Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Anglesey Seascape: Day 1

As Christmas approached, I managed to get a commission for an introduction made by a client, and in the process nearly pulled off the finest practical joke in my history of slow-burn amusement.

Angelsey WatercolourLast year, a certain beloved client of mine rather disobeyed the rules of his own Secret Santa, and over-spent. I provided him with a pair of portraits that went to his brother, and were acclaimed as they deserved. This year, I asked that brother if he would like me to help him break the Secret Santa a little bit more… Unfortunately, Brother B did not draw Brother A in the secret selection, which would have been the best possible result, but he did get to have Brother A helping without realising. We called that a win anyway, and took screenshots of his reactions.

As I had to start painting before the Christmas crunch, it had to be a subject that anyone could get and recognise as their Secret Santa present. The family all knew Anglesey, and Brother B gave me access to several photos, having me stitch them together into an idealised landscape. The first stage was to pencil it out and watercolour it, taking feedback on what was where. The second round, not shown here, was a pencil version to get named rocks into the right place, and fix on the position of headlands. After that, I set down to the oil painting, basing it half on photographs and half on the sketches.

Photo 14-11-2014 16 48 43I started with the part that was furthest away, the sky. It is generally my habit to paint near things slightly overlapping far, although edge blurring and cutting in can demand I do it the other way. If I need to blend an edge into a background to recede it, they both have to be wet. This is how I approached the sky and the headlands. The first pass was mostly for positioning and shapes, and I planned to have a second layer over most of the first. Still, the sky needed to be gradated. I had a colour that was absolutely perfect for it, King’s Blue Deep by Michael Harding oils. The only problem with that was that it is mixed with poppy oil, and rather liquidy, and it would take a long time to dry. It is a fantastic colour, but when I was up against Christmas timings, I had to put it aside. Instead, I went with a mix of ultramarine, cobalt, and titanium and lead white. Lead white is very thick, and I could use it to keep the paint under control, but I mostly lightened the sky with titanium. I painted in bands, mixing in more white after each horizontal pass, to give the look of a curved sky. That gives a mistiness to the horizon while ensuring it fits with the rest of the sky. Painting that distance effect as an overlay would have been obvious.

I called the day not long after doing this, as I was losing the light. More in our short series to come…