I hope this long-delayed blog may come as a welcome distraction, from more important things. It has been months, again, since I last blogged, so there’s quite a lot here.
I hope you are well, or ‘bearing up’ under life’s pressures, anxieties and the practical difficulties of the times. I think it helps to remember that we are at least not alone with these issues. In this blog I have paintings to show, of the new landscape in my life, and some upcoming ventures to mention which I hope may be of interest. I also share some of my strategy on the topic of Colour (ever popular subject!). So, here’s some distraction…
I now live (or ‘stay’, as they say round these parts) in ‘the East Neuk of Fife’, Scotland.
Getting here really has been difficult! In all honesty one of the most testing periods of my life, hence no recent blog, amongst the many other things that need attending to. But I have had chances to begin exploring the landscape and nature around my new base, which is what it’s all been about. To me the notion of ‘home’ seems not to be linked to place, but rather to a feeling, of being at ease. I know many of us experience this most when out in nature, connecting to those bigger things that we are just a tiny part of.
This was my first actual painting done in Scotland. Hannah and I were staying in the village/’toun’ of Anstruther. We ended up living ‘out of suitcases’ for months. The first opportunity I got to paint out was literally a bit late in the day, so the sun disappeared below the buildings when I was only half way through this very speedy capture. But I felt really desperate to paint. Was inspired by this new place and that lovely sea air. I had to just get out and see what happened. Who cares!
Sun almost down after just drawing out in pencil. Late September. The beach to myself! Actually, it’s often almost that.
Although we are only beginning to get our bearings in many ways, I have pretty much trodden the coast path of the East Neuk now and know the layout of all the villages along it, taking as always far too many photos along the way. There are so many paint-worthy picturesque or totally wild spots, with inspiration from nature, history, sea air… And all the evocative bird calls. I find it an inspiring atmosphere. And full of new painting challenges, particularly in conveying the sea itself.
Inland this area is pretty intensively farmed, and I think I will miss the numbers of old trees that I was used to in the west country (though I’ve been noting ones here to return to). But in terms of the landscape it was the coast that we wanted to come here for, and despite the comparatively low number of trees and hedgerows there is still more birdlife here, which certainly helped us decide to make the move.
This was the next painting I did:
Crail is now somehow my home village.
I was lucky one October morning to have a still, sunny and warm couple of hours when I arrived here and it was idyllic. The painting is left slightly unfinished, as the tide came in and was at my feet. I am resisting putting the ever-present coastal birds into all these paintings. IF a painting can work without them then I like to try not to rely on them – for atmosphere, compositional assistance and other things they can add. You can waste birds, you know. But they’ll definitely be in some! In fact I hope to paint pictures that are of and about them. Anyway, on this particular morning I think they may have all taken some time out to sunbathe.
And here are a couple of shots from up at the harbour. So many good compositions here, and come Spring I’ll definitely be getting down here again with the easel. The only question is, where to put it first time?
Before we go further a brief mention of things I’ll discuss next time:
- Price reductions! Look out for a bargain – Check the prices in my galleries, as these are gradually being reduced in the case of older paintings to LESS THAN HALF PRICE, and P&P is still included in the price.
- My ‘virtual plein air’ Zoom demonstration/talk for art groups and new presentations with the titles ‘Composition’ and ‘What Matters Most?’
- One-to-one and small group Plein Air tuition
- Workshops at Sandpiper Studio in March and Dedham Hall course in April.
- International Watercolour Masters Exhibition in May. I am now booked to demonstrate at this fantastic global watercolour event (including being televised on the SAA’s TV channel), at 11am on Tuesday 24th of May. All of the above are booking now.
Back to recent paintings, and this one features a family of three trees from a busy road verge just inland from where we were staying at an airbnb. (I am reminded of the very kind owners of School House airbnb who put up with us for so long!)
There are some great characters (trees) around the area, even though they are a bit few and far between. These ones I will revisit, particularly since I later discovered a better angle from which to show off their personalities. This was a dull and cold day, before and after rain, but I had to get out there.
Just up the coast from Crail, this big rock named ‘The Castle’ might be one of my new muses.
I want to be able to paint sea well, and rocks, etc. Then there’s the sky as ever, and for me these should equal the kind of scene I want to evoke. But I do feel in uncharted territory currently. It is not a bad feeling at all though. We need new challenges, and ones that inspire us. The water, like the sky, is alive. It moves and needs us to create our ‘impression’ or interpretation of that key aspect of its nature. How to do that my own way? Well, I look forward to that gradual process of discovery. This is being a painter. I was full of a feeling here of not being bothered about the outcome, which is to me how it should always be. It may not look experimental to others, but in some ways in terms of my approach it was.
I’ve been out a few times which I’ll not show the results of, and this one I am hesitant in showing. The subject is a tempting one, especially with the wonderful setting sun and clouds, but this result is just a bit of a cliche. It’s a fine line, so I’ll try again one day.
This one was done as a demo during a morning one-to-one plein air session with a new local student. I never have high expectations for my paintings in such a situation. It’s always about the learning/teaching, and in demonstrations I’ll usually do certain things to make a learning point, often deliberately exaggerating or doing some things I’d actually never quite do in the specific context. But I was quite happy with this result – a nice surprise. Again, we just about finished as the tide was at our boots but this is another great spot to enjoy a bit of plein air action, don’t you think? Pittenweem (love that name!) is another of the picturesque historic fishing villages of the East Neuk. Its harbour has some interesting architecture and more working boats than most of the other villages.
This spot is also great when the tide is in, with the buildings reflected in the water. Or contrastingly, on a stormy high tide those exposed fisherman’s cottages (some now holiday cottages) are right up and personal with the crashing sea (hint: great atmospheric place to stay when you come to visit to do some painting tuition with me!! 😉 )
A note on the weather
This was late October, and who said the weather was cold and horrible in Scotland? This area has its own micro-climate. One of the sunniest parts of Scotland, it has less rainfall than Bristol (my old home city, in England’s southwest) by quite a margin. A couple of other Met Office facts, it’s on average about 1 degree colder in winter and 2 degrees colder in summer than Bristol. The latter of which I’m very glad of! Half hour less daylight in the morning and in the evening (at dates of extremity) in winter, and the opposite (longer days) in summer. So, if anything a little bit more chance for a plein air painter during summer days.
Another special location just a twenty minute drive, this was in November, and so the sun by now doesn’t get very high. Barely a breeze. I’ve been here a few times just walking, enjoying the sea birds and atmosphere of the rocky and sandy inlets around this headland. One time I was down on a beach and there was a bagpiper somewhere nearby, playing into the air. And there was a wedding ceremony at the Ladies Tower by the look of it.
The whole area around this scene is perfect as a teaching location for a painting holiday/course. The lighthouse, a few different beaches and Elie itself are all just a brief walk away. An East Neuk painting holiday is something I’m planning for the future, once I know well enough the very best spots for each tide and sun/shade scenario (and parking, toilets, lunch venue…etc!). I will need a year at least of painting experience around here before that.
One of many paintable churches of the area, perched up like an icon above the village of Kilconquar (pronounced “Kinnuker”, so I’m told). A cold day in mid December. Twice as I was painting this, passing van drivers stopped to express a positive word out of their windows, which was nice. A necessarily fast so pretty rough painting, but I enjoyed it. There was a big flock of crows (or maybe ‘parliament of rooks’) passing over at one point, which fitted with the composition quite well (in this case I DID feel they would help, slightly!). Light was mostly pretty dull, but I took inspiration when a deep cloud shadow fell over the tower. I know I’ll be back here again.
Trees at Cadbury hillfort, North Somerset. A studio piece, from photos taken on a plein air visit last Spring. (The plein air painting from that day features in the article at the bottom of this post. Same pine tree, different direction.)
And the last painting for now, a recent Zoom demo for an art society…
Zoom tuition: Thank you for bearing with me while I was without a studio during my long move to Scotland. With our possessions (including my web cam) now back out of storage this has now resumed. Please get in touch if you are interested in learning with me, one-to-one, in this way.
Okay, I’d better wrap it up here.
Thank you for your continued support. I hope we can connect in some form again this year, and wherever safely possible, in person. Wouldn’t that be nice? A bit late for ‘Happy New Year’ maybe, but here’s hoping it’s a better one!
I’ll leave you, see base of this post, with one of my recent magazine articles (thank you to the Society for All Artist’s ‘Paint’ magazine) on the subject of colour. People ask me about colour perhaps more than anything else. This article contains some fundamental points. I also contributed (along with a few other landscape artists) to a blog on the subject of colour for Jackson’s Art. I think this complements the other article well, covering some different points. You’ll find that one at this link:
https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2020/07/02/which-colours-are-on-your-palette-five-watercolour-landscape-painters-respond/ My article here is the third of the five artists featured, so if you scroll down a bit you’ll find it.
I hope these may be of interest.
Til next time, wishing you all the best,
PS: Have you seen that ‘Watercolour Challenge’ is back, on Channel 5? My old palette and a Black Sheep brush had a few moments in the sun a couple of weeks ago, when a former student of mine was on the programme. (You did really well, Ash!)
(Article on Colour below; if you right-click each image and ‘save image as’ then once downloaded the images are high-res enough to be read when you zoom into them.)
I am now available to give demonstrations, workshops or talks at art groups in Scotland (in person) and potentially the north of England. Where viable I will travel. And of course demos are possible ‘worldwide’ via Zoom.
I do intend to continue running annual painting holidays and some other workshops in England, including the ones I have coming up this year (click here for details).
All my paintings are for sale and all are approx 31 x 51 cm image size. Original watercolours only; I don’t sell prints. The new paintings in this and my previous blog have now been added to my Gallery pages where they can be purchased directly, but Please get in touch if you would like to enquire about a painting or tuition of any kind.