Hi and welcome to my September update.
‘Plein Air Painting with Jem Bowden’
… Being the obvious (if self-referential) title for my new Plein Air video which is, at last, now available to buy or hire. Please have a watch of the trailer on my Video Tuition page, from where you’ll also find links to the full film, which is 2 hours 10 minutes long. Alternatively, just click on either image below to go straight to my Vimeo channel for the same result.
I hope you’ll enjoy the video, and apologies for the number of times I’ve mentioned it in production. Things out of my control meant it took longer to complete than I was expecting.
From the studio
I had a bit less luck with plein air painting this month, though managed a couple. But below is a studio painting that I was quite encouraged by.
A farmland scene, though obviously more inspired by the sky! This was from photos taken some years ago on a visit to see artist friend Steve Hall, who lives in the area. A view from a farmer’s gate on a busy road, which was not the easiest or best spot for plein air, but a raised vantage point giving a long view across the landscape and on this day with great clouds sweeping past – a grand display of nature.
I went out for a walk one very damp morning along the river Chew, not too far from where I live.
Initially very misty, it lifted during the time I was out (taking lots of photos) and later I felt inspired to have a go at these trees on the edge of the river and footpath. One of those where the pleasure of the atmosphere is not easy to capture and probably doesn’t make for much of a painting unless you really get it right. Worth trying, though.
En plein air
Quite an eerie place, was this. It was my first time down onto the ‘beach’ at Portishead, which is on the Bristol channel coast of the Severn estuary. To be honest I hadn’t realised there was anything at all there to stand on and explore, which seems strange and I can only put down to having never heard anyone mention it, nor see any image of it anywhere.
I made sure to get there at low tide, and had a long walk around the coast, not finding very much to inspire in terms of composition. That is until I discovered this spot, which I thought worked well compositionally with the large rocks, then cliffs, then more distant headland (and Flat Holm island) all lining up nicely together (well, I pulled the island in a bit). I had to clamber very carefully over a lot of rocks and perch on one to paint.
It was a calm day, sun was out mostly or coming through thin cloud, and it very peaceful with no sign of a human and, less happily, very little apparent life at all. There were a few gulls and cormorants down at the shoreline and I’m sure I heard a lone curlew, which was something. Lots of silt (and silt-covered seaweed) below the tide line, and the only thing moving in the rockpools were things that looked like a cross between a woodlouse and an earwig. Plenty of them. I guess they like silt.
Although a bit eerie if not bleak, I really enjoyed painting this. One challenge of the scene was to convey a sense of scale. I considered making up a figure or two, but that would be to change the real atmosphere of the place. I did put a tiny bird in flight, very close to the highest bit of cliff, so as hopefully to help suggest how wide a vista this is showing, whilst hopefully also pulling the eye into the scene. It’s always challenging to paint a scene of a type of landscape you’ve not painted before, and I’ve definitely not been to many places like this. As a consequence, once done, initially I couldn’t tell if I’d succeeded at all or if it was a total flop. I quite like it at today’s distance, though the enjoyment of painting it always colours that!
This was a lovely spot, but I wasn’t confident I should be there, so a bit hard to relax…
Just off the official footpath, I saw a dog-walker confidently going past this spot (as if locals know the farmer doesn’t mind at all) so I ventured over and when I got there couldn’t resist the scene. The angle of light was a bit challenging, and the fact it came and went with regularity in worryingly grey clouds. Also, my left boot was on the edge of the water to get this composition, so all in all a hastily painted one with a bit of jeapordy factor!
I returned on a fine sunny day to Uphill to paint the church up on the hill there. A stunning location, but it is usually pretty windy, being completely exposed and the highest place on the coast for miles around. Though I often battle through a bit of wind, this time unfortunately it was just too much. I got this far, with considerable difficulty (gripping tightly to everything!) before throwing in the towel. Sometimes you have to be realistic and just hope for more luck another time.
And finally, below, another visit down to Glastonbury, and another one that didn’t work out as a painting.
Painted in mostly full, hot sun throughout (though it doesn’t look like it here at the end) this just went wrong, pretty much from the outset. But I discovered a great composition, which I am now turning into a snow scene for a winter painting project in Leisure Painter magazine. And it was a lovely place to be…
This painting was a private demo during a one-to-one tuition session.
It was a second session with the student, who wanted me to demonstrate a whole painting that featured clouds and trees within a composition. Before this we’d looked at composition in general, and at various techniques for painting clouds of different types and the same with trees.
Finally, here’s another recent commission, of a painting of Pin Mill in Suffolk.
A place well-known to many a Dedham Hall course goer and enjoyed by many a painter down the decades. Being 200 miles from where I live a plein air visit wasn’t possible, so this was done from my own photos from a previous visit, with a fair bit of added artistic licence. The references and artistic licence were discussed and approved with the client, leading to the resulting painting. Please get in touch if you might be interested in commissioning a painting of your favourite view.
All the best for now,
PS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS. Unfortunately, something has now happened to my website and although I am receiving your comments they are not appearing on the blog.
I have tried to fix this. But I need a professional, so it will probably not change any time soon. That’s life, and websites, and being an ‘artist’.
Any assistance gratefully received, though I’ve already spent ages following the advice I could find online, and none of it worked.