For those in peril in the heatwave

07-27 Old Barns

Having spent the morning on non-painterly activities, it was lovely to get outside this afternoon to try a small watercolour.

Given the current temperatures in the high 20s centigrade (almost 80f) I chose somewhere not too far distant and kept equipment to a minimum.

I have painted this barn before but usually from the otherside which is more open. Today, I noticed some cattle at the far end of the field, but the heat seemed to outweigh their inquisitiveness, so I wasn’t worried.

Having worked ouside in the heat before I had already decided to keep the painting small (6×8 ins), but there are other things to bear in mind in such conditions – firstly, be sensible about yourself and don’t stand out under the sun for too long without protection. Use sunblock, wear a hat, keep well hydrated and so on.

If you are working in watercolours you need to keep your paper protected too. Too much direct sun could harm the sizing. Also if the sun is shining directly onto the surface you run the risk of a blinding glare bouncing back into your eyes. Also it will be difficult to judge your colours and tones, so wear a wide brimmed hat to throw shadow onto the paper (it makes you look more like an artist too!), use a parasol, stand under a tree or find some shade. Remember the light, and therefore shadows, will move and so may you have to.

Expect to work wetter than usual. Even if you habitually dampen your paper, in today’s conditions you may find the paper dries before you can introduce any pigment to it. Indeed you may have to make your washes wetter as it has been known for them to dry on the palette before you can get it anywhere near the paper! Mix up enough to be sure it will cover the area you intend it to without it drying into streaky lines. Unfortunately this tends to be trial and error but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

Try and keep the painting moving forward seamlessly and now more than ever don’t obsess about minor details before you have the paper covered. Oh, and remember to take plenty of water with you both for painting and drinking. You don’t want it to evaporate before you are finished.

I was nearing the end when I heard a cough just behind me. Glancing back over my shoulder, I realised the cattle had sneaked up from the lower part of the field and had somehow managed to corral me.

I smiled and held the painting up for them to see. Usually if you are polite they don’t take much notice, but their leader seemed a little irritated. Keeping my materials to a minimum meant they were either in my hands or over my shoulder so I was able to take a few tentative steps towards the gate. The ringleader moved in, closely followed by a couple of friends. I kept talking quietly. I was being manoeuvred and not given much time to look where I was treading. The rest of the herd closed up behind. I had the impression I was being escorted to the exit with the firm message not to come back any time soon.

It must have been the heat!

Happy painting.

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