Digging Deep – My Inspiration

Digging Deep
Digging Deep Mixed media on cradled panel. Framed. 12×12″

Landscape, history and archaeology inspire me. I am fascinated by what has gone before.  I also love walking and exploring.  A few years ago I had occasion to spend some time on the south coat down in Dorset.  We were staying in Weymouth with a group of scuba diving friends.  I’d go on long walks along the cliffs with my dogs, while my friends were off exploring underwater.  As I am much more of a warm water person, the diving was not for me, being too deep and dark to interest me.  On these trips I was more interested in seeing what was above the surface of the sea and spent my days exploring the coastline.

Walking Portland

One of the walks I enjoyed was on Portland.  Portland is an island near Weymouth.  Four miles in length, it has three light houses and numerous quarries for the limestone used by Christopher Wren in the building of St Paul’s cathedral.  As a result, the coastline of Portland is very interesting. Not only are there a series of low cliffs and small bays along the coast, but also industrial archaeology. Circumnavigating Portland was one of the many walks in the area I enjoyed.   I can remember absolutely blazing hot sunny days when I was very grateful for a cooling breeze off the sea and lots of chances to paddle and cool off.

On the walk I came across a tangle of metal cables, a beam and ironwork on the cliff edge.  Research following the walk explained it was called Red Crane, used to lower boats into the water.  With this information my imagination took flight.  Fed during childhood and adolescence on a steady diet of Georgette Heyer, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier,  I like to wonder about  the people living in cottages along the coast.  How they lived, worked and died. I’m endlessly fascinated to see the signs and marks they have left behind them.  It may be in the ridges in a field suggesting a medieval field boundary or like the crane sitting on the cliff edge, above the sea on Portland.

Inspiration

It is these experiences that inspire my work. My visits to Dorset took place about eight or nine years ago. When I was painting Digging Deep I didn’t have an idea of the crane on that hot summer’s day in mind.  The industrial shapes only emerged during the process of the work towards the end.  I work intuitively applying paint, making marks, experimenting with texture, surface and colour until something catches my interest.  Then I want to develop it further. The lines and marks at the top of the painting, reminiscent of industrial archaeology, caught my attention.  From there the work became about land, excavation and edges.

IMG_20180615_214732-01
Digging Deep – an earlier version.

I think in the case of this work the title Digging Deep is also a metaphor for the experience of completing the painting.   This piece has had several iterations. I had worked on it over several months, finding and discarding ideas throughout that process. There were a couple of times when I thought it was finished. And then decided that maybe it wasn’t. Sometimes we fall in love too soon with an idea and do not give ourselves the space to dig deep to find what else there might be to express.   If I continue with the metaphor of digging deep within, then I think this piece also reflects how as artists we might need to dig deep within ourselves to find confidence to continue, to find energy, inspiration, motivation and ideas.

How does your inspiration show itself in your work?  I’d love to hear from you.

24 Hour Sale

Exciting News! I will be doing a Facebook Live Sale on Monday 10th December at 6.30pm. I will have some of my prints, my boxed notecards and even some original paintings in the sale. I am offering a 25% reduction on the usual price and P&P is included. The sale will last until 6.30pm (uk time) on Tuesday. With plenty of time for posting before Christmas this could be your opportunity to grab a pre-Christmas bargain and give an unusual and original gift to someone special.

I have a selection of abstract and impressionistic landscape prints that will be included in this 24 Hour Sale. I will be selecting from the recent colour studies and including some of these along with two of my larger works on wooden cradled panel. Along with prints and originals both my new Abstract and the Flowers and Fields card sets are included as smaller gift options.

Message me on the day to reserve your choice and items will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Watercolours!!

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.

Afternoon pastels

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.

Silver Birch - dry pastel
Silver Birch – dry pastel

First Signs

Grape vine Amelanchier

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.

Hawthorn Rosehip 2 Teasel Blueberries

Hue

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.

Peak District

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

Scotch Pine 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

Heather Hills

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.

Snow on Stanage

Bluebells at Linacre

Path through the Bluebells.

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.

Spring

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.

Painting Techniques

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.

Spring at Linacre.

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.

Bluebells at Linacre

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.

Bluebells

There are more paintings to view on my website.

http://www.linc-art.com/

Do you have a favourite time of year, place or a type of scene that never fails to inspire you? Something that you can look at repeatedly and see something new and different every time?