Friday, 25 May 2012

Evening Glow on the Windrush

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

I painted this one after my recent visit to The Cotswolds.  The Windrush river was in spate and the setting sun was behind me, so that a lovely golden-red glow lit up the Willows on the bend and presented rich, warm reflections in the water.

Just a note on the lack of ducklings on my local river, the Welland.  I have noticed that there are many fewer ducklings surviving these days.  I found just one family group of eight, happily whizzing about as if they have tiny outboard motors.  But there were no others at all.  That was in Stamford, where there are usually loads being fed by the tourists.  On my bit of the Welland nearer my studio, I found one pair with five newly-hatched tiny ducklings and another pair with just one larger survivor.  Otters are back in the area, and they will take ducklings if they get the chance, but I'm sure the main culprit is the Otter's smaller and less elusive cousin, the Mink.  

I have seen Mink on three occasions and they will eat anything that moves and are a major factor in the disappearance of Water Voles.  I used to watch Water Voles every time I went fishing as a boy, but I haven't seen one for 45 years now.  Mink have spread throughout the country, after well-meaning animal rights activists released them from fur farms, so that they could fend for themselves in freedom.  Fend for themselves they have, and they have decimated the fauna wherever they are.  Being a non-indigenous species, a new balance has taken place with the total eradication of Water Voles in many places, and now, I feel sure, the main culprits in the disappearance of so many ducklings.

Flat Light Grazers

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

This is a funny time of year for us landscape painters.  I trudged for about a mile with my backpack containing tripod, panel holder and palette attachments, paints, brushes, bottles of spirit (for brush cleaning, not drinking!), rags and camera, looking for something to paint, but Spring is late this year after all the cold and wet weather, and the bankside vegetation has been flattened.  After a frustrating hour or so, ploughing alongside an Oil-Seed Rape field at least 12ft high and tangly Goose-Grass and Burdock, I emerged, determined to paint something en plein air, so settled on this bend.

Looking like a tramp, covered in yellow pollen and adorned with burs and cleavers I set up the easel on mud.  You can see how high the water had been, with the tangle of debris on the Hawthorn on the right. As time went by, both I and the easel sank into the mud, so my perspective of the view altered a little...... 

The light was very flat, with little in the way of illumination, but I managed to get down bits of lighter green patches on the field on the far bank.  The good thing about flat light is that the scene doesn't change much, so there is more time to paint and less panic as the light changes. After an hour and a bit, the sun was disappearing behind the trees on the right, so I packed up and started the unenviable treck back through the jungle of triffids.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Threatening Sky

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

I did this little painting last Tuesday on site, on a blustery and unpredictable day, weather-wise. I got the underpainting scrubbed in and the backdrop of trees, when it started hailing!  I use a tuna tin for my white spirit to clean my brushes, and as the hail got worse, the little icey pellets were bouncing into the tin, making quite a percussive din and I had my own steel-pan drum kit!  I had to hastily pack up and run for the trees until it passed, along with the sheep and their lambs.
After about ten minutes, the skies cleared, but the scene was so totally changed that to continue was hopeless, and I was cold and damp too!  So, having taken a photo before the heavens opened, I finished off back in the studio once more.  
These sorts of lighting effects are fleeting and difficult to get down en plein air, unless you're a speedy genius, which I'm not. I loved the dark, brooding sky with its reflection in the water and attendant sparkles of light from the sun.  The whole scene was lit for a few seconds, so that some of the trees and the meadow and the flooded reed-beds appeared lighter in tone than the sky - a rare moment. The sheep with their sunlit fleecey tops provided a nice focal point for the eye to come back to too.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Daffodils by The Welland

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

This painting was done as a demonstration piece for the Newark Art Club on Wednesday evening.  They were a lovely appreciative crowd to paint for.  I didn't quite complete the painting in the allotted two hours on the night, so finished it off back in the studio.  It was an exercise in how to paint trees and water and in paying attention to tones, in order to give the illusion of depth and distance on a two-dimensional surface.  Four different brushes were used after the initial rough-in with a warn Acrylix:

hogs to block in the distant blueish trees, the dark bridge to the upper left middle, the dappled field on the far bank and the sky,
riggers to describe the tree branches and the fence posts and sheep in the distance,
a 1" household paintbrush to paint the foliage and tracery of the trees, and the vegetation on the far and near banks,
a Short Flat Mongoose No6 Brush from Rosemary & Co. (unsurpassed in its efficacy for retaining its chisel edge) to paint the water and the foreground reeds.

Being an early Spring subject, the painting has a pretty vivid green colour scheme, save for the delightful clump of Daffodils growing on the far bank, which provided a lovely, bright touch of colour to break the monotony.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Sunset by The Windrush

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

On my return trip from Devon last week, I stopped off at Burford for a walk along the River Windrush before sundown.  The water was high, a Barn Owl was already patrolling the glorious Buttercup meadows silently like a ghost, the sun was setting and two Swans glided along the river.  This spot made a great composition, with a nice S-shape to lead the eye through the painting.

Incidentally, isn't the Windrush just a perfect name for a river?  I came across it when I was very young, as we had a painting of the river done by Horace Gillett, my grandfather's sister's son, which makes him my cousin, or second cousin.  Either way, Horace was a very fine, classical watercolourist, only an amateur, but easily good enough to have made a living from it, had he so desired.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Self Portrait

Oil on board, 10 x 8 inches

Just to ring the changes and keep my creative juices flowing, I thought I would paint a self-portrait, using looser brushstrokes than I normally do with my landscapes, with a few palette knife swipes too. I don't usually look this serious, but it's damned difficult to look relaxed when you're concentrating on painting yourself - you try it!   
I've long wanted to paint in a 'looser' manner, but I tend to naturally gravitate towards a 'tighter' rendering, but I may try a slicker, more painterly style with my default subject matter.  I do paint a few plein air paintings and I intend doing a lot more in future, so a quicker method would enable me to complete bigger pieces on site, so watch this space.  I'll await any comments, good or bad!

Enter Stage Left

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

Well, my break is over after my Devon exhibition and it's back to the grindstone to paint another 35-ish new paintings for my solo show in November at the John Noott Gallery in Broadway.

So, this is the first off the production line, depicting the river Welland just down the road from me, looking from a little hump-back bridge by the old Wakerley Station.  As I was looking at the scene, a Ewe and her two lambs wandered across the bridge of grass to have a drink from the sparkling water, providing a nice little bit of life for the painting.

I was hoping to get one or two en plein air oil paintings done in Devon last week, but having loaded up the car with my tripod, rucksack, brushes, spirit, I found that I had left my pochade box with all my boards and paint at home....the best laid plans.  I did have some watercolours with me and attempted one daub on site, but having not done one for over three years, I'm very ring-rusty.  Lots of people have said how much they like my old watercolours, so I shall endeavour to have another go soon.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Exhibition Video

During the Private Viewing of my Beer Exhibition last Saturday, Tim Saunders, husband of Caroline Saunders who has written an article on me to appear in 'The Artist' magazine in July, made a 15 minute video, featuring a conversation with Mike Lambert, owner of Marine House Gallery and me, which you can see on YouTube by clicking on this link (appears in a separate window):
There's quite a lot of background noise from the thousands of fans in the Gallery, including Harriett, Tim and Caroline's delightful baby daughter, so you can't hear me very clearly, and I look a right grinning twit at the start of the interview after Mike introduces me, but if enough of you watch it, it might go viral...........

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Exhibition Update

Just a note to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who came to the Private Viewing of my exhibition last Saturday 5th.  It was a great ego-boost, after ploughing my lonely furrow in the studio or on site, to meet so many of you and hear your lovely comments and especially to see your money become detached from your wallets and purses! 

You can view all 36 paintings in the show below (click on any image to view at full screen), and prices and titles on the Marine House Gallery at
If any more of you are interested in making the wisest purchase of your life, please contact the Gallery direct on the home page via the link, thank you!


Friday, 4 May 2012


To all my patrons and friends, if you will be attending the Private Viewing tomorrow, Saturday 5th May from 11am - 5.30pm, thank you, and I look forward to seeing you.  Please don't create an ugly scene by clammering for an autograph - just form an orderly queue and wait your turn one mile up the road.  Seriously, your patronage and support are very much appreciated and it will be great to meet and greet you in lovely Beer in Devon.

I'm hoping that the person or consortium who bought Eddie Munch's 'The Scream' for £74,000,000 will attend and find something to invest in...............