Wallsmacker Art


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The Hood family had a record of service going back 175 years. The Ship bearing this famous name was launched on Thursday, 22nd August 1918 by the widow of Rt. Hon. Sir Horace Hood, who had been killed at Jutland.  However, it was his great, great grandfather, the first Viscount, with a reputation as a master tactician, whose name, device and motto she bore.  The badge is of an anchor supported by a Cornish Chough, the rare coastal bird of the crow family, with a popular reputation for fire-raising.  The motto was Ventis Secundis - "With Favouring Winds". ('The Battlecruiser HMS Hood', Bruce Taylor, Naval Institute Press) 


"A dozen ships had been fitted with the superb fifteen inch gun, but none, not even Repulse and Renown, had managed to convey the same synthesis of speed and power within such an immense frame.  Hood, it turned out, succeeded in marrying the rakishness of a destroyer, the sleekness of a cruiser and the simmering menace of the greatest men o'war" (The Battleship HMS Hood, Bruce Taylor, Naval Institute Press).

"I stood on the beach for some considerable time, drinking in the beauty, grace and immaculate strength of her.  'Beauty' and 'Grace' seem rather ludicrous words to describe a vessel of such size, particularly one whose primary function was for destruction.  But I can honestly say I never could, nor indeed can even today, think of more suitable words to describe her" (Ted Briggs, on his first sighting of The Mighty Hood as a 9 year old in 1932).


"An imperial icon, she also summed up the state of the Royal Navy between 1921 and 1937 - externally impressive, seemingly invulnerable and still the biggest, but actually a thin shell, an illusory gloss hiding vulnerabilities that would be starkly exposed during the Second World War.  Hood was a heavyweight boxer with a glass jaw". (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne, Pen and Sword)

4th May - THE WEIGH-IN

Mighty Hood - Birth of a Giant :

"As she took shape on the slipway at John Brown's shipyard in Glasgow, it was clear that a giant was in the making.  Hood was 860 feet long, and weighed 46,700 tons full load.  She was armed with eight fifteen inch and twelve (later reduced to eight) five-and-a-half inch calibre guns...She seemed as well armoured as she could be, given her design requirements; twelve inches narrowing to six inches in the great slabs bolted on her sides, and an increase to a foot too on the huge barbettes housing her turrets....At her launch in August 1918, Hood entered the water as the largest capital ship in the world.  For all her life, she remained the longest capital ship in existence" (Hood and Bismarck, Mearns and White, Channel 4 books).


Hood's reputation was that she was the largest submarine in the Navy, because her stern would dig in at speed, rendering the quarterdeck awash.  

"At times she'd shake like a jelly.  I'm not kidding - she'd shake like a jelly.  When I went onto the foc'sle, the only billet I could get was underneath the hatchway going up on it.  If you hit a heavy sea, she'd dip and as she came up she'd shudder..." (Den Finden)

"At high power she would throb like the devil.  I felt sorry for the midshipmen, because their flat was right aft - the very after part of the ship, right above the screws.  So they had a massage every time they turned in, I should think!". (Boy Seaman Frank Pavey). (Hood and Bismarck, Mearns and White, Channel 4 books).


Between 27.11.1923 and 28.09.1924 HMS Hood was undertaking a 40,000 mile cruise of the World.  

"The aim was to demonstrate Britain's power to the world, and to show her support to all key parts of the 'pink on the map' and to some beyond it, including the USA.  This was showing the flag to end all showing the flags.  The 'Special Service Squadron' found the Royal Navy's traditional skills in hospitality and presentation were to be tested to the limit, as never before or since. Paintwork gleamed, brass shone, the quarter deck was scrubbed a dazzling white"  

Hood is seen in my painting, docking in Vancouver on the 25th June 1924, where she remained until the 5th July.  

"She arrived home on the 9th September 1924, making her way up the Hamoaze to Devonport.  In just under a year, Hood had played host to three quarters of a million visitors and had gone back and forth across the equator six times".  (Hood and Bismarck, Mearns and White, Channel 4 books)


"The plan was simple - and distasteful.  The French Navy would be forced to choose whose side they wanted to be on.....Slowly, it became clear that none of the British ultimata would be accepted". (Hood and Bismarck, Mearns and White)

"It was like shooting Fish in a barrel virtually" (Ted Briggs, one of only three survivors from the sinking of the Hood).

"The response was immediate.  Just as I turned round to watch, the guns of the Resolution and Valiant roared in murderous hair-trigger reaction.  Then came the ting-ting of our firing bells.  Seconds later, my ears felt as if they'd been sandwiched between two manhole covers. The concussion of the Hood's eight 15" guns, screaming in horrendous harmony, shook the flag deck violently.  (Coles and Briggs, The Mighty Hood)

"Moments later, the harbour at Mers-el-Kebir was being crucified by the first salvoes of British 15" ordinance.  Within three minutes, the battleship Bretagne had blown up with huge loss of life.  Her sister, Provence, and the battle cruiser Dunkerque, had to be beached after sustaining repeated hits, the latter mainly under Hood's fire.  The Destroyer Mogador lost her stern to a direct hit, which left her a smouldering wreck in waters turned black with oil and writhing bodies......In retrospect, the tragedy of Mers-el-Kebir accurately reflects the scale of the disaster that had befallen Britain and France in the space of less than two months.  It also foreshadowed the dark night of war that lay ahead for both countries.  For the Hood, there was the lingering sadness that her guns had received their baptism of fire against not only an ally but, in the case of Dunkerque, a companion in arms.  The return by the Dunkerque's officers of souvenirs presented to them by members of the Hood's wardroom in happier time made this all the more poignant and impropitious". (The Battlecruiser HMS Hood, Bruce Taylor).

Hood had fought her first major battle. Her next would be her last.


"Lacking essential full modernisation, but benefiting from an exaggerated reputation as the World's most beautiful and powerful warship, in 1941 the so-called 'Mighty Hood' was ill-prepared to fight the latest capital ships.  Between 1920 and 1939, Hood, for all her faults, still appeared to present a combination of speed and hitting power unrivalled by any other capital ship.  On a good day, she was capable of destroyer speeds - shifting her nearly 50,000 tons and eight 15" guns through the water at thirty-plus knots.  Newer, even more heavily-armed and faster ships were taking shape.  They had the sort of protection needed to survive a slugging match that Hood so sorely lacked". (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne)


"Briefing Hood's ship's company over the PA, Admiral Whitworth explained that, should it come to a battle, the battle cruiser would close fast, presenting a narrow bows-on profile. This, according to Ted Briggs, was the first time it dawned on some of the ship's Officers that Hood was extremely vulnerable to plunging fire, though they still held faith with the 12" belt armour to soak up punishment.  Nobody sought to explain 'this type of Achilles' hell' to sailors of the lower deck, as they contemplated fighting the so-called most deadly warship in the world." (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne)

"The Hood was destroyed because she had to fight a ship 22 years more modern than herself.  This was not the fault of the British seamen.  It was the direct responsibility of those who opposed the rebuilding of the British Battle Fleet until 1937, two years before the second Great War started.  It is fair to her gallant crew that this should be written."  (Admiral Lord Chatfield - First Sea Lord 1933-38 - in his letter to The Times, 28th May 1941)


21st May 1941: "And so the last preparations were made.  The last shells fused and torpedo warheads inspected, the fire and damage-control parties mustered, the galley fires extinguished and instruments laid out in the Medical Distributing Stations.  Words exchanged, bladders emptied.  At midnight, the bugle sounded its galvanising call over the tannoy and the men hastened to the positions from which their minds had not strayed in many hours.  Shortly after midnight, Holland ordered the immense battle ensign hoisted....". (The Battle Cruiser HMS Hood, Bruce Taylor).

"The capital ships exited the anchorage via the Southern, Hoxa Gate, a small vessel hauling aside the massive underwater net designed to ensure U-boats could not sneak in.  Prince of Wales followed closely in Hood's wake, a cold North wind biting into those on her exposed upper deck.  To be going forth on their first war mission in company with Hood infused the sailors and marines of Prince of Wales with great confidence.  As Leiutenant Commander McMullen later reflected, 'The majority of them mistook her size and reputation for battle worthiness; We were the new boy but we felt perfectly confident that there was the Mighty Hood'". (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne).

11th May - WEATHER

"Hood and her squadron were being sent to Iceland, to be better positioned to intercept....the verdict of the lower deck was that it would all come to nothing, as was usually the case.  Should it turn into an actual interception, Hood's 15" guns would be able to handle a 'jumped-up pocket battleship'".

"King George V was heading to cover the North-West of Iceland.  However, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were already slipping around the north of Iceland into the Denmark Strait.  Hood and her group were ordered by the Admiralty to alter course."

"Never mind the Germans, the chief foe as the ship sped north was the dreadful weather, which Sam Wood in Prince of Wales experienced in the raw the wind howling 'like a million screaching devils trying to dodge the rain'.  The sea was mountainous: 'Looking for'ard sometimes the bows would disappear under a swell of green frothy sea and a great surge of water would engulf the main for'ard A and B turrets.  Slowly the bows would rise from the sea in defiance and tons of water would run from the decks back into the sea'.  There was something gothic about the night, like some horror story seen in the eerie half-light of the Arctic." (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne)


22nd May 1941 - Telegram from Churchill to President Roosevelt.  "We have reason to believe that a formidable Atlantic raid is intended.  Should we fail to catch them going out, your Navy should surely be able to mark them down for us....Give us the news and we will finish the job"

Churchill believed "the arrival of the Bismarck on the oceans before these two ships (George V and Prince of Wales) were completed would be disastrous in the highest degree, as it can neither be caught nor killed,and would therefore range freely throughout the oceans, rupturing communications".  (Churchill.  The Second World War, volume 1).

"The only vessels capable at all of fighting Bismarck and her sister were, of course, King George V and the Prince of Wales, with Rodney and Nelson older and slower, but heavily armed and protected.  The battle cruisers were not really in the equation as far as any serious assessment of strength was considered, while the unmodernised revenge battleships were only fit for convoy escort work".

"He (Churchill) told Roosevelt even a few months delay in Bismarck will affect the whole balance of sea power to a serious degree.  Churchill cultivated high hopes the RAF's Bomber Command might be able to disable Bismarck and Tirpitz, but these were not realised". (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne).


23rd May:  "In Hood, Commander Cross made an electrifying broadcast to the Ship's company, telling them: 'We are expected to intercept at 0200 tomorrow morning.  We will go to action stations at midnight. In the meantime, prepare yourselves, and above all, change into clean underwear'. This last measure was to prevent infection in case of wound".  (Killing the Bismarck, Iain Ballantyne)


"Realising the moment of truth was fast approaching, and thinking of the two British capital ships' relative strengths and weaknesses, Admiral Tovey considered breaking radio silence to send a signal.  According to one naval officer (Colin McMullan), who saw action in the looming battle, Tovey was 'so worried about the Hood's deck armour that he drafted out a signal to Admiral Holland suggesting that Prince of Wales went in towards the enemy, end on, and drew the fire while Hood lay off at a distance.  He considered this.  He wrote the signal out, then he thought he mustn't interfere tactically with the Admiral on the spot.  He tore up the signal'"

Artist's notes for the day:

The canvas for this painting is 3' x 4' and I am using Michael Harding Artists' Oils and Old Holland Classic Oils. My chosen medium for thinning the oils is Liquin.  Day 1 shows an initial pencil sketch of my chosen scene of HMS Hood, docking in Vancouver Harbour in 1924.  I am starting to 'block in' the ship in monochrome.  As the primary subject matter, it is important to immediately establish its dominant position in the centre of the canvas.


Artist's notes for the day:  

The hull is painted in, still in monochrome at this stage.


Artist's notes for the day:

The sky and landscape are painted in Phthalocyanine green with differing amounts of white being mixed in to produce the necessary shading.  In the foreground, I map in some yellow ochre for the quayside.  In contrast to the Bismarck painting, the aim here is to 'show off' the beauty and grandeur of this wonderful ship in a peacetime setting.  

Artist's notes for the day:

More detailing is done on the ship and background coastline, with tones endeavouring to reflect a depth of field within the painting.  Although happy with tones, I will be revisiting the colours to give a greater unity to the picture.  "Too many colours spoil the broth"!  It's always worth experimenting with colour to achieve the effect you are seeking, and it is sometimes the unintended brush strokes that yield more success than the original plan!  We'll have another look tomorrow and see how we feel!


Artist's notes for the day:

With the background shapes established, I start blocking in the spectators. in monochrome.  It's great fun 'dressing up' the characters in their costumes to match the period, and inventing a history and personality to match each figure.  I've decided that 'Hercule Poirot' will be standing second from the left!  In due course, colours will be glazed on top of the figures., but the concern at this stage is to establish positioning within the picture.  


Artist's notes for the day:

Time for a rethink!  The background landscape I felt somewhat jarred with the sky and, thus, I have changed this, using more complementary colours.  I feel I need to unify the different elements of the painting, and this colour change has gone some way to achieving this.  I am starting to sketch in the background objects, not too sharply simply because I need to retain the focus on the ship itself and the people.  The spectators, an important aspect of the overall work, are blocked in, and remembering all the time that the light is coming from the right hand side of the painting,  long shadows are put into position for ship and people alike.  


Artist's notes for the day:

Most of the remaining characters are blocked in - doubtless several of these will be subject to change in the course of the painting, albeit that their relative positions are fixed.   Very little detailing will be seen behind the sailors; they  represent an important link between the shore and the ship and they need to be clearly seen and identifiable in the painting, without distraction form excessive surrounding detail.  

Covering the entire canvas with paint is psychologically an important point in the process, but there is still a long way to go.  It is the detailing, glazes etc. that take the time...you just feel better when there is no canvas left bare!


Artist's notes for the day:

For the same reason as I changed the colours in the background, I was not happy with the brown quayside, and thus went for complemtary colours.  Again, I feel it provides greater unity in the picture.  Additional admirers of the Hood are placed behind the all-important sailors., who uniforms are shaded and detailed.    


Artist's notes for the day:

Minor refinement has been effected on the Hood, but the main work comprises the glazing of colours for the clothing of the people on the shoreline.  


Artist's notes for the day:

I return to pursue detailing to the Hood, notably to the conning tower and the hull, and working on the anchors.   It should be noted that further glazes will be applied in due course, but at last the ship is beginning to take shape.


Artist's notes for the day:

Which of you was looking closely enough yesterday to notice that one of the spectators has been turned around to look at you, and not the ship?  Actually, I''ve turner her round to look at the handsome young man in uniform!  She also acquiring a rather more fashionable and alluring dress - the 1920's flapper is emerging!

Also today, a bit of a sky drama.  I was busy repairing a few little pieces of stray paint, and ended up remodelling the entire sky... but in the end, I think it has enhanced the overall image.  Sometimes it's the mistakes that give direction and can be worked to advantage!

Artist's notes for the day:

Again, a day of adding detail - to the ship, to the flapper girl, to the sailors, and darkening the smoke from funnels to add more depth to the picture.  


Artist's notes for the day:

The penultimate day - I have completed some detailing on the ship, including incorporating the final guns and refining the tiny sailors working on deck.  I have also added finishing touches to the dress of the onlookers, and the sailors' faces, together with further shading to their uniforms.  Nearly there!  


Artist's notes for the day:

HOORAY - it's complete.  This day marks the final painting.  However, not the end of the accompanying history, and not the end of the task of producing the limited edition prints.

You will see in my 'favourites and links' page that Electra Studio photographs all of my paintings.  Mike at Electra takes a great deal of trouble to set up the lighting, filters and camera to very exacting standards.  Such is the quality of the photographs he takes, that it would be quite possible to produce prints to the same size as the original work, or even bigger!

Thereafter, with a digital image of the painting, I go to Kadinsky, where the prints are produced using Gliclee inks on the finest quality Hannemuhle art paper.  Each print can take up to fifteen minutes in the printing process alone, after extensive 'set up'.  The aim is to reproduce a print which is as close as possible to the original painting.  

Each of these paintings has probably taken me at least eighty hours; the printing is a long and expensive process, but produces impressive results.  

And here is the final painting - below

Can you suggest a title for this complete painting?  Go on, have a go!  Just log into our forum and share your ideas.  We'd love to hear them.  


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