Watercolours of London, Tuscany and the Ile de Re

Here is an incomplete gallery of the works showing at Lauderdale house from the 25th of November til the 7th of December 2014. You can contact me to buy any you see here, providing they haven’t already sold – 20 have gone already.

They are all watercolours painted on the spot, often with annotations about the place, the people who passed me by, some history or even just how cold or hot I was.

you can also see a better gallery here: The London Ones

Preparing for the Lauderdale House show

I’m busy not painting at the moment, trying to make sure everything is ready for my upcoming shows, of which the main one is my solo show at Lauderdale House. Many paintings are off being framed, and I’m trying to make sure I’ve photographed everything before it goes to the gallery. The largest picture will be this composite of St. Mary le Bow, painted on three sheets of paper, trying to pin them to the easel so I could see at least one other beyond the one I was working on at the time. They don’t quite match up, and aren’t quite as suave as I had imagined, but I do like the slight mis-match of the sheets. And I enjoyed the tricky Heath Robinson quality to my easel arrangements…!
St-Mary-Le-Bow

The smallest is probably this quick sketch of the landscape near Volterra I did one afternoon while driving back to Pisa airport:
Tuscan-view

There will be about 60 pieces, mostly new and recent paintings of London, with a few old favourites of Tuscany, Rome and France dropped in. If you’d like to come along to the Private View, it’s at 19:30 at the Upper and Long Galleries at Lauderdale House, Highgate. There will be wine, nibbles, good company and there’s even a grand piano if somebody fancies adding a spot of music to the event! Drop me a line if you’d like an official invitation.

More Chickenshed sketching

On Wednesday the 9th of July I was at the Hyde Park Festival, sketching 2 shows for the fantastic Chickenshed troupe: “London Bridge” and “Doctor Hallux”, both performed at the Heineken Theatre. A great experience – it’s such a tricky thing to try and capture movement and expression as the show is actually on I stand at the back with my easel, scribbling furiously and trying to hold fleeting moments in my head long enough to get them down on paper. I ended up with about 30 drawings over the course of the morning, so a real speed training. The shows are wonderful, energetic and involving.

For more information on future shows, have a look here: ChickenShed

Children-entranced connected-to-your-shin-bone dancing-with-the-baddy dancing drumming Give-them-all-a-big-hand Heart-Why hes-a-trustworthy-guy I-aint-got-no-body london-bridge-is-falling-down Me-me-me pink-hair Rappin-snake story-that-came-to-life Story-that-was-never-told-v1 the-fool The-greatest-story-never-told what-does-hallux-mean Will

Sketching at Chickenshed Theatre

On Saturday the 24th of May I went to ChickenShed Theatre, together with some fellow artists from the North London Artist Network. Chicken Shed is an inclusive theatre company, with a permanent base on Cat Hill, near Cockfosters. Their website says this:

Our vision is a society that enables everyone to flourish and our mission is to create entertaining and outstanding theatre that celebrates diversity and inspires positive change.

Where difference can divide, at Chickenshed the difference makes the art.

Chickenshed is an inclusive theatre company that first began in 1974. Primarily based at our own purpose-built venue in North London, we create theatre for all ages and run successful outreach projects, education courses and membership programmes throughout the year. Read more about our aims.

You can find out more here, but it is a fantastic place with a great vibe.

The sketches are all, of necessity, done quickly, but it is a wonderful experience; seeing the show, trying to catch the moment, sketching away in the corner. We all enjoyed it and we will be doing it again!

Dan-Wrightson001

Child watching

9 and 10 and Stop

Mother and Baby

Big Big welly Boots

How I photograph my artwork

High Barnet ChurchI’ve read an enormous number of posts and asked advice of various people over the years of the best way to document your artwork. Until recently I still felt that the best way, if you wanted to have print quality scans, was to have the images professionally scanned; cameras and software have improved til i feel you can now get a decent scan from a digital SLR, plus a few bits of kit. So I thought I’d share where I’m at, hopefully it’ll be as useful to somebody as all the other blogs and articles I’ve read over the years! Much of the really good advice, the last bits of the puzzle that have made me satisfied with my results, come from advice from Marc d’Alessio, a plein-air painter who now lives in Croatia. (www.marcdalessio.com). So thanks Marc – and hopefully we’ll meet in Florence one day!

1. The Camera

I use a Nikon D5300(no I don’t, I use a D5200!), a digital SLR that is just above entry level, but does produce files around 25 Mbs. The main feature, beyond all the usual bells and whistles, is that I can tether it – this means I can link my laptop to it with a USB cable and take the photos remotely. This does two things – it really helps eliminate camera shake, as you will often be shooting at low speeds, but mainly it allows me to immediately review the image, and easily either bracket it, or shift things if they need shifting.

2. The Software

To tether the camera I use “Sofortbild“, a great piece of German coding that does exactly what it says on the tin – you can operate the shutter from your laptop, review the image, change the settings, even have a live-view running. I take the pics RAW, most dSLRs will allow this, and it gives you great latitude to change exposure, apply a camera profile, correct for lens distortion, before you open the file in Photoshop. At the moment Photoshop can’t open the RAW files from the D5300 so I run them through Adobe DNG converter. This is a very nifty piece of software that turns RAW files into the Adobe DNG format which is, as far as I can tell, Adobe’s version of RAW,  which Photoshop is happy with. So the process at the moment is:

  1. Sofortbild to take the pic
  2. Adobe DNG converter to convert to DNG
  3. Photoshop to apply camera profile, crop and fiddle with levels if necessary
  4. Save (and keep a copy of the RAW file somewhere too!)
  5. Run image processor with Photoshop to get smaller jpeg for web use.

3. Color Profiles

X-rite PassportLike Sofortbild, this is another great bit of advice from Marc d’Alessio! I bought an X-rite Passport with relative software. Very unassuming at first glance, this is a folding plastic case with colour cards inside. You take a photo of your artwork with the Passport colour card in front, then dump it on the X-rite software which analyses it and builds you a color profile. This is the same profile you can call up when opening up the RAW files, and it will adjust levels to the correct settings. This was the real life saver for me – I get colour blindness when I start fiddling with curves and levels, but now my starting point is so much closer to a satisfactory result I just have to tweak.

4. Physical setup

Camera, Lights, PictureA tripod for the camera, 2 cheap lights – I got mine from Amazon and they seem fine – set at approximately 45 degrees to the work, an easel set to hold the work as vertical as possible. A long USB cable to your computer – and I have invested in a 24″ monitor, but it’s a luxury!

It all stores away easily, and I set it all up when I’ve taken a sketchbook apart and want to document the work before I store it in the plan chest, or it goes off for framing (or to a new home!). photo 3As for camera settings, I tend to go for a mid aperture setting, like 11, which gives me slow shutter speeds but not so slow that I have to worry about shake. I keep the camera on manual so I’m in control of everything, and use a fixed 50 mm lens, so I know there’ll be very little distortion, and I can fill the lens without being too close. I also now calibrate the screen, but that’s a story for another time.

I hope this has been helpful, feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions!

 

 

Church Passage in High Barnet, and the Hyde Institute

I was recently drawing in High Barnet, and focused on a beautiful small Victorian building close to the church and the high street, called the Hyde Institute. I have since become curious as to how the building came about and what the Hyde Institute is – here’s what I’ve found out so far:

The Hyde Institute and Reading Rooms.

—In 1888 Mrs. Julia Hyde by her will, proved on the 23 October, bequeathed £10,000 to the rectors and churchwardens of Monken Hadley and Chipping Barnet to be applied by them in trust to establish a library, institute, and reading rooms for the use of the two parishes, and to furnish the same and provide a library of books for use therein, and to set apart and invest part of the legacy and apply the income in hiring a building or rooms in one of the said parishes for the purposes thereof. The sum of £1,000 was spent in books and furniture, and the balance was invested as to £5,000 in £5,063 5s. 4d. India 3 per cent. stock, and as to £4,000 in £4,107 16s. 1d. consols, the annual income amounting to £264 16s. 8d. The institute was maintained in a house in Barnet held at a rent of £80 a year, until 1904, when a suitable building was erected in Church Passage, by private generosity.

(From http://www.british-history.ac.uk/)

Now I need to see if I can discover who the architect was and what happens in the building today – that’s phase 2!

Church PassageThe painting is now showing at the Camden Image Gallery, close to Camden Road tube station, till the 1st of March.

Artist in Residence at Hotel Borgo Santo Pietro

I’m delighted to say I’m to be the artist in residence for the month of April at the beautiful Hotel Borgo Santo Pietro, a boutique hotel south west of Siena, very close to the ruined abbey of San Galgano. I’m hoping to get as much work done as I possibly can – there is certainly enough to paint around the place – fountains, old buildings and great landscapes!

The studio on the lake in the hotel grounds… wow!