Anyone who has read my blog may have picked up that I’m don’t really paint much using watercolours. I paint in oils and acrylic and I’ve been using pastels recently, but satisfaction with watercolours has so far eluded me. I was thinking about this recently and it dates back to school. I was using oils and acrylics when I took my A levels and I only began using watercolours about two or three years ago. Which makes sense as to why I’ve found them a bit challenging.
I am very much drawn to other artists’ work in the medium, I love the quality of the light that is conveyed and the beautiful lightness of touch and impression of spontaneity. So having recently decided that I wanted to improve my work in this area and spurred on by a couple of book purchases (see Doodling) I’ve been spending all my painting time this week either reading or using watercolours, beginning with some doodling earlier in the week, and finishing up with a couple of small paintings.
The process has been very interesting. I’ve resisted a lot of planning in the past. I’m a “lets get in there and start painting” person. This does not work with watercolour. I’ve proved it several times. Two or three minutes in, one unthought through, brush stroke later and the paper is in the bin/ drying for scrap and I’m sitting feeling grumpy. So I’ve planned. I’ve done quick sketches, followed by tonal sketches in pencil. Then tonal sketches in watercolour. Then planned out the palette. And taken my time. Planned which colour to use and when. And had some pretty happy results. A good start and not feeling grumpy.
I’ve been experimenting with working with pastels recently. Getting used to the properties and techniques. Here’s a colour study of some silver birch trees on Curbar Gap during winter. Dry pastel on cool blue grey paper 160g 30cmx22cm. This is going to sit for a while now while I evaluate it. I’ll be looking at mark making, colour, composition. I’m already thinking of using a damp brush to give more definition to some of the branches in the trees.
The first signs of autumn are here. Leaves starting to turn, end of the blackberries, a cool crisp chill in the air first thing in the morning, misty days like today. I love the autumn colour, although its also tinged with a touch of wistfulness for me as well. The close of the summer, no more endlessly hot, bright days for a few months. I always think that the glorious colours of autumn are natures last gasp of majesty before everything goes to sleep for the winter months. So, I’ve been capturing some of the early signs on my morning walks. The hawthorn, the rose hips, teasels, grasses and flowers going to seed and I’m beginning to think about autumn colour – burnt sienna, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, indigo and purple.
I put up a post a few days ago about working with triads of colour. I said I was looking forward to trying out the principles with acrylic paint to see what that might be like and it’s been great fun.
I have found painting the landscape in the Peak District to be an interesting challenge. Moorland can be pretty bleak and uncompromising and although this is contrasted with some lovely rolling green hills interspersed with rocks, trees, and dry stone walls, the composition and use of colour becomes more important, otherwise I find I can end up with a just a very green painting. I think this is one of those times when, because I’m not painting something that is particularly beautiful of itself, unlike the Isles of Scilly for example, it can become beautiful through the expression of the artist. There is a wildness and bleakness that I do find appealing and compelling, but that doesn’t make it something that in my view works as a painting, so the challenge is how convey something of the bleakness and the wild openness in a way that is visually attractive.
Scotch Pines at Longshaw
The chance to play around with some colour seemed to fit well with this, and here are my first couple of attempts. The first painting is of scotch pines in the grounds up at Longshaw. This was from a walk on a lovely bright winter’s day. I was particularly struck by the deep shadows in the foreground and the light in the distance. The walk we did on this day took us through Grindleford and Padley Gorge where I took lots more snaps to work on back in the studio. Longshaw is a National Trust property between Sheffield and Hathersage.
Snow on Stanage
The next couple of paintings are both around Stanage, one of the many grit stone edges that can be found in this area. From the tops the moors stretch out before you into the far distance and all there is to see is mile after mile of rolling heather, bracken and grass moving in the breeze. Here’s something from a day with the heather in bloom and another when there was snow on the ground.
Following some pretty wet weather the bluebells are out at Linacre. This time of year is one of my favourites for the stunning beauty of the beech woods and the carpet of bluebells that seem to hover a few inches above the earth, below glorious bright green canopy of the trees.
Each year, as soon as we reach the middle of April I start looking out for those telltale spots of blue that give hints of the glory yet to come. This year has been no different. The wild garlic is showing with those wonderful white stars, the anemones with their delicate petals and leaves and the bluebells with a heady scent that fills the air on a warm day. My inspiration for painting is from moments of peacefulness and connection, bluebells are a favourite of mine, something I love to paint and I never fail to be stirred by them.
I’ve completed a few paintings of bluebell woods, using various techniques. Its been fun experimenting, finding different ways of expressing the experience and communicating what I see.
This is an early painting. I was interested in contrast between the dark in the foreground under the trees and the light in distance between the trees and the remains of last year’s leaves still on the ground, the orange complementing the blue of the flowers.
Experimenting with a palette knife, enjoying the texture of the paint and building up the paint layering it on thickly.
And my most recent work this year, acrylic on board.