This is the approach to a village close to where I live. I wanted to paint it in situ last summer but to get this view I had to stand on one leg with a hedge pressed into my back. So I took a few photos and looked for somewhere more comfortable to paint – perhaps it’s an age thing. The low morning sun coming in over the unkempt field and the row of half illuminated houses appealed to me. So many times have I found the best views are in the most inaccessible of places.
I wasnt prepared for Thursday dawning without a cloud in the sky and by lunchtime it was still cloudless so I decided to get out and do some painting. Unfortunately I hadnt made any plans, so I headed off on a well worn route, hoping to spot something new of interest. This, above, was a view across to farms on the moss with the remains of last year`s bramble and undergrowth in the foreground.
I continued up Clieves`s Hills – the only bump in the Lancahire Plain around here and close to the top, I took the opportunity to get off the bike and sit down to paint this house. I liked theinterchange of light and shade on the walls and the tree just coming into leaf, all set off against the recently tilled soil.
And finally another drainage ditch. Again I liked the light and shade and the way the banks zig-zagged like teeth of interlocking cogs. In hindsight, there is room to play more on the light and shade of banks and I think the water close to the bottom of the painting was wider then I have it which would add to the contrasts. But by then I had cycled twenty miles and was on my third painting – concentration was beginning to sag – but a great afternoon, nevertheless.
We have been getting some decent weather of late, even though it has got colder. On Saturday it was still warm enough to get on the bike and do some more outdoor painting. My plan was to attempt more complex subjects – subjects I would normally attempt in the studio. The one above is of a small bridge over a drainage ditch. I liked the counterchanges from light to dark and back again. In the end I had to to the railings in gouache when I got home – as I didnt take any with me. Whilst the gouache was out I added some stalks and grasses on the near bank. Despite the austere subject it made an interesting painting and might be worth doing bigger.
The next subject was daffodils in a small coppice. The flowers were away from the trees, but I wanted to use the darker trunks as a foil for the flowers. Normally I would use masking fluid, but outside, without any, I had to work around the flowerheads. I find daffodils difficult at the best of times because the yellow isnt a very imposing colour. In hindsight I should have pushed the flowers back further against the trees and used the contrast for all it was worth and, at the same time, reduced the complexity of the background – but that is what sketching is about – working out the best options.
Whilst I sat working on this picture, at the edge of the wood, a hare came slowly towards me. It got to within about 5 feet. I wanted to photograph it, but reaching for the camera would have disturbed it. In the end it realised I was there and bolted off into the woods.
A few fellow bloggers have shamed me by getting out and doing some plein air painting, even in the chill depths of February. So, this week, when the sun shone and the temperatures rose I got on my bike and tried to find some suitable subjects.
So here they are; the first of this year, from around the lanes close to where I live – even managing to get a March date on my sketchbook page. Above is one of the many drainage ditches which run along the lanes and keep this old marsh area suitable for agriculture. This one might be worth working up into a painting.
This second one I have done before, but with the trees in full leaf. The shape of the trees reveal the prevailing winds.
As I work fairly fast I need sun and warmth to get the washes to dry, otherwise shapes just become amorphous and the paint too thick as you put one wet wash on top of another – even tricks like painting the sky, then the foreground and dodging from one dry area to the next waiting for the first wash to dry dont work – and then there was the day that the washes froze on the palette; that`s when I took a vow to stay indoors on cold days. But Wednesday was a very pleasant day to be out in the open.
I did a version of this in pastels a while ago. I regularly go through my painting portfolios in order to cull them and spotted the first version of this and thought I could improve it in watercolour. So off I went. In the end I think it came out a tie. I love the rich energetic foreground foliage illuminated by the low sunshine against the calm river below, pausing before it goes over the weir.
Perhaps it is the trees and their branches on the right which unsettle me. The actual branches did stretch out and disappeared into the sun, but in the painting they seem ungainly and clutter the place. In contrast the group of trees on the left provide a good coda and, as such, maybe I should echo them on the right and let the eye wander down the bank of trees that line the river.
This is the third painting from a recent local walk. The two others I posted were watercolours, but I decided to do this in a stylised way with acrylics. I was taken by the illumination of the ivy on the tree trunks and thought that the potency of the saturation of the acrylic paint would better show this off and the bright reflections off the leaves had the feeling of a mosaic. The ivy clad trunks were in conflict with the bare winter branches which added more incongruity. So here it is – on our way back to the car.
The other two were the Boatyard at Banks and Afternoon Stroll. So in the end it proved a fruitful afternoon`s stroll.
We have been having some unseasonal weather of late in the UK with high pressure bringing plenty of sun and also sweeping up southerly air to warm us all. So on Sunday we went for a walk along the river in the bright warm sunshine. Returning to the car I noticed the hazy blueness of the trees and decided to set this off against oranges and yellows of the fields – exaggerating the colours and putting a toe into the surreal. It reminded me of a recent sketch I blogged of a puddle filled lane.
With great contrast coming from the strong, low sun other possibilities for paintings also offered themselves – so there may be more on the way.
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.
I did this a couple of weeks ago, but it got forgotten in the pile. I was after the smoky blues you get in the still early mornings and did resort to a glaze of blue tinted gouache. Perhaps more foliage detail in the foreground might add to the depth, but there is an understated calm about it which is what I was after.
A couple more sketches taken from photos, but painted in one sitting, quickly as if I was on site. This is a path I’ve been along many times, cycling to work. The photo was taken a few weeks ago when good weather coaxed me back on the bike. I am a sucker for puddles and here they are in bucket loads. It was painted in three main washes. Sky and puddles, then land and the blocks of trees and finally all the left hand trees, house details, shadows and fiddly bits. I feel I went in too dark with the muddy track and that limited my options for building up texture there.
This is an image from late summer and it started to get a bit overworked trying to get the tufts of seeding rosebay willowherb ( I think) in shadow. This one probably needed masking fluid, but as I dont use it in the field I resorted to scratching back with a scalpel to get the delicate fronds of decaying flowers.
If nothing else it was a good exercise should I want to paint a bigger or more finished painting.