Postcards from Britain - Blenheim Palace, Part 5

The interior of Blenheim palace is as beautiful as the countryside surrounding it. One of my favorite rooms is the red drawing room.

In This opulent room is a portrait by one of my favorite artists, John Singer Sargent. It depicts the dour 9th Duke of Marlborough and his not so loving bride, the million dollar American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, and their children (the heir and the spare).

John Singer Sargent was such a sublime talent, that his rich and gentrified sitters let him depict them however he pleased. In this painting Sargent cunningly puts the Duke a step down giving us the impression that if he were to step up, he would be the same height as the lovely Duchess.

In reality, she was much taller than he was. It was probably fairly radical in those days to depict the lady above the gentleman in a formal portrait like this. Sargent had the freedom to do it. He was a master of composition along with every other aspect painting.

A place like Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire England, is great for seeing treasures from private collection - works of art you will not see in the great public museums of the world.

For the first of my Blenheim Palace series of posts click HERE or just keep scrolling.


Drawing Fun

Whether from life or from photographs, drawing is a fun and helpful way to sharpen the artistic and observational skills. It is also helpful when you begin the early stages of a painting and you must "draw with the brush" as they say.

Below is my little studio setup as I draw one of my many busts.

As you can see, I customized my big drawing table with a handy shelf to hold my busts on the left side. Oh the many uses of foam core!

Other than drawing busts, it is also fun and challenging to draw the figure from a live model. Recently I have started to attend a Wednesday night drawing session. Sometimes the model is nude, sometimes costumed.

Below are a few of my drawings from recent weeks of our costumed model, Laura.


Postcard from the UK - Medieval Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire England is a wonderful site to visit. After seeing what happened to Notre Dame in that fire recently, it makes me all the more appreciative that I was able to visit the cathedral at Salisbury and get a close-up look at the place from inside and out.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral was finished in 1320 and has the tallest spire in England. It also houses the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta.

If you go, take the tour of the tower. Lot of climbing, but you will appreciate the skill of the medieval builders and just marvel at the bones of this beautiful building!

Above the cathedral main isle.

The bells of Salisbury Cathedral.

There is loads of medieval timber, much of which has been strengthened over the years by the addition of metal braces, but you can easily see how detrimental a fire would be and how fast it could spread.

It is a tribute to the workers who built Salisbury Cathedral that it has lasted in such condition, even through wars and religious upheavals.

Shown in the images below are your rewards for all the climbing. You get to look right up into the spire and then go out on all four sides of a shallow balcony and get awesome views of the English landscape!

The view right up in there!

Fantastic views from as high as you can go.

Only authorized workers are allowed right up into the actual space of the spire itself. According to our guide, we have one person to thank for even being able to see up in there today, and that is HRH the Prince of Wales who subsidized the floodlights.

Years before Salisbury was built, the  building style for churches was called Romanesque. The Romanesque style had thick, heavy walls and dark enclosed interiors with rounded arches. Salisbury was built in the new style sweeping mainland Europe (especially France) at the time, called Gothic. The Gothic style features tall, airy, and light filled interiors, and pointed arches. With less than 300 years separating the Norman invasion and the building of Salisbury Cathedral the style, in England, is sometimes referred to as the Norman Gothic.

One tends to think these amazing sites will be around forever. Sadly not.


Charcoal Drawing and a Good Book

Here is my latest drawing:  A Highclere Wyvern

Medium: Charcoal on paper.
Size: 8x10 inches. Price: 375 dollars.

A Wyvern is a mythical heraldic beast that is part dragon and part bird. This particular one sits just outside the front door of Highclere Castle in England. That is the house used as the setting for that magnetic Crawley family in Downton Abbey. I visited the property recently and was intrigued by these winged creatures sitting either side of the front door, watching me enter. When I saw them, I thought "I could do these up in charcoal really right."

My reference shot. The thing is no taller than 2 feet, if that.
Of the many art instruction books I own, one of my favorites is "The Drawing Bible" by Craig Nelson. Mr. Nelson is a master artist in many mediums and in his book he shares a rich variety of techniques for various drawing mediums. There are so many fun techniques and methods to get your artistic vision across, that I sometimes find it hard to decide which one to employ.

Draw, draw, draw. Smudge, smudge, smudge, Refine, refine, refine. Repeat.
For my drawing of the Wyvern I decided to use a technique where, after drawing the loose outline and some shadows, you smear the whole thing with a kleenex to quickly build a middle tone. Then the fun begins when you lift out the highlights with a kneaded eraser. Lastly you go back in with charcoal and gracefully refine the darks where needed. Real nice.

Buy your copy of the book here, then contact me to buy my original charcoal drawing.


Postcard From England - Downton Abbey Art

To prime you for the big Downton Abbey film, I am featuring some digital art I created from the loads of images I shot while on a recent trip to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) in Hampshire England.

Here is my processed JPG. Most glaring need is for a decent sky. Way too many tourists cluttering up my shot as well.

Below is the same shot with a slightly different crop. I found a nice sky from my bank of shots I took in the Cotswolds just the day before and merged it into this shot for some interest. Next I retouched out many of those pesky tourists. Lastly, I punched up the overall color and sharpened the image to taste.

Below is the latest version of a digital watercolor painting I did using the above shot.

Using textures and brushes is fun. I could play with this image for months if I choose and experiment with different looks. Very soon however I will stop and make available for you the final painting in all its high resolution glory in my Fine Art America store.

Stay tuned for more England inspired art. Cheers!