Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bolton Priory

Despite its name, this semi-ruined priory is nowhere near Bolton. It's at a small place called Bolton Abbey near Skipton in Yorkshire. The priory is in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales on the banks of the River Wharfe. It is a beautiful setting that is just screaming out to be painted. A rippling river with stepping stones and small sandy inlets, meadows with cows and a sky full of wild birds. I was also fortunate enough to be there on a warm sunny day. I've never felt comfortable painting plein aire, but ever a scene could have tempted me, this one could.

Though I had two attempts with watercolour I couldn't get the 'look' I was trying to achieve. I think the strong sunlight and bold shadows has teased me into over defining the shapes and structure. I have certainly been too bold with the greens, and they detract from the main subject I think. As a result I decided to have a go without colour, and produced this pencil drawing. Though I personnally feel a subject like this needs colour to show it off at its best, the pencil sketch does seem to convey more 'mood'.


  1. I think you're being a bit hard on yourself John. Yes, maybe the green trees on the right are a bit bright and the tree on the left is a bit dominant, but I like the Abbey. You haven't made the shadows too strong, which is a danger on a bright day, and there is a nice monumental feel to the building.

    A glaze of burnt sienna over the right-hand trees would tone them down a bit. Pushing the background trees into the distance a bit more, with a glaze of ultramarine, might help as well.

  2. Thank you Keith. I had wondered about trying to 'lift off' some of the strong colours but I'll try your suggestions and see how it looks. Appreciate your comments.