We have reached the end of our walks, arriving in Sagres in the Algarve yesterday – although it isnt over for us as tomorrow we visit friends near Faro for another few days. Sagres is a fishing port in southern Portugal and here are a couple of old boats sunning themselves in their retirement.
On the way to Sagres we walked along many clifftops and beaches and you keep taking photos as each place seems stunning at the time. In the end realise you have too many views of cliffs and beaches. So here is a painting of some cliffs instead.
Then, after a few miles of cliff you hit a beach and a small settlement and hundreds of surfers looking for the perfect wave. From a distance, and in their wet-suits, they look like the tadpoles that populate my pond in the spring.
And finally, yet another beach nestling amongst the cliffs. The others had gone for ice cream whilst I stayed to paint the scene for you.
There may be more sketches before we return. I have plenty of paper left.
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.
Last week we stayed in a cottage in Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. In the main the weather was overcast, particularly in the morning when I went out to sketch. Towards the afternoon and evening the sun broke through the clouds. Here is a sketch from, memory, of a view I saw as we drove back from a walk in Hawes – another Dales’ village. High on the moorland these isolated farmhouses dotted the road and as we climbed the hill the silhouette of the buildings stood out against a break in the clouds.
I did another version, even more sparsely:
This was at a stage before I started to add detail and ruin it.
Because of the flat light my morning sketches disappointed me. I was also hindered by drizzle and inquisitive cows which nearly trampled over my painting gear.
The middle sketch above shows similarities to the first sketches, except that the building was a small electricity substation. I sat balanced on a dry-stone wall painting it, packing in when a light drizzle started to fall.
I mentioned in my last blog that I was on holiday. We are in the south of England and yesterday I walked along part of the River Cuckmere in Sussex which flows out into the English Channel. This scene, above, was painted when I was close to the end of my walk at the village of Alfriston. In the distance you can see Alfriston Church across the water meadow. The river is behind an embankment in front of the church.
When I completed this sketch I walked up past the church. There is a bridge to cross the river to the right of the church. As I approached the bridge I saw that the river had breached the embankment – this was what was filling the water meadow you can see in the sketch. I had to cross a couple of breaches, knee deep in fast flowing water. Fortunately I reached the bridge without any slippages watched on by a crowd of onlookers stood on the bridge.
You do your best to entertain the crowds.
The second sketch was earlier on my walk, in drier times. I liked the red roofs of the buildings peeping from behind the trees and the layers of vegetation banding up from the River Cuckmere, up the chalk hill, to the higher ground.
Last week I managed to get out for a sunny early morning session in Lydiate, close to Maghull, a suburb of North Liverpool. From the roadside I spotted this wheat field with lovely tractor tracks disappearing into the distance towards some houses. I found a good spot beside the quiet lane and started my task. Later, a woman who lived in a nearby house came out to see what I was up to. She told me the houses were gamekeeper’s cottages, four in all. This one might make a nice pastel painting- perhaps one for the winter months.
The canal runs through Lydiate, and this bridge – Pilling Lane Bridge – is just around the corner from where I sat doing the previous painting. Perhaps a little too much green – it might be worth coming back in the autumn when the leaves start changing. Still, it was a pleasant hour painting in the morning sunshine.
Cycling back to the car I spotted the ruins of St Catherine’s Chapel set in a copse back from the road. It was built at the end of the 15th century for the Lord of the Manor. A pleasant place to paint in the dappled sunlight serenaded by birdsong. I find painting crumbling ruins difficult at the best of times, and beginning to tire on the third sketch of the day, my mettle was tested and similarly turned into a crumbling ruin. Anyway, it is an approximation of what was there. It might be worth exaggerating the colours of the stones if I were to have another go one winter’s evening.
It has been a busy weekend, a life session and the weather was good enough to get out painting. With the plein air painting, I had decided on the canal, but despite it being bright where I live by the sea, there was thick fog at the canal. So, I headed for the hills, but even up here the fog was clinging on. I was deciding to head back to the coast when I spotted this view and decided to stay on the hill and persevere. I loved the way the layers of background were being revealed as I painted. Maybe one to work up as a larger piece.
As you can see the mist cleared as I worked and was pretty much gone on this second piece. This is an old favourite subject – Aughton church – seen from a different angle as I explored a new path, down between some farmhouses.
Just turning on my stool from the last sketch I saw this intriguing view of a farmhouse obscured by foliage and barley. I was taken by the tonal interchange.
So despite the the shaky start chasing around, avoiding the fog, I got some pleasing sketches. I’ll show the life painting on my next post – bet you cant wait. Anyway, the fine weather’s set for a few days so I might get out some more.
Yesterday we took a walk along the Dee Estuary from West Kirby to Neston. The forecast was promising, but the early part was overcast, as you can see from this sketch – at least it wasnt raining. Here we sat down at the foot of cliffs facing out over the estuary to Wales. As I painted this I noticed that the sandbar I had sketched, just behind the boats, had disappeared. That caused me to accelerate my painting. Not knowing the area, I didnt want to be caught between the rising tide and the cliffs.
I needn’t have worried – maybe I’ve watched too many lifeboat programmes of late. We continued on along the beach, but later picked up the Wirral way – the route of a long defunct railway track. The trouble with this track was that for the most part it ran between hedges and was set back from the estuary, so the views of the river and the low hills of Wales beyond – the reason for coming on the walk – were lost. Also, without sunshine, you didnt have the dappled effects you get from treelined walks.
Later, the day did get brighter, as you can see in the sketch above, and here was a glimpse of the Dee, peeping from behind someone’s sheds. I was able to worm my way between a couple of oak trees to get this view, with again, Wales in the distance.
On Monday we decided to visit a hill called Rivington Pike. It is on the western edge of the Pennines and is visible from where I live in Southport. I’ve never been there before because, even though it is fairly close, the roads to it aren’t direct. So here is a sketch from the top which will save you the effort of scaling it yourself, even though it is only 1200 ft high. This view points to the direction of Southport, but with the clouds on Monday, you couldnt see too far.
Above is the Pike viewed from Southport on a sunny morning from a painting I posted in January. In the first painting we are sat on the purple point at the top on this view.
The strange building you can see on the first painting is part of Lord Leverhulme’s ( Billy Lever of yore – founder of what is now, Unilever) country getaway, built on the side of the hill in the early twentieth century with ornamental lakes, gardens, bridges and a bungalow; somewhere the poor man could wander around and think undisturbed. This strange, incongruous tower was built for ornamental pigeons and doves that roosted on the first two floors and as a sewing and music room, for his wife, on the top floor. Whether he locked her in there wasn’t revealed. That may have been what he was thinking about – where he had left the key.
When you descend from the pike you go through Lord Leverhulme’s Folly and into a country park. In this park I was taken by the lush, verdant greenness enhanced by the sunshine. I thought that I would pause and paint the path leading down to the carpark. However, once I got started the clouds came over and ruined the dappled effects created by the sun and foliage and trunks of the oak trees which lined the path. I managed to get some of the shadows in on this one.
With a fine morning forecast for Tuesday I checked the maps and headed for some lanes I had not visited before. They were behind the small village of Haskayne around six miles from where I live in Southport. I had no idea what I was going to find to sketch. The first subject was a rickety footbridge over a drainage ditch. I liked the way it was partially in shadow and the intriguing view between the branches into another field. Nothing much, but it was a pleasant way to sit on a sunny morning, listening to birdsong between the silence – this time without the passing crowds.
I eventually found a second subject – a magnificent tree standing serenely alone in a wheat field with the morning sun illuminating its trunk and leaves. It had the shape of an oak, but the leaves seemed to be fine like an ash, I couldnt get near as the foreground grass and plants covered a deep ditch.
I had to get back early as the plumber was coming to sort my boiler out – but it was pleasant few hours on a sunny June morning.
Having spent the last couple of weeks completing four commissions, I needed to let off some steam. I had some images of jazz players and thought about combining them into a painting. I intend to do the final version in acrylics, using liquid acrylics to get the effect of the watercolours – but watercolours allowed some easy explorations. The theme is still developing and I’m considering putting in further additions, so these are first steps. My initial one is below, then I decided to add a bassist.
Knowing me I will end up with a full orchestra for the final piece.