Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Sunset Beckons

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Saw this view a few days ago whilst walking along the backwater of the River Nene, as the sun was near setting in the western sky. I just love a golden sun viewed through the leaves of a tree, so just had to try to capture it.

As I have said many times before, the painter doesn't have a colour bright enough to convey the brightness of our near star, so you just have to use a few tricks in attempting to make the viewer be fooled into squinting at the painting, as if to hide his or her eyes from the sun. What? I can't tell you that, I'd have to kill you all...

Square Bales, near Barrowden

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Harvest time is always a fascination for artists, and when the farmer uses square, or at least rectangular bales, they form such beautiful patterns, and when the sun shines, the light on them, especially with the sun behind, forms a golden halo around them - such fun to paint!

August Grazers

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This is a view I have painted several times over the years - the River Welland near Duddington. The Greater Willowherb and Purple Loosestrife abounds at this time of year, but sadly, another intruder is quickly taking over - the giant Himalayan Balsam, a beautiful and showy plant in its own right, but a real bully in the way it chokes all the surrounding vegetation. It has an ingenious way of spreading itself; when the pendulous bag of seeds is ripe, it has a spring-loaded mechanism within, and when the seed-head cracks, either spontaneously, or when a human or other animal touches it, the seeds are propelled, pinging out several feet. So, once it gets a foothold, the plant very quickly speads along a riverbank, elbowing out everything in its path. In some places, because it is such an invasive, unwelcome foreign interloper, attempts are made to eradicate the weed, but it's here to stay methinks, much like the grey squirrel.

Friday, 26 August 2016

January Fog

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

I needed to get one more painting done to submit for the annual Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) exhibition, entries closing today at noon, so I managed to finish it at 1.45 this morning, just ready to photograph and enter on to the long-winded submission form...phew.

I changed my mind about the composition of this - here are a couple of stage photos:
Initial wash stage, with very turpsey, neutral colour put on just like a watercolour wash, letting the colour drain down, giving those gorgeous patterns, a little of which would be left showing here and there to convey the network of feathery branches...
And here, a little further on, you can see I have placed in the cattle and painted the sky, with a watery sun breaking through the fog. After a lot more work on the trees and bank-line, I finally painted in the water, with the corresponding reflection of the sun. After stepping back (I always paint standing up these days) I wasn't happy with the balance somehow. Measuring where the reflection of the sun would be (from the unseen horizon, NOT from the line of the river bank) it was unsettlingly midway between the river bank and the bottom of the picture. It just didn't look right, so I decided to paint out the sun altogether and just suggest the light of it at the very top of the painting, but placed the reflection of the unseen sun near the bottom of the water. I was much happier with the result. We'll see if it will curry favour with the ROI hanging committee - a thankless task, with so many good paintings to be given just a few seconds to look at.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Golden Summer Sunset

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

This fabulous view was just a few days ago whilst walking with Jane on the banks of the River Nene near Waternewton. The sun was an intense golden orange ball, a colour that is not possible to convey with paint. I used a blob (technical term) of impasto pure Cadmium Yellow for the sun itself, but it's frustratingly inadequate to describe the intensity of the setting firey star.

The painting is dangerously close to being twee, something I always try to avoid, but I just had to paint it!  

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Spring Rain, Moor Lane

Oil on Board, 10 x17 inches

This is just finished, so it's very much a wet painting in more ways than one! The wet road had such beautiful patterns, I just had to paint it.

I paint a lot of rivers as you know if you're a regular visitor to my work, and the road was little different - just a question of observing the reflections in the road, with the drier bits of road punctuating the surface like wind-ruffled river.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Satin Repose

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

I've reworked this painting for the second time now, after re-assessing it. In its previous guise, the pillow and quilt were patterned, and on reflection, I felt it competed too much with the figure, so I've changed it to pure white, which I think looks far better and stops the competition!

The silk top was great fun to paint with all those shiny folds, and here is a perfect example painting what you see, not what you know, or think you see; if I asked what colour the top is, hopefully the vast majority of people would say white, but only the very top accents are pure white - the rest of it is a kaleidoscope of greys, purples, greens and yellows, taking great care to observe those subtle tone and colour changes in the folds.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Cotswold Oak

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

I have provisionally painted this one for the Royal Institute of Oil Painters annual exhibition, in the hope that something traditional might get accepted.

It's a view near Mickleton in the Cotswolds, my old stamping ground - I was an assistant professional golfer at Stratford-upon-Avon for 6 years in the early seventies, and originally hail from Banbury in Oxfordshire. I drove past this corner and looked to my left to see this beautiful, classically-shaped English Oak, with a backdrop of hills and woods, and a couple of barns, with lots of sheep in the field. It was a custom-made composition.

Here are a couple of early stages of the painting, just to show the anatomy of the painting:
Here are the basic shapes scrubbed in with diluted, thin paint, with the rough tones...
 ...and here I've worked on the sky, before going back into the main tree and painting in the other main players. You can see that I placed the sheep, especially the three in the foreground, to direct the eye into the painting, towards the focal point itself.

Right, now on to the next one...

Friday, 5 August 2016


Come and watch me paint a demonstration landscape painting TONIGHT from 7.30 - 9.30, at the Horncastle Art Group, Methodist Church, Queen Street, Horncastle LN9 6BD

You are welcome to attend for a small fee on the door, so if any of you can come, I look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

White Hart

 Pastel on PasteCard 23 x 19 inches

This one is a commissioned painting for the owner of a local pub - no prizes for guessing the name of the establishment!

I used a combination of photos of a normally-coloured stag for the pose and a white one for the colouring, with some artistic licence for the lighting. I also made his neck and chest 'feathers' a little broader to give him more presence and majesty. Although the stag is white, and you immediately know he's white, I used no white on the fur at all, and in fact the only tiny spot of white used was for the highlight on his right eye.

Backgrounds for animal head and shoulder studies are always tricky - you don't want the background to fight with the animal itself, and the one absolute no-no for me is to depict the animal with a straight-line cut-off at the neck, so that the portrait looks more like that of a severed head, rather than of the living, breathing animal, yet so many artists do just that, spoiling what is otherwise a very good painting. Fading out the bottom section of the stag avoids too many focal points and makes the eye concentrate on the head.

I like to use plenty of 'counterchange' on my portraits, using the highlights on the fur and antlers in this case, so that light passages are set against a darker background, and darker passages set against lighter background. This helps 'lift' the subject from the background, giving it a three-dimensional quality. You can see that I've done this all over the painting.
Below is a photo taken half-way through the painting, where I was plotting the rough colours and tones of the background. You can see that I changed the tone of the background just behind the stag's left cheek (our right), initially making it darker than the cheek, then changing it to a lighter tone and an almost lost edge.
For an animal portrait, I would normally place the head high up in the picture plane, so that the eyes are well above centre - this gives the animal more importance, and prevents wasted space above the head. But here, with those great antlers, there was no choice but to place the head much lower, with the eyes only just above centre. This presented a problem of a lot of vacuous space to fill around the antlers. I could have made his antlers much smaller, but that would be like cutting off the horn of a Rhino, so I eventually opted for making the top of the background quite dark in order to push the eye of the viewer down to the main focal point, and I also put a flourish of a little grass on one of the tips for added interest in that section.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

High Summer, Burnham Overy Staithe

Pastel on Pastelmat, 19 x 27 inches

I know some of you readers like to see stages of a painting, and I took about 10 photos along the way in the making of this beast, but, inexplicably, they aren't on the camera!  So, I have just one stage photo, below, taken a little while before the finish.

Quite a complicated painting this, with an awful lot going on throughout the piece. I like to keep the whole painting moving along at the same speed, because, as I always say in my demos, if you concentrate on one passage, without putting down the adjacent tones and colours, whatever you have painted will look very different when the colours next to it are placed - every colour and tone is relative to the next one, and cannot be guessed until they are all placed.

You can clearly see in this stage, that the pinkish tones in the water in the bottom left third are way too light, but until I scribbled in the tones below I wasn't sure. Had I completed that passage, I would have found the tones too light and would have to change them after spending time getting them what I thought was 'right'. And, the foreground boat, although a white boat, appears much darker than that because we are looking directly into the sunlight.  Again, I had to place the approximate tones of the hull down first, then the surrounding tone of the water placed immediately in order to ascertain the correct relative tones to each other, mostly by trial and error.  The trick of getting a scene to look 'real', is to recognise the errors, and correct them. Many amateur paintings fall down because the tones aren't right, so that there is no punch or impact.

The final bit of the painting was to whack in the sparkly spots of reflected sunlight with my lovely soft Schminke Titanium White - see how these spots bring the painting to life. 

This is the last painting that is going to the RSMA show, and is being collected tomorrow morning at 5.30. I'm writing this as I'm waiting for the wax to dry on its frame, so I had better set to and fit it in its frame... 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Sheds and Sunlight, Brancaster Staithe

Pastel on Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

This is the second Pastel painting that I'm entering for the RSMA exhibition, with one more big one to go...

The gloriously tatty sheds and huts at Brancaster Staithe are gifts for us artists, and, combined with the boats in the staithe, and the sharp, morning light, made this an irrisistible subject for a painting. The only thing I did was to move the foreground boat a little to the left for the sake of balance.

I could equally have tackled this painting in Oils, but I did love painting those dazzling spots of bouncing sunlight on the tops of the boat cabins, which are particularly suitable for the Pastel medium. That lovely, wet mud below the row of wooden posts was alittle more tricky with the dry medium, with myriads of little stabs of blue, mauve, grey, yellow, green-brown and white, whereas with the Oil medium, I would have painted much of this passage with the palette knife dragged over the blue-grey reflected sky colour.  Ah, the joy of painting!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Leaving Port, Mevagissey, 5am

Pastel on Pastelmat, 19 x 24.25 inches

I painted this one from a high viewpoint, looking down on the harbour wall at Mevagissey, with a lone fisherman on his way out to make his catch. The light breaking through the clouds was spectacular, and I did my best to capture that fleeting light effect of the light on the sea, this time with the soft Pastel medium.

Pastel lends itself to making lots of little marks as the subject might require, as it did here in the bottom half of the picture. The gentle swell of the sea provided gorgeous stripes of grey and pink as the light reflected off the water.  Placing myself so that the lighthouse punctuated the lightest part of the sea, directly below the break of yellow light in the cloud offered the best composition I felt, and I think it's worked out alright.

Now onto more Pastels...

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Harbour Lights, Mevagissey

Oil on Board, 11 x 16 inches

Another Oil for the RSMA exhibition, but why, oh why, did I elect to do this subject on such a small panel?  What was I thinking of? It is one of the most complicated paintings I've done, with an AWFUL lot of fiddly detail and a seemingly infinite number of colour changes and subtle shifts of tone. 

It was the beautiful half-light one encounters when the sun goes down, and when the shop and restaurant lights appear so much brighter, that drew me to the subject and to tackle it in paint. Those lovely yellow and orange reflections in the water were irresistible and I had to make sure that all the relative tones were dark enough, to give those light reflections the right impact. The red buoys also take on a glow in the evening, so there is a LOT of local colour in the painting.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Frosty Shoreline at Eyebrook

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

This is a commissioned painting of Eye Brook and the Eyebrook Reservoir in Rutland, in its Winter garb. Actually, painting frost is one of my favourite subjects, especially this one, with lots of tufty grass tussocks, and really lends itself to the Oil medium using my decorator's brush - muted colours, using my usual three yellow, red and blue culprits, with the addition of a little Viridian here and there, and plenty of Titanium White of course.  The Swan and the few ducks lend a little life to the serene scene