Sunday, 24 June 2012

Painting winter trees in watercolour

    Even in the heat of summer I enjoy painting winter trees. Perhaps it makes me feel cooler, or maybe long for the cooler months. Certainly they have the advantage that you can get away from all of those nasty greens!

    I love getting out for these lovely early morning scenes when the light is really special - a quick trip out first thing can be extremely rewarding. In this small watercolour the more distant trees have been rendered in the same tone and colour - rather weaker than the main tree on the left, in order to push them further into the distance. With the large tree I painted the trunk with a number 4 round sable, changing to a number 1 rigger brush for the thinner branches. If you are not used to using a rigger it will take some practice to acquire the skill to draw accurately with it, but it really is worth persevering with the exercise as it gives excellent results once you become adept.

    By putting more pressure on the rigger you will create a wider, stronger line, and correspondingly when you use a lighter touch you achieve a thinner result. This technique also works well on fracture lines in rocks and crags. Once I've delineated all the branches I then pick up some very liquid blue-grey colour with a number 5 or 6 brush - a weak mixture of French ultramarine and burnt umber works fine, but there are many alternatives - and with the brush on its side I place it on the extreme limit of the outer branches and brush inwards towards the centre of the tree, sweeping the brush off the paper at the same time. This creates a sense of massed twigs and fine branches and works well on NOT and rough paper surfaces. You will find this painting featured in my Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting

Monday, 18 June 2012

In search of a foreground

    Jenny and I have just returned from the Patchings Art Festival, a tiring but very rewarding experience for us, as we were kept busy all the time. It was lovely to see so many friends, and so many people enjoying themselves amongst the art and crafts. Catherine, my daughter also joined us and just about took over the running of our stall.

    As you can see, the large screens make it easy for everyone to see all my mistakes in absolutely clear and close-up detail - you can't hide anything on that scale! Over the two days I did four demonstrations, using the superb Saunders Waterford High White paper produced by St Cuthberts Mill, and was concerned that my cold would wreck any speech, but my throat held out for each of the demonstrations, thank goodness.

    Jenny demonstrated pastel painting in the Search Press tent on Thursday and in the Patchings tent on Friday, and was extremely popular. I hardly saw her all the time we were in the showground.

   Jenny and I are taking part in the Barn Gallery Summer Exhibition at Patchings Art Centre from 28th July to 30th September, along with a few other artists. Do go along if you can.

    Today I've been up in the mountains getting some fresh air and exercise, taking a route that led my to a handsome stand of conifers which I wanted to place as a foreground frame to the background peaks. Foregrounds are so important in a landscape painting, and I regularly plan a route which takes me to potentially picturesque features that might act as a useful foreground or lead-in to a composition. Enjoy your painting!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Demonstrating at Patchings Art Festival

    June is that time in the year when the Patchings Arts Festival takes place near the village of Calverton, just north of Nottingham, and this year will be my 17th appearance there at the St Cuthberts Mill Celebrity Marquee. It's a marvellous, summery art event in the countryside, with lots of fantastic artists demonstrating, and equally fantastic crafts-people displaying their wares, not to forget the band lending a festival note.

Jenny and I will both be demonstrating at Patchings this Thursday and Friday, 14th and 15th June, something we both enjoy as you can see above where I'm demonstrating sketching techniques to a few friends. Jenny will be in the Search Press tent demonstrating painting landscapes in pastels, while I will be in the St Cuthberts marquee using watercolours. St Cuthberts Mill produce the marvellous Saunders Waterford watercolour paper that I have loved using for a great many years now, not just for its attractive surface, but I really appreciate the robust nature of the paper, especially when I want to use techniques such as sponging, scratching and masking fluid, all of which work well without destroying the surface of the paper.

We will also be selling my new book, Skies, Light & Atmosphere, and the associated DVD, and these will be on special offer. Come along and enjoy the day.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Twilight of the Welsh countryside

    The natural environment has always been close to my heart, and I was lucky enough to be born and brought up in a rural idyll in Wales. Walking and painting in this stunningly beautiful countryside has heightened my awareness of what we are about to lose if the British government's plans for the industrialisation of most of Mid-Wales with gigantic wind turbines goes ahead. This is not confined to Mid-Wales, and the devastating effects on a hitherto unprecedented scale will most certainly not be limited to just the destruction of this glorious landscape, but has cataclysmic consequences for the local population.
    Tourism is the lifeblood of our region, but how many tourists will come to see hills and moors flooded with wind turbines, completely dwarfing every other feature in the landscape? The local economy will be destroyed and a great many small businesses, including artists and crafts-people, will fold up. The authorities tell us that there will be around seven years of over-size, slow-moving convoys carrying turbines, clagging up our roads, needing new bridges, re-aligned bends and demolished street furniture, while at the same time under-mining old buildings beside the roads: visitors, locals and emergency services will be badly affected. Turbines, despite government 'reassurances', create an insidious low-frequency noise that many people simply cannot live with, and some have to abandon their homes. Many homes become unsellable. Most have their value reduced considerably. Turbines explode and catch fire at times, when they become highly dangerous as they emit toxic fumes over a wide area. A report in Scotland states that for every wind energy job created 3.7 jobs are lost.

    Would all this sacrifice be acceptable if wind energy was an effective energy system? This is rather academic, as wind, given its intermittency, produces such little power and needs so much back-up from conventional power stations that large-scale wind farms can only be seen as a great liability. It is, however, an extremely effective source of income for the developers, for energy corporations (most of whom are foreign and therefore making a joke of government policy), for large land-owners and for many politicians. At the expense of local people, many on the poverty line.

    We now know in Wales what the West means when it insists on democracy created at the point of a rifle: it does not exist here, in its acceptable form, and unless this vindictive assault on our communities and countryside is not stopped, before long there won't be a landscape here for us to paint. See also National Opposition to Windfarms     Artists Against Windfarms