Thursday, October 31, 2013

Espresso cups with lavender and roses

Espresso cups, lavender and roses

Here's a change from the usual dish of landscapes and seascapes that I serve you! Another still life, and this time in watercolours and gouache.
Between 2008 and 2010 I used to have a tiny stone cottage for a studio, called Toad Hall. Placed on the village green in a pretty village the studio openings were great fun. We hung bunting over the doorway and filled the kitchen with the aroma of coffee and plates of cakes.
Anyway while I was working in that small space I painted lots and lots of still life's and cakes, usually in acrylics. That was before the plein air bug had completely overtaken me. It was my 'afternoon tea' phase!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From West to East

I've come from the south-west coast of Cornwall last week to the East coast of England today, Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk. It's my first visit and I have found magic here so I will definitely be back!
The sun was shining all day and there were lots of walkers and families spending time together as it's half term holidays this week in many parts of the UK. I met with quite a large group of other artists which is always so much fun to do. We had travelled variously from Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.
I have been a bit quiet blog-wise since my return from Cornwall as I've had a manic few days framing. As you know I paint my own frames and each one needs three to four coats and then wax for protection. I had eight frames to do this weekend. On Monday I had a deadline of getting my six taken to the courier for submission to the annual Royal Institute of Oil painters exhibition. Now a nervous few days waiting for selection results!
I'm also busy finishing off my latest magazine article so if you don't hear from me over the next couple of days, that'll be why! The photography stage is the part I really pull my hair out over!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crashing waves and St Clements Isle

Me and the children have been really enjoying watching the waves lashing onto the rocks. While I've been painting they've been running, shrieking and getting wet a lot. The waves make Maisie a bit panicky and she yelps and barks at them but they carry on regardless.

I managed two paintings again today and really thrilled with them both. I do so love to be beside the seaside! You can see by the photo how lovely, sunny and warm it's been here today. There was no wind either! Fingers crossed for tomorrow, it's my last painting day here for this trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mousehole harbour

Hooray, I'm back in Mousehole for a couple of days in Cornwall. Today I managed to get a couple of paintings done in the harbour. There's a strong warm wind and the sun was coming and going. It's so nice to be back here.
Maisie enjoyed a bit of a splash in the waves, and we all had fish and chips for tea.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sails up in harbour, Paimpol

Sails up in harbour, Paimpol

Here you go, the completed painting! Hope you like it. I really do, it was so worth me being a little more patient than usual. I can't wait to give it a coat of retouching varnish because it will really bring out the deep dark colours and provide a pleasing all over sheen. Next job is the framing!

And here's a close-up...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition 2013

Me with my painting (top)

I haven't forgotten that I promised you a photo of the finished painting with the red sail, but I haven't taken any yet. I have however been down to London twice this week to see the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries.
Here I am proudly posing with my painting, the first time I have ever exhibited with this society. 

Last year was the first year I entered but although four of my paintings made it through pre-selection none actually made the final cut. Here's what I wrote about it in my blog in August last year - " It's been a funny few days. I found out the news that none of my four that were pre-selected for the Royal Society of Marine Artists have made it into the exhibition. That was a disappointment, but it only makes me more determined to do better work and keep focussing on my goals. I'll get there one day! "
I just wanted to share that with you in case anyone is feeling discouraged at the moment. Some things are worth fighting for! Work out what those things are for you. If it means that much to you, you can turn rejection into a positive. Use it to give you the push to improve and whatever you do - keep on trying. Just keep on keeping on. Ok, pep talk over!

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that I had a fantastic day catching up with lots of friends. I do hope you'll go and see the exhibition if you can get into London before the 27th October.

Caught in the act of raiding the buffet

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big red onwards and upwards

Stage 5

So as I said yesterday at the end of stage 4 I thought I wasn't far off finished, but still I continued. I next wanted to get those cream coloured sails really clean and bright in places, and for that I used a mix of naples yellow light and white. I had made those reflections of the sails (both the red and 'white') much darker too. Pow! The light was really starting to show now.

Detail at stage 5

Stage 6

I began to think about placing figures, although got off to a faltering start at first and scraped them off. At least I had a better idea of where I was going to place them then. I also defined the sky area. And I had fun putting those little Breton flags in!

Stage 7

You can see that in stage 7 it was the turn of the background buildings to get a little attention. From the general wishy-washy darkness I started to pick out structure and details. I continued with that in the Stage 8 pic shown below.

Stage 8

Detail at stage 9

Figures started to go in and by now I was really near to being happy it was finished. Hope you've enjoyed watching the build up. Next time I'll show you the completed painting!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Big red in the studio

Stage 1
I'm hoping you're still willing to see the sailing boats in Paimpol harbour because as I said a little while ago I've been working on a large studio version. I'm happy to say it's finally finished and I've been taking photos all the way through at various stages to show you how it progressed!
So, right back to the beginning which was some weeks ago now... I started work on a large canvas panel (large compared to all my plein air paintings) sized 24" x 30" and I primed it all over with a tinted gesso mix consisting of white gesso and pale umber acrylic paint.

I then painted the large area that would become the red sail again with white gesso, because I imagined that the red of the sail would work better with a white ground showing through the red rather than the warm grey underneath.

When this was all dry I started with the oil paints. Using a turpsy mix of a greenish-brown grey I plotted in the main dark areas and this is what you can see in Stage 1 above.
Everything is full of promise and no angst at this stage!

Stage 2

While that was still wet I also added a slightly darker version of the same colour to differentiate between two tonal values in the dark area. Then when this stage was dry I used another turpsy mix, cooler in colour this time to deepen some of those darks and add further shape to the buildings behind. 
(Stage 2)

Stage 3

I took the painting along to a workshop then and stage 3 was completed as a little demo. With the tonal values in place I really needed to start thinking about colour, and in particular it was time to get cracking with that red! I also worked on the colour of the 'white' sails and their reflections, and completed the shadowy buildings on the right hand side. I wasn't particularly concerned with the accuracy of the roofline, as I knew I could confirm the drawing there when painting the sky.
The touches of blue in the sky and water and the blue banners on the quayside added a lot of liveliness.

Stage 4

On returning to the studio after it's trip out I realised that I needed much more of the sky colour reflected in the water and worked on this area with thicker paint.
To be honest I thought it was very nearly finished at this stage but apparently not!

I'll show you how things proceeded tomorrow...

Detail at stage 4

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Staithes rooftops at sunset

Staithes rooftops at sunset 8" x 10"
I did a lot of walking in Staithes, it's a place where you're either walking uphill or downhill in any direction. After one uphill walk I found this great view as the sun was starting to set. I loved the sky and this view over the rooftops of the village. Behind me here was a bench overlooking the sea.
If you've ever tried painting at sunset you will know that everything changes at an alarming rate! I knew I would only have an hour at most.
After an hour of painting I packed away and clambered back down the hill and it was really dark and cold down there when I got there. I had a lovely meal with friends waiting for me though :-)
I'd love to paint here in summer and have a longer painting day.

The high viewpoint looking over the village

The painting when I stopped on site
This is how the painting looked after the session and came back with me. I still liked the concept but wasn't satisfied it was finished so when it was dry I painted a blue/green glaze all over every part of the painting except the sky. This had the effect I wanted of tying the land mass together, unifying everything and providing more tonal contrast with the bright sky. Some of the building roofs and walls got a bit too gloomy though so when the glaze was dry a couple of days later I painted those bits back in and also lightened parts of the sky and I'm happy with it now, yet unfortunately I've given you a rather poor photograph again!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A sense of place

I love days when it's just me painting, whether outdoors or in my studio. However I couldn't do only that day after day after day. I find that teaching and writing about painting both give me much needed structure, the impetus of new ideas, the time to review what I'm doing and the chance to get out and see people. I like the balance and how I manage to fit it all in, although it does all take a lot of planning time which sometimes overwhelms me a little! I am protective of my painting time and very careful not to over commit on the teaching front which could be easily done. I know and expect that each workshop and demo takes an equal amount of planning and preparation time and so I make sure to space these events out in my diary with plenty of my own painting time in between. The jobs I would probably outsource if I could are my accounts, my photography and framing. Plus technical computer things that I don't understand and hurt my brain! Oh, and cleaning and... hang on, I'm getting quite carried away now.

It's great to be able to get to know a painting place by going back again and again. Here are two paintings from Sutton-on-sea in Lincolnshire which is my nearest stretch of coast, both from this year. The first one was painted on a sunny day last month, and the other on a wintry day in February. They are both the same size (10" x 20") so I think it would be lovely to frame and hang them together. 
I like to paint the sea in the context of where it fits into the landscape rather than painting just a section of the water or a slice of sea and sky which are generic and could be anywhere. To me painting seascapes is more about painting a portrait of a particular place at a particular time of day at a certain time of the year. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Morning light at Staithes

Morning light at Staithes

Here's one of my paintings from Staithes last week. It was all about the light hitting the top of that Landrover on the slipway for me, plus of course the sparkle on the water.
It's fairly large at 12" x 16", one of my favourite sizes to work outdoors with.
I wanted to show you some close up shots of the brushwork, because at first glance you may think this painting is very detailed but it's not at all.

I did finish off a couple of touches in the studio from memory, the few photos that I took didn't come out at all because of looking towards the sun. All the information was painted in there on the spot, it was just a case of reconfirming certain passages.

It's quite a tricky subject when faced with lots of buildings, especially white and light coloured buildings that are in the shade. There's a tendency to make them too light in colour value (because you know them to be white) and also to dot all the i's and cross all the t's when it comes to things like putting all the doors and windows in. Personally I am far more interested in the effects of light, rather than architectural details, so I have to take a broad view of the scene. Of course I also have to work very quickly to get the information down before the light effect has gone.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Heroes and Staithes

David Curtis, me, Ken Howard

Whitby Gazette

I had to show you this lovely photo, taken yesterday at Patchings Art Centre. That's me with the two inspirational UK painters Ken Howard and David Curtis. Not only are they amazing painters who have been inspiring me and countless others for decades but they are truly lovely gentlemen too. I've had the extreme good fortune of being able to paint with both of them this year and am so grateful to them both, hence the big smile!

They have a joint exhibition with Lucy Willis who is an artist that has also been inspiring me for more than 20 years! As far as I'm concerned she sets the bar for how watercolours should be. A book that she wrote about 20 years ago called 'Light: how to see it, how to paint it', now sadly out of print, is one of my most treasured art books (and I have hundreds).

The exhibition is on for the whole month at Patchings art centre, so if you live anywhere near the East Midlands you must not miss this. I'm definitely going back for a second viewing.

Also my friends came back from a few days in Whitby today with a copy of the Whitby Gazette newspaper and 'quel surprise!' there I am in it! I think it's a great photo. I didn't notice it being taken at the time but I was really concentrating on not letting my tripod blow over in the wind during that painting! You can see I have my tripod legs spread out for maximum stability and my own feet planted squarely on the ground, plus that look of grim determination about me...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Channelling Olympia

I had a long and tiring day yesterday in London but it was great to have the opportunity to paint in the Winsor & Newton studio with members and friends of the Royal Institute of Oil painters. We had a lovely model called Jess, who posed for two sessions for us. I toned my panel and paper (this one is on Arches huile paper) the day before with a thin greenish grey, which worked really well underneath the skin tones. In fact it worked really well as the skin tones in a lot of places which I've exploited here.
This pose was very interesting for it's foreshortening on the legs, her feet coming out towards me. The model was lit by a lamp for this one as well as the natural daylight from the window. Notice the cool daylight on places such as her left hand and the warm light closest to the lamp on her face and left arm. Also there was some reflected light bouncing off the white wall behind her. I wish I had more opportunity to paint from the life model but there isn't anywhere locally where I can join in with a group. I'm just so grateful for all the years I was able to have weekly and twice weekly life sessions for four years while studying and several years more at the Nottingham Society of Artists studio.
This pose reminded us of Manet's Olympia!
I've barely had time to look at my Staithes paintings yet.
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