Warm autumn sunshine is too good to waste and yesterday morning I got up, rather later than normal, and went to a place I had spotted when returning from my last local plein air trip. It is of a cluster of farmhouses I have passed many times, but the newly mown field and an opening onto it gave me a different view and the crows also thought the same, between eating what the mowers had missed.
And then turning around, and looking in the opposite direction. I got a contre jour view of some cottages I have painted before, though, this time, with the hedge obscuring most of the view. There was still a slight mistiness which, earlier, may have completely obscured both views, this being a low lying marshy area. So it was a productive lie-in – As I’ve heard say, it’s not the done thing to arrive too early.
We are having a spell of good weather, which for August in the UK is unusual. Unfortunately, with a few commitments, I havent been able to take advantage. One exception was last Wednesday when I dawn broke without a cloud and I was awake enough to get out. These scenes are from the village of Halsall, close to where I live. I have seen this view many times as I cycled to work, but I noticed a gate had been cut into a field which allowed me space to sit away from the road. This was the first view I painted and the dampness and coolness prevented the paint from drying quickly and there is a softness in the image which I quite like.
The next painting was done as the morning started to warm and the edges are much sharper due to the quicker drying. I only had to move a few feet from where I painted the first painting to get this view. I had just set up when two tractors and a wagon waited to go through the gate. The driver who unlocked the gate wanted me to paint him, though his enthusiasm seemed to drain when I told him he needed to take off his clothes.
With the rush hour over and the vehicles away and out of sight down the track you can see, I did this final painting – about 180 degrees from my first painting. Again the edges are much harsher and I can detect a tiredness creeping in.
It was a great way to spend the early morning, sitting contemplating the views, meditating and painting in the quietness of a still, sunny dawn ( well, apart from the brief disturbance of the tractors ) made better by the fact that I had only to move a few feet to get three good views. Then, as an added bonus, I saw a potential scene for another painting on my way home. Hopefully, some good weather will allow me to explore that one fairly soon..
Those who read the text in my last blog may recall I had little hope regarding sales at our latest exhibition, which is now running. Well, the very day I put out the blog this painting sold. I must admit I was pleased with it when I put it out on the blog in October last year, and am still pleased with it. Certainly, enough to give it a second airing.
Here it was, by the chair, but no longer.
I had put it in a solo exhibition around Christmas, but no one seemed interested – despite other sales – and the painting followed me home. I thought that perhaps muddy puddles and broken roads were not what other people wanted, but they certainly interest me, and obviously, someone else.
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
This is from some photos I took last year. Almost a year ago, as the field of bright yellow rapeseed testifies. Here a view of the Leeds to Liverpool canal and one of its many bridges in the village of Haskayne on the Lancashire Plain. Makes me itchy to get out on the bike and start painting in the spring sunshine.
Another old favourite – Halsall Church, the village church, which is a few miles across the Moss from where I live in Southport. I did a similar view ages ago which sold. In spring, summer and autumn the church is obscured by foliage and it was only in December that I spotted the view again as I cycled around on a sunny day. The sandstone of the church in sunlight blends well with the winter coats of trees, and in this view I focussed more on the Church. The painting now sits in the window of my framer, hopefully awaiting purchase.
Back at the end of August I set out on my bike one morning to do some painting. The light was sublime and I settled in a field to paint this cottage. I love the way the tree hangs over the lane and the jumble of cable posts stand around like lonely drunks at the end of a party. I posted the sketch I did at the beginning of September and I’ve put it below.
When I came to move on in search of another subject I noticed the row of puddles in the broken road surface. I love puddles and their reflective quality as well as the textures of the broken road surface and the mud and stones stirred up by passing tractors. So I took a few photos.
This may have a ring of familiarity. I did a similar painting en plein air and posted it a few weeks ago and decided it would make a good subject for a long format painting. I liked the lane on the left leading into the cluster of buildings in this hamlet and the long fingers of shadow extending into the sprouting barley.
The Saracen’s Head is the name of the pub and restaurant you can just see on the right. Using a zoom lens I was able to stand on a bend and get a view of the canal as if you were approaching in a narrow boat.
The pub is quite a good place to eat and, according to my mate, the fishing isnt too bad around here also, as he is often to be seen on the other side of the bridge that you can see up ahead, sitting with his rod as he passes the hours.