Friday, 30 January 2015

Imminent Demo!

If anyone is interested, I'm painting a demonstration painting to the Oadby Society of Artists on Monday next, 2nd Feb at Beauchamp College, Oadby LE2 5TP.

The subject will be 'Sparkling Coastal Light' and will be in Oils.

Any non-members are welcome for a nominal fee of £5 on the door. Hope to see you there!

Winter Orange

Oil on Board, 103/4 x 143/4 inches

Another seasonal Wintry job; this time an almost monochrome landscape, save for that gorgeous slash of orange we often see early or late in the short Winter days.

The composition is unusual in that there's no 'lead-in', but rather the picture plane is divided roughly into three thirds - the sky and distant blue trees, the bank and the water.

Painting snow is fascinating and it's vital to get the tone of it right, depending on the prevailing natural lighting.  Here, it was roughly the same tone as the sky, with that orange slash the lightest tone in the painting, drawing the eye in.

The trickiest part of the painting was depicting the network of frosted branches of the big, gnarled Ash tree, being right in the foreground. I didn't want to paint every branch in, and at first, I made them a little too insistent and false. Using fast-drying Alkyd Oil, I let the sky colour dry too much - painting branches over a dry sky doesn't seem to work and looks too 'cardboard-cut-outy'. So I painted over much of the passage again with slabs of the appropriate sky colour, cutting into the main branches, then immediately worked back into it again with a few twig tones dragged across with a soft flat Rosemary Mongoose brush. Then I added some fine branches with a deliciously long Rosemary Mongoose Rigger, holding it at the end of the 12" handle perpendicular to the board surface, letting the very point of the brush dance over the wet paint. I was much happier with the resultant, more painterly look.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Hard Frost and Sun Glint

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

This is another one bound for Iona House Gallery to join their continuing Winter exhibition.

I love this sort of subject, but I find it the toughest to paint - those incredibly subtle tones of bare trees looking straight into the light. I almost invariably paint the more distant tree tones a little too dark and have to adjust them until the right balance is achieved. I could have left them as they were and adjusted the other tones accordingly, but I wanted to portray that really bright sunlight piercing through the trees, so I opted not to be lazy and repaint them.

As ever, I love painting frosty grass, which is such a gorgeous silvery colour, very light, but a couple of tones down from the intense light on the water, which in turn is marginally lighter than the sky. That sunlight reflected on the water is really the coup de grĂ¢ce to complete the scene, without which would lack a little punch.

Monday, 26 January 2015


 Oil on Board, 103/4 x 143/4 inches

Iona House Gallery in Woodstock have run out of my wintry paintings, so have asked if I can do one or two more, so here's the first.

I actually really ejoyed this one and felt 'in the zone' whilst painting it, probably because it has just about everything this landscape artist loves - snow for a start, trees in their winter garb, slow-moving water and gorgeous shadows and singing light passages.

I meant to take a few more photos of stages of the painting, but forgot about it early on because I was immersed in the painting process, but here's the initial blocking-in stage, with the rough tones to set the scene, using no white at all, just paint thinned down a little with White Spirit and scrubbed in with a worn-out brush.

 A little further on now and most of the key players are more or less completed, with the basic tones of the snow placed in, and the network of branches on the Elder bush left of centre and the trees on the right have been layered-in using my 1" household decorator's brush with a few structural trunks and branches put in with a rigger.

A little more work has been done in the water here, and then and to complete, I went all over the painting refining here and there, with more reeds and vegetation dragged in with the decorator's brush.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Over the Hedgerow

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

The title of this one does what it says on the tin. It's another summery one for the AAF in March. 

The sun's spotlights were moving about on this May day, lighting up the distant and near fields and the heady Hawthorn blossom momentarily, then seconds later casting shadows across them - so typical of an early Summer's day, with puffs of Cumulus clouds drifting across the sun's path.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Towpath Jogger

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Hardly seasonal is it, but I've been asked for some Spring paintings for the Affordable Art Fair at Battersea, so here's the first. 

It seems strange to talk about the heady May blossoms of Cow Parsley in the middle of a cold snap in mid-January, but it won't be too long will it....?

Anyway, briefly, because I don't have the time to talk to you lot, the towpath had some interesting shadows across it, and when a runner came past, it seemed a fortuitous thing to pop her in for a focal point, with some lovely sunlit top edges to her arms.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Winter Exhibition

I have seventeen recent paintings in the Winter Exhibition at the Iona House Gallery in Woodstock, starting next Saturday 17th January - a few are below, but to see all the paintings click here: Iona House Gallery 



Monday, 12 January 2015

Frost by The Welland

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This painting is a commissioned piece for a customer who wanted a painting similar to one in my exhibition last month. I will never repeat a painting that I have done before, because paintings are sold as originals, but sometimes I will paint a similar view/feel to a previous piece, and this is one such painting, a little further downstream to the one before.

Painting a composition such as this is quite involved, with a lot of spidery winter tree tracery to depict - a little trickier than the same trees in their summer garb. Without any obvious light and dark side of a green tree that conveys a three dimensional shape, describing a bare tree is more difficult and requires more subtle application of brush strokes, at least the way I paint it does! 

For the more bushy trees, I describe them using my trusty 1" decorator's brush, applying many judicious layers with paint not too heavily-laden on the hairs. 

For the main bare trees at the rear centre of the picture, I scrub in the basic shapes with a dry brush with not too much pigment, then paint in the sky around them, then stroke the same colour over the tree with a hog brush held almost parallel to the board surface for the 'sky holes' seen between the branches. Then I describe the branches with a long rigger held almost at the end of the handle (not the hair end!) - that way, conversely to what you might think, you can stroke really delicate lines where needed. Holding the rigger near the ferrule end, which is the temptation, only results in clumsy, thicker lines, spoiling the look of tree branches. For the feathery ends of the branches, I place them in with the decorator's brush, pushing gently into the wet sky paint so they don't appear too 'sharp' and hard. What lets a lot of amateur paintings down, is the lack of painting the branches that are growing 'out of the picture', so to speak, coming towards the viewer, which appear foreshortened. This is what gives the illusion of three-dimensional depth to the painting, although it is on a two-dimentional surface.

All the frosty vegetation is painted with the decorator's brush again, heavily loaded for the few warm sunlit highlights. 

I've just realised I've given away far too many secrets...I'm going to have to kill you all.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Swans at Dawn

 Oil on Board 10 x 17 inches

This was a race against time to get this finished for possible inclusion into Iona House Gallery's E-brochure for their Winter Exhibition. I was going to take a few stage photographs along the way, but forgot having got absorbed in it, in between painting frames for the show. I did take one photo after the initial scrubbing in of the rough tones stage, thus:

I swept a neutral grey wash over the board to start with, as can be seen in the unpainted parts of the sky and water. This produces lovely rivulet patterns as the wash (very diluted paint with White Spirit) runs down the board. This entire painting was done with just three primary colours and white - my usual suspects of Cadmium Yellow Light as the yellow, Permanent Rose as the red, and Cobalt Blue as the blue, with Titanium White. This was done not with bravado to say how clever am I, but as an exercise just see if any more colours were needed. Without any greens in the painting, no other colours were required, and all the subtle shades of greys and browns, both light and dark, were mixed with varying proportions of the three colours and little or more white added to the mixes, as needed. I find it good discipline to mix the colours and tones with such a limited palette, and it simplifies things so, to have just four blobs of paint squeezed out.


No painting today, but a personal bugbear...the national virus of saying "I was sat, or stood"...aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!  

This mangling of the English language seems to have insinuated its way into every corner of these isles!

Would anyone ever dream of saying "I was ate"?  No, they would say "I was eating". So, why on earth does seemingly 90% of the population now say "I was sat", or "he was stood", when they mean "I was sitting" or "he was standing"?

I'm amazed at how many extremely bright and erudite people on Radio 4 say "he was sat, etc." and how most BBC reporters say "I am stood here, etc."  I believe that most people actually believe it is correct. IT DAMN WELL ISN'T!  So, let's have a campaign to rid the country of this sloppy, lazy, ugly manipulation of our language that has infiltrated its way into the mainstream of life, before it becomes accepted as correct!

And another thing - why do SO many people preface or end what they say with "to be honest", the inference being that normally they'd be dishonest, otherwise, why bother saying it? 

Rant over! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Willow Spotlight

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I liked the light of this subject, predominantly in shade, with a few spotlights from the early morning sunshine picking out the Willows' branches. I particularly liked the orangey-red of the top of the Willow in the back centre of the composition. It's never easy to stop the eye whizzing out of the picture when following a river, but nature provided an old, fallen tree on the right bak to poke the eye back again.

Most of the tree work was done with my 1" household brush, layering subtle colours and tones on top of each other to give that sense of depth, with a few soft strokes of a more heavily loaded brush dragged over for the highlighted tracery.

I went out on Sunday morning, opting for taking some photos of the sun rising through the morning fog and frost, rather than a round of golf, and had a great time drinking in the atmosphere and watching the birds. Goldfinches were busily teasing out the seeds from the heads of the abundant Burdocks, a pair of, arguably, England's most spectacularly beautiful birds, male Bullfinches, were hopping along a hedgerow, keeping just ahead of me, and a three or four of the country's smallest bird, Goldcrests, were busying about amongst a thicket of brambles, with their tiny, mouse-like seeps calling out.

I stopped off at a local wood on the way home, where a stand of Beech trees was alive with Blue and Great Tits, all feeding amid the lush carpet of fallen leaves and Beech mast. It's great to be at one with nature sometimes - just to stop and watch as our fellow creatures go about their business of staying alive.

In sharp contrast, I watched a short video and made a donation to PETA, who do stirling work to promote the ethical treatment of animals. This film shows the bloody hell of a Chinese slaughterhouse, where, one after another, dogs who have been bred or stolen, are pushed into a room and are clubbed to death, or near death, before being skinned for making leather goods. It's sickening and harrowing, but needs to be watched. It was my birthday three days ago, and it would be a wonderful present if some of you would consider donating to PETA, whether you can stomach watching this gruesome short film or not. Here's the link:

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Sunlit Trees

Oil 6 x 8 inches

My last painting of 2014, painted en plein air on the last day of the year in freezing temperatures, unusually for me with the sun behind me. Thought I'd catch the last of the frost on the reeds before this warmer weather has hit us again. 

Painting outside on site has its downsides - no comfortable heated studio with reference material that doesn't change with the movement of the sun, with all the gubbins needed for painting spread around - but nothing quite has the excitement of painting directly from the subject. I can't pretend it's easy though, because the lighting of the subject does change considerably over the period of a painting, no matter how slick you are. In this painting, the dead vegetation dripping into the water in the right foreground was darker than the bank behind it when I started, but I opted to make it lighter with the sun shining on it, as it was at the end of the painting. Also, the patches of blue frost had completely disappeared when I'd finished, but I liked the contrast they provided in an otherwise brown painting, so I popped them in. The whole exercise was doubly challenging because having got my whole kit set-up and started painting, I realised I hadn't brought my little tin for cleaning the brushes in White I had to use only the tiny dipper, which was awkward to say the least!

Anyway, I'd like to sincerely thank all of you who have followed my Blog in 2014 showing my paintings and ramblings, and especially if you've gone to the trouble of leaving comments - it's always much appreciated, and even more so if you're one of the lovely people who have bought my work and kept me off the streets! 

2015 will be a very exciting new year with a major project coming to fruition - more of that in a while... In the meantime, thank you again for looking in and may I wish you a Happy New Year!