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 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.
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.
Another canal painting. I liked the dark form of the narrowboat melding into the bridge in shadow. There was also a lot of foliage and I tried applying paint to sprayed water to get lost and found edges. It took a few goes to build up the volume. Because of all the green I introduced some warms to break the monotony, though not too much as the subdued colour range pulls out the central figure and hopefully focusses the eye on the detail.
There has been much uncertainty and quite a few false starts of late with my painting. I have been wanting to produce some stylised landscapes in acrylic alongside developing the ink and wash paintings I have shown recently. Not much progress has been made.
With the landscape, I couldnt settle on a subject. Then I recalled a wonderful morning I had spent on Cleives’ Hills this summer, with my watercolours, painting some cottages on the edge of the hill. I put the painting I did that day on the blog some time ago and I enclose it below.
I thought I might try this scene both in watercolour and acrylics. So here is the first one, in acrylics, with the cottages and the view of Liverpool in the morning haze in the distance. Fresh off the easel. There may be some more changes to be made, though I think I ‘ve got the punchiness I was after.
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.