Hi, and I hope this finds you well!
It has been quite a while since my last post, for a number of reasons.
I have long been in the delightful throes of selling/moving house, and this is still ongoing. We’ve now moved out, but have yet to move in again. I am heading northward though, with a destination fully planned, but until it ‘happens’ experience has taught me not to dare mention its name!
Anyway, I have quite a few pictures to show you. Below are the best from any painting outings I’ve managed over the last few months. First are my most recent, during a camping trip (part of my temporary accommodation) to Cumbria. Photos were taken on my phone camera, which always bleaches away the very pale tones to almost nothing (anyone who views my Instagram always sees such images, which is a bit annoying but I can’t successfully adjust for it).
This painting was accompanied by a feeling of real inspiration. As I found my spot the light was great, the subject was great and I was totally up for this. I was also up for attacking the painting with absolute abandon, so my most direct approach, totally gung-ho intuitive and spontaneous. As is most common with that situation, it was a very enjoyable process, bold, going with the flow and experimental to a degree, and it led to a result where I was quite happy with much of it, but not all. The light effect was continually changing, as is to be expected in the afternoon at this time of year and especially somewhere like Cumbria. Sun is mostly pretty low now and likely to hit clouds and maybe not come out again for quite some time.
Early morning light giving warmth to this tree and, at the time I started, the sky and very thin cloud that was beyond.
This was a short walk down the very straight (Roman) road, from my campsite. Always a tricky and quite a delicate operation, I find, to capture sunlit (as opposed to backlit/’contre jour’) scenes. I did actually prefer the tree from the other side, but when I arrived at the scene the sun was almost directly behind it and everything was just black and white, and blinding. The tree shape was even more distinctive from that side, and I did intend to return to do that view, but in the end my opportunities were scuppered by rain.
I’ve been experimenting a bit with using my Cobalt Turquoise more, particularly in greens. I could easily see the colour in gorse, from certain angles and in one light.
I love being in this kind of habitat. I had to walk/wade quite a distance to find this spot, avoiding bits of bog in places, and then the easel needed setting on quite a slope in order to just about get the view/composition I wanted. Gorse around my legs too. Many a fashionable easel would have been hopeless in this situation (and many situations I find myself in), but this easel really is a trusty friend.
The light really didn’t last as it started, so this was for long periods not so much observed as fictional. I really can’t be sure about the result. I love tackling this kind of subject and find it inspiring. But at the same time in fact I’ve not painted it very much, at least not for a long while, so there are real challenges in it being a fairly ‘new’ subject for me. I ended up doing a lot of thinking and standing back for this one, and walking fully away to clear my eyes.
After being virtually stuck in the tent for a few days due to bad weather I eventually got back out early one morning to Bassenthwaite Lake. I’ve been to the Lake District many a time, but never to here. There was a bit of sun poking through when I set off but again more or less gone by the time I set up here. The view, with Skiddaw at the back/left (the top lost in cloud, as usual!) was a bit flat in the gloom, so I was really glad to have some people that I could use to create more interest. The painting was really quick and spontaneous. A bit half-inspired really, and I thought very crude in places, but at least I don’t think I overworked it. Actually I seemed to be having a more than average bit of bad luck in the painting from the outset, to be honest, but also making a few stupid mistakes/decisions, too. Still, I managed to stay present and the whole visit was really enjoyable, especially due to some nice chats with several groups/couples. And some good laughs amongst a group of first-time paddle-boarders. They fell off quite a bit and we all enjoyed that. The ducks seemed to laugh their heads off with perfect timing!
This was too flipping windy. I liked the idea of this scene. The road winding away into the distance reminded me of a few James F-W paintings of Scotland I recall. And I haven’t done such a scene before. I planned to ‘enhance’ some of the hills and other features just slightly, and was looking forward a lot to that sky! It wasn’t to be, though. Went wrong quickly, the light changed utterly and the easel and palette were getting buffeted around in strong gusts. Never mind.
Below, see this useful tip! – a type of tent/gazeebo/tarp peg (shaped like an elongated squared-off ‘n’), which worked well hooked over the foot of my front easel leg. It didn’t lift up after that. Now a regular in my rucksack!
The river Avon here is just off to the right. A damp morning. When I started this there was a really atmospheric mist or haze, but it lifted very quickly. I wish I’d got the sky just a tiny bit darker all over, but it’s a very fine margin. Too dark would have been no good (actually I think the sky IS just a touch darker in reality than it looks in the photo, though this one wasn’t taken on my phone).
Done the same day as Kelston Tump, this was afternoon and an adventure into an area I’d not been before. Out on the North Somerset levels, and requiring a bit of a walk from the nearest place to park a car. But I’d planned to go further. In the end I did like this challenge, especially the idea of some fast cow painting. They hung around just long enough. Quite a similar placement of largest tree as in the Kelston painting!
I’ve done a few additional outings of course – with poorer results – and I thought I’d show a couple of those. I really wasn’t in the mood, for some reason. The subject didn’t grab me, at least not that day, and in the end I just stopped without exactly finishing. Well, it wasn’t really going anywhere very different. Sometimes I plough on even when I’ve entirely lost faith with the painting because it can still be good practise even if the result can no longer be successful. Occasionally I just know that I’m not being present enough for it to even be good practise. And I’m not trying enough and I just can’t force myself. It happens, I find, especially when there’s a lot on my mind that seems more important. And painting when tired is usually pretty pointless. (Someone will like this one best!)
A quite nice but at times frustrating visit to this great subject. Not happy with the painting. A tricky one, but we can always say that. There was some smoke from a farmer’s fire rising nicely behing the right-hand edge of the abbey. But I made such a mess of other parts that this subtlety doesn’t really work in the context.
I had planned a different composition, from the other side of the river. Unfortunately, according to my OS map it is clear that the farmer there has blocked off a public right of way entirely. This doesn’t look like a legitimate Covid restriction measure, by the way. Further up another path I discovered another (attempt) at a blockage to the area I wanted to get to, which I was able to get through. But again, just beyond it is clear that for a long time the public passage has been closed off. I assume no one local or anyone else has put up a fight about this, and if we don’t then we lose our footpaths. Sad, and to me very annoying, but I’ve encountered it plenty of times before.
A day that it nearly rained but just held off, at least while I was painting. I fancied doing a fairly distant view of the village buildings, so that I could actually give a sense of the large grassy areas that define the feel of the place. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a photo of the scene with easel on this occasion.
A really nice subject from various angles, which I only discovered recently. I saw it from about 10 miles away, poking up above the coastal flats near Clevedon. Sadly though, its ‘private property’. Well, this is England. I won’t go on. Getting the best views were very difficult, in fact I am straying off the official path here, but I did see some dog walkers doing the same. I stopped at the gate with the no nonsense sign. Apart from a couple of brambles this afforded a reasonable composition. As per the tree in Cumbria, when I began this the main subject was fully sunlit, which is a challenge. And all the foliage merging as it appears to is also difficult. As I started the priory tower was no darker in tone than the sky beyond it, being a pale stone colour and in full sun. So I aimed to counterchange that a bit with blue sky behind it, though that then came out a bit paler than I’d intended! (Again a fine margin though, as too dark would be no good either.) So, at the end I pulled out the old cloud shadow ploy, just coming over the top of the tower. I think it just about worked, and helped. The soft edge at the bottom of the shadow was important, as doing this can easily just end up looking as if the tower has a darker stone just at the top.
COURSES FOR 2022! Now booking –
Brochures have arrived for my painting holidays/courses next year at both Big Sky Art (near Brancaster, north Norfolk) and Dedham Hall on the Suffolk/Essex border.
Please join me for a great experience of painting, learning and BEING at these superb venues, both renowned for their hospitality and locations in inspiring surroundings. I’ve written more details about the courses on the relevant Courses/painting holidays pages of my website. Please click the link to discover more and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like a chat about any aspect of course content, locations, suitability for you, etc. These are, for the most part, plein air-based painting adventures, as per all my residential courses. Weather permitting, of course.
Well, I will be continuing to get outdoors painting as far into the Autumn as I can. Next time I post I hope I might even be in a new home. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook there should soon be some coastal painting appearing, which I am excited about. This will be a new challenge for me, and of course a pleasure. I’m looking forward to figuring out better how to paint rocks, sea, sea birds, harbour scenes and beaches. Just as well I’ve had a good bit of practise in high wind this year, perhaps!
Take care and all the best,