The church of Ampney St Mary near Cirencester stands alone in a field by the side of a busy road a few miles distant of the village. It is thought the original village may have fallen prey to plague or the Black Death. Whether true or not, the church with it’s trees standing guard around it provides an interesting subject for the artist.

This is a sketchbook entry from which I want to make a larger painting on paper – part of a series with the other Ampney villages, Ampney Crucis and Ampney St Peter.

03-21 Ampney St Mary

Before the week is over

Having spent most of the week chasing about on non-painting stuff, I was determined to go out today and sketch if only for a few minutes before the week was over.

After a beautiful couple of weeks, the recent rain has made  many of the fields waterlogged in places, so the going was a bit squelchy. Nevertheless I managed this little sketch on a half page of my Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Not great, but it felt so-o good to be putting paint to paper again! I arrived home just before the rain started.

sketchbook note

February morning

With a temperature of around 15c/60f it is difficult to remember this is actually FEBRUARY.  With hardly any breeze today one could easily be fooled into thinking it was Summer. Now the schools are back after their half term break, it is much quieter and I only met two dog walkers on my way to my ‘painting ground’.

It’s strange how some days you can look and look and not find anything that inspires you and other times like today there seems to be so much in every direction you don’t know where to begin. The truth is, you can spend an awful lot of time waiting to be ‘inspired’ and end up with nothing (actually if you just sit and wait for inspiration to come along and grab you, you probably wouldn’t paint very much at all). Whereas for me the very act of washing pigment onto paper and watching it merge and interact is the greatest inspiration there is.

February Morning

By the water’s edge

Out for a walk the other day, my eye was caught by a little river which sometimes trickles, sometimes gushes through the landscape. Sometimes the water is still and clear, other times it is full of ripples. Always different, endlessly fascinating.

I took photos and made some small pencil sketches from various positions trying to concentrate on what I thought were the essential points of the view I was seeing. This little 6 x 8 inch is the first thoughts on what I hope to build up into a larger painting, although not necessarily from this angle. It might be something I have to keep coming back to as I keep exploring the idea.

02-22 By the water's edge

First Tulips

I love Spring flowers but am dismayed at how quickly they come and go. Their life span is short and so too our chance to paint them, and a whole year passes before we have another chance, by which time one has forgotten what to do..

These have  probably been forced somewhere and their buds may not open, but they are too good an opportunity to miss. I think I should have put more darks into the leaves but that might be another day.

Painted in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook.

Yellow Tulips

A walk is never wasted

Sometimes when out walking you make wonderful or surprising discoveries simply by determining to go on a little further to see what is around the corner. This was not one of those times. I’d hoped that there was a fence or a gateway into another field which would eventually lead me to somewhere I recognized, and another little piece of the jigsaw of local fields would fall into place.

Unfortunately the undergrowth was so dense here I had to turn back until I could find a way through to where I knew I had to be. It was still an interesting walk and not entirely wasted (walks are never wasted) as I ended up with this small 6 x 8 inch painting.

02-13 End of the field

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.