Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Beer Beach

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 27 inches

This one is for my exhibition at Marine House Gallery in Beer in November.  The chalk cliffs are an unmistakable feature of Beer, towering over the beach.

The challenge was to portray the majesty of the cliffs, jutting out into the sea.  The abundance of figures on the shore gives scale and also help take the eye on a journey through the picture.  I loved all the colourful umbrellas ouside Ducky's cafe with the jumble of chairs and customers, and the pale pastel shades of the rows of deckchairs.  There was a lovely sparkle on the sea which is a little harder to depict with pastel compared to oil, but I just fancied tackling this one with the dry medium.  Beer has a shingle beach which is awkward to walk on and equally awkward to paint in pastels!  Lots of old conveyor belts are strewn over the beach to aid walking for customers and fishermen.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Dawn light, Mevagissey

I didn't quite finish this big Pastel painting before the noon cut-off yesterday for the Royal Society of Marine Artists digital submission (you can send images of your paintings that you wish to be considered for the RSMA annual exhibition in London, and if the selectors wish to see them in the final judging next month, they tick them. That way it saves a lot of hassle and money transporting them physically if any/all are rejected).  I finished it off this morning, so will have to take a chance and take it down to London in a few weeks time and hope the selectors like it, along with any of the four that I did submit before yesterday's deadline.  Anyway, I took a few photos of this piece as I painted it, so here are the stages:
Painted on a grey sheet of Clairefontaine Pastelmat, I roughly and lightly sketched in the composition with charcoal, then put down the lightest tone of the bleached white end of the building, then a suggestion of the sky tones.
 Next, I established the backdrop of trees on the skyline and further developed the sky colours and tones.  It's never good policy to paint certain sections on there own to any degree of finish without adjacent tones. If you do and are not extremely fortunate, the colours and tones will almost certainly be off, because it's very difficult to see whether those tones are right in isolation.  Any colour or tone put next to another will influence it and alter how it looked before.
I also dropped in a few of the houses on and above the harbour, continuing with the white fronts of the buildings to give me the lightest light to compare with the subsequent tones.
Next I continued with the skyline of houses and more or less finished the sky, using a lot of rubbing with the fingers to soften the marks and give the clouds that lovely softness and add spacial depth. Note how much darker the light cloud is than the white house fronts.  Without those lit fronts, it would have been easy to have made the cloud much lighter, using Titanium White instead of Yellow Ochre and some warmer pinky-greys.
Continuing with the bottom half, I refined the buildings a little more and spotted in the hulls of the fishing boats - see how that gorgeous red boat immediately sings out from the grey ground!
Here all the vessels are given more definition and detail in preparation for the water they're sitting on.
Now, on the final leg, I had fun with the water itself - easily the most enjoyable part of the painting, partly because it knits everything together and it's the quickest passage of the whole piece!  I realised I'd made an error in the drawing by placing the bottom of the harbour wall on the left below the blue boathouse too low, so I rubbed out the little boats and adjusted everything accordingly.  Voila, and finito: 'Dawn Light, Mevagissey', Pastel 19 x 27 inches

Herald Moth

I found this little chap whilst picking a few Raspberries in my garden. He was resting actually on one of the fruits. He's called the Herald Moth and has beautifully marked forewings in metallic orange with white legs as you can see from the photos

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Moorings at Morston

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

Lots of colour and sunshine casting sharp shadows, this was quite a challenge to paint with all the gubbins that boats have on and attached to them and when I tackle a subject like this I inevitably have to fight against overworking it. With most of the players packed into the right foreground, the sunlit mudbank on the left provided a nice quiet resting place for the eye, otherwise the picture would have been too busy.  The creek at low tide gave a nice lead-in to the painting but was also in danger of taking the eye right out of the picture, but luckily, the intensely lit roof of the building at top left help arrest that, and push the gaze back again over the picture plane.

This will be the last oil I'm going to submit for the RSMA exhibition. Next will be a large Pastel if I can get it done before the deadline of 12 noon this Thursday 29th July....

Friday, 19 July 2013

Sparkling Water, Burnham Overy Staithe

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

This is another marine subject to submit to the RSMA. I liked the composition, with the sailboat, puncturing the horizontal horizon line, forming the apex of a triangle with the blue boat on the mud and the boat with the mast and red buoy on the right. 

I find these kind of paintings, looking into the sun with water and a bright sky a real challenge of observing tones.  The water is bright, reflecting the sky, but it is darker than the sky itself and the sparkling spotlights on the water are brighter than the sky.  Our brain tells us the sail of the boat is white, but looking into the sun, it appears much darker than the sky. 

Getting these relative tones right is THE key to a successful painting, and if you can get the subtle colours right too, double the satisfaction!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Grazing by the Nene

It was too bright to paint in the studio today, so I trekked out to paint this 9 x 12 panel en plein air in the heat.  It was unbearably hot and I chose a spot facing the sun high above and in front of me.  With just a pair of shorts on and a wet towel draped over my shoulders to stop sunburn, I attacked this with gusto, taking a few photos on the way to show the progress:
Firstly I put on a very wet, turpsy wash of grey using a wide brush with lots of white spirit and let it drain down the board, just like a watercolour wash. Then I drew in the composition with a brush and a neutral grey colour.
Next, I scrubbed in the rough tones of the darks and the approximate colours with thin turpsy paint, still with no white added.
With the underpainting blocked in, I mixed up the sky colours with Titatium White in the mix and no White Spirit, painting into and around the treeline.
Working back into the sky, the truer tones of the trees were added, paying careful attention to the highlights and shadows to give them form. At this point, three Lithuanian lads swam past, stopping to say "hay man, ees vairy guud", with lots of gasps and Lithuanian sentences, before continuing downstream, letting the current take them with little effort. It's not often anyone says anything at all in my experience, let alone voices coming from BELOW you!  It must be the English reserve I think - most folks glide past as if you're invisible, or have some obviously contagious disease.  When the three lads, all mahogany coloured from their hard work, walked back instead of swimming against the current, they stopped by to see the progress and congratulated me on my "oh, ees vairy guud man!"  A little later, four women from Latvia made a point of coming over to see and said similar comments, like "aah, ees look real, like there!" and "do you doo dees for a hohbee?"  "no, this is my job"  "aargh, yoowar johb, oh, yees, ees vairy guud!"  Peterborough now seems to have few natives left, or at least the ones who go to the countryside to swim and sunbathe aren't.  There were at least twenty or so others nearer the car who were also of a non-mother tongue.

I must confess,I forgot to take more photos after this stage before it was virtually finished, oops!  When it's this hot and you're so concentrating on getting as much down as you can before the light changes too much, you get so absorbed you forget other things.  That's my excuse anyway!
Here is the painting with as far as I could take it in the two and a bit hours. I continued fleshing out the trees and far and nearside banks and then tackled the water, the usual sequence I employ, and then popped in a few shapes of the cattle, slowly going about their business of grazing in the oppressive heat.
And here's a photo taken back in the studio before I do any more finishing to it.

Fishing Vessels in Padstow Harbour

Oil on Board, 10 x 12 inches

This one was a bit of a labour on this scale with all the cars on the quayside, rigging and other paraphernalia of the fishing vessels.  The real inspiration for the painting was the beautiful reflections in the milky green water and that was by a long way the most enjoyable part, letting loose with my No6 Mongoose Flat brush, ooh, lovely!  There's not that much detail really in the rest - I used a credit card to get the straight lines of the rigging!  Oh dear, more trade secrets...I'll have to kill you all again.

The inclusion of the Metropole Hotel, towering over the skyline and silhouetted against the sunlight, afforded a nice L-shaped composition and a much more interesting design to the painting.

The red buoys hanging from the middle boat, a few red cars, the yellow ice-cream van and the rusty hulk of the large vessel provided lovely warm accents to the largely monochromatic, grey colour scheme.

This is the second one I shall enter for the RSMA Exhibition, so must press on with a couple more...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

By the Mussel Sheds, Brancaster Staithe

Oil on Board, 10 x 12 inches

I haven't painted any Norfolk paintings for a long time, so it was a nice change to paint this little study of one of my favourite haunts, Brancaster Staithe.  It is an artist's haven, full of old sheds and huts, loads of mud and boats strewn at every angle. With the low, bright sun directly behind the sheds, and all the paraphernalia of the mussel fishermen, including the green and cerise mussel-bags stacked up, there was lots of colour and texture to tackle. Three yellow boats and two white ones...oh, this was just heaven.

The brightest lights were in the sky, the highlights of boat rims and that gorgeous pure yellow reflected sunlit patch of mud next to the mussel-bags above the foreground boat. The mud was fun to sculpt with my palette knife, dragging layers of paint over the top of sticky paint underneath.  You'll have got the impression I enjoyed this one - a nice change from my green inland landscapes.  This is the first one of maybe six for the RSMA exhibition digital submission, so more to get on with....


I've commented before on how hype can inflate the prices and egos of artists, way beyond their talent, so I thought I would share this lovely comment I found in the London Evening Substandard by Brian Sewer:

"Today, I stumbled upon the work of a hitherto relatively unknown (to me) artist called Peter Barker, who is, in my opinion, without doubt, a modern master among living two-dimensional colourists.  This ludicrously gifted painter of landscapes, wildlife and figures is surely set to make the art world stand up and appreciate his most extraordinary talent.  The prices his work command are ridiculously humble and my personal advice is to buy as many as you can before the inevitable happens according to the laws of supply and demand, and his paintings are snapped-up by the wealthy art collectors of the world, almost as soon as they come off the easel."

Should do it.....

I love painting!

That's it, my shortest post ever...I am a very lucky boy to earn a living from this wonderful vocation.

Monday, 8 July 2013

New Gallery Outlet!

Hello campers.  I've been painting frames and taking down exhibitions in the last week or so, but am back painting today.  I have to enter three or four paintings for the Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition (is it really that time of year again - whooosh, where did that year go?) and continue with work for an exhibition in Devon later in the year.

However, I have just had some paintings accepted in a new outlet for me - the superb Birdscapes Gallery at Glandford, near Holt in Norfolk, run by Steve and Liz Harris.  The gallery is set in a lovely part of Norfolk, with an enormous cafe next door, and features predominantly bird and animal paintings by some of the very best wildlife painters in the country, with a smattering of landscapes of wild places and local Norfolk landscapes, which is where my work comes in.  There is currently a superb exhibition of wildlife paintings by David Cowdry - well worth a look - absolutely top-notch!

But, if all my old clients who were used to seeing my work at the Ringstead Gallery in north Norfolk up until its closure in 2009, or any others of you who visit the area, pop in to Birdscapes, you will be able to see the paintings below - just ask Steve or Liz, or their son Peter.
Barrows 'n' Boats, Brancaster Staithe 
Oil 9x12 ins

Across the Marshes, Brancaster Staithe 
Oil 7x10 ins

On the Hard at Sunset, Brancaster Staithe  
Pastel 9x12 ins

 Distant Shower, Burnham Overy Staithe
Watercolour 10x14 ins

Gleaming Mud, Brancaster Staithe
 Pastel 13x19 ins
 High Tide, Thornham
Oil 17x30 ins

Cob and Pen
Giclee Print on Canvas 22x22 ins 

 Moored-Up, Brancaster Staithe
 Oil 10x14 ins

Hauling-in Cromer Beach 
Watercolour 14x21 ins

Evening Sunlight, Halvergate Marshes 
Pastel 14x21 ins

Into the Light, Brancaster Staithe
 Pastel 13x19 ins
Sunlit Mud, Brancaster Staithe
 Oil 13x12 ins