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With the first coat of paint dry I am looking forward to really making some progress this week. At the moment the painting looks very insubstantial and thin. Before I start getting involved in detail I need to add some form - establish areas of light and shade and then gradually work up all the elements in relation to each other. However, as you can see from the picture on the right, despite my best intentions I have spent a fair chunk of the day working on the foreground figures. It is difficult to avoid being drawn to a major part of the picture like this, but I know I shouldn't really be working on details such as the horseman's face at this early stage.

I am reminded why on Tuesday, when I realise that something isn't quite right. After much deliberation I decide the foreground figures (the ones I spent so long on yesterday) are too small - not much, but enough to bother me. It is tempting to leave them but I know I should put it right now - at least I have noticed when only a few hours have been wasted. So I take a rag to the picture and wipe most of yesterday's work off the canvas! Thank goodness oils allow this sort of drastic action. Repainting the figures about inch bigger is not easy as all the original lines are in the wrong place and the paint is getting pretty sticky now, but at the end of the day I am pleased I decided to make this change. Although they look rather messy, I am happy that the figures are now in proportion and fit into the scene. The surprising thing is that everything still looks to scale in the sketch - I suppose this shows you can get away with a lot when it is just roughly indicated. It also demonstrates how important it is to keep everything broad for as long as possible, leaving the detail until everything looks 'right'. Unfortunately, 'right' is indefinable, although I'm sure most people recognise when something looks 'wrong'.

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On returning to the painting the following day, I am relieved to find no other disasters jump out at me, so settle down to what I hope will be a successful days painting. I tend to work from right to left (as a left hander, I assume right-handed artists work the other way), so consequently the next area to receive my attention is the building on the right. To help emphasise the claustrophobic effect I am trying to convey, I have thrown a shadow from the buildings on the left, across the street and half way up the right hand building. This will also help make the sunlit central group stand out. Before the day is over, I spend a little time working on this group of figures, finding their proportions also need altering in line with those in the foreground. Although they are still fairly simple when I finish, the shapes are now basically correct and I can return to them in the future.

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As each area of the painting is worked on, it highlights the deficiencies in others, so I now turn my attention to the gate and add tone and texture. While this scene has been created in my head (I couldn't really paint this subject from life!) I find it indispensable to refer to modern reality in order to help make my view of the past look convincing. It might sound obvious, but skies, trees, people, etc. are the same now as they were 500 hundred years ago - something that would be easy to overlook when getting bogged down in the minutiae of historical detail. To flesh out my reconstruction of Bishopsgate (which I am basing on a small drawing on the 'Copperplate map' of c.1558 ) I refer to surviving structures, such as the city gates at York. Painting rough stonework makes an enjoyable change, allowing me to loosen up my style for at least one part of the picture.

After the slight trauma at the beginning of the week hopefully I have now got the foundations correctly established and can continue with confidence. The stall on the left is looking rather sparse, so it will be next on the agenda.

Return to Introduction

Back to Week 1 - Forward to Week 3

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.