For the last week of October and into November we had a week on the NE coast near Bamburgh. We have been there a few times and love the beaches. This time it was very rainy for more days than not, so much so that we mostly did short walks in between showers. My ability to collect good source material for the rainy days was very limited so we resorted to board games and I did a couple of studies in the studio when we got back.
The first is a view of Dunstanburgh Castle from Embleton Beach. We’d has a fabulous lunch at The Ship Inn at Newton by the Sea and as we rounded the corner into Embleton Bay the classic view of Dunstanburgh Castle was breathtaking. The waves weren’t huge by any means but the fresh breeze (force 5 in old money) was enough to whip away the foam. I was struck by the symmetry between the waves and the land with the Castle behind them, as though the land was a solidified version of the sea that was coming in.
The second is a view west, its from the same beach walk looking through the Dunes at sunset. The dunes make for a great backdrop to the coastline, being the east cost sunset is over the dunes not the sea and as I’m an owl not a lark I wasn’t going to get the sunrise – maybe another time. Now is the best time for us owls to get sunrises because the clocks have been put back.
Here are a couple of extracts from my my en-plein-air, alla prima notebook sketches.
Even in lockdown we were lucky with the timing so we haven’t missed a year for this September fixture. The mixed weather is a mixed blessing – when it rains I can use fresh source material and paint in the flat. It rained on two days this year so I managed to do two studio watercolours.
The first is a view of Addleboroug from the path on the other sider of the valley above the village of Woodhall.
The second is the farm of Litherslack (got to love the name). Its on the route from Askrigg to Hardraw.
I also managed a couple of 10″x7″ pen and wash sketches
The first is Yore Bridge at Bainbridge
The second is the view of the River Ure looking towards the bridge at Worton (one day I’ll get lucky and see a Kingfisher)
It is such a long time since I blogged about my painting and sketching that a catch up is well in order.
Isolation because of Covid-19 forced a change; as a result, I think paintings of flowers will become a regular part of my repertoire. I found out that I like zooming in to detail and even though I can now get out and about I find myself attracted to details.
Last year we just bumped all our holiday arrangements forward 1 year and hoped for the best. We were very lucky and even though there is delay to the full end of lockdown I really didn’t expect us to get away with it. I have worked in pharmaceuticals and the speed with which vaccines have been developed is phenomenal. In fact we may well have hit the “sweet spot” people still taking care, not yet a free for all. Enough restrictions have been relaxed for all our 2020 booking to work in 2021. Given the pressure on booking places because of “staycations” this meant that all our arrangements were set up hassle free. By next year things might have settled down, I am glad to miss the rush as it turns out.
We did have some hiccups; one Bed Breakfast and Evening Meal became just Bed and Breakfast. Because of staff shortages the restaurant was closed. As there were no places nearby, we grabbed a big lunch and bought some sandwiches to eat in the empty, closed restaurant. In the Isles of Scilly we had to pre-book all restaurants but given what is happening these really are minor issues.
Warning four Yorkshiremen moment; in my day a staycation meant staying at home and going out for days. You went where you could get public transport or drive to and back in a day. It didn’t mean having a proper holiday in England instead of going abroad, I mean as if; the closest we got to flying was if we could jump of a jetty.
Warning rip-off rant; I really have a low tolerance for cheating and sharp practice unlike with power in our economy who only act when the scale of it is so great that it cannot be ignored; think PPI or mortgage reselling. No one, of consequence goes to prison and taxpayers are asked to pick up the bill – without even a blush; cheating on people it seems is an integral part of the system. If it is wrong (unethical) but legal, game on, buyer beware.
Price in particular is not based on competition but on what can be got away with. This makes a mockery of customer service. The firms hide behind the smiles of their staff, erect massive admin barriers and use remote call centres and euphemisms like upselling, differential pricing inertia selling, and a love a distressed purchase – its rife and seems to be getting worse.
Now holiday travel doesn’t just mean a higher Covid risk, for us it also means using the motorway network. Motorway “services” are particularly obnoxious places and run by firms that fully understand what a distressed purchase is. Why this is acceptable is beyond me. Petrol is at least 10p per litre more despite the ease with which deliveries can be made, food is similarly overpriced.
The challenge is how to use the motorway network, avoid my inner Meldrew and maintain the holiday chill out. Avoidance has been the policy up to now; make sure to fill up with petrol before joining the network, and pull in to “services” just for the loo and to switch driver. Don’t even think about food, leave the motorway and find somewhere to eat. That changed with the advent of Tebay and Gloucester Services. These are the only places in the motorway network that it makes any sense to stop at for food (Petrol is still a no-no). They are unique in that they; use local produce and suppliers, have good pay and conditions for their staff, charge fair prices and provide a restful environment, they also put money back into the local community.
If they can do it there is no excuse for the others and shame on the people who commission them; rely on the market, don’t make me laugh. Anyway, enough of that, back to art.
June Isles of Scilly
Fortunate with the weather but limited in what I can take. Solution; 10×7 watercolour block, 140gsm rough paper, selection of wax crayons, bottle of sepia Indian ink and a limited small pallet, some pens, water pens and soluble watercolour crayons, work on my knee. Challenges; finding a place to sit where I can set up.
For the pen and wash sketch of Halangy Down Village I was actually sitting in someones living room from 1000 year ago. This beats the buzz I get from living in a Georgian Town House by quite some margin. I’m not sure whether it was a niche in the room for religious relics or something more prosaic, say for an oil lamp or keeping salt. Anyway I was able to set up in great comfort thanks to the ancestors.
June Cornwall and Shropshire
As I say the attraction for painting Flowers close up has stayed with me and you can see the results in the China Rose that was on our patio. There were also some fabulous roses in the gardens. All this adequately compensated for the fact that the to the main house, an avenue of trees, which I have painted a couple of times before but earlier in the season, was deeply shaded and the flowers had finished.
May-June Lake District
Here I have to say the weather was so good that I spent more time walking then painting. My personal highlight, apart from being reunited with family and grandchildren, was a long excursion. For those who know or care to look start at Patterdale, park at the cricket ground; Birks, The Cape (St Sunday Crag), Deepdale Hause, Cofa Pike, Fairfield, Rydal Head, Hart Crag, Hartstop above How (glorious long slow easy ridge descent), Bridgend, cross the valley, Rooking and back – 12 miles, 4000+ feet of ascent. The killer is the height loss on Deepdale Hause but it’s leads to the best route up Fairfield in my opinion.
I did plenty of sketches and eventually worked up a more studied watercolour of Patterdale
Using a sketchbook
Here is some of my “on the go sketchbook” work. Sketching can be a thing in is own right as well as a way of capturing information for studio work. Even with a decent camera what you learn through sketching is so much richer than if you just try and interpret a photograph. There is something about being in the place, and the way physical activity creates information I the brain. I’m sure this extra input caused by physicality must be related to related to the reason why, even those who can work from home, will continue get back to the office say once a week for real face time.
Painting en-plein-air is a pleasure but when Im just out and about, or it’s a long walk, or the weather is dodgy it is great to travel as light as possible – sketch whilst having a rest, or picnic lunch. I can do a sketch in 15minutes, longer is a bonus.
My minimum kit is a black pen (which must have soluble ink) a water brush to make the soluble ink bleed and a notebook. Sometimes I add a Derwent Sktyeching pemcil as the graphite is soluble.
For colour I can take an hour but still want to keep the kit to a minimum. I carry a range of Derwent pencils – Intense and Graphtint. They don’t give quite the same results as pen and wash but for ease of use in the field, and having persevered with them, I find them an acceptable alternative to carrying a pallet and water.
Second Lockdown – February/March
Earlier in the year we had the second lockdown. So it was back into the garden to paint some more flowers. These are from February, March and April.
The crosus was the first, these came up in the gaps between paving on the lower lawn (it sound grand but the garden is on 50’ long and the width of the house). I touched up the shadows with some acrylic ink.
The daffodils and tulips worked well together in a planter.
The forest flame (pieris japonica) also has white flowers which I missed last year
My 2020 Christmas Card
And finally, at the end of last year I did the annual Christmas Card. This is a 16×12 studio watercolour of the weir at Linton Falls near Grassigton. I have now exhumed my source material for snow scenes at this location and was glad to have more snow over the winter so that I will be able to find a suitable subject.
It went down well on Facebook with the best results I have ever for a painting reaching over 3,000 people. The Isolation flowers (which can be seen in earlier blogs) gave me adequate material for a calendar.
So there we have it, caught up. Id better not leave it so long untill the next time.
April 8, 2020 /
admin / Comments Off on 2020 From Rain and Floods to Coronavirus Isolation
I have mentioned before that I have been concentrating on writing, but I have not stopped painting, just slowed down. The first 2 months of 2020 were particularly wet and this meant that I have been unable to do any en-plein air work. Instead I have been relying on very quick sketches or photographs. The problem with the sketches is that I either get wet or cold, or both before I have to move on so at best I can only grab an impression. In any case if we are hiking Kate does not like having to stop in inclement conditions – which is understandable.
So work in January was limited to a studio sketch inspired by a trip to Lake District in March 2018. Here I was inspired by the stillness of the water and trying to capture the feel of a winter day when the frost was so heavy that it looked almost like snow.
Derwent Water Water colour with ink
We did a trip to the Lakes in February this year. I have been going to the Lake District since like forever so know full well that the weather can be bad. Its fair to say, however that this trip was the worst we have had. In winter you count it as a win if you get one or two days of cold but sunny days, these are the times you can get very dramatic lighting effects. This time we only managed to get out for short trips and these always involved rain, we actually stayed in because of torrential rain on the other days and played more board games sitting in a big bay window overlooking Morecambe Bay. The two pictures below show the best results, done inside from photos and sketches, I have the improved the lighting, one of the lasting impressions of this week is unrelieved greyness.
Here we have a view of Morecambe Bay from Hampsfell
Morecambe Bay from Hampsfell Watercolour with ink and pastel
Here we have view of the village of ……..after a trip to Glasson Dock. Thats how wet it was we actually went out of the Lakes “grockling” and did an hours sun (made up of 5-10 minutes snatches) amidst the rain and hail.
Conder Green Watercolour with Ink and Pastel
March and into April
The final two pieces are from March and April to date.
I have been using material collected on a dales hiking trips. We just managed to fit in couple of expeditions. Once to Boss Moor (south west of Grassington) and once to Barden Moor (south of Grassington).
Here we have a view of Rylestone Fell as you approach to from Cracoe Fell along the ridge. The day was windy and cold but there were periods of good sunlight. I have reduced the cloud cover in this studio piece but captured the feel of coming down in the evening sunshine.
Rylestone Fell Watercolour and Inks
This last piece is looser with a a liberal amount of ink and wax resist. This is from the same walk, we are now descending from Rylestone Fell walking on the bridleway then eventually ends up in the village. The cloud cover had increased again but the stand of pine trees silhouetted against the light makes an attractive subject and a time to try out copies amounts of antelope brown acrylic ink.
Near Rylesstone Watercolour, Ink, Pastel, Wax Resist
Both the above were completed on 140 gsm Arches Rough which was stretched in advance.
Difficult to know what comes next. I guess I’ll be plundering old sketch books and photographs, the garden provides an opportunity for some close to home en plein air work and there is always still life…
This year I have given first priority to writing and developing the ideas behind holistic political economy but have not abandoned painting altogether. I attend a weekly life class, maintain the sketching habit and always take my paints away with me.
The pictures from February 2019 in Askrigg are in the previous post. I did put some well received work up on my facebook page, for example my notebook sketches of the XR protests in Leeds reached over 1500 people. This lead me to join both Urban Sketchers and The Plain Air Society groups on Facebook.
What follows is a very brief resume of the year and I am not repeating everything that I posted on facebook.
At the end of February we took a trip to Northumberland and surprisingly despite the time of year I managed to do some en plain air painting.
Lindisfarne Castle – Holy Island
Dunstanburg Castle – Northumberland
I didn’t realise at the time just how difficult a year it would be for painting outside (when I had the opportunity the weather was poor, and frustratingly seemed to be good when I was busy with her things)
In June we joined family and friends for our traditional week in the Lake District and then carried on with an extended trip taking us to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, rounded off with the Isles of Scilly. I had my notebooks and paints with me here are some highlights;
Fleetwith Pike – Lake District
Generally speaking the weather was dreadful until we got to Scilly. This precluded en plain air work for most of the time – the painting of Fleetwith Pike we completed in the utility room of Bank Barn using sketches. Dorset, Devon and Cornwall yielded plenty of sketches but it wasn’t until Scilly that I managed to do some work outside.
Cromwell’s Castle – Tresco
In both August and September we had visits to Rosedale in the Yorkshire Moors.
Spaunton Moor – Lastingham
And we rounded off our week long trips with another visit to Askrigg for bonfire night andd the week following. Both of these were completed in the flat we were staying at – it wasn’t rain all the time but was windy and cold which, combined with short days kept me walking rather than painting.
The walk from Grassington via Linton along the River Wharf in either direction is always worthwhile. I have many sketches and photos of this site. We haven’t had snow yet this year but I remember this evening light and thought it would make a good subject. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
This year we managed to join up our regular trips to the Lakes, SW and Isles of Scilly, we were away for most of June, clocked up 130 miles of walking and I managed to do quite a bit of sketching and painting. We generally had good weather but were slightly ahead of the heat wave, the week in Cornwall was OK for walking but we suffered front mist and our flight to Scilly was cancelled because of low visibility. We were transferred to the Scillonian and sailed from Penzance on the same day but our late start had to be replaced with a 5-30am get up.
Here are the highlights
The Lake District (1st to 10th June)
We had a week at Ullswater and 3 days near Grange-over-Sands.
16×12 on 140lb Rough, Mixed media, Watercolour, Plein Air, Alla Prima
This is a great place to get a panorama of the mountains at south of the lake, its an area of rough ground east of Pooley Bridge just below the course of High Street Roman Road. We walked the entire stretch of high street from the peak of the same name to Pooley Bridge on 4th June, this painting captures some of the lighting from that day, although I returned to the site and did it on site on the 6th.
Coniston Range from Backbarrow
10×7 on 140lb Rough, Mixed media, Watercolour, Plein Air, Alla Prima
This sketch was completed in about 45 minutes on an extended lunch stop. It was in full sun.
Coniston Range from Backbarrow
Lake District Notebook
Lake District Notebook
Laker District Notebook 2
The Southwest (11th to 20th June)
On our way from the Lake District we stopped at Monksilver near Minehead for 2 days and then moved on to Duloe Manor near Looe in Cornwall. Both the larger paintings were completed at the apartment on on drizzly, misty days – not terrible for going out but with poor visibility, flat light and too wet to paint outside. So long as I can be in a place long enough to get some preliminary sketches down with accompanying photos before such a day happens it’s a really good way to fill the day when the weather is not so kind. Not saying I like bad weather on holiday but its not a disaster unless its really bad (see my blog post “Between the Showers, December 2015).
16×12 on 140lb Rough, Mixed media, Watercolour, Alla Prima
I complied this study from sketches and a number of costal path photographs. This was a planned work, I worked out the lighting and approach in my notebook. I wanted strong contrasts and to create a feeling of walking into the view. There are sections of the costal path where you would think you were in woodland – this was one such section on the coast from Polkerris to Gribbin Head. (Incidentally the crab sandwiches at the Rashleigh Inn are reason enough to go). I reserved the foreground plants with masking fluid and made liberal use of wax crayons for the less focussed areas of foliage. Wax resist is a standard watercolour technique, I like to use a complementary colour which will come through on rough paper it gives a similar effect to adding pastel on a dry surface, it look detailed at first glance but is actually quite loose.
14×10 on 140lb Rough, Watercolour & Ink, Alla Prima
Stayed here a number of times and painted both the house and gardens before. This was a new aspect – the view point is the archway between the newer apartments. The gardeners made a good job of the flower beds and the evening sun lit up and shadowed the buildings in an engaging way.
I really got into fishing boats this year
Polperro Fishing Boats
Looe Fishing Boats
Fowey Fishing Boat
Southwest Notebook Extracts
Isles of Scilly (21st to 26th June)
This year the weather in Scilly (after our arrival in fog) was exceptional, perhaps a bit windy at times but full sun and not the oppressive temperatures being experienced back in Leeds. We enjoyed the walking so much I was mostly limited to quick sketching – we even managed to go swimming twice.
Cypress Trees at Innisidgen
14×10 on 140lb Rough, Watercolour with Ink
The bump on the end of the promontory is the site of the Innisidgen bronze age burial chamber. This is the beach were we went swimming. The beach itself is behind this small headland and flanked at the other end by an outcrop of rocks which mark the natural boundary on St, Mary’s between The Road and Crow Sound. This little stretch of beach – not enough of an inlet to qualify as a cove is thus sheltered from the strong currents and within its protection there is an area of water where you can be out of your depth and still be close in to the shore. We were lucky to be there at the top of the tide, after the sand had been warming up all day – even so in June it is still a bracing experience.
Inisigden St Marys Isles of Scilly
I did a fairly detailed notebook sketch whilst I was drying out on Sunday 24th, then on the last day I managed to get down the bare bones of a more considered painting which was subsequently completed back home. I am always attracted to the shapes trees make against the skyline especially when the trunks as well as the tops are silhouetted. Viewed from the beach, this is a natural composition, with the few clouds and the strong shadows cast by the afternoon sun on the rocks, cliffs (about 6’ – topsoil), bracken and trees making a converging V shape. I wanted to capture the essence of the scene and was very caution about the added detail.
Pen and wash field studies
The following were completed out and about.
Road to Higher Town Quay St Martins, Isles of Scilly
Interesting week – we beat the weather (it snowed in Leeds, people in Spain appear to have had bad weather). In this week we had 2 really good days and only 2 with rain and low visibility; at this time of year that means get some walking in. It was generally too showery for plein air painting so this year I have come back with some fairly detailed sketches in the book and two watercolour landscapes worked up in the flat. I was able to set up next to the patio windows and get reasonable light to work in and I can just look out of the window for reference material!
This is primarily watercolour with quite a lot of ink. 12×16.
I captured a lot a material on a walk from Keswick to Ashness and then crossed Falcon and Walla Crags. The light was changing all the time with sun, rain, snow and sleet all mixed together. This was the inspiration for the landscape – a squall but with sunlight on large parts of the fells
Pure watercolour 12×16 M
The best walk in Loweswater does not go round the lake – the road to Mockerkin and Lamplugh runs along the south shore, so the better walk is from the car park just outside the village. It goes out via Nook Farm – up the valley between Black Cragg and Carling Knott and runs along the top of Holme Wood before descending to Iredale Place. The path then runs along the north shore and returns to the car park via Watergate Farm. This view is looking south east across Hudson Place towards Grassmore and Buttermere Fell – again I was struck by the mixture of bright sunlight and shadows.
I have been working in the studio using photos and sketches made on autumn walks.
Gannets at Bempton II
This was painted on request for my niece Caroline. She had seen the earlier picture I did for cousin Christine and liked it so much she wanted a version of it, the Flamborough cliffs are her favourite stretch of coastline so how could I refuse! I couldn’t however just do a copy so another visit to Bempton and this time concentrated on the views looking North instead of south. The way these huge birds catch the updraught on the cliffs never fails to impress and inspire – its one of the best wildlife gigs in the country right on our doorstep.
Gannets at Bempton II – Watercolour A3
River Wharfe near Grassington
This painting developed out of a walk from Grassington, with customary photographs and a sketch. This this is just before the path turns up hill towards Grass Wood. It was one of those lovely cold but sunny days.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
Weather Coming In, Taw Estury and Bideford Bay
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.
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.
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.
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.