With a recent spell of good weather around here I have been out and about sketching in the mornings and afternoons. Above is a cluster of old farmhouses – now family homes – on Clieves’ Hills.

I had hoped for some more interesting beach scenes when I visited the Fisherman’s path at Freshfield – part of Formby- one afternoon. I scoured the area for quite a while before settling down to paint this scene. Maybe I could work this up with the addition of some old fencing or go for a sunset.

Then back to an early morning at the canal near Burscough, last Saturday. Looking across the fields I saw a house in silhouette and thought that it might make a nice study. I think tonally I got too dark too quickly and have lost the sense of depth. This is one of the perils of working contra-jour into strong sunlight. Though it might be worth revisiting, adjusting the tones and shuffling the main players a bit – it could be back.

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My old stomping ground of Clieves’ Hills, outside Ormskirk, was the recent venue for some early morning painting. I liked the isolated tree on the hill opposite with the sun blazing over the woodland. The sun didnt last long and I was treated to hazy light and a chill wind. This painting was done in the studio. The actual sketch is below.

With the lack the sun’s blaze and a chill in the air, I struggled with sketch; nothing dried at this early hour. I also had trouble with tone and hue – but I cant blame that on the weather. The unsatisfactory sketch was the main reason to have a another go in the warmth of the studio as I thought that there was something more in this simple scene that was worth capturing.

I think that the second attempt manages to convey some of the mystery and atmosphere I felt at that early hour.

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I presented a sketch of this recently, but here is a worked up painting. This time I increased the width of the water – so I could depict the browsing moorhens and properly get the effect of the reflections in the water. I also added some foreground flora. The grasses I built up by dropping greens onto damp paper, building up the tones as I proceeded, which gave the effect of light catching the tops of some whilst other grasses were plunged into shade.

It’s a simple picture of a simple ditch, but I think it captures the moment on a still summer’s morning.

I hope it provides a moment of calm to you all.

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After my foray into the countrtryside last weekend, here is a painting based on a sketch from a similar trip last year. I did a second sketch of it the other week, which I posted, but I wasnt happy with it. After walking past the sketch in the studio a few times, I decided that what it needed was sunshine. So I lowered the sun behind the tree and created lots of shadow under them, onto which I juxtaposed long grass. I am happier with this outcome and it does reflect the feeling on that summer’s morning even down to the smokiness of the distant trees.

Hopefully there will be some more days like this to come.

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I posted a version of this – as you can see below – back in March and since April the old version has been part of my show at our pop-up gallery. Last week I got an enquiry for some Formby beach scenes and I assembled a collection for viewing, bringing the old version back from the gallery. The client liked the old version but wasnt so keen on the people in it, so this weekend I set about removing the two subjects and returning some calm to the scene.

This view is probably what I saw at the time, as I added the figures for a bit of focus. It’s always a dilemma as to whether the scene stands up on its own or it needs a bit of support. If you like solitude you certainly have it here and I quite like it – though it wouldnt suit everyone – some like a crowd.

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A week or so ago I was engrossed painting the dunes and beach on a fine summers evening. As I worked I heard voices behind me and, naturally inquisitive, I investigated to find I had sat myself close to a tee on the links course at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. This is one of the premier clubs in the country where they hold the British Open every few years.

I think this is the 12th, I could be wrong, and it looks short enough for even me to get in under double figures. Once I had found the cause of the disturbance I took a few photos and went back to my task.

When I got home I thought that it might make a decent painting so here it is.

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I’ve tackled this more than once before, but always over elaborated the scene by adding people and the like. I thought I’d give it another go and focus on the thing that originally caught my attention: that of the old tree coming into leaf, catching the sunlight against the darks of the buildings.

It was a lovely early summer’s morning on the Leeds to Liverpool canal when I originally painted this outdoors and that first simple sketch has always been a favourite of mine. I never was satisfied with the results when I worked it up into a painting.

This time I think I’ve got back to the focus of that first sketch, even though I had to resort to a bit of gouache to revive some of the leaves on the tree; though not too much. I’m also happier with the hazy hill in the background, which hangs over the village.

The tower you can just see on the right is an old mill, now converted to a gallery by a local artist James Bartholomew – well worth googling if you like animal and seascape paintings.

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Sat alone in the pop-up gallery on Friday, I had time to give a forest scene another go. I wanted more colours to come through with the underpainting and thereby give the undergrowth some more umph, so to speak. The light at the end of the tunnel worked, though I am thinking of a red glaze and a few more darker areas to ramp up the drama in the foreground. It is only as I am writing this that these thoughts occur. Anyway, take a look before it nosedives.

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With a bit of time on my hands I revisited some old plein-air sketches I made ( and displayed on this blog – so they may look familiar.) I wanted to focus on painting without fussing around on detail, building up washes to get complexity and working more wet in wet. Here is a view of Plex Moss Lane with one of the many drainage ditches that run alongside the lanes and claim the inattentive driver. It was done quickly, though the subject didnt allow for too much layering

In this painting ( a view of Clieves’ Hills ) I put a lot more focus on layering. In hindsight I should have had the mid-ground trees lower, as I did in my initial sketch. I was pleased with the apparent complexity it gave, even though this image appears more overworked than the actual painting

Both these paintings were done in a couple of hours each and I am hoping that this approach will also speed up and sharpen my sketching when I get out and about in the coming weeks.

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This was something done to while away the hours at our pop-up gallery last Friday. I had a variety of images of figures and decided to gather them up in a single beach scene. I particularly liked the figures with outstretched arms and put them on top of the rocks (the female figure was balancing on boulders on my source image). The other, bent over, figures helped introduce some balance to the composition.

The day at the gallery was pretty quiet and I managed to complete this painting. I also managed to sell a friend’s painting – as well as some prints and cards. This is the second painting I’ve sold of his in this latest show. Perhaps some commission is due.

In contrast, none of my paintings have left the walls. In the past it was the reverse situation, I tended to sell and he didnt, so perhaps it’s only right, seeing he arranged the exhibition, that the pendulum has swung the other way.

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