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


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.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Midday Shadows, Mousehole

 Oil on Board, 10x14 inches

Here's another demo painting I did last week on the same day as the 'Windrush Willows', this time at the Sundon Park Art Society, again finishing it off in the studio today. 

This was much more an exercise in drawing than 'Windrush Willows', with so much more going on; the placement of the harbour walls - observing their respective horizontal levels, then the relative positioning and tilt of the boats. 

I liked the composition, with the ropes giving convenient radiating lines for the eye to wander out through the gap placed left of centre, after looking at the gorgeous light on the boats. The gulls on the left added a bit of life to balance the weight of the interest on the right of the painting. 

The shadow sides of white boats are always tricky to assess, and I made a point of mentioning this in the demo - never spend too long on any one part of a painting, because if you paint something in isolation, it can look right, but when you then place the colour next to it, it will be altered and you may have to repaint the area you've spent ages on and were pleased with - soul-destroying!  So, although we know the boats are white in this painting, the shadow sides are relatively dark - darker than the sunlit mud beneath them - and are difficult to get right without painting all the surrounding tones. It's a classic case of painting what you see, not what you know, ie, we know the boats are white, but they won't 'read' right unless we observe the true dark tones of the shadow sides.

I used my palette knife to depict a lot of the wet mud in the foreground, paying close attention again to the tones in the shadows cast by the boats. Altogether a complicated painting really - I like to torture myself!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Windrush Willows

 Oil on Board, 12x17 inches

I painted this one as a demo to the Shefford Art Group last week. It's very much my meat-and-two-veg sort of subject. With only two hours painting time, it necessitated fast drawing and no-nonsense blocking in the main elements and dark tones, then layering the lighter tones on top to simulate the various mixes of greens for the vegetation - the trees, bushes and bankside grasses. You can see how far I got in the photo below.

Finishing the piece off in comfort of the studio, without fifty pairs of eyes staring over my shoulder (!), I reassessed the painting, refining the water and trees to exhibition standard. I also popped in some sheep in the distant meadow to add a bit of life.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Bend on the Nene

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13x19 inches

My last Pastel for a spell - I don't like to do too many pastels at a stretch because of the dusty atmosphere produced, which isn't very healthy!

This is another I did as a demo a while back, finally finishing it off in the studio today. The view is of the River Nene close to the old Waternewton Mill, which was a working watermill built in 1791, but converted to flats and a shop in 1986 - what a gorgeous place to live! 

Having done a million oils and a few thousand pastels in the last 31 years, i'm getting the urge to have a go at some watercolours, which, when I started out in this wonderful vocation, consisted of about half of my output. So, it's time I had a go after I've framed a bunch of paintings, so stand by your beds.... 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Working Morning, Brancaster Staithe

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

I painted this one as a demo for the Horncastle Art Group last Friday, just finishing it off today in the studio.

The place is one of my favourite marine painting venues - Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk - which offers a wealth of subjects for an artist. Being a working harbour, there are lots of fishermen's sheds with all the attendant paraphernalia scattered about.

Painting in soft Pastels, I find the finished painting has a 'softer' quality to it than one done in oil, or at least one done in oil by me! Using a photo I took some years ago for reference, I moved the yellow boat in the foreground to the right a few feet, because the composition didn't seem quite right as it was so far over to the left. Here's how far I got in the allotted two hours of the demo:
I managed to place in the main shapes of the mussel sheds and boats, paying particular attention to the relative tones - always the most important part of any painting. Colour can be out, but the painting still lives, but if the tonal balance is out, the painting just won't stand up and loses impact.

To finish off the painting and to add some life and balance, I put in the figure carrying nets to the left, and one in the big red vessel on the right.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Sunlit Yellow Boat

Oil on Board, 10x14 inches

Another studio painting of one of my favourite old haunts at Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk. 

This one contains a variety of techniques, with the backdrop of trees scrubbed in loosely with an old hog brush, then refined a little with my 1" decorator's brush, the boats painted with a Rosemary Flat Ivory brush and the mud almost sculpted on with a mixture of brush strokes and palette knife dragged over. 

The ropes and masts were all placed in with the lovely fine, chisel edge of the original Rosemary Mongoose brush. I left the foreground yellow boat till last, having a joyous time painting in the various mixes of yellow, then a few heavy impasto slabs of almost white paint for the highlights. Note the handy use of counterchange with the sunlit bow of the boat against the darker mud and the darker stern of the boat in shadow set against the lighter muddy water rivulet. All adds to the interest and impact of the painting, hopefully!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Receding Tide, Mousehole

Oil on Board, 10x17 inches

This is another studio painting for the RSMA show at the Mall Galleries. I liked the placement of the boats with the intense morning sunlight coming from stage right, casting gorgeous, rich shadows over the exposed sand. The rivulets of water with the mini-sandbanks around them were joyous to paint, and of course the ropes and chains provide the perfect lead-ins to the colourful main players.
A painting like this is such a different kettle of fish (did you see what I did there?) to my landscape work, because I use so many different tools. It's almost like a different medium in fact. My big 1" household brush is redundant and I made full use of the alkyd paint, letting the basic mud and sand colours of the foreground dry off a little whilst I painted in all the fiddly boat details. Then, I had a lot of fun with my slim palette knife, an implement I rarely use for landscapes, dragging assorted colours over the sticky paint, also using the texture of the board, to give the lovely broken effects of the light catching all the stones and seaweed and sand. Hmm, almost as good as Lindt chocolates, or Crunchy nut Cornflakes...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Morning sunlight, Mousehole

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

A studio painting this for the upcoming RSMA exhibition, involving a lot of fiddly work on the boats. I loved the composition, with the eye being taken on a journey through the painting, from the two little girls and mum on the beach to each boat and out through the harbour gates to St.Clements Isle and onto the gleaming sunlight on the sea horizon and then back again, checking out the odd few figures on the harbour wall and cars with intense reflected light bouncing off them, then passing a few more boats missed the first time round and back to the figures again. Is that how your eyes travelled?

The main problem with this sort of painting is not to make it looked too laboured, but there is plenty going on, with lots of little cameos on the way, like the dazzling sunlight below the blue boat left of centre and to the left of the blue vessel in the foreground right of centre. It was another case of "maybe I should have made it a bigger painting" with such a lot going on, but there we are, don't always get it right!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

River Nene at Waternewton

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

Sometimes as an artist, you look at a subject and think "hmm, it's quite pleasing, but it doesn't have the knockout composition that warrants a big canvas or board", which was the case here, so I opted for a small board....and wished I'd gone for a bigger one!

This was a very green picture, but as I painted it, I really started to love it, and the slow-moving water of the Nene was captivating with the shadows running across the water.  The main thing to make a green painting convincing is to try to observe all the myriads of subtley different tones and shades of green. 

Ah well, could maybe do a big version, but unlike many of my colleagues, I don't really like repeating a painting - the juices just don't flow a second time for me.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Tumbledown Barn near Oundle

Oil on Board, 10x12 inches

I spotted this glorious old barn with its collapsed roof and just a few orange tiles clinging stoically to the timbers. With a lovely cumulus-clouded sky with blue patches as a backdrop and lots of Hogweed and a broken gate, I couldn't resist painting it. I moved a few things around for the sake of the composition, like shifting the gate to the right and making it a little smaller so not to dominate, and bringing in the distant fields to give a sense of depth, but really it was a perfect subject.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Scarlet Meadow

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

What artist can resist a field of Poppies? Their bright scarlet colour just stirs the soul. This painting is actually an amalgam from three photographs. The view is from the top of our village cricket field and the poppies and field margin are from a field towards Barrowden. I know some of you like to see the stages of a painting, so I took a few as I progressed:
Stage 1 and I scrubbed in the basic tones with very thin paint, diluted a little with white spirit, and put a wash of neutral grey over the sky.
Stage 2 and I painted in the sky, partly from photos and partly from the sky outside my studio.
Stage 3 and I painted in the backdrop of distant trees and fields and established the darkest bluish tones of the mid-distant trees.
Stage 4 and I painted in the lighter tones of the trees with my 1" household brush, then put in the line of Poppies. Then I continued to refine the near tree on the left and added a few more details on some Poppies, using a palette knife, then dragged in some layers of paint to establish the grasses of the field margin, as can be seen in the finished painting at the top.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Oxford Canal Wharf, circa 1968

Monochromatic watercolour on cheap school paper, 15.5 x 18.5 inches

I went down memory lane yesterday in my home town of Banbury, looking for my haunts from childhood by the river at Grimsbury where we lived. I found it, but it had changed almost beyond recognition. The shallows where Graham Hale, Paul Humphries, Nick Batley and I would catch tiddlers was now much deeper, and access was almost impossible.
But driving over the canal bridge towards Grimsbury sparked a memory...I remember going out with the school and painting by the wharf in Banbury and being less than interested, as can be seen with the rather sloppy reflections and sloping buildings!  However, the painting survived and I dug it out this morning, so here it is, purely as an historical piece. I was far more interested at the time, aged 14, in painting Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Jim Clark racing, or painting birds and animals, until landscape painting enchanted me, 15 years later.