Thursday, 9 February 2012

Snowy Sunday

We had a decent covering of snow on Sunday which allowed me to spend much of the day out with the pochade box, trying to capture something before it all melted away. In fact, by the afternoon it had already started thinning out so there was no option but to seize the moment! I set out on foot around my local area (Stony Stratford) at around 9:30am and finally got home to defrost at around 4:30pm. Luckily I had plenty of layers and a flask of milky coffee to keep me warm.

Anyway, the first effort of the day was just down the road at Passenham Mill.

Red Door at Passenham Mill, 12x16in oil on canvas board

I had a go at this in the snow last year but this time went in for a closer view. I really wanted to avoid making it too 'twee' and thought the strong note of colour offered by the door would lift an otherwise generally grey scene. The mill is actually the sandstone building on the left but I really wanted to focus on that door! The surface was a rather absorbent stained canvas board so my initial strokes seemed to barely register. Somewhat discouraged I thought about stopping but decided to push on with juicier strokes of positively applied paint. I enjoyed working in this way and liked the handling of the surface once the oil started to build up a little.

I find the problem with using oils too thinly on an absorbent surface is that the surface becomes lifeless once it has dried and the colours sink in, losing their initial vibrancy. I still reserve a thin application for the extreme darks though as a degree of transparency gives them more depth and interest. I could smell the wood burner smoke coming from the chimney (actually it was coming out of the other one!) and there was a blissful air of silence. The painting is still wet and I'm inclined to leave it as it is....of the moment and nothing more.

For the afternoon's effort I wandered back into Stony in search of more colour to punctuate the prevailing greyness. I quite fancied doing something with the Victorian red brick stonework and liked the way it constrasted with the snow.

Mill Lane in the snow, Stony Straford 10x13in, oil on board

The snow was already starting to melt as you can tell by the foreground slush in the road. I liked the sharp contrasts thrown up by the white roof, the cars and the figures and tried to hold onto this tonal clarity in the painting. I wanted to keep the colours as clean and decisive as possible too. It was interesting to see an evergreen plant in full bloom and whilst the leaves were quite yellow but I decided to play this down for the sake of retaining an overall harmony. I may need to tidy up a couple of the figures (I was starting to flag a little towards the end) and sort out one or two wayward verticals but again, would rather keep this to a minimum.  More snow is a possibility for the weekend so fingers crossed for a fresh covering :o)


  1. Nice work David. Love the mill picture! You've got those tones spot on :-)

  2. both wonderful in their own way - and not in the least twee

  3. These are both very nice but the first one is just super. I think it is the values and colors, and then that red door. This has to be one of my favorite snow paintings by any artist. I just love it. Really well done!

  4. Love, love love the Red Door painting. Jealous of your snow too.

  5. Thanks Roy :) It took a while to tune in but I had to pay close attention to those tones. Thanks Vivien, glad I avoided the twee trap on this one! I started a view further back in the frost a couple of weeks ago and it all felt too 'nicey nice' so I wiped it and moved on to something else with a bit more bite. This one managed to get through quality control :)

    Douglas, thanks for the kind words and glad you like it. I often steer clear of strong colours but I'm glad I bucked the trend this time round.

    Thanks Randy. The snow has all but disappeared now but there's a chance we might get another light dusting in the next couple of days. Fingers crossed :)

  6. Hi David.
    You are a top Artist, and your paintings are first class. But your snow ones are unbelievably brilliant. Two full paintings in just a few hours plein air? as I said, unbelievable. David I can`t see anywhere where I can sign up to receive your latest postings via email. Is there a place? Please let me know will you? All the best David.

  7. Thanks Vic, glad you like them :) Have you been out painting the snow yourself? I'll look into the latest postings via email. Is that a setting that blogger provides for subscribers? It's not something I've come across. I think I can add up to 10 myself but I'm assuming you mean a feature where you can opt in yourself?

    Best, David.

  8. Very impressive, The Red Door in particular, and what a size...on a cold snowy day, bravo! I don't think the subject is too twee, and the composition, colours and tones are brilliant. It's interesting how the red door lifts it, but also has the possibility of pushing it into the twee territory. What would another warm colour, such as orange or plum look like i wonder? Did you put all the window bars in to draw the eye to them?

  9. Thanks Ian. Yes, interesting point. Another door colour could have a totally different impact. I actually played down those window bars. They were quite strikingly clear and bright against the dark render on the building. I liked the way they punctuate and break up the flat tone of the wall and they almost frame the door. I remember putting them in too bright at first and then after wiping down getting something closer to acceptable. The cold forces you to stop fiddling and make a fast and decisive move. Whether it ends up being the right move is another question altogether but that's why I like plein air, working instinctively and intensively to try and pull something together there and then. Can't beat it :)

  10. You know, there are times when I feel I've totally wasted my time surfing on the internet and there are times when I stumble upon something which makes me feel like I've just won a prize. Finding your blog definately falls into the latter category!

    As I was explaining to someone else, some paintings generate a huge emotional response in me and I struggle to articulate the reason behind it. YOUR paintings generate these feelings and whatever the reason, I'm glad they do.

    I very much look forward to following your work.

    Regards, Tom.

  11. Thanks Tom, those are really kind words and it's great to hear some of my work strikes a chord in terms of the emotional response. I do try quite hard these days to get to the essence of a subject although it can sometimes feel elusive :) Nice to meet you anyway, albeit in cyberspace!

  12. Stunning painting David, the Red Door at Passenham mill. I love these close toned jobs myself - you've made a cracking good picture from dull lighting, and the placement of the buildings in the picture plain is perfect. I admire the size of board for such a cold day, too. A well earned thaw at 4.30 I'm sure - really well done mate!

  13. Thanks Peter! When I started the painting I thought I'd made a mistake choosing that board as it was a generous size and quite adsorbent but once the surface became a bit slicker I opted to push on with it. It felt good to overcome the difficulties presented rather than abandon things on this occasion (alas, it doesn't always end up that way!).

    1. I know the feeling - it's comforting to know that an artist of your quality has failures too!

  14. I know what you mean - heartening to hear it's not just me that ends up abandoning things!