Monday, 20 June 2011

Final few from Cornwall

I think this is possibly one of my favourite pieces from the trip to Sennen. The reason being that it seems to get to the 'essence' of the subject with minimal fuss. I feel as though I really connected with moment and the painting (for me anyway) encapsulates the experience of being there. Much of the foreground sand is actually the colour of the ground I painted on and I like the slightly unfinished effect. I'm hoping to do a larger version of this in the studio with the explicit intention of trying to retain that fleeting effect and not labouring the surface. It will be interesting to see how it pans out as it will no doubt develop a life/presence of it's own. The marks will be different and appropriate to the revised scale. I painted this one alongside Tim King in the afternoon sun and enjoyed every minute of it!

 'High sun at Sennen', 13x10in, oil on board

I also did three acrylics on location where I felt the subject lent itself to a change of medium. There's something about the area around Pendeen and similiar cliffscapes that make me inclined to favour using acrylics on occasions. I find I can build up the rocks and sea with thin glazes worked over with more opaque marks. This seems to give the darker, shadowy areas a bit more life and energy. Up on the cliffs I like to use acrylics on primed mount card attached to an MDF board. I sit on a camping stool and have the board on the grasss in front of me, propped at a slight angle to avoid glare etc. I use Winsor and Newton slow drying gel which is essential in the absence of a 'stay wet' palette which I'm not a fan of. I also add Winsor and Newton flow improver to the water I use to thin the paint for 'glazing'. This ensures the richness of the thinned colour is retained and doesn't go slightly chalky (as I find happens with just plain water). 

'Morning sun, Botallack', 12x16in, acrylic on card

'The Enys from Pendeen cliff ', 16x20in, acrylic on card

 'Looking down at The Enys', 14x18in, acrylic on card

When using the acrylics I tend to work slightlly larger and more vigorously. I still have the same sort of timeframe, around 1.5 hours, before the light has changed too much. As they're bigger, I try to get the essentials down as much as I can but it meant they needed a bit of tidying up and resolving back in the studio afterwards. I didn't want to fiddle too much though as unlike oils, once a mark is down it dries quickly and the underliying location work would be lost. With this in mind, the paintings are resolved to the extent where the gaps are filled in and any oversights corrected as opposed to taking the work in another direction. I'll save that sort of thing for any new versions I might to do from a location piece.

Finally, a couple of small studies done on the more overcast days when I thought it might be worth using some of the colours offered by the wild flowers

'Wild flowers, Cot Valley' - 6x8in, oil on board

'Tree, gorse, bluebells and sea' - 10x8in, oil on board

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Moments from Mousehole

Whilst staying a Sennen we paid a few visits to Mousehole which is a beautiful harbour on the more sheltered southern side of the Lands End penninsula. It provided a nice contrast to the more wilder reaches of the north and west coasts. That said, I found it quite a challenge to tune into the mass of information that presents itself in the busy and bustling harbour. The tide and light have a strong impact on the subject and the water level moves quickly! There's a lot going on with buildings and boats which is quite different to the cliffs and beaches where broader, more general statements are often more appropriate. Whilst in Mousehole we chatted at length about Ken Howard who has a studio there in a converted school house. His masterful works are a constant source of inspiration and he had an incredible painting on show in a local gallery window. The kind of painting that demands your attention...just the shear beauty of the colours and tones was enough to make your jaw drop. Amazing!

'The Gap, Mousehole harbour' - 6x10in, oil on board

We all were drawn to 'The Gap'. It's quite a feature of the harbour but it needs the right light and tide level to make it worthwhile. The sun was high and the the colours muted so it was a delicate balancing act. I was conscious of not over darkening the harbour walls, want to leave some of the ground showing through to give a touch of colour vibration. I used a pinkish stain on the ground which ended up being too insistent so I had to calm things down in the studio afterwards.

'High tide, Moushole harbour' -13x10in, oil on board

All the basic tones and colours were mapped in on site with a bit of tidying up back at home whilst the scene was relatively fresh in my mind. The blue boat in the middle distance was added afterwards to help with the sense of depth.

'Receding waters, Moushole harbour' - 13x10in, oil on board

This was a busy scene with lots of detail. The key was to judge the tones and colours without getting too bogged down with anything fiddly. The buildings and trees in the background were hinted at rather than described in full so they didn't compete for attention with the rest of the painting. It was fun working with all those ropes and I love the way they catch the light against the shadowy wall in the distance.

'Late afternoon, Mousehole harbour' -10x8in, oil on board

This was the brightest day in the harbour and I pushed the colours a bit more. I had to tidy this one up in the studio as the boats were a bit scruffy. If I do need to make an adjustment I try to keep it minimal so as not to move away from the original moment that was captured. If it'slikely to benefit the painting then I think it's well worth it.

A few more Cornwall studies

'The Irish Lady', 8x10in, oil on board

This was painted whilst perched on some rocks facing towards Land's End. The rock is known as the Irish Lady and is apparently haunted! It was really windy so I had to tidy up a few of the brushstrokes afterwards. I wanted to capture the sense of the foaming swell around the rocks and used a couple of trusty seagulls to comment on the scale.

'The Enys, Pendeen' - 13x10in, oil on board 

Quite possibly my favourite Cornish location. I love the heavy seas around Pendeen and the huge Enys that juts out from the cliff. It's tricky trying to capture a sense of the sheer ruggedness of the place with an oil study on the spot but hopefully it conveys something of the place. These sorts of paintings can't be overworked otherwise you end up with a muddy/chalky mashup. One hit, working fast in the blustery wind, sink or swim (not literally!) it my best shot at the time. That's all you can ask really, even if the end result doesn't quite hit the heights of expectation.

I painted some acrylics up at Pendeen and will post them another time. I was pleased to have had a go at Pendeen in oils as I knew it wouldn't be easy! For some reason, with certain subjects I feel more inclined to work in acrylics and Pendeen is one of them.

'Marazion beach, breeze and sunshine', 8x10in, oil on board 

Painted on the beach at Marazion, the sun kept flashing in and out which made things tricky. I had four others from the plein air crew painting their own versions of the scene alongside me which was great fun! No time for snacks Tim.....there's some serious work to be done here :o)

'Marazion beach 2, scudding cloud', 7x10in, oil on board

'Surfs up! Towards Aire point, Sennen' - 13x10in, oil on board

It's not easy painting waves. You have to tune in and try to distill what's going on. There's the colours, tones, rhythms, lines, edges, shadows, lights, reflected lights.....I could go on :o) Everything is moving and once again the light was in and out! Not that I'm complaining, it's all part and parcel of the whole experience.....trying to give a sense of the moment. I must admit, I do enjoy that experience of zoning into the moment. 

'Sennen jetty at sunset' - 6x8in, oil on board 

I painted this alongside Tim on his last day in Sennen. I wasn't going to do a painting as I was feeling tired but who could resist a sunset like that! I whipped out a little 6x8 and rapidly tried to take things down as the light faded. Every time we looked up the sky and water were changing! This kind of speedy work could be likened to taking notes I excuse for producing something that could arguably be classed as unfinished or a little rough round the edges!

 'Fast fade, Sennen jetty at sun down' -  4x10in, oil on board

Painted alongside Roy on our last evening in Sennen. The speed at which we had to paint was like nothing I've encountered. We're talking a handful of minutes to get this down!

'Sunset moment, Sennen jetty' - 6x8in, oil on board

Ditto for this little sunset too. Barely 10 mins of painting really but I was eager to get something down having just painted a 'wipe down' on the cliff at Land's End.

'Silver light at Sennen', 9x10in, oil on board

This was the first painting of the trip and I painted it alongside Mike in the late afternoon sun. As it was pretty much a contre jour subject the colours were very subdued and it was all about the tonal contrasts. That said, I had to be careful with the colour temperatures (which don't come out very well in the photo).

Friday, 3 June 2011

More paintings from Cornwall (part 2)

Here are a few more plein air paintings from the recent trip to Cornwall.

 'Porthchapel Cove', 13x10in, oil on board

I loved the patterns created by the water marks in the sand, the lines of seaweed and the white foam. Nice rhythms to work with. I had to be quite careful and not overdo it though in order to keep everything balanced. I think I just about got away with it. With the waves moving all the time I had to try and tune in to the essence of what was there. Tricky but fun!

'Stamps an Jowl Zawn – Natural Arch', 13x10in, oil on board

This was a great spot perched on the cliffs near Botallack Head. I'd just done an acrylic of a nearby cliff and went back to the car to fetch the art gear. I'm glad I did because I knew it would be a challenge not to overwork the oils and make the rocks too dark......and I like a challenge :o) The natural arch is amazing! A couple of seagulls add a bit of scale, without hopefully descending into tweesville. I wanted to say something about the wilderness and sense of power you get from the waves and rocks (even on a relatively calm day!).

'Surfing in the zone - Sennen' , 8x10in, oil on board

Tim King and I couldn't resist this coloured flag reflecting in the puddles. As with many of the water subjects we encountered, it changed within minutes (the tide was going out) so I had to rely partly on memory to make it happen. With regards to the surfers, a mere hint was all that was needed.  I didn't want to make it too busy.

'Bright and breezy - towards Penzance', 5x11in, oil on linen canvas board

This was more complex to paint than I imagined with some soft and subtle tones/colours and a tricky compositional balancing act. The passing little one man boat came in very handy! I remember the sun kept going in and out which made things a bit awkward but I tell myself 'there's no use complaining Pilgrim....just get on with it!'

'Purcella Point - Porthcurno', 8x10in, oil on board

I loved painting this one with Tim, perched on the cliffs above Porthcurno, right next to the Minack theatre. I wasn't too happy with the painting afterwards though and have done my best to try and make it behave. Still not sure if it's quite finished.
'Into the light, looking down on Sennen Cove', 8x10in, oil on board

I painted this view of the bay alongside Anthony Bridge and Valerie Pirlot and the light was pretty intense. You could barely look at the water! I wanted to make sure the land wouldn't descend into drabness (which I've been guilty of on previous occasions) as it's easy to overcompensate with the darks. I suppose it's all part of the learning curve though. I tried to judge the relative values as best as possible, knowing full well I couldn't get close to the actual brightness of the light. It's an interesting little zig-zag composition although at the time I didn't consciously think 'there's a nice zig-zag'. I just had a feeling it might be worth a go!

 'Lifeguard hut in the drizzle - Sennen Cove', 5x8in, on board

This was painted on the only day we had rain/drizzle. I quite enjoyed painting Sennen in different conditions and had Anthony painting alongside me from the high vantage point. The lifeguard hut and a hint of figures gives some sort of sense of scale. I liked the close toned greys and the gentle diagonal sweep of the tide patterns.

'Distant Crowns - towards Botallack', 13x10in, oil on board

Painted on a breezy day looking towards Botallack Head. I wanted to try and capture some suggestion of the wild flowers which we were lucky to have.

More Cornwall paintings to follow, including Mousehole harbour and a few Sennen sunsets :o)