Capturing Sunlight with Sorolla (inside the Artist’s Studio)

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Joaquín Sorolla, Strolling along the Seashore, Detail, Valencia, 1909

In the heart of bustling Madrid, behind a protective brick wall, sits the elegant former home and studio of Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863 -1923)

Huge decorative iron gates lead you through a lush Andalusian courtyard garden to one of the best-preserved artist houses in Europe, an absolutely priceless experience. 

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musee-sorolla-garden-entrance

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Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

We arrived in Paris to catch the last few days of a retrospective exhibition of the Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920)

After a snowy week in England, we woke to blue skies, warm croissants and this amazing rooftop view from our hotel room. I couldn’t resist a quick pen sketch of the row of chimney pots in the distance before we hit the show, check out those windows!

Sketch from Hotel, Rotring Art Pen (F), Pentel Brush Pen and Pentel Aquash Water Pen in A6 size (10 x 15cm) Seawhites of Brighton Sketchpad (140gsm All-Media Cartridge Paper)

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Studying Holbein’s Portrait Drawings: A Brief Encounter

Detail, Mary Zouch, Hans Holbein The Younger, Black and Coloured Chalks, Pen and Ink c.1532-43, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

I was in London last month to catch the Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt exhibition, held at the National Portrait Gallery until 22 October 2017.

I was particularly interested in studying the collection of portrait drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger on loan from the Queen’s Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.
I’ve always admired Holbein’s oil portraits at the National Gallery London and the Uffizi Gallery, Florence but only ever seen images of some of his drawings in books.

The exhibition room was quite small, the lights low with very few other visitors and it really felt such a privilege to view these drawings in such an intimate space.

The walls were painted a dark Prussian Blue and many of the Holbein drawings were on a muted pink ground hung side-by-side in a line. They were all relatively the same size and the first thing I noticed as my eye jumped across them, was the variety of silhouette shapes created by the headwear and angle of the pose gave a real sense of the sitter.

You can’t help your mind wandering back to the Tudor Court of Henry VIII and wondering about the characters in the portraits (and for the fans of ‘Wolf Hall’ I have to admit, I was silently humming the theme tune)

They felt so fresh with some of the contour lines reminding me of a Singer Sargent’s portrait, it’s pretty amazing to see how contemporary these drawings looked considering they were drawn over 400 years ago.

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How to Glaze an Oil Portrait Course – New Course!

oil paint glaze recipe

How to Glaze an Oil Portrait for Beginners Course

When I was trying to find my way in portraiture, I’d spend hours studying Old Master paintings thinking “Wow, how did they do that?

I was flummoxed.

Not only did the skin look realistic, but they’d managed to capture those bluish grey tones that lie just beneath the skin’s surface. In my naivety, I just couldn’t work out how you could paint one colour next to another colour yet create such a smoky transition.

I’d repetitively ask Vanessa, “When will I be able to paint the melt of the cheek you see on the Mona Lisa?

Unhelpfully she used to say “Isn’t it just old?

Inwardly I’d sigh.

And then I discovered oil glazing…

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Discovering Velázquez, The Duke & Unexpected Treasures

When Vanessa suggested a spot of Winter sun, if I’m honest, I dragged my feet.

Locations where being proposed and I politely nodded.

When she casually mentioned a possible trip to Seville, my interest was piqued.

Why?

Seville was the birthplace and hometown of Spanish artist Diego Velázquez, and one of my favourite paintings is the ‘Waterseller of Seville’ by Velázquez, but I had never seen it in the flesh, was it even in Seville?

Caught up in the fever of ‘my’ trip, I got researching and discovered the painting was actually hanging much closer to home, in Apsley House, London.

Apsley House? Where’s that?

Well as it turns out, it’s known as Number One London and sits at Hyde Park Corner.

How had I missed it on all my gallery trips and what else was there?

Holy Moly! There’s a study for Pope Innocent X by Velázquez, there’s a Goya, in fact, there’s another portrait by Velázquez and some cracking portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

I shouted through to Vanessa ‘Do you fancy a trip to Knightsbridge?

Who knew train tickets could be booked so quickly?…

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New Year, New View? How a Few Small Changes Influenced my Portrait Painting Style

portrait-painting-oil-glazing-techniques

There was a small sign that hung below an empty black space, it read ‘In Prestito‘.

On loan.

Last Summer I was back in Florence, Italy, to visit one of my favourite paintings that had enticed me to the city over 10 years ago.

The only problem was, when I got to the gallery, the painting wasn’t there.

It was at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and I had missed it.

The painting?

Caravaggio’s sleeping Cupid.

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