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!

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.