I was watching a
documentary about the music explosion in the sixties and for a few seconds a
camera panned across Trafalgar Square at night. It jolted me into downloading
the programme, pausing it at the correct spot and printing off the scene. Even
though it was grainy, soft-focussed and washy I thought I'd try to paint it.
Here is the result done on a small canvas (don't like big canvases as you have
to stand up to paint on them.)
Painting a night
scene is difficult as buildings are retreating into the darkness as the sun
descends. I painted in the basic shapes and loose washes - some mellow shades
across the threads of the canvas. I recoiled at seeing lots of buildings were
only half visible in the dying evening sunlight. How do I tackle these? Loosely
I splashed on paint here and there to fool the brain into thinking there were
buildings there. That tree in the photo was a nuisance so I didn't bother with
Few tubes of
paint were required as evening scenes bleach out primary colours - yellow ochre,
Ventician red, burnt umber, peaches. The building
shown on the left with strong Roman columns is the National Art Gallery. The
building in the centre wasn't easy to tackle - in the photo the evening sun catches
stonework on the right but the rest of the building retreats into the gloom.
You have to plunge in with a brush and experiment until the end result looks
like a respectable attempt.
For me the best
feature of the square are the twin fountains and I tried to bring them out using
lighter tones (even used a lick of Titanium White.) I'm not sure how long
they've been there. The square commemorates the victorious Battle of Trafalgar
(the British navy versus France and Spain) which took place in October 1805.
Did they have powerful water pumps then? There've certainly witnessed many
powerful public demonstrations held in the square. There're two big fountains
but I must have turned dyslexic for an hour and painted three. Oh well.
I dabbed in a few
people walking across the place and felt I'd enough and it was finished. From a
distance (the length of a tennis court) it looks reasonable and from three feet
away I could probably tell it's Trafalgar Square. I might keep this for my own
wall. I had a dominatrix round last Friday and an incident with a staple gun and
a car battery left the wall stained with blood splashes. This painting will
help cover a particularly stubborn stain.
The photo I'm using above the
Me at Trafalgar Square...