Tag Archive for Landscape

Two weeks on the Isles of Scilly

This year we were blessed with good weather and so did a lot of swimming. The water temperature at the start was 14 degrees but warmed up to 16 degrees by the time we left. The only days we didn’t swim were arrival, departure, one day of heavy rain and one day when we couldn’t make it work because of the tide times. Still 10 days out of 14 is a record for us.

By the way the sea is dangerous and needs treating with respect (unless you are a water, mining or industrial fishing company – another matter, not for here).

These temperatures require a wetsuit if you want to stay in the water. I don’t use a wetsuit – but I do have a 30 second cold shower after I have been out running (which is 3 times a week). As a result I don’t suffer the cold water shock which can catch people out, nevertheless; I walk in, am done after 15 minutes, always swim on a rising tide and swim parallel to the shore.

The end of an era – almost

The annual trip to the Isles of Scilly has become a fixture and for the last two years extended to two weeks. We stay at Glandore Gallery and Appartments owned by Steven and Lois Morris. As well as running the holiday lets Steven is a local artist. They told us they were planning to move back to the mainland for personal reasons and whilst we wish them well and hope all turns out OK we also had to think about where we might stay in the future. If you have tried to book accommodation on the Isles of Scilly you will appreciate how quickly its gets booked up, everyone who goes and likes it books next year as a carry over routinely. The first time we went to Scilly was back in 2010. When asked if we wanted to re-book we said we’d like to think about it before re-booking. The place was booked by the time (only a week later) that we decided we did want to go again. We were lucky to get a cancellation and haven’t made the mistake again.

The new owner has bought the holiday let business and we could book in again next year – a massive relief.

A long journey

If you just go for it it is a 7 1/2 hour drive to Penzance, too much for us. We stopped in Bristol and went to a production of Anna Karenina at the Old Vic. After the performance we dropped into The Old Duke and I must say we enjoyed the trad jazz better then the play. We then had a night out in Penzance and had a great mean at Mexico a pub/restaurant in Longstone recommended by Grace Dent in the Guardian. New day its a short drive to Lands End Airport (near St Just) to St Mary’s. The flight takes a whole 20 minutes, even less with a following wind.

On the way back we stay at the Notley Arms in Monksilver. This is a splendid hostelry on the edge of Exmore which I have no hesitation in recommending.

But the luggage allowance on Skybus is small…

What, no easel!

Tactic 1 – is to find a cafe with a good view, buy lunch and then keep the table all afternoon.

Tactic 2 – make use go the local adventure playground. The playground itself is an improvised affair made from fishing nets, ropes, buoys and pallets. As chance would have it a pallet, suspended from a tree branch by ropes on each corner – was also at perfect desk height. So as well as giving me a great working surface, I was also protect from the sun, perfect.

Tactic 3 – being a bear of very little brain I neglected the obvious – borrow an easle from Steven…well I’d have had to carry it about.

Here are the resulting pictures; 14×10, rough paper for texture, and mixed media (watercolour, inks, wax crayon and pastels), this combination is becoming my go to – a step beyond pen and wash.

The tall flowers are Tree Aeoniums

The first picture I painted this holiday I posted on FB whilst we were still there. Its is the view from the garden at the Little Arthur Cafe on St Martins. This is run by an enterprising local family and its all tied in – farm for produce, vineyard, Adam’s Fish and Chips (grow the potatoes and catch the fish), quite splendid.

The view from Little Arthur Cafe on St Martin’s IOS

I don’t always carry a full painting kit. I have evolved my notebook work by using water-soluble pencils, pens and water brushes – these are easy to carry and with an A5 Notebook using 150gsm paper good results can be obtained – a sketch can take 15 minutes, I rarely exceed 1 hour.

Extracts from my notebook 1

The minimum kit to carry is simply the notebook, a V5 roller ball (because they have non-permanent ink) and a waterbrush – when the water meets the ink it runs – this is a good thing. Most artist pens have permanent inks but unless you ar really fast they dry out to fast for my liking. I must be in a minority here, but it works for me.

In the following extracts the people watching from the New Inn on Tresco uses this technque

Extracts from my notebook 2

We sometimes have lazy days – there is a secluded garden and it is a very short walk to Porthole beach and Juliets Garden. Such days give the opportunity to paint without having to carry the kit. I had a great walk through the woods on a sunny and windy day and was able to create the following back at the appartment.

Sunlight and Shade in the Trees Above Innisidgen – St Mary’s IOS

Lastly I mentioned that we had one day when it rained heavily. This was right at the start of the two weeks and I hadn’t got any source material to work up, so instead I used a photograph, imported it into a graphics programme on my iPAD. I use ArtStudio (Lucky Clan 2015). I then proceed to manipulate the image so that little if anything remains of the original photo – except the composition and proportions.

According to Hockney in Secret Knowledge, artists have been using optical devices since c15 and he has also produced a body of work using graphics package. I think he starts with a blank not a photograph but my intention – to date – has been different.

I have used this technique, as a supplement to sketches and photographs to understand the extent to which an image can be simplified and abstracted before embarking on a more conventional painting.

Anyway this was result – the same trees as those above but viewed from the beach at Little Porth.

A welcome return

In December 2022, when out walking with the family at Lyme Park I managed to fall over and shoulder charge the ground. Result; a full thickness tear of the supraspinatus tendon with a moderate volume of bursal and joint effusion – that’s a soft tissue rotator cuff injury in plain language. What it boiled down was that it hurt like hell and, being the right shoulder completely stopped me from painting. Ignore the fact that I managed to let 2022 go by and only posted a a few bits and pieces of art on Facebook, the plan was to do a big catch up at the end of the year…ha should know better..

So now it’s June 2023 and at long last my shoulder has improved enough for me to start painting again. If I need surgery of course (which has still to be decided), there could be a further interruption.

By way of catch up here are some of my latest offerings – in reverse chronological order.

Annual trip to the Lakes May-June 2023

Just at the bottom of the field from the cottage the old field gate made a suitable foreground. This view is across the Gretta to the Newlands Valley, with Low Rigg, High Rigg, and Wren Crag on the right (west) and Helvwlyn in the distance on the left (southeast).

Helvelyn from “The Hoggest” I – SOLD
Mixed Media; Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks and Pastel
Rough paper 16 x 12, En Plein Air

Walking out from the cottage east towards Threkeld one does not have to go far to find splendid open woodland. We were blessed with good weather and I was rather taken with this long view of light and shade – also towards Helvelyn -through the trees

Helvelyn from “The Hoggest” II,
Mixed media; Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks and Pastel
Rough paper, 12 x 16, En Plein Air

Having developed a taste for painting flowers (through the necessity of lockdown) I spent a happy morning studying the Rhododendron. The garden was, as they say immature, the property is newly converted. Im sure this specimen will grow much larger…I know these are not native but the flowers are spectacular.

Mixed Media; Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Pen and Pastel
Rough Paper 12×16, En Plein Air

Earlier In April-May 2023

Those of you who follow the Fish walks posted on Facebook by Kate will be aware that most Saturdays we take off into the Dales. Despite the shoulder I was chomping at the bit to do some sketching and captured this scene from the banks of the Wharfe at Appletreewick. It is one of our favourite walks and one of my favourite views. I worked the sketch up as a studio piece at the beginning of May.

River Wharfe at Appletreewick
Mixed Media; Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks and Pastels,
Rough Paper, 16 x 12, Studio Picture from en plain air sketch

Before the Fall

It seems ages ago now. By the time I did my previous Christmas card I had exhausted my source material – you may have noticed it doesn’t show all that much. I was mightily glad it snowed in November 2021. We had a great day out mostly visiting the Hawes Dairy for Christmas fare. I managed to get a set of photographs and thought this was a suitably scene for the annual Christmas Card in 2022.

Christmas Card
Winter Sun Hylands Bridge, Hawes, Wensleydale
Watercolour 16 x 10 Studio Painting

2022 – its gone…do try and post more frequently in future!

A week on the NE Coast

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.

Dunstanburgh from Embleton Beach

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.

Embleton Dunes at Sunset

Here are a couple of extracts from my my en-plein-air, alla prima notebook sketches.

Notebook – Dunstanburgh abd Farne Islands
Notebook 2 – Bamburgh and Lindisfarne

A week in Wensleydale

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)

Finally some extracts from my sketchbook

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

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

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

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

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

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…




Askrigg – February 2019

First visit to Askrigg this year. Had reasonable weather for walking but still to early in the season for plain air painting, I must be getting soft in my old age!

Wensleydale from Scar Top

16×12, on 140lb Rough, Mixed media/Watercolour

Scar top is a limestone ridge that outcrops below Addlebrough, and runs east-west along the valley from Cubeck to Bainbridge. It make a great walk which can be done from Askrigg. This view is looking northwest, up the valley, from the ridge just above Bainbridge.

Wensleydale from Scar Top

Wensleydale from Scar Top


Weather Fell and Dodd Fell

16×12 on 140lb Rough, Mixed media/watercolour

This is the view from Thornton Rust lookinNorthwest towards the fell above Hawes.

Weather Fell and Dodd Fell

Weather Fell and Dodd Fell

Old Barn, Addlebrough – Winter Sun

16×12 on140lb Rough, Mixed media/watercolour

I painted this in September (see previous blog) and was keen to capture the same view in another season. It is on the footpath which continues up to Askrigg Pasture just northwest of the village, near Lease House.

Old Barn Addlebrough - Winter Sun

Old Barn Addlebrough – Winter Sun

Studio Work – November 2017

I have been working in the studio using photos and sketches made on autumn walks.

Gannets at Bempton II

Watercolour, A3

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.

Watercolour A3

Gannets at Bempton II – Watercolour A3


River Wharfe near Grassington

Watercolour, A3

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.

Watercolour A3

Warfe near Grassington – Watercolour A3



Askrigg 2017

An autumn trip to Askrigg has now become a regular event. The weather was mixed, sometimes too wet for using watercolour outside. However the three pictures presented here were all done, at least in part, en plein air. The degree of finish reflects the time I had available (and how cold I got before I gave in).

First up, two views of the village

Askrigg 1 – Above the village looking south

Mixed media, watercolour, inks, pastel, 14×10, plein air foundation, finished inside (5 hours in total).

Askrigg 1 - Looking South

I love the backdrop provided by Addleborough, this was a very windy day. I set out about 4-00pm using the field wall as shelter and was able to get the long evening shadows and the iridescent light when the almost vertical sunlight contrasts with and comes through gaps in the dark cloud. I captured the foundations of the scene and took some photographs for the light. The painting was completed in the flat next day (so I didn’t mind that it rained).

Askrigg 2 – Below the village looking North West

Mixed media, watercolour, inks, pastel, 14×10, plein air foundation, finished inside (3 hours in total).

Askrigg 2 - Looking North West

This was a struggle. I particularly wanted evening light and it was a lovely sunny morning, as you can see from the action shot (see notebook extracts) although the sun stayed visible it was filtered through high cirrus and it became dull and quite cold with the wind chill. I managed 1 hours work outside but had to up sticks when it started damping. I was able to do a further 2 hours work inside. This was an almost continuous process because our flat is only 5 minutes walk away from this spot.

Middleham Castle

Pen and Wash Sketch, en plain air, ala prima, 1 ½ hours

Middleham Castle

Out of the town square a path runs alongside the castle and opens out into a large field, it makes a great vantage point. I deliberately completed this pen and wash fast to keep it fresh.

Notebook Extracts

Here are extracts from my notebook and some work-in-progress shots.

Notebook Extracts

A Year on Otley Chevin – Calendar 2018

Over the last 2 years I have been visiting Otley Chevin once a month making sketches and taking photographs. I have concentrated on a small number of locations so that it is possible to see them at different times of the year. I have also been exploring mixed media using both acrylic and watercolour paint as the dominant base whilst freely adding in inks, wax crayon pastels. This calendar for 2018 is the result.

January, April and August; this view is from the ridge just to the west of the car park opposite the Royalty (known as the Great Dib) in the first two the contrast is muted, the remains of the bay willow herb are surprisingly tenacious before the new growth comes to a spectacular peak in August. In may ways April looks bleaker than January because new growth is not really apparent and in January the remnants of last years growth are stronger.

February and December; as you walk through the woods to the eastern end of the Chevin and then go up towards the ridge the most striking thing is low sunlight casting long shadows, in terms of growth both of these views are bleak but dramatic. February is mainly acrylic whilst December is mainly watercolour.

March and October; are looking east towards Menston, the contrast is less than would be expected – October gales had stripped the leaves and it was late in the month when I made my October tour.

May; Follow this path far enough to reach the White House. In May the trees are still bare but the gorse looks fantastic. The Chevin is not the place for hosts of daffodils – not something that had occurred to me until this project made me notice it.

June; Full of foliage looking across the valley with the gravel pits around Ashfield House.

July; Dappled sunlight on the path down to the quarry car park

September and November; My personal favourite view, this is from the towards Almscliff Crag, a tangle of bracken and briers below the largest outcrop of rocks on the Great Dib

A year on Otley Chevin Calandar 2018 January to June

A year on Otley Chevin Calandar 2018 July to December


Scilly – June 2017

Although the trip to the Isles of Scilly started in heat of 30°, the forecasts for our week on St Mary’s were consistently for cooler overcast weather. The heat wave disappeared into the distance along with Penzance. Luckily for us the weather forecast does not seem to be able to cope with the variability in the Atlantic and everyday (except one) we had periods of sunshine breaking through the cloud. The changeability made it a bit difficult to commit to watercolour outside – there was drizzle mixed in – but I managed to do a lot of sketching. The 23rd was a great (unexpectedly dry) day and I was able to paint in the morning and afternoon, splitting the session with the customary pint and pasty at The Turks Head which is one of my favourite pubs.

Sand Bar – St Agnes;

14×10 Watercolour with Ink

St Agnes is separated from the island of Gugh by a sand bar the is covered at high tide. This was painted from Gugh looking back to the sandbar and landing in Porth Conger. The morning was one of changing light so I worked up the scene and allowed the paint to dry before adding the cloud shadows with a wash of Purple Lake and Ultramarine.

Sand Bar - St Agnes


Horse Point – St Agnes;

14×10 Watercolour with Ink

This is the view from the garden of the Coastguards Café. This café shares the same premises with High Tide restaurant which operates in the evenings. If you go to Scilly I heartily recommend eating at the High Tide Restaurant for a treat. We always book in for a meal on out last night. This year the squid and John Dory were fabulous. This view is looking south, it was done in strong sunlight, a little early in the afternoon so I concentrated on the aerial perspective and lengthened the shadows a bit anticipating the clock by a couple of hours.

Horse Point - St Agnes


Here are extracts from my notebook.

NE1 People

I have quite taken to watercolour pencils as a way of adding colour to my notebook. This takes a bit more time than black and white sketching and using these pencils alongside ink and pencil has had the unintended consequence of taking over from the 7×5 pen and wash studies that I used to do.

NE2 Boats

NE3 Misc Views