Plein Air London

Here are some sketches from my trip to London. The weather was great the first few days but then got brutally cold (at least it was if you were standing outside in the wind and rain for hours at a time).

St Margaret’s Church. 12 x 8 in., oil on panel.

Battersea Power Station. 8 x 12 in., oil on dibond.

It was a very productive trip nonetheless, and I was helped greatly by painting with two fine plein air painters, David Bachmann and Roy Connelly, who knew the turf inside and out.

The Thames from Hungerford Bridge. 14 x 11 in., oil on dibond.

Trafalgar Square Lions. 6 x 8 in., oil on panel.

Trafalgar Square Lions. 11 x 14 in., oil on panel.

I really liked the lion statues in Trafalgar Square, though painting there after 10am was difficult with the crowds.

I didn’t have time to see any museums, and a great regret was missing the Edward Seago centenary in March as I’m a huge fan of his plein air work.

Landscape Drawings

Something that is not discussed often enough in plein air landscape painting is the importance of landscape drawing.  Looking through books on Corot or Levitan, you will see pencil, chalk, or ink sketches for nearly every painting they did, and a lot of landscape drawings that never became paintings. The Uffizi gallery in Florence has a large collection of landscape drawings. They used to allow people to copy directly from the original drawings for every artist except the major Italian Renaissance painters. I spent hours copying Corot’s landscape drawings as a student.

Landcape drawing of San Gorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy

San Gorgio Maggiore from the Società dei Canottieri, Venice.

Often when I travel I’ll spend the first few days just going around with a sketchbook and pencil to scout out places to paint later. It is obviously much easier to move around, but I also find drawing the landscapes first helps me work out the compositions and also makes it quicker when I paint the subject later, having already done the drawing once.

Landscape drawing of Morocco

A page from my Moroccan Sketchbook. Palm trees in Marrakech and the Fort at Essaouira.

The sketchbooks are also fun to look back over years later as many of the paintings are long gone (or were never painted to begin with).

For larger work I will often do multiple sketches as well as small thumbnails to try to figure out the best balance for the final composition. Since I can’t trust the perspective from photographs, drawings are a much better source for large studio landscapes.

Landscape drawing of Sosta del Papa, Chianti, Tuscany

Sketch for Sosta del Papa (over two pages in my sketchbook).

Landscape drawing of Battersea Power Station, London

Battersea Power Station, London.

My favorite sketchbooks for landscape drawings are the 112 page, 8 x 11 inch Kusnt and Papier hardbound sketchbooks, I usually get them at New York Central Art Supply. I like the paper they use, they’re very durable, and the small amount of pages make the books very light and portable. The pocket-sized, blank-page Moleskines are good too. I use a kneaded eraser, any brand of HB pencil, and a small plastic retractable x-acto knife to sharpen it. Having a long, tapered, insanely sharp pencil lead is the trick to getting drawings to look decent (and lots of practice, of course).

The BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair

The BADA Antiques and Fine Art Fair.

This week I have a few paintings in the BADA Antiques and Fine Art Fair in London with the old master dealer Constantine Lindsay. The Fair is held in the Duke of York Square in Chelsea (near Sloane Square) from the 25th to the 31st of March. The stand is A28, to the rear left of the fair as you walk in. More information on the BADA website.

Many of my better paintings from last year (as well as the Gstaad sketches from January) have gone into this show. You can see some of the work on Constantine’s website.