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.