Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Royal Institute of Oil Painters annual exhibition, 2015

Looking forward to attending the private view today for the 2015 exhibition with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. It promises to be a great show, as indicated by the work on display on the new Mall Galleries website. The show is on until Sunday December 21st and certain to be well worth a visit.

I'm pleased to have five paintings on display with a mixture of studio and plein air works:

'High Summer, Fowey' (15x28in, oil on board)

'Boats at rest, Portscatho' (20x30in, oil on board)

'Waves rolling in, Looe' (6x14in, oil on board)

'Happy boats, Polperro' (10x14in)

'Gothic Library, Stowe House' (20x26in, oil on board)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Norfolk trip (2)

On a particularly murky morning we all headed up the coast road to nearby Morston which never fails to offer up subject matter. I've never really had a go in overcast conditions so it was interesting to take on the mud and all the greys reflected from the foggy sky.

'Boats at rest, Morston' - 11x14in, oil on board

It's surprising the colours you find in these sorts of conditions and I wanted to make the most of the tonal range that was on offer. I drafted in some distant boats, taken from elsewhere, to aid the sense of depth. Note the hints of a Land Rover and someone on a moped on the distant bank, quietly suggested so as not to draw too much attention. The one below shows the same boats but I was perched up on the jetty behind, looking towards Blakeney church in the far distance. I felt in the mood for a bigger board but it was very cold and breezy and towards the end I started to feel a bit of a nip. 

'Grey day at Morston, towards Blakeney' - 12x24in, oil on board

'Wet mud, Morston' - 10x12in, oil on board

Roy, David and Karl lined up for action

There was a great little boat moored up on the bank at Brancaster Staithe and I think it has real personality, if a boat can have such a thing! I've painted this boat in the water at sunset on a previous trip but it was a different sort of challenge this time.

'Orange top, Brancaster Staithe' - 11x14in, oil on board

'Boats and buildings, Brancaster Staithe' - 8x16in, oil on board

On the final day we actually had some decent sunshine! Tim and I decided that a view from the house was too good to resist and since the wind was really whipping if made good sense. We had the window open to make it feel more like a plein air outing!

'Blowy day, Burham Overy Staithe' - 12x16in, oil on board

After the first attempt I decided to have another go and loosen up a little on a slightly bigger board. At one point we had a squally shower and we couldn't see a thing through the window but the rain drops soon got blown away. I might be tempted to use these as reference for a bigger piece in the studio at some point as the window was huge and I like the idea of re-creating that sense of a giant vista!

'Bright and breezy, Burham Overy Staithe' - 14x18in, oil on board

David Bachmann painting from a chilly perch at Morston

Karl, Tim, Roy and Tony painting from the back of the house

Careful when you take a step back Mike!

Tim, content with his masterpiece!

Norfolk trip (1)

I've just returned from a lovely painting trip to North Norfolk with some friends last week. Excited by the prospect of a few days of uninterrupted painting I dived straight in (not literally...the mud wasn't that inviting) after arriving at Brancaster Staithe.

'Boats with mud and fog, Brancaster Staithe', 12x16in oil on board (click images to enlarge)

I was surprised how long the tide remained low for this one.

We stayed in a fantastic location at Burnham Overy Staithe and had stunning views literally on our doorstep. It's not hard to see why the likes of Seago got so inspired by Norfolk.

The view from the back garden!

The group included David Bachmann, Roy Connelly, Tony Dakin, Marc Delassio, Jory Glazener, Tim King, Mike Richardson and Karl Terry. We also met up a few times with John Dobbs and his eight month old Alsation Dixie (I couldn't find a web link for Dixie!)

The photo above doesn't reflect the majority of foggy/murky weather we had but luckily the sun did come out on a couple of mornings. Mind you, we quite enjoyed painting in the grey conditions and it helped emphasize the local colours of subjects. The next morning we started up on the harbour at Burnham Overy Staithe which always offers up interesting arrangements with the boats and buildings.

'Grey morning, Burham Overy Staithe' - 8x16in, oil on board

I had work quickly on the study below just at the back of our house at Burnham Overy Staithe. The tide was rising, the sun kept coming in and out and the boat on the right was spinning round like crazy! Subtle colour/value shifts to contend with and the boats end up being quite tiny (yet critical) marks on a smaller scale. I tend to stick to small panels when the subject is likely to change quickly.

'Rising tide, Burham Overy Staithe'  - 6x10in, oil on board

Below is another small panel of the harbour at Burnham Overy Staithe. I do like the way the buildings and masts provide an interesting mass on the left and I was able to balance this with the jetty and the boat with a maroon sail which was heading out for a final run of the day. The light was really fading so I keyed this a bit higher and by the end I couldn't see much through my specs as the drizzle had rolled in! I tried to keep the values and colours crisp to avoid the dreaded 'veil of drabness'. 

'Last sail of the day, Burnham Ovey Staithe' - 6x14in, oil on board

There was quite a lot of drawing in the one below, along with close values and colour shifts which needed some close attention. I was keen to suggest rather than describe anything too heavily, aiming for an overall harmony of some sort.

'Boats moored at Blakeney' -12x16in, oil on board

I enjoyed painting something a little different with the jumble of fishing gear and the marsh water in the background. Again, it was very overcast so I decided to bring the emphasis closer in and get a fell for all the clobber that gets strewn around the boat yard at Brancaster Staithe.

'Fishing jumble and marsh, Brancaster Staithe' - 8x10in, oil on board

The painting below was nice to do, not least because the sun came out. As is often the case, a few boats were moved around to make a better composition and the muddy bank on the right hand side seemed to balance up the diagonal line of the three main boats quite well. Even on this medium sort of scale the boats can be tricky to paint and a wayward mark can ruin the effect. I try to simplify the shapes and observe the essential elements without getting snagged on unnecessary details.

'Resting boats, Burham Overy Staithe' - 11x15in, oil on board

More Norfolk paintings to follow shortly in the second installment.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Stowe House

I've been doing a spot of art residency with Stowe House in Buckinghamshire and recently spent a couple of enjoyable sessions painting the impressive Gothic Library (now the Headmaster's office). The staff were extremely accommodating in allowing me access and the space was also open to the public for the two days I was there. The house is the architectural focal point for Stowe School and the surrounding grounds which are owned by the National Trust.

The Gothic library was a treat to paint and I chose a position that would make the most of the interplay between the natural/artificial lighting and the distinctive maquettes which enhanced the sense of grandeur.

'The Gothic Library, Stowe House' - 20x26in, oil on board (click image to enlarge)

I was determined not to labour the painting and wanted to keep it nice and fresh whilst getting enough detail for everything to make sense. I thought the juxtaposition of the maquettes and lamps made a nice punchy rhythm and enhanced the feeling of space. The central uplighter was a real bonus, especially as it lit up the deep burgundy of the wall panel behind. The blue chair was a lovely colour and this worked well in the overall scheme too. Notice the sculpture of the Beatles on right...that was really fun to put in :)

I was fortunate to be able to work over two sessions and decided to use a bigger panel than I would normally work with on location. In this case it was 20x26in and I used the French half box easel for support (often this is too low for me with a smaller panel but with a bigger board it's less problematic).

In action and wearing my serious painting face!

I really hope I can get more opportunities to paint interior spaces. I haven't really tackled them since my university days and have got a real taste for it again. I'm certainly hoping to do more work with Stowe House, perhaps venturing into the grounds if the weather is behaving!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Weekend in Chelsea (Pintar Rapido)

This weekend I was in Chelsea taking part in 'Pintar Rapido'. It was an excellent event and great to meet up with friends/fellow artists for some plein air fun. I haven't painted in London for quite some time and it's as demanding as I remember....physically challenging with the humidity/heat and all the kit required for the event (I seem to have pulled back muscles from carrying all my clobber), plus the general mayhem of the London streets! Still, you go with it and there is actually quite a buzz to draw from which can feed into the work.

My first effort was done down by the Albert Bridge at Cadogen Pier, looking across the Thames with a nice variety of boats moored up for some sort of event. The light was generally flat with the odd glimpses of brief sunshine but at least that meant the conditions were reasonably steady. Certainly no sign of the torrential thunderstorms that were forecast on Saturday.

I enjoyed painting the reflections and paid particular attention to the tones and how they related to each other. Some nice notes of colour came from the boats with their flags, painted hulls and buoys. I tried to keep the distant trees and towers pushed back to give a bit of depth. This ended up being the painting I put into the exhibition which was held the following day (Sunday) at Chelsea Old Town Hall.

'Cadogen pier, Chelsea Embankment', 12x16in - oil on board (click to enlarge)

In the afternoon (and after a much needed lunch) I headed for a quieter square (Carlyle Square) with Tim King and painted along the terrace. We were lucky to find a shady spot and it was conveniently close to Pintar HQ at the Old Town Hall. The sun kept popping in and out which made it tricky but I settled on a 'sun out' subject to make the most of the light and shadow effects. Towards the end of the session I felt completely worn out but it was still nice to have a go at something different to the river.

'Carlyle Square, Chelsea', 12x16in - oil on board

There was a great buzz at the exhibition on the Sunday and it was very well attended. Here are a couple of shots from the show:

With my painting and admittedly looking a bit worn out!

The show inside Chelsea Town Hall, as seen from the front stage

I was lucky to be able to join David Bachmann and Paul Rafferty at a nearby cricket match for a quick sketch in the afternoon which was a real bonus too.

'Sunday cricket, Royal Hospital park - Chelsea', 8x16in - oil on board

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Sheep and buttercups

I managed to catch this scene at Castlethorpe, just a few miles up the road from home in Stony Stratford. The sheep were very obliging and created nice shapes with the light coming from an angle behind. It was the field of buttercups that really grabbed my attention though. The yellow was so intense and I had to calm it down a bit. I still wonder if I could have taken it down a notch or two but it's quite nice to have a punchier colour statement for a change. I don't normally go for subjects with really wild colours but spring yellows are very uplifting. I made the most of the 'L' shape formed by the tree shadow and tried to place the sheep so they didn't look too arranged. It was nice to see them lounging around in the shade and this provided a variety of poses to make use of (I didn't want them all munching the grass!)

Painted a few weeks back, I was on the hunt for capturing a small slice of the essence of (late) Spring. Despite the tranquillity depicted, I was actually backed up to a busy road and the air was full of heavy bass from a music concert somewhere in Milton Keynes!

'Buttercup meadow, Castlethorpe', 10x14in - oil on board 

Another rural scene, this time by a canal at Braunston. I was lucky to find this barge parked up with some nice shadows across the footpath. Just an hour or so on this one before the light had changed and the boats had started to move.

'Barge at Braunston', 8x10in - oil on board

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A day in Portscatho

Last week I visited Portscatho on a hot and sunny day. I've been there before but it was a few years ago and thankfully little has changed! It's less touristy than other spots in south east Cornwall and it was nice to find some quiet places to pitch around the harbour. When the sun is out down there the colours are fantastic.

'Harbour sparkle, Portscatho' - 10x8in, oil on board

After the tide had receded (remarkably quickly) I fancied a study of the boats before the water went right out. The colours were superb and I wanted to keep them as fresh as possible in the painting. I must admit there was a lot of drawing to work out with the boats but I went straight in with the paint and aimed for an approximation rather than an exacting illustration. It was the punch of the colours and tones that I really wanted to focus on. Towards the end of the painting the tide and completely gone out and the boats were sitting on the sand but that was a handy point to tighten up a few key lines/edges and spots of detail. I do like the challenge of finding a satisfying arrangement from a jumble of boats and I moved one or two of the boats a bit to try and help the composition.

'Boats at rest, Portscatho' - 11x14in, oil on board

After a bit of welcome refreshment I finished off with a little sketch across the bay. It had to be small as I'd almost run out of titanium white! Again, I wanted to keep it clean and fresh and try to get close to something of the essence of the place.

'Portscatho beach', 6x8in, oil on board

On returning to Looe in the evening I thought I was done for the day but spotted this little boat subject with cracking reflections which I just couldn't resist. I'd left it about half an hour too late really but decided to get something down while I had the change. Within minutes of starting the light began to fade. The aim was to try and get a sense of the light/colours and then perhaps use this as the basis for something in the studio later on.

'Boats at Looe, evening light', 10x9in, oil on board

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Cornwall (Looe) with the ROI

I've just returned from a few days down in Cornwall having met up with ROI members and friends down in Looe last weekend. It was a great painting and social weekend and I stayed on for several days of painting along the nearby coastline. The weather really picked up nicely as the week went on and I switched from woolly hats to factor 30 sun cream. It's surprisingly rugged in places along the coast path, away from the tourist hotspots like Looe, Polperro and Fowey and I enjoyed the variety of taking in both rugged and more intimate subjects such as harbours and boat studies. The plan is to have more ROI events like this where we can meet up, paint and have a good time together. We certainly ate well at a selection of the local restaurants :)

This was my first painting and was done from the pier and Looe with the tide coming in fast. In fact, as I stood with Graham Webber (AROI) we found the water lapping around our feet and whilst I like to be in touch with the elements I'd probably draw the line at painting in the sea! All good fun though.

'Waves rolling in, Looe' - 6x14in, oil on board

Graham and myself trying to ignore the water underfoot.

Painting in a breezy spot with Graham

The ROI crew lined up for painting action

Natalia Avdeeva (ROI) working on here beach diptych!

Ian Cryer (ROI president), happily 'in the zone'

Tim Benson (ROI Vice President), tunes in to the subtle colours

Natalia's dyptich. Nice composition and sense of space in this.

My second little study from the session is shown below. It's rather unfinished in a way but I quite liked the energy/sketchiness of it and decided to leave it as is rather than fiddle and kill the freshness. Very much an attempt at establishing the 'essence' of what was in front of me without getting fussy. Just as well really as I could have got into all sorts of trouble with those dark foreground rocks!

'Towards St George's Island, Looe' -10x8in, oil on board

I painted this one around the corner during the same weekend at it was a bonus when the school of sailing boats appeared.

'Sails ahoy, Hannafore beach' - 8x16in, oil on board

From the same spot I painted this slightly smaller piece with sunnier conditions. I like the tonal weight of the wall on the left which is balanced by the activity of the boats on the right.

'Sails and sunshine, Hannafore beach' - 6x12in, oil on board