There is an appealing, harmonious balance between the order of the man-made geometry of the columns, arches and vaults of the stone arcade, and the natural decay caused by the effect of weather and ageing on the stone arches and pillars.
Drawing arches when viewed front-on is relatively simple, as they are often a semicircle with a keystone at the top. which acts as a visual anchor. The same principle applies to arches viewed from an angle, but you will need to view the shape as an oval or ellipse and compress it accordingly.
In strong sunlight, the shadows cast by these covered open spaces are often harsh and quite clearly defined. Their overall shapes may be easy to record, but it can be difficult to achieve the subtle balance between lighter and more deeply shaded areas, as the shadows are often gradated. Notice the inside of the arch to the right in the painting: the shadow gradates from very dark at the top, to quite light at the bottom.
The painting on these pages was made in a Cambridge college quadrangle. Here, and in stone arcades around cloisters (which are chiefly religious in origin), there is not usually much man-made colour. Foliage and flowers, trees or a lawn may provide some variety. However, much of their appeal is in their architectural neatness, and the pure simplicity of natural, unadulterated stone.
My palette for this painting is dominated by the natural earth colours: raw sienna, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and burnt umber. These colours combine well to produce the effects of natural stone -as they should, since the pigments have their origins in minerals extracted from the earth. I take great pleasure in applying these colours freely to the paper in the initial stages of a composition. As they are all of one 'family', they bleed and blend together easily without tipping the balance away from the natural stone colours.
Paintings made in covered stone passageways often use colours predominantly from the cool end of the spectrum
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A raw sienna undercoat was used for the stone, with cobalt blue as a base colour for the shadow areas.
Warm and cold colours sit together harmoniously, reflecting the cool shade of stone arches on a hot day l Ol k I YARDS (I OIS IT US AND QUI I. I CORN I lis
Pure burnt sienna can be added to damp paper to create the effect of rust stains on old stone
Most external stone arches will have suffered the effects of the elements in some way — and this, to me, is the appeal of recording them. The patchy textures that occur as the softer stone begins to crumble, the sun-bleached brick, and the years of accumulated grime -all combine to produce subjects that offer a limited colour range and limitless tones.
These tones are best recorded by a succession of applications of paint to damp paper, generally starting w ith an undercoat of raw sienna. As this is drying, I drop a watery mixture of the natural earth colours - siennas and limbers - onto the paper, allowing it to bleed and flow freely, recreating as it dries the soft textures of ageing stone. When the paper is fully dry, the architectural details are picked out by the addition of a few shadows painted with a small brush.
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Project: Sunbleached Cloisters
I Raw sienna was washed across the pencil drawing on dry paper using a medium brush, allowing any residue of pigment to dry across the top of the drawing, directly underneath the arches.
The soft stone so frequently found in old buildings around the Mediterranean will often appear almost to glow with the radiance and heat of the midday sun. Recording this in watercolour requires a range of yellow and orange tones, purple shadows, and the white of the watercolour paper, all used to their fullest capacity.
The initial underwash applied to the old and crumbling cloisters was raw sienna, which I use chiefly for the warmth of tone that it will give to any washes painted over it. (Raw sienna and yellow ochre can look remarkably similar in paint pans, but have very different qualities when applied to paper - yellow ochre being the colder of the two.)
The strength of the shadows matched the intensity and ferocity of the sunlight, and they were painted in quickly using a wash of
2 A strong wash of ultramarine violet was applied to dry paper directly underneath the arches and pulled downwards, representing the main areas of shading. This was again done using a medium brush.
ultramarine and ultramarine violet. Ultramarine is a naturally warm colour, leaning towards the purple end of the spectrum. Ultramarine violet is a particularly good paint to use in these situations as the purple element in the paint has been considerably enhanced. When applied to the raw sienna undercoat, this violet paint develops a slight orange hint, further enhancing the impression of heat that can be seen w ithin the shadows.
Having established the warm undercoat on which to work, the next step was to begin to develop the textures that years of exposure to the elements had created. This process involved applying much water and wet paint in rapid succession. Initially a mixture of raw sienna and a little burnt sienna (used to enhance the warmth of the
3 To intensify the area of shading directly underneath the arches, a mixture of burnt umber and ultramarine violet was dropped onto the damp ultramarine violet wash, using a small brush, and allowed to bleed.
tone) was applied to key sections of the walls and pillars - and then immediately, before this had time to soak into the paper, I allowed a tew droplets of water to drop into the paint. This has the effect of pushing the paint outwards, leaving a small diluted spot in the centre. As the paint dries, so the patchy effect of old weathered stone is created.
While this paint was still damp, successive applications ot burnt umber and ultramarine were dropped onto the paper. These created a soft range ot tones as the colours and tones merged together without discernible outlines. I continued working with this technique until I was happy that 1 had an adequate range of subtle textures and tones on the stonework. With this stage completed, it was time to work on the shadows, strengthening them and enhancing the contrasts within the picture.
4 A mixture of raw sienna with a touch of burnt sienna was washed along the shaded side of the columns onto dry paper, and pulled around the arches with the addition of a little water. A broken line of plain paper was left showing on the central square column, suggesting the reflection of light.
Returning to my initial shadows, mixture of ultramarine and ultramarine violet. 1 adopted a similar technique, but this time I applied the paint a little more selectively to the areas that required the darkest shading. A wash ot the shadow mixture was applied as previously, only this time instead of dropping water into the centre, I used an even darker mixture enhanced with a little burnt umber and dropped it onto the wet paint, creating even darker tones.
The final stage to complete this study was to enhance the shadows around the architectural details to make the ledges and architrave of the columns appear to stand out. 1 also made sure that some white paper was still showing through along the ridges and edges, enhancing the contrast between the dark and the light elements of this sun-soaked corner of a Mediterranean village.
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