A good time of year for trees

Far too wet and windy to do anything but paint inside today. I have long wanted to paint some trees along the side of the small roads around here, as trees in Winter are some of the most fun things to paint, especially when you use only a rigger brush (long hairs like a sign-writer’s brush) to paint the whole tree from bottom to top. It’s surprising  the number of different marks you can make simply by varying the pressure on the brush and using the side of the hairs as well as the tip.

Riggers don’t have to be reserved for painting only the rigging on sail boats, (their original purpose). They can be used for painting a variety of marks, especially in landscapes or urban scenes – think trees, fences, telegraph poles, overhead wires…

Love your rigger and let it give you looser, more expressive  marks to capture the sense of the place.

02-08 Lane in February

Sunshine and Snow

It snowed here over Thursday night, in the north and south-west, and whilst it was nothing to worry anyone used to winters in North America or Canada, it was enough to cause panic and fears of ‘safety’ in a country which every year maintains we don’t have enough of the stuff often enough to bother to learn how to handle it – despite  evidence to show that our winters could be more severe in the future.

I pity the people of Cornwall who came to a standstill on the main road into and out of the county, especially those who had to spend the night in their cars or abandon them in search of emergency accommodation where they could. The weather took them by surprise, but one can’t help feeling we should be better prepared in this country instead of grinding to a halt whenever we get a few inches of snow?

Anyway, the rain last night washed away any of the snow which remained unmelted by the weekend sun and we, in this corner of the country, are back to business as usual at least for the time being.

At least it provided a chance to sketch some snow scenes. This is a replica stone-age roundhouse – originals are hard to find, but for those who don’t know, there is evidence of early settlements in the area and a lot of archaeology has been done, so it is not that someone just decided to build one on a whim. This one has educational value and is part of Greystones Farm and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

This is also an exercise in a very limited palette of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, with a minute amount of Yellow Ochre.

02-04 Sunshine and snow




Severe weather

There was a severe weather warning in place for today with all the usual cautions about  venturing out onto the roads and to think about the necessity of any journey one might undertake.

Instead we had clear skies and sunshine for most of the day, which gave me the opportunity to walk the surrounding fields and find some ivy-clad winter trees. I took a lot of liberties with the left hand foreground of this view, editing it to suit my own purposes. The bank of trees in the background was put in with washes of new gamboge, burnt sienna and permanent magenta and cobalt blue.


01-30 end of january

Painted on Saunders Waterford HP block 12 x 9 inches.

Look behind you

I was actually eyeing up another scene for a possible future painting in Cheltenham, when turning round, I saw the spire of the Catholic Church of St Gregory the Great looming above the roof tops of this little street, and decided I wanted to paint it.

Unfortunately other commitments and the fact I was standing on a busy ring road meant I wasn’t able to do it then and there. I had to make do with taking a photograph, taking a good look at compositional possibilities and remembering as much as I could for when I was able to paint away from the subject. I tried to keep my first impressions in mind and not include too much detail.

Painted on Saunders Waterford 9 x 12″ block01-23 spire of st gregory the great. cheltenham

Keeping it sketchy

This little balck and white timber-framed building on stone pillars was originally a meeting place for medieval wool merchants in Burford. The wool trade made the town and the Cotswolds rich, which is why there are so many grand buildings around.

Here I wanted to keep things sketchy with the neighbouring buildings only hinted at. I started by laying in a pale wash of French Ultramarine, Brown Madder and Yellow Ochre, letting them mingle on the paper, so the ‘white’ of the building is actually mostly this first wash.

The building now houses the Tolsey Museum containing artifacts of local interest.

Painted on Saunders Waterford 9 x 12 inch block.

01-21 tudor building, burford

Morning in Well Lane

The first time I saw this view – or rather the first time I really noticed it, was in the dark of early evening. I thought the buildings made interesting shapes and realized that with hardly any visible detail to distract me I was able to concentrate on the large masses seen as silhouettes – which is what one should always try to do when thinking about composition but isn’t always so easy. I determined to go back this morning and see what it looked like in daylight.

Although I could see more, I tried to keep the big shapes in mind and not be tempted to make too much of the detail, though the cars were a challenge.

Painted on a Saunders Waterford 9 x 12 ins HP block which I find is just about manageable when sketching in the car – any larger and the steering wheel causes major problems !01-17 morning in well lane

Parson’s Corner

An interesting view of what is now a busy area coming into Stow on the Wold from the Fosseway to the north heading towards the town centre.

As far as I can make out, this area was mainly given over to Allotment gardens, some of which were on Glebelands, part of the Cleric’s benefice, hence the name ‘Parson’s Corner’

The only part the old Parson might recognize these days are the barn and some farm buildings behind the wall on the left. Today’s drivers tend to take the corner as if they are on a race track.

There are other interesting buildings further down the lane, but the only way of seeing them from this aspect is to park on a bus stop, which is rather frowned upon, so I may wait for a warmer, drier day when I can stand against a wall to sketch rather than attempt it from the car.

01-15 parson's corner

Getting back to normal

After all the festivities, it takes awhile to get back into the swing of things. I like to use this time of year to plan out my classes, renew my materials and decide what I want to concentrate on in the year ahead.

Here I am using up the last few pages of an old Moleskine sketchbook before I start a new book for the new year which I hope to do by the end of the week.

This is a tree beside the road in the village of Wyck Rissington. ALL the trees lining the Green are interesting to look at and therefore interesting to paint from just about any angle and always seem to have something in the background. This is just playing with an idea for the class.

jan sketchbook tree

Red Pepper

12-15 Red Pepper

There is always such a lot to do, and think about, at this time of year. How soon should we put the decorations up? (Done). Have we remembered to send cards to everyone? (Hopefully). When are we going to do the Christmas food shopping? (Undecided). The list goes on.

So it can be a welcome relief to find a few minutes to do a simple basic piece of painting (no painter likes to be idle for long. First we get twitchy, then grumpy and then downright unsociable until we can do something creative again…).

This red pepper was a fine specimen and a fun subject to get back into doing what I like doing best. Not everything has to be a big production. Sometimes the simplest of things are the most enjoyable.