Tag Archive for Watercolour

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

Catching up at last

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 momentin 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. 

St Agness Sandbar
Halangy Down Iron Age Village

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.

Rock Water Samphire and Thrift

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. 

Brown Clee Hill
China Rose
Duloe Manor Garden

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

Patterdale – Goldrill Beck

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.

Crocus

The daffodils and tulips worked well together in a planter.

Daffodils and Tulips

The forest flame (pieris japonica) also has white flowers which I missed last year

Forest Flame II

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.

Linton Weir – winter evening

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.

Isolation Pictures – April

So, in my last post I said that it was difficult to know what would come next and guessed that I’d be plundering old sketch books and photographs. I also noted that the garden could provide the opportunity for some close to home en plein air work. The weather has gone through a spell of bright sunny days and the its seemed daft to be painting in the studio when the spring flowers have been so vivid and cheering.

So far I have had most success and pleasure from zooming in and doing flower studies. These are not precise, like botanical studies, but I have striven for a level of detail that makes them recognisable. As well as the watercolour pans (which I refill fill from tubes) I have made liberal use of acrylic inks, pen and wax crayon.

I have largely dropped the use of masking fluid in my landscapes and figure work. My first attempt was of one of the flowerbeds in my developing mixed media style.

Flowerbed

Flowerbed

For me the close ups work much better, or rather I enjoy doing them more. I have, however had to adapt my approach.

I always do a preliminary sketch. These are essential, they enable an exploration of composition lighting – essentially a design process – and additionally they help one to understanding and internalise the subject. Its almost as though the hand eye links get established in advance.

I do a foundational sketch on the support, this needs to be enough to guide but light to be painted over.

I use a masking fluid to reserve the big shapes, which are the flowers. When that’s dry, and it dries fast in decent weather, I can apply a liberal amounts of wax, water colour and inks to the background. The background stays abstract; essentially what I’m doing is limiting the depth of field in the same one might with a close up using a camera.

Then I add in the flowers which are the main subjects and focal points. All of these were completed en plein air, alla prima. I may well attempt some more detailed studies in the studio using these sources if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Tulips and Tulips II

We have Tulips in beds and in pots. These are both afternoon pictures. The first is at the end of the garden and was completed late in the afternoon. The second is near the house, earlier as the wall shadow v=creates full shade by 4-00pm.

14×10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour and Inks. 1 hour and 2 hour en plein air, alla prima studies.

Tulips

Tulips II

Clematis

Early afternoon. We have a Montana that goes berserk at this time of year. Unfortunately most of the flowers have migrated next door.

14x 10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks. 2 hour en plein air, alla prima study.

Clematis

Wallflowers

The wallflowers are a morning glory. Our garden faces due south and the wall casts a shadow that grows in size as the day moves on past noon.

14x 10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks. 1.5 hour en plein air, alla prima study.

Wallflowers

Forrest Flame

This old friend has been guarding the entrance to the patio for many years and never fails to look splendid at this time of year.

14x 10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks. 1.5 hour en plein air, alla prima study.

Forrest Flame

Cherry Blossom

The columnar cherry was one of our first plantings. Its been pruned hard 2 times in 30 years but maintains its shape and always delivers a huge amout of blossom. Morning.

14x 10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks. 1.5 hour en plein air, alla prima study.

Cherry Blossom

Bluebells 

Ok they are Spanish bluebells, paler blue and waxy compared to our native ones. I like them in a garden setting and since we inherited them they have spread. These is some evidence of hybridisation in the remoter patches where there are some smaller and darker flowers.

14x 10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks. 2 hour en plein air, alla prima study.

 

Bluebells

 

Bush Anemone

At the bottom of the garden a Bush Anemone comes over the wall from next door. It doesn’t smell like the mock orange behind it but is does look lovely.

14x 10 140lb Rough Paper, Watercolour, Wax Crayon, Inks. 2 hour en plein air, alla prima study.

Bush Anemone wm

And just to prove the point

The garden has been a real boon and the good weather couldn’t be ignored so all these studies were done from life.

April Flowers WIP

 

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.

January

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

 

February

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

2018 Christmas card

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.

Evening Light River Wharf at Linton

Evening Light
River Wharf at Linton

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