I have an exhibition planned at my framers in December and so I have been going through my sketchbooks for scenes of local interest that I can show. Here is one I sketched back in the summer which I worked up into a painting. The colours were very muted given the mistiness that prevailed, and I have added more to the foreground to push the background back. I might darken the clouds slightly to bring out the sun breaking through the mirk. It certainly did that, as by the time I finished painting that morning, the sun was out and there wasnt a cloud in the sky.
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..
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.
With a new laptop and other issues there isnt much new painting to show you so I am reverting to two old watercolours of the canal sold a long while ago and which have never been put on this blog. The first is a canal mooring in Burscough in Lancashire, close to a long defunct mill which I think they are now converting into flats.
This second is of another favourite haunt of mine at Haskayne, further along the same canal, which is always enchanting on a cloudless summer morning, as this was. Just around the corner there is a lovely canal-side pub, which we used to paint at when I was a member of a local painting group.
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.
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.
This is a morning view from Churchtown -part of Southport, where I live, – across the flat Lancashire plain to Rivington Pike and the start of the Pennines. As I paused on my bike on a spring morning, I was taken by the lines of trees and buildings enveloped by the morning mist and the crisp purple line of the hills beyond.
I have also been doing a bit of meddling. I wasnt completely happy with this watercolour – Fall – I put on the blog a while ago. I thought that the tree looked constrained and unnatural so I added some more branches and messed up the lines of the foliage, whilst retaining the blue/orange contrast. It took some scrubbing and scraping of the sky area to get back to clean paper allowing me to achieve the transparency and vibrancy of the new leaves.
Hopefully it has retained the freshness of the original version.
I posted the first version of this a little while ago and it has since sat in my studio in a tray frame I made for it, but I became aware that the foreground looked a bit timid and tentative and so I decided something had to change.
Out came the brushes and I started scumbling, getting rid of the prissy field break in the lower part and giving the foreground texture. I am happier with this version and having just had an invite to join a mixed exhibition in December ( Covid permitting) along with a solo show at my framers, I have now got a small collection of these stylised landscapes to show.
I`m working on a commission at present so here are a couple of paintings I did a while ago but didnt get around to posting. This one above is from a set of photos taken earlier in the year when it was too cold to paint outside – well for an impatient wimp like me who spends sunny, summer mornings waving paintings in the warm air getting the washes to dry.
I had posted an earlier version of these autumnal birches in our local woods, but decided to have another go. Lots of spraying and splattering, but not much progress. It seemed to go downhill from the start with a pallid sky which I had hoped to to use to accentuate the warm autumn oranges.