Sunday, 27 January 2013

Painting less for more effect

    One of the most thorny problems confronting the painting tutor is putting across the need to eliminate unwanted detail from a subject when the student has already been told to work directly from the subject and produce a careful rendering of the scene. As landscape artists we go out into the countryside to seek out visual material to work from and use as a basis for a composition, yet in order to produce an interesting painting we need to filter out a lot of extraneous detail. I am not interested in producing a photographic response to a scene where everything is laid out meticulously.

    In this view of a cottage you will see that certain edges have been lost - there is no defining line for the bottom of either the house wall or the drystone wall, as this approach provides a more painterly response, rather than a photographic one. Also the stones are only described in a minimalistic way. In both these cases the eye of the viewer will subconsciously include these elements. An effective method here is to splash in a different colour in lieu of detail - note the patch of red to the left of centre. This can be a useful device even if the colour you apply does not appear in the scene, as it can both enliven a subject and avoid the need for too much detail.

    For these stones I used a number one rigger brush - a very fine instrument with long hairs, ideal for fine work. Where I describe a number of stones in a wall I tend to ease off on the pressure where I want the stones to become lost, but another method I employ is to draw in a few more stones than I actually need, again with the rigger. Whilst these are still wet I then wash over the edge of the painted stones with one of the colours found in the wall, thus losing some of the stones at the edges, and at the same time creating a gradual losing of the detail that can appear more natural. An interesting exercise you can do is to paint the same scene twice: once in extremely strong detail all over the composition, and then again in the manner I've described above. By comparing the two results you will learn much about restricting the urge to include everything in a painting.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Painting snowy landscapes

    At last, real winter has arrived, and for the landscape artist having the countryside cloaked in deep snow is a great inducement to get out and capture some new scenes, even if you can't stand the cold for long and have to rely on the camera. I've just returned from an extremely rewarding trip to North Staffordshire where we did some filming for a DVD on winter landscapes. Snow simplifies the landscape considerably, making it easier for the artist.

    In this view on the North Staffordshire Moorlands I selected a back-lit angle by choosing mid-afternoon to visit the spot - back-lighting tends to add drama to a scene, and lose detail in more distant features. The road acts as a good lead-in and the right-hand electricity pole breaks up the far ridge, so it might be worth leaving in. One of the cows in the middle distance (left) is looking out of the picture, so I would turn her round to look at the house. After I'd finished the sketch the chimney on the left-hand building started to emit smoke, so I then adjusted the sketch to include smoke, but had it emerging from the right-hand house, which was my centre of interest.

    My first painting course this year is at the Caer Beris Manor Hotel in Builth Wells, Mid Wales from the 7th to 12th April, and there are still a few places left. The gentle, rolling landscapes provide a wealth of subjects, with the more dramatic Brecon Beacons to the south, so there is something for most tastes, and plenty of interest for non-painting partners. Although it is primarily for watercolourists, Jenny will be on hand to demonstrate pastel landscapes as well as offering tuition in the medium. You can check it out on our website, or telephone the hotel on 01982 552601, or email them at 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Painting courses

    This is the time of year when many artists think about taking up a course to improve their painting skills, and naturally to do this in beautiful scenery, in the comfort of a truly welcoming hotel and with a tutor whose work you wish to emulate, can provide the most rewarding experience. Many find that at home there are too many distractions, and getting away with like-minded folk for an intensive week of painting can be the optimum way of pushing your work forward.

    Jenny and I work hard on our courses to ensure that everyone gets plenty of attention and demonstrations. One of our favourite locations is Snowdonia in North Wales where there is an infinite choice of a wide variety of painting subjects, with so many of them visible from the road or nearby, which means, of course that you don't have to walk very far to find a superb subject.....but you can, if you wish, hike into the more remote locations.

    This autumn our course in the Sygun Fawr Country House in Snowdonia runs from 27th October to 1st November, timed to coincide with the autumn colours. You will find details  here, or you can telephone the Sygun Fawr Country House on 01766 890258

    I am sorry there is no illustration with this blog, but Blogger keep changing the set-up almost every time I wish to set up a post and this time I've failed to get the painting up, so I'll have to move elsewhere I guess. I'll try to make it as smooth a transition as possible. Keep watching this space.

    A HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all, and enjoy your painting in 2013