Saturday, 29 December 2012

Trial run!

During one of my plein air walks in early summer, I took a photograph of this fabulous house. I was taken by the manicured lawns, the perfectly planted flower beds and borders, and the structural framework of the surrounding trees, especially the large Copper Beech tree.

It has been quite a while since I last used my brushes and I felt the need for a bit of a practice before painting anything proper, and when I flicked through my library of reference photo's this one jumped out at me. As a 'refresher' practice piece I wasn't too fussy about lines and colours but I really like the way it's come out and wish I'd made a greater effort. So, I will be doing this one again and hopefully benefiting from the trial-run.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Whenever I venture out into my garden, the true owner of this plot of land follows me around as if checking that I'm not going to do anything that will upset or violate his tiny kingdom. Sometimes from high in a tree, and sometimes on the ground and dangerously under-foot, my friend the Robin is ever present. But annoyingly he seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing when I am armed with my camera and what it is for because he teases me no end by posing and then hopping away just as I'm about to release the shutter. This shot is one I took some time ago as he rewarded me by posing nicely on the upper branches of one of my tall conifers. Had this shot included some snow I would have used it for a seasonal digital card, but instead I decided to use a photo I took of 'Dick the Wick', one of over a dozen loyal Gnomes who tend the mountainous regions of my large rockery.

I thank all of you, my blogging friends, for the support and encouragement you have given me throughout 2012. It means more to me than you can know. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, peaceful New Year.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Blind Snowdrops

Some weeks ago I received a message through my web site's contact page that took me aback. A lady wrote to tell me that her mother was so in love with one of my photographs that she was seeking permission to use it as the subject for a window blind in her newly decorated bathroom.

The photograph in question is my favourite of all the Snowdrop photographs I've ever taken. I am blessed with a garden that has more than it's fair share of Snowdrops and they come up in abundance every January. It is an annual ritual for me to get out there with my camera trying to find new ways of capturing the beauty of these wonderful little flowers.

Anyway, I was happy to grant permission for my photograph to be used in this way and promptly sent off a high resolution version. I also asked if I could be sent a photo of the finished blind, just out of interest. A couple of days ago I received an email telling me the blind had been made and fitted and attached to it was a photo. I post it here for you to see. I would never, in a million years, have expected that one of my photo's could be used in such a way, and I can't tell you how flattered I feel.

Talking of photography, I have finally treated myself to a new DSLR. I chose a Nikon D5100 but bought the camera body only and added to it a Tamron 18-270mm Zoom Lens. The lens cost as much as the camera. LOL. I know the Nikon lenses are a better quality but I want to do a lot more walking and I don't want to carry lenses and get involved with changing them often. A one-lens-for-all-purposes suits me better even though there is a slight compromise in image quality. Can't wait for the Snowdrops now.

Finally, I have decided what to do with my miniature pencil drawing. I've mounted it in a clear plastic Coaster.

I took an unused coaster that had some promotional material inside it and carefully prised it open. I then made a 'surround' in Paint Shop Pro, printed it out and then cut out a centre rectangle for the drawing. The finished Coaster now lays on my desk where I can place my hot cups on it. It's nice to have finally found something useful to do with my art. LOL.

I'll take this opportunity to wish all of my fellow bloggers the very best of the seasons greetings. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. ;)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Sheepish looks.

Like so many of us this time of year, I'm afraid I just haven't had the amount of time for blogging that I would like. I've attempted to get round a few of the blogs I follow but I'm doing very well. If I haven't visited YOUR blog recently, please bear with me ... I'll catch up soon.

I've also had no time whatsoever for my art. I haven't touched a brush or a pencil for weeks. Actually, that's not quite true. I did find myself with a little time last week to do something so picked up a small 9" x 6" pad and selected a photo from one of my recent walks. Some of you will remember my encounter with the flock of sheep and this is taken from one of those photos. I don't usually try and paint animals so this was quite different for me. It was fairly quick and 'wet' (by my usual standards) and I enjoyed watching the colours blend. I must do more of this sort of thing.

One small matter I'd appreciate some help with is the 'miniature' pencil drawing shown in my last post. I am completely stunned by the wonderful comments from you all. When I knocked out that small sketch I had no intention of producing a keepable drawing. It was just a few minutes sketching and as such I gave no thought to paper or placement. As you will see from the attached photo, the sketch is stuck at the top of a scribbles page in an A5 sketchpad. In view of the good comments it has received I've decided to keep it but think it may get lost (thrown away) if I leave it where it is. The only idea I've had so far is to cut it out and mount it into a very small photo frame. If anyone has a better and more original idea, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Size matters.

In my art forum we have a number of projects going on for us all to join in with. I haven't had a lot of time for my art over the past few weeks but found myself with the best part of an hour available so I looked at the challenges to see what I could do.

The result is this quick sketch of Robin Hoods Bay on the Yorkshire coast. I'm the first to admit that it's not the best drawing I've ever done.


What I AM pleased about is that the topic I chose to do was "Small". This sketch is only 4cm x 3cm (approximately 1½" x 1"). I've never drawn so small before but found it much easier than I'd expected. Stating the obvious, keeping the pencil sharp was essential (understatement). Under normal circumstances we have to reduce our images to get them online but this time I've had to enlarge it. LOL.

I show the sketch here with some postage stamps just to put it into perspective.

This was a fabulous practice exercise and was great fun. I shall be doing more if these miniatures.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Things to come?

I had finished breakfast a short while ago and crossed to the window of my 367th floor apartment. The aircab was approaching and would soon park on my landing bay. I had packed my case the night before and was almost ready to leave for sunnier climes, but I just needed this last painting to be produced. 

During an idle moment I had imagined what is probably the finest landscape I've ever envisaged. It's beauty is nothing short of breathtaking. As soon as I realised what an outstanding image had developed in my mind I summoned MICRA (Mental Image Capture and Replication Artistry) to process my thoughts and create the painting. The client I have in mind for this piece is a lover of old English oils, so I elected to have MICRA emulate the style of Constable. I've often wondered about the way paintings used to be produced and I can't help but think that, although it was a hugely messy and often hit and miss process, it must have been extremely rewarding when a painting came together as intended.

LOL .... Forgive my inane ramblings. The truth is I treated myself to a new Rotring Rapid Pro mechanical pencil and I couldn't wait to try it. I made a couple of random shapes to see how it felt in my hand, and then I tried a bit of shading to see how well I could control tonal values. Then a few more shapes .... then some more shading ... and one thing just led to another. Had great fun!!! The pencil? Love it!!!

On another matter, I am in the process of reorganising my garage and would like to tell you about some future projects. I have come across a bag of Tile offcuts from when I had my bathroom done. I kept them so I could have a go at a mosaic or two. I've also found some large sheets of Hardboard that used to be the backing to a wardrobe AND a few dozen tins of paint that are the remnants left over from various room redecorations. All the colours are wrong for painting anything serious but I think I'm going to spend this winter in my garage having an absolute ball!!!

Friday, 2 November 2012

OAP on Board!!

Last Sunday was my 65th Birthday. Yippee .... I once again have a source of income. When I retired early last April I was unable to start collecting my retirement pension so I've been one of the countries 2.53million unemployed, and technically NOT a pensioner. Well now I am, and after 46 years continuous employment during which my longest absence was 2 weeks a few years ago following surgery on my shoulder, I am very proud of my long and conscientious work record. I've never ever taken a 'sickie' ... not one. Hey, you've all seen those car stickers that say "Child on board", well my daughter sent me one that says "OAP on board" ... I love it!!! She has a great sense of humour and also sent me a T-shirt with the words  "I don't want to .... I don't have to ... You can't make me ... I'm retired".

I had lots of great presents and as a special treat my wife booked us into a converted barn on a farm in the Cotswolds, near Broadway. Though I was away on holiday, I didn't spend a huge amount of time painting/drawing as we went out everyday to see places of interest, and when we arrived back at the 'barn' we were staying in, I used the time to catch up with a bit of reading and watching some DVD's I'd received as presents. Still, I did manage a little art, and I'd like to share it with you.

One of my presents was a small set of Faber-Castell PITT artist pens containing Sepia ink. I was keen to try them so sketched a collection of pots and containers sitting beneath one of the windows. Pen & Wash is one of my favourite mediums and I haven't held a brush for quite a while, so it felt really good once I'd finished the sketching and started to apply some colour. It really wouldn't have mattered how this one turned out as I was just enjoying the process to the max, but as it happens, it turned out quite well and I'm really, really happy with it.

On Monday we went to Tewkesbury. I had heard tell of "the hidden charms along narrow alleyways where the eaves of crooked timber buildings nearly touch". I had visions of streets like the famous "Shambles" in York. Disappointingly, the claims are either grossly exaggerated or we failed to find them. But we did find the famous Abbey only for it to start raining just as we pulled into the Car Park. As we sat in the car waiting for the rain to finish, which it didn't, I did this sketch in my Moleskine. The ex-accountant in me won't let me discard my Moleskine until it's full, but I may have to give in and toss it ... I really can't get on with it.

Tuesday found us visiting the nearby village of Broadway and the famous Broadway Tower that sits high on the surrounding hills. The tower is an odd shape having an hexagonal core flanked by 3 cylindrical towers (yeh, I know, I've only draw two - lol). I took lots of photo's from the top of the tower and was amazed to discover that, on a clear day, some 16 different counties can be seen over a distance of 62 miles. I started the sketch standing in the field at the tower but finished it later back at 'the barn'. I found the Moleskine resisted my every attempt to achieve a smooth graduation of tones and it was hard to get the graphite to take once a couple of good layers had been laid.

Another pressie was an Introductory set of 10 tubes of Windsor & Newton Designers Gouache and I'm waiting until I am able to have a long and uninterrupted session before opening them.

With some DIY tools, a set of Olympic stamps for my collection and a bottle of my favourite Talisker Whisky, I've been very well treated and consider myself very, very fortunate. What's more, I can now apply for my free bus pass. lol.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


It's been quite a few weeks but I'm nearly finished with my redecorating. Just had to spend a few minutes with my sketchbook ...... and my chair. ;-)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Not enjoying painting ...

... but I'm not talking about THAT sort of painting. I'm talking about painting doors, window frames, skirting boards, etc. We're giving our living room a serious make over. I've always wanted a smooth flat ceiling yet every house we've ever owned has had the old-fashioned Artex stippled ceiling. On a few occasions I've stripped the Artex off myself and put up a textured ceiling paper. LOL ... that's fun if you've never tried it, papering a ceiling. However, this time I decided to have the job done properly so we had a tradesman in to re-plaster the ceiling for us, and it looks great. While I had the walls stripped of wallpaper I took the opportunity to run in some electric cables to give us some extra power points.

The best bit is that we've also decided to refurnish the room so it's out with the old 3-piece suite and in with something new. We are having two 2-seater Sofa's, one of which is an electric recliner and a 'special' chair for me. I have ordered a real Stressless recliner by the Norwegian manufacturer Ekornes. It's not a cheap option but once you've sat in one ..... hmmmmm.

Anyway, it's all coming together well and the end is in sight, which is a good thing because I haven't touched a brush (art type) or a pencil for weeks. The new furniture arrives next week and I've decided that the very last item to be put into the newly decorated room will be MY chair. So this post is by way of a warning that I'm likely not to post again for a while because once I'm in that chair I'm not moving for at least a month.

Because I have no art to share, I've decided to do something that I've been thinking of doing for a long time but never seem to get round to it .... share with you one of my other hobbies, photography. I have a Sony H9 Bridge camera with Zeiss lens and 15x optical zoom. It's a very versatile bit of kit but not in the same league as DSLR, which is something I'm thinking of getting very soon. I've never really been able to justify the cost of a good DSLR with the few opportunities I've had for photography, but now I'm retired things should be different ... if I can ever drag myself out of that chair.

A selection of my photo's are in a slideshow in my sidebar, and here are a few others. I hope you like them.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Five years on.

Tempus fugit … Time flies. And it’s never been truer than with my blog. I first started blogging 5 years ago today. FIVE YEARS!!!

When I dived head-first into the world of blogging it was to add another dimension to my web site. My web site had been started some 8 years earlier in the hope of getting feedback and advice on the results of my newest hobby, painting. As I progressed (albeit very slowly), time and time again I came across people who had thought of having a go at watercolours, but never taken the plunge because they didn’t think they’d be any good at it, and others who had tried once, not produced a masterpiece, and therefore given up. I became increasingly aware of a burning desire to tell these people that they must have a go, and that they must not expect their first efforts to be great. And of course, I wanted to let both groups know that the enjoyment is in the ‘doing’ regardless of the end result.

Although it has earned me a reputation for lacking confidence in my work, my approach was to spread the word by example, and so I adopted the policy of posting ALL of my work, good and bad, and pointing out the things that hadn't worked as well as I'd hoped. I've tried to show beginners by example that it’s okay to ask silly questions, because no question is silly. I've tried to show them that you have to show your bad work if you want advice on how to improve. And I've tried to show them that the best lessons there are, come from our own mistakes. In fact, we learn more from a bad painting than we do a good one.

But what happened with my blog was not at all what I’d expected. I follow other artists because I think they are far better than me and they are skilled people I think I can learn from. Therefore I assumed that if I were fortunate enough to pick up any followers they would be beginners just starting out. I had never, in my wildest dreams (and I have some pretty wild ones) expected to be followed by extremely talented and competent artists as you all are. It makes no sense. 

What I get from following your blogs are lessons in technique, hints and tips, demonstrations (via WIP’s), insight into other mediums, inspiration by the bucketful and the opportunity to view some exceptional art. What I get from having you follow my blog is encouragement, support, advice and a massive sense of belonging. This last point is probably the greatest prize of all.

To mark my 5th blogiversay I thought I’d post a few pictures that have been milestones for me for various reasons. And for any beginners ambling by, I've explained why each of these weren't completely straightforward.

Miniature Rose

Though a simple painting, I've always felt very pleased with this one. It was my first painting of a single flower and I remember struggling with the blending as the darker tones turned to mud.

Captain Jack Sparrow

This one was my first serious portrait. I didn't know anything about graphite blending so experimented using a tightly rolled sheet of kitchen paper, and I remember struggling so much with a 8B pencil as I tried to get some dark blacks.

The Market Square, Northampton

This was my most ambitious pen drawing. It was one of the first pictures that I did a full Work-In-Progress of. There was a lot I didn't know how to do with this one, but I made it up as I went along, and it came out okay in the end.


This one was an experiment in trying to paint 'heat' and I was very pleased with the way it turned out. Much better than I could have ever hoped. This is the only painting I've sold in an exhibition.


The best thing I can say about this one is to quote the final sentence from when I posted it on my blog. 

Different pencils and two serious mistakes ... am I disappointed? No ... I am three more step along this wonderful journey of discovery.

Fuchsia "Winston Churchill"

Having started out with watercolours and then discovered the wonder of pencils, I suppose it was inevitable that one day the two mediums would come together into a single picture. Drawing with pencil on a heavily textured watercolour paper was another challenge that I hadn't anticipated ... but I got there.

"We did it!"

If someone had told me at the beginning of this journey that I would draw a portrait of my daughter and son-in-law on their wedding day, I would have laughed out loud.

Frustrating, challenging, and not without it's disappointments, yet this wonderful art journey we are on never ceases to be satisfying, rewarding and so full of enjoyment. To all my followers I say a big, heart-felt thank you .... you're the best.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Grey Lady

Here is a drawing I did for a bit of fun. I took it from a photograph sent to me by a good friend who saw this street performer at the Edinburgh Festival. The performer was dressed all in grey, including grey make-up on her face, and it was that monochrome appearance that appealed to me from a drawing point of view. The shape of this lady was entirely defined by shadows, highlights and textures.

We are not certain, but we believe the street performer was portraying "The Grey Lady" who haunts the family chapel at Glamis Castle. She is said to be the spirit of Lady Janet Douglas who was burned at the stake as a witch on Castle Hill, Edinburgh in 1537. She was accused of plotting to poison the King but the charges were likely fabricated for political reasons. Allegedly, the ghost has been seen quite recently by a number of witnesses.

I'm not entirely convinced by this as the period dress doesn't really suggest 16th century to me, but since it's only a bit of fun, it's as good an explanation as any other.

Monday, 10 September 2012

It's not always about the art

My latest 'plein air' adventure resulted in some fairly poor art, as usual, but that didn't matter in the slightest. I'm rapidly coming to the opinion that the 'art' is secondary to the sheer enjoyment of getting out into the countryside, on foot, ambling along listening to the birds, taking in the fresh air and enjoying the wildlife.

This time I headed to a 'wet' area near here that doubles up as a 'flood plain' receiving all the run-off water from the nearby concrete jungle. I followed a path alongside our main river, and after about a mile found that the river ran alongside a lake with the path being on a narrow strip of land between the river and the lake. It was there that I spotted a small shack under a tree in a field being ploughed by the farmer. I decided this was to be the subject of my painting. I set up my kit just to one side of the path and sat looking out across the river.

After about 15 minutes of sheer bliss and tranquillity on this warm summers day, I became aware of a movement further down the track. When I looked I saw a herd of sheep coming my way. They pretty much filled the width of the strip of land and there were scores more following the advanced party.

Being a 'townie' and never having had anything to do with sheep, or any other animals apart from my pet dogs, I admit to feeling somewhat insecure sitting in the path. So I stood up. I was hoping to make myself look big enough for them not to charge .... or is that Bulls? Anyway, I stood my ground and waited to see what would happen.

I need not have worried because, once they'd approached a little nearer, as if on command from some invisible shepherd, they smartly moved into rows of two.

If this had been a class of school children under the watchful eyes of their teachers I could not have been more impressed.

Most of them walked calmly passed without so much as a glance in my direction, though some were mildly inquisitive and couldn't help try and get a peep at my half-finished painting.

Some looked as if they wanted to say "Good morning" and have a chat.

And after several minutes of watching them stroll passed, still they came. My best estimate, for what it's worth, is that there were something like 100 sheep in all.

But I soon felt at ease with them and returned to my painting, aware that they were steadily passing by just behind me. 

Though feeling more confident now, when one of them suddenly let rip with a loud and rasping "Baaaaah", I jumped a mile and almost spilled my paints. Good job I didn't or this little guy may have received an unexpected make-over.

As I suggested at the beginning, the 'art' that took place that day was not very satisfactory. Within minutes of starting the watercolour I wasn't very pleased with the way it was going. I think we know when something just isn't working. Rather than persevere or worse, start over, I just left it. However, later at home I took a different view and decided to finish it from the reference photo's I'd taken.

And as I walked back along the river path I could see part of a Quarry over some bushes around a bend in the river. I climbed up on a fence for a better view and sat there to do this quick pencil sketch

I'm looking forward to my next walk ... whether I get to paint or not.  ;-)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


A week ago I sat down to draw a Rose. I wanted to try and get some nice smooth blends so looked for the smoothest paper I have. What a mistake that was! I chose Extra Smooth Surface Bristol Board (250 gsm) thinking it would 'be the business'. I wanted to build up my tones gradually so started light with a hard (5H) pencil. All was well until I started to blend, and then I found the tortillons were leaving unpleasant streaks on the paper rather than giving a smooth graduation of tone. I switched to paper-based stumps but they were just as bad. I persevered, building up tones with more graphite, switching to a softer (H) pencil, and blending, blending, blending. The end result was very disappointing ... and I was disappointed in my own efforts because I've never been a workman who blames his tools.

To try and salvage the drawing, I went over it all again with softer (2B; 4B) pencils and eventually, after a very many hours and much toil, achieved a result that was 'passable'. But it was bothering me that I'd had so much trouble so I just had to try again. I was unsure if the problem was the paper, the pencils, the blenders or me, I didn't want to change everything or I'd never answer the question. I've always felt happy with the pencils, the blenders have always worked before, and I didn't want to change 'me' or I'd have missed the experience, so I looked for a different paper. This time I chose Daler Rowney Heavyweight (220gsm).

Apart from the change of paper, I approached the whole thing as I did first time around ... but what a difference. The tones built up gradually, as planned, and the blending was smooth and delicate. I felt in control again and things were happening the way I wanted them to.

I can only conclude that the Extra Smooth Bristol Board just doesn't have enough tooth for this sort of work ... and if I'm wrong please don't tell me 'cause I'm finally feeling happy again. ;-)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

A few days ago I went out for a walk and followed a path that cut through a couple of nearby housing estates before eventually leading out into the countryside along the edge of a Wheat field. After about half an hour I found myself on top of a hill with a lovely view of the next village. I set up my stuff and proceeded to paint. I struggled mixing colours and felt as if I was slapping paint around in a haphazard fashion, so much so that after about 40 minutes I gave up. This wasn't what I'd expected after my last, more successful endeavour ... and the church tower looking more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa didn't help in the slightest.

Disappointed in my painting effort but determined to become more proficient painting en plein air I decided to try again. This time I started with a pen on the assumption that the black pen lines would hold the painting together. I found myself moving the pen around quickly and the result was much more sketchy than I'd intended, but I liked it better than the first and so I headed home.

Later in the day, still feeling disappointed that my first effort hadn't turned out as intended, I downloaded to my computer a reference photo I'd taken of the scene, and set up my easel. This time I felt much more in control. I was happier mixing the colours, and was taking greater care with my brush thinking more about lights and darks. I felt that this painting was working and my earlier disappointments soon started to fade.

This is the first time I've painted the same scene both indoors and out and it has proved a valuable lesson. I've learned that I must not expect 'studio' level results when painting in the field, yet I must somehow try and approach a painting outdoors in the same way as I do when I'm at my easel.

The journey continues. ;-)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

More Bridges

The good weather coupled with getting caught up with a few things, has allowed me to get out for another walk and some more plein air sketching. This time I went to some local lakes popular with the local angling community. The walk took me through woodland, along open paths alongside the lakes, past fields of hay so tall it must surely be ready for cropping, and past many families of ducks clearly not impressed at my ambling through their territory.

The walk also took me over some small wooden footbridges. One was made of sawn timbers but was surprisingly ornate in it's construction and looked almost out of place out in the middle of an overgrown woodland track. It had seen better days and many of the floor boards were showing signs of rot and I wonder how long it will be before someone puts their foot through it. I was intrigued by is diagonal design, stepping onto it from the side, and off from the opposite side.

Others bridges were less fussy and were nothing more than a few planks nailed together without any form of hand rail. They looked barely capable of holding a persons weight. It is most concerning because if someone were to fall from the bridge they would find themselves immersed in the fast flowing stream right up to their ankles. But I shouldn't joke. This one in particular crossed a stream that could easily have been stepped over, but the ramp up to it tells me it is there to make the area wheelchair-friendly and hats off to the land owners for making the lakes accessible to all.

I decided to set up under the shade of some trees looking up the hill towards Castle Ashby Manor and it's church. The manor is a typical 16th century manor house and was seat to the Marquess of Northampton.

From a technical point of view, I really struggle sketching while standing. Both bridges were done this way. I could have set up my stool but I wanted to try again while standing as it's definitely something I'm going to have to work at. I found the painting easier than last time. Not that I did any better but I felt a little more at ease and a little more in control of what I was doing. I do find it hard to concentrate on colour mixing and tonal values while out 'in the field', but I had a general feeling of 'doing better'. While sketching the ornate bridge a couple appeared out of the woods and made their way across the bridge. I stood my ground and carried on sketching ... and that is progress indeed.

Can't wait for my next walk.  :-)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Robin Hoods Bay

Last year, when on holiday in Yorkshire, we were based just a couple of miles from Robin Hoods Bay, which is a quaint little fishing village built into the side of the cliffs. The first record of the village was in the 16th century and there is no evidence whatsoever to link the village with Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. In the 18th century it was reportedly the busiest smuggling village on the coast of Yorkshire due to it's natural isolation. Wandering through the narrow alleys between the cottages conjured up a great sense of smugglers and hidden contraband. By the middle of the 19th century a thriving fishing industry existed.

King Street, Robin Hood's Bay - Graphite
We had to leave the car at the top of the cliffs and walk down the steep hill into the village.  I wandered through the narrow alleyways between the buildings, firing my camera almost continuously ... every turn revealed a new photo opportunity. One such alleyway brought me out at the top of King Street, just up from "Ye Dolphin" Inn. I couldn't figure out why the Inn sign had a painting of a galleon on it, rather than a Dolphin and I guess that will remain one of life's mysteries.

I chose Winsor & Newton Medium Surface Cartridge paper (130 gsm) because it has a strong grain when used with graphite and I thought that would help with the textures of the old buildings. It made it harder to get clean, sharp lines, but the tooth in the paper made the darks easier to achieve. I'm quite pleased with the effect as I think it really adds to the Olde Worlde scene.

Obviously I used artistic licence to omit various 21st century eye-sores such as Wheelie Bins, Television Aerials, roof lights and telephone cables. But one way in which 21st century did help was with one of the buildings which was badly obscured on my reference photo by a large "For Sale" sign. I was delighted to be able to use Google Street View to see what was there. lol.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bridges and Lock Gates

As my regular followers will know, a while ago I decided I wanted to get out into the countryside and paint en plein air. I did this to some extent with my friend Ingrid when she came to visit a few weeks ago but the weather wasn't very kind to us. Anyway, I've bought myself a backpack specifically for the purpose and the other day I loaded it with sketch pads, paint pads, pens, pencils paints, small folding stool, bottle of water, etc, and headed out into the countryside. Eventually I want to do some long walks but for now I'll keep it local.

The first thing I headed for was a series of bridges near here called The Causeway. They look olde worlde as you drive over them and I felt sure they would make a great subject from down near the river but from that position they actually looked quite ugly being mainly industrial bricks and concrete slabs with a 'decorative' stone wall on top. It was disappointing but I spent about 20 minutes doing this pencil sketch, just for the practice.

From there I headed off along the river bank and after crossing a footbridge and following a narrow trail for a while, I finally came upon these lock gates. This looked like the perfect place to paint so I wasted no time getting set up. I have to say, painting outdoors with the pad on your knee and the paints on the floor, was far from perfect. The sun was really hot and the paint was drying as soon as it hit the paper. I found it hard to be too precise and I've really got to learn to be less detailed when painting outdoors. But it was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute.

Before heading home I pushed through a narrow overgrown path to see what was there for another day and came across another branch of the river next to a Hay field. In the distance I could see what I knew to be the buildings of a local boatyard. I shall come back to this spot another time to paint the scene but for now I spent 10 minutes doing a pen sketch.

Though none of this is what you'd call 'great art', it was great fun. I feel that my art will benefit enormously from making myself do this regularly because painting/sketching en plein air is certainly different from painting/drawing at my desk from a photo. I can't wait for my next opportunity.