In early December we had a prolonged snap of cold weather which started to drain my motivation to do much; even painting. Many days were dark, foggy and sub zero, but the few times the clouds lifted all I wanted to do was get out and walk in sunshine. This image came from one of those escapes. I’ve painted St Thomas’ church before, once plein-air. Below is this sketch which I posted in 2018. I was sat by the canal and turned around to see the tracks in the barley field leading to the church amongst the trees. That is the trouble with getting a decent view of this church – it is surrounded by trees.
On my latest winter walk the trees had lost their leaves and the church was revealed, illuminated in the low afternoon sun. Then, as I came back to my car I noticed the ivy-clad oak partially framing the church. The opportunity was too good to miss.
So the image is somewhat apposite for my last blog before Christmas. May I wish my readers a merry Christmas.
Nothing for a month and then two commissions turn up in quick succession. So I’m a bit busy at present. This is the first one which I am handing over today. It is of a local church close to where the customer lives. He had seen something like this view as he travelled home and asked me to look at it. I’ve painted this church a few times, but not from this angle and distance.
Last week I went over to reacquaint myself with the view. Sitting down the bank by the roadside, with passing cars whizzing past my head, I produced this watercolour.
This is a fairly faithful version of the view. The trouble is the hedge from the road runs right across the base of the church and there were no decent trees or hedges to break the vertical plane. The customer specifically didnt want a watercolour, so I then produced two acrylic sketches which introduced some hedges and created zig-zags to inject energy. The customer had seen another painting of mine and wanted the stylised wheatfield in the foreground, which I had used.
I did one version in a landscape format.
And another in portrait format. The customer originally wanted it in landscape, but I managed to persuade him into a portrait format, which allowed for a greater depth of field and allowed me to increase the size of the church without losing the context.
I must admit that I am pleased with the final piece, as is the customer, and the series of sketches helped in getting to this resolution.
This is the last of a recent clutch of commissions: the village church at Halsall. On the right is what was the village pub – with its old sign, but is now a financial consultancy – how times have changed – and the war memorial is just visible in front of the church.
I originally did this plein air, tucked on a bank out the way, hoping not to slip into the stream as I worked, early one morning. I then turned that sketch into a painting which sold and now someone else has asked for a version. So you may have seen this before as I posted both the other versions.
On the original version I realised I had the church spire slightly out of proportion and by shortening the spire to the correct size meant I could include more of the foreground and shadows, which gives a better lead in. I was taken by the light creeping in from the right – just starting to illuminate the church and gravestones and allows for some nice tonal interchanges. I’ll keep this for a few days and see if I need to do any further adjustments
I did warn you there were more churches to come. These are local country churches. I did a sketch of Halsall Church, above, one quiet morning during the lockdown. Normally the road in the foreground is very busy, but on that morning there were only a few passing vehicles and a couple of pedestrians. Even so, I wedged myself over a wall on the steep bank of a stream and painted into the light. On this version I widened the field of view, to put the Church into context.
This second one is of Sefton Church and I have presented a version of this before, but I wasnt happy with the washes and I felt I had too much foreground at the expense of the subject. So here is a second go. I feel happier with this version.
Anyway, that concludes my ecclesiastical excursions – well at least for now.
Maybe I’m undergoing some sort of epiphany or, then again, perhaps not, but I am painting a number of churches of late. I have a couple more in the pipeline, but this is a completed one.
I had been over to the sand dunes at Formby to do some early morning painting and was making my way back to the road when I glimpsed the church through the chestnut and sycamore trees. I squeezed in under a dilapidated fence and sat and painted the back of the church, though it was the light coming in through the leaves of the trees that adds the punch to this painting and I didn’t do that justice in my sketch. So here is my second go at home, sat in comfort, listening to a spot of Mozart – you can almost feel the sunshine.
I went to Chester the other week primarily to see a contemporary watercolour exhibition, but the person I was with wanted to visit a sculpture exhibition in the cathedral which contained a work by the brother of someone we paint with in a life group. In fact they were dismantling the exhibition when we arrived – I didnt even know it was running – but there were still a good number of exhibits on show by many world class sculptors. Some of the work was displayed in the cathedral grounds and as we were walking through in the sunshine, there were people sitting in the sun, surrounded by the great pillars and walls of the building, taking a lunchtime break. I thought I might paint something from a couple of the pictures I took.
The watercolour painting was also quite interesting, featuring some local artists, two of whom I knew – and the day was glorious for a walk around Chester.
I continue building up some long format paintings for an upcoming exhibition. I decided on doing a couple of local churches. The top one is Sefton Church. It is a view I’ve done before. I sold the first one in an exhibition at the town hall. Later I got a phone call asking for another painting of Sefton church as the mayor of Sefton wanted a present for a foreign visit, but they didn’t seem to like my other views of the church – well I didn’t hear from them again.
The other church is St Marys at Little Crosby, again from across the autumnal fields, but this time there is a little bit more detail as the light is coming from the right.