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An afternoon by the Warf

With such glorious autumn colours and some sunshine in the offing I was moved to visit one of my all time favourite views and knock out a watercolour sketch (A3). This is by the River Warf at Appletreewick looking towards the plantations under Simon’s Seat and Carncliff Top.

Painting in the open is a great way to get talking to people, they ware all encouraging and complimentary.

Painting in the open is just so different to working in a Studio – though its also a great way to get cold! People passing by on this section of the Dales Way were encouraging and complimentary.

I managed to get on site by late morning, by then the the first sunlight had been replaced with clouds so it was an act of faith to set up. I was lucky, the afternoon just got better and better with increasing sun all the time. It finally dropped below the hills at 3-30pm (an hour before sunset). I have added the finished sketch to the watercolour gallery.

Wensleydale – studio study

This is a view along the footpath between Askrigg going in the direction of Sebusk; the inspiration was combination of clear morning sunlight, the gently rising approach from the east to Shaw Cote and the configuration of the path to the buildings.

Approaching Shaw Cote Wensleydale

Approaching Shaw Cote Wensleydale

I worked this up from field work, the scene is considerably simplified. The process was to build up texture with heavy body medium on board (a one off 16×24) and add progressive layers; from the initial under-painting to increasingly representational colour.

I have to admit to liking the initial blues and yellows of the base layer almost as much as the ones in the finished painting;

Stage 1 - texture and underpainting

Stage 1 – texture and under-painting


Stage 2 - building up the layers

Stage 2 – building up the layers


A week in early autumn allowed me to get back to my favourite landscape subjects – northern hills and moors, dramatic weather and lighting that changes as the clouds move. The weather was mixed as you’d expect at this time of year but good enough for some plein-air painting.

After climbing out of Askrigg cross the fields and look back on Newbiggin - more diffuse morning sunlight.

The path to Newbiggin in morning sunlight. After climbing out of Askrigg (on the Muker Road) cross the fields and keep tracking uphill towards Nappa Scar – then a look back on Newbiggin.

The day we walked across the valley and climbed Addelborough afforded this view of Penhill in the distance from Thornton Rust Moor.

One day we walked across the valley and climbed Addleborugh. This afforded views West towards from Thornton Rust Moor. Penhill is in the background above Aysgarth and West Burton (hidden in the valley). The broken cloud meant that different patches of the landscape continually being highlighted

The morning light was diffuse, the skyline still contains Wetherfell but the view is higher and Askrigg can be seen on the right.

Moring Light Wetherfell. The morning light was diffuse, the skyline includes Wetherfell but the viewpoint is high enough to see Askrigg – the houses on the right. I spent about an hour with the half completed picture in a polythene bag, and giving thanks for Paramo clothing, waiting for the rain to stop – the marbling effect in the sky is from raindrops.

On path from Worton to Askrigg the path rises to cross the disused railway and its possible to look up the valley. This was early evening

Evening Light Wetherfell. On way from Worton to Askrigg the path rises to cross the disused railway, at that point it is possible to get a more expansive look up the valley. This was early evening and quite striking as the sun got through the low clouds.

Isles of Scilly – August

From Rostock it’s a short 6 hour ferry trip to Plymouth and then a day in Cornwall. These fishing boats on the warf at Penberth Cove, lined up just below the boat winch at caught my eye.

Sketch - Boats at Penberth Cove

A drive to Penzance for a trip to the Isles of Scilly on the Scillonian. I must confess to have fallen in love with the Isles of Scilly (now been 4 times). This time was brilliant after a couple of days with flat light the place really sparkled – we could stand on the top of Bryer and look west to dramatic squalls and sun/cloud lighting and then just turn round and look towards St Marys for blue skies and sunshine.

Other high spots were;

  • A trip round the Bishop Rock lighthouse. It has taken is 4 visits because the conditions have to be just right or the boatmen don’t run the trip. The trip was for seals, seabirds and that “nothing impossible” engineering we were good at in the nineteenth century. This year we were participants in an unscheduled yacht rescue (it had fouled its propeller on a rope).
  • To walk from Treso to Bryher. There were particularly high and low tides this year – at low tide we didn’t go in deeper than our calfs on the walk
  • Watching the evening light constantly changing across the Western Rocks towards Bishop Rock from St Agness

Some 10×15 watercolour sketches (I have to confess that the sunset was not done en Plein Air)

Line and wash; (1) The view from Juliett’s Garden to Hugh Town St Marys (2) Hell Bay, Bryher

Hugh Town from Juliets Gdn - pw wm  Hell Bay Bryher - pw wm

From the sketch book

Sketches - Scilly Sketches Scilly - People

Vendee and Brittany – July/August

From Northern Spain we drove through the Pyrenees, Lande and Gironde to the Vendee and Brittany. More sketches along the way.

A line & wash of lovely grounds at a B&B in the Vendee

La Felonniere - pw wm

I was blown away by the marshes at the Etang de Kergulan. This 10×15 Plein Air/Alla Prima watercolour was a must do though something of a challenge – because of the strong wind. I had to get a couple of boulders from the beach put them in my pack and suspend it from the tripod to avoid taking off. I think the result was worth it – the openness and big sky with towering cumulus clouds were irresistible.

Etang du Kergulan - wm

 We stayed at the Manoir Du Hilgy – great light and shade contrasts in this 10×15 watercolour.

Manoir du Hilguy - wm

 Douarnez was a complex subject but the scene was begging to be painted.

Douarnez - wm

The ridge on the Montage St Michel offered a fabulous panoramas – this line and wash was looking west from a lane just past Roc Trevezal, the village in the distance is Commana.

West from near Roc Trevezal - pw wm

This line and wash of the rocks on the coast at Primel-Tregastel near Plougasnu offered a good subject on an day when the light was a bit flat – I was inspired by the occasional fleeting sunlight, which brought out the orange-pink of the granite, and the expanse of cow parsley in the foreground

Rocks at Primel-Trigastel - pw wm

A number of notebook sketches including some people watching. The market at Moralix was a fantastic subject, unfortunately I had to keep stopping for the rain. I also just love drawing people to pass time on the ferry.

Sketches France 1 Sketches France 2 inc Morlaix Sketches France 3 - People


Northern Spain – July

The Picos Mountains come down into the Bay of Biscay. There are long beaches backed by mountains; the air from the Atlantic makes this a notoriously wet region but when the conditions are right the combination of sun over the sea and dark cloud over the land make it a dramatic delight.

This is 10×15 plein air, alla prima watercolour sketch of the coast looking towards San Vicento de la Vaquera with the Sierra de Cuera in the background. I found a spot just off the coast road overlooking the bay and got the light fixed at about 4-00pm.

San Vicento de la Vaquera wm


This is a 10×15 plein air, alla prima watercolur sketch of the village we stayed in La Concha (one stop away from the end of the road). An early start for this one in order to get the morning light, quick compositional sketch and fast work – all done by 10-30am. One of the villagers came to inspect on his way to get vegetables from his plot, he was quite delighted pointing out his house and his friends and our holiday let.

La Concha wm

A couple of 5×7 watercolour sketches from the beach at Playa de Oyambre which is just east of San Vicento, across the estuary and along the coast road. Did a couple of these, I  think the second captures the scene best. Painting on the beach has its challenges – it was very windy, though painting is not as risky as getting sand in the camera lens.

Playa de Oyambre 1 - pw wmPlaya de Oyambre 2 - pw wm

These are extracts from the sketchbook, some are compositional sketches for the pictures above – others may become source material for studio work in the future.

Sketches Spain


Swinside Evening – first commission delivered

I painted this small A4 acrylic from sketches and photograph’s. I was keen to capture the evening light which floods into the Lorton Valley from the North West from Swinside you can see right across the Solway Firth. This view is down the valley towards Loweswater and Scale Hill, from this elevation Melbreak is not as dominating as it is lower down the valley.

A4 Acrylic - SOLD

A4 Acrylic – SOLD

I completed the picture some time ago and delivered it in June. Because it was a present I delayed posting it until now. This is a landmark event for me; first commission painted, delivered and paid for.

A study at Derwentwater

Our usual week in the Lakes in early June was wet enough to prevent a lot of painting or sketching, but I did manage this sketch (10 x 14, 2 hours).

The day started dull but there were breaks in the clouds giving periods of strong contrast.

The day started dull but there were breaks in the clouds giving periods of strong contrast.

The view was a natural composition so I decided to work up a studio version, here is the result, broader view, the original is A3. I put back the sheep which I had ignored when I did the watercolour.

An acrylic painting of the same view using the watercolour sketch as source material

An acrylic painting of the same view using the watercolour sketch as source material


Canal du Midi

A trip to the Canal du Midi has been something I have wanted to do for a long time and we went there in May. It’s only just in time as a disease is ravaging the Plane trees that line the banks. This is being dealt with, by felling and re-planting, but it will be years before the replacement, hardier trees become mature. The trip therefore alternated between stretches of the canal that retained the character that has made it famous and stretches where the trees have been felled.

It was good to get in plenty of “plein air” painting and sketching.

Here are some 14 x 10 watercolours done on the spot at 2-3 hours a piece, a great way to lose oneself.

When time was tighter I used a 7 x 5 format to do some pen and wash work, this can be accomplished in a hour or so and requires less baggage.

And I had my sketchbook with me all the time – sometimes as little as 10 minutes is all you need to capture an impression but its amazing how much more your brain takes in compared to taking a photo (which I do as well – of course!)

And in case you are wondering about the obvious omission from this collection – the day we returned to Carcassonne, the weather was great in the morning for an exploration, but in the afternoon there was a massive thunderstorm and, as a result I was unable to do any sketches of the world famous Cite! So I’ll just have to go back…



Southern Lake District

With the spring weather and a week near Grange-over-Sands I had my first real opportunity to do some open-air work. The area just to the north east of Grange is dominated by Hampsfell from which there are spectacular views – towards the mountains of the Lake District, Morecambe Bay and the Pennines.

These watercolours usualy take 3-4 hours the rest of the day being walking. The pen and wash studies take much less time – an hours stop when something catches your eye or, in the case of Field Broughton I’d spent most of the day on Morecambe Bay and on getting to the other side of Hampsfell just had to do that as well.