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.
At present I am playing around with some ideas and havent a new painting to post. The one above is an old painting, done before I started this blog, but never shown here. I thought it’d be worth an outing, particularly as some of the stuff I am working on are beach scenes.
I sold this to a lady, who painted herself, and who later became a friend. Her husband came from the area depicted, which is on the south coast of England, close to where I was born and, also, she liked the title. Unfortunately the lady, Mo, died from cancer, as did her husband – she died about a year after her husband.
When she was in treatment she asked me to carve a wooden head so she could store her wig properly. At that point she left it on a stair post and her sons ( she had three } had taken to playing football with it, kicking it around the house. She offered to pay me, but I asked for one of her paintings. Later I got a watercolour. She had a difficult time with watercolour and mainly painted in acrylics. The watercolour I was given was originally in an exhibition we were both in. I remarked to her how well executed it was and why was she so afraid of the medium. It was a nice piece, well presented, but in the end it didnt sell and so she gave it to me. It still hangs in our kitchen.
Another view of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Burscough in Lancashire. It’s a place that I’ve painted before but here I dwelt on the cluster of shapes created by the narrowboats and houses and in doing so made it a portrait format. This format also allowed the full reflections of trees and posts. The bankside vegetation also added interesting detail.
At this point on the canal is a narrow swing bridge – partially visible on the left which allows traffic to cross the canal.
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.
Looking through an old sketchbook I saw a version of this done on a sunny morning a few years ago and thought it might be worth working up. I tried to repeat it as directly as I could without the overpainting and overworking I did originally as you can see in the sketch I posted in May of 2018.
This is a view from the East Hill in Hastings, over the West Hill and town, and out towards Beachy Head in the distance. A view of my youth, and one I always try to see when I am in the area. As I walk over this sandstone butte, which marks the eastern end of the town, I have John Martyn’s song ‘Over the Hill’ ( from his Solid Air album which contains the song May You Never that Clapton later recorded) in my head. Martyn lived at the foot of this hill and he is referring to the walk over the West hill – seen with the houses in the middle distance, which he had to negotiate getting from the railway station to his home.
Martyn had a reputation for altercations with the local fishermen who frequented the many pubs at the foot of the hill in the Old Town of Hastings.
I recall an instance of him, in the mid seventies, taking over the local folk club to try out one of his albums – probably One World, before going out on the road with it. The club featured quite a lot of traditional A Capella, hand to the ear, singers and to walk in to see Martyn with his amplifiers and synthesisers was a pleasant surprise. I had an enjoyable evening at least.
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.
I have painted poppies before, and some might say too often, but spotting the setting sun on the oriental poppies in my garden drove me to having another go. It was only towards the end of the painting that I realised that the stars of the show aren’t the gaudy flowers but the tousled mass of spikey leaves that snatch the attention away from the flowerheads.
In the past I have been taken by the sculptural forms of leaves in strong light but have felt that they wouln’t make a good painting – clearly I must take another look.
I decided to work up one of the plein air sketches I recently showed on the blog. I had a tussle with the spring leaves on the trees against the dark buildings. I initially splattered masking fluid in the area and then proceeded to paint mixes of burnt sienna, um blue, alizarin and a few others into the area to imitate buildings and dark background foliage. When I rubbed off the masking fluid and applied foliage colours it looked laboured, despite softening edges. So off it all came and I repeated the dark building colours, but then added white gouache mixed with lemon yellow and some blues. I was pleased with the soft effects it gave. I am reluctant to use gouache as I consider it a bit of a cheat, but I dont think I could have got these glinting leaves better any other way.