Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Summer evening

After the hustle and bustle of London it's nice to get out amongst the fields and enjoy the fresh air. This was a quick one as the light kept changing evey few minutes. It was looking west from Whaddon in Bucks and I stumbled across it after heading out in the car from Stony Stratford. I tried to keep in mind a particular cloud structure otherwise I'd have ended up repainting it several times. I liked the heavy clouds contrasting against the warm light and the yellow flowers offered some nice interest in the foreground. I tried my best to keep the colours clean/fresh whilst working fast. The yellow flowers were mainly painted before the grass so they retained their colour strength and didn't get 'infected' by the surrounding green.

I used a small 6x8 textured linen panel, kindly given to me by my artist friend Karl Terry. Nice surface to work on and not too absorbent (unlike a other kinds of textured panels). I thought it would be peaceful but it was right next to a sheep station and they made a heck of a din. Still, at least there weren't any cockerels!!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Inspired by London

I've recently become interested in London and what it has to offer in terms of light and architecture. It lends itself well to 'tonal' painting which I seem to veer towards. I took the week off work and spent 4 days in the capital last week. It was great! Really hot and the heavy backpack was a bit of a burden but it was well worth the effort.

I made a point of indentifying potential locations in advance so that I wouldn't expend too much energy searching around for a subject. First off, I hit the area around Bank and the Royal Exchange, following in the footsteps of my 'hero' Ken Howard!

I was lucky to be there on a Bank holiday when all the city workers were away. This one was done round the corner opposite the Bank of England...

The drawing is deceptively complex but there's no time to dither. After doing quick thumbnail sketch in my sketchpad to work out the basic coposition I want I go straight in with a thin wash to map out the position of the key elements. Then it's a question of establishing relationships...colour, tone etc. I try to get in the zone where I forget what I'm painting and see it in more abstract terms, attempting to pull things together to make a coherent whole. I really enjoyed painting these and will certainly be back for many more.

Tower bridge

This was a roasting hot day but I knew the light would be good in the afternoon. The first one was done at about 3pm and because of the full sun the colours were quite strong. I've seen Ken Howard paint from this sort of position and wanted to give it a go myself. I was quite conscious of making the composition asymetrical despite there being a strong inherent symmetry to the twin towered bridge

I was really roasting after the first painting but on my way back I bumped into 3 guys from the Wapping Group who were out painting from a spot a bit closer to the bridge. The light was getting quite interesting and I decided to seize the moment and paint alongside fellow artists! It was a good decision. Really enjoyed it, despite feeling a little jaded.

The scene became almost monochromatic as the sun moved round but I stuck with the initial impression I got at the start otherwise I would have ended up painting a new scene over the old one! The key to getting the light to register on the water was to pitch the general tone of the river low enough to contrast against it.

Hammersmith bridge

This was my third day of the week down in London. Once again it was roasting hot but after a bit of time surveying the area I found a nice spot that was semi shaded. I wanted a composition that would make the most of the thrusting geometry created by the bridge and was fortunate that the light was good.

The painting was done at about 1pm and I got some positive comments from passers by. Even though the sun was high it moved quickly and the shadow cast under the bridge changed it's position quite dramatically as I worked. As with the other paintings, I made sure the canvas was turned away from the sun so that I didn't have direct sun shining on the surface. This can skew your value judgements and you end up overcompensating, making darks darker than they should be. I was pleased with the result and hope to do a bigger version at some point. I might return to the spot with a larger canvas to start things off.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Evening light

I love those warm, clear summer evenings when the landscape is bathed in the fast fading sunlight. This little study was done in some nearby field by the road just outside the village of Castlethorpe. I had to work at lightning speed. The scene seemed to change every 5 minutes. It was a bit of a frenzy but I really enjoyed the challenge of it all. I tried to be as decisive about the colours/tones as possible so that I didn't have to keep revising what I'd put down. This helps keep things clean and fresh (to a point, anyway). After 25 minutes or so the sun had moved from one side of the tree to the outside of the other!

I'm hoping to work up a bigger version based on this one back in the studio. I actually find that much more difficult as I don't have the energy of the subject to feed off. My mark making and colour mixing are more instictive when working on location. Nevertheless, I think I'll still give it a go as the subject is so enticing.