After finishing the watercolour of River Farmhouse I decided to undertake a slightly more ambitious project and paint Bugbrooke Chapel. This building holds fond memories for myself, and for many others, as it is the place where the church I’m part of started (and progressed with various names through the years – Bugbrooke Baptist church, Jesus People, Jesus Fellowship, Jesus Fellowship, the modern Jesus Fellowship, and back to Jesus Fellowship).
It has been the joyous location for many of my friends baptisms, weddings, and thanksgiving services (often just as upbeat). The chapel is still in use for these events, and for Sunday morning services to the local area.
So why paint? Well other than the joys of watching it dry it is a very relaxing hobby, and it’s good to look away from a computer or mobile screen every so often. You also get something at the end of your endeavours rather than waste a couple of hours mindlessly shooting someones brains out in a video game.
I project the photo onto the board and quickly sketch where the main areas are. Then using these points I do a detailed line drawing using a ruler.
Is using a projector cheating? I’d say combining technology and skill is a great combination – it helps save time and means the proportions are roughly right but the final product still has to be drawn and painted.
Then comes the real painstaking part. For each area of detail – lets say some brickwork – I do a basic wash of one colour, then add other wash colours once it is dry, then add some lines for the mortar, then add detail to the bricks themselves – often by changing the colour of individual bricks. It meant that by the end of the painting I’m fed up with the whole thing after staring at it for so long.
Still, one of the joys of painting is that you can do it in other people’s company and listen to the hubbub of life that’s around. In the Jesus Fellowship community houses where I have lived (House of Miracles and Anthem) and also with my grandparents it was great to be able to plonk the painting down where people are. Though the sight of a small child with grubby mitts ambling towards a years hard work did make me slightly nervous. Thank goodness for pepper spray. (DISCLAIMER: that last statement was clearly a joke, and a very funny one at that).
There were a few things that I used “artistic license” for (a posh name for made up) – the hedge at the front was in the leafless grip of winter, as was half the tree. So I added leaves as seemed suitable and the end result worked OK. I came to the point when I thought I was finished and showed it to my Dad, who is involved with artwork for his business. He suggested I do a shadow across the front of the road to give the picture depth. I dug my heals in and said no, mainly due to being fed up with the whole thing and I couldn’t bear the thought of easily ruining the picture by putting a big wash over it. However he was adamant and showed me some examples of artists that used this technique of a dark foreground shadow to great effect. Being the technologically minded
geek person that I am I quickly took a photo of the painting, plopped it into Photoshop and then started tweaking with various shadow designs untill I got a shade that looked about right.
When it came to painting it I had to get it right, as with watercolours you can only go darker, so if the wash was too dark then it could ruin the whole picture. However it went fine, and goes to show that feedback into creative work is important and means for a higher standard of work.
I could have carried on after that and done other adjustments but decided that could be the case for the next 20 years. There are some bits I don’t like – the red bricks in the sunlight on the right needs to be lighter, the foreground road and shadow needs to be darker, some of the windows are rubbish so will need to learn how to do them properly.
All told the painting took one year and 7 months to do, albeit with the odd breaks here and there for sleep. And food. I would much rather to have a different painting style where I could paint quickly, but I enjoy the ability God has given me. I reckon 90% of the painting was done with the smallest brush I have, the other 10% was mostly achieved with a medium-sized brush. They are kolinsky sable and means the water retention and flow is excellent. The watercolour paints themselves do make a huge difference to the look and feel – the more you pay the more vibrant the paints.
And one final thought – I failed A Level art. I guess I’d encourage you to keep on being creative, regardless of if the education system deems you a failure. Admittedly I could have tried a lot harder at school but still never be bound by past results and disappointments.
Big thanks to me Mum for taking the original photo, for those at House of Miracles and Anthem for continual encouragement (even when I despaired I’d ever finish the darn thing), for the guys at Good Timber for making the superb cherry hardwood frame. Thanks to Kamal at The Framing Centre for the superb choice of mounts, and for my Dad at Travelling Art Gallery for scanning the painting and his advice.