With a fine morning forecast for Tuesday I checked the maps and headed for some lanes I had not visited before. They were behind the small village of Haskayne around six miles from where I live in Southport. I had no idea what I was going to find to sketch. The first subject was a rickety footbridge over a drainage ditch. I liked the way it was partially in shadow and the intriguing view between the branches into another field. Nothing much, but it was a pleasant way to sit on a sunny morning, listening to birdsong between the silence – this time without the passing crowds.
I eventually found a second subject – a magnificent tree standing serenely alone in a wheat field with the morning sun illuminating its trunk and leaves. It had the shape of an oak, but the leaves seemed to be fine like an ash, I couldnt get near as the foreground grass and plants covered a deep ditch.
I had to get back early as the plumber was coming to sort my boiler out – but it was pleasant few hours on a sunny June morning.
Having spent the last couple of weeks completing four commissions, I needed to let off some steam. I had some images of jazz players and thought about combining them into a painting. I intend to do the final version in acrylics, using liquid acrylics to get the effect of the watercolours – but watercolours allowed some easy explorations. The theme is still developing and I’m considering putting in further additions, so these are first steps. My initial one is below, then I decided to add a bassist.
Knowing me I will end up with a full orchestra for the final piece.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, we are presently experiencing our normal summer; high winds and rain, which I am told is set for the week, but last week there was a brief taste of sunshine. I had the last couple of pages in my old sketchbook to fill and a new one was waiting to get started on – so I needed to take the opportunity..
For the first painting, I chanced upon a little path off the road as I cycled along. I liked the sweep of the path and the tonal range of deep shadows against the ripening barley. As I got cracking a tractor came bouncing down the path, so I had to collect all my belongings and head for the long grass. Anyway, he didnt return and calm returned.
This second one was at the top of Clieves hills and again I liked the deep tonal contrast – and the incongruous speed signs. Just off left are the trees I painted and posted on 18th June.
For this one, above, of the cottages on Cut lane I had to wedge myself into the hedgerow on a busy road. I may have spooked a few cyclists as they caught me in the corner of their eye on passing.
And finally, sat on the verge of a quiet country lane, painting the fields and farm, I was surprised by the number of walkers, cyclists and the odd car or two which passed. These days no-one miders you and they hurry past. I didnt even need to cough.
Back on the bike and into the morning sunshine. This is a cottage on Plex Moss Lane. Further down the lane I stopped on a grass verge and did these farm buildings across the fields,
They had an incongruousness about them – a ramshackle collection of buildings.
A few days later I ventured down another, parallel, lane that crosses the moss and here are (above) some of the same buildings I painted in the previous image: the two buildings on the right of the painting of the farm across the fields.
And finally I love this cluster of buildings, half in and half out of the shadows with posts and cables sprinkled about – although the barn on the right looks like it could be subsiding.
There might be some things worth working up into a proper painting. It’s certainly good to get out again into the morning sun and the cycle ride gives me some exercise.