Thursday, 29 March 2012

July by the River Teign

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

The Gallery in Devon want some high Summer paintings, so here's another very green painting.  It is 7.30pm by the River Teign near Chagford in Devon, and the harshness of Summer daylight has made way for the more mellow, gentle light of evening.  This particular spot has slow-moving, deeper water towards a weir, after which the water crashes its way downstream towards Fingle Bridge, but here, the reflections are gorgeous and I've made hay with the glassy surface, broken by the foreground rocks.

The bankside vegetation on the left and right were largely executed with my 1" household brush again, whilst the water is painted wholly with a No.6 Short Flat Series 24 Mongoose brush from Rosemary and Co. - the best brush I know for the job.  It has soft, yet springy hairs, carries loads of paint and the chisel edge stays like a chisel time after time, enabling slabs of paint to be applied with the side of the brush, and sharp, fine ripples at the same time by turning the brush around and using the sharp edge. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Harvest Bales

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I always think stubble fields with jam roly-poly bales look magnificent set against a dark sky, and this scene begged to be painted - rolling Devon hills with a patchwork quilt of fields with cattle grazing in one of them.

Most of the painting, apart from the sky scrubbed in with hogs, was done with my trademark 1" household paintbrush, which I find is a great tool to quickly and effectively depict foliage, and especially here, the corn stubble and bales.  The paint is applied thickly over the darker underpainting and perfectly describes the spikey stalks with heavy texture.

Now, I must get on - I haven't got time to dilly dally about, entertaining all you millions of my fans out there in the ether, so let me get on with the next painting.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Fresh Spring greens

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

It's been a week of 'tidying up' various demo paintings and this was another one!  I painted this at the Kirby Bellars Group of Artists on Monday this week and finished it in the studio yesterday.

This was a scene from Duddington, just down the road from my house from last April.  A single Swan was preening itself on the water, watched by a handsome Mallard drake on the bank - click on the image to view full-screen to see.  I ummed and arred as to whether to include the fresh Hawthorn foliage on the right, but I think the eye would have had a clear route into the painting from the bottom right and straight out again on the top right, so I put them in to keep the eye focused, and to add an extra element of depth by using a lot of palette knife work to add texture.

The critical thing to make the painting convincing was to pitch the tones right in the distant blue haze of the far bank of trees, so that the duller green of the fresh Willow leaves 'read' correctly against them.  You will also see that there are  few sheep resting under the shade of the Willows.  Alas, those same Willows are no more - they were all felled at the end of the year for some reason, so the view is now very different and the sheep have no shady shelter.  I like to think that this is a tribute to those beautiful Willows.

Evening Glow, Late July

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

I painted this little Oil as another demonstration piece to the Melton Mowbray Art Club last month, and finished it off yesterday in the studio.  

The subject, my local river Welland again, is depicted in that lovely warm glow of a late July evening, when all is still and the only sounds are the occasional cellophane rub of Hawker Dragonflies patrolling up and down like Chinook helicopters and the sweet birdsong of Blackbirds and 'pewing' of Buzzards and Red Kites.  It's rare that I don't see the electric blue flash of a Kingfisher and hear its high-pitched alarm cry.  I am indeed a lucky boy to be able to make a living from painting in such places, whilst most people are stuck in a car jam, trying to get home in the evening.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Mellow Autumn Reflections

Pastel on clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

This was another demonstration piece I gave to another Art Group recently, put away whilst i was painting oils, so I've finished off back in the studio.

My favourite stretch of the river welland near me again, in all it's Autumn glory, with its mellow tones of blues, mauves and rich yellows and rusts.  Soft Pastel is particularly gorgeous to use for painting reflections, and this was perfect for the job; slow-moving water, with just a hint of ripples and dots of bubbles to animate the surface.

That's the last of Pastels for the time being - now back to Oils, so stand by your beds all........ 

May I ask any of you reading this, if you are interested in coming to my exhibition at the Marine House Gallery in Beer, South Devon, opening preview on Saturday May 5th, to please email me at with your address, if you would like to receive an illustrated Invitation, thank you!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

November Sparkle

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

I painted this Pastel painting as a demonstration piece to an Art Group last November and have only just got round to finishing it off, having put it away and forgotten about it.  

I do have a fascination for the way pure sunlight reacts on water and anything that is in line with it.  I love trying to capture the effect it produces - in this painting, that part obscuration of the reflection of the foreground reeds, almost making the viewer squint from the illusion of intense sunlight.  That's what excites me about this sort of subject.  There are also lots of tiny jewels of sparkling light on the water and the vegetation, where the thawing Autumn frost was melting into droplets of dew.  Nonetheless, the composition would have been very dull without the sheep dotted about in the field on the far bank.

Early Start, Beer Beach

Pastel on Pastelmat, 9.5 x 19 inches  SOLD

Beer, where my upcoming exhibition is at the Marine House Gallery in May, is a thriving fishing village on the South Devon coast, and to get this scene, soon after daybreak, necessitated me getting to the beach for 6.30am.  Kim Aplin, the well known local figure who takes folks out Mackerel fishing is busy getting ready for the day ahead, carrying fuel back from his boat.  This particular day in late October offered up a glorious dawn, with the sun breaking through the cloud to give a beautiful golden glow to the sea and all the fishing boat paraphernalia on the shingle beach.

I chose a wide panoramic shape, using an offcut from a previous large painting, which seemed perfect for the composition I wanted.  I eliminated most of the sky above the cloud line, which seemed a distraction from the figures around the boats and the sunlit sea. I moved the sun to the right a little just for balance and spent a fair bit of time trying to get a decent likeness of Kim, as he is so well known!  I included him in a large Pastel a couple of years ago, but that was mostly of his backside, bending over sorting out a rope tangle, though it was recognisably him, so, I hope I've done his front-side justice this time!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Swans on Dazzling Water

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 18.75 x 26.6 inches

Looking straight into the sun, as in this composition, is one of my favourite sorts of subjects, as you may have seen if you are a regular observer of my Blog (remember, I know where you all live...........)

This was largely an exercise in observing tone and subtle colours.  It is also a classic example of what I preach in my demos, ie., painting what you see, not what you know, or think what you see.  We all know snow is white, but it only appears white if the sun is behind you when you look at it, or on a dull day.  In this landscape, looking into the sun, the snow on the field below the horizon appears white, but on the banks and trees, where the snow is in shadow, it appears various shades of blue and these passages next to the white border....much darker aren't they? 

The lightest light is saved for the reflection of the pure sunlight, with particular attention paid to the yellowy-orange dead reeds almost obliterated by the dazzling brightness of the water.  Only by getting these tone right will the painting appear convincing. 

There was really an awful lot of work in this painting, mainly in depicting all the dead vegetation in the water and all the little jewel-like sparkles on the surface, but I'm pleased with the result.  The pair of Swans, of course, adds a bit of life to the largely dead riverscape.  I can't resist Swans and I never tire of painting them - they are just such elegant birds.

I haven't posted for a while, having been down to Devon to take some of my recent work to the Marine House Gallery, some of which will be at the AAF later this week - news on that to follow.  I managed just one little plein air Oil painting in the fading light when I was there, to be posted when I have finished it in the studio after these Pastels I'm currently working on.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Poppies in the Barley

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 263/4 inches

I enjoyed painting this one  - a real taste of Summer to come.  It's actually a view across the Welland Valley, just a mile or so from my studio.  I loved the aerial perspective, with the progressively bluer and paler tones of the trees and hedgerows as they recede into the distance, so I felt it warranted a large size board. If you can get the colour and tone right, you convey a wonderful feeling of depth and space in a landscape like this - quintessentially English.

As far as technique goes, I paint in a similar way with soft pastels as I do with oil paint; I lay the darker colours down first, then superimpose the lighter tones and colours over the top.  The major difference between Pastels and Oils, is that you need hundreds of Pastel sticks in all different colours and shades, because you can't mix the colours on a palette - being a dry medium, the strokes have to be put on 'as is' and more marks made with another shade into and next to the previous marks.  I don't find it a terribly suitable medium for plein air work for that very reason - it's just not practical to have so many sticks laid out on a 3ft board in front of me, so I tend to restrict Pastel work to the studio. 

I shall be taking some of my recent oils down to my Devon Gallery very soon for the AAF at Batterea Park.  I shall also take these Pastels to Calmar Framing in Exeter while I'm down there.  Philip Bate who runs Calmar does the most fantastic hand-finished gessoed frames around, and although expensive, they look a million dollars.  One of the main costs for framing is the glass alone - I've taken to using ClearColour with UV protection.  This glass is so incredibly clear, you can hardly tell there is any glass in the frame at all, and the difference compared with standard 2mm float glass is like comparing night and day.  The drawback is that a piece of glass for this picture will be about £90 alone, but I figure the difference is worth it.