Thursday, 23 March 2017

Lyddington from Bisbrooke Road

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This morning I was driving slowly the through nearby villages to my studio, and this view struck me as a good subject, with the church splicing the skyline and providing a perfect focal point. So, I parked up, got my plein air kit out of the car and jumped over a ditch into a field and set up to capture the scene.

The view was perfect, with a hazy light, looking directly into the sunlight, but what I hadn't catered for was the gale-force cold north-easterly wind blowing into my back...and neck! After nearly two hours painting, my neck was nearly frozen, despite being dressed up in a thick fur-lined jacket and anorak over the top. So, I packed up having got the painting mostly finished. Having taken off my rucksack from the hook on my tripod which acted as a weighty ballast, the tripod with the painting attached promply blew over, luckily wet-side-up!

I put just a very few finishing touches back in the warmth, and calm, of the studio. Looking forward to the next CALM day outside! 

By the Welland at Wakerley

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

The River Welland trundles through Rutland, and provides an artist like me with a wealth of subject matter. Here, with a ewe and a small gang of lambs munching on the Spring grass near Wakerley was a heaven-sent composition.

With the sunlight coming from the right, behind the bank of trees, the water was bejewelled with sparkles, spotted in with a small rigger or the tip of the palette knife. Most of the tree work was done with my 1" decorator's brush.

Last Hard Frost

 Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

As the name suggests, this was the last hard frost of the Winter. Crisp, silver and varying shades of mauve dusting of ice adorned the fields and vegetation - always a joy to paint. The sun broke through the grey, foggy sky, and the perfect vista was complete.
The dark Teasels provided a nice foreground interest, and helped to depict the feeling of spacial depth to the painting.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Sounds of Evening

Here's a 'video' I recorded last night outside my studio at about 7 o'clock...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igwJ5hcEyVI
...nothing to see, just the sounds of evening, with a Song Thrush hogging the limelight, distant Rooks, Bats if you're young and can hear them, a Tawny Owl (just after 4 mins) Sheep and Cattle, a light aircraft, traffic on the A47 over a mile away, even though it sounds like we're right next to it, and me opening and closing my studio doors! Eat your heart out Chris Watson!

Early Morning, Duddington Bridge

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Finally back in the studio to paint this little chap, a view of Duddington bridge at about 8 in the morning, with a residual frost and that lovely bit of steam hanging over the water - how could you not paint it!

I love the Winter colours - so many think that Winter is boring with dull colours, lacking the splendour of Summer, but for me, it is equally beautiful, with the subtle greys, mauves and browns of trees and vegetation in their Winter garb, and the yellow of the low sun.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Morning Light

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This, the last of my batch for the AAF, finished at midnight last night, with a fair bit of artistic license in the sky - it was a very misty day when I took a photo as reference.

Rivers almost always provide a custom-made lead-in and give the painting a rhythm. I like to paint in the 'sky-holes' in Winter paintings especially - this gives that lovely glow, hopefully.

Frost and Sunshine

 Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

So much going on at the moment with all the gallery work, it's been hard to get any actual painting work done, but a group of eight paintings are off to the Affordable Art Fair in London early next month, so just had to paint the last two 6x8s for that.

This one was a lovely crisp, bright morning on my favourite stretch of the River Welland. There might seem to be a lot of detail, but my 1" decorator's brush was set to use to descibe the complicated network of branches and vegetation in its Winter garb, along with a rigger for the odd trunks and a flat, chisel-edged brush for the water.



Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Swan Rescue!

We had a call last night when we were eating our supper, from my step-daughter’s boyfriend Mark, who works at a local cement quarry. He had spotted a Swan that was seemingly stuck in some mud, so I drove over there to meet him, and in the dead of night we drove in his Landrover through a lot of water and mud to where the Swan was that he had seen earlier. Sure enough, the poor creature was still there, with its head tucked in its feathers, with just the black eye giving away the fact that it was a living animal. 

The Swan was stuck fast in thick limestone mud, and had obviously thrashed around to try and free itself, to no avail – the hapless bird’s plumage was completely covered in ochre-coloured mud.
The next thing was to work out a rescue plan, so we got the torch from the vehicle, and while Mark held it, I tried to get hold of the terrified Swan’s neck in order to stop its attempts to peck us. Throwing a towel over its head calmed it down enough to enable me to grab its neck just below the head, whilst Mark managed to scoop up the Swan from his sticky prison. He bundled the bird into the Landrover and I jumped in and drove to where Mark thought there was a reasonably sized pond where we could release it.

After a few minutes, we reached the spot and I climbed out to have a look to see if it was suitable to drop the Swan in, and was thrilled to see another Swan on the water! Could this be its mate, or another male aggressor?
Mark scrambled down as near to the water’s edge as he could and took off the towel and slipped our muddied friend into the murky water. To our relief, he floated and immediately started scooping water into his gullet. We watched to see what the other bird would do – our poor friend was in no fit state to have a fight. The other bird cruised slowly towards our Swan, and made no threatening display of wings spread and neck ramrod straight, and as they came within touching distance, and this is the tear-jerking moment, they touched heads and almost entwined their necks and let out caressing, acceptance noises like I have never heard a Swan give out before. It was obvious that they were mates, Cob and Pen, and by sheer luck, we had chosen the very pool where our boy’s mate was already.
Proud of our rescue, we watched them for about 10 minutes in the blackness, illuminated only by a torch, whilst our Swan did his best to preen himself and after several neck dives, his head was white again, and his orange and black beak were visible, free of the horrible ochred glue. Mark had his phone with him and took these few grainy and unclear photos, but you can see the state of the bird when we found him, and just about make out the moment the two ‘embraced’ each other in a neck-twine. Moments like this make you pumped with pride that we had helped magnificent bird survive, who knew we were trying to help him and surely wouldn’t have survived another day, with Foxes and huge vehicles about. All together…..aaah!
And here are our two birds, swimming off together, and you can clearly see the cloud of mud beneath our rescued bird on the left.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Teasels Against the Sunlight

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Back onto some more oils for my Devon outlet, and this one is from one of my favourite stretches of river near my home in Rutland. Around 9 in the morning, the sun is low in the winter sky, and the pure sunlight bounced off the water straight ahead of me. This always provides a dramatic light effect which I never tire of painting.

Capturing the subtle tones and colours of trees and vegetation in its winter garb is a challenge I love. Pitching the horizon high on the picture plane blocked out the intense light of the sun itself, but the blinding reflection of it in the water is fun to paint and makes a cracking subject, especially with the Teasels silhouetted against it.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Cattle by the Nene

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

My last Pastel for a while - not so keen on the Pastel dust that flies around in the studio, and I need to do some oils for the Affordable Art Fair at Battersea next month, and for PBFA gallery.

I found this one half-finished ina box I stack my Pastels in - it was another demo painting I did last year, and somewhat unseasonal at the moment, but a reminder of what's to come; warm breezes, billowing cumulus clouds and cattle lazily swishing their tales by the river.

I tend to do the majority of my landscapes in Oils, but occasionally I like to do one in the Pastel medium, which lends a slightly 'softer' feel to the painting. By definition, Pastel sticks don't have sharp points, so inevitably, small, crisp details are hardly possible like they are with Oils with sharp brushes, so the 'finish' of a Pastel painting always has a slightly looser look to it. 

Talking of demos as I alluded to above, I am painting a frosty riverine landscape as a demo painting to the Ufford Art Society, near Stamford in Lincolnshire. If anyone wants to attend, you would be most welcome for a nominal small fee on the door, but please let me know if you want to come, thank you! 

Friday, 3 February 2017

British Blue Heifer

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 13 inches

The last in my current series of farm animal portraits, then on to more oils.

I liked the pose of this one, with the head half-turned and showing the rest of the beast. Horns are always fun to paint, as are cattles' wet noses - the pink on this one was gorgeous to describe, with that lovely little highlight above the nostril, yummy!

I'm not sure I've got the breed right here, so if anyone out there knows better, please let me know!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Herdwick Tup

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

I must say, I really enjoyed doing this portrait of a Herdwick Tup, a member of that most handsome of sheep breeds that roam, and largely make the Lake District what it is today - beautiful.  With a thick coat and stout legs, these sheep are a joy to paint with that wonderfully multi-coloured fleece and white face. They have a very benign and cuddly look about them, which I hope I've captured. 

Soft Pastel is a particularly good medium to describe the woolly look, by applying the pigment and smudging with the thumb or finger, at least on the body. The head is another matter, with mostly hundreds of thin strokes with the edge of a Pastel stick with varying light tones over darker undertones

Simmental Bullock

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 13 inches

Another Bullock painting for this series of animal studies. The composition worked well on this upright sized format. I've said before that I don't like to see animal heads with a sharp cut-off on the neck, which make the painting look like a portrait of a severed head! It looks much better and less disturbing to fade the neck and body out to the edge of the painting surface.

The colours used for this portrait were predominantly based around the warm browns, oranges and yellows, similar to the Highland portrait. I liked the shaft of sunlight across the animal's left side of the face, and although there are a few white tufts of hair on the head, the only pure white used was on the side of the muzzle where the light caught it. All the other white parts were described with relatively darker tones of greys and blues; it's all about tones - never trust your brain that tells you there are white patches on the animal - look how the colours appear in relation to each other, that's by far the most important observation in order create a meaningul and convincing painting.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Beyond the Fringe (FILMED!)

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

Continuing the theme of animal portraits, who can resist painting Highland cattle? They make great subjects as they are, but with the addition of those magnificent horns, oh, just a dream for an artist!

I actually filmed the entire painting of this, so watch this space if you want to see it - if it comes out alright, I'll publish it on Youtube, then go to the U.S. next year for the Oscars...

update! the film is now on Youtube, in 9 parts if you can soldier on through it all, in real-time over 1hr 53minutes. Here's the link for Part 1, and the subsequent parts should follow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lwcP2WZ6No

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Pastel Set-up

Above is a photo taken from a high viewpoint, standing on a chair (!) to show you how I set up my palette for Pastel painting. The sticks are placed in receptacles on top of a long board which is wedged into the easel's tray, so that I can see at a glance where my colours are. They are roughly from very light on the left, then the yellows, reds, greens, blues and browns to the right. That is then supplemented with four more trays of each warm and cool colours, on the top of a stool on my swivel chair. And in the bottom left of the photo you can just see the four more wooden trays of new sticks that I might need.

I find it the complete opposite to painting in Oils where I generally use only four or five colours for almost all my paintings. With pastels, although they can be smudged on the painting surface to mix the pigments a little, you really need a LOT of colours at your disposal in order to place all the subtle colours and tones that abound in any painting. I don't paint en plein air with Pastels for that very reason - it's just not practical to have so many sticks spread out in front of you on site, which, for me, out-weighs the advantage with the medium of the more direct way of placing dry colour on a painting surface.