Saturday, 30 April 2011

Painting Ice

As far as I'm aware, most sensible folk only cross glaciers to get to the mountains beyond. Painting ice, however, is one of my great passions, and as glaciers contain rather a lot of the stuff they tend to be something of a magnet. Ice can be formed into the most fantastic and surreal shapes, with a wide range of glorious colours, from blues, greys and greens to yellows and even orange on occasion.

Getting down into the awesome crevasses and under the ice brings even greater rewards, as looking out through ice formations can accentuate the intensity of the colours, seeing light through translucent ice. In this watercolour of a moulin on the Greenland ice-cap my biggest problem was to show scale. There was no room for anyone to stand safely to put them in the picture to suggest the vast size of the place, so the figure had to be added in the studio. I had made notes on the original sketch to indicate size.

To create texture on the ice I flung sea-salt into the wet washes, and you can see the results in the bottom left-hand corner and in the centre between the two falls. I've moved some of the ice shapes around to improve the composition, and slightly warmed up the colours in places by mixing cadmium red into the ultramarine.

When seeking out places like this I find it is well worth employing a local guide who knows where these features are. It's all too easy to miss them by 100 metres and wander around all day finding nothing. It also allows me to concentrate on the painting. On this occasion I hired Kim, a guide with World of Greenland expeditions, in Kangerlussuaq: see  Oh, and don't try this sort of thing unless you have the experience plus experienced companions or a's rather dangerous.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pencil sketching outdoors

Jenny and I have just returned from a break in Pembrokeshire where the weather was ideal for sketching: balmy sunshine with a lovely haze that lost all the distant detail we didn't really want to include in our sketches, and hardly any wind. Strong winds can make life sheer hell for the artist, especially if you happen to be perched on a knife-edge ridge high up on the crags.

Garn Folch is just about the wildest jumble of rocks in the county, as though some giant has decided to hurl a few bits of mountain around and then brushed them up into a pile. Often scenes like this work well in a semi-abstract rendering. This is a rapid pencil sketch carried out on an A5 hardback book with part of the left-hand image spilling onto the next page. The roof of the cottage was fine, a typical north Pembrokeshire style with a light slurried covering over the slates. The rest of the house was a mess of scaffolding, huge modern windows and a garage front on one side, so I simply scribbled in a few details with a 4B as I thought it may have looked fifty years ago.

Sometimes it pays not to get too close to your subject. The imagination can conjure up all manner of desirable objects in the distance, which can lose their romanicism at close range. My walk then took me closer to the cottage, but the scene failed to improve......but round the corner appeared a really spectacular view of more crags, which I captured with watercolour and an inadvertent touch of cappuccino.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Painting moody mountains

When you're starting a blog for the first time, where do you begin? Why start one at all? Well, I love bringing the wonderful world of nature to folk, through the medium of my art. I shall be trying to help students along with their painting as I've been doing for a great many years through my books, articles and DVDs, relating my adventures in the great outdoors, discussing some of the characters I meet, whether two-legged, three-legged or more, as well as chatting about art and the countryside.

Being a landscape painter who mainly specialises in the wilder type of scenery I was bowled over by the amazing atmosphere in this mountain scene when I did some walking in Snowdonia last month. It cried out to be sketched and soon I shall paint it in the studio. Whether you are interested in painting mountains or not, you can learn much from observing this scene: the few colours involved, which give it a great sense of unity and mood; the strong contrast between sparkling water and gloomy mountains; the manner in which the background peaks merge into the cloud-laden sky. I'd more or less paint it as it stands, perhaps simply making the central rock larger, with a touch of colour to set it off as a centre of interest. It's one of those few compositions that need little changing from the real thing.

Enjoy your painting!