Ever since I started training to joust with Destrier, I have wanted to capture on canvas the drama and excitement of this spectacular medieval 'sport' - to share my enthusiasm and hopefully communicate something of my experiences.

Click image to enlarge

The shattering impact of lance on armour as the knights clash in the centre of the lists would have been the obvious choice for the composition (and I'm sure I'll be painting this in the future), but for this painting I found myself moved to depict the moment seconds before the climax of the joust, when the knight 'releases the handbrake' and his horse unleashes all its pent up energy to launch itself down the lists towards his opponent. It is a most impressive and emotive thing to see - the build up as the knight is handed his lance, the power of the horse given its head, the anticipation of what is about to happen......

The choice of which specific event and subject to depict proved slightly harder to decide, but I ultimately opted for one of the most extravagant tournaments of the period - the Pas d'armes de l'Arbre d'Or, held in Bruges in 1468 to celebrate the marriage of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York. We visited Bruges a couple of years ago and, knowing that the tournament had been held there, I studied the market place with a possible painting in mind. The impressive Market Hall and characteristic buildings provide a distinctive and rather unusual setting and really help concentrate the eye on the central figure.

Click image to enlarge

The most comprehensive account of the tournament was written at the time by Olivier de la Marche, but unfortunately for me (who was never any good at languages) it is written in French. Luckily, one of my fellow Destrier jousters happens to hail from that part of the world and he very kindly offered to help translate it. Thank you Philippe.

De la Marche first gives details of how the market square was laid out, and it was immediately apparent that a large spectator stand was unlikely to have been placed where I had indicated one in my preliminary sketch. However, he does comment on the amount of people watching from windows and other vantage points, so removing the stand will allow me to show this, together with more of the Market Hall.

Click image to enlarge

He then goes on to describe the proceedings, not only commenting on who took part and how they faired, but also detailing their horse's caparisons and those of their squires and retainers. Reading all this detail made me suspect that perhaps, on this occasion, the knights were not handed their lances by squires on foot, so I also - reluctantly - removed this figure from the composition.

Having made these decisions I felt ready to proceed - the first stage being to transfer my drawing to the canvas (40" x 30" - a size that will allow plenty of room for detail). I like to do this reasonably carefully for, while it is usually necessary to adjust the positioning or size of some of the elements, it is much easier if they are in roughly the right place from the start!

Click image to enlarge

Next it's time to take the plunge and add some colour. This really is the messiest point - I like to cover the canvas quickly, get rid of the white and establish some basic tones and colours. However, this underpainting stage always looks pretty horrendous and this one is no exception! In fact, those garish colours have got me wondering 'how can a decent painting emerge from that!'

There is now nothing more I can do until this first coat of paint has dried, so I will have to trust that the image that I have in my head will emerge from this beginning. I am confident that by the end of next week I will be able to show you a much improved painting.

This weekend sees me training with Destrier at Stable Stars in Yorkshire. We will be using their horses at two jousts in June, so it is important to practice on them and learn each horse's characteristics - and vital for me to get some more training in before I am let loose in public! I will report on how things went in next week's 'Painting Diary'.

Return to Introduction

Forward to Week 2

Graham Turner's jousting career has progressed a long way from the start he made whilst writing this Painting Diary in 2004, 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.