The idea for this painting has been in the back of my mind for quite sometime - probably since I was researching my depiction of the battle of Tewkesbury back in 1996. When I come across a potential subject, I file away the idea until I have sufficient information and time to transform it into a complete picture.

I was drawn to this subject by several factors - the story of Edward IV's exile and return to England, culminating with his victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury, captures perfectly the great swings of fortune that characterise the "Wars of the Roses".

His entry into London on 11th April 1471 was not a triumphant procession, but part of a huge gamble to reclaim the throne which could have led to failure and defeat at any moment. On the morning of the 11th, soldiers wearing the badge of the Earl of Warwick were still to be found in the streets of London; the Recorder of the City, Thomas Urswick, telling them to "go home to dynere" only a couple of hours before Edward arrived at the gates.

Along with the chance to paint Bishopsgate itself, it is this sense of insecurity that I want to capture. The mounted figures in the foreground are entering the unknown, shadowed by the tall buildings on either side. Although he is in the middle distance, Edward IV is central to the composition - framed by the arch of the gate and strongly lit, he should remain the focal point of the picture. The foreground will contain a lot of detail, but it is important that it doesn't distract from the central scene. Along with other little touches that I hope will bring the picture to life, these details should only become apparent when you take time to look into the painting. But that is all in the future and will evolve as the painting progresses.

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I arrived at this final composition after producing many thumbnail sketches, trying different alternatives before moving onto the more detailed sketch shown. This process, together with the underlying research, can be very time consuming and I have spent many hours searching out the references that I will need. (This is an ongoing process as I am constantly collecting reference material - buying books, sketching at museums, photographing re-enacters etc., in the expectation that the information might be of use at some time in the future.) Throughout this stage I have to constantly remind myself of what I want to achieve with the finished painting and whether I have fulfilled the criteria I set myself. Sorting out the viewpoint and perspective has proved something of a challenge, but after a few days of scribbling I am reasonable happy with this version of the sketch (the rest are in the bin!).

Click image to enlarge

The next stage is to transfer this rough drawing onto the blank canvas. I have decided on a canvas measuring 24" x 30", a good size that allows plenty of scope for detail. With some paintings I get started with paint straight away, but as I have spent so long working this one out, I will draw it onto the canvas first. By squaring up the sketch and canvas into an equal number of squares, I am able to position the major elements of the composition in exactly the right place. Then, using very thin acrylic paint I 'draw' in the key lines so that I can see them through the initial stages of painting. These lines will soon be completely covered over (and it is important that they can be easily covered, as I'm sure some of the elements in the picture will need to be adjusted as we proceed) but they provide a very useful guide to start with. As acrylic paint dries almost mmediately, I then wipe the canvas over with turps to clean off the pencil marks and any grease.

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There is nothing more distracting than white canvas, so as soon as the turps has dried I cover the whole painting with colour, using a broad brush to lay down some basic tonal values. This stage is pretty quick and satisfying - but can be misleading. In the course of an hour or so a blank canvas with a few lines on it has become a 'picture' (albeit a rather messy one!). It is tempting to think that it won't take long to finish. Experience tells me otherwise!

Now comes the most frustrating aspect of oil paint - the slow drying time. In the later stages of painting, when I am working on fairly small areas, I can keep painting continuously, but now the whole canvas is covered in sticky wet paint, I have no alternative but to leave it until it is dry. I will have to be patient and get on with some book illustration work for Osprey!

Next week the paint will hopefully have dried sufficiently to allow further progress and the addition of some detail.

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Forward to Week 2

Since writing this Painting Diary, Graham Turner has taken his commitment to research and furthering his understanding of the medieval period a stage further than most, and he has now jousted at venues such as the Tower of London, the Royal Armouries Museum, and the Historisches Museum in Bern. The incredible experiences he has gained riding and competing in full plate armour at this high level have had a profound influence on his life and work, and you can find out more about Graham's jousting and his armour by CLICKING HERE

A large range of prints and cards reproduced from Graham Turner's medieval paintings are available from Studio 88, and full details of these, plus all Graham Turner's currently available originals, can be found on our website.

CLICK HERE to be taken to the relevant section of the site.