Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sunny and cold

The weather was beautiful at the weekend....clear, cold and crisp with completely clear skies. On Saturday I headed for Ivinghoe Beacon and spent a fair bit of time scouting around before settling on a couple of studies. This one was done on the slopes just after taking a tumble with all my kit. That'll teach me! I was cold at this point and just looking to get cracking and as a result the painting didn't quite match expectations. I was drawn to the distant hills and how they almost merged with the sky but it's tricky finding anything to latch on to in terms of the composition with big panoramas. I've learnt a few things for next time anyway.

Hill haze, Ivinghoe Beacon 8x12in, oil on board

My next effort was right at the end of the day and I nearly just packed up after feeling rather cold and a little weary. I thought it would be worth a shot as was a bit more satisfied having captured the heavy frost which hadn't left the shaded slopes all day. I was conscious of the extreme temperature shifts and realised that this was largely due to the fact that the shaded areas still had the frost which reflected a lot of blue from the sky. The frost had melted in the sunlit areas which meant they looked even warmer in relation to the shady sections. The contrasts seem almost unreal when you're looking at them and I tried to get some sort of a balance.

Frost and sun, Ivinghoe Beacon - 10x13in oil on board

I think my favourite from the weekend was my final effort shown below. I'd started a scene around the corner of a mill by the river but it just all seemed too civilised and after a few brushstrokes I started to lose interest. With the frost melting I searched for another spot and found these nice looking trees against the early sunlight. The frost was still there for a while but started to melt after about half an hour or so. Frost is quite tricky because it's like a half way house between snow and nothing at all. Temperature and colour shifts can be quite jolting in areas where there is and isn't any frost. As with the previous piece, I tried to harmonize everything as best as I could and shifted the spacing between the trees to make a better composition on the panel I had with me. I had to work darn fast but I liked the light together with the rhythms created by the tree shapes. There's a bit of glare on the left of the shot but it hopefully gives you an idea.

Three trees, morning frost - 8x16in oil on panel

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Kicking off the new year

Happy new year to everyone! I got the ball rolling on my birthday (2nd Jan) with a little plein air study over at Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns. It's a great spot and only about half and hour or so by car from where I live. It has one of the highest vantage points in the region with views stretching for miles on a clear day. Anyway, here's the finished study:

'Looking west from Ivinghoe Beacon', 10x12in oil

It was pretty grey and mild over the festive period so I was pleased to get some fresh winter sunshine on the day I headed out. It was VERY cold though and I had to defrost in the car afterwards, despite having several layers on including thermals! The wind was whipping up the path right in front of me and I had to brace the tripod mounted Open Box M between my knees for additional support:

The sun kept coming in and out but it didn't matter too much as I mapped out the lit areas at the start and pretty much stuck to them. I paid close attention to the tones, temperature contrasts and made a conscious effort to avoid the dreaded 'veil of drabness' that could so easily creep in with those muted winter colours. I chose to work on a 12x10 linen board which I don't use that often. You can see patches of unpainted canvas surface in certain places, particularly the grey gravel in the foreground track. I like the idea of varying the surface quality as it helps to create another level of visual interest and energy. I really enjoyed painting this one and am looking forward to a return visit :o)