Tag Archive for Notebook Sketches

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

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

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

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.


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


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.



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


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


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.



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

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



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.


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



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

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