Saturday, 18 July 2015

Buxton Spa Prize - 2nd place prize winner!

Last night I travelled up to Buxton for the show opening and prize awards for the 2015 Buxton Spa Prize. It's an open competition designed to celebrate the heritage/culture of Buxton and invites artists to paint a location from a ballot draw along with one other location of the artist's choosing in the town. There's also a unique sketchbook prize which invites artists to submit their sketchbooks, along with awards for children, young artists amongst others. What a great idea for a competition!

The prizes are very generous and this year both Ken Howard RA and Peter Brown NEAC were amongst the judges (both artists I hold in very high regard) so I opted to give it whirl. Not only that but I've not visited Buxton (or even the Peak District as far as I can recall) before so it was a good opportunity to explore the town and the surrounding area.

I was extremely chuffed to win second prize with this plein air painting done on the Broad Walk in Buxton (my allocated location). A real bonus to find it had sold almost as the doors opened too!

'Evening stroll, Broad Walk - Buxton' (9x23in, oil on board) 
2nd Prize for the Buxton Spa Prize 2015 (click image to enlarge)

I was thrilled to win a prize and to have the judging panel give it the thumbs-up! When I came to get my board stamped in May I chose the spot where I thought it could work as a painting and decided what time of day the light would work best. Late evening seemed to offer the most potential with the opportunity for some long shadows.

My other entry was of the Artisan Market in the main shopping area known as Spring Gardens. I was quite fortunate to have both the market and the sun in town on the weekend I was there painting. It's e a larger canvas by my own plein air standards (18x24in) so I did all I could in about 4 hours on location and then some final tidying up back in the studio. The two paintings were placed in my hand finished frames which seem to take forever to do!

'Artisan Market, Spring Gardens (Buxton)' (18x24in, oil on canvas)

I did a third plein air painting over the weekend whilst I was painting there in June but had to decide between that and the market so I opted to hang onto this one (below) of the Opera House and enter the market scene instead.

'Ice cream at the Opera House, Buxton' (12x16in oil on board)

It was a great evening, meeting judges, organisers, fellow artists and gallery visitors. The standard of entries was very impressive across all categories and it's a great exhibition to go and visit, lots of diversity and the sketchbooks on display add an interesting element to the show too. The overall first prize deservingly went to Rob Wilson and third prize for a super painting by Michael Ashcroft.

Rob Wilson (above) with his vibrant and sensitively worked entry done in mixed media, fully deserving of the first prize.

Michael Ashcroft's lovely third prize oil painting (looked very good in that black/gold frame too). Julie Cross was the winner of the sketchbook prize with an impressive and very honest collection of work.

The awards ceremony above with Trevor Osborne (competition sponsor) on stage along with other members the judging panel which included Ken Howard RA, Peter Brown NEAC,Viscountess Cobham, David Mellor QC, Louise Potter and Ros Westwood. The gallery was packed out with guests/visitors and there was a lively buzz all evening.

Afterwards the prize winners were invited by Trevor Osborne to join the organisers, judges and sponsors for a very impressive dinner in the Old Hall Hotel (apparently it's the oldest in Britain). It meant I had a late night journey back to Milton Keynes (arriving home at 1:30am) but it was certainly worth it. 

The exhibition runs from July 17th - August 31st at the Green Man Gallery in Buxton. Do go and visit if you can.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Cornwall (part 3)

Here are the remaining paintings from the recent trip down to Cornwall. First up, a slightly larger piece (10x18in) from Sennen beach when there was an enticing mix of rain clouds and bursts of warm evening light. Within minutes of starting the sun disappeared so it was a case of half working from memory until the sun popped back again. It took me a while to find a spot where I thought the composition worked with the rocks and I wanted to try and emphasize the way those houses on the hilltop made a dramatic punch against the passing darker cloud. I was quite pleased with how it turned out given the conditions with the light at the time.

'Early evening, Sennen Cove' - 10x18in, oil on board

This was a bigger piece (12x16in) attempted in the force 7 winds we enjoyed down by the jetty in Sennen. After a little surgery back in the studio it seemed to hold up and capture something of the energy from the moment. I really liked Tim's and Mike's paintings of this subject.

Force 7 waves, Sennen jetty - 12x16in, oil on board

Before returning home I happily spent a few days with family up near Padstow and enjoyed exploring new terrain along that stretch of the coast. I was perhaps a little ambitious attempting a 16x20in at Bedruthan given the speed at which the tide and light were shifting but I got the essentials down and tidied things up a bit afterwards. Those rocks can be tricky in oils (I was conscious of not making them too dark so they they end up drab/murky) and they are quite distinctive shapes too. 

'Bedruthan Steps' - 16x20in, oil on board

Port Isaac was a pleasant find and once I'd negotiated the Doc Martin crew (they were actually filming about 50 metres away) I found a spot standing rather precariously on some slimy seaweed down in the harbour. Luckily it was low tide and there were a couple of nicely placed boats to work with.

'Boats at rest, Port Isaac harbour' - 10x14in, oil on board

My least productive day was when I ventured to Polperro. It was quite a long drive and we had that sort of 'in a cloud' sea mist/drizzle most of the day. Greeted with hoards of tourists I struggled to find a secluded spot and after a couple of wiped efforts settled on this arrangement, attempting to hone in on the subtle shifts in tones and colours. At least I could to head back to camp with something worth keeping anyway!

'Boat study, Polperro harbour' - 8x16in, oil on board

I had a very pleasant morning painting at Portcothan Bay and despite the sun not making much of an appearance there was a nice offering of subtle colours to work with. It's a popular spot and the bustle of people brought lots of energy to the subject. I was standing on some elevated dunes to paint this (you can see the fringes of grass in the foreground).

'Portcothan Bay - 10x13in', 10x13in oil on board

Another one from Portcothan Bay, this time pitched up against the headland in the painting above and looking across to the other side of the bay. I liked the shape of the rock and the surfers were very obliging in bringing a bit of interest to the subject. I made use of the reflection of the headland in the wet sand in the foreground too. I quite like the simplicity and directness of this piece and I'm tempted to leave those grains of sand in the foreground too!

'Surfers at Porthcothan Bay' - 6x14in, oil on board

A very enjoyable trip, painting with pals and spending time with family down in Cornwall. Itching to get back there already!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

More from Cornwall

It's always a challenge to try and paint those dramatic zawns from a lofty perch on a cliff edge and this was no exception. I was safely within range of the footpath but the high wind meant I couldn't even use the tripod sitting down so I had the paint box wedged in my lap. Even then it was a bit of a struggle and I was pleasantly surprised the final result wasn't full of wayward marks. Needed to pitch the tones of the water and rocks as accurately as I could in order to make it work and avoid ending up with drab/muddy rocks. I'd been hunting for a spot to paint for about an hour and had almost given up the hunt before settling on this spot. Almost threw it in the sea at one point, convinced it was a wiper but looking at it now it seems to hold together.

'Pendeen Zawn', 8x10in, oil on board

Some respite from the elements was found over in Mousehole but in actual fact the painting was in some ways more challenging with a mass of detail, tourists and the ever present danger of a descent into something twee to negotiate. I chose to tackle the cottages at the far end on the wharf as I was drawn to the range of tones in the flat light.

'Cottages from the wharf, Mousehole' - 10x13in, oil on board

The second effort (after a re-fuel with much needed tea & cake) was done from where those surf boards are resting in the background in the first effort. It was quite difficult judging the tones as the shifts were very subtle in places.

'Towards the wharf, Mousehole beach' - 12x16in, oil on board

Tim and I weren't sure what the weather was going to do and whether it would hold at Pendeen so we squeezed in a small boat study, thinking it would be a simpler and more relaxed way to round off the afternoon. Anything but in fact! The light was in and out, tide rushing in, awkward angle to draw on the boats and we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a beach birthday party of about twenty or so 4 year olds with a heady blend of frenzied excitement and explosive tantrums in the air. Mayhem! 

'Boat study, Mousehole' - 9x10in, oil on board

Carrying on the boat theme, I found a more unusual angle looking down the slipway near the lifeboat house at Sennen. After an initial wiper I shifted a few of the elements around to try and make a tidier composition and allow the viewpoint to make some sort of visual sense. 

'Looking down the slipway, Sennen - 8x16in, oil on board

A later afternoon visit to Penberth allowed me to paint in relative shelter after being windswept on Porthcurno beach. Just enough energy left to do a small 8x10 of a fishing boat on the slipway. The background is actually bit darker in the painting than the photo suggests.

'Boat at Penberth', 8x10in, oil on board

More paintings from the trip in the next post, including those from my stay in the Padstow area where I spent an enjoyable few days with family before heading home.