Monday, 26 March 2012

Painting three-legged sheep

    This is a lovely time of year in the British countryside: the lanes are rife with daffodils around us, blossom is appearing, the hawthorn is already budding in profusion and lambs are chasing each other across the fields. With week after week of glorious sunshine it's been a great time to get out sketching, and as you can glean so much from engaging the locals I stop to chat whenever I can. The previous weekend I met a farmer who simply wouldn't stop talking.

    "Had triplets last night," he said, matter-of-factly.
    "Really?" I half-queried, trying to keep a straight face.
    "Trouble is, only got two t-ts."  I raised my eyebrows, unsure of who or what he was describing.
    "But I got the old ewe to give one away, with a bit of persuading." At this point I felt we were probably discussing the problems of the mother sheep, and turned to my sketchbook.

Sheep can add life to a scene and are not that difficult to draw. I rarely give them four legs as it can appear over-crowded in a painting: three is quite sufficient. I sometimes give white-faced ones a black head to make them stand out, otherwise paint in a darker tone around them as I've done in this part of a watercolour composition. When out I do photograph them, but enjoy drawing them as it can usually convey a better sense of movement and dynamism - not that the sheep is especially dynamic!
This weekend I was again out on the hills when several sheepdogs raced into view around the sheep. Quickly I reached for my pencil as the farmer drove into sight in his land-rover. Alas, the dogs were ignoring the sheep, and simply hurtling past. I had hoped to get an interesting round-up scene. Even the farmer didn't stop, just hurtled past with a wave, so I missed that one. You can't win them all, I guess, but you have to keep trying. It's all part of the fun.......

Monday, 19 March 2012

Painting on the Pembrokeshire coast

    I've been away enjoying the mountains for a while, which makes blogging a trifle difficult, and my crazy lifestyle hardly lends itself to regular postings. Today though, I'd like to talk about the coast, which like mountains, deserts and the Arctic, is very close to my heart.

This is part of a watercolour painting of Porthliskey Bay in Pembrokeshire, named after an Irish pirate - the Irish, like the Welsh have some amazing pirates of great fame, and I'm fairly sure that the notorious Black Sam Bellamy might well have been one of my ancestors. Evening light is striking the rocks, and I've used mainly cadmium red. To give the impression of the wet lower parts I have darkened them with a mixture of cadmium red and French ultramarine, leaving the paper white in places for the foam splashes. Most of this was done by negative painting, but masking fluid used carefully will also work well.

    Notice how the main rocks have been isolated by splashes, with no detail directly behind them. This gives them prominence, further emphasised by placing the boat nearby, with its prow pointing towards the most important rock. I'm not sure that I'd be terribly keen to be out in such boisterous seas. One useful tip is to stab or scratch out blobs of white with a scalpel or craft knife to suggest flecks of foam flying about, as it creates a feeling of liveliness in the work.

    If you enjoy this type of scene, or the more gentle coastal, harbour or beach scenes, why not join us in Pembrokeshire this autumn for the course at the Warpool Court Hotel in St Davids? The good news is that due to the economic climate we have negotiated a considerable reduction in the price of the course. See my website  for details. We are blessed with an amazing variety of subjects to paint and sketch around St Davids in a lovely hotel overlooking the sea.