Ice House

Ice houses were used to store ice in the days before the invention of refrigerators. They were perhaps a status-symbol to impress one’s guests by being able to offer them ice-creams in the summer. Be that as it may, Ice houses have been around for a long time and were often built as underground chambers close to the source of winter ice. Apparently during winter the ice was carved out from the river in rather larger cubes than those we would recognize today, taken to the Ice house and packed with straw as insulation. How it worked I don’t know, but it is said the ice remained frozen for many months.

This one is to be found in woodland on the Sherborne Estate in Gloucestershire, (National Trust property), and is easy to miss on your walk around the grounds if you are not expecting it.

End of the platform.

This is a sketch I did recently while looking around the old railway station at Toddington. There are a whole lot of things going on there and loads to paint, which I hope to do more fully one day, now I know what’s there. Unfortunately I’ve discovered it just as I am in mid preparation for the new term. What I hope to do is to turn this into a larger painting and write more about the location, but it will be a few weeks before I get around to doing it! Just another thing to put on my ‘Places I must paint’ list.

Barn across the field.

It’s looking as if we will be able to hold face to face classes again from next week (for how long remains to be seen). So been busy preparing for the new term which seems to be strange and exciting at the same time.

This barn across the field at Sherborne makes use of a limited palette of Quinacridone Gold, Light Red and Cobalt Blue, trying to keep the colours muted under the grey skies we’ve been having for quite a time now.

Down by the barn

In the middle of the countryside, surrounded by nothing but fields, some with crops, others with cattle. Little noise except the buzzing of insects, (and sometimes the buzzing of far-off chain saws), and every so often a lonely barn, not much used now, since the farming community use machines built for giants. The barns are still an integral part of the landscape and one of my favourite subject matter.

A Special Place

Well, it was fun while it lasted. To be in the heart of the countryside in Summer, deep in the meadows under a sun which has ripened corn and nourished life and inspired painters and poets for countless ages, is a privilege. This peaceful place with it’s rolled bales of hay, the sound of blackbirds in the hedges which border the fields, the iridescent blue of dragonflies flittering from place to place, even the persistent dive-bombing of blood-sucking insects have been the very essence of Summer for hundreds of years.

It is the place which nourishes my soul, which gives the luxury of time to enjoy solitude, to banish for a while the demands of modern life which causes needless stress. The chance to recharge batteries and to understand what is important in life and to hold on to it. To reaffirm one’s beliefs and reconnect to the central theme which keeps us all going.

Everyone needs a special place, and for each person it will be different. For me it is this spot which fulfills me. But even as I finish this painting, I hear the tractor and trailer, which will scoop up the bales and remove them, approaching. The gentle breeze of the past few days is working itself up into something stronger, presaging a change in the weather. Next week will be different, but I know my special place will be there again one day, and I will be drawn to it, to be nourished again, as I always am.

Painted on Saunders Waterford watercolour block.

In the meadow

Same subject matter, different location. This time in the meadows near my home. Fields of them, and nobody looking as if they are thinking about moving them soon. So while everyone was sitting sensibly indoors, I perched in the shade of a bale and breathed in the sweet scent of freshly cut grasses and wild flowers while painting today’s sketch. The only down side was when I became aware of an itch in the hand holding my palette and discovered a not-very-nice-looking creature happily sucking my blood. I flapped it away, but some hours later I can still see the puncture mark it made.

This is another entry in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.

Summer bales

I spent this morning sketching possibly my most favourite thing to paint at this time of year. Hay bales or Rolls, call them what you will. You never know where to find them as they tend to crop up in different places each year. Wherever they are, I am always more than happy to spend a day, or days, in the field. Just them and me !

Today however, just as I found them and started to get excited, a large lorry drove into the field and parked between me and some of the bales. I was determined to get something down in my sketchbook before they disappeared, so did this first one fast.

After I’d finished, nothing much had changed. There was a lot of talking but no-one had approached either me or the bales. I assumed they were waiting for some other machinery, like a fork-lift or similar to start loading, so I decided I might have a little more time to sketch another.

Here I was standing on the side of the road trying not to get stung by the cluster of nettles, and used the top of a stone wall to rest my sketchbook on. Most passers-by ignored me but I had an interesting conversation with a lady who shared her memories of a painting holiday in Cornwall. With both sketches done, I thought it had been a good morning well spent.

Both painted in my moleskine 5×8″ landscape watercolour sketchbook.


Dodging the morning showers, I went to paint the medieval church of a village destroyed by fire in 1684.

The story goes that a local woman wanted to bake a loaf of bread but did not want, or could not afford, to pay the chimney tax imposed by the government of the day. She tried making a funnel from her hearth to her neighbour’s chimney, and succeeded in destroying twenty houses and ending the lives of four inhabitants.

The surviving villagers moved further up the hill and built a new village and church, this time of stone. The old building and graveyard fell into disrepair but were saved again in the 1800’s and are now a heritage site in Churchill, Oxfordshire.

This was painted on a small block of Saunders Waterford Hot Press paper which I quite like. It seems to have a different surface quality than the sheets of the same. It can be used on an easel without having to include a drawing board and is small enough and light enough to hold in the hand if not using an easel.

Ewepen Barn

There was a moment this week when the wind and the rain paused long enough to actually enjoy being outside. This barn can be found on the Sherborne estate and was, according to a sign inside, built around 1860 and used for the storage of hay and straw as food and bedding for sheep during the winter months. Hence Ewe-pen. There are a few other buildings here which are just as interesting to paint, which would be nice to do if we ever have a summer…