – very early Monet. These colours work well against the greeny blues of the distant water and the soft purples of the mountains.
The boat is well represented, the shadowed waist and adjacent post telling against the water beyond. I also like the building’s reflection in the water – cadmium red and Naples yellow streaked through with a blue grey reflection of a mast. It is interesting to see another Monet technique in use – that of painting similar toned but different colours in separate touches close together to give a shimmering effect. This can be seen in the water just above the bow of the boat.
As with Jean’s painting I feel that the reflection of the boat isn’t dark enough. Somehow it doesn’t read as a reflection.
Throughout the painting David has kept his technique fairly loose, but I feel that the paint has been mixed with too much Liquin, presumably to make it dry quickly, which has given the surface a rather unpleasant greasy look.
Ada Percy Figure 3, oil, 12x16in. (30.5x40.5cm)
Ada Percy’s oil painting, (Figure 3, right) comes closest to Eric’s demonstration painting in character. We have the bright light on the buildings while the boat is largely in shadow. The boat’s reflection works well and the water appears to be gently rippling. The boat itself has a great sense of form; it looks solid and shapely with a sensitively dished deck.
The perspective in the buildings is a little flat, but Ada has given us a textbook example of how to suggest the complex ground floor areas of the buildings without the use of overpowering detail.
As with David’s painting there is a hint of Monet in the treatment of the mountains. Their basically purplish hue has been broken with patches of pink of about the same tone. The two colours spark off one another to give great vibrancy. However, I feel that the darker wedge shaped area of the nearer mountain is too hard, pulling forward too much.
There is only one other weak area – that of the buildings’ reflection, which is rather amorphous. Breaking its surface with ripples, as Eric has done, would have solved the problem.
Julie Edwards has used acrylic to paint her impression of the subject (Figure 4, below left) different in atmosphere to both Eric’s and Jean’s tranquil versions. Her painting is Lefkada at its most vibrant, buzzing – perhaps in a different season.
Julie Edwards Figure 4, acrylic, 14x10in. (35.5x25.5cm)
Julie has used expressive brushwork often scratching into it with the handle of the brush. The vivacity of the brushwork is astounding. She has successfully altered the angle of the boat and also changed the composition. The boat virtually fills the foreground and it seems to have been moved forward a few metres so that the buildings are more directly above it. The perspective, too, is different. Our eye level is higher – at about first floor level. Changing this has dramatically changed our understanding of the size of the boat from a small boat that would take five people at a pinch it has become a launch for 20 or more. If you cover up the buildings the boat reverts to a five-seater. This effect occurs because there are two perspectives in the painting: 1) the boat; and 2) the landscape.
It is quite clear that Julie likes texture, her work is more about paint than likeness to subject and I would hate her to lose this vivacity, so I shall just say that her colour sense is good, she is not afraid to blend or overlay different colours and work the surface hard. In the main this has been successful. It would be interesting to see how her work develops.
This feature is from the December 2007 issue of Leisure Painter