Sri Lanka this September

Join me this September from 11th to the 17th for a week of painting in the inspirational settling of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a wonderfully colourful, warm and friendly country and a great place to get away for a week of sunshine, sea, great hospitality, delicious food and perhaps most importantly a wonderful, place for painting. I went a couple of years ago for two weeks and can’t wait to get back to this exceptional country and explore more.

We shall have the chance to stay at one of two houses at Koggala Lake.

Sea Heart House, a destination in its self as can be seen in the photos here. There are 4 air-conditioned double bedrooms set in an acre of beautiful garden with elevated views over Koggala Lake.

Maddox, a most comfortable House with stunning views. It also has four double rooms with ensuite.

There will be a chance to paint various subjects and I will fully support you will be with personalised tuition

The days will include some short talks on various aspects and techniques of painting followed by painting sessions supported with advice and tips for improvement. There will be a limit of 10 people on the trip giving opportunity for one to one tuition.

There are many activities for non-painting partners whatever their range of interests, be they cultural, sporting or the natural world

I you are joining us, we have also been able to arrange a 10% discount on materials bought for the course at Green and Stone. Green and Stone are in the Kings road, London. The shop is a veritable cornucopia staffed by the most helpful and knowledgeable people. I love it there. They do mail order too.

For further information and costs, please contact:

seahearthouse@gmail.com

 

October in Kenya

sunset

I have let my blog fall fallow this last year and although I have regularly uploaded paintings and drawings to my Instagram feed at willpaint, there are a number of things I want to get out there that are more suited to a blog and so I will attempt to put that right starting now.

I have been painting in various places around the world this year and it is something I love to do. Travel and painting seem to be made for each other (the problems encountered getting solvents in unfamiliar country’s aside). I intend to write a post soon on my various set-ups and my travel kit both bought and home made, but for now I want to write about something I am so excited about;

October in Kenya.

This October I shall rearrange my teaching days at The Royal Drawing School to fit in a week of teaching at Kilifi, a beautiful spot on the coast of Kenya.

From  Saturday 8th to Sunday 16th October  you are invited to Mdoroni on the Kenya coast to enjoy a week of painting in one of the most beautiful places in Kenya.

The idea is for accomplished and not so accomplished artists to paint without pressure under my guidance – We might paint interiors, exteriors, markets, landscapes, views, Arab ruins, boats, beach and trees. We will enjoy delicious healthy cooking, culture and the beauty of Kilifi Creek . This is a painting trip and holiday which can be enjoyed by artists and non-painting partners alike.

The Location

A beautiful tranquil fully staffed villa on the beach at the mouth of Kilifi Creek with views 360 degree views of the Indian Ocean. Furnished with Swahili antiques and surrounded by rambling coral gardens, bougainvillea and baobab trees.

www.houseonkenyacoast.com

COSTS  per person £1,800 per person – if husband/ wife or friends sharing a room £1,500 each (both prices excluding flights).

There are a few places left so for more details or to reserve a place please Email Antonia Filmer

antoniaf@talk21.com

or telephone 07836767811 (or +447836767811 from outside the UK)

Incidentally, I mentioned the Royal Drawing School. Here is my profile on their website

http://royaldrawingschool.org/artists/faculty/will-topley/

And a profile of me by Antonia from India’s Sunday Guardian

http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/opinion/473-will-topley%E2%80%99s-interiors-attract-aristocratic-clientele

 If you are not signed up for Instagram I can highly recommend it. It’s a great place for following Artists who interest you, or anyone else for that matter and as its basically just a picture per post it really is suited to art works.

 

If you prefer not to install the Instagram app my feed can be viewed here

https://www.instagram.com/willpaint/

Map Of Kenya

What a difference a year makes

I wrote a blog post in March 2014 about my trip to Barbados and my plan to try and speed up my painting rate by doing some pochades.

Although I haven’t moved over entirely to the one day or en premier coup style, I have done a number of one day sketches since then. I feel that a lot that has come out of this newer way of working was already in me or informed by the work I have done in the past decades. Some of my new work however has been just that; new and also has more energy and vitality.

This year, like last and a number before, we spent a couple of weeks of February in Barbados. The climate is wonderful, especially after the long dark and cold winter of the UK. Ok the US got it very bad this year but it was grim all the same and I do feel very motivated when I arrive in the Caribbean and am greeted by a blast of heat and the suddenly intense light. A couple of years ago I went for some whistle lessons on the tin whistle and my teacher, Bill Guilding. He is a Bristol based artist and musician and he told me that when he goes to a hot country his fingers move more freely and that he can play whistle with more fluidity, a definite advantage when playing the irish whistle or penny whistle as it is also known. This ease of movement is a real advantage in sketching.

Front aspect of Heron Bay
Front aspect of Heron Bay through trees

During my trip I managed about a painting a day which I feel is close to my limit at the moment. I can do two but feel somewhat drained if I persist. On this trip I did what I consider to be one of my most successful sketches to date over two afternoons. It is of the front of Heron Bay through some trees. Painting pictures of houses is great and Heron Bay is very beautiful so should make a good subject anyway but very straight lines carry the eye too fast and don’t give enough detail to sustain interest. Breaking the shapes up with trees is a solution to this dilemma but reminds me of the row that erupted when the artist Tim Gibbs who was my uncle by marriage some time ago was painting the house of the writer Anthony Powell, a literary hero of mine. Tim claimed that the house was hideous and said that the only way to solve the problem for the painting was to paint it from behind some trees and a pond. Anthony Powell, however was quite proud of the house and had commissioned the painting of it, so felt somewhat justifiably that Tim had not carried out the commission he has given him. I don’t quite remember how this was resolved financially but I think a deposit was involved. I slightly see both sides of the argument, the difference between the artistic needs of the painting and the fact that it was supposed to be primarily about the house. Which trumps which?

I managed three portraits while I was there. I find that painting people gives me a rush of adrenalin in a way that I imagine similar to a young man taking a bungee jump. The danger awakens my senses so that I begin to feel really alive. On this occasion I managed to remain fairly relaxed because I intended them really to be quick sketches.

Capt Peto 8x9
Capt Peto 8×9

The first is of the very charming Nick Peto. We were staying in the same house party together so I suggested that he sat for me. His very lovely wife Zoe died not long ago and I think that sort of thing makes you feel it a good thing to leave behind a record of your existence so he kindly agreed and we did a sketch taking three or four hours it total over 3 mornings. He is that thing that some people find surprising; every bit a gent, Eton then Sandhurst, achieving the rank of captain in the 9th and 12th Lancers and a regular in the field’s top shot list, combined with a wild sense of humour. It was a very enjoyable time that we spent together. Incidently, he wrote a book a couple of years ago which contains some of his very funny stories and although out of print it can still be got.


The following week I painted a picture of Bongo, the foot massage man who was on the beach at Sandy Lane. Bongo is a Rasta and something of a legend having sat for the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood a few times. I am not in competition with Ronnie Wood, he is a somewhat different Artist so I was free to paint Bongo as I found him, A peaceful gentle soul who twisted my arm for quite a large sitting fee. We were in the middle of negotiations while I was painting and a lady we both knew came up and said “I hope that he is paying you well for sitting there”. Of course at this point I lost all bargaining power.

Here is my picture of Bongo

Bongo Man by WT
Bongo Man by WT

and then one of Ronnie Woods.

bongo-man - Ronnie Wood
Painting of Bongo Man by Ronnie Wood

I was going to paint a second one of Bongo but he had a lump of cash now and didn’t turn up for a couple of days so I turned to one of the golf caddies at the Sandy Lane Golf Club. He is called Elvis but also known as Spicer. The Art dealer Guy Morrison had been using Elvis as his caddy that week and he arranged things for me thus saving me any awkwardness over modeling fees. We had a very peaceable time together. I believe he is an excellent player. For the past couple of years I had wanted to paint a picture of the Seventh hole on the “Old Nine”, the name of the original Sandy Lane course. It was Robert Sangster’s favourite and a bench was placed above the tee there in memory of him. There is also a tournament held annually in his memory there. He was a very kind and generous man with a wicked sense of fun and I was fortunate enough to know him a bit.
So I used this as an opportunity to paint this view in the background. Elvis sat on a ledge of rock at the edge of the tournament or pro tee. I did get permission from Stefan Soroka, the Sandy Lane pro.

Incidentally, I had a lesson with him a couple of years ago and in just one lesson he pointed out a fault in my swing that no pro had been able to help me with before in spite of the the rather large number of lessons I had had with them.

Elvis aka Spicer 12x10
Elvis aka Spicer 12×10

I have seen a drawing of Elvis by Matthew Carr but can’t find any image of it. Here is a link to his page at Marlborough Fine Art, his dealers until his death in February 2011.

http://www.marlboroughfineart.com/artist-Matthew-Carr-103.html
What a difference a year makes? I think my work has come on since the same time last year. My one day pictures feel more confident and are coming together more easily. My slower more detailed work has had a bit of vigor breathed into it.

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

Manchester day trip

My son Lewis has been studying Mathematics for some years now , most recently at Manchester University. He completed his thesis nearly a year ago  and has held a fellowship at UEA in Norwich since that time.

The actual awarding of his Doctorate took place last Thursday so his mother and I joined him there for the ceremony. I felt that I should mark the occasion so I packed my day bag with my smaller Pochade and a few things for the day. I set out from London in fairly overcast conditions and was a bit apprehensive as the weather is often warmer in the South East and Manchester is in the North West. My fears were groundless as when I got there it turned out to be  a beautiful day. We had time to get a bowl of noodles in a Chinese restaurant beforehand. Manchester has a large Chinese population and it was a truly authentic place, food, customers, decor, the lot.

Then off to hire the gown and book the photograph and queue up to get in. Anticipating that I would get covered in paint, I wore a very cheap suit so I felt somewhat under dressed compared to my neighbours queuing behind me wearing in the most exquisite African robes

Once we had made it into the hall it was all pretty quick and the ceremony was all over in an hour. We arranged to meet up on a grassy area in front of the building where there was an ice cream van doing hardly any business so with no queuing Lewis and I had a cornet served by very a friendly ice cream man. The ice cream itself was definitely one of those that had been made of surplus lard from the meat industry, but what could one expect from one of the last bastions of the 50‘s?

Lewis Ice cream

Doctor of Cool

Next up was a small reception at the Alan Turing building where Lewis had had his office. They had laid on cream cakes and tea in the lobby and there were a couple of dozen people standing about in small groups, mostly degree graduates. I then went back to the grassy area in front of the old Victorian University building where the award ceremony had taken place and got out my paints. As I was just making the first few marks a couple of  old dears came up and said “we’ve come to see if you are any good.”.

I would like to start a list of unanswerable remarks people have made as I work. The other people who came up were quite nice. The light was going behind the building and was catching my eyes so it was lucky I has a cap with me. I spend a disproportionate amount of time planing what to take painting as forgetting something like that can mess up the whole day.

Manchester-Uni-10-7-13-adj-w

The finished Sketch, oil on primed paper 5.5“ x 6“

 

I have mounted the painting on ply and I’ll send it to Lewis. We are really proud of what he has achieved and I’m only sad that of his four grandparents only one is still alive and he was too infirm to attend. They would have been thrilled.