The one that got away

In a field of freshly baled straw or hay, it seems unlikely that one could be overlooked, but this one seems to be making a bid for freedom, having somehow rolled unnoticed to the edge of the field, half hidden in the shadows against the fence, as though hoping it won’t be scooped up and stacked on a trailer along with its siblings. You sometimes see other bales which have escaped in earlier years, their freshness washed out to a colourless grey, melting back into the undergrowth, unseen and unloved. Will this be one of those or will it be rescued?

Bales at Little Rissington

I’ve been keeping my eye on this field for some time, waiting for it to be baled up as I knew it would be. Luckily I spotted it from a distance as I was about to go in another direction, and I set off straight away, as I knew from experience that if I didn’t, the opportunity would be lost. On one of the hottest days we have had recently, I was able to stand in the shadow of a tree and collect enough information from this location which I know well, to be able to paint this as soon as I returned home.


Sunflowers are such an essential part of Summer that they have long been a perennial favourite for artists. This does not make them any easier to paint however. As a plant they are not particularly delicate or subtle in any way. They are usually big, sometimes very big. Also bright and joyful, bringing a smile onto many a face. So this is how I tried to paint them, big and boldly, concentrating on the larger shapes, trying to keep things simple rather than becoming too bogged down with individual petals and so on. I also used more Prussiaan Blue in the greens than usual, which I think works quite well.

Across the field

Walking around the edge of this field in Little Rissington made me realize just how dry the ground is underneath. Usually at this time of year cracks start to appear as the earth dries out, but at the moment those cracks have become wider and much deeper than any I remember seeing before.

Red Geranium

I’ve been meaning to paint a Geranium (or Pelargonium) for some time to add to my series of floral greeting cards. I used mostly Cadmium Scarlet with some yellow and also Alizarin Crimson for the flowers. The leaves are mostly Lemon, permanent sap green and French ultramarine with Burnt sienna.

Luckily these plants are drought and heat tolerant so our recent weather has suited them quite well. They have long been a favourite of mine and I always try and have at least one as a house plant. They can live for a number of years and become quite unruly if you let them.

In the midday sun

Not always a good idea to be out in the midday sun, but once I snuck into the field, I was able to sit in the shade of the wall to do some sketching under blue skies and reasonable temperatures. The first time this year I have been able to get this close to bales of any kind.

I worked mostly with Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Winsor Violet and French Ultramarine with a little Cadmium Yellow and Permanent Sap Green for the trees. Although there were plenty of ‘noises off’ indicating the presence of others in the distance, I couldn’t think of a more perfect place to be.

Between showers

Intermittent rain for most of the week so far, so I was glad to be able to dodge it today long enough to do a sketch. After a couple of days spent mostly inside due partly to the weather and partly to a bad back, it was good to be in the open air again and able to sketch something however briefly. I am always amazed at how much of a comfort it is – like a shot of oxygen.

Before the rain

Well, they’ve been promising it for days, and this afternoon it finally reached us. I saw the warning in the sky on my daily walk across the fields . There have been spits and spots in the air for a while but nothing more, but I had a feeling that today I couldn’t hang about for long, and sure enough, I hadn’t been home long before the heavens opened.

At least the plants won’t need watering tonight.

Making Hay

I eventually found some hay bales today just as it felt it was about to rain. This was at the end of a long walk and I was running out of time (and didn’t want to get wet). Later, I discovered the field went round a corner and continued far into the distance, and I really wished I could have stayed longer and spent more time looking at what I was painting.

As it happened, although there was moisture in the air and the light became more overcast, the rain stayed away. So here we have the artists dilemma; to get down on paper the first thing you see, in preference to doing nothing at all, or to take one’s time and wander round, examining all possibilities before making a start? There are arguments for both, and of course it depends on the circumstances. How much time is available? What will the weather be doing by the time you are ready to paint? Is it actually possible to wander around or is there a barbed wire fence between you and your heart’s desire? So many things to ponder.

At least I have a sketch and a memory, and if the weather holds and if the farmer doesn’t move the bales under cover and if I can go back soon, I will!