Wednesday, 17 December 2014

2015 Calendar!

I have a limited number of 2015 Calendarsfor sale at £12.50 including postage and packing. As the shop page of my website is misbehaving at the moment, if any of you would like to buy a calendar, please email me by clicking HERE, and say whether you would prefer to pay by credit or debit card via Paypal, or send me a cheque. 

The layout looks like this, with 12 seasonal images, and the size of the calendar is 8.5" x 11", or twice that opened out for each month, looking like this:

Friday, 12 December 2014

Oak Shadow

Oil on Board, 10x14 inches

Here's a snowy painting, upon request from Iona House Gallery in Woodstock for their Winter Exhibition next month. 

Painting snow holds great attraction for most artists, me included. It's not that easy to paint either - as I always say in my demos, we all know that snow is white, but to paint an effective and convincing painting, we have to observe both the colour and tone, and that is where so many budding painters fall at the first hurdle. Snow is only white when you look at it face on with the sun shining on it. Otherwise, it only appears white because of its surrounding colours and tones - our brain tells us it's white, even though  a lot of it here is quite a dark blue/mauve colour.

There is actually no pure white at all in the snow in this painting - the only bit of pure white is near the top left, depicting the blinding sun, and even that will appear darker than the surrounding white on your screen! The photo doesn't quite pick up all the colours accurately, but the entire picture was painted with my usual three colours, Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue, plus Titanium White of course.

A little nuance I did like, was the gorgeous light underside of the big branch in the upper centre of the picture plane, receiving reflected light from the gleaming snow beneath.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Deer Look-Out

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

Well, back to the drawing board, or at least the easel...just as soon as I finished all my framing for my show at John Noott's (see previous post), and basked in the ego-boosting of an exhibition opening, another gallery calls me and asks for some new work for their winter show next month. However, having not painted anything for over four weeks, it was lovely to be putting brush to board again, and despite the inevitable "I wonder if I can still do it" thought, happily, and with a big sigh of relief, I find I CAN still do it....phew.

This one is a December view, at a local woodland called Bedford Purlieus. An odd name, dating back to 1598, when the purlieus was a term for woodland law, and the Bedford bit dates back to when the wood was owned by the Duke of Bedord. The title refers to the look-out partly hidden in the left-centre of the picture, from where observers can see deer beneath, who are unaware of being observed.

Yesterday, it was the annual mecca for oil painters - the opening of the ROI Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. It was a great day, seeing all the great work in the show, and 'talking shop' to painting pals like Haidee Jo Summers, Roy Connelly, Tom Hughes, David Pilgrim, Graham Webber, Gerald Green, Penny German, Hannah Merson, Peter Brown, Trevor Chamberlain, Oliver Bull and David Curtis. The show is on until the 21st December and is well worth a trip, as is my own exhibition at John Noott's of course - on until Christmas Eve!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Solo Exhibition reminder

Please forgive another reminder that my solo exhibition starts tomorrow, Saturday 6th December! I hope to see some of you there. All 41 paintings, 7 of which have already sold, can be seen at Peter Barker Solo Exhibition

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition

Fresh Snowfall by the Welland 
Oil on Board, 10x14 inches

Next week, the ROI Annual Exhibition at The Mall Galleries opens on Tuesday 9th with the Private View, and then opens officially to the public on 10th December until 21st December. It's a superb exhibition and represents the cream of painters who use the oil medium. A selection of works can be seen by clicking here.

I have one painting in the show, photo above. Anyone who would like to attend the Private View next Tuesday 9th December, please email me by clicking Email and I will send you an E-invite for you to print off and get in the show FREE.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Solo Exhibition!

Well, after nearly three weeks of frantic framing, including working until past 3am yesterday morning, finishing off the last few frames ready to deliver the paintings, my solo exhibition at the lovely John Noott Gallery in Broadway, Worcestershire, is now ready! These few above are in the show and all 41 paintings can be seen online on the Gallery website by clicking HERE and the paintings are for sale now.

The exhibition opens next Saturday 6th December, so come along and meet yours truly and have a free glass of wine - that's all that's free mind you - it would be lovely to meet you, especially if you have your credit card with you!  Anyone who would like an illustrated catalogue, please telephone the Gallery on 01386 858436, thank you. The exhibition continues until Christmas Eve.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

World War 1 Memories

Oil on Board, 10 x 15 inches

With all the excellent documentaries and docu-dramas on the telly about the First World War, I thought it would be apropos to post this painting I did way back in the '80's. I set up the still-life with two postcards sent to my nana from my grandad during WW1, together with his war medals. The sepia photograph shows my grandad in his army uniform, and my nana together, Harry and Elizabeth Hutchings.

This was really a labour of love, painting such intricate details in oils, especially the stamp and the writing on the postcard, which reads "Dear Lizzie, This will give you an idea of what our huts are like, of course you can see it is me. With love, Harry" and at the top "I have sent one to Sally", my nana's sister. Just a tiny snapshot of 'normal' life from that very abnormal time.
I know little about my grandad's WW1 experiences, only that he was 30 when he enlisted, and was listed as missing in 1917, but returned home in 1918 and was completely loused up, in the true sense of the word, and when my Uncle Arthur, two years old at the time and having not seen him before, said "what's that" on seeing his father.

It's only now, with my grandad long dead, that I would love to have talked to him at length about his Great War experiences. Like most of the lucky soldiers who lived to tell the tale, he never did speak of it, and being from that austere time, he took his memories to his grave. If only he had written it down. As a boy of course, I had no interest in what he did, but now, as an adult, with the awareness of mortality, I would dearly love to know exactly what he went through in the hell of the trenches. Using the BBC's iwonder link, I hope to find out something of where he went, but nothing will ever come close to hearing the words from my grandad's mouth. A lost memory.

Here's a pencil drawing I did of him back in 1982, from a photograph taken not long before he died.
 Harry Hutchings, born 1884

Monday, 10 November 2014

ROI success...JUST!

Fresh Snowfall by the Welland, Oil on Board, 10"x14"

Well, third year lucky, I got ONE painting accepted for the ROI Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, after having none accepted in the last two years. The ROI panel are a tough nut to crack, and it's a real honour to be included with the cream of British Oil painters.

I submitted four to the final stages, but these three below didn't make it:

They will, however, be included in my own solo exhibition at the John Noott Gallery next month, from 6th to 24th December, together with 44 other new paintings.  Anyone wanting an invitation, please email me your details HERE

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 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

 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. 

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


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!