Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Summer Breeze

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This one is another demo piece, painted for the lovely folk of the Horncastle Art Group. It's a view from the old bridge over the River Nene at Milton Ferry. 

Painting trees and water are my stock-in-trade, and painting still water is relatively simple - you're just painting reflections, but when the water is ruffled by a breeze, the technical aspect is that bit more troublesome. Using fast-drying Alkyd oil paint, I placed in the reflections of the right-hand bank and suggestions of the trees, then blocked in the sky reflections and left it to dry for half-an-hour or so, then loaded a flat brush with the sky colours again, and dragged it across the sticky underlayer, making use of the texture of the board from my random application of gesso. Hopefully, the effect is an approximation of the wind-ruffled surface.

Below is how far I got with the demo in the allotted two hours, before working over the painting again back in the studio, refining where needed. I added an angler partially hidden in the bankside vegetation, just for some added interest.

 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Cuillins, Isle of Skye

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This is the last painting for the RSMA exhibition, and will go onto the 'small pictures wall', a feature the Society has experimented with for the last couple of years, which seems popular - lots of small paintings displayed together next to the cafe.

I was hoping to produce one more painting for the show...a watercolour, but two efforts ended up on the cutting room floor, just not up to standard. I'm very ring-rusty when it comes to watercolour - that most difficult of mediums...just need more practise after several years not using the fluid medium, but determined to produce something worthy of exhibiting soon!

This little oil I painted en plein air last May on the Isle of Skye, finishing it off in the studio with the aide memoire of a couple of photos for the details of the boats. The distant Cuillins appeared very blue/mauve, still flecked with snow even in the 26 degree heat.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Forthcoming Demo


I'm giving a demo in Oils next Friday, 4th August at Horncastle from 7.30 - 9.30pm, if anyone wants to attend for a small fee on the door. I shall be painting a landscape with water, from scratch, with an entertaining (hopefully!) commentary throughout. Venue: Queen Street Methodist Church Hall, Horncastle LN9 6BD

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Radiating Ropes and Boats, Mousehole

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

This is another painting for the Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition. Even though the day was somewhat overcast with little sunlight giving any spectacular lit-up surfaces, I was immediately attracted to the beautiful green water in the reflections of the sea walls - that lovely colour the sea appears looking at the sand beneath, like in those shots of Bermuda beaches!

Although a much smaller painting than the Portree harbour one below, this took just as long to complete, if not a little longer - boats are so damned fiddly! The composition was perfect, especially with the radiating lines of the ropes pointing at the gap in the wall, and I loved painting those seaweed-wrapped ghostly shapes of the ropes beneath the water - worth the struggle!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sparkling Early Light, Portree Harbour


Oil on Canvas, 18 x 26 inches

We went to the isle of Skye last May, and on several mornings I went down to Portree harbour, where the wonderful weather provided a wealth of painting material, and this is the result of one of those mornings, the obvious hook being that beautiful light bouncing off the water  - just gorgeous!

Painting the smaller boats against the light was reasonably straightforward, but as I always say in my demos, you cannot tell whether the colour and tone you put down initially is right, until you put down the adjacent colour and tone next to it. Similarly in this case, where the colour next to the boats was almost pure Titanium White, it was not easy to judge the boat colours until that light passage was placed next to them. Some adjustment had to be made, so that the boats didn't look 'stuck on', or not really sitting on the water. 

The spots of pure, reflected sunlight were the main problem near the end of the painting. Placing spots of pure white doesn't quite work - theylook like spots of white stuck on, not blinding sunlight sparkles. To achieve the glare, so that the onlooker almost feels he should put sunglasses on, requires a bit of an orange halo placed on the water first, smudged slightly to imitate a star-like flare. Then, when that was tacky (not long, maybe half-an-hour with fast-drying Alkyds), I dabbed on thick, impasto spots of pure Titanium White in the middle of the halos. 

This one is going into the RSMA Exhibition in October.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Sunlit Boat and Mud

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

I painted this one at Patchings Festival on the last day, when I was one of the guest artists. I finished it off in the studio today.

the gorgeous receding light on the boat was the initial hook for the painting, but the gorgeous, squelchy mud with puddles of water with reflected blue sky, complemented it perfectly. With the posts in the foreground at jaunty angles, the composition was complete.

The Pastel medium seemed an obvious choice and I think it worked quite well, getting down the elements fairly quickly.

Blinding Light, Brancaster Staithe

 Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

I painted this one as a demo to the Castor and Ailsworth Society of Art last Thursday, then finished it off at Patchings Art Festival on Sunday morning. 

The photo below shows the painting as it was after the two hours allotted for the demo, and above the finished article. Really, with such bright light bouncing off the mud (one of my favourite subjects to paint), the painting was an exercise in recognising relative tones. The sky was obviously very bright, but a tone down from the reflected sunlight, and everything else - the distant trees, buildings, banks, mid-distant trees, post, boats and mussel bags, were all progressively darker. 

The initial hook for the painting, apart from that pure sunlight on the mud, was the halo effect of Viridian green on the top of the colourful bags of mussels. And I never tire of trying to capture that transition of the pure sunlight and the darker tones next to it - just so exciting to depict!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Banks of the Nene

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

Here's another demo painting I did a while back, again with a panoramic shape on a 10 x 17 board. It's a view of the River Nene near Waternewton just outside Peterborough. The Nene is pronounced Neen the nearer you are to Northampton and Nen by the Peterborough locals.

Looking into the sunlight, the trees were almost in silhouette, with just a few halos of light round their edges. Capturing the intense light the eye sees when looking directly into the sunlight is never easy with mere paint, so I introduced a few clouds with pure white edges to emphasise the light - just about pulled it off I hope!

The Oak by the Canal

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

I did this painting as a demo to the Napton Art Group, choosing to do a local landscape of the area, in this case the Oxford Canal near Lower Shuckburgh. I liked the barns in the distance on the left, and the towpath on the right, so opted for this panoramic-shaped board.

The big Oak is a little centred, and in fact I painted out some of the tree on the left to balance it a little. The banked hedgerow on the right stopped the eye flying out of the picture, and the main hook to the painting was the lovely ochrey reflections in the disturbed water, so redolent of canals. 

I spent a lot of my childhood by the Oxford Canal at Bodicote, fishing for Roach and Gudgeon, so the area has happy memories for me.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Swans by the River Coln

Oil on Board, 9 x 13 inches

This one is another verdant landscape, with a mass of May blossom on the hawthorn bushes. Painting white blossom is always a challenge, especially when there is a strong light as there was here. I used my 1" household decorator's brush, firstly placing the dark green foliage, then layering the blossom on top with a light touch, in varying shades of white and mauve and all subtle variations in between, depending on how much the particular bit was in shadow.

The Swans just happened to be in the right spot, acting as a stopper to prevent the eye shooting out of the picture.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Mellow Windrush

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

Another Cotswold-themed painting, this time of the River Windrush near Burford, where the river winds its way through meadows to Swinbrook.

The day was not sunny, so all the tones were somewhat close, and I had to pay special attention to the subtle shifts of colour. 

The pink Willowherb provided a nice touch of colour, and the Thistle seed-heads, which I always think look like the old-fashioned shaving brushes, are always fun to paint, and I suggested the whispy seeds just flying off in the breeze.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Sherborne Park

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

Another Cotswold painting, this time one of the glorious landscape of Sherborne Park Estate, where this year's Springwatch programme is based.

I felt a panoramic-shaped board would suit the composition, with the Sherborne brook transversing the meadows, with the little weir in the foreground, the white water punctuating the predominantly green landscape. The cattle on the left in the sunlit patch of meadow were perfectly placed for a bit of interest in the distance.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Sunset over the Windrush

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

Another Cotswold painting, this time the River Windrush near Swinbrook, East of Burford, one of my favourite stretches of water. The water always seems to have a slightly milky effect to it, with a tint of blue in it, too.

I used a little artistic license with this one, introducing a sunset sky onto a fairly dull light effect, adjusting the tones of the trees and vegetation accordingly.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Upper Slaughter

Oil on Linen Canvas, 20 x 28 inches

One of the chocolate-box villages in the Cotswolds, I painted this view of Upper Slaughter in all its verdant, Summer glory. I was lucky that the woman was posing on the bridge, with a lovely, backlit halo around her dark hair and sunlit highlights on her arms. The ancient cottages also provided a nice foil to the abundance of greens in the trees and bankside vegetation. The River Eye and the path, of course, were convenient 'lead-ins' to the composition, with the dark shadowed side of the bridge the darkest dark in the painting.

 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Oxford Canal

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I did this as a demo painting last week at Napton-on-the-Hill, and I took a few photos of the local landscape having got there early, so opted to paint this view of the Oxford Canal.

The big Oak tree provided a perfect focal point with its ochrey reflections in the canal. Canals invariably have these tainted, or tinted reflections because the mud at the bottom is constantly stirred up by the narrowboats traversing back and forth.

The little brown dots in the water are not paint slashes - they are the little ducklings which were everywhere, with their tiny outboard motors whizzing about like toys.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cattle by the Windrush

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

This was an entirely studio painting after a trip to Burford in the Cotswolds last year. Just about every time I've been there, it's been dull with no sunshine, so no sparkling water or sharp contrasts in this painting. But dull days have a certain charm and the true colours of the trees and banks of vegetation are revealed, so special attention must be paid to accurately convey the subtle colour changes.

The sound of Raasay

 Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

This started out as a plein air painting I did almost exactly a year ago on the Isle of Skye, when the temperatures were in the mid to high 20s! This was probably the most problematic painting I've done on the spot, with the light changing almost every second. First of all it was sunny, then the clouds tumbled over and the sky became grey and the distant mountains were lost, so I faded them out, then the sun came out again and the sea turned blue again. Having left the painting with a grey sea and dull, formless headland, I tickled it up in the studio and painted over it again and made the sea blue and some gorgeous cast shadows, and painted out the clouds! Talk aout artistic license!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Late in the Day, Brancaster Staithe

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

I originally posted this painting back on 3rd October - I did it as a demo painting at the Mall Galleries during the RSMA Exhibition last year. I felt it needed a bit of tidying-up, so set about just that in the studio.

I put a little more warmth in the sky, reminiscent of a November afternoon, then worked over the entire painting with some more subtle colour/tone shifts. Wet mud is always a challenge to tackle, especially with low winter sunlight bouncing off it, with lots of jewels of light here and there. Much of the this was done with the palette knife, dragged across the sticky, drying paint underneath.

This painting, along with 'Moorings at Thornham', my last post, are going into the RSMA’s 2017 out of London exhibition, at the Barn Gallery at Patchings Art Centre. The show starts this coming Saturday with a Private View from 11am to 1pm, then continues until 25th June, open 9am - 5pm daily. It will be a great show with work by the best of Marine artists on display.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Moorings at Thornham

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This was a demo painting I did at the Peterborough Arts Society a few weeks ago, finished off in the studio. It's going into the Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition at the lovely Barn Gallery, Patchings Art Centre, from 13th May - 25th June.

I wasn't sure that this would make a great painting, but having worked on it and judging by the reaction on Facebook, maybe it would have made a big painting! I certainly enjoyed painting the glistening mud at low-tide, especially the darker reflections beneath the boats and the gorgeous purple/grey cast shadows. Bits like these are really the fun part of a painting - the posts and masts, rigging and rails on the boats are a bit of a trudge quite honestly, but then when you move on to these most important incidentals, you can use the palette knife to describe the dark mud in the shadows, and they can really make the painting.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Pines by Buttermere

Oil on Canvas, 18 x 26 inches

This is the first relatively big canvas I've painted for a good while, and it involved a lot of standing back to assess the drawing and tones - it's so much easier when you're working on a small board, because the whole picture plane is so much more condensed.

I loved painting the blues of the distant mountains, conveying the sense of depth and space. Probably the most enjoyable passage was the water in the foreground, where you have the combination of reflections and being able to see the lake bottom with the different coloured stones - magic!  

Friday, 31 March 2017

In Great Langdale

Oil on Board, 14 x 18 inches

Woh, a handbrake turn for a while, away from the relative flatlands of Rutland, I thought I would do three or four from a trip to the Lakes. This one is in Great Langdale showing the Pikes beautifully lit, with a stripe of sunlight across the mountain and the meadows and bare trees below. 

So many spots of contrast and counterchange here, it was a joy to paint, with lots of 'pow' and drama! I deliberately placed the two Herdwicks right at the bottom of the picture to give the Pikes their majesty, towering into the sky above. I painted the sky and the mountains with a No 5 long flat Hog bristle brush, refining the crags with a long flat chisel-edged Rosemary & Co Series 279 brush. All the trees were painted with either a fan brush for the more distant ones, or a 1" decorator's brush for the nearer ones, augmented with a rigger for the thicker branches.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Lyddington from Bisbrooke Road

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This morning I was driving slowly the through nearby villages to my studio, and this view struck me as a good subject, with the church splicing the skyline and providing a perfect focal point. So, I parked up, got my plein air kit out of the car and jumped over a ditch into a field and set up to capture the scene.

The view was perfect, with a hazy light, looking directly into the sunlight, but what I hadn't catered for was the gale-force cold north-easterly wind blowing into my back...and neck! After nearly two hours painting, my neck was nearly frozen, despite being dressed up in a thick fur-lined jacket and anorak over the top. So, I packed up having got the painting mostly finished. Having taken off my rucksack from the hook on my tripod which acted as a weighty ballast, the tripod with the painting attached promply blew over, luckily wet-side-up!

I put just a very few finishing touches back in the warmth, and calm, of the studio. Looking forward to the next CALM day outside! 

By the Welland at Wakerley

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

The River Welland trundles through Rutland, and provides an artist like me with a wealth of subject matter. Here, with a ewe and a small gang of lambs munching on the Spring grass near Wakerley was a heaven-sent composition.

With the sunlight coming from the right, behind the bank of trees, the water was bejewelled with sparkles, spotted in with a small rigger or the tip of the palette knife. Most of the tree work was done with my 1" decorator's brush.

Last Hard Frost

 Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

As the name suggests, this was the last hard frost of the Winter. Crisp, silver and varying shades of mauve dusting of ice adorned the fields and vegetation - always a joy to paint. The sun broke through the grey, foggy sky, and the perfect vista was complete.
The dark Teasels provided a nice foreground interest, and helped to depict the feeling of spacial depth to the painting.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Sounds of Evening

Here's a 'video' I recorded last night outside my studio at about 7 o'clock...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igwJ5hcEyVI
...nothing to see, just the sounds of evening, with a Song Thrush hogging the limelight, distant Rooks, Bats if you're young and can hear them, a Tawny Owl (just after 4 mins) Sheep and Cattle, a light aircraft, traffic on the A47 over a mile away, even though it sounds like we're right next to it, and me opening and closing my studio doors! Eat your heart out Chris Watson!

Early Morning, Duddington Bridge

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Finally back in the studio to paint this little chap, a view of Duddington bridge at about 8 in the morning, with a residual frost and that lovely bit of steam hanging over the water - how could you not paint it!

I love the Winter colours - so many think that Winter is boring with dull colours, lacking the splendour of Summer, but for me, it is equally beautiful, with the subtle greys, mauves and browns of trees and vegetation in their Winter garb, and the yellow of the low sun.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Morning Light

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This, the last of my batch for the AAF, finished at midnight last night, with a fair bit of artistic license in the sky - it was a very misty day when I took a photo as reference.

Rivers almost always provide a custom-made lead-in and give the painting a rhythm. I like to paint in the 'sky-holes' in Winter paintings especially - this gives that lovely glow, hopefully.

Frost and Sunshine

 Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

So much going on at the moment with all the gallery work, it's been hard to get any actual painting work done, but a group of eight paintings are off to the Affordable Art Fair in London early next month, so just had to paint the last two 6x8s for that.

This one was a lovely crisp, bright morning on my favourite stretch of the River Welland. There might seem to be a lot of detail, but my 1" decorator's brush was set to use to descibe the complicated network of branches and vegetation in its Winter garb, along with a rigger for the odd trunks and a flat, chisel-edged brush for the water.



Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Swan Rescue!

We had a call last night when we were eating our supper, from my step-daughter’s boyfriend Mark, who works at a local cement quarry. He had spotted a Swan that was seemingly stuck in some mud, so I drove over there to meet him, and in the dead of night we drove in his Landrover through a lot of water and mud to where the Swan was that he had seen earlier. Sure enough, the poor creature was still there, with its head tucked in its feathers, with just the black eye giving away the fact that it was a living animal. 

The Swan was stuck fast in thick limestone mud, and had obviously thrashed around to try and free itself, to no avail – the hapless bird’s plumage was completely covered in ochre-coloured mud.
The next thing was to work out a rescue plan, so we got the torch from the vehicle, and while Mark held it, I tried to get hold of the terrified Swan’s neck in order to stop its attempts to peck us. Throwing a towel over its head calmed it down enough to enable me to grab its neck just below the head, whilst Mark managed to scoop up the Swan from his sticky prison. He bundled the bird into the Landrover and I jumped in and drove to where Mark thought there was a reasonably sized pond where we could release it.

After a few minutes, we reached the spot and I climbed out to have a look to see if it was suitable to drop the Swan in, and was thrilled to see another Swan on the water! Could this be its mate, or another male aggressor?
Mark scrambled down as near to the water’s edge as he could and took off the towel and slipped our muddied friend into the murky water. To our relief, he floated and immediately started scooping water into his gullet. We watched to see what the other bird would do – our poor friend was in no fit state to have a fight. The other bird cruised slowly towards our Swan, and made no threatening display of wings spread and neck ramrod straight, and as they came within touching distance, and this is the tear-jerking moment, they touched heads and almost entwined their necks and let out caressing, acceptance noises like I have never heard a Swan give out before. It was obvious that they were mates, Cob and Pen, and by sheer luck, we had chosen the very pool where our boy’s mate was already.
Proud of our rescue, we watched them for about 10 minutes in the blackness, illuminated only by a torch, whilst our Swan did his best to preen himself and after several neck dives, his head was white again, and his orange and black beak were visible, free of the horrible ochred glue. Mark had his phone with him and took these few grainy and unclear photos, but you can see the state of the bird when we found him, and just about make out the moment the two ‘embraced’ each other in a neck-twine. Moments like this make you pumped with pride that we had helped magnificent bird survive, who knew we were trying to help him and surely wouldn’t have survived another day, with Foxes and huge vehicles about. All together…..aaah!
And here are our two birds, swimming off together, and you can clearly see the cloud of mud beneath our rescued bird on the left.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Teasels Against the Sunlight

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Back onto some more oils for my Devon outlet, and this one is from one of my favourite stretches of river near my home in Rutland. Around 9 in the morning, the sun is low in the winter sky, and the pure sunlight bounced off the water straight ahead of me. This always provides a dramatic light effect which I never tire of painting.

Capturing the subtle tones and colours of trees and vegetation in its winter garb is a challenge I love. Pitching the horizon high on the picture plane blocked out the intense light of the sun itself, but the blinding reflection of it in the water is fun to paint and makes a cracking subject, especially with the Teasels silhouetted against it.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Cattle by the Nene

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

My last Pastel for a while - not so keen on the Pastel dust that flies around in the studio, and I need to do some oils for the Affordable Art Fair at Battersea next month, and for PBFA gallery.

I found this one half-finished ina box I stack my Pastels in - it was another demo painting I did last year, and somewhat unseasonal at the moment, but a reminder of what's to come; warm breezes, billowing cumulus clouds and cattle lazily swishing their tales by the river.

I tend to do the majority of my landscapes in Oils, but occasionally I like to do one in the Pastel medium, which lends a slightly 'softer' feel to the painting. By definition, Pastel sticks don't have sharp points, so inevitably, small, crisp details are hardly possible like they are with Oils with sharp brushes, so the 'finish' of a Pastel painting always has a slightly looser look to it. 

Talking of demos as I alluded to above, I am painting a frosty riverine landscape as a demo painting to the Ufford Art Society, near Stamford in Lincolnshire. If anyone wants to attend, you would be most welcome for a nominal small fee on the door, but please let me know if you want to come, thank you! 

Friday, 3 February 2017

British Blue Heifer

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 13 inches

The last in my current series of farm animal portraits, then on to more oils.

I liked the pose of this one, with the head half-turned and showing the rest of the beast. Horns are always fun to paint, as are cattles' wet noses - the pink on this one was gorgeous to describe, with that lovely little highlight above the nostril, yummy!

I'm not sure I've got the breed right here, so if anyone out there knows better, please let me know!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Herdwick Tup

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

I must say, I really enjoyed doing this portrait of a Herdwick Tup, a member of that most handsome of sheep breeds that roam, and largely make the Lake District what it is today - beautiful.  With a thick coat and stout legs, these sheep are a joy to paint with that wonderfully multi-coloured fleece and white face. They have a very benign and cuddly look about them, which I hope I've captured. 

Soft Pastel is a particularly good medium to describe the woolly look, by applying the pigment and smudging with the thumb or finger, at least on the body. The head is another matter, with mostly hundreds of thin strokes with the edge of a Pastel stick with varying light tones over darker undertones