Painting the colour black

As I'm painting a portrait of a headmaster wearing his black gown I asked an artist friend of mine how to achieve a really 'colourful' black in oil paints. If I'm painting a black subject in watercolour I usually paint with the tip of my brush tiny strokes or dots. In this way I leave tiny little areas of white paper and surround them with mainly jet black colour, but interspersed with a variety of all sorts of colours from violet to ultramarine. This gives a real sparkle to the painting. But with oil it's completely different. I so rarely paint in oil so the advice I was given was really helpful. He suggested I mix Pythalo blue with purple lake. Which I tried. Interesting, but I needed to add some Vandyke brown to help out. Black straight from the tube is very dull on its own. So the painting is nearly finished. I can't show it yet as it has to be varnished and I will need to get permission from the client after it's unveiled.

No, not my new house under construction. At the end of Val's lane in Henley Pudding Lane, the place in London where the great fire started in 1666, is being re- created for a television film. I'm hoping to get a bit nearer the set when it's competed, and, - not that it's likely - be there when they actually set fire to it. Watch this space.
Last Sunday my young friend and I visited The Vyne, near Basingstoke. This 16th Century country house was built for Lord Sandys, King Henry VIII's Lord Chamberlain. It still retains its original Tudor chapel with stained glass.

And here is a bust of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The approach to the house is lined with willow trees - just showing their first flush of pale green as Spring approaches once more.

And wandering around the grounds we came across these interesting giant carvings of a butterfly and a swan.

Finally the sun is out, the river is almost back to normal and we can get back to sorting out the boat for the season. Last week we borrowed a really effective machine - a bit like a normal vacuum cleaner - but this one sucks up water. As the cabin was stilled filled with nearly two inches of water we soon had the machine going and nine or ten bucketfuls later, although the carpet was a bit squishy, we got rid of it. The engine and midships departments had about a foot of water in them but it wasn't long before they were clear too. And yesterday I spent a few hours cleaning the outside of the boat. It was filthy. I haven't scrubbed the upper deck yet as my young friend is away at present and won't let me clamber about on the deck without her being here to stop me falling in!

Yesterday evening I went to the Henley Bowling Club to meet all the members and to pay my dues for this year, and while there signed up for three matches - including the novices event. I really hope all is well this year as I only played two games last April before going into hospital for the operation. Which left me too weak to even lift the woods for the entire season.

Luckily I'm able to paint and draw in a number of styles, so my techniques range from watercolour, scraper board, oil and pencil. This morning one of my clients brought three of his grandchildren over for me to take a photographs to use as reference for pencil portraits. I gave him the framed pencil portraits of another two of his grandchildren - Bella and Zac - which were completed the other day and asked whether I could show them on this blog. He was very happy with the result so here they are. (The actual drawings are framed within oval mounts)

Now it's back to the drawing board, easel, desk. I forget which work I'm doing today!