Saturday, 31 August 2013

Fairy in the Wood

Oil on Canvas, 18 x 26 inches

This is my last larger painting for my exhibition in Devon, so I thought I would include a Bluebell Wood, with a twist. The little girl behind the tree was playing in and out of a tent her mum had erected in the wood, and she was dressed in a bright pink fairy costume, so she just had to go in the picture.

There is an awful lot of paint to the square inch in this painting - a lot of texture impastoed on the surface with dabs from the palette knife and a well-loaded 1" household decorator's brush.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Longboat Summer

Oil on Canvas, 22 x 30 inches

This quintessential English river scene is at Waternewton where the River Nene runs through the old watermill in the painting, which is no longer a working mill, sadly, but a block of homes.

I had a lot of fun painting the reflections of the trees in shadow and then the bright greens of the sunlit reeds and vegetation on the right, although the colours in the photo are a little more vivid than in the painting.  The sunlit weeds growing on the water were dragged in with a well-loaded large rigger when the paint was sticky, using the weave of the canvas to give texture.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Luminous Beer Buoys

Oil on Canvas, 16 x 22 inches

This one was quite a challenge, but I liked the composition of the red boat with all the fishermen's gubbins around it and the pools of water and ropes helping to lead the eye to the boat, resting jauntily above the strand line, and then to the family silhouetted against the glare of the morning sun glinting off the sea.

Pitching the sky tone next to the water is always tricky, and it helps to put down the lightest light next to it at the same time in order to judge it right.  The flicks of glistening sparkles on the water were put in with a palette knife as the underpaint was sticky, so grabbing the paint on the high points of the canvas weave.  

The shingle is a problem to depict without painting every darned stone, which is not practical, nor necessary.  I tackled it by putting down lots of layers of various grey mixes, then dragged the palette knife over again in an attempt to simulate the rough texture.  Not sure whether it was successful, but I think it tells the viewer what is there and lets you tell fill in the blanks.

The translucent red buoys presented a more difficult problem - how to get that luminous quality with the light shing through them.  I could have just painted them with crimson and left them slightly muted, but I loved the glowing red of them, so was determined to try and capture that. I'll obviously have to kill you all now, so if you value your life, stop reading now.....I painted the round shapes in pure Titanium White forst, then when that was dry, I glazed the crimson over the top...nifty eh?  Right, you'd better look over your shoulder now.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Article in 'The Artist'

I'm in 'The Artist' magazine again in the Septemer issue, on page 52. That's my painting top right of the left-hand page above, featured as one of the winners in the Patchings Open Competition.
Voting is continuing until 1st September for the Artists Peoples Choice Award, so if you would like to vote for your favourite from 'The Artist' TA and the 'Leisure Painter' LP categories, you've got a few more days to do so by clicking on this link: 
There are some cracking good paintings but you can only vote for one from each category, choosing from any in the four galleries at the top right of the page (4 pages of the TA and LP paintings, and 3 pages in the TA and LP Highly Commended paintings).  Far be it from me to ask you to vote for any of my three paintings, but if a fiver would help, please send me your address...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Two in for the RSMA

Well, I got the above two paintings accepted for the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in October.  Great to get two in, but I was really hoping to have three, but there we are. These were rejected, the first of which I thought was the strongest of all, from a painter's point of view:
Onwards and upwards...

Elephant Hawk Moth!

 I glanced out of the studio today and watched a pair of juvenile Blackbirds pecking at a Blackberry on the lawn, when I noticed their attention was disturbed by a dark beast trundling between them.  At first I thought it was a young Grass Snake as I've seen them in the garden before, but on going out to see, I was delighted to see that it was the caterpillar of an Elephant Hawk Moth.  You can plainly see why it is so named - the larva resembles the trunk of an Elephant with its segments and deeply mottled skin, and when the larva stretches out its head, it is uncanny how it looks so trunk-like!
 Here in this close-up you can see the false eyes that often put off predators.  This chap was on his way to find a suitable spot amongst leaf litter and loose soil to pupate.  There it will overwinter, to emerge next Summer, under the extraordinary metamorphosis, transformed into one of our most beautiful moths:
The larva feed on all types of Willowherb and often on Fuchsia, which my next door neighbour has in her garden.  So, I assume this guy had clambered over the dividing stone wall to search for his hibernation spot.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sedge Warbler!

Janey and I went to the BirdFair at Egleton on Sunday and had a good time looking at the paintings in the Art Marquee, meeting my friends David Miller, the best fish artist I know, and his wife Lisa, a fine animal artist.  We also saw one of the BTO handlers ring, weigh and release this gorgeous little Sedge Warbler. This little bird often keeps me company when I'm painting by the river with its distinctive, quite harsh, warbling song, sung from the depths of the reed beds.  It's an amazingingly tiny little bird, and will soon fly off to Africa, an extraordinary feat for such a small creature.  I took this photo seconds before the handler released him back to the wild after his ordeal, being watched over by a group of onlookers!

Country Ice Cream

 Oil on Canvas, 18 x 26 inches

I was walking along this road near home with its gorgeous avenue of Oaks in late May, when the Walls Ice Cream van came past on its way up to Lyndon, having toured around the other local villages. So, I took a quick photo of it, catching it as it was partly in shadow from the trees. This gave the brightly coloured van some beautiful stripes of light and shadow, the yellow echoing the oil-seed rape in the field on the right.

I've painted this tree-lined avenue several times before, mostly in October/November, when the rust-coloured foliage transforms the scene into a cathedral of Autumn splendour.  Biut this is the first time I've painted it in its Spring garb, with the profusion of Cow Parsley lighting up the verges.  The passing Ice Cream van provided a perfect addition to the painting, and its colours couldn't have been better and I had great fun painting it!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Swans Below Waternewton

 Oil on Canvas, 16 x 28 inches

Another biggy for my show. Well, quite big, relatively speaking...

I always like to do one or two larger classically English riverine paintings for an exhibition, and this fits the bill pefectly.  It's the river Nene just down the road from me near the village of Waternewton, which sits right next to the A1, unfortunately, but this scene of tranquillity lies just beneath.  Using a bit of artistic licence, I popped in a couple more barns apart from the one in the centre that was there, just to balance the composition.  I also put in the swans for a focal point, otherwise it seemed a little empty.  The water was painted quickly with a minimum of fuss, using slabby strokes of a hog brush combined with a Rosemary Ivory Long Flat, and the reeds in the right foreground were stroked in with a Rosemary Mongoose Long Flat, a gorgeous brush that retains a lovely sharp, chisel-edge, pefect for the job.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Haystacks from Buttermere

Oil on Canvas, 19.5 x 27.5 inches

I'm doing a few bigger paintings now for my exhibition in Devon, and here's one from the Lakes, with an iconic view of Haystacks, that lovely ridge of peaks so loved by A.W.Wainwright, the great fell walker and chronicler.  I took three more photos of the stages for your there anybody out there? 

First stage: I scrubbed in the composition with approximate tones, using thinned Alkyd Oil paint (with White Spirit). No Titanium White was added at this early stage, so the paint dries quickly.

Stage Two: Now I worked the mountain backdrop and the sky together, using standard oil mixed with Alkyds.

Stage Three: Continuing down the picture, I worked up the stand of Pines and the banks and trees on the left, giving more definition, then quickly painted in the water - always the quickest part of any painting - still water that is.  Then in the final stage (top), I continued to sharpen up all over and painted in the foreground Gorse bushes and grasses and when the water was just dry enough (water - dry, ha ha!), I pulled in a drybrush of light colour across it with a big hog brush to simulate wind disturbance, which helps to break up the water and not let it look too mirror-like and twee.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Grazing by the River Axe

Oil on Canvas, 14 x 20 inches
Ah, back to oils again!  I usually paint predominantly with Griffin Alkyds - fast-drying oils - but for this one I used Titanium White and Sap Green standard oil paint, so the surface remained wet throughout, more useful for manipulating the paint, but for my technique, I don't think I could use all standard oil colours to get the same results. I like the paint to dry a little quicker, but don't like the instant drying qualities of acrylic paint.  Alkyds just suit my style, especially for small panels.
Using a bit of artistic license, I shifted a few things around a bit in the background for this one to give a more pleasing composition to include the tree silhouetted against the distant hazy hills on the far left, and shifted the farmstead to the right.  I liked the way the river wound its way left and right to lead the eye through the picture plan. 
The showy pink flowers are Himalayan Balsam which have pretty much taken over the vegetation on this stretch of river, and are more red in colour than the flowers that grow in my local river in Rutland. They are treated as weeds in many places in England, being a foreign invader, and have swamped the native waterside plants, like the more delicate pink Greater Willowherb.  Balsam has an ingenious and very effective way of propogating, the ripe seedheads dangling in a spring-loaded, plumed case, waiting for any human or animal or just a gust of wind to touch them, then audibly ping the seeds several feet, rather like a spray of shotgun pellets, thus quickly spreading themselves along a river bank.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Kingfisher on the Teign

Pastel on Pastelmat 13 x 19 inches

I finished this one off in the studio today, refining a few bits here and there and adding a Kingfisher with just a smudge of electric blue, which is usually all you see if one flashes like lightning past you.  To compare to the one I did as a demo, go to my 24/5/13 post.

Break Time, Scarborough Beach

          Pastel on Pastel Card, 15 x 23 inches

This is the last Pastel painting for my Beer exhibition.  Riding on a donkey on Scarborough beach is a traditional thing for children, which the placid creatures bear with great fortitude!  This was break-time for the owners and the donkeys themselves, with their snouts in their food bags (the donkeys that is), while the couple read the paper.

Looking into the sun, I felt the backdrop of the tree-clad hill really lent itself to the Pastel medium, with lots of highlight halo-effects. I liked the gap between the animals to let the eye explore the rest of the painting, and placed a strolling couple just off centre so as not to arrest the gaze.  I particularly loved the reflected pure sunlight glinting off the roofs of the hotels. There was scaffolding around the lovely building on the right, but I kept it in because I liked the gorgeous Viridian tarpaulin.  I'm easily pleased - sun shining through a tarpaulin does it for me... 

On another note, I learned that all four of my marine paintings submitted for the RSMA Annual Exhibition made it through the digital stage, ie, the selectors looked at photographs of the paintings and want to see them in real-life in the final selection process in a week or two.  That doesn't mean that all four, or any, will be selected for the exhibition, but at least it's a good start!  The same happened in last year's ROI and not one was selected in the final analysis, so I'm not counting my chickens just yet - very subdued excitement!  Just to quell any disappointment, Peter Brown, just one of the very best modern (not 'contemporary' - that conjures up installations) painters, got all three of his submissions for the Threadneedle exhibition rejected - completely astounding to me!                                                    

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Big Sky over Beer Cliff

    Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 27 inches

Another big Pastel for my Beer Exhibition, this one was as much about the big cumulus clouds as the chalk cliff itself, and I felt Pastel was the medium to tackle it in.  This view is only visible from the beach at low tide, standing amongst the slippery, bladderwrack coated rocks and pools.  The dots of people and boats on the shingle beach gives scale to the cliff.  I was going to cut the sky off just above the treeline to make the cliff look majestic, but the bright blue sky high above the clouds made the humans appear just insignificant dots, which is what we are when we look above us!