Wednesday, 30 July 2014

New blog, new location

Five years (my how time flies) of blogging here are coming to an end - but my blog life continues apace.  I am moving to a new location, so my full archive of paintings and my verbal ramblings will all be in one easy to find spot.
You can find me at  where I hope you will continue to enjoy my missives about my life as an artist.  You could even sign up for my email newsletter.  I promise I will look after your details very carefully, not share or sell my email list, and only bombard you with interesting information around once a month.  Hope to see you at the new place.
Head in the clouds Oils on canvas Part of a set of four

Monday, 14 July 2014

Blooming Heather

The heather is coming into bloom on the North Yorkshire Moors above where we live. Bransdale is the start of a large expanse of wild and exposed moorland.  This is the last house, beyond here the trees are sparse and only thrive in the sheltered hollows.

The last time I painted here, in February, on my birthday, the phone rang just as I was putting the sketch onto my board.  I had to rush home to take my poor husband to hospital, so I was hopeful that it wouldn't ring this time.  Happily it remained silent.  It was warm everywhere else, but a little chilly up on the moors.

I am continuing in my quest to apply more paint to the canvas, and consciously to brighten my paintings.  I suffer in the bright light from producing dark paintings.  Hopefully the awareness of that tendency will enable me to adjust my colours to make them brighter when I get home into a less harsh light.

Moorend Bransdale 30x24cms oils on canvas

I took advice from a Facebook colleague about photographing my finished paintings.  I was having issues with light reflecting off the raised parts of the thick paint.
She suggested putting the painting on the floor outside, but not in direct sunlight, then standing facing the direction of the sun, aim the camera straight down, and shoot. The gamma did need adjusting afterwards, but there are no random highlights bouncing of the tops of the paint strokes.  Thanks Annemarie (find her here: )

Post posting note:  I have fiddled endlessly with the foreground patch of heather. 
My issues: not to make it too dark (my nemesis); to give it more colour rather than overmixed mud; to keep the strokes simple and unfussy.  Normally when I add the signature that is a mental stop point for me, but this time I had to keep going. I hope now I have acheived my objective.  Time to move on.....


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Highland Fling

Jimmy Watts Cottage  Oils on canvas panel 10x8"
I have put my favourite up first, despite it being the last painted of the trip.  Perhaps I was better practised by then, but as often happens it was dashed off in double quick time at the end of a good day.

I have been to the Scottish Highlands for a week with a couple of girlfriends specifically to paint.  No cooking, no housework, nothing else to think about other than where we were going to paint for the day.  And what a lot of choice we had.  We were on the Sound of Sleet, overlooking the Isle of Skye, at a tiny, isolated village called Glenelg.

The weather wasn't brilliant to start with.  You can see how the weather improved through the week by looking at the colour of the skies.

Our first port of call was the much painted castle of Eilleen Donan (pronounced Eelan doe nan)
I had decided on a new approach.  In an effort to brighten up my paintings I would try painting on a white ground, do a simple block in in the base colours then apply thick paint.
Eileen Donan Castle. Oils on Canvas Board 12x10"

This was my first try at this new regime:
My thoughts were that I didnt like working on the white ground, it was hard to eliminate all the specks of white showing through, not so much of an issue when working on  tinted ground.
The thicker paint did make the colours brighter, but the effect of the bright light outside still makes me paint darker than I would like, so I will need to compensate by painting higher key colours.

The next day we drove over the Skye Bridge at Kyle to Isle Ornsay on the Isle of Skye.  We have been here sailing in the past, and anchored up, coming ashore to eat at the restaurant owned by Claire MacDonald, not far from here.
Lighthouse at IsleOrnsay 12x10" Oils on Canvas Board
The little lighthouse on a spit of land stands in front of the mainland, that is the the hills around Glenelg in the distance.  We definitely had better weather on Skye than on the mainland that day.  I started painting with the tide out, but it definitely looked better as it came in, so the tide came in on my painting too.  More practice with thick paint.  I prefer the marks made with a brush than those from a palette knife, but still experimenting.

 This next one was done over a couple of days.  Not long after I started it the heavens opened and i got absolutely drenched, so I went back later, on a better day to finish it off.  Once again the tide was out when I started, but the reflections in the water when the tide was in were irresistible.  This was a smooth board that I had gessoed and textured somwhat.  The paint slides onto it more easily, but it is harder to get a good thickness of paint on. I prefer the grab of canvas.
Being done up - Glenelg. Oils on Board  12x10"

Then we went up the road to Plockton.  Another of our old sailing haunts and probably the most painted village in the Highlands.
Plockton, rising tide.  Oils on Canvas Board 12x10"
The weather was beginning to improve but we still had interesting and complex skies.  Trouble with that is they can interfere with the picture, so you have to decide if the painting is primarily about the sky, the scenery, the atmosphere.  Still an issue I struggle with.

The immediate problem here for me was the boat.  Without it, the bay looked kind of empty, there were actually a few boats there, but I wanted to include one with a simple mark.  Not an easy task for me, being an inveterate fiddler!

A glorious day took us further down the coast to Armadale and Corran, even more remote and accessible only by a single track road, and overlooking the  uninhabited peninsular of Noydart.

Corran, across to Noydart. Oils on Canvas Board 12 x 10"

We were spoiled for choice of subject matter.  There was a public toilet, and the lovely old lady who ran the Tea Room was delighted to have someone to talk to, and produced an excellent toastie for our lunch.  The chickens clearly weren't used to having artists around, and pecked inquisitively at our equipment.
On our last day we trundled a mile down the road to the Kylrea ferry, a tiny vessel that takes 6 cars across the rushing Sound of Sleet to Skye.  It is run by the village community and is a welcome relief for the locals not to have to drive all the way to Kyle to go over the bridge.
Kylrea ferry, Wester Ross.  Oils on Canvas Board 12 x 10"
Once again I started before lunch when the sun was out, but hadnt quite finished when lunchtime called.  As we were so close to home we went back, then returned later, to find there was a party going on to celebrate the launch of a newly painted ferry boat.  The Laird was there, together with bunting, a piper and a barbeque.  I felt obliged to make a few festive changes to my painting!

The afternoon was such anice one, that despite the midges I decided to join my friend higher up the hill and dashed off a quick one of a pretty cottage facing the ferry point - the first image in this rather long blog entry.

We had a great time.  I learned a lot about applying lots of paint, abandoned trying to paint on a white ground on day 2, and got into a big mess, but that is what its all about.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Waiting for a (very high) tide

I recently spent some time in Somerset staying with my daughter.  Naturally I had to get out to paint and explore.  Most of what I did doesn't bare sharing, but this little painting I felt was more successful.
I went to Framingham Quay, in Devon.  An interesting spot, almost opposite Appledore.  It has been developed in a touristy way, but is nonetheless worthy of a visit for its little museum, good tea room and bike rides (you can hire bikes on the spot too).

The tide goes well out, and in one of the tributaries it left a deep cut where it has washed the mud to the sides.  I found a quiet spot and painted a boat pulled so far up it would need a major spring tide to float again.  There were lots of really tatty vessels waiting for tlc, but this one had a certain workmanlike quality to it.
I really enjoyed the negative painting of the trees on the far bank, and chose to omit the frankly unattractive industrial unit on the other side of the river.  A thing that is easy for artists, but less so for conservationists!

Waiting for the tide  10x12" oils on canvas

Monday, 30 June 2014

Electric bike excitement and a cow shed

Because we are in our motorhome we have no ancillary transport with us, so up to now I have been on a borrowed push bike.
Well, as you can imagine it's a bit hilly in these mountains, so you can imagine how excited I was to be offered a trial of an electric bike.
Now this wasn't your average, measly engined pedallo.  Oh no, it was a super duper, top of the range high voltage (well not too sure about that bit) high speed mountain bike.
It weighed a ton, so I wouldn't have liked to hump it across streams or over fences, but by golly it went like s**t off a shovel, and what fun!  I want one.

Sadly it was rather too expensive for me just now, and was also so heavy we would have had to put a stronger bike carrier on the van.  It was with heavy heart that I handed it back at the end of the day.
But it made my trip up to the cowshed a much more fun experience.

I had spotted this little shed over the winter.  The valley is quite steep here so it got little sun, but now the sun is much higher for longer (in mid-summer) it was perfect fodder for my paint palette.
The sun was hot, but I found a generously shady tree, inevitably surrounded by nettles waiting for when I dropped brushes etc, but the shade was welcome.
I am trying to get more paint on my canvas, and end up with a brighter result.  For many a long month I have been a bit disappointed to arrive home and find a dull painting that needed post brightening treatment.

I prefer working on a tinted canvas.  Recently I have been tinting my board on site, rather that preparing it before I leave home, and I suspect this has added to my woes.  I have other strategies for future attempts that involve a quick rough block in of the basic shapes, on a white ground, then a layer of thicker paint on top.  This was my first attempt at this ploy, and I think it paid off. I didn't need to brighten this one up at all, in fact no alterations were made when I got home, other than to photograph it better.

I am quietly pleased.  The shed doesn't look too precise (always a bugbear of mine) and the roof colour has worked well.
The position of the sun also meant that as it moved round the light didn't vary too much.  I had established the shadow patterns early on so was able to stick with it, and my preparatory sketch helped me remember relative values.  I will get there eventually!

Cow Shed on the Plateau
oils on canvas board

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Nice weather in the Alps

When we arrived last week it was a bit English, in terms of grey, cool and damp, but the weather has taken a turn for the better and I have been able to get out with my paints,  As we came in our motorhome and didn't bring bikes I have been using one from my next door neighbour.  I think blokes have seat bones in different places to us girls, and my painting gear just puts extra weight on the old bones.

We live in a residential area, but the chalets are well spaced and most have delightful backdrops of mountains and lots of conifers.  Here is one just down the road from us.

I am standing next to the public bins, so it could be called 'view from the Poubelles', but I think I need to find a more apposite title.

The giant rock on the right will have fallen from the steep mountainside, out of shot.  Glad I wasn't there when it landed!  That is Pointe de Villeneuve in the background.  it has crept into quite a lot of my local views.  You will see that they have a parasol and garden chairs out.  Thats always a good portent.

10x12" Oils on canvas board
No proper title as yet.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Email notifications

A quick post to ask: if you previously signed up to be notified of new posts by email, please would you do it again.
There was a problem with the way it was set up last time and the notifications didn't arrive. Hopefully it is fixed now, but you need to sign up again.

Sorry about the inconvenience, but I hope the posts are interesting.

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