Horses, etc

Watercolour of Whitehall by Jonathan Bray

Military horses make perfect models.  This is what I discovered while painting on Whitehall in London, a few yards down from the Household Cavalry post outside Horseguards.  The horse managed to remain near-motionless for at least an hour (which is a lot longer than I did).

A few thoughts:

  • The hardest thing was to ignore the bustling background along Whitehall, and let it melt into one gorgeously wet wash. After the sky, this was the first part to be painted and the was that sets the high-summer mood of the painting.
  • Detail has a nasty habit of looking “stuck-on” if it is painted onto dry paper or has only hard edges.  Look at the bike and horse:  each were painted in one go, allowing the blocks of colour to merge into one another.
  • Dry-brush also works to break up shapes – look at the near bollards.
  • If in doubt, cheat.  In July, no tree is quite this transparent – but if I had made the foliage opaque you wouldn’t be able to see Big Ben.


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Pintar Rapido!

Speed painting in London this weekend, for the annual Pintar Rapido painting festival!  I joined the hundreds of artists out in London creating a painting in a day, for an exibition in Chelsea’s wonderful Old Town Hall today (12-5pm, Sun 17 July).

I was trialling a new plein-air set-up (built from a lightweight tripod, sketching board and sheet of plywood. You can just about see my painting, of Sloane Square, in progress.

My new plein air painting set-up

This was painting under pressure!  I’m normally trying to finish a watercolour before the sun moves round (or my friends get bored of waiting for me and order starters), but knowing the piece needs to be completed and framed for an exhibition that evening certainly quickens up your brush strokes.

This was my initial sketch, a quick tonal/colour study, and the finished painting.  From my vantage point on the north side of Sloane Square, I could see at least three other painters – the competition!

Sloane sketch

Pintar study 16006Sloane Square (Pintar Rapido 2016) - Jonathan Bray

The exhibition itself was probably the best Pintar Rapido yet.  A brilliant range of works, professional and amateur , and a good atmosphere in the stunning hall of Chelsea Old Town Hall.  My painting has gone to a good home, too. Bring on Pintar Rapido 2017!  In the meantime, there’s  always Pintar Rapido Amsterdam

Pintar Rapido Chelsea Old Town Hallhall 2016


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Borough High Street, London

Borough High Street - Jonathan Bray

Sketching on a grey Saturday, from a conveniently-placed Pret à Manger at the London Bridge end of Borough High Street.  Wandering about London, I am struck how often Pret have bagged all the best sketching spots – clearly they are sympathetic towards artists.

The was a fairly swift sketch, not least because it started to rain just as I was finishing: always a surefire way not to over-work a painting.

Watercolour painting on paper by Jonathan Bray of Rue de Maubeuge Paris

This was the first wash. I thought I had made the heavy shadow from the bridge too dark, but lo and behold it annoyingly faded away while drying, and later needed to be strengthened . I am reminded of a quote of Edward Wesson, one of the masters of twentieth-century British watercolour: “If it looks right when it’s wet, it’ll be wrong when it’s dry”.  I should have this tattooed on my brush-hand.

London Bridge photo

Here’s a photo of the view. Apart from demonstrating that even a good camera can’t record  nearly as wide a range of contrasts as the human eye, it shows that I’ve taken a few liberties with the traffic lights to avoid cluttering things up. Conversely, the picture would probably have benefitted from a few figures in the foreground to break it up – or some judicious cropping.  But still, I’m happy with it given the time constraints. Perhaps I’ll donate it to Pret?


Redchurch Street and Brick Lane

Sun, finally: so off to Redchurch Street in Shoreditch to monopolise a table outside the great Barber & Parlour with my sketchbook. This began life as some rough scribbles in soluble watercolour pencil, followed by a wash from a Derwent waterbrush pen, then inked detail and darks with a Winsor & Newton Paynes Grey brushpen. Accidental addition: white americano.

The bar at the corner of Redchurch Street and Brick Lane has a large sign outside saying “No Hipsters: Keep out, with your silly hats and bushy beards” – being happily disregarded by their entire clientele.