Thursday, 27 February 2014

Hang on to your sketchbook!

    For the past seven months we've had the inconvenience of Erwood Bridge being closed for repairs. It's also badly affected the Erwood Station Craft Centre, a very popular stop for refreshments between north and south Wales, and of course, well renowned for its crafts. Apparently it will be re-opening very soon, and you will be able to get your mule and your goods across the Wye in one go!

    The Wye is a bit of a pig to cross without the aid of the bridge. I did it once, but fell in fully clothed, slipping on a rock under water. Happily I clung on to my sketchbook, so it didn't get wet. I keep an A5 one in a bum bag which I stick round my neck if I'm going into deep water, and thus can easily hold it high above my head if I get swept away. Don't try that at home, please!

    Anyway, we're hoping it will be a great year for the centre, especially as they've put so much effort into making it the amazing place it is today. Yes, closing the bridge was necessary for the repairs, but why so long? It's a lovely place in spring, and is the start of some superb walks, so why not pay them a visit? You can also see some of the paintings I've just delivered to them. They are situated on the east bank of the River Wye about half a mile north of Erwood and some 6 or 7 miles south of Builth Wells. Don't forget, for a while yet the bridge will be closed so you need to come up the east side via Boughrood from the south, or down the A4567 from the north. Ring the Erwood Station Crafts Centre on 01982 560674 if you need directions. They will be delighted to welcome you.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Drawing detail with a rigger

    Jenny and I have just returned from Pembrokeshire, rather wind-battered, although the exciting seas did leave me quite exhilarated, with mighty Atlantic waves crashing into Linney Head and shooting up over the tops of 130-foot cliffs, dwarfing them in a wild expression of Nature's power. Sketching in such conditions is challenging and one page of my sketchbook was torn, but with a veritable row of bulldog clips I managed to keep going and make the most of the stupendous seas.

    The wave-splashes you see in this pic are fairly small - a mere 100 feet - compared to the really high ones, but I was rather engrossed in the sketching to watch everything. The mood and light was incredibly dramatic, and at times the sky was almost completely black with a thin sliver of light on the horizon. Anyway, make sure you have plenty of clips and elastic bands when you venture forth in these conditions!

    While I was in Pembrokeshire I delivered some paintings to Art Matters in White Lion Street in Tenby, and they will be going on display in their exhibition on Saturday 22nd February. This detail from one of the paintings illustrates some fine detail drawn with a fine rigger brush. The trunks, gate and fenceposts were rendered with a mixture of burnt umber and French ultramarine, but before I apply the paint to paper I ensure the rigger comes to a fine point by dragging it across some scrap paper and at the same time twirling it between first finger and thumb. You need to practice this technique of drawing with a fine brush as it takes some getting used to, but you might find it easier to first of all try drawing with a brush as fine as a rigger, but with shorter hairs.

    If you visit the exhibition you'll see that this painting is a little different from the detail part shown here. After scanning this I decided to include some chickens and a cockerel, as the building looked a little forlorn. Unfortunately I forgot to re-scan it! The gallery telephone number is 01834 843375. If you click on the link above you will reach their website with all their details.

    In the meantime, enjoy your painting and I hope you will not be suffering from too much wind......

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Painting the right sort of bad weather

    We've just finished the studio filming with APV Films for my forthcoming DVD on painting Winter Landscapes, due out in September with my book of the same title. Most of the filming went smoothly, although the last part was heavily punctuated by wild gusts of wind and heavy rain lashing the studio, accompanied by a bombardment of artillery fire from the Sennybridge range. Thankfully they were not firing at us! It rather reminds me of the time I was sketching and camping on a Northumberland bombing range, having missed the signs somehow..........

    At the moment I'm working on Wild Highlands, an exhibition in conjunction with the John Muir Trust, which will run from 16th April to 18th June in Pitlochry, Scotland. One of the aims of the exhibition is to highlight the ongoing devastation of the Scottish Highlands by industrialisation by massed wind turbines and their supporting power lines, which are now encroaching on some of the stunning mountain landscapes that epitomise the Highlands. Many of these will be on peat blankets and former forestry areas, which are the closest equivalent we have in the UK to rain-forests.

    This painting of Beinn Eige will be in the exhibition, and you can see that the mountain has several summits. Painting all these in good weather can invoke a feeling of having too many summits, so this is where it's often a good idea to bring in some bad weather to hide one or two. It also adds a sense of mystery, which viewers love. I usually achieve this effect of mountains hidden in clouds by running the mountain washes up into a wet area in the sky - in this instance where you can see the pink effect. An alternative technique is to soften off the mountain peak with a wet sponge.

    As you can see here, I've actually made my 'bad weather' rather more user-friendly by painting with alizarin crimson and French ultramarine mixed with cadmium red, so make sure you utilise the right brand of 'bad weather!'