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.
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…
The third beautiful day in a row. What’s gone wrong? Although I wasn’t able to get out until later than usual, I had time to do another entry in my 10 x 8″ Stillman & Birn Beta series softback sketchbook.
It was a most beautiful morning, one which could easily have been mistaken for summer. Certainly the warmest we have had so far this year. A clear blue sky, lovely sun and hardly any breeze. So still, and, on my walk at least, the only sound came from birds calling from the trees, and a bee which was determined to follow me for part of the way. I paused to sketch the Roundhouse from an angle I don’t think I have done in a while. I’m hoping the weather might be a sign of things to come – at least for a few days anyway.
Painting the landscape during the present lockdown restrictions reminds me of the accounts of artists working at the time of the first world war just over one hundred years ago, when anyone who was seen wandering in the landscape taking notes, was regarded with deep suspicion and immediately identified as an enemy agent gathering information to help an imminent invasion.
Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was in Cornwall at the time and later recalled painting ‘Spring’ when she had to “lie on my stomach under a gorse-bush or other convenient bush in dread of being taken off to prison, to make a line or two in a sketchbook, memorise – rush back to my studio and paint.”
There is a similar feeling that wandering through the landscape during one’s daily exercise, making a line or two in a sketchbook, is still regarded as suspicious behaviour and must certainly mean one is up to no good and must be given a wide berth at all costs.
Luckily, given the weather conditions, I did not have to find a gorse-bush to lurk under in order to draw some lines for ‘Winter field’ (below), but stopped the car in an unusually convenient field gateway on my way home from a legitimate local journey – and the only person I met was a young lady upon a fine horse who gave me a wide smile and seemed not to have any concerns about my being an enemy agent.
Although the snow has almost, but not quite, gone from this little corner of the world, I enjoyed painting Little Rissington the way it was a few days ago.
Usually, people are convinced that the first day of a new year will solve all the problems of the old one and a bright new future awaits them. I am fairly sure that not much is going to change just yet, but with hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines, I wish you all a safe and healthy New Year, and look forward to seeing your posts in 2021.
A lovely overnight snowfall greeted us yesterday morning, so we wasted no time in going for a walk around The neighbourhood before the beauty of it turned to slush and back to the mud of previous days. Evidence of a lot of flooding still in places. I took a photo of this on my phone and did this painting at home this morning.
You can never be sure how long the snow will last around here. It could stay a week or only a few hours. We may have more in the next few days or not for another twelve months. The secret is not to waste it while it is here.