Friday, 31 December 2010


I was lucky to be able to catch a bit of snow action and am keeping my fingers crossed for more! I think the coldest session was done at about -4 degrees.....that was quite cold enough for me. I don't mind if it's snowing at the time as long as the flakes don't get onto the palette and painting and emulsify everything. Speaking of palettes, this is my current winter selection:

It's quite an 'earthy' mix, suited to the generally overcast conditions and loosely based on the palette used by Ricard Schmid. I've added raw umber and naples yellow as I find them really useful. Here I'm using my small pochade, built by my Dad, which is mounted onto a tripod. In the sicy conditions I found it better standing up to paint as it kept the feet warmer by moving around a bit.

The setup above was used in front of this scene below:

The camera doesn't really show what I saw in terms of colours/tones. For my painting I took a slightly closer view and in some ways I wish I'd had the French easel as I could have done a slightly wider format to get more in. Nevertheless, I got something time to be fussy....

This was done nearby at Passenham, just a 10 minute walk from my house. It was overcast and VERY cold. I'd had enough after about 75 mins and tidied it up for an hour or so in the studio afterwards (once I'd defrosted!). The foreground was tricky because I wanted the eye to move into the distance without being distracted by the bits of undergrowth which, in reality, was more dense than I've depicted

I really made a conscious effort to try and pick up on the colours without making them seem too exaggerated. With the overcast conditions, it's easy to slip into a drab grey mode. I kept saying to myself....don't make it drab, keep the colours clean and fresh. Admittedly, my brush cleaning was a little more undisciplined than usual, owing to the conditions, but I used a large collection of brushes to compensate, swapping them over rather than messing about with too much cleaning.

The next one was just across the road at Calverton. Everywhere else was foggy but the faint sun tried it's best to make a brief appearance before the scene went really dull. Still, I tried to make the most of things and worked on a slightly bigger panel (roughly 8x14in).

Above, blocking in with an earthy mix to set the design in place. I've got the panel propped on a custom platform on the French easel as I find it doesn't stretch high enough when I'm standing up....I wish they made them go higher!!

and the painting....with a cameo from the car with headlights on the right

Finally, this one was done on Boxing day at Sawbridge in Warwickshire. I just drove out from Rugby to 'find somewhere rural'. Annoyingly, it had been glorious sunshine the day before but the clouds returned once more although a few slithers of light did make a short appearance to make things a bit more interesting. I liked the simplicity of the scene and the fact that the sheep looked so brown against the snow. There was a black sheep too which really stood out (I had to tone it down otherwise it would have stood out too much). This was a small 6x8, done standing up so a little fiddly to deal with.

Compare with the photo which doesn't tell the true story!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Blog makeover!

This is the new, shiny 'Blogger' version of the blog which I've now updated with messages from the previous version. Google's Blogger looks pretty neat so hopefully it'll make things a bit easier for everyone, especially when it comes to adding comments and following the blog......hint....nudge...hint :o)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Snow (without sunshine!)

We got off lightly with the snow here in Stony Stratford but I was determined to try to capture something before it all got washed away by the rain. I took a half day off work and nipped out to a local rural spot down the road from where I live (Passenham). It was freezing cold (-2 degrees) and I had to keep an eye on the hands and feet. Thermals were essential. It was overcast but that offers many advantages with the subtle colours and tones. I was keen not to exaggerate the colours and went for harmony as the key objective. I enjoyed the puff of smoke coming from the cottage chimney. This is the result after about 90 mins in the icy conditions!

The following day (Saturday) the forecast was for rain coming in so I thought I'd try to catch the last of the snow before it melted away. Just up the road towards Calverton I found a spot where the snow was clinging on and just as I squeezed the paint out it started raining! Luckily, I had the easel umbrella in the car so I hooked it up and painted like a madman before the light disappeared. Some interesting geometry in the this one and once again it was interesting to focus on the subtle colours and tones. There was an added bonus as the streetlights came on with a slow glow and a few cars with headlight reflections in the wet road. To complete the scene, a walker strolled by towards the end with a nice note of colour in his scarf :o) I only had about 75mins on this one before I was beaten by the light

Monday, 6 December 2010

Meat market with Art Convoy

I recently spent a chilly Sunday painting at a spot down at Smithfield's meat market in London with a group known as Art Convoy who I came across on Facebook. They're a very nice bunch and it makes a refreshing change to be outside painting alongside other fellow artists. Hopefully there will be more outings to come in the future.

The piece I did was an interesting composition with radical shifts of light. I liked the cool light gently filtering in through the skylights in the roof curves. I also thought the puddles helped draw the sky down through the composition. I was conscious of trying to balance those shifts and make sure I got as close as I could with the colour temperatures. The phone boxes offered a bit of a challenge because their intense colour could easily have stole the show. Hopefully I got the balance somewhere near the right sort of level, tempered with a touch of viridian and ultramarine to knock it back slightly. It was great to see how the other artists approached the same subject. The somewhat 'unifinished' look I attribute to the grittier nature of the subject :o)

Compare my study with the photo below. Those telephone boxes don't half scream at you which is why I toned them down by adding Viridian. Notice too how the lights are totally bleached out by the camera. This is one of the reasons I much prefer painting directly from the subject. Couple that with the fact that I find working from photos a pretty dull affair. The energy of the moment is what guides me. I find the camera often kills the subject but it can be handy for reminders of details.

HMS Belfast

I recently managed a visit to London and thought I'd head for Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast (something I've fancied painting for a while). I was limited with the kit I could carry so had to keep the scale reasonably small with the pochade (as opposed to French easel). It was a grey day but I find grey days can offer just as much if not more interest, especially in terms of colour which isn't cast into deep shadow or bleached out by the sun. To add a bit of spice to the challenge, HMS Belfast is painted with camouflage colours which make it blend with the there's a nice little painterly problem to solve.

It was more detailed than I imagined but I still tried to simplifiy things down. I didn't want to end up with a technical maritime piece...more a study of the subtle tone and colours. Hopefully I got some way was cold though...the November wind really funnels along the Thames!