Castle walls

10-08 Castle walls

Built upon a rocky mound in the days when knights in armour roamed these lands, this castle, looking over the town and river of Clun on the Welsh border, has been a ruin for the best part of five hundred years.

The view between these walls faces away from the town but I love the patchwork of fields which have generated a number of ideas for paintings still to be painted.

A peek into a different world, even if it is only eighty miles or so away from one’s natural habitat, can be food for the soul and provide the stimulus one needs.

Autumn is here

09-25 Arrival of Autumn

Autumn/Fall is here. You can tell by the way one minute you are shielding your eyes from the blindingly low sun, and sheltering from a thunderstorm the next.

Also the start of a new term, and this year there is a new class in a new location with new students for me to meet and get to know.

A time of new beginnings. A time to stock up with materials and perhaps a good time to try a few new ones as well as the tried and tested.

So much to do, so many paintings I want to start, so many new projects, and NOW the days decide to get shorter ?

The Importance of paper

08-29 August Bales

Watercolour paper comes in different qualities such as the weight and texture. Weight is usually given in pounds per ream or grams per square metre such as 140lb/300gsm, and the textures are Hot Pressed (HP), a smooth surface, Cold Pressed (CP or sometimes NOT)  which has a slightly textured surface, or ROUGH with a more prominent textured surface.

For the serious painter, equally important is whether the paper is 100% Rag/Cotton or a wood-free bleached chemical pulp. They may both be acid free and archival, but I would suggest they have a different feel to them when painting and may behave in a different manner.

When we start painting in watercolour, we often feel it is not worth spending a lot of money on materials when we don’t really understand what we are doing – much better to wait until we get the hang of it and then decide whether to upgrade or not.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that, and it can take a lifetime to start to ‘get the hang of it’. However it is a sound idea to use the best materials you can afford to produce the best you can achieve for the level at which you are working.

When you first start it is only natural to follow the advice of the ‘How To…’ books or your tutor, and often they will suggest a good all round middle-of-the-road not too expensive paper, which is fine. But how do you know if this paper will help you to achieve your best work if you never try another one?

Although there may only be three main surfaces of paper, they are not all consistent across all manufacturers. This is not surprising as papers are made in the UK, France, Italy, Germany and the US to name a few, and each mill will have their own recipes often arrived at after centuries of experience while at the same time complying with various environmental standards.

Every artist will have their favourite (which may change over time as the artist becomes more knowledgeable, changes working methods or because the manufacturing changes slightly or even because a certain paper is no longer available).

Try and overcome your fear of the new, or if you are feeling you are not making quite the progress you feel you should be, why not try investing in a sheet of a different paper?

A 22 x 30″ sheet of paper will be a lot cheaper than a pad or a block and you can cut it up into as many sizes as you want. If you like it, it may be the start of a whole new experience. If it is not for you, simply try another and compare results, or return to your original. At least then you will be painting with a better understanding of your materials and the confidence that the one you have chosen is the best suited to the style of your work.

‘August Bales’ 15 x 30 cms above was painted on a piece of Arches Aquarelle 140lb CP/NOT, the last sheet on a block which I used a few years ago and which I forgot I had. I enjoyed using it for this little painting.

Sweet and Delicious

08-28 Plums from Ron

A ring of the doorbell yesterday revealed our neighbour clutching a bowl of plums from his tree. I have been keeping an eye on these partly from a culinary point of view, but also with an idea of painting them.

I mostly used New Gamboge (yellow), Permanent Rose and French Ultramarine.

The plums were sweet and delicious.

What’s in a sketch ?

Lower Brockhampton

How much should I put in a sketch?

What is the difference between a sketch and a painting?

These are two questions I have been asked recently. The answer is not so easy as it will be different for each individual.

The first question you need to ask yourself is “What kind of sketch do I want?” There are times when you might be going out with the clear intention of spending a given amount of time in which to sketch and to do nothing else, in which case you may decide to devote most of your energy on one piece of work, or you may prefer to do a number of smaller sketches, maybe even combining them on the same page or piece of paper.

Other times, as in the case of ‘Lower Brockhampton Manor House’ , it may be that the chance to sketch has to fit into a number of other things you want to do, or you may be on holiday, visiting a number of locations during the course of the day, in which case the type of sketch which is best suited will be one which tries to capture the flavour of the place and how you see it, rather than trying to paint an exact copy of what is in front of you, with every stick and stone included. This sketch will become part of your armoury if you decide to paint a more detailed version at a later date.

A sketch can be something which stands alone and needs nothing more, or it may be used as part of your reference for a later project. It doesn’t matter which – it will depend entirely on you.

You’re the boss!

Happy sketching.

Ready for winter

08-15 Ready for winter

It is understandable that they moved these bales from the field pretty quickly rather than letting them become soaked by the rain. Disappointing from a painting point of view of course, not to be able to play with them for longer. At least there is the memory of them to sustain a few more small paintings like this.

6 x 8 ins watercolour on Bockingford paper

A glorious morning.

08-08 Straw bales at Little Rissington

This morning was one of those glorious golden summer days which we think of as only existing in our imagination – probably because they seem so few and far between… I have been hoping for some bales of straw but disappointed when visiting fields where I have found them before only to find them full of sheep!

Imagine my delight when walking home from a neighbouring village I cut down by the church and came out behind it into a field FULL of bales as far as the eye could see. What Bliss!

This is 6 x 8 inches and the bales were painted with yellow ochre,  new gamboge,  indian red, winsor violet and a little blue. Saunders Waterford 140lb CP/NOT paper

The hazards of sketching

08-06 Allotment sunflower

It has been a hazardous week for sketching outdoors, as what appeared to be settled sunny weather has been anything but with the sudden arrival of dark clouds and heavy showers.

‘Allotment Sunflower’ is a case in point as I had intended to add more watercolour, but the torrential downpour sent me scurrying for cover before I, and more importantly my sketchbook, became sodden. Later, I decided I quite liked leaving some of the page unpainted. If I change my mind I can always go back another day.

 

Derwent Graphik line maker, Winsor & Newton watercolour in softbound Stillman & Birn Alpha 5.5 x 8.5 in. sketchbook

A timely sketch

07-30 Garden Fuchsia

It’s been bucketing down all day with no sign of it about to stop. We have more water than we know what to do with and I am sure there will be flooding in a lot of places. So I am pleased that I took the opportunity to paint this Fuchsia in the garden yesterday.

 

8.5 x 5.5 sketchbook page.

Summer Lavender

07-22 Summer Lavender

We may have heatwaves in this country, but the thing is they tend not to last more than a few days at a time. This is usually followed by showers which can be quite heavy then suddenly we are back in heatwave mode again. It’s designed to keep us on our toes and give us something to talk about !

This is a 8 x 11 inch watercolour from  another sketch I did at the tail end of last week before the rain came and went and the sun came back again…