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.
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.
Well, the weather has broken around here and my early morning outings have stopped. Here is the result of my last foray on the first day of this month.
It took me a while to find a suitable subject that day and eventually I selected the view on Clieves hills across the fields to Aughton Church which is just outside Ormskirk, With the cottage in the foreground it might be one worth working up in the future.
As I painted I noticed another view to my left with the far hills shrouded in mist.
So when I completed the Aughton Church view I turned in my seat, replenished my water, had another cup of tea and started the view over the valley to the far hills. On this one I think I went a bit too dark too soon but again it could be one to work on later.
And then, as I was thinking that one more painting might round off the morning well, I turned to look up the hill and saw the weather blown trees. I decided to select just a few of these trees which stand high on the ridge and with a second twist of my stool and another cup of tea I started on the final painting of the morning.
Three paintings without moving – so it was a good morning and the cycle ride home was helped by a following wind – what more could you want?
I did these a few days ago when the lockdown was still tight on and the sun came out. This time I ventured off the decking and into the wilds of the garden.
and another one, looking back to the decking and the house.
With the weather set for an upturn this week I will try and venture from out the garden and into the countryside where I will hopefully find something more interesting than last time. Ill post the results whatever the outcome.
I was going to display some more sketches of my garden, but on Wednesday the sun rose early and I decided to get out and do my first painting of the year.
I had decided on the location but on my way I spotted that a mist was coming off the moss and that would have made painting very difficult, so I swerved off beachward and tried to find something interesting to do on the dune belt.
The first were the pines lit by the morning light, above.
Then I spotted this pine on the edge of the woods. I liked the colour of the bark in the light against the darkness of the woods behind,
I had one more sheet on my painting pad so I decided to head towards the sea and sat on top of a sand dune and painted, the admittedly rather mundane, view to the sea.
Not an exciting bunch of sketches, due to the location being forced on me by circumstance, but it was great to get out and just have a chance to sit and meditate for two or three hours in the sun. There was also one advantage of this social distancing – no-one bothered me as I worked – not that there were many out at that hour and location.
Painting opportunities were sparse this week despite the scenery. We walked around Slad, where Laurie Lee (Cider with Rosie) lived but had to dive into the Woolpack – his local – for a cider, naturally, because of the rain. The next day, the sun only started to come out as we left Wells – a fabulous town I’ve never been to before, but it lead to a sunny evening in Bath where we stopped for a meal by the river.
So yesterday morning I took ther opportunity to snatch a couple more sketches of Leighterton before we left.
Being a bit tied up with family issues I just had time to sketch out this portrait of a Cambodian Lady I spotted when I paused on a cycle ride by a river near Battambang – the second city of Cambodia. The light on her face accentuated her features as she squatted by some sugar cane that she had collected. I have a few pictures of different people of southeast Asia I took on my recent travels and was considering creating a small collection.
Another from my early morning outdoor starts. I had spotted this the day before and there was much more tonal contrast when I first saw it. I still like it and there might be scope to work this up into a more finished piece.
Some old cottages spotted across the fields. The power cables in the hedge were a good lead in and I was able to sit painting undisturbed whilst taking in the early morning birdsong and sipping my tea.
Yesterday I decided to join a painting club on one of their summer site visits. I had just joined this club, mainly for the exhibition possibilities, and they sent me their summer schedule which contained some places I had not been before in the area. Marsh Farm was one, and as it was a nice day I thought I would get out and give it a go.
Apart from my old wooden stool falling apart from under me as I painted, it was a good day. Above is the group painting the farm, whilst I sat on a bank by the track – one of the few comfortable places left with the demise of my stool.
This morning I was roused from my slumbers at 5-30 and the sun was shining, so I went out to do some painting. It’s still cold here, but I took some tea to drink whilst the washes were drying and all was well with the world.
This was the second sketch of the day. I crossed the canal and ventured towards Clieves’ Hills – an area I paint a lot.
Here are some earlier sketches I did when we had a warm spell in April. They are up on the Cumbrian Coast in the Lake District. It took us an age to get there and on the way back the car started to do some very strange things. We limped home but it wasnt a happy day.
This is a view of the area as we climbed the hills behind Ravenglass.
This was a view over the River Esk as it comes to the sea at Ravenglass. The gorse was in full flower with bright burst of yellow all over the hillside – though from the sketch above you might think that they were daffodils.