I was asked by the client to paint a contemporary painting of Repton (the famous village in South Derbyshire that has the famous public school), with the specific buildings that were important for the painting to be silhouettes. And the colours had to be specific too, for the painting. Normally silhouette paintings are just one colour, black, against a white background. But I knew in this case that some of the buildings were more important than others and instead of doing one long line of them, I chose to do three receding lines, the ones in the foreground the darkest colour, with the next line the mid colour, and the third line the palest, and of course the sky itself being the fourth colour, the palest one.
There were 11 images for me to consider, the Cross, the Arch, the church (St Wystans), Pears Hall, The Old Priory, The school chapel, Askew House, the clients house, the clients dovecote, a clump of Lime Trees, and 2 Chestnut trees.
And added to all this the abstract shapes of the silhouettes had to be clear as to which building they were. I quickly realised when I did two working paintings that the version with windows made the buildings look obvious, but without it wasn’t at all clear what they were at all. The client agreed with me, the windows were important and were put into the buildings.
When I knew that, I had a think again about which colours to use for the windows, as I knew that if I painted them all the same pale cream as the sky the buildings would have looked like they had holes in them, so I decided to do the pale turquoise of the palest buildings in the black buildings at the front, and also in the middle coloured buildings in the middle, and use the middle colour as the windows in the pale buildings at the back. That made it all harmonious. It doesn’t sound a lot, but doing four tones, to make the painting needed a lot of thought to get it looking right.
When I was happy that the images were in the right place, and the working painting worked as the concept, I could then start painting the painting properly.
It was on a canvas 59 x 20 inches, and the painting was in acrylics. I knew which colours I was mixing for the painting, as I had done a “colour match” on a piece of paper with the mix of which paints I was using. The “black” tone was ultramarine blue and black, the next darkest “teal” colour was phthalo blue and dark turquoise, and bright blue with a bit of white, the “turquoise” was dark turquoise with white, and the pale cream of the sky was mostly white with a touch of cadmium yellow. I didn’t want to run out of paint and have to re-mix it, so when I did one colour I mixed loads of it and kept it wet until I knew I had done each part. Each colour was four coats of paint on the canvas, and it was easier to paint each colour at a time, particularly as I was painting around the edges of the canvas and I had to wait for the top to dry before I could paint the bottom next. I painted the sky first, and then the bottom black part, then the teal colour, then the turquoise of the pale buildings and windows. Since it was flat colour I didn’t need to consider tones, since the thinking planning part had shown me the tones worked as a concept.
I love the painting, its called “Repton skyline silhouette” and love the contemporary feel of it.
But, I will add at this point how poignant painting all of this was, as I used to live in Repton, and these buildings are part of my past in soooooooo many ways.. I have seen these buildings on a daily basis, they have been part of my scenery for my childhood, and into my 20’s. And as well as that I have painted the church, and the Cross, and the Arch, and the Old Priory numerous times, they are part of my artistic history as much as my physical and emotional ones. So I’ll show them here, to show you the different paintings, of the same buildings in the contemporary painting.