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.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Fuchsia "Winston Churchill"

This painting just had to happen one day. I have several hobbies one of which is growing Fuchsia's, and I have about 300 plants covering about 60 varieties. I have a number of favourites but one that has been right at the top of the list for a long time is called "Winston Churchill". Why it was named after him I'll never know because it doesn't typify my understanding of the man. This flower has a very frilly double bloom and is far from hardy, neither quality being very Churchillian. 

Not only do I love this plant but Churchill is my all time favourite hero. As some of you may know, another of my hobbies is photography, so you can imagine just how many fuchsia photo's I have. So it just seemed natural that sooner or later my favourite fuchsia, named after my hero, and photographed by me a zillion times, should make it's way onto my art easel. 

This painting provided a number of challenges and new experiences. It is the first 'serious' painting I've done with both my new Sceptre Gold brushes and using Arches paper. While the painting experience was great with both brushes and paper performing beyond my expectations, the drawing experience was far from good. Drawing a relatively small portrait on a very rough paper like Arches was far from easy and I can't believe I didn't think about this before I started. The paper was very scratchy under the pencil and any form of serious blending was next to impossible. Still, a reasonable likeness was achieved, and I'm pleased about that.

If any of you are interested in seeing some of my flower photo's there is a small slideshow in the sidebar, but I also have a web page on my site showing flowers in my garden from every month of the year. A year in my garden. And for anyone interested in growing Fuchsia's I will soon be adding a page about training Standards to the ones about Taking Cuttingskeeping them bushy and over-wintering.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Last year we were on holiday on the Yorkshire coast, near Whitby. One day we drove north along the coast road to Staithes, which is an artists paradise comprising twisting alleys amongst fisherman's cottages and a gorgeous small river estuary scattered with small fishing boats. It wasn't possible for me to sketch or paint so my camera turned hot taking scores of photo's. Eventually we found ourselves heading back to our holiday home but decided to pause at Sandsend, where the road turns inland briefly to cross a river before turning back to follow the coast. We enjoyed a short walk on the beach and sat to eat a sandwich mainly because that's the best thing to do with a sandwich. Standing with my back to the sea, I took a photo of where the road crossed the river expecting that I might paint it one day. Today is that day. ;-)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Unknown Knight

Well, I'm sure someone knows who he is, but I don't.

When my wife and I stayed at Bodelwyddan Castle in North Wales some weeks ago, I spent many hours wandering around the castle grounds and formal gardens taking hundreds of photo's as reference material for future drawings and paintings. One of the features I discovered was this statue of a Knight set into an alcove in the East wall of the castle. Despite asking a few people at the time, and checking online since, I've failed to learn the identity of this guy.

I run various painting and drawing projects in my art forum, the primary aim of which is to encourage, help and challenge beginners. I chose this chappy for the most recent drawing project as I thought it might be a good way to tempt people who don't normally draw people, to draw a person without really drawing a person, if you know what I mean. LOL. Anyway, this was my effort and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sharing our art

Last week, my good friend Ingrid (Ingrid Ormestad Art) travelled down from Scotland to spend a week with my wife and I. Ingrid and I promised ourselves lots of art, and that's just what we did. In particular we agreed to get out and about with our brushes and do some plein air painting, something neither of us have done before.

We visited Castle Ashby Gardens, which is where I found the Secret Garden I painted a while ago. The sun was shining wonderfully and we sat in the shade of the Arches in the Italian Garden to sketch. It is a very formal Italian style garden with perfectly manicured hedges and bushes. Ingrid chose pencil to sketch a large Urn, and I chose my soluble ink pen to sketch the Orangery at the far end of the garden. I washed in some shadows using my Aquabrush.

After exploring more area's of the garden, including the Secret Garden which looked just as beautiful as it did the first time I saw it, we found a bench to sit on and attempted some painting. We chose this Urn which was set back in dark shadows. Although I'm happy with the Urn, I wish I hadn't tried to paint the dark background.

On the Wednesday we went to London for the day, mainly to visit the Society of Women Artists annual exhibition in The Mall Galleries. It was a great day that started with the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and ended at Westminster, at the foot of Big Ben. The art exhibition was all we'd expected and it was fascinating looking at so many superb works.

Many of our plein air excursions resulted in us doodling on paper as we discussed painting and drawing techniques and shared idea's. We needn't have gone out to do those things but we just did what we wanted to do at the time, and it was as much fun sharing our methods as it would have been trying to create a new masterpiece. On one occasion, having just set up all our stuff, the heavens opened and the rain fell. We sat in the car until it stopped and then set up again. Not long into our painting, it rained again. My 'masterpiece' got washed from the paper and Ingrid said it looked like a Monet. lol. I may try and finish it because I did take a reference photo before we started.

Not all of our outdoor painting involved travelling. We had several sessions painting and sketching in my garden. One item of garden furniture that received more than it's fair share of our attention was my rusting cast iron Chiminea. Not only did we both paint it and sketch it on more than one occasion, but one evening the three of us sat out until late burning logs and talking.

This was my first art experience in the company of another artist and I have to say I had the best time ever. Exchanging idea's, discussing techniques, looking over each others shoulder and allowing our own shoulder to be looked over, was a very rewarding, informative and satisfying experience. Thank you Ingrid for the best week ever. ;-)