Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Richard III Battle of Bosworth painting

For some years I have considered the composition of this painting and after a period of ill health finally came to the conclusion that what was needed was more troops.

The painting is set at the point when Richard decides to charge so it represents the very beginning of the manoeuvre. (Many other artists have depicted Richard III at the point of full charge and at the point of contact with Henry's standard bearer, so I felt that to gain something from the painting I would have to depict a short period earlier in the battle, this I felt would be more suitable for me rather than slavishly copying an already well documented depiction) 

The pencil sketch
The painting before changes
In my painting Richard III has not yet rode ahead of his fellow horsemen but has only just given the command to make the move. As you can see he is only just about to raise his lance in preparation for it to be couched beneath his armpit. Whilst his men slowly canter forward  Richards horse rears up in anticipation of the following charge, Richard looks down as he brings the destrier and his lance into control and the fateful event begins.

I also wanted in some way to show that Richards stature was slight and small as the documentary and archiological evidence has shown. He may have appeared small next to some of the 800 cavalry that charged with him and I wanted to show that besides this vunerability he still fought valiantly. 

Other figures who died in the charge deserve as much recognition and in my research I have considered those who were closest to Richard in the charge such as his banner-bearer Sir Percival Thirlwall, who can be seen dirctly behind Richard  and Sir William Catesby who appears to the Right of Richard. Also others such as Sir Ralph Ashton, Sir Thomas Broughton and Sir John Neville to name a few.
The painting in full

The addition of troops and artillery in the distance gave a sense of scale plus made the interpretation more accurate as archaeological studies have found many canon balls on the battlefield.
Richards artillery fire over the advancing infantry Note the impression of detail in the distant troops. This is all an illusion as will be explained further on. 

To give a sense of middle-ground a group of infantry was added to the left side. This group are descending a hill which is shown by the rise in front of them,
The advancing infantry seen behind Richards cavalry

In addition to the Artillery and infantry I felt that Richards Horsemen needed to have more participants. The original version just showed Richards closest knights but I felt that the painting should show that a full cavalry charge was about to take place. Fortunately the simple addition of mounted men to the middle distance on the right side of the picture gave the impression that a large number of cavalry were about to follow into the scene.

Richards cavalry advance into the scene from the far right. Again these knights are impressionistic so as not to overpower the painting with too much detail.

One of the pleasures of painting is the understanding of how the mind fills in the details when in reality only a small amount of information is given. This is how the Impressionist artists worked and it can be almost magical when you have the confidence to use it. I sometimes have to take a second look myself as I see details appear that I know I haven't painted. A good example are the mounted men at arms that are on the furthest right of the painting. There is, however a good reason for working in this way. 

The eye See's detail in the main area that it is looking, all around it is blurred to a degree, the brain fills in the details as they are needed. When painting a picture with lots of movement and characters the composition can become overwhelming if all is painted with detail, thus it is necessary to give less important areas of the picture less detail. In this way the artist can lead the viewers eye to the main key features. 
The impressionistic knights on the right side of the painting.

This set of knights consist of various shapes that are blue grey in colour. It may surprise you that I literally splodges the paint down left and right until I saw something that looked like armour. I then blobbed some round shapes along the top followed by a few bobs of flesh tone. Finaly in my minds eye I saw areas where light and shade might be and used a dark blue and white to add little spots and stripes across the scene.
The Infantry also use this method of painting with the addition of vertical lines for weapons

Troops in the middle distance showing simple impressionistic style.

The distant troops consist of smaller splodges of greys and blues with additions of reds that have been mixed with the greys. Flags and banners also use muted colours but small flecks of brighter colour is added to make them stand out.  

Distant troops

In addition to the extra troops Various details were added to the armour and grass on the painting, with some tweaking of edges and lines

 Richard III positions His Lance and prepares to advance his cavalry down the hill

All the work done at this time was with just two brushes. I use Nylon brushes which I find hold their shape very well. the two brushes are A. a number 2 pointed brush and B. a Rake brush which is used for painting fur or grass.
The Rake was used to add depth to the foreground grass by adding dark and light strokes of greens yellows and blues.

Other Details added are the clumps of grass and earth that is kicked up by the horses
Clumps of grass

Reflections in the shining armour are very important to give the sense of metal. This can be quite daunting to a beginner but as long as you follow a few simple rules then it can be quite fun to do. 

Firstly you must forget about the lines and details around the armour ,(this will be painted after). Mix your sky, grass and tree colours that you have used on the painting. also add some white so that you have enough to use.  

Now choose the area you are going to paint on, lets say the helmet below. Take the blue sky colour and paint around the top of the helmet blending with white as you come down to about half way.This shows the sky reflecting on the top of the helmet. let it dry and then mix some dark green, draw a rough line across the middle of the helmet with this green paint and then blend a paler grass green as you move down. This shows the reflection of the trees and grass. If you were painting a breastplate this colour would then blend down into whatever colour is below the figure. In this helmets case the lower edges flare outwards and as such they show the blue of the sky again.

Remember we haven't added any details yet but now when the paint is dry we can get a fine brush and add dark lines for shadows and white lines where the light catches the edges of the metal. 

Take a look at some of the pictures here and you will see the method being used. Blue sky fading into white on top, dark green line across the middle which fades into grass green.

The other reflections are more complex but just rely on the colours that are opposite the metal. A small horse and rider is seen in the horse armour below but the blue green method is still followed behind it.

 Note the reflections in the armour

Reflections of the banner can be seen in the helmets

The Blue, Green reflections can be seen across these breastplates and helmets. Its a simple effect but still gives a sense of shiny metal. Note the effect is used on all the armour pieces in the same way.

The painting Framed up and on a wall.

To see my painting of Richard III at the Marsh click link below