NAKED VALOUR – the story of a painting.

The aim of this page is to offer an insight into the journey of a work of art. I will post the material as it develops – there’s no knowing how long this will take or whether the work will be as I envisage it now. Paintings develop their own energy and can arrive at destinations that may surprise, please, confound or dismay the artist.

This painting is a tribute to the 7 men from the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot who were awarded the Victoria Cross at Rorke’s Drift. I’ve mapped out the composition and completed preliminary work of sketches and studies for the various figures.

Today I’ll post my pencil drawing of Lt. Gonville Bromhead. I depict him as I imagine he felt on that day in 1879 as he prepared for the Zulu attack – tense, alert, determined, resilient, anxious but unafraid.


So that you’ll have an idea of the content and the composition I’m putting up the ground drawing of VALOUR. This is a simple, pencil, line drawing of the arrangement of  the central figures. It creates the preliminary perspective I want to work from.  I’m using Strathmore watercolour paper – cold pressed, 140lb (300gsm), 22″ x 30″ (560 x 760mm). As this photo is rather feint and the figures difficult to see I’m adding the pencil study of these central figures from my sketch book. This shows the tonal values I’ll be referring to as I’m painting.


Here are the first 3 photos showing my painting progress. I chose to start with the focal point and work outwards. In order to maintain the brightness and allow the white paper to shine through for highlights I decided not to lay down any preliminary washes. Masking fluid or careful scraping would achieve the same effect had I begun with a series of washes. I’m enjoying creating muscle tone and definition on these figures.

Yes, there are 8 figures here and we know that only 7 VC’s were awarded to the 24th Foot at Rorke’s Drift. The central spectral figure at the back represents Lt. John Chard of the Royal Engineers.

Here are the next 3 photos showing my progress. Lt. Bromhead is well on the way and his red battledress will create balance for the red colours in the Union flag that will drape over the eastern section of the VC. I will check with the experts here to make sure I’m using correct details in this work.

I’m very happy with the reflections of the fire on the bodies of the men. The fire was an important part of the battle as the burning hospital allowed the British to see their enemy and shoot accurately. Painting fire and smoke is particularly satisfying – many washes are required; each must be planned to maintain luminosity and transparency by placing paint accurately and using a light touch; each must be allowed to dry completely before starting on the next. It does require patience  but this glazing is an essential technique to produce depth in the work. The floating woman symbolizes ‘Queen and Country’. Queen Victoria probably did look like that at some stage in her life! I’ve started building the background washes, developing the perspective. The Zulu impi are coming along well against the rolling hills of Zululand – 4500 of them against the 139 men who defended the mission station.

NAKED VALOUR    Watercolour   57 x 76cm




  2. Pingback: Updated THE DEFENCE OF RORKE”S DRIFT on the WATERCOLOURS page |

  3. Pingback: Here are the first 3 photos showing my painting progress. |

  4. Pingback: 3 new photos showing progress of VALOUR painting |

  5. Pingback: New photos of Rorke’s Drift painting |

  6. Pingback: NAKED VALOUR |

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