Friday, 28 October 2011

A few from north Norfolk

I recently spent a relaxing few days on a holiday with my parents on the north Norfolk coast. It was much needed having spent the last few weeks stuck at home. I wasn't too sure if I'd be able to do much painting but the sea air seemed to give me a boost, along with the fine weather! Over the 4 days it was mostly sunny and there were even some surfers braving the cooler temperatures (I think it was 11 degrees that day) at Cromer.

Being slightly out of peak season meant it was less crowded and easier to get about and park. This is my third outing along the north norfolk coast and I'm starting to get a feel for the place in terms of painting. It's not just about the views, there's the time of day, type of light and tidal patterns to consider amongst other things. The great thing about going back to familiar areas is that you don't waste lots of time trying to hunt around for subject matter that sparks and interest. For me, that spark has to be there otherwise it's difficult to connect with the moment.

I managed to get six pieces done. They might need a bit of tidying up but I thought I'd post them fresh from the easel (or pochade box!). I've posted them in the order they were painted

 Cley Mill from the bridge (west side) 10x9in

I liked the slightly unsual view of the famous windmill and Cley-Next-The-Sea. My first plein air effort for several weeks! I enjoyed working with the subtle variations of colour and tone in the reeds and trying to gently steer the eye through them towards the windmill.

Cromer pier, morning light (11x14in)

This was the next morning in Cromer. The pier is a great feature of the sea front and the colours of the sea made for an interesting study. I was working from an elevated position and standing in the shade of the buildings behind me (this made it rather cold!). I put a couple of surfers in at the very least to show they were there! I liked the way the sun lit up the pier and the rusty legs on which it stands. This contrasted nicely with the deep, intense blue of the distant water (yes, it really did seem that blue!). The tide moved quickly and by the end of the session the beach had disappeared.

Cley Mill, 10x22in

This was done in the afternoon (on the same day as the Cromer piece). I almost went back to base camp but the light was too good to resist. On a previous trip I'd painted from a similar position but was disappointed with the end result. Having learnt a few lessons (and making mistakes can often be the best way of doing this) I was happier with the outcome this time, not leaast because I opted to work on quite a large (for me) canvas using the French easel. It was that last 1.5 hours of sunshine so the light shifted fast. It's quite hard balancing the tones when the colour temperatures contrasts are so striking but I think I got away with it. I might tidy this up a bit or leave it as is and use it as a colour study for a studio piece.

Morston, 11x14in

This was the only painting from day 3. It was a greyer day and the photo seems to have distorted the lights and darks a bit but hopefully it gives idea. The light kept popping in and out and I tried to catch the light on the foreground boat in an 'out' moment. I liked the vertical contrast of the wooden mooring posts and the red sail came up as a bonus about half way through the painting. Thank you whoever was sailing that vessel :o) I was actucally sat on a mooring platform like the one painted and had to be careful not to drop any brushes otherwise they would have dropped through the wooden planks into the thick mud below!

Beached vessel, Brancaster Staithes (11x14in)

I really enjoyed painting this one. An unsual composition just begging to be painted. As with the others, it was pretty cold so thermals were needed along with the trusty hat with built in ear muffs. Brancaster Staithes is a great place to paint, along with the nearby Burham Overy Staithes. I find it better painting boats out of the water as they don't move so much. The ones in the water seem to constantly spin around in the tidal movements!

Autumn light, Blakeney (6x8in)

This was a little bonus study I was able to do on the last day of my break. It was trickier than I imagined as it was a small panel and the light/water were moving at a fast pace. Just enough time to get the essentials down. The building on the right was actually further away from the boat but I moved it closer to give a sort of L-shaped or triangular composition. The angles of the masts bring a nice set of dynamic lines to the piece. Not more than 45 mins on this one.

A great place to paint and hopefully I'll be back there again sometime soon.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Getting mobile

Bit of a techie post this one but it's hopefully of some use/relevance to anyone with an art website. I've been becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that the gallery on my website is a Flash based solution and that meant it wouldn't work on a number of mobile devices ( e.g ipad).This could become quite a problem as more and more people are getting connected with hand held devices and I have indeed have a number of people mention that they can't view the site so well on their handheld devices. Gone are the days where a website developer just needed to worry about whether a site worked in just a handful of browsers. We now have to be mindful of the plethora of hardware being used too!

I actually use Slideshowpro (which I rate very highly) for my gallery so I decided to see if I could get things properly 'mobilised'. After reviewing the options I also decided it was best to rework the main theme for the whole website at the same time so that it would all display in a better way on mobile devices. I won't bore you with the technical stuff but will mention that I'm now using SlideshowPro Director which is an excellent content management application that makes gallery authoring MUCH easier. It also has an HTML5 viewer which the user can see if they're on a mobile device. The switch between the HTML5 and Flash viewers is automatically handled, depending on the device being used. It does take a bit of setting up but I think it's worth the effort. I don't mind paying a relatively small fee for these types of products because they make the development and maintenance of the website so much easier and efficient. In the long run, less time working on the website means more time at the easel :o)

In terms of creating an overall mobile theme for the site I would thoroughly recommend using the Opera mobile emulator which you can install on your computer and use to simulate your site being viewed on a range of mobile devices. I've tried to get the theme to reorganise page content into a single cascading column for mobile devices. Since I'm using Blogger as my blog I've had to comprimise slightly on the mobile view as it doesn't include the top navigation. Apart from that it seems to generally hold up. If you are using Blogger and switch to the new Blogger interface you'll find that you can set a mobile theme for your blog. I'm using the 'custom theme' option which tries to adapt your main theme into something sensible on a mobile device. Alternatively you can just use one of Blogger's preset mobile themes but it may not match the look and feel of your website if you connect the two up (as I do).

Sorry to overload on technical detail but hopefully it's useful info. If anyone does happen to view my site/blog on a mobile do let me know how you get on with it. There may well be a few creases that still need ironing out :o)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Down but (hopefully) not out

Well, I've been ill with a virus for the last month or so and am still trying to shake the darn thing off. I suppose that dampens the spirits somewhat. Not being able to paint has been a frustration too and I wasn't fit enough to get anything entered for the Bath Prize. Disappointingly, I've also just found out all 4 entries I put in for the New English Art Club's annual open weren't accepted. Bit of a blow that one. The entries are shown below:

The seascape (Porthchapel cove, Cornwall) is an acrylic, a plein air piece with a touch of studio tweaking done on paper with a canvas texture. The rest are all oil 'plein airs' but the Oxford one needed a bit of studio attention to tidy it up too.

It does knock the confidence a bit but there's no doubt there's stiff competition when entering these things. I suppose that's the problem when you don't get're left wondering 'why?'. As artists we have to take setbacks on the chin and press on regardless, otherwise we'd just grind to a halt I suppose. Maybe the answer is to get straight back on the horse....or should we invest energy in taking stock and reflecting on these things? Onwards and....well...onwards anyway :O)