Lake District – June 2017

After last year’s week of unbroken sunshine near Devoke Water (SW) we knew it would be back to normal this year, and indeed it was. Most days it rained. We stayed at a wonderful let called Bank Barn, Ullswater – never was a place more badly named it was like a palace. We could walk straight from the property to the Ullswater steamer at Pooley Bridge or towards Aira Force. When it was sunny it was too tempting to go walking,

My favourite walk this week was a route was from Patterdale to Hartsop, Pasture Bottoms, Threshthwaite, High Street, the wonderfully named Straits of Riggindale, The Knott, Satura and Buck Crags, Angle Tarn, Bordale Hause and back to Patterdale via Rooking (when I do it again I’ll add in Hartsop Dodd and Caudale Moor).

Despite having limited opportunity to work outside I did manage to complete a couple of paintings

Near Rooking;

14 x 10 Watercolour with ink and pastel

This was painted using a sketch and photographs done on the path from Martindale to Patterdale that runs alongside Ullswater. In this painting I concentrated on the strong contrast in light and shade and took a naturalistic approach to the colours. Itwas completed in a single session.

This path runs along the valley at the otherside to Patterdale. There is a great tea shop at Rooking.

This path runs along the valley at the otherside to Patterdale. There is a great tea shop at Rooking.

 

Threshthwaite Mouth;

14 x 10 Watercolour with Ink and pastel

This was painted in two sessions. I had a sketch and photographs from a 12 mile walk. I used a package called ArtStudio to manipulate the colours, tints, shades, saturation and definition of one of my photographs – this enabled me to move away from naturalistic colour whilst keeping a harmony to the composition. I transferred the image to Langton Rough 14 x 10 by gridding up. The picture was completed in 2 sessions, first blocking in the basic shapes working dark to light and top to bottom, the second session adding definition.

The view south - down Pasture Bottoms towards Patterdale and Glenridding. Cloud shadows and sunlight making a dramatic scene.

The view south – down Pasture Bottoms towards Patterdale and Glenridding. Cloud shadows and sunlight making a dramatic scene.

 

Here are extracts from the notebook I had with me this week.

Notebook 1

Notebook 2

 

 

Devon and Cornwall – April May 2017

This years first trip was to Devon and Cornwall, here is my painting experience (we did other things as well). Introducing the pictures I may mention things in the notebooks I keep. As usual my I have put the Notebook Extracts at the end of the post – where I refer to them they are abbreviated as NE1, NE2 etc.

Devon

Croyde Bay;

22nd April. Watercolour Pencil with Inks, 14×10, Preliminary sketch NE 4.

The approach to this picture was born out of necessity. Having walked across the headland and back round the coastline I eagerly set up to capture this view, the gate gave some interest to the foreground and I imagined the viewer walking through it into the rest of the picture. The sketch went well confirming the composition and I eagerly put up the easel, then reaching for the paints got a shock – hadn’t put them in the rucksack. Now what – abandon the project, accrue shame and leg pulling or keep going. Watercolur pencils, and Indian ink to the rescue. I was rewarded for my efforts be numerous complimentary comments. I find this aspect of plain air work encouraging – those who don’t like to just pass on so the comments you gat are always good ones (so far, anyway).

Croyde Bay

Croyd Bay

Colvelly;

23/4 April. Mixed Media- 14×10, Preliminary sketch NE3.

The notebook sketch developed into a illustration style pen/colour study so the next day I tried to loosen it up a bit with a larger mixed media study, it also gave me the opportunity to add the boat – I had this on the photographs and it was there when I started sketching but moved away and my vantage point on the harbour wall meant I could not see it properly when I was sketching.

Clovelly

Clovelly

Lynmouth, Watersmeet;

25/6th April, Mixed Media– 16×12. Preliminary sketch NE5.

Rainy days on holiday are never a problem provided that there is space to work. The Abandoned Cottage had a mezzanine which was a child play area, I was able to commandeer it for a studio; it has a large velux window affording good working light. The previous day we had visited Watersmeet and walked to Lynmouth and back, the enclosed, wooded gorge with patches of sunlight combined with the fast flowing water is something I also experience on walks by the Warf and Nidd – the rainy day gave me the opportunity to spend some time working out how to approach then scene. I feel that I will be returning to this kind of scene there is a lot of complexity in the subject which makes it a rewarding subject.

Watersmeet Lynmouth

Watersmeet above Lynmouth

Taw Estuary and Bideford Bay

26th April. Watercolour, 14×10, Preliminary sketch NE 5.

I could see this out of the mezzanine window and painted it in parallel with the Lynmouth picture. It was this weather coming from the Atlantic which cause widespread snow and hailstorms, enough to be reported in the papers. Back in Yorkshire our Pieris suffered a lot of frost damage and after a spectacular start now looks rather sad. But the sky really did look like this – I just wanted to get the sunset down. The headland in the far distance is Hartland Point.

Taw Estuary

Weather Coming In, Taw Estury and Bideford Bay

Cornwall

Duloe Manor

4th May, Mixed Media, 16×12, Preliminary Sketch NE5

I really like this avenue of trees that run straight towards the main house at the HPB site. I painted it last year, the record shows that whilst the bluebells were out the wild garlic and leaves of the trees were more advanced this year. This year I altered to composition from portrait to landscape and moved the edge of the avenue occluding the line of trees on the right. As an alternative composition I think it works. It was a dull day but improved as I painted. I blocked in the darks from memory and limited them, then worked up the rest with light colours, later in the session I was able to uses washes for the dappled light. This is not ideal if the conditions are such that the paint applied first isn’t drying.

Duloe manor Avenue

Duloe Manor

Looe Waterfront

6th May, Watercolour, 16×12, Preliminary Sketch NE5.

Another rainy day, another opportunity to do a more considered watercolour. I am constantly learning about loose-tight and subjects with boats and building bring this challenge to the fore. My brother had bagged this painting as as a souvenir of the holiday.

Looe Waterfront

Looe Waterfront

Polpero

7th May, Mixed Media, 14×10, Preliminary sketch NE5.

Better than Colovelly (it’s a working village) and to my mind only bettered only by Polruan (which has a working boatyard). OK boys stuff! We walked to Polpero and found a great spot near the library where we were sheltered from the wind. This is a subject that I tackled last year – this time I got the perspective right.

Polpero

Polpero

Notebook extracts

The following are extracts from my notebook. I have organised them thematically rather than chronologically but the notes on the pictures posted above refer to the relevant pages if you want to do some comparisons.

  • The trip (people watching)
  • Barnstable area
  • Harbours and fishing boats
  • The coastline
  • Working sketches

NE1 The Trip

NE2 Barnstable

NE3 Harbours and Fishing Boats

NE4 Coastline

NE5 Working Pictures

And finally some action shots;

Artist at Work

2017 Plein Air Season Opens at Knaresborough

Saturday was a brilliant sunny winter day. It had pored with rain all night and the fields and moors are very waterlogged so we decided to visit Knaresborough instead of doing our customary hike in the Dales. The view of the railway viaduct is a bit of a cliche view but it was too good to miss. The pitch had other benefits – there were plenty of people about and the ones who stopped were all complimentary so I ended up feeling good – even if a bit chilly!

Here is the in progress view (just to prove I painted this on site), the finished painting. I did tighten it up a bit this morning. And the preliminary sketch I did to check out the composition.

Knaresborough In Progress

Knaresborough

Knaresborough - Sketch

 

2016 Christmas Card

This went down well. I painted is specially for the Christmas Card. The tree is on Sweet Side which is above Barstow Wood on the Limestone Pavement.

Winter Evening on Sweet Side

 

Commission Delivered

These are pictures I did for my cousin who lives in the US as mementos of Yorkshire.

The Gannets at Bempton is a composite from on site sketches and photographs I took as the RSPB site there. The footpath goes along the cliff tops and as the gannets rise on the updraught you really are close to these magnificent sea birds.

Gannets at Bempton Whitby Evening

The picture of Whitby is from the window a friends flat which looks right across the harbour, directly at the Abbey. The sun was setting behind the flats throwing the harbour into shadow but leaving the other side in bright sunlight – which was then reflected in the dark water making a striking contrast.

Been a while…

So this is by way of a catch up. I have been busy with another project (not art related). I have also been painting a commission for a present and don’t want to publish a spoiler before they are received, framed and given.

We had a week in Askrigg & that allowed me to clear the decks for some favourite landscape subjects.

This is a view from Askrigg Bottoms near the River Ure looking back towards the village (so looking north). It was started en plein air because the evening light with the clouds and long shadows was quite enchanting. I had made some good progress when I was caught in a squall – this one was persistent and by the time it cleared the light was fading so I finished it back at the flat.

Rained Off

Rained Off

 

askrigg-bottoms

Whilst I was pacing up and down, shaking the water off a passer by said hello  and seemed interested in my efforts because, as she said “I own this meadow”. I didn’t have time to respond as her companionn said “she owns it in the sense that she has painted it”. It turned out to be Judith Bromley (though she didn’t say at the time). As an aside when I was painting near Appletreewick some time last year I did get into a conversation (friendly) with the actual owner of the meadow (see An Afternoon by the Warfe, 3/11/2014).

The next day Kate and I were walking near Semerwater and who should we meet but Judith. This is something of a coincidence given the scale of the landscape. We had a longer conversation and she invited me to call into the shop which is only open on Wednesdays.

Wednesday came with rain so I was painting at the flat and about 3-30pm went for a walk and decided to call in. The discussion, which started, including a customer who also paints got into abstraction, inspiration, the landscape and working practice. I was shown round and introduced to Robert Nichols as well. Both were very friendly, indulged my questions. Here is a link to their studio. Well worth a look.

http://www.askrigg-studios.co.uk/

Here are a couple of other pictures that I managed to produce – these were worked from sketches and photos on the same or next day because it was too wet for watercolour outside (that’s 2 years now). I can work outside in the cold but rain and watercolour mix in the wrong way. Still its a favourite spot and we’ll keep going so we are bound to strike it lucky eventually (OK it took 30 years to get a week of solid sunshine in the Lake District).

Semerwater from Bardale Head

Semerwater from Bardale Head; this was rather splendid because Addleborough was lit up and the clousd shadows added drama.

 

Askrigg Pasture

Askrigg Pasture; a long green lane above the village leading into a misty view.

 

Here are some notebook extracts.

Notebook Extracts 1

Notebook Extracts 1

 

Askrigg Notebook 2

Askrigg Notebook 2

 

 

The Southern Fells, June 2016

And so to the annual trip to the Lake District.

This year we were blessed with the warmest, sunniest and driest week I can remember (possibly ever). We stayed at a place called High Ground, which lived up to its name admirably and had the most extensive mountain view from its patio.

I managed to get a couple of pictures completed.

I spotted a natural composition on the day Kate and I went up Harter Fell, this was near Birks which is where the path up turns north and goes steeply up through the forestry plantations and on to the summit. In this view we are looking SW from the path on the approach to Birks, in the background are the Dunnerdale Fells.

Rough A5 compositional sketch to get light and dark contrasts

Rough A5 compositional sketch to get light and dark contrasts

 

Looking SW towards Dunnerdale.  16 x 12 watercolour, wax crayon, inks, pastel.

Birks, Duddon Valley looking SW towards Dunnerdale.
16 x 12 rough paper  watercolour, wax crayon, inks, pastel.

 

On a family walk from Dalegarth after visiting Stanley Force we stopped for lunch above the trees on the side of Green How, which afforded a splendid view straight across Eskdale to Scafell. I did a compositional sketch and returned in the late afternoon to do a ‘plein air’ painting. I happily got lost in the process and had 85% complete. I have to admit that the foreground was completed indoors; when the best light had gone at about 7-30pm my tolerance of the midges suddenly collapsed and I beat a hasty retreat.

The fells in view are from left to right; Kirk Fell, Great Gable (just visible), Scafell looming over Eskdale Fell, then the distant hazy horizon showing Esk Pike, Bow Fell and part of Crinkle Crags. The sun was mostly but at times during the evening broke through adding the contrast I have tried to capture.

Reasonably considered A5 sketch, done to get to know the view

Reasonably considered A5 sketch, done to get to know the view

 

Work in progress, I blocked in main areas and then added detail top to bottom

Work in progress, I blocked in main areas and then added detail top to bottom

 

Scafell from Greenhow  - looking North across Eskdale Completed picture 14 x 10 rough paper, watercolour, wax crayon, inks and pastel.

Scafell from Greenhow – looking North across Eskdale
Completed picture 14 x 10 rough paper, watercolour, wax crayon, inks and pastel.

 

And lastly some notebook extracts.

Notebook Extracts - Lakes 2016

 

Devon, Cornwall and Scilly – April May 2016

This is becoming a favourite round trip. Since we fell in love with Scilly it makes sense to visit Devon and Cornwall at the same time, and you have to start on the mainland and finish on Scilly because Scilly is so peaceful and quite that if you tried to do Cornwall and Devon on the way back it just wouldn’t cut it.

Actually you’ll notice from the notebook extracts that we actually started at a B&B in Somerset but it was only 1 night and the the 10 minute sketch was done, just to kick things off. It was a lovely evening but very windy with a severe wind chill and the evening meal at the Notley Arms was calling.

Starting off with a picture of the River Dart looking into the evening sun, this was done on the way back to Kinswear – we walked from Brixham and it’s a tough walk taking every opportunity to up and down the cliffs. Here we are looking up the River Dart into the evening sun towards Dartmouth and can see Kingswear Castle (completed in 1502) which was part of the costal defences.

River Dart, watercolour & ink. Pained immediately after visit. 3 hours watercolour and ink.

River Dart, watercolour & ink. Pained immediately after visit. 3 hours watercolour and ink.

 

Polreath has a similar situation to Kingswear, on the opposite side of the river to a larger place (in this case Fowey). I am always struck by the dockyard – which seems to be busy. The ships loom over the houses, having sketch this last year this time I did a more considered painting inside on a day when it rained, I had new material as well as last years sketches.

Study done immediately after visiting site. 3 hours, mixed media - watercolour, ink, wax crayon,

Study done immediately after visiting site. 3 hours, mixed media – watercolour, ink, wax crayon,

 

The next stop was near Looe, at Duloe. The HPB site is in the grounds of Duloe Manor which made a good subject and meant I didn’t need to lug gear very far. The building itself nestles in fold of the hills and has an extensive view towards the coast but I was taken with the building itself and the avenue of pollarded trees leading up to the main house echoing its gander past. Easy to imagine Lewis Carroll inventing fantasies here (and he was friends with the rector apparently so did stay).

 

En Plein Air, watercolour and ink, 2 hours

En Plein Air, watercolour and ink, 2 hours

 

En Plein Air watercolour, 3 hours

En Plein Air watercolour, 3 hours

 

And so on to Scilly. It started badly – we hit fog about 30 minutes out from Penzance and it stayed for the rest of the journey and all the following day. After that it was fine – and most afternoon’s when there was more sun than cloud.

Having tackled a maritime subject in Cornwall it seemed reasonable to use the adjacent Portloo boatyard for inspiration. This turned out to be a challenge because on the day I started the light was flat, so it was started en plain air but had several revisits and was finally completed this week.

Mixed media, 4 hours, 3 sessions. En Plein Air start, completed later. Mixed media, watercolour, ink, wax crayon.

Mixed media, 4 hours, 3 sessions. En Plein Air start, completed later. Mixed media, watercolour, ink, wax crayon.

 

I did have a great evening on the shore near our holiday flat, sun came out and cast long shadows, catching in the water and the sides of all the boats.

En Plein Air, watercolour and ink, 2 hours

En Plein Air, watercolour and ink, 2 hours

 

Carried a small 5×7 watercolour pad. Always a good compromise in terms og carrying and time to complete – most of these are 1-1.5 hours. I was particularly taken with the way the light played on the front in Hugh Town.

 

Watercolour Sketches Scilly

I have collected a lot of material to work on back home some of which is reflected in these notebook extracts.

Notebook Devon Notebook Cornwall 1Notebook Cornwall 2Notebook Scilly

Two views from Otley Chevin

I must admit to being a little intimidated by the challenges of mixed media and got into a bit of “painters block” blaming the weather and finding all sorts of displacement activities. My excuse is that light has been bad more often that it has been good – even with my large north facing skylight overcast often means gloom.

My monthly trip to the Chevin (of which I will blog about more later) raised the spirits and I decided to conduct an experiment. Using a loose style I’d lead with 2 different mediums. Both these pictures are mixed media. They are both the same view from Otley Chevin as it was in November from the sketches and photos I took then. In the view we are looking north-east from just below the rock outcrops near the Royalty car park (Great Dibb), the hill on the horizon is Almscliff Crag.

Both are attempts to become less literal and convey more of the emotion that comes from the weather and the view, perhaps the difference between the  start of a sunny spell and the of one. It is also down to the differences between the mediums, the treatment and the choice of colour, there are some faint memories of the warm autumn colours as the winter is coming on.

The first is predominantly watercolour but has ink and acrylic in the mix. It has a lighter feel and the alizarin/purple lake in the shadows adds warmth. The second is predominantly acrylic; it is colder and has a more lowering, even foreboding feel from the ultramarine/umber but I think the sunlight works.

Watercolour, Inks and Acrylic

1 Looking NE towards Almscliff Crag – Watercolour, Ink and Acrylic

 

Acrylic & Ink

2 Looking NE towards Almscliff Crag – Acrylic and Ink

How wet can it get?

So January was a disappointing start to the year from a painting perspective. It is always difficult, at this time of year, when the days are short but this year it has has just been wet, wet, wet and the light has mostly been poor. Nevertheless on the few occasions when the sun does shine and it is cold it is very invigorating. Long shadows create strong contrasts.

We had a week at Merlewood just outside Grange-over-Sands at the end of January and of course the weather was against us. When it wasn’t blowing so hard that even tying a rock to the tripod wouldn’t work, then it was steady (often heavy) rain.

I resorted to grabbing the few opportunities there were for sketching and working up the results back at the flat. This approach makes it easy to recapture the feeling and look of a place with fresh memories and reference material. Pretty much the traditional technique of landscape painters before easily portable paints and or cameras.

So here are a pair of studies with their accompanying notebook sketches. I have been experimenting with water-soluble crayons to get some colour without having to carry a lot of kit and I also used the opportunity to work up the studies in mixed media. Not entirely happy with the results yet but still progress on the journey to a looser personal style.

The first pair is from a spot on the road between from Allithwaite to Humphrey Head. We’d had a very wet and windy walk but on the way back some gaps in the clouds allows a bit of evening sunlight on the scene.

Evening near Humphrey Head Sketch Notebook Sketch

Evening near Humphrey Head Study

Mixed Media Study

This second pair is from a walk up onto Hampsfell (above Grange-over-Sands) which affords magnificent views. The sketching had to be done by seeking out shelter from the wind but there was strong sunlight and dramatic wether over Morecambe Bay.

Morecambe Bay from Hapsfell Sketch Notebook sketch

Mixed Media SketchMixed Media Study