Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Journey of Woody’s

Back in May 2015, Lucy Gardner, owner, manager and chief hard worker of Woods of Whitchurch approached me to ask if I would be willing to take on painting her lovely village shop to celebrate the soon to be launched Woody’s.   Woody’s is her brand new and beautiful licensed coffee shop nestling above the village shop which will be opening to the public any minute now.

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to create the new painting of Woods, and here is the journey I went on in creating the painting that was unveiled last night at the private preview night…
Lucy bought the shop in August 2011 but the earliest image I could find of the road was from 1910 with a dusting of snow and a fair bit of Photoshopping too it would seem.

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My offering to historians other than the photograph is this … Woods has been the beating heart of Whitchurch village life, for a very long time.  The A40 connecting Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye split the village in half in 1966, a year after I was born.  And for literally as long as I can remember, the shop has been a constant important facility for the communities it has served for decades.
My first real memories of Woods, which would have had a different name way back then, start in 1971 when Mum would wait outside the shop to collect my sister off the school bus.  I would have been six years old, and the shop from that day became a daily part of my life for the next 12 years.  One other amazing thing to me is I was 50 last year, which means my relationship with Woods has lasted over four decades.
You can imagine therefore what an absolute joy it was to be offered the commission, and to be simply told by Lucy that “I trust you to do a great job”.  Lucy’s passion for the quality of the product she offers has created something so special that I knew the brief was to create not just a painting but to evoke an emotion, a warmth, an image that summed up Lucy and her brilliant team.  Every single brush stroke from the very first moment until the day of completion has felt as though it has oozed Lucy’s delight and charm.  I feel I’ve had her joy working over my shoulder the entire time.  
So here it is - I offer a bit of a photographic record of the journey – Woods of Whitchurch, introducing Woody’s!
The first shots of Woods - and it doesn’t even have Woody’s Cafe sign on the building.



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Together we outlined the first ideas, agreed the brief, and then she let me loose.
Here are my first sketches.



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I always feel slightly sick when I reach this stage.  The palette, previously thick with the colours of the just finished commission, is now pristine.  It’s the stage Rolf  Harris called “killing the white”.  It’s what I call The Point of No Return!



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This particular commission is so huge I had to tape it directly to my table protector as none of my wooden boards can hold it.



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It’s always a Heart in Mouth process starting a new commission, but this time I have an extra uncertainty – that I am using Arches Watercolour paper instead of some of my more familiar manufacturers because it’s the only brand that makes a big enough sheet.  This paper has a natural graining tendency which means an instant texture and sedimentation effect.  I’m not sure what I think of it … yet!



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Yay!  First tones begin.  There’re 6 different blues here along with a couple of red hues to begin to create the sky.  Oh, and about a litre of water too.



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So what do you do with a foreground that invariably consists of vehicles I ask you?!



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Because Woods of Whitchurch is such an invaluable asset to the village, either side of the road is cars, cars and more cars.  I didn’t want to paint in cars!  So Lucy and I had one of our rare conflabs and decided on flowers.  I love the effect.



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Getting into those trees now.  This is where tracing paper comes to the fore to protect where I don’t want the splashes to go.



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I’m not happy with the granulating sky though … so before I go to bed, I’m going to re-do that
It’s the next day now and this next image was taken first thing after a late night second wash over the sky.  The granulation effect of the Arches paper wasn’t what I was looking for, it drew the eye away from the shop too much and made the painting about the sky instead.

I’m really pleased with the effect of using gouache blues - four different ones - and a healthy splurge of Chinese White too.



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Now that the sky has the life that I want it to exude, I can begin to layer up.  It’s a slow process, darting around all over the painting to create matching depth.  This process takes days, and in some cases weeks.  But we don’t have weeks for Woods so it will be a long day …
After a few layers …



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… We reach stand back, admire, and let the painting say what needs to happen next.  This process can also take anything from minutes to days throughout the painting journey.  Needing to give time to not only see where work needs doing but also give time to the “How will I achieve that?” Question, which is sometimes easily answered, but sometimes takes a lot of trial runs to get the desired effect – for instance, adding the “woofs” and turning the lights on!



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This is the smallest snapshot of the number of photographs I have taken, and the number of hours involved, but rather than boring you to death now that you have got the gist of it, I’ll show you this Stand Up Piece.



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This means the painting has arrived on the kitchen table, where we all have to worship and work around it while I am watching it over and over again for the final touches.  Thankfully, there isn’t a great deal of difference between this version and the finished result – Ta Daaaa!!



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What an amazing adventure I’ve had with Lucy, Woods, and Woody’s.  From the first days of the commission to yet another exquisitely framed piece thanks to Rachel Fisher of Country Brush Framers, I have loved every second of the process.
And here are a few snaps of the Grand Opening of the new coffee shop which happened on 17th March 2016 – at which point we also announced the beginning of The Quirky Quickie!



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If you love the painting, or are considering commissioning your own Amanda Hamilton design, or would like to know more about Amanda’s Quirky Quickies at Woods on “Watercolour Wednesdays” do please feel free to contact me either via my website – www.amanda-hamilton.com or via email amanda@amanda-hamilton.com.
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