Last week I was in Durham and was able to get outside painting on a couple of warm and sunny days. However, the painting above was done at home. I had spotted the subject whilst sketching the dead tree beside the river, below – in fact this view above was behind me as I sketched, but getting the filigree foliage against a smoky forest backdrop needed a bit of thinking through, so I declined the challenge and painted this instead.
In hindsight I should have given it a go. Still, it was good to have an unexpected chance to get outside. The day before I sat and sketched the city skyline into the light.
This was again done on the banks of the River Wear with a curious bull snorting near my back from the field behind me. Fortunately the seemingly flimsy barbed wire fence did the trick and I survived to paint another day as this blog and my final sketch: looking up the hill to the other side of the river – testifies.
This is a modified painting which I posted some time ago. When I first posted it I had some reservations about certain aspects. Then, the other day as I was searching through some old paintings, I came across it again and took a moment to reconsidered it and realised that my issues could be addressed. One problem was the central tree which I modified and then I enhanced the main field and strengthened the top field. It may have moved away from the original scene, but it was a bit of a combination of views in the first place, broadly based on the Wear Valley in Durham City.
We just spent some time at my brother in law’s house in Durham. They live close to the river, so I took off in the morning and did some watercolour sketching whilst everyone was still in bed.
This first one is of Kepier Hospital just down the road, alongside the river. This building was constructed in the 12th century as an isolation hospital and this could be the gatehouse with a beautiful vaulted ceiling which is just visible. The stone work is visibly decayed. There are no signs telling you what this is, so for many this could just be another farm complex, but when you look a little closer you realise that this is a very old building.
We then went down the river towards the coast and visited Finchale Abbey, a thirteenth century Benedictine abbey which was made the worse for wear by Henry 8th. I suppose the main route of communication was the river which linked this abbey, the hospital and Durham City with its cathedral.
Back again this morning I sat amongst the rising shoots of Japanese knotweed and painted one of the many farms on the slopes of the Wear valley in the warm morning sunshine. A dirty business, but someone’s got to do it.