Wednesday, 30 May 2012

ROI paint day

The ROI had their annual paint day/picnic at Strand on the Green in London yesterday (Monday) and it was really nice to meet up with members/friends in the sunshine and give the easels a bit of a workout. I've never been to Strand on the Green but have seen it painted masterfully by a number of artists I admire so the challenge was on! Actually, for my first sortie I headed up onto the bridge and managed to catch a bit of sparkle from the overhead sun before it quickly moved round to the right. Inevitably, the boat moved about two thirds the way through but I sensed they were planning to move so actually started the boat early on.

'Towards Oliver's Island from Kew Bridge', oil on board 10x13in

Looks like there's some debris stuck in the paint....should come off when it's dry! (you can click the image for a larger version). I was in the full glare of the sun and it was very noisy with all the traffic streaming across the bridge behind me. Enjoyed it though and I think the painting captures the warmth of the day.

I wasn't quite so inspired by the light for my second effort but I thought I'd have a go anyway at Oliver's island with the receding tide. It was too hot to hunt around looking for another pitch! By this time the sun was popping in and out which made it a bit trickier. Those two fir trees sticking up out of the island are an odd but distinctive feature. Notice the students on a school field trip who gathered on the left to bring a nice little touch of interest and detail. 

'Oliver's Island, low tide' - 8x16in, oil on board

To round off the day a few of us gathered for a well earned brew in the nearby cafe :)

Above: Nicholas Verrall, Adebanj Alade, Roger Dellar and Tim King. Come on Tim....say cheese!!

Tony Merrick and Nicholas relaxing after some painting action

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cliff action

I love it up on the wild, rugged Cornish cliffs. You really feel in touch with the elements and the scenery is quite breathtaking. It doesn't always necessarily translate well into painting material so it's important to try and find the right sort of spot that provides an interesting painterly subject. I tend to find it's the bigger, abstract shapes/design that is most important and you can find some really dynamic potential at places like Levant, Pendeen and Botallack. The wind can be an issue, along with the sun, but I tried to find spots on the shadow side of rocks (umbrellas aren't very practical on the exposed locations). This little clip (sorry, not great quality) was taken on my camera on one such perch after completing a study at Levant and gives a sense of what it's like up there:

I did two paintings on different days from the Levant cliffs (click images for larger versions):

'Towards Pendeen from Levant', 10x13in, oil on board

'Levant cliffs', 10x13in, oil on board

More cliff action was had at Botallack. Tim and I both took on the Crowns and again I found a spot in the shade behind some rocks to stop the sun shining on the work surface:

'Crowns at Botallack', 10x13in, oil on board

'Zawn, Botallack', 8x10in, oil on board

I really enjoyed painting this little Zawn with Tim. The light moved round fast but we couldn't resist it after being revived by a brew from Tim's Kelly kettle!

Tim lights the Kelly kettle which serves us well, accompanied by some much needed chocolate biscuits to boost our energy levels. At Levant there is another Zawn (Trewellard) which we figured would look good against the light in the late afternoon sun. I decided to give it a go and was pleased with the end result:

'Trewellard Zawn', Levant 10x13in, oil on board

As with a few of the other paintings, I found the palette knife was quite useful for suggesting the highlights on the water. The type of marks and the clean application of paint served the purpose better than the brush in certain circumstances. As a contrast, the darks were kept as transparent and unfussy as possible.
I feel quite at home painting by the sea. Here's a slightly dodgy little clip of the scene as I was wrapping things up.

A couple more action shots from the end of the trip. 

This shot of Roy made me laugh as it looks like he's using a pink cocktail umbrella as a sun shade :)

Tim, is that umbrella actually doing anything?

Roy painting a view of Land's End

Tim perched on the rocks painting the 'Irish Lady'

Tim and Roy towards Land's End

The sun sets on another great trip but hopefully it won't be too long before the next one.

Heading for the harbour

We had a couple of damp days (actually, it was more like being in a cloud at times) but we were determined to get out and see what could be done with the easel and brushes. The sheltered harbours of Newlyn and Mousehole seemed like a good choice as there would be scope for some colour with the fishing boats and associated paraphernalia. I actually enjoyed painting in these conditions. Despite the rain, the light was steady and the subtle greys made a nice backdrop for the notes of colour we were presented with.
This one was painted in the harbour at Newlyn (click images for larger version):

'Boats at Newlyn', 8x12in, oil on board

I was pleased with how this turned out. On the last couple of trips to Cornwall I didn't feel as though I'd done Newlyn and Mousehole justice so I was determined to try and make a decent go of them this time round. It was quite a complex subject and I tried to keep all the colours and tones in harmony as best as I could. It's busy without being cluttered and the composition seems to hold firm. Funnily enough, the big boat on the left had been moored for 2 years as it needed repairs but two thirds of the way through the painting they moved it towards the dry dock! The fisherman that told me seemed quite amused :)

The weather got a lot worse in the afternoon so I opted to buy some fresh mackerel and herring from the nearby fish shop and paint them back at the ranch. It took a while to find an interesting composition but eventually (and with the light fading fast) I settled on this arrangment on the kitchen table by the window.

'Two mackerel and a red herring', 8x10in, oil on board

On the next rainy day we headed to Mousehole and I managed to find a couple of spots that kept me quietly tucked away from the crowds. The first was done on a section of the harbour that sits at the bottom of the wall and makes an ideal spot to work from.

Tim working relatively undisturbed with my kit alongside

Master of all he surveys at Mousehole!

I started with a small 6x8in study to try and tune in to the colours and tones. The foreground boat was handy in providing some much needed tonal contrast since the rest of the scene was quite subdued.

'Misty rain, Mousehole', 6x8in, oil on board

I then decided to move down onto the sand after the tide had disappeared (as it does very quickly when it turns). I enjoyed this one, off setting the local colours of the boats and buoys against the dark sea wall. A couple of fishermen turned up to potter on their boats and add a spot of life.

'Boats at rest, Mousehole harbour', 8x16in, oil on board

Roy was perched nearby (you can see the yellow boat I painted in the background before the tide went out) and postioned right where buses and dustbin carts needed to reverse (hence the squeeze on the kerb). He managed to escape the traffic but not the curious onlookers!

Cornwall rocks!

I recently got back from a return trip to Sennen (Land's End) with fellow painting pals and we had a great time. This time round I booked the two adjoining properties and this meant we could invite more people than last time. Thanks for everyone for coming :) The weather was mixed but I wasn't going to let that get in the way of some coastal plein air action. On the whole we didn't fare too badly, a couple of wet days but the rest was either sun or cloud (or both...which can make painting very tricky!).

I was conscious of not painting the same views I've painted before so I tried to find some different spots at favourite locations. The great thing about the West Penwith Peninsula is that there's such a variety of subjects, ranging from sheltered coves and fishing harbours to wild rugged cliffs and sparkling beaches. There seems such little time to take it all in when you're only there for a week but we just had to pick our spots and get stuck right in.

I got up at 5am on the Saturday for the long drive down and arrived in Sennen just after 11am. As soon as I saw the sea I thought...right....a quick brew then it's time for some action. I headed onto the beach and ran down to the shoreline with my kit. It seemed the best spot but really I should have know better. The waves were but a few metres away...was the tide going out of coming in? What the heck, lets just have a go. Needless to say within minutes the waves were lapping up around my easel. I think I moved about 6 or 7 times, passers by must have thought it was very amusing. Funnily enough, I think I ended up painting one of my favourite pieces from the trip. Maybe it was all the adrenalin and excitement that helped spur things along. It seems to capture the essence of the moment. Anyway, here's the painting as it ended up (you should be able to click on the images to view them larger):

'Gathering clouds, Sennen'  - oil on board (6.5x14in)
Later in the day the others arrived and pitched up along the sea front, eager to get stuck in and seize upon the sunshine before it disappeared.

It doesn't take Roy Connelly long to get stuck in

David Bachmann and Mike Richardson in full flow!

The Sennen lifeboat house and jetty is very paintable and I attempted to capture it in a different ways:

'Into the light, Sennen' 8x10in oil on board

 'Early evening light, Sennen' 6x8in oil on board

'Evening sparkle, Sennen jetty' 8x10in oil on board

'Fading light, Sennen jetty' 6x8in oil on board

In this one above, every I time I looked up this scene had changed. I was also holding an umbrella in one hand as the heavens opened sveral times. Perhaps a little ambitous but good fun with the others battling away alongside. We were right in front of the pub the 'Old Success' on the seafront and they must have found it very amusing watching us getting drenched!

Behind us, a beautiful rainbow emerged! On the clifftop on the left you can just about make out the place where we were stayingfor the week.

The rest of the seafront at Sennen has some great material for painting too:

'Lifeguard hut, Sennen' 8x10in oil on board

I was pleased to keep the colours fresh in this one above and tried to make use of both transparency and opcacity,

'Towards Cape Cornwall, Sennen' 6x10in oil on board

The sun kept coming in and out on this one above but I tried to keep to some sort of plan and kept it as simple as possible. The rocks at low tide can look 'messy' so less if often more.

'Lively swell, Sennen' 6x10in oil on board

I had a bit of a nightmare painting this one above. I ran out of medium, my easel fell over in the sand covering EVERYTHING and the sun was full on the board, bad news for judging the tones. Still, having got a few expletives off my chest and having gone to the trouble of finding a half decent pitch I decided to see it through! There are a few grains of sand in stuck into the paint but I think it's quite nice to have a bit of Sennen preserved in the paint :)

Of course, we wanted to branch out from Sennen and a favourite haunt was Pendeen and the old Enys rock that just out majestically into the Atlantic. The wind was up so I painted this one sitting down with the pochade on my lap:

'Enys, Pendeen - late afternoon light' 10x13in oil on board

Getting the aerial perspective right can be a challenge as often the distant headland is quite dark, there are subtle shifts in tone and temperature needed to make it read in the distance. Also, when the distant headlands are green these need to be played down quite a lot otherwise they lurch forward and ruin that sense of distance/atmosphere in between. The Enys is such a unique, identifiable shape and it's important to get the drawing right. There were some handy shadow areas that serve as useful anchors in constructing the basic shapes of the composition. I find it's better to get the overall shapes pretty accurate but not to get too fussy on details otherwise the painting becomes too fussy and loses its sense of energy.

Whilst painting up on the slopes of Pendeen, Michael Worthington stumbled across this adder which was only a few metres from where I was painting. Yikes! Apparently it hissed as Michael took the shot. Needless to say I trod carefully after that!

This next little study was done in the morning at Priest's Cove, Cape Cornwall. It was a tricky session and I found it diffuclt with the sun coming in and out but that's the way it goes sometimes. I thought the jutting rock in the foreground and the rhythms of the lines on the cliff were worth examining anyway.

'Priest's Cove, Cape Cornwall' 8x10in oil on board

Porthchapel Cove is another favoured spot and I was pleased to get the chance to visit on a sunny morning. I found an interesting perch on the slopes down to the beach and the tide was at just the right level. Enjoyed painting this one and I used my own cast shadow to shield the paint surface from the sun.

'Porthchapel Cove, morning sunshine' 10x13in oil on board

More paintings and action shots from the cliffs and harbours to follow shortly in the next posts!