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.
As practise for future plein air work I did this quickly on the back of an old painting, so I may not have got the proportions of the hill correct. I had an old photo and pretended that I was sat in a field getting it down with the minimum of washes. I also took the opportunity to jazz up the light at the same time. I was pleased with the result and I think the sky helps; along with ignoring a lot of the detail in the landscape. Its something I need to do more out in the field, putting in just enough detail to capture attention, but not getting bogged down.
I was playing with my pastels, looking at options for an abstract, and turned this pair into something else. Though all the time fighting to keep to the spirit of abstract and not being too descriptive with a view to painting a bigger piece. With the first one I did a similar painting in acrylics some time ago and was pleased with it. The second one, I feel, could be developed by deconstructing it a little and playing the large areas of grey off with the smaller and more intense patches of colour.
I might do a few more, as it happily occupied an hour without any pressure of a result.
It started as a landscape. I was working out different ways to get texture for a beach scene. I normally work at an angle, occasionally vertically, but to increase granulation I had the paper flat and applied the paint unevenly with various warm and cool colours.
When I paint in life sessions I like to work on toned paper – often I prepare it myself. Now, looking at the paper when it had dried, I saw that it had areas of varying tone which could be orientated differently to capture the tonal contrasts of a figure.
I cut out and keep interesting images of figures and faces, with good tonal contrast, to sketch in my sketchbook. So, from the folder I put them in, I plucked out this contemplative soul. So here is an exploratory sketch, keeping the paper flat as I worked. Perhaps I am missing the life groups. I normally work in anything but watercolour at these sessions, but when and if they do restart here, I might prepare some watercolour paper to take along.
Recently I saw a documentary on the artist Maggi Hambling. In one scene she was demonstrating what she does in the studio at the beginning of the day. On a sketchbook page she drew freely in ink, using a dropper.
She was able to create a great variety of marks easily. I have done a lot of work with ink and use an italic nib to create broad and fine lines but this has limitations. Hambling’s approach seemed to offer wider options.
Naturally I gave it a go. Above are some calligraphic doodlings. But having a few watercolours around I was soon adding colour.
On this one above I also sprayed the wet ink with water to create other marks. I used acrylic paint on the one below.
Hambling explained that she might work up these quick drawings into paintings. Unfortunately she didn’t give any examples.
In this one above the brush took over and I finished up with what looks to me like birds in a bush.
I then decided to prepaint the paper and leave to dry before adding the ink. This gave another dimension to the possibilities as you can see above.
Though I must admit I was running out of ideas when I worked on another preprepared sheet.
I have used ink in many life drawing sessions, using a dip pen with an italic nib. It is quite a heady process as once the mark is made it is there for good. I took an old life drawing and copied it to see how the dropper compared to the pen when drawing in a more constrained manner – though I used a brush to add some form to the figure. I must certainly give this a go when life drawing resumes around here.
Using the backs of old paintings I wanted to try and create textured watercolour abstracts that avoided the washed out look that results when working with copious amounts of water to create movement and texture.
I had the notion of rusty metal when I selected the colours for this one. Perhaps more contrasting tones and depth could be achieved by adding even more pigment to specific areas – which was the method I applied to reduce the washed out look I described above in all these sketches.
Well, figuration had to creep in with my background and the ethereal rising of lighter tones hinted, for me, at some spiritual mumbo jumbo, so a few figures were cut into the patterns.
And representation made further inroads in this final piece.
All have the seeds for further development and I will stow them away in my sketch book for future reference. It was nice to play aimlessly and see what developed for once. The main purpose was to maintain a good range of tonality amid splashing and spraying and I think I see how I can achieve this.
Last week I was in Durham and was able to get outside painting on a couple of warm and sunny days. However, the painting above was done at home. I had spotted the subject whilst sketching the dead tree beside the river, below – in fact this view above was behind me as I sketched, but getting the filigree foliage against a smoky forest backdrop needed a bit of thinking through, so I declined the challenge and painted this instead.
In hindsight I should have given it a go. Still, it was good to have an unexpected chance to get outside. The day before I sat and sketched the city skyline into the light.
This was again done on the banks of the River Wear with a curious bull snorting near my back from the field behind me. Fortunately the seemingly flimsy barbed wire fence did the trick and I survived to paint another day as this blog and my final sketch: looking up the hill to the other side of the river – testifies.
With yesterday being the last day of the month – and summer – and clear skies forecast, I packed my rucksack and headed out on the bike. This first sketch was of a cottage alongside a country lane – Small Lane South. The low light was sublime in the early morning.
Despite full sun the atmosphere was cold and it took a lot of waving to dry my paper between washes which slowed down my progress somewhat.
This second sketch was of a favourite subject of mine, Clieves Hills. I was sat on the edge of a wheat field, but the crop looked unusable. It was flattened by the wind and dampened by the rain we have suffered with of late. We might be paying more for our bread next year.
After tramping across dew wet fields, my trainers were sodden, making my feet cold and my arms were aching from flapping my wet paintings in the breeze, so I decided to call it a day. Hopefully we might get some warmer autumn days to get out and paint in a less frenetic style – anyway, at least I got out.
Not much painting over the last few days as we went away to the Peak District near Stockport to meet some of my wife’s friends who were up visiting. We gathered in the grounds of Lyme house – which among other things, was used as a backdrop in a BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.
As the troops gathered I sneaked away to sketch the view of the house from near the main driveway despite it starting to rain in the attempt. Fortunately there was an oak tree to shelter under.
We stayed in an inn on the outskirts of town, high on a hill and I thought that I would get up the next morning and paint for an hour or so, before we set off. When I woke up there was low cloud and drizzle so I stayed indoors and sketched the horses in the farm opposite when they grazed into view.
They didnt stay still for long and it was a good exercise trying to catch them in their poses – something I should do more often. When they disappeared from view I built up the farm which overlooked the valley.
Later we walked up towards Kinder Scout and this was a view of the reservoir I snatched as I waited for the others to catch up. I liked the green sloping field behind the house which jumped out in the sunshine – overworked but a reminder of the day.
I looked at my watercolour sketchbook the other day and saw that I hadnt done any outdoor painting in July. The weather hasnt been very good – well not for outdoor painting, though my lawn has rejoiced in the warm damp weather.
So with a mini heatwave forecast and two days to go, I set off up Parbold Hill. I had noticed some footpaths off the road that go up the hill, but have never explored them. So on Thursday up I trudged with my painting gear. The first painting is on the way up.
Dodging the many dogs that yapped and barked around my feet I got to the top and walked about the exposed plateau, taking a winding footpath through a wheat field. I liked the trees in their lush summer finery and sat on the path looking out over the Lancashire plain. It was as I was working on this second sketch that I realised the tall streak in the distance could only be Blackpool Tower.
As I started back I saw a row of cottages on the high ground above me. They looked like Cotswold cottages. I also liked the gaps in the trees that surrounded them, so I decided to get the paints out again and make the most of my visit.