Friday, 27 June 2014

Voltaire’s quotation

If your French is a little bit rusty, the quotation means: “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”

Related articles

Previous quotations I painted for the mural:

Friday, 20 June 2014

It's always been done that way.

March 8th was International Women’s Day. To celebrate, I opened a fun competition to add a quotation by a woman to the mural I have been painting for a few months. People could participate in 2 ways:
  1. Post their favourite quotation by a woman; and
  2. Vote for their favourite quotation(s) contributed by participants.
The prize was to see the favourite woman’s quotation painted on the mural. And the entry that get more votes was:

"The most damaging phrase in the language is: 'It's always been done that way.'"

—Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

I did not know about Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and found out she accomplished amazing things. Here is the first paragraph of her entry in Wikipedia:

“Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer). Owing to the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace".The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.”

You can read her full biography on Wikipedia

Related articles

Previous quotations I painted for the mural:

Friday, 13 June 2014

On being true – Rodin’s Artistic Testament

Rodin photographed by Félix Nadar (1893) [Source: Wikimedia]

"Be true, young people. But this does not mean: be flatly accurate. There is a low accuracy: from photography and casting. Art only begins with the inner truth. Make all your shapes, all your colours reflect feelings. "

"Be deeply, fiercely true. Never hesitate to express what you feel, even when you are in opposition to established ideas. Maybe you won’t be understood at first. But your isolation will be short lived. Friends soon will come to you: for what is deeply true for a man is true for everyone. "

Auguste Rodin - Testament

And here is the original quotation in French:

« Soyez vrais, jeunes gens. Mais cela ne signifie pas : soyez platement exacts. Il y a une basse exactitude : celle de la photographie et du moulage. L’art ne commence qu’avec la vérité intérieure. Que toutes vos formes, toutes vos couleurs traduisent des sentiments.»

« Soyez profondément, farouchement véridiques. N’hésitez jamais à exprimer ce que vous sentez, même quand vous vous trouvez en opposition avec les idées reçues. Peut-être ne serez-vous pas compris tout d’abord. Mais votre isolement sera de courte durée. Des amis viendront bientôt à vous : car ce qui est profondément vrai pour un homme l’est pour tous. »

Auguste Rodin - Testament

Auguste Rodin dictated the text of the Testament to Paul Gsell en 1911 so that it could be published after his death. The text has been reproduced in 1922 in l’Histoire générale de l'art français by André Fontainas and Louis Vauxcelles (Volume 2 page 259 and subsequent) and is available online on Wikisource.

Related resources

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Does it pay to be an artist online?

The title of this post may be deceptive if you take it literally. This is not about money and selling art online, although the benefits I enjoyed with my online presence have led to some sales.

I am going to describe some opportunities I had because of my website, my blog and more recently Twitter. You will notice the variety of these examples.

A slideshow of my paintings on the BBC Wiltshire website

This one came as a surprise… One day, I received the book with my painting in it. Because the author is an academic, I did not mind him using the image (Note: this is an exception – I own the copyright in my painting and any reproduction needs my consent)

I wrote a guest post for Fine Art Tips

The chance to write a guest post for Fine Art Tips came through Twitter.

My “Cable car ride” painting made the front page of JMCP magazine

JMCP (Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy) is a US non-profit pharmaceutical magazine. The circulation of the magazine is close to 20,000. Their audience is mainly pharmacists and physicians.

My Painting Cable car ride featured on the March 2012 magazine cover, to coincide with a conference in San Francisco.

In the magazine was a full-page article about me and my work, in a section titled “Cover Impressions - About Our Cover Artist.”

I have been commissioned to make a Cyanometer

In July 2008, I wrote two blog posts on the cyanometer, which is an apparatus that allows you to judge the blueness of the sky. See, Bluesky research with a cyanometer and How to build a cyanometer.

 While making her research, a journalist who was preparing a radio program for BBC3 titled “Skylarking” contacted me. She wanted me to make the larger version of the cyanometer. You can read how I made the cyanometer in my article Cyanometer revisited


I have not tried to generate revenues from the blog (I always refused to put advertising on it, and my total earnings from affiliate links paid for a paperback book…)

This blog, like many others, is about something different. You reach people you never dreamt of reaching before. When you go digital, the planet is your village.

It may sound cheesy, but you need to give to receive.

It takes time...

Be patient and keep building-up your own blog.

Monday, 9 June 2014

North Parade Bridge

This is a watercolour sketch of the North Parade Bridge in Bath (Somerset, England).

North Parade Bridge - Watercolour by Benoit Philippe (Click to enlarge)

I started to draw on the left page of the notebook and soon found out that I should expand to the double page.

I thought I would start with the watercolour and then draw on top with the ink pen. However, after some time,  I saw that the watercolour could stand by itself.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Victoria Art Gallery in Bath

Last Saturday, I spent the day in Bath (Somerset, England).

I visited again the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, next to the famous Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon. The building was designed in 1897 by John McKean Brydon and was named to celebrate Queen Victoria's sixty years on the throne.

Victoria Art Gallery, at the end of the Pulteney Bridge

The Pulteney Bridge has shops built on it on both side. Unless you come from the street along the Avon, you could cross it without realising you were on a bridge.

Victoria Art Gallery

The main entrance of the Victoria Art Gallery

The side entrance, with a statue of Queen Victoria by A. C. Lucchesi.

The carving on Queen Victoria’s dress is intricate and delicate.

Queen Victoria’s statue  by A. C. Lucchesi.

I saw, on the ground floor, the Bath Society of Artists 109th Annual Exhibition (5 April - 31 May). Very nice and inspiring works exhibited there.

I then went to the upper floor where the permanent collection is exhibited. You are not allowed to take photographs of the works (even those in the public domain…) but I could take a general photograph from the entrance to give you an idea of the exhibition space. They kept the gallery the way it would have been in Victorian time, with paintings sometimes hung one on top of the other.

Permanent collections gallery

The paintings are reproduced on the Your Paintings site. With the limited space, they have to rotate the works exhibited. Below is my selection

My two favourite paintings in the gallery, in this order, are:

The Watersplash - Oil on canvas (116.8 x 94 cm) by Henry Herbert La Thangue – Painted in 1900
The elements that make this painting work are: the composition (with the perspective leading the eye towards the boy), the dappled light, and the way the geese are arranged. Notice how the geese in the background have their head raised high and how, as they approach the water, they bend their neck more and more. This creates almost a cinematic illusion — you can see the motion happening along the way.

Henry Herbert La Thangue (19 January 1859 – 21 December 1929) attended Dulwich College, trained briefly in London and then at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was influenced by the Barbizon school. He painted open-air landscape painters and people leaving and working in the countryside.

Portrait of 'Pilu', a Performing Dog - Oil on canvas (38.4 x 30.5 cm) by John Charlton – Painted in 1910

I also liked the following paintings:

The sketchers - Oil on canvas (50.8 x 60.1 cm) by Algermon Talmage (in 1930). This painting in the Impressionist style, with its backlit clouds, has a nice, creamy texture and luninous colours.

Study and Sketch of Two Figures - Oil on canvas (33 x 43 cm) by Frank Brangwyn

Thomas Rumbold (1736–1791), and Son - Oil on canvas (234 x 153 cm) by Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough was one of the most popular artists of the 18th Century. He remains famous to this day for his portraits. He established his portrait studio in Bath in 1759 and stayed until 1774, when he left for London.

'Old Tom Thumb', Richard Brent (1682–1790) - Oil on canvas (61 x 43.2 cm) by Thomas Barker – painted in 1789.

I was struck by the painting of 'Old Tom Thumb'. The portrait of this old wrinkled man is more luminous and subtle than the photograph shows. Beyond the painting itself, the story of the model is quite extraordinary. Here is the notice for this painting on Your Painting site:

“Richard Brent was a pedlar nicknamed Tom Thumb who worked the Bristol and Bath area. He married four times, had 32 children, and died in Bristol, blind and deaf, aged about 110.

Thomas Barker painted old ‘Tom Thumb’ at least three times. Bath ladies and gentlemen were so enthusiastic about this portrait that they raised money to give the pedlar a weekly income in his old age.”

Thomas Jones Barker was from Bath. He trained in France and had a successful career in Paris, and then in London.

The Victoria Art Gallery

Victoria Art Gallery in Bath
Bridge Street,

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Bath Travel Sketches

I spent a day in Bath (Somerset, England) last Saturday. I took the train and used the time to sketch. I tried different techniques to get some variety.

Here is the material I used:

  • ProMarker Pens: Grey Green, Khaki and Shale

At Swindon Station (Sepia Pentel Color Brush – Micron Pigma ink pens – watercolour wash) 

In the train to Bath (Micron Pigma ink pens – watercolour wash) 

Back to Swindon (Micron Pigma ink pens – ProMarker Pens) 

Micron Pigma ink pens – ProMarker Pens

Monday, 2 June 2014

Cyanometer revisited

In July 2008, after reading about Horace Bénédict de Saussure and his cyanometer, I decided to build a simple one. A cyanometer is an apparatus that allow you to determine what shade of blue is the sky. It turned out that the cyanometer had no scientific usefulness. But I thought it would be a good observation tool, as the sky is not just blue — it is made of many blue colours.

I even suggested that painters could use a model of cyanometer with more hues to analyze and mix accurately the blue colours of the sky they paint. You can read my two earlier posts: Blue sky research with a cyanometer and How to build a cyanometer.

I had forgotten everything about the cyanometer when Cathy FitzGerald who was preparing a radio program for BBC3 titled “Skylarking” (documentary to be broadcast shortly) contacted me. She wanted me to make the larger version of the cyanometer I had dreamed of (my original attempt only counted 12 shades of blue)… and I accepted the challenge.

Building the cyanometer

I started with an A4 size (21 cm x 29.5 cm) piece of plywood, which is a good size to carry around in a bag. I was looking for a light sturdy material I could paint on and plywood became an obvious choice.

I traced with a pencil the margins and then 6 rows of 9 squares (1.5 cm x 1.5 cm each). I then added all the diagonals to pinpoint the centre of each square. I drilled 54 holes with a power drill.

Why holes rather than square windows? I thought first about cutting out small square windows as I had done in the 2008 cardboard version of the cyanometer. However, cutting out these windows in plywood would have been complicated and time consuming; I also feared the wood would split in the end. This was when I thought about the Camera obscura and how a whole image could go through a pinhole. If did not need a large window after all. By drilling holes, I could have larger samples of each hue because the space taken by the window was minimal. But there was more to it — the result was aesthetically more pleasing: the colours formed an uninterrupted patchwork of 54 blue hues; the holes were evenly spaced; and I would have a nice contrast between the shape of the squares and the rounded windows.

As the power drill damaged the wood at the back of the board, around the holes, I had to mend the surface with wood paste. When the wood paste was dry, I sanded the whole board.

I applied a light coat of acrylic gesso on both sides of the board and its edges to prepare the surface for painting. I painted the margin with several coats of white acrylic paint.

Just for fun, I painted a blue sky with clouds on the back of the board.

For the cyanometer colours, I worked with a selection of blue hues from the Winsor&Newton Griffin range (plus a Cobalt Turquoise, which is only available in classic artist oil paint). The pigments are in oil modified alkyd resin and the paint dries faster compared to traditional oil colours. As I painted on wood with a thin layer, the paint was touch-dry in one day.

From left to right, the base colours at the top of each column are:
  • Column 1: Prussian Blue
  • Column 2: 1 part Prussian Blue + 1 part Phthalo Blue
  • Column 3: Phthalo Blue
  • Column 4: French Ultramarine
  • Column 5: 1 part French Ultramarine + 1 part Cobalt Blue
  • Column 6: Cobalt Blue
  • Column 7: 1 part Cobalt Blue + 1 part Cerulean Blue Hue
  • Column 8: Cerulean Blue Hue
  • Column 9: 1 part Cerulean Blue Hue + 1 part Cobalt Turquoise
 Each colour or mix of colours is then lightened with Titanium White to get lighter and lighter shades down each of the 9 columns. The final result is a beautiful patchwork of blue hues in different tones.

How to use the cyanometer

To work out the shade of an area of blue sky, you hold the cyanometer in front of you and peek through the holes. Move it around until you find a close match between the bit of sky you see through the hole and the blue hue painted in the square around the hole.

Related articles