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

Between the Showers

November and December (so far) have been extremely wet. We made two visits to Askrigg and one to York; most of the time it rained so most of the works below are done from very brief sketches and photographs – but they were done at the locations and not in the studio in an attempt to keep the sense of the light and atmosphere.

In November the autumn was well under way but in sheltered places the leaves were often still green (as the packhorse bridge shows).

Packhorse Bridge - Grange Wensleydale

Returning from a walk on the path from Worton Bridge – very boggy underfoot – this is from the side of the river near the stepping stones with Askrigg (and a beer by the fireside, at the Kings Arms) beckoning

Askrigg in November

A trip over the tops to a favourite walk along the Swale between Keld and Muker – the low sun and shade from the valley sides made for striking contrasts.

November Sunshine -River Swale near Muker

On our December visit to Askrigg we caught the edge of storm Desmond which caused all the flooding, we were very lucky. On a late afternoon when the rain briefly stopped we managed a walk near Semerwater where the slanting sunlight was stunning (lemon yellow here to keep it cool).

December Afternoon Sun - Semmerwater

One day the weather was too bad to venture out (except for a brief constitutional) and the lighting too dull for a local painting. In desperation, because I was not getting any useful local material I resorted to working on a a mixed media of Low Petergate from a trip to York the previous week.

Low Petergate after rain - York

Exhibiting 29th October – 1st November

I have entered these pictures into the 2015 art exhibition being held in aid of St Gemma’s Hospice between 29th October and 1st November.

NOTE the exhibition is actually at Leeds Grammar School. The exhibition catalogue can be downloaded as a PDF from their site

http://www.st-gemma.co.uk/artexhibition/

 

Warton-Common-looking-West-wm55156c3f436a1.jpg

Winter-Sun-Derwentwater54c6292fa0059.jpg

Spring-Evening-Arncliffe-wm55420f424d3ca.jpg

Squals-and-Thistles-Littondale-wm5526a2a971132.jpg

Digging-for-Bait-Scarborough-watermarked.jpg

Standing Ready - Flamborough - watermarked

Towards Thackthwaite wm

Lorton Valley wm

 

 

Applying the lessons

These are my first attempts to practice what I learned from Chris Forsey. The first is a view of the Château Grounds which is based on source material from the course. The second is from a sketch made on the North Yorkshire Moors.

A mixed media (watercolour, pastel, crayon and ink) rendering of the grounds at L’Age Baston. Done whist the atmosphere and demonstrations were still fresh and able to be brought to mind easily

This view is looking up towards the studio and main house in the background from the side of the swimming pool

This view is looking up towards the studio and main house in the background from the side of the swimming pool

 

A mixed media (watercolour, ink and crayon) of the main street in Lastingham on the North Yorkshire Moors. The preparatory sketching was done after a walk up to Ana Cross when the sun was going down, and with the benefit of reinforcements from Kates Cafe!

This is the view looking up main street from the seats on the green. The sun was about to go down cast shadows of the chimneys on the end walls of the houses going up the hill.

This is the view looking up main street from the seats on the green. The sun was about to go down cast shadows of the chimneys on the end walls of the houses going up the hill.

Style challenge at L’Age Baston

A week at L’Age Baston with Chris Forsey as tutor was just the thing to shake up my style. We had a challenging week looking at mixed media and different colour pallets. The approach was to have an input of theory with demonstrations, then go out and about sketching and, after lunch, do studio work to consolidate and try to put the lessons into practice.

The chateau, which was the base for the week, is itself a great source of subjects for painting. It was also refreshing to be able to have all meals alfresco for a week.

Watercolour, crayon and ink sketch of one of the iconic features at the chateau.

Watercolour, crayon and ink sketch of one of the iconic features at the château.

 

Another view of the cistern . Materials used watercolour, pastel, crayon and ink.

Another view of the cistern . Materials used watercolour, pastel, crayon and ink.

 

This arch is a favorite, I have painted it more than once. Watercolour and ink.

This arch is a favourite, I have painted it more than once. Watercolour and ink.

 

The pigonierre - a somewhat moody interpretation (can you hear the helicopter gunships coming?). Limited pallet, acrylic and ink.

The pigonierre at the chateau; a somewhat moody interpretation (can you hear the helicopter gunships coming?). Limited pallet, acrylic and ink.

 

The market at Piégut-Pluviers, just inside the border of the Dordogne, is one of the busiest in the area. Markets always provide interest and are an exciting subject (if somewhat challenging). I decided to do a matched pair of studies to explore the differences between front and back lighting.

Backlit study of the market at Piégut-Pluviers

Backlit study of the market at Piégut-Pluviers

 

Front lit study of the market at Piégut-Pluviers

Front lit study of the market at Piégut-Pluviers

 

These are from other places in the area, pushing at the boundary of pure representational by adding inks and changing colours.

View from the ramparts taking in the river.

View from the ramparts of Angoulemme taking in the river.

 

The bridge at la Rochfoucald, the plants were striking although I managed to make them too stiff. Acrylic, limited pallete

The bridge at La Rochfoucald; the plants were striking although I managed to make them too stiff. Acrylic, limited palette

 

Feels like I made a lot of progress – the change to my usual style comes through will encourage me to take my work in a new direction.

July and August – a mixed bag

July and August have been challenging because there has been so much rain (I know we don’t remember the weather accurately but that’s how it seems to me). Its also been time constrained because of our Ruby Wedding celebrations, which we squeezed as much as possible out off.

Anyway I have managed to do some work.

The first picture here is an A3 studio Acrylic based on sketches from out trip Scilly in May. The watercolour I did at the time was a challenge because of the strong wind (see May blog) so it was a pleasure to take some time over this piece without having my brushes blow on the easel. Its interesting that there are so few clues in the picture to how blowy it was – there are some white horses but they are very far away and the grasses are very spiky.

Such a natural composition - looking west to Tean and St Martins

Old Grimsby, Tresco. Such a natural composition – this is looking west to Tean and St Martins. The Echium flowers were spectacular.

 

Now for the various plein air sketches and watercolours I have managed to gather together over the last couple of months on hiking expeditions and outings.

The first is in Wharfedale – its the second time I have painted this; the first time I was rained off. The walk from Buckden to Yokenthwaite and then back across the valley top to Cray and then across the flank of Buckden Pike to return via the Lead Mine is set to become a favourite (though its quite long).

Warfdale from Todds Wood - wm

This is looking south from the limestone escarpment above but not quite at Todds wood. The farm in the view is Grange Farm.

The second is a quick pen & wash done in the Howardian Hills near Slingsby.

Near Sligsby wm

Near Sligsby wmThe view north from Slingsby Banks Wood in the Howardian Hills

The following pictures are captured from the notebooks I carry on hiking expeditions I continue to work on the watercolur style to get that elusive loose/tight balance.

7x5 Watercolours - July-August 2015 wm

Notebook 1 July-August 2015

Notebook 2 July-August 2015

 

Lake District Sketches

We have been to the Lake District several times in June and July. The weather has been mixed to say the least and I have been rained off on more than one occasion. As a result I have been working fast – with more and less success; lots of really rough notebook sketches and unfinished pieces which will provide me material to return to in the studio.

Nevertheless here are the better plein air, alla prima sketches. First off a couple of pen and wash studies.

This was a welcome break in the rain about 4-00pm that allowed me to get out with the Indian ink and create a quick impression;

Lorton Valley

Lorton Valley – looking south towards Scale Hill and Loweswater from the road by High Swinside.

 

This was done one morning in between showers over a 2 hour period but eventually rained off about.

Towards Thackthwaite wm

The view across the Lorton Valley looking towards Thackthwaite.

I think the interruptions show in the above compared to the first work which, looking back at the work seems to have more spontaneity.

An afternoon of sun & cloud allowed me to get back to a longer watercolour sketch (about 3 hours). This is a favourite view across Derwent Water.

Brandlehow Bay w-m

The view of Brandelhow Bay straight over Abbotts Bay and across Derwent Water to the Ladore Hotel. The fells in the background are Bleaberry Fell and High Seat

 

Lastly a most absorbing and enjoyable afternoons work on Scout Scar which is near Kendal. This is a favourite spot for a last look on the journey back to Leeds.

From Scout Scar wm

The view south from Scout Scar at a point above and just north of Brigsteer. The view is really expansive taking in the Lyth Valley, Foulshaw Moss and the River Kent running into Morecambe Bay.

Scout Scarr in Progress

Work in progress shot – stand in front of the view and paint what what you see – bliss.