Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Painting Snow Scenes

     Well, at this time of year we're supposed to see some snow, but the only time I've come across the white stuff this winter is on the high mountains, so last week I did encounter brilliant snow effects in the Brecon Beacons, accompanied by the most divine light flooding the western face of Cribin. Alas, I'd left my paintbox in my Viper haversack and the resulting sketch done with watersoluble pencil failed to capture the amazing colours, and I was too high up to make a quick dash for the car.

    So here I will show you a pen and wash sketch I did of New Radnor church many years ago in beautiful snow conditions.   


    This was done in an A4 cartridge book with limited colours. Everything is cool, except the yellow ochre on the buildings. In a painting I would simplify the scene, as the cottages compete with the church, which is the main centre of attention. I'd probably put these cottages into shadow, making them quite dark to throw the emphasis on the church caught in strong sunlight.

    Christmas was a happy, but wild affair of tearing round Kent, Sussex and Hampshire to see various members of the family. Still, I was able to relax at times with a rivetting novel set in the French Alps around Chamonix, Running Water & The Guide, by A E W Mason, himself an Alpinist active in the early 20th century. It has been brought to life again by Professor Roberta Grandi with an excellent scholarly introduction and notes on Mason's life and career. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and recommend it whole-heartedly. The cover shows my watercolour of the Brenva Ridge and the misty slopes of Mont Blanc. It's available on Amazon.


        The sun is beckoning me out, so I will leave you with the hope that 2022 will be a great year for you all, after all the problems of Covid, and I wish you much happy painting!

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Frolicking in the Desert

     Most of this year I've been painting subjects from the Middle East, a part of the world I've been fascinated by since I first visited in 1963, and these works will illustrate my forthcoming book, Arabian Light, due to be published by Search Press in May 2022. The subjects cover a wide variety of scenery, buildings, figures, interiors and many others, and for a taster I show below a painting of our expedition guides dancing in the desert hundreds of miles from the nearest village. For the intense darkness I've used the Daniel Smith Lunar black slightly mixed with French ultramarine. The granulation strength of this colour is truly mindblowing! There'll be more on this in future blogs.


    Another book I'm pleased to be associated with is Green Parrots in my Garden, a book of poems from the Arab Middle East by Jane Ross, a Canadian poet who has lived in the Middle East amidst threats of war, but concerns herself more with the warmth of human relationships, the wisdom of ancient desert values and the beauties of artefact and design that bring her into the hearts of the people and the essence of the region. She writes of the oasis of Wadi Bani Khalid where 'the winds are gentle zephyrs in the thick warm air,'

      'But ontop of Jebel Shyams the winds are sharp and piercing,

         like needles thrusting their way through the blanket;

        fiendish, dervish, absolute and wild.'

Yes, that mountain presented so many exciting images that I forgot myself in a fiery sunset, when the light vanished so suddenly that without a torch I found myself trying to pick up all my scattered brushes and pencils in the dark then navigate across a rock-strewn plateau on the edge of a canyon. 


   The books features two of my paintings in monochrome, and  Jane's website is www.janeross.ca

It is available on Amazon via the link above.

    I wish you all a very and peaceful Happy Christmas. May you have many lovely artful arty presents, and thanks for your patience in my extremely slow production rate in 2021



Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Painting limestone scenery in watercolour

     I've managed a pretty wild and wonderful autumn this year, though it has left me breathlessly out of kilter on the blog-writing front, I'm afraid. How I wish there was more time for writing, which I love, but sadly in this robotic world there are so many threats to writers and their writing-time. For eample, in New Zealand their libraries archive has intended to put thousands of books' contents onto the internet, but it seems that after world-wide protests they've just realised there's a thing called copyright involved!

    We've been blessed with a gorgeous little grand-daughter by the name of Beatrix, and look forward to meeting her on the run-up to Christmas. Her Dad's going to be performing in pantomime at Margate, so it's going to be a bit riotous, Covid-permitting, of course.

    This is a watercolour sketch of Gordale Scar in Yorkshire, carried out on a beautiful calm, sunny afternoon in October while sitting in a most uncomfortable position on extremely steep ground high above the valley. The light falling on the limestone really made the rock stand out, particularly against the shadowy parts. It is deliberately overworked so that I have all the details to produce a large studio watercolour, and my awkward position didn't help. This is actually only the right-hand half of the composition and the cartridge paper has been left unpainted where the sunlight is hitting the limestone. 

    There is too much green for my liking, but grass growing on limestone has that intense colour, and I wanted to record a faithful rendering. In a studio painting I will doubtless take more liberties, lose a lot of hard edges and make other adjustments, but my point here really is to show how working out of doors like this is to me not just a means of acquiring the information for a finished painting, but also of observing how the traditional approach will appear, so that I can see where I need to be more creative in the later attempt.

    The Covid-induced layoff has been a real nuisance, but we are now organising courses for 2022 as you will find on my website   There is one in Mid-Wales in April, and another in Cornwall in September, both popular locations with lots of interesting subjects. I may well be adding more in due course. Also on the website you will find information on my books, the last one published being the Landscapes Through the Seasons in Watercolour, and they are all available via the website

    I hope you are managing to get out and about with your sketching and painting gear - even in December we can get some lovely days, and the low light can create some fabulous cast shadows.


 

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Creating Autumn Still Lifes

     Wandering through the woodlands at this time is a real pleasure for the artist, with the great variety of warm colours as the leaves turn. I can't resist picking up a handful of leaves and taking them back to the studio to play with. There's nothing like the process of experimenting with artistic ideas for stimulating our work, even if you have tried the particular process before.


    A branch of leaves - or perhaps I should say, a twig of leaves in case we get too carried away - can make a superlative still life subject, but here I have pushed the leaves into thick watercolour paint straight out of the tube, applying a few different colours for each leaf before placing them on the paper. With a sheet of tissue paper over the leaf I then rub it with fingers to create the image. It can be hit or miss, but when it works the result can be inspiring. You can work in two or three leaf images in this way and perhaps add some spatter and further detail, lettering, collage or whatever. The addition of a little thickener such as Winsor & Newton's Aquapasta may help improve your results.

    You can get ideas on painting autumn scenes in my Landscapes Through the Seasons book, available through my website  

    We are now planning painting courses for 2022, and details of these should be released before long. At the moment I'm spending a lot of the time away from the studio, so these blogs have been in short supply. Anyway, enjoy your autumn painting and do have a go at recording those stunning leaf shapes in one form or another!

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

The importance of your little blobs

     I see my last blog was on 1st July, the long gap being the result of an all-action summer with little time for writing. In August I visited Germany, partly to do some research and partly as a holiday. Getting round the Covid tests proved quite a challenge, creating stress and uncertainty on occasion. In Wales I ordered a self-test from Boots, only to find I could not send it in time because there were no Priority Post-Boxes in the area, although the Royal Mail showed plenty of these around, including one apparently in Llanelwedd Quarry of all places! This is totally unacceptable behaviour.

    In Pembrokeshire I've recently dropped off a number of paintings at the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven. The gallery shows a wide variety of paintings styles and is a very pleasant place to visit. 


    This is part of one of the paintings at the gallery, and shows a quiet corner of the composition. The centre of interest is away to the left, off-picture here, and the boat acts as a means to balance the composition. I did not wish to make it too prominent, so I lost the bottom of the blue hull in the muddy foreshore and dotted in white gouache blobs here and there to add interest in suggesting seagulls. On such a small scale it's not easy to give the impression of birds, but I used a number one rigger and tested the white gouache on dark rough paper before applying it to the actual painting. This method also has the advantage of getting rid of excess white paint on the brush before doing it for real. If you over-blob and get a ghastly mess, simply wash it off with a damp brush, dry the area with a tissue and wait till the paper is dry and then try again. With practice you'll find this will improve enormously.

    I shall try to make my blogs more regular in future, but the call of the wild is hard to resist........

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Creating a tranquil mood in a landscape painting

     As many of you will be aware, I love painting wild seas crashing on a rugged coast, but there is much to be said for the calmer moments. To emphasise this you need to concentrate on the horizontal elements as you will see in the painting below.


    As you can see, the sky comprises a series of horizontal cloud effects of evening light, and this is further emphasised by the long, horizontal horizon, with the vertical features such as the mature trees pushed well into the distance. To further enhance the calm mood of the scene the washes laid over the estuary are flat, undetailed ones, and even the line of waders in the foreground conforms to a horizontal pattern. And what if you're looking for a suitable animal to include in a calm scene - well for me none can compare with the dear old Friesian cow for suggesting a scene of utter calm and tranquility.

    This painting can be found in my Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour book which is available from my website  The original painting is on display in the Attic Gallery in Swansea, Tel. 01792 653387  The gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and can be found at 37 Pockett's Wharf, Swansea, SA1 3XL where a number of my paintings are on display at the gallery with a lot of other exciting artwork.

    Enjoy your painting!

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Painting stormy seas

     This summer marks 40 years of my writing articles for Leisure Painter magazine, and the current issue (July 2021) contains an article celebrating this close relationship. Ingrid Lyon and her team are indeed lovely people to work with. The excellent Painters-online run by Leisure Painter and The Artist is also showing a film I recently made on how to paint a penguin, which you can see at  https://www.painters-online.co.uk/tips-techniques/watercolour/articles/how-to-paint-a-penguin-in-watercolour/    This was done from an expedition to Chile many years ago, when I visited a penguin colony near Puntas Arenas on the way to the Andes.

    I recently dropped some paintings in to the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven. It's a lovely gallery on the quayside with plenty of parking and sketching space if you like painting boats and other things that bob about, so if you're in or around Pembrokeshire do pop in if you have a moment.

    This is part of one of the paintings I left at the gallery, showing huge Atlantic breakers hitting the cliffs at Linney Head in extremely wild seas. I achieved the white splashes by leaving that part as untouched paper, but wetting the area to float in the blue-grey colour of the cliffs to define the splashes wet-in-wet in a negative way. When the paper had dried I then sharpened up some of the edges with the blue-grey wash, thus creating a varied edge around the splash. Do be extremely careful if you go out on a day like this, as the sea can be really unforgiving!