Thursday, 30 October 2014

January Sunlight

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

Well, it's been a manic few days, slightly more than usual...

I wanted to do one more painting to submit for the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI), and somehow managed to get this one done in the midst of hand-finishing three big frames for the said pictures.  I finished this painting at around 5pm, spent the next seven hours finishing off the frames and fitting the paintings and backboards, taping up, etc., then got up at 5.30 this morning to give this last painting a lick of Retouching Varnish. I painted this one entirely with Griffin Alkyd fast-drying oil, so the painting was just dry enough to varnish, save for a few still-tacky impasto flicks of paint, which I had to be very careful to varnish around, then just let a drop on to these tacky bits without brushing out which would have smeared the paint - a bit like diffusing a bomb...

The painting itself is right up my street; I love painting frost as regular readers will know, and this subject has everything that sparks my painting juices: frosted vegetation, water and spectacular lighting, with bright sunlight from stage right lighting up the water and picking out a fewhighlights - the left-hand arches of the bridge and the Willow on the left, and the patches of frosty grass around the big tree on the right.

With four paintings submitted for the ROI, it's now down to the hanging committee as to whether any get accepted. I was chuffed to bits to become an associate member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists last year, but was stung by having all six of my ROI submissions rejected last November, so I'm not expecting anything this time. We shall see. Being naturally competitive, failure doesn't come easy, but one must keep trying! To be accepted by your peers at the UK's premier exhibition of oil painters is what we all strive for, regardless of how well we might sell our work. I'll know by November 6th so watch this space for elation or depression!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Bird Watching

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This was yet another demo painting I did back in the heady days of Summer, again completed in the studio today, probably to be included in my upcoming solo-show at John Noott Gallery in December.

I remember the day I was by the River Nene; the field where I've placed the figure is a silvery green colour, because the hay had just been cut. I also remember looking up and seeing a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk having a sparring contest - I think the smaller raptor was bombing the Buzzard for being in his territory - he certaily seemed very angry and all the aggression came from him. I managed to take a poor photo of them way high above me:

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Frost in the Reeds

Oil on Board, 9x 12 inches

This painting was another demo I did earlier in the year, to which Art Group I can't remember, again finished off in the studio.

Frost, as you know if you've read my Blog before, I love to paint, and this was no exception. I've painted at this spot on numerous occasions, where the river bubbles around the corner where the sparkly bit is in the centre of the picture. The water this morning had a glassy feel to it, a joy to depict in paint. I used two brushes, a Rosemary Ivory Long Flat to block in the colours, and a Mongoose Long Flat, my favourite all-time brush, to blend and simulate the shimmering quality of the reflections. Again, lots of work was done with my 1" decorator's brush, including the trees and the bankside vegetation.

Tractor Ruts

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Just a little oil I've slotted in for the Autumn/Winter exhibition at the Norton Way Gallery in Hertfordshire. Busy with the last few paintings for my solo exhibition at the John Noott Gallery in December and another one for the ROI, this really is a hectic time for the brush!

I was drawn to the interesting patterns the tractor had made in the squelchy mud, leaving deep ruts filled with water from the recent heavy rain - yum yum - plenty of fodder for the painter.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hay Bales and Thistledown

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

I liked the low viewpoint of this composition, with roly-poly bales I love to paint, with a good bunch of Thistles in the foreground in their gorgeous seed-head stage, with bunches of candyfloss down ready to blow away and colonise elsewhere. I've always thought that the seed-heads of Creeping Thistle are very much like the old-fashioned shaving brushes!

I put a figure running a terrier in the mid-distance, just to add a bit of life to the pastoral scene. I might put this as a late entrant for the ROI exhibition, depending what reaction it gets here and on Facebook. With the Thistledown, I might normally have tackled this in Pastel, but I rather enjoyed trying to depict the down with Oil, using a hog brush to describe the softness.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Afternoon Delivery

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

I did this one as a demo to the Mickleover Art Group a couple of weeks ago, finishing it off in the studio at my leisure, without fifty pairs of eyes staring over my shoulder!

I've painted along this road many times before from different angles and places, and it always offers something new. With rich Autumn colours it's simply irristible with the avenue of trees forming a cathedral-like tunnel. I felt the road was a little empy, so I put in the white van coming up the hill in the distance. When painting at this spot en plein air, it's surprising how many white vans do come up this way, flashing past at speed of course, almost rocking the easel as they flash past.

It's the juxtaposition of the blue distant colours next to the rich oranges and yellows of the foliage that give this painting such a vibrant feel to it. And being a bright, but hazy day, the recessively paler and bluer tones of the trees going down the hill helped create depth and three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface, a quality I tried to instill throughout the demo.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Feeding Swans by the Bridge

 
Oil on Linen Canvas, 22 x 30 inches

Having got my last big painting, 'Sharp Frost by The Settings' through the ROI (Royal Institute of Oil Painters) digital selection process, along with one other, I thought I'd better do another big frosty painting for my own solo exhibition at John Noott Gallery in December, just in case....so here it is, finished today.

This was a bit of a labour of love...yes, I know, Swans again, but set on a frosty backdrop, it was irrisistible! The entire painting was painted using just five colours plus White - Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue, Raw Umber and a touch of Viridian here and there. There was that glorious 'steam' of water vapour hovering over the surface near the bridge, lit up a golden colour from the early morning sun from the right of the picture. I thought of leaving out the concrete bridge, which I have done previously when I've painted from this spot, but I loved the warm reddish reflected light bouncing up from the water, lighting up the underside of the bridge, so I left it in. Also, with the river, everything is taking the eye out of the painting to the right, so, combined with the slanting vegetation in the right foreground, putting the figure walking towards the left of the picture, helps push the flying eye back in again. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

RSMA Exhibition


SOLD
SOLD
 Tomorrow, Tuesday 14th october, it is the Private View of the annual Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition at the MallGalleries in London. I and several [ainting friends will be going and it's always a great day, seeing the cream of marine painters showing their paintings and talking shop with colleagues.

I have the three paintings above in the show, so I'm looking forward to seeing them on the gallery walls, and better still with red spots on them!  There's always a great 'buzz' on the day with a great atmosphere. The exhibition continues until 26th October and it's definitely worth a visit for art lovers.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sharp Frost by the Settings

Oil on Canvas, 14 x 30 inches

I've also entered this larger painting for the Royal Society of Oil Painters (ROI), along with three smaller ones. Having got stung last year by getting nothing accepted, I'm hopeful, but expecting nothing. That way, I won't be too disappointed.....I'm lying...I will!

I don't often do a panoramic shaped painting, but sometimes, the composition demands it, and this was one such examlpe.

I've always loved painting frost, especially with the sun casting shadows and lighting up the silver grass, just melting it into the faintest green. Using my usual suspects of Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue, with Titanium White, I caked on varying mixes of those three colurs, with my 1" decorator's brush, enjying the thick textures created.

The sheep added plenty of life to an otherwise bland composition, with most of them looking towards the feeder at the extreme right of the picture plane, where Tim Lamb, the sheep farmer (yes, his name's Lamb!) of Settings Farm was coming out of the yard in his Landrover. There's always danger of the eye flying out of the painting here, but the big tree and leaning posts help push the gaze back into the picture to explore the rest of players in the composition, with the increasingly blue tones of the receding trees.

Autumn at Lyndon


Oil on Board, 9x12 inches

This is a painting I did en plein air last November and had shelved it (literally) to tweak a little in the studio.
Having dug it out, I finished it off this morning and have submitted it for the ROI Annual Exhibition.

This wonderful avenue of Oaks is always glorious in November, when the leaves finally turn to russet and gold. With the sun slightly to my right and in front, the distant hill was thrown into relief with the most beautiful blue haze colour, contrasting with the rich complimentary oranges of the sunlit foliage.

I actually painted a larger, similar view, looking from much further back up the hill, as a demonstration piece for the Mickleover Art Group yesterday - to be finished and posted here soon...

Sunlight on Eyebrook

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

I painted this one back in June at Patchings Art Festival, but left it until now to finish it off. It's another view of Eyebrook Reservoir in Rutland. 

Looking straight into the sun, there was a gorgeous sheen on the lake, and using the texture of the gessoed board, I dragged a heavily loaded brush with almost pure Titanium White over the grey underpainting to achieve that broken effect - a similar effect to using the rough texture of watercolour paper, but in that case it would be using a grey colour, reserving the white of the paper for the glinting water.

The sheen on the water is the brightest passage of the painting, and setting it next to the darkest part - the two trees - it adds impact and drama to the scene.

I'm entering this one for the ROI annual exhibition, so we'll see if it catches the judges' eyes!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Family Dabbling

Oil on Canvas, 18 x 26 inches

I've painted this spot on my local river, the Welland, many times, in all weathers and all seasons, and all times of day, and I never get sick of it. This is the epitome of Summer, with a family of Swans, yes, Swans again, dabbling their way upstream.

Most of the painting was painted with my 1" decorator's brush after the initial blocking in with thin washes and the dark tones scrubbed in with a very worn Acrylix brush. After painting in the backdrop of trees and all the rich vegetation, with the reeds stroked in with a Rosemary No5 series 279 Long Flat with an extra long handle, held at the very end of the handle, I painted in the Swans and all the water reflections. Again, with the water, I used the same Rosemary brush to blend the colours after blocking the tones in with another worn Rosemary No5 Ivory Long Flat Brush. 

Holding the brush right at the end of the long handle, I find I have much more control over the brushstrokes, contrary to what you might think. The worst thing to do, is to hold the brush on the metal ferrule - this doesn't allow the brush to be used from the shoulder, but only encourages short strokes from the wrist - not the way to allow freedom and to actually see what you are painting. Standing back and painting from the shoulder is much more productive. with big paintings like this, I stand to paint all the time, which allows me to constantly step back and get an overall view of what I'm painting. With sitting down on a comfortable chair, it's all too easy to get too close to the canvas and not assess whether your drawing and colour shifts and tones etc., are correct.

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.