Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Swans by the Windrush

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

I know, I know, I'm always painting Swans...but so what, they're beautiful and I love them, and they're invariably where I go painting or looking for subjects.

This is onemy favourite stretches of river in the Cotswolds, near Burford and away from the all the touristy bits. The Windrush meanders its way serenely through beautiful countryside, but I have never been able to catch it when the sun is out, so this is a fairly close-toned piece, rich in greens, save for the swans themselves, and that beautiful pink hawthorn (May) bush, which almost glowed in the soft light. The swans actually had their brood of 5 or 6 cygnets hidden just to the left of them behind the wild Flag Irises.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Ready to Bale


Oil on Canvas, 19.75 x 27.5 inches

This biggy is a view of my own village. Looking down from the top of the field of wheat, freshly cut and ready to bale the straw, my neighbour David the farmer, has his baling machine ready to start the process. I loved the backlit drama of the view, which always creates that lovely halo effect on trees, which isn't easy to capture just right.

I haven't posted any 'in progress' pics for a while which I know some of you like to see, so I remembered to take three on the way, and here they are:
 This is the initial very loose, almost watercolour-like stage, washing in a neutral greyish sky to 'kill' the white of the canvas, then blocking in the rough tones of the main players with very thinned-down paint.

Here I've painted in the sky, using a little licence to arrange the clouds into a pleasing balance. I've also painted the distant fields and mid-distance backdrop of trees and suggested the highlights of the centre tree.
Here I've more or less completed the village houses and trees before painting in the foreground field with all the loose, dried straw and David's machinery. i used my 1" decorator's brush for most of the tree work and the straw in the field. A lot of paint was used for the field, with much of the straw lit up like little jewels in the afternoon light. 

In the final analysis, I felt the painting needed something to break up the horizontal lines of the composition, so I dropped in a plume of bonfire smoke, which I think just adds something. The smoke emits from a spot right next to my studio, the roof of which is the gable end just visible.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Eyebrook Sunset

Oil on Canvas 18x26 inches

A very warm, glowy painting, this. I've painted sunsets many times and said before that you have to be careful not to make them too 'twee' and chocolate-boxy. It's difficult not to actually, when you have such a painterly subject like this1

The fun bit with this, of course, is painting the sun itself and trying to portray the intense brightness shining just through the edge of the tree. Everything around the sun takes on a glow and the challenge is to get those colours and tones right.  I particularly like the big shadow cast by the lone tree to the immediate left of the setting sun.  This negative shape was described by painting in the golden tips of the grasses to the left and right of it.  The Hogweed in the foreground wasn't there, but I felt it needed something.

With the heavy focal point of the sun, it would be easy to make the painting rather lop-sided, but the dabbling activity in the water and the two Swans on the bank also added balance to the piece. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

From Snowshill

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

One of my favourite spots near Broadway in the Cotswolds, looking down the valley, with a farmstead in the middle distance. 

Essentially a very green subject, particular attention had to be paid to the varying tones, punctuated by the woolly sheep. Being a clear day, there wasn't a lot of blue atmosphere, which makes painting convincing depth more difficult. But this is so redolent of a clear summer's day. With no water to break the monotony, the foreground field was painted with a lot of paint and plenty of texture, mostly using my 1" household decorator's brush. 

I placed the sheep to form a pleasing pattern, with a triangular arrow formed with the three in the foreground to point the eye into the picture plane. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Setting Fireball Over the Mill

Oil on Board, 10x14 inches

I've been meaning to paint this view for ages. It's a scene I see when driving home from Stamford. The distant trees are blue in the distance and the ancient old mill, stripped of its once magnificent sails, stands proud, a relic of bygone days.

The straw was still lying on the field, waiting to be collected and spewed out into roly-poly bales, and this added another texture and interest in the foreground of the painting. The station cottages (there's a railway line that's hidden behind them) added a nice bit of extra interest and gives some scale to the mill.

The main problem with painting a red fireball of a setting sun, is getting it to look really bright as it appears. No paint is anywhere near that bright, and painting the sun crimson, which it was, makes it look dull, so I painted it orange with a thick blob of Cadmium Yellow Light and Permanent Rose with a touch of Titanium white, and toned down the surrounding clouds to accentuate the sun's brightness.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Sharp Light, Wing road

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

I painted this one en plein air near the village of Manton in Rutland, looking down the hill. I drove around for a while, looking for something to paint and was attracted by the billowing clouds and the sharp sunlight silhouetting the big Ash tree. I loved the brilliant light bouncing off the road at the bottom of the hill and the blueness of the distant tree forms.

I parked the trusty Berlingo with all my gear on the grass verge and swiftly got set up to take advantage of the gorgeous light. After a few minutes I had sketched in the main elements and set to by blocking in the darks and the rough tones throughout. About this time I felt something crawling up my leg and on glancing down I noticed (could hardly miss!) several hundred angry red ants swarming over my jeans! I quickly brushed off the tiny beasts, throwing off my shoes to bang off all the backup of armies following their scouts, and figured it best to beat a hasy retreat, or at least, advance, and moved the easel about 10 yards down the hill. This meant I had to alter the drawing somewhat, but hey-ho, it's all part pof the fun of working on site!

I worked for a couple of hours in situ, then got back home to finish off the painting in the studio, using a couple of reference photos as an aide memoire.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Serene Eyebrook

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

Eyebrook Reservoir is a beautiful lake near Uppingham in Rutland - much smaller and prettier than Rutland Water. I started this little painting back at Patchings Art festival in June and put it on my small pile of 'to be finished' paintings, so here it is, duly completed.

I changed things around a little to show a bit more of the lake, which was almost like a millpond, with gorgeous reflections, disturbed only by the Swans and the gentlest of breezes.

The road provided a convenient 'lead-in' for the eye to travel into around the big tree, explore the lake and on out into the distant hills.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Steamy Road

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

I based this little painting on a photo I took on a track near home, just after a shower, on one of those steamy evenings. I painted in the 'steam' hanging above the road with a very dry brush, scrubbing it in over the dry paint to get the effect I wanted.

I've long wrestled with the way I paint trees and foliage, compared to my colleagues. I paint them using my 1" decorator's brush, which, for me, describes a lot of apparent detail with little effort. However, I also strive for a more painterly look, which that technique doesn't give. With this painting, I used a hog brush, the more usual tool used by fellow painters, which indeed gives a looser feel. You can see this looser approach in the upper edge of the big tree, and in the bush on the right and the little bluer distant tree. I couldn't resist my usual technique to describe the bulk of the big tree though!  

Tussles with the mind - do I continue in my normal way, or do I strive for more looseness? Often folks post a comment on Facebook saying "wow, it looks like a photograph!" - a well meaning compliment, but not one I want to hear. I would much prefer "great brush technique", or "wow, so painterly". I'll have to try some more loose brushwork with my plein air efforts and see what the comments are...

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Quiet Corner

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches SOLD

Titles for paintings are one of the most difficult things to come up with for an artist. I always try not to repeat a title, but when you've painted for over 30 years and completed a few thousand paintings, it becomes ever more difficult to think of something new.

This was one of those benign, quiet summer days, with no piercing blue sky, but a quiet, slightly overcast one, with almost no breeze and all was quiet apart from the occasional swirl of a rising Chub...yes, all was quiet...ta da - Quiet corner!

Harvest Bales

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

I started this one on site on Sunday evening at 6pm, having seen the arrangement of the roly poly straw bales on a bike ride. I dashed back with my gear and quickly got set-up and drew in the composition, then started to paint. I quickly realised within half-an-hour that this was going to be too ambitious to complete en plein air with the swiftly changing light - not only was the sun moving, which it has an annoying propensity to do, it was going down too, so the shadows changed fast and so did the colour of the sky. So, I took a couple of reference photos and finished it off in the studio.

What initially drew me to paint this was the one bale at a different angle to all the other ones, just behind the one in the foreground. Because of its quirky angle (I think it was a maverick, like me), it had that gorgeous flash of sunlight on its top, which I couldn't wait to describe with a thick slab of Titanium White and a touch of yellow, red and blue. Again, it was one of those fleeting light effects that was gone in minutes, and very few of us are capable of painting en plein air, certainly not me. So, I unashamedly put it in in the studio, with it fresh in my memory.

Painting stubble is another fascination for me (I'm easily pleased) - it has a multitude of colurs, not just Yellow Ochre as you might suspect. I painted it with thick mixes of paint using my 1" decorator's brush, using Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber, with Titanium White, of course, in fact, almost every colour I possess, apart from Sap Green and Viridian.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Four Way Junction

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches SOLD

I was determined to get out and paint something on Friday, instead of being tied to the studio. The weather was uninspiringly overcast, but I drove deep into the Rutland countryside, not far from home, and decided on doing a little painting of a junction, with four choices for the eye to wonder what is out of the picture plane! You can go down the road around the corner, go through the gate and round up the sheep, turn sharp bottom right through the white spots on the road, or sharp left over the stile and see the horses - such a lot going on in Rutland!

It rained on and off throughout the painting, which was a little challenging - water doesn't mix with oil and the palette ended up with a sort of emulsified mix of strange, bubbly-looking pools of paint. I managed to back my car with the big boot lid up and almost over the easel as a canopy, which helped a little, but rain does't always fall in a conveniently vertical fashion!

Whilst driving to the site, I spotted something moving on the road ahead of me, an injured animal I thought. Slowing down, I realised it was a pint-sized Weasel, tugging like mad at a squashed Magpie - tiny predator pulling a bigger arial predator for his supper. He scampered off as I drove slowly past, ready to rush out and drag his prize into the undergrowth. I love the countryside.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Welland Willows

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

Here's one of my local river, the Welland, which meanders through the lovely Rutland countryside. This spot is actually over the border into bandit country, just outside Uffington in Lincolnshire.

Essentially a fairly close-toned painting, with a slightly overcast sky, I had to pay attention to the subtle variations of greens throughout, and that is the one thing that can make a painting more interesting and have more impact. If all the greens in a painting like this are painted with one proprietory green, the result will be boring and not at all life-like, regardless of how well the trees are painted. I use Sap Green as my basic green, but almost never is it used neat - I mix it with Cad Yellow, Permanent Rose, Cobalt and Ultamarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber, with varying amounts of Titanium White, so that every hue is mixed for the job in hand.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bedruthan Steps, Evening

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

This was a delightful subject with the evening sunlight bathing the distant cliffs a golden colour. These distinctive sea stacks, each with their own name, are famous landmarks off the north Cornwall coast, and this isn't the first time they've been painted!

I don't often employ the use of a palette knife, but I found it very useful to describe the jagged rocks, dragging lighter colour over a darker underpaint to create the broken effect required. In fact, I used three different knives; a long, flexible, narrow-bladed one, a square ended one (which I generally use to scrape off the unused paint on my palette at the end of a session), and a short, narrow-bladed one. The addition of the gulls on the shoreline and flying around, and also resting on the stacks helped to give the scale of these giants.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Off to Work at Dawn

Oil on Board, 6x8 inches

Another little painting from my current marine theme. I loved the plain simplicity of this subject, of fishing boats off out for the day's catch early in the morning at Mevagissey.

The sky was predominantly grey, with one or two breaks in it, but by gum, there were SO many subtleties in it - just the sort of sky I love to paint, with a lot of concentration required. Painted with just three colours + white throughout the entire painting, all manner of greys, blues, greens, purples and yellows were mixed.

To paint the sea, I painted horizontal bands of darkish grey, then painted in the vessels, did a little more work in the sky, then when the under-colours were becoming sticky - a great asset of Alkyd Oils - I was able to drag more greys and the bright sunlit area over the top.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Becalmed

Oil on Board, 6x8 inches

Anyone who'd found my Blog recently would think I only paint when I do demos!  This one isn't, for a change. It's St.Athony Head in deepest Cornwall on the Roseland Peninsula. 

What really attracted me to paint this was the way the white of the top of the boat stood out against the muted tones of the calm sea and distant hills - I'm easily pleased!  The angled rocks provide a nice 'pointer' to the main boat and the moving boat in the mid distance helps take the eye through to the grey far bank and on to the distant hazey blue land behind.