Friday, 29 April 2016

River Welland by the Harringworth Viaduct

Oil on Linen Canvas, 16 x 22 inches

This is the first in a string of commissioned paintings I have to complete. The couple concerned wanted a view of the iconic Harringworth Viaduct which crosses the River Welland on the border of Northamptonshire and Rutland. It is 1,275 yards long - the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in Britain, has 82 arches, each of which has a 40 feet span, took 2 years to build and was completed in 1878 - I'm full of useless information... 

Anyway, fantastic structure though it is, I felt a painting just of the viaduct would be somewhat dull and boring, and inevitably repetitive - an arch is an arch, and with 82 of them, all identical, there's little to make a painting interesting. A photograph, yes, but a painting, hmmm. So, I guided the clients to opt for a painting of the beautiful river, with the viaduct as a backdrop, simplified against the strong morning sunlight into a predominantly blue shape, rather than a portrait of the structure itself, and hopefully, this has worked.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Light Summer Breeze

Oil on Board, 11 x 16 inches

This was another demo painting I did to the Colourwheel Art Group at Alwalton in Peterborough a few weeks ago. It's a view of the River Nene from a bridge at Cotterstock near Oundle. 

I've painted from the same spot before, and in summer too, but this one has a different feel to it - the first one I did was on a sharp, bright Summer's day, with billowing cumulus clouds and blue sky, with the water very ruffled by the wind. This one, the sky was somewhat overcast, with the occasional shaft of sunlight lighting up the landscape - one of my absolute favourite light effects. As I said in my demo, the lightest part of the painting are the Yellow Water Lily pads in the right foreground of the river. To make these 'sing', the sky and water had to be painted correspondingly darker - as ever, the tones are THE most important parts to get 'right', so that the eye 'reads' everything correctly, and the light effect I experienced can be conveyed to the viewer.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Roach Pool on the Nene

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I found this painting on a shelf - painted last year and forgotten about, so dug it out and framed it!  I actually did a small study of this a few years ago and revisited it with this larger version, with one or two alterations. I also did a same-sized plein air painting from almost the same spot a couple of Summers back - a most glorious bit of river near Waternewton.

Friday, 1 April 2016

River Shadows

 Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This painting was also one I did as a demo to the Castor and Ailsworth Art Society a couple of weeks ago, and finished off today.

Stop press! I looked at the painting with fresh eyes this morning and decided it was a little too dark in places and din't quite capture the intense brightness of an early morning frosty light, so I reworked it and am now much happier with it. I also took out the dark tree on the left, which on reflection competed too much with the dark mass on the right - the joy of oil paint, being able to edit and lighten, after you've 'finished' a painting!

It's a view from the bridge over the River Welland in a village called Harringworth near me, famous for the Harringworth Viaduct. The strong morning sunshine cast stripes of light and shadow across the water beyond the foreground bank of trees on the right. Although we are still having early frosts, these sharp mornings are fast being taken over by signs of Spring, with birdsong now very evident, Blackbirds and Songthrushes exulting, and the huge Red Kites and Buzzards pewing, and the diminutive Wrens bellowing out jubilant claims for their territories and calls for mates, and we even had a pair of Yellowhammers 'cheesing' in the garden yesterday. Soon the lanes will be green with the first flush of leaves...aaaah, bliss, a new year!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Snow Banks

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This is another demo painting I did few weeks back, duly finished off in the studio before the memory of cold January days fades away....

As I always say in my demos, we all know snow is white, but it only appears white when it is lit by sunlight, so this painting is a classic case of painting what you see, not what you know, or think you see. And that is the key to painting, aside from drawing skills - observing colours and tones and translating those observations to your board or paper.

The snow here is quite dark, relatively speaking, and the brightest passage of the painting is the flash of yellow/orange in the sky, and everything else, snow included, is darker relative to that.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Ocean Light

Oil on Board, 7 x 10 inches

Last one bound for Cornwall, this one is a view from St.Anthony Head, looking across towards Falmouth, with a couple of container ships leaving port. Of course, the light on the sea was captivating - that blinding light you get when pure sunlight is reflected off the water. Everything is a tone down from that - the clouds hace a creamy highlight to them, and this tone has to be right so that the ocean light is the brightest light in the picture.


Over the Gorse to St.Mawes

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

This is another painting destined for the Harbour Gallery in Portscatho, it being of that locale.  

There were several 'hooks' that made me want to paint this one - the changing light every few seconds, so that some trees were lit up, then moments later cast in deep shadow, and similarly the foreground Gorse lit in bright yelling yellow, then cast dark and unobtrusive ochre. 

So, having taken a few photos of the view, I had to take the best of each light effect to make the optimum view available. I used a shaft of light to light up St.Mawes castle itself and the rocks on the end of the promontory, and of course that gorgeous stripe of turquoise sea - yum-my! 

I left the Pines on the nearer jut of land in shadow so as not to compete with the castle and sunlit part, but let the Gorse have it's say, sunlit and shouty to provide a lovely foil of complementary colour to the purple/blue sea. The lighter twiggy bits also stood out well against the darker ocean tone - lots of counterchange abounding, providing interest for the eye, hopefully.


Saturday, 27 February 2016

Cloud Shadows, the Fal Estuary

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This little painting is destined for the Harbour Gallery in Portscatho. I liked the distant headland with all the little buildings picked out in various shades of white, but the real hook was the changing stripes of green on the foreground fields, lit by shafts of light through the scudding clouds.

Broadway from Snowshill

Oil on board, 10 x 17 inches

This is a beautiful view across the valley from near the top of Snowshill in Broadway, Worcestershire. I liked the placement of the sheep, pointing the eye towards the distant blue horizon.

Not done many green paintings for a while - just not the season for it, but this one is for the Spring/Summer season in my Broadway outlet. I've been asked on a few occasions about mixing greens, and do I use a proprietary green straight from the tube. I remember a few years back that a chap came into my local art shop when I was in there, and he was clutching a photo of a painting and asked the assistant if they had a tube of a green he had outlined in the picture, hoping that would solve all his problems!  Actually, there is no magic green - it's just a question of really looking at the greens in front of you, and mixing them from what you have.  I do sometimes use Sap Green as a base green, but never on its own, and more often I mix the green I want from Cadmium Yellow Light and Cobalt Blue, modified throughout each passage with Permanent Rose, Raw Umber, Viridian and titanium White, of course. But the tones and shades are constantly changed for each brushstroke so that the greens have interest, just as they do in nature, rather than a blanket emerald stripe, which is dull and does not represent reality.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Beech Fall

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

This one is all about the complementary colours that give the subjectit that zing - the orange against the blue/grey of the distant woodland, making the warm tones 'pop'.  

Beech trees, in England at least, give the most spectacular leaf colours in Autumn and throughout Winter, their leaves somehow hanging on to the twigs for a long time, and the crunch of stepping through a carpet of Beech leaves (in a dry Autumn!) is such a tactile pleasure. Painting such a carpet of russet and orange presents a challenge, and for me, it is only convincing when layer upon layer of paint is applied, some with my 1" decorators brush, some with an old hog, some with an old rigger and a lot with the tip of my pointy palette knife. Eventually, the surface is almost three-dimensional, being almost sculpted!

The trunks of Beech trees are also interesting to paint, and with strong sunlight coming from the right, the lit sides are a creamy-green, the middle (nearest the viewer are a the darkest tone of brown/purple/grey, and the left sides appear slightly lighter and greeny-brown. It's the observation of all these subtle changes that make the painting appear that bit more onvincing of reality...hopefully!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Late Autumn Glade

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This is another demo I did a while back and just finished it off in the studio. Quite a contrast to the last few fairly closed-toned paintings, with lots of flashy highlights punctuating the shadows, lighting up the glorious Autumnal shades of ochre and orange, with plenty of punchy impasto marks dragged with my big 1" decorator's brush and some more with the palette knife.

This wood is near home and contains a mix of deciduous trees and conifers, and has an abundance of rises and falls in this part, which provide a wealth of painting opportunities. I'm not so keen on it in Summer, when all is lush and green, but in Spring and Autumn, and Winter for that matter, it comes into its own, and Spring's only around the corner...

Friday, 5 February 2016

Valley near Snowshill, Broadway

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

A very unseasonal green painting - seems very strange painting this in the middle of Winter, but it's for the John Noott gallery, and by the time they get it, Spring will be beckoning...

I do love painting the bare trees and muted tones of Winter, but it was nice for a change to use a lot more yellow and blue in the mixes on the palette, rather than much predominantly blue and red, with just a touch of yellow to make the greys. Same three colours used mind, with just a little raw Umber for the dark tones of the foreground Ash Tree. You can see that the darks in the mid-distance trees are bluer and a little lighter than the big tree, and the darks in the far distant trees, bluer and lighter still. It's all about tones to give your painting depth, and if you can achieve the right colour too, you're on to a winner, but tone is by far the most important.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Forest Beyond

Oil on Board, 9 x 13 inches

I haven't painted a woodland scene for a little while, and I had forgotten just how difficult they are in Oil paint, especially Winter ones with the complex pattern of bare branches and trunks!  Half-way through I thought perhaps I should have tackled this subject in Pastel, so I may well do a Pastel version of it too, to compare the looser technique with the tighter Oil technque. 

With a subject like this, it's a case of where do you stop - the art of suggesting rather than describing every twig - just tell the story, but leave enough for the eye to fill in the blanks. In earlier days I would have painted damned near every branch and twig, but hopefully, I'm learning to leave enough - the one thing I don't want the painting to look like is a photograph, but rather more painterly and textural.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Damp Day

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

Here's another one of the River Windrush near Burford, on a damp, flat-light day, very remeniscent of the days of January and December that we have all seen lately. Days like this don't necessarily have the wow factor that the brightly-lit landscape has, but they have their own charm, and every type of landscape deserves its own depiction, and soft greys and browns describe this sort.

Slow-moving water such as this is relatively simple to paint, by describing the milky water with downward and horizontal brushstrokes of the local colour, blended here and there with a few judicious horizontal swishes.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Winter Windrush

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

My painting these days is intermittent and although I love running the gallery (other galleries are available, but why bother when you've got the best here) I do miss the freedom of painting when I want. There is always so much to do, but hey, what a great job, being surrounded by some of the best paintings in the country by revered colleagues.

Anyway, here's one I managed to slot in yesterday - a little oil to ease my way back into the painting mode, and a typical one from the last month's weather - wet, a little gloomy and flat light. But every mood of weather has its charm, and the milky flat light provides depth if not flashy highlights. The blues of distant trees is emphasised in Winter, and this lends a hand to help create depth in a painting, as here, I hope!