Last summer I climbed Parbold Hill which is close to the M6, south of Preston. It looks out west over the Lancashire plain towards the Irish sea, amongst other places. This was the view I saw as I made my way back to my car. Earlier I had sat and painted a number of sketches which I posted at the time.
Here is the first one of the day, on the way up the hill.
The trees, in a line in the mid ground, on the top painting, I think are hawthorn trees, though I have never gone to investigate. This line of trees in the centre of the field have always interested me. In 2015 I was painting on the hill in the evening and took some images of the trees and did a pastel from it. Same trees, different angle – again I posted this one at the time. I loved the shadows cast by the trees from the setting sun and so did someone else as the painting was purchased soon after.
Another figurative piece, this time Michael Palin, once part of the Monty Python Team. In the UK he seems to be a permanent fixture of the TV schedules as, after Python, he started making travel documentaries which are being constantly repeated. The number of times I’ve switched on to see him still trying to find Timbuktu – surely it cant be that hard or perhaps the Tuarags have cottoned on to the expenses to be made by leading a TV crew in ever decreasing circles.
Casting around for more figurative practice pieces, I was taken by the good lighting and the way Palin used his hands whilst describing old journeys. So I took some shots of him reminiscing, for once grateful for the repackaging of archive footage – a trick that our programme makers are prone to do to eke out some cheap TV.
As I worked I was taken by the length of his face in relation to its width. It unnerved me that much I had to recheck the measurements.
This is part of the Albert Dock complex on the Liverpool waterfront with the Anglican Cathedral – a subject of an earlier blog – glowering in the background. The pumphouse is now a pub but was built to power the hydraulic cranes used for loading and unloading the ships. It may also have powered the refrigerated facilities at the dock.
The question was whether to include the chimney or not. Including it constrains the painting and reduces the detail. As it has a rather quirky shape I decided to include it all and pay the price. The images I used were into the sun and I tried to vary the colours, mixing on the paper, but as I built up the perspective tonally, the mixes homogenised.
Last weekend in the UK we had a mini TV Bowie Fest , it being five years since his death and, presumably, a nod to his Ziggy classic. I sat on the sofa with a sketch book idly doodling during one of the programmes. This wasnt one of the doodlings, I`m not that fast. After the lead on my pencil had worn down I got the camera out and, later, worked a few shots up in pastel just to do a portrait – I`m not doing much figurative/portraits these days and I thought that it was a good opportunity.
Five years, that`s all he got – well there was some remission for good behaviour.
I have struggled with this painting and have decided to stop and have a rest. Publishing it will allow me to create some distance and ponder. I need the space: of late I have found my painting getting slower and slower and decisions taking longer and longer to make.
This painting comes from an old photo of a country lane near to where I live. I love the incongruous angles of the posts. The photo is below along with marks and water stains made by me.
I wanted to break the image up and decided to do this in a landscape format, like the photo. I did some thumbnail sketches.
And off I popped on a 75x50cm canvas. Before too long doubts crept in and out crept the gesso. Well the gesso came out after I had completed a new acrylic sketch over an old painting, which retained a lot of its original colours.
I thought that this format might be better so then the gesso did come out and I completed the painting at the top of the page. I thought that the notion of the painting being in three parts, with each part slipping past the other, echoed cars on this track having to negotiate past one another. I was reminded of that piece of performance art – Imponderabilia” Marina Abramovic where visitors had to squeeze between the naked artists stood at the only entrance to the exhibition. I apologise that this piece isnt as unnerving or erotic – but then that’s what you get on a Monday morning.
The tower of the Anglican Cathedral glowers over large parts of the city. Here on the edges of Toxteth it thoroughly dominates the surrounding buildings even though it is set back within its wooded grounds. It is most striking when a sandstone face glows in the sunlight whilst its shadow-side displays a thunderous purple- maybe some ecclesiastical message there for us, the great unwashed. Anyway, because of the dominance of the tower, I pushed the other architecture back. I also placed a taxi, blocking the pavement, at an angle to break the verticals. Perhaps it could do with a few figures?
This is a morning view from Churchtown -part of Southport, where I live, – across the flat Lancashire plain to Rivington Pike and the start of the Pennines. As I paused on my bike on a spring morning, I was taken by the lines of trees and buildings enveloped by the morning mist and the crisp purple line of the hills beyond.
I have also been doing a bit of meddling. I wasnt completely happy with this watercolour – Fall – I put on the blog a while ago. I thought that the tree looked constrained and unnatural so I added some more branches and messed up the lines of the foliage, whilst retaining the blue/orange contrast. It took some scrubbing and scraping of the sky area to get back to clean paper allowing me to achieve the transparency and vibrancy of the new leaves.
Hopefully it has retained the freshness of the original version.
At last I committed the recent ink and wash sketches to canvas. From all the sketches, I had an idea of what I wanted to try, but the new surface created a different rheology with both the ink and the paint. The paper I used for the sketches seemed to draw the ink from the dropper allowing for extended lines. This didnt happen on the gessoed canvas and it was hard work creating the flowing lines that I wanted. Splattering the line work with water created far more diffuse effects than I had previously experienced, mainly because the ink sat on the surface and then reacted more dynamically to the water. And before that, the underpainting took a lot of effort to control, particularly on a more extensive surface, so from the start, the colour fields I had wanted were quickly abandoned in the pursuit of simply avoiding mud.
So I finished with this breathless piece which took on a horticultural demeanour as I struggled to control the paint – like herding cats, though at least I wasnt scratched or bitten in the process.
Well for us in northern climes the corner has been turned and summer is on its way, though, no doubt, a rocky (and icy) road lies ahead. So here is a painting of what we’re aiming for. I did this as a pastel a long while ago and wondered whether it would make a watercolour. I love the shadows of the marram grass, the distressed fence, and the way the beach disappears into a hazy blueness. It makes a hopeful change from my recent winter beach scenes.
This is a view of the River Alt as it drifts through the fields of the Lancashire plain. I love this idyllic view which I see as I cycle across the foot bridge over the river. Though directly behind me is a railway bridge and beyond, a newly constructed housing estate. In front, around the bend, the river enters an army camp where it is used in noisy military exercises. Later, it emerges on the other side of the camp and idly sidles into the mouth of the Mersey as the mighty river breaks into the Irish sea spitting out ferries, liners and cargo ships in front of ranks of wind turbines. Here though, in this spot, you forget your surroundings and there is a calm moment of what if and possibility.