This painting was from photos taken last summer when I visited Glastonbury to film a demo for my plein air video. That was done further down this narrow road on a footpath through fields to the left, following the river Parrett. Even from this spot a 45 degree turn to the left gives a great view of the tor from the south. Most of the best views of the tor are from the south/southeast/east and to some degree southwest. All of which means it tends to be sunlit (if there is sun) rather than backlit. There are one or two exceptions, involving difficult or long walks. Probably the farmers have the best views. Anyway, I enjoyed this painting. It was done the way I try to paint; taking risks from beginning to end. Impetuous at times, which shows negatively in some places, but positively in others.
Big Sky Art (www.bigskyartcourses.com)
Some things the course will cover:
Taking risks/Being free (from beginning to end)
Finding a subject/using it
Observation – nothing more important
Good painting, rather than good paintings
‘Interpretation’ in general (seeing your subject and making it yours)
Importance of tone & getting the darks (and lights) you want
Big brush, speed, prioritise, compromise
‘Dry into wet’
Uses of and control of the soft edge
Counterchange – dark against light and light against dark
Relativity and relationships
Creating interest, impact and dynamism
‘Freshness’ over transparency
Doing something different
Using energy for vitality
Simplifying (sign one corner before you start!)
Range and contrasts in all factors
A whole approach to Colour – limiting number, moving away from literalism and towards liberation. “Any green will do”. (Now we can focus on the rest of painting!)
Analysis & Re-working
Being there, listening to the birds, befriending the wind (and other painters).
Big sky, boats, saltmarsh, muddy creeks… there may be a windmill, beach or church.
Eating, drinking, exploring, relaxing. And actually a lot more than these mere words.
So that should keep us going for a few days (four and a half).
I look forward to helping any and all game students of this horrific and terrifyingly humbling medium! There will be some planned studio time but please note, if weather behaves then much of our painting will be done outdoors. The good news is, the North Norfolk coast usually sees pretty good weather in June.
Plein air demo of Burnham Overy windmill, from my 2018 course.
Wells-Next-The-Sea, grey afternoon.
You may have seen this already, but if you fancy a bit of a ‘big sky and boaty’ warm up, you could have a go at following my demo on youtube, here:
First Plein Air of 2021 !
Cemeteries often have good subjects, since they have a range of shapes and compositions. Quiet, too, so make a good location for those nervous about being seen painting outdoors.
When I arrived here there were a couple of yellow-jacketed men at the other end of the cemetery, eyeing me with circumspection. Quite reasonable too, given my floppy-hatted backpacking, folder-carrying appearance in a cemetery. Turned out that they wanted to explain their own suspicious behaviour to me, since they were about to use a drone to film the cemetery from above, helping to map it for the city council.
Second plein air of the year. This got quite boggy, which reflects a bit being out of the game with regard to simplifying subjects plein air. Though it often happens to me with ‘tree portraits’ as there’s so much I want to capture. Worried too much about getting the tree shape just right, since it was a beauty, but still didn’t! I do find it difficult to paint – in a simplified way – a tree like this. Bits like that low section of trunk with branches coming towards us, especially.
It was a bit disappointing in terms of light. Forecast was for sun, but though it tried to come out at the beginning (which was about 9.30 am) it ended up getting worse rather than better. Still, it’s great to be out on a local footpath somewhere, getting back into the swing of plein air painting.
IWM (International Watercolour Masters) Exhibition 2022
In February I found out to my great surprise that I have won a place in the above exhibition. I entered a couple of pieces and then put it out of my mind, fully expecting not to succeed. The exhibition will feature some of the world’s outstanding watercolourists, so I only hope that when viewed in the flesh my plein air ‘sketch’ (essentially what my paintings are) doesn’t stand out for all the wrong reasons. There are many superb painters in the UK and abroad who are likely to think ‘how did that picture get in’. Well, I don’t know, but I’m grateful.
‘Master’ isn’t a term I ever use. I just can’t see that anyone ever really masters anything, least of all watercolour. If you can still improve at something, then you haven’t mastered it, have you? The struggle or imperfection is always evident (sometimes) in watercolour, even in the work of history’s best. In fact that’s one thing I actually love about the medium; shows our fallibility (= humanity).
I’ll look forward to the exhibition, though I’ll also be nervous about it; not only for seeing the work and meeting some of the artists, but also part of my prize is that I get put up for the night at Lilleshall Hall in Shropshire and a seat at a grand artists’ ‘banquet’! Again I’m very grateful to the organisers and judging panel for the opportunity.
Some other recent (studio) paintings
Chalk cliffs at Lewes, from the river park. From photos taken on a holiday camping in East Sussex several years ago.
This one above was done as a full size, one-hour demo for a Zoom one-to-one student. Done from her own photo, cropped, plus one of mine for the sky. I hope to be able to visit here to do a plein air version of something similar within a year or so.
Sleek Mrs. Black. An oldy. ‘Portrait’ of a female blackbird, which of course are actually brown, but don’t necessarily look brown with a bit of iridescence (or imagination!).
Hope you have a good month and are able to enjoy getting out a bit, soon.
All the best, Jem