Srilanka, a holiday with paints

My wife went through a period of illness a couple of years ago. She is feeling much better now and to celebrate this she took me and her children on a holiday to Srilanka. We all went to stay in a villa near Galle which is on the south west coast

In 2004 Srilanka was devastated by a Tsunami. That was over ten years ago and things have Improved a great deal. There are signs of poverty but it doesnt appear to be to the terrible degree that can be found in India for instance. We were occassionally asked for money but not often and not persistently. Some say that as a tourist destination, Srilanka is the soft option alternative to India.
I loved Srilanka. It is very near the equator and so very hot, It is also very humid, even in March. The arrival time of 5.30am was 12.30 am in the UK. We had not really slept so we all spent most of the first day flat out on our beds in our rooms with the aircon on. Cooling off in ones bedroom soon became known as going to mini Devizes, refering to the cold temperatures we had just left behind at home. Nealantha, one of the staff at the villa had a tuk-tuk and he became our driver, alternating his brother and his father into the convoy with their tuk-tuks. I would be hard put to say who was the best driver.

WT Painting in the vegetable market in Galle
WT Painting in the vegetable market in Galle

I was keen to paint but the others all had agendas of their own so I settled into a pattern of going out fairly early in the morning. The friut market was something I spotted early on and Nelanther’s father took me there and stood next to me with his hand onthe corner of my easle to give support. When people came past he would talk them through what I was doing and small crowds gathered round to watch. I don’t speak Srilankan and he didn’t speak English so I never found out what he said but everone was very kind and the shop keeper brought me a glass of mango juice to sustain me.

Two fruit market stalls in Galle
Two fruit market stalls in Galle

My step-son is a madly keen and a most talented fisherman and one of the first things we did was to go out and buy some fishing tackle. I went on to the fish market to paint and Declan had a look to see what people had caught. It was very exciting at the market, everybody moving about, coming and going,. stall keepers spahing water about to keep the fish wet and fresh looking before wandering off to the other end of the market to chat. I managed to slap down a quick oil sketch, hoping that he looser style would help to put accross the bustle and movement of the market.

The fish market in Galle
The fish market in Galle

One morning I asked Nelanther to recomend somewhere to me and he suggested the budhist temple at. A sign at the bottom of the flight of stone steps asked us to remove our shoes before going to the temple. The soles of my feet burnt like a pair of beef burgers on the grill in a short order diner, the stone steps were so hot. Ouch, ouch, ouch! All the way to the top. When I got there I took my time looking around and settled down to a painting of what was reputed to be a 3000 year old ban yan tree, grown from a cutting from the tree in India that the buddah himself sat under. In Srilanka all festivals are observed reguarless of which religion the festival or celebrants are affiliated to. The day I painted was, I think, Good Friday.

Bohdi tree at Gatagoda Temple, Srilanka
Bohdi tree at Gatagoda Temple, Srilanka

I had nearly finished when someone approached me and asked me kindly to remove the hat I was wearing to keep the sun from my eyes. I had tried so hard to behave repectfully at the temple… and failed, so I upped the amount of my tip to the monks.
There was a great view of the sea from where we were staying and it included a couple of the poles that locals fish from. Early one morning I saw some boys fishing there and I did a quick painting. I had always wondered how people paint moving sea and I think I got a bit better at it while trying to do this view. The light was good and the water was clear so it was a great day to try it.

Fishermen, Srilanka 18x24cm
Fishermen, Srilanka 18x24cm

Once we had arrived at the villa we made all our outings by Tuk-tuk. It is hard to find a jollier way to travel. I long for a tuk-tuk at home, but Devizes in the winter in a tuk-tuk may be a bit tough. I asked to be taken to a tuk-tuk repair shop. Somehow I had a vision of it being a good subject for a painting. The Tuk-tuks are the drivers only source of income and they can’t afford to leave them standing idle. The repair men worked quicky, the tuk-tuks were in one minute and out the next. It was quite a challenge, the heat was a real challenge too.I was lucky that I had my guerilla painter umbrella with the silver top with me. I don’t think I could have survived without it. I had also asked for a large bottle of mineral water to be frozen for me to take on my painting trips. My feet, which were not quite in the shade of the umbrella were burning inspite of the liberal coating of sun cream I had applied so occassionally I poured a few drops of freezing water onto them. The mechanics would sometimes come and look and they seemed to like the picture which pleased me very much. There was one particularly dirty mechanic who was literally covered from head to toe in motor oil and grease and he was a real character. If he has a wife, either she must get desperate trying to clean him up or perhaps she dosn’t mind getting filthy when they kiss.

Tuk-tu -repair shop
Tuk-tu -repair shop

I went to visit some old friends who had moved to Srilanka about 15 years ago. There I saw my old student, Phoebe Dickinson. I had taught her when she was at St Mary’s Calne and also at the Royal Drawing School We spent a morning painting together which I greatly enjoyed. Here I the sketch I did of Phoebe painting a cow by a lake.
You can see more of her work at http://www.phoebedickinson.com/.

Phoebe Dickinson Painting in Srilanka
Phoebe Dickinson Painting in Srilanka
Phoebe Dickinson and WT painting at the nature reserve
Phoebe Dickinson and WT painting at the nature reserve

Srilanka was a wonderful place to paint. There are so many varied things to see, I do hope to return someday soon. The people are particularly kind and hospitable but the Chinese tourists were a something was was not prepared for. On our second day at Galle fort I was painting away when a very large groups of tourists started tio descend on me. At one point I was standing infront of an audience of 50 plus, perhaps as many as 100, watching as I worked. I would like to think that they had never seen such a great artist at work before but I think they were just a bit bored and in search of free entertainment. This ended with me being jostled out of the way of my painting by a the tourists so they could take selfies.
“Nought as queer as folk” as they say in Yorkshire.

Painting a country house and Julian Barrow

Views of Thornton Manor, The Wirral, Liverpool

Thronton Manor by Julian Barrow.jpg

I had heard of Julian Barrow and seen his paintings long before I met him. I had heard that he would travel the world, arriving somewhere with perhaps two letters of introduction. He would paint a collection of pictures, have an exhibition, then sell all the paintings to the large number of new friends he had made since arriving. He would then move on to another country and do the same again. Actually I didn’t just admire him; if I’m honest I was also a little jealous.
One day I was painting an interior of the dining room in a very grand London house and I went downstairs and found him painting a view of the hall. He was completely charming and I liked him right away.
We painted together like this for about three days during which time we stopped now and again to look at each others work and to chat. His picture was then finished and he went off to paint a house in St John’s Wood. My painting took a further two months and although he was very nice about it and said that I was doing something really much greater and that his was rather slight in comparison, I couldn’t help feeling that somehow he had the best of it all.
A few years later I bumped into him and he took me to see his studio in Tite Street, Chelsea,. It had once belonged to Augustus John and the living and working areas were situated on various different floors. The rooms were tastefully decorated in a Bohemian and rather opulent way and the walls were covered in his paintings, all beautifully framed. Here he held annual parties that were renowned throughout London and the home counties. All pictures were for sale and sell they did. As I left we swore undying friendship and promised to meet up in Wiltshire very soon.
Sadly he died last year and his memorial service was crowed out with his friends, more friends than most people would make in ten lifetimes. The address captured him so well and you can read it on line here and also see some of his work

http://www.julianbarrow.com/

He was famously known as one of the pin-stripe painters, after the sort of clothes worn around the St James’ area of London, where all the gentleman’s clubs are. Certainly, I noticed a number of pictures by him when I was painting a portrait interior at White’s a few of years ago. He told me he trained at Signorina Simi’s, an atelier in Florence where young people went to study painting 30 or more years ago. I think there was a large emphasis on tonal value there and this may have helped him see compositions in a simplified way which enabled him to paint so quickly and yet convincingly. I have read that he studied under Annigoni so I may have mis-remembered what he told me but the end result is the same. Many people who train in the Ateliers in Florence now seem to come out as clones, it can be hard to tell their work one from another but Julian Barrow’s work is easily recognised even before seeing his hand written style signature in the bottom corner.

signature

I still think of him and his paintings, particularly when I am trying to capture something quickly. In fact I have been painting in a house recently where I counted 6 of his pictures so far – there may well be more – and as I go past them I have a look to see how they were done.

Julian Barrow1

I love paintings of country houses and I thought I would try and do one. I painted this at Fosbury in Wiltshire a couple of weeks ago and I have to say it probably owes more than a little to Julian.

 

Fosbury w

Fosbury, oil on canvas laid in board

Easel Fosbury