Early this morning I received an email to say I had won the category for the best painting of the Circus in the Bath Prize 2011. In 2010 I came 1st runner up in the Bath Painting Prize with my watercolour of The Royal Crescent. Spurred on by this success, I decided to enter the competition again this year which had several new categories for artists to paint, one of which was the best painting of the Circus. To enter, one had to paint a scene “plein air” of a specific location in Bath given to each artist by the organisers. My location to paint was Kingsmead Square, so in August, Susan and I went to Bath for a couple of days for me to paint on location and to get reference of the other scenes I wanted to paint. Unfortunately it rained for much of the time, so my plein air painting was executed under the shelter of an umbrella, however on the morning of our departure, the bad weather lifted and I was able to spend some time to get the reference I needed to do the winning painting of the Circus.
I decided to do this scene in the same landscape format as last years painting of the Royal Crescent to emphasise the curve of the architecture. After drawing the main composition in pencil, I put down some base washes of yellow and rose madder to set the tone for the distinctive honey colouring of the stonework and sky. Like the Royal Crescent, The Circus is constructed from Bath stone, a Limestone comprising granular fragments of calcium carbonate.
As one is painting, a deeper appreciation of the thinking behind the classic Georgian architecture is formed. Wood’s inspiration was in fact the Roman Colosseum, another great piece of architecture I have painted, both from the inside and out. The Colosseum was designed to be seen from the outside, whereas the Circus faces inwardly. Work began in 1754 and completed in 1768. Sadly, Wood died less than 3 months after the first stone was laid. His son, John Wood the Younger completed the scheme to his father’s design.
Next came the time consuming task of painting the windows and columns. The Circus (Latin for ring, oval or circle) consists of 3 storey townhouses with a mansard roof. Three classical orders are used, Greek Doric, Roman/Composit and Corinthian, one on top of the other.
The danger when doing detail of this nature is to make it too tight and photographic. A camera can do a better job than the artist of capturing detail. I wanted to retain the freshness of the location sketchbook watercolours I had painted of the Circus, so I kept my leather bound sketchbook open in front of me at all times as a constant reminder. The result was a winning painting, an original watercolour capturing the early morning summer sunlight warming up the classical Georgian architecture.
The paintings entered for the competition can be seen at the Octagon, Milsom Place, Bath from 21st -27th October 10am-5pm (Sunday 12noon-4pm). An auction sale of Bath Prize paintings will take place at the Guildhall, High Street, Bath on Friday 28th October, starting at 7pm.