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.
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..
Being on holiday at the moment I dont have much to show, so here’s an old painting I havent posted before. I was on a painting holiday in Scotland years ago. It was in the fishing port of Crail. Crail is in the Kingdom of Fife, just south of St Andrews.
One evening, after a days painting, I took a walk along the coastal path from the old fishing port of Crail to Anstruther, another small fishing port. The low golden sun threw long shadows across the grassland and tinted everything in an orange glow.
Later I did this pastel painting of the walk and I eventually gave it to a friend. In fact I am shortly going to visit him at the end of a walking holiday in Portugal, planned for the end of September. He lives not far from Faro. Well. that is if the borders aren’t shut down again.
Those who read the text in my last blog may recall I had little hope regarding sales at our latest exhibition, which is now running. Well, the very day I put out the blog this painting sold. I must admit I was pleased with it when I put it out on the blog in October last year, and am still pleased with it. Certainly, enough to give it a second airing.
Here it was, by the chair, but no longer.
I had put it in a solo exhibition around Christmas, but no one seemed interested – despite other sales – and the painting followed me home. I thought that perhaps muddy puddles and broken roads were not what other people wanted, but they certainly interest me, and obviously, someone else.
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.
Nothing for a month and then two commissions turn up in quick succession. So I’m a bit busy at present. This is the first one which I am handing over today. It is of a local church close to where the customer lives. He had seen something like this view as he travelled home and asked me to look at it. I’ve painted this church a few times, but not from this angle and distance.
Last week I went over to reacquaint myself with the view. Sitting down the bank by the roadside, with passing cars whizzing past my head, I produced this watercolour.
This is a fairly faithful version of the view. The trouble is the hedge from the road runs right across the base of the church and there were no decent trees or hedges to break the vertical plane. The customer specifically didnt want a watercolour, so I then produced two acrylic sketches which introduced some hedges and created zig-zags to inject energy. The customer had seen another painting of mine and wanted the stylised wheatfield in the foreground, which I had used.
I did one version in a landscape format.
And another in portrait format. The customer originally wanted it in landscape, but I managed to persuade him into a portrait format, which allowed for a greater depth of field and allowed me to increase the size of the church without losing the context.
I must admit that I am pleased with the final piece, as is the customer, and the series of sketches helped in getting to this resolution.
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.
I took the opportunity to play around with colour on this painting of a country lane close to Little Crosby. Blocks of discrete colour arranged according to tone. In the shadows it allowed some quite diverse and strange selections which added punch and when completed, surprisingly, looked quite natural.
I was also pleased with the feeling of light I achieved which reflected the the bright summer’s evening with the wheat ripening in the field beyond.
The process is quite time consuming. Normally I can cover big areas with quick brushstokes – but not on this one. The methodology slowed me down and made me consider the placement of colour more analytically.
I added the dogwalker at the end as an afterthought, subsuming them into the landscape as I had been that day, painting in the evening light.