Monday, 31 August 2015

River Derwent in Borrowdale

Oil on Board, 18.5 x 27 inches

Phew, finished this one at last...I submitted it to the ROI after working on it until 3am on Friday morning!  Didn't finish it, but felt it was far enough along for the committee to judge whether they want to see it in the flesh for the final selection.

Usually, I say to any audience when I'm giving a demo, that the water in any painting is the simplest passage to paint, but in this case, it entailed an intense period of concentration, with three elements to intertwine - shadows across the water, reflections and the stones on the riverbed. Whilst very tricky, it was an enjoyable battle royal to try to give the illusion of the transparency of the water. 

The fastest passage of the painting was the bank on the left foreground with all those tufty, lumpy tussocks of grass, depicted with my 1" decorator's brush - yummy! 

A painting like this, looking into the sun, with a lot of darks in it in the form of shadows under the far bank and dark, silhoetted rocks, can look very contrasty if you don't pay attention to the colours and tones within the darks - there is no black in the darks, and I don't possess a black in my armoury. All the darks in this painting are mixed from Cobalt Blue with Permanent Rose and Cadmium Yellow - at the risk of being repetitive, the same three colours I use for all my paintings. I used a tiny bit of Burnt Sienna in the mix for the darks on the nearer right-hand bank and the left bank and the rocks, but really the use of the thre primaries gives a lovely range of cool purpley darks to warmer browny darks.

There's such a lot going on in this painting, and there may be too much depicted for some people, but it's the way it comes out for me, regardless of whether I paint in the studio from reference photos and memory, or en plein air. I adore the economical looseness that so many of my friends and revered colleagues employ, but as my friend and fantastic wildlife painter David Cowdry said the other day in a comment on my Facebook page, " Its often all those little details that we love about the landscapes we live in, and to put them in, I think, is to show just how much we love all those intricacies of the natural world. I'd love to paint looser too but I just can't help myself." That encapsulates it in a nutshell - I love all those little bits of detail in nature and to put them in is a joy and a celebration.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Winter Woollies

Oil on Canvas, 20 x 27.5 inches

This one isn't for my Devon exhibition, yet, but for submission to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) annual exhibition. The ROI is a very tough nut to crack and my tight work is generally not in favour among the powers that be, so I'm not expecting anything, but I like to keep trying. Bouquets from the public and buyers is wonderful, and a validation of what you're doing is right, but it's always an ego boost when your respected peers recognise you.

Anyway, I enjoyed painting this one from reference photos taken back in January this year. Snow transforms the landscape and seems a million miles from the verdant greens of late summer - especially after the downpours of late. An awful lot of my 1" decorator's brush was used on this painting, especially on the trees and hedgerow. I like dragging the well-loaded brush over a sticky underpainting to give that broken effect of disappearing snow.

Painting sheep in their sunlit Winter garb is a joyful challenge too - there are SO many subtle warm and cool colours in their woolly coats. I also liked the touch of warm orange in the last leaves in the scrubbery on the right amidst a sea of predominantly cool blues.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Axmouth Harbour

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

This was yet another demo painting I did for Sundon Park Art Group in Bedfordshire last week, duly tidied up and finished back in the studio. It will be another one for my Devon Solo Exhibition in November.

What really tickled my fancy was the brilliant, pure sunlight bouncing off the water, with the stark silhouette of the building and harbour walls. To achieve the illusion of pure sunlight, with Titanium White being the lightest, brightest pigment in the artist's arsenal, I had to play close attention to the tones of the bright, sunlit clouds, none of which were as bright as the light on the water. If you squint at the painting (which is what you should do when you're out painting to see the tones), you can see that the sky is creamier and peachier in colour, and a touch darker than the reflected sunlight on the water. 

I always say in my demos that the water is the easiest part of the painting - not so in this case, with the surface very much wind-ruffled. Much layering and close-tones were added with a brush, with some dragging of pigment across with a palette knife. The sunlit highlights were also placed in mostly with the knife, using the drying, sticky underpaint to grab the Titanium White. The masts of the boats were placed in carefully using the edge of an old credit card. I also enjoyed placing in the red buoy in the foreground, with the sunlight piercing through it, making it appear translucent - lush!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Autumn Sunlight, Brancaster Staithe

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

Brancaster Staithe is a brilliant place for artists - lots of old sheds, boats, fishing paraphernalia, mud, marsh, posts, rocks - all wonderful to paint. With bright early morning light flooding the scene, there was plenty of contrast with light and shade abounding throughout, yummy! I love painting wet mud, using a palette knife to drag darker spots over the sticky paint underneath - very tactile. For a change, I employed an old credit card to spot in the masts of the distant boats - very tricky with a rigger, or any brush for that matter, but using the card with ust the right amount and mix of paint, I found I could place them in with minimum fuss.

This is my third and final painting submitted for the RSMA Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. I was a little dismayed to get a call from my usual courier on Wednesday night when I was giving a demo in Bedfordshire, to check that it was okay to pick up my three paintings to take to London in the morning at 7.30am... Thinking he would be collecting them on Saturday morning, none was framed and I knew I wouldn't be home until 11.30pm at the earliest, gulp.  So, working until 2.45am to get the frames painted and waxed, varnishing and fitting the two paintings I had finished into them and taped up, labelled and the relevant paperwork done, I managed four hours sleep that night! 

Disappointed that I couldn't submit the third painting allowed as an associate member of the RSMA because it wasn't finished, I was thrown a lifeline - on speaking to my colleague John Lines about having some new work from him for the gallery, he said he was going down on Saturday to take his and some other work down to the Mall. So, I managed to get this one done, and paint the frame and whizz it over to Rugby to give to John to take for me, phew!

I spent half an hour with John, one of my very favourite painters, 'talking shop', and collected a new painting of his for the gallery. He is a genuinely lovely, warm man, and a brilliant artist and someone I would rank as one of the very finest landscape painters living today. And it was refreshing to see that his studio was as messy as mine, too!  Have a look at the painting I collected from him at and after 10.15 today, Saturday on the gallery website at

Monday, 10 August 2015

Ready for the Day's Fishing

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

Beer again this one - another for my exhibition in November. The fishermen gather at dawn and clamber onto the old boats skippered by the regular chaps, and go off before all the tourists come to the beach and collar the deck chairs. 

A good cloudy sky with breaks in it provided the perfect senario for the light effect I wanted to capture, with the foreground boat moving across the brilliant shaft of pure, reflected sunlight on the water, yummy! I love that point where an object is almost obliterated by sunlight and even more in trying to portray it in paint - it makes for a dramatic light effect and gives an otherwise plain and tranquil subject real impact to the eye. I hope, at least...


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

November, Midday, Mousehole

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

Phew, this one was one of those I really wanted to paint - one that fires the artistic juices - so I earmarked it for one of my submissions for the 2015 Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries in October. Why phew?  Because it was one of the most complex subjects I've ever painted, with SO much going on, so it was actually a relief to get it finally finished after days of toil, repainting passages to correct the subtle colour shifts, especially in the foreground wet sand.

The hook was the sunlight bouncing off the rooftops that were angled to catch the pure glare of the sun. But to paint the rest of the scene to satisfaction, ALL the rest of the cottages, and all their windows had to be painted. I did my best to suggest rather than paint them all, but it's no easy task nonetheless. The all the cars parked on the road up the hill, then the boats, all parked at jaunty angles, and all the other little incidentals too numerous to mention.

I truly admire and revere artists who can suggest such detail without actually depicting it!  

I took three photos along the journey of this one too:

The rough in with the main players loosely drawn in with thin paint and the reat of the shapes scrubbed in.
The sky suggested and some work done on the lit roofs and the backdrop of trees and rocks.
The houses and hillside mostly finished and a start made on the boats and harbour wall, before painting in the wet foreground sand with all its sparkle and radiating ropes which were mostly suggested using an old credit card.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Glassy Nene

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I found this on a shelf the other day - it was a demo I did sometime last year, to whom I can't remember, but it was worth tickling it somewhat, so here's the finished result.

It's the River Nene (pronounced Neen or Nen, depending where you come from) near Peterborough in April. The obvious focal point is the lone Sheep that had come down for a drink, but hopefully, the eye travels on a slow journey along the glassy expanse of water, around the bend and back through the blue gap in the trees on the right to the Sheep.