Tag Archives: work in progress

Disappearing palaces, tempestuous landscapes and lemon squeezers

image showing three books

two Christopher Lehmpfuhl painting catalogues and a book about Emil Nolde’s watercolour landscapes

It might be cold outside but there has been a simmering of wild colours and stormy brushstrokes within. More late birthday gifts arrived in the form of two new catalogues of Christopher Lehmpfuhl’s bold and dazzling work and a small but sumptuous book filled with Emil Nolde watercolour landscapes. Both German painters, but separated by time.

image showing colourful watercolour

wild watercolour number 1, 10 inches square on Arches paper

The Nolde book is very inspiring and propelled me towards my watercolour tubes and pans, resulting in some enthusiastic and richly-hued daubs. I still can’t work out how Nolde achieved such dense, strong colour. Maybe it was the particular shades he chose to work with and maybe he created numerous layers. The more ‘stainy’ colours I used held up relatively well but the others did what watercolours often do – looked vivid while wet but faded to a whitish glow on drying.

watercolour, 10x10 inches on Arches paper

watercolour attempt number 2, 10 inches square on Arches paper

I have done some more work on the Crosdale large painting and, while I’m pleased with the colours, it’s still not quite there yet.

oil painting of Crosdale, work in progress

large Crosdale painting, work progressing slowly, oil on canvas

At the opposite end of the brightness scale, my odd dark painting is still progressing towards its rather spooky finished state.

A2 oil painting on canvas, Whitewell painting

seems it’s always dark near Whitewell, work in progress, oil on canvas, A2

Lehmpfuhl catalogue showing still life paintings and window views

the joy of small scenes in the Lehmpfuhl catalogue

One of my Christopher Lehmpfuhl catalogues is full of intimate still lifes: views through windows and portraits of tables loaded with glasses, crockery and other small items. It gave me an idea to have a go at capturing a ‘family’ of glassware grouped on a table top.

6x8 inches still life of glassware, oil on canvas

still life glassware family group, two tumblers and a lemon squeezer, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas

As the evenings have been getting longer I also managed to paint a very quick view out of the kitchen window as the light was beginning to fade. It was a real rush to get it done, especially as a stray dog appeared wandering through the gardens below while I painted, leading me to break off and check that it had not been abandoned, but it could lead to further paintings as I enjoy the odd shapes of the hills and the trees and their associated shadows.

oil painting on canvas, 9×12 inches, window view

extreme painting, through the window in record time, oil on canvas, 9×12 inches

Christopher Lehmpfuhl catalogue: Die Neue Mitte

Die Neue Mitte exhibition catalogue, brimming with energetic paintings

The larger of the two Lehmpfuhl catalogues is full of thrilling, swirling, huge plein air paintings from an exhibition called ‘Die Neue Mitte’. The series of paintings was created to document the controversial, politically-motivated demolition of an East German landmark building in Berlin, the Palast der Republik, which was open to the public as well as being the home of the DDR parliament and the people’s chamber, or Volkskammer.

It was a place where cultural events took place, with a theatre and art galleries as well as a disco, restaurants and even a post office. As the Palast was gradually torn down Lehmpfuhl kept finding new angles to paint it from and the whole extraordinary process was documented in a film which can be found halfway down this page, entitled ‘Die Neue Mitte’.

I saw the Palast der Republik on my first visit to Berlin in 2001 and it had a real 70s look to it, with its bronze mirrored exterior reminding me of glittery disco interiors and dark smoked coffee tables made of glass. Another short film, about the opening of the Palast in 1976, can be found here.

I waxes, and I wanes, sir; I ebbs’s and I flows

oil painting of Crosdale, work in progress

work in progress, painting of Crosdale, large version of 6×8 plein air, oil on canvas, 18″ square

This post’s title was stolen from Mervyn Peake’s poem in his book “Rhymes Without Reason”. The poem is about feeling ill but the lines could describe the back and forth of the painting process just as well.

Mervyn Peake was a brilliant artist as well as a poet and novelist. I often read “Rhymes Without Reason” as a child and I can still see the strange, brightly-coloured illustration that accompanied the waxing and waning poem, showing an enormous lady with large nostrils sitting in bed while a doctor surveyed her from the end of the room across a swirling carpet against a background of psychedelic wallpaper.

The picture became etched in my brain, along with many of the other illustrations, and the brightly-lit, vaguely nightmarish room seemed real, as if the scene was taking place somewhere, in the night, in a nearby dimension.

This week has consisted of plodding along with works in progress while the world outside becomes ever more frozen and slippery. The sun is beginning to find its way into our home and has revealed that my studio space (which is so tiny I can only use it for painting small pictures – larger indoor work expands into the living room) needs some attention.

Apart from lots of dust on high shelves which I can’t reach there are things which are obsolete and need removing. A wire loops across a wall leading to a non-existent speaker and the remains of past projects – a brush gaffered to the end of a garden cane, a set of three yogurt pots with watercolour blobs inside them – should probably be tidied away.

photo of shelves in artist's studio

shelves with an assortment of paintings and other dusty things

Two paintings have been lurching along their paths towards completion. I am quite pleased with the Crosdale one seen at the top of the post. I find it difficult creating a bigger version of a small, quickly and freely painted plein air work so when it goes relatively well it is a boost to morale.

The Whitewell painting, which is being created based on a tiny drawing, has progressed in a darkwards fashion. Perhaps with Nolde’s failed experiments in mind, during which he produced ‘grey sludge’ I seem to be heading in the same direction. Still, all is not lost and I hope to be able to bring some light and colour into the picture as work goes on.

If it all goes wrong I will have learnt something, even if that is not to begin a picture with a grey-green underpainting. It has certainly made all the colours and tones do quite unexpected things compared with starting from a white canvas.

dark oil painting, work in progress

the Whitewell painting has become extremely dark

The array of paintings on my studio wall reminds me of a plan I had to create an elaborate mount to display around a dozen small glimpses of the landscape in one big frame. It seemed like a wonderful idea until the reality of carefully cutting all of those tiny openings in a huge piece of mountboard sank in … maybe not.

photo of studio wall with paintings

paintings on the studio wall