Category Archives: landscape

Sketcher-gatherer.

I’m getting settled into the new house, a mix of decorative and edible plants are growing in their new, crowded, pots outside, furniture in a functional style is taking form from former pallets and scaffolding planks and this period of very European weather is a welcome contrast to the winter cold and brexit chaos. I can sit outside with coffee and cake and watch a seagull seize the opportunity to help clear one of the other tables.

My painting fallow period is extending a bit, which feels fine. I’m still sorting out a space at home for artwork and am enjoying the three-dimensional process of working with wood to make useful things. In between work and domestic matters I am observing, reflecting, sketching and gathering impressions, ideas and inspiration from my local travels and occasional visits to galleries; two recent exhibitions in Edinburgh have given me much to mull over and aim to experiment with, once the outdoor conditions become relatively less inviting or distracting.

Chris Bushe’s wonderful impressionistic landscapes, on show at the Open Eye Gallery was inspiring. It was recommended to me by one of the staff in the nearby Greyfriars art shop, a rare example of a proper art shop with people who know their products. As soon as I stepped into the gallery I was struck by the scale and texture of his paintings, I felt a simultaneous sense of atmosphere of the open landscape and the almost physical sensation of the painted surface; content and surface, figurative and abstract elements coexisting. This is what I enjoy about painting with acrylic, perhaps I could grow to feel the same about oils with more practice too.

The Royal Scottish Academy open exhibition had a wonderfully broad range of work on show that got me thinking and filling sketchbook pages with thumbnail sketches and notes to browse through and decipher over subsequent coffee.

My cup is empty, the bus departs soon. Next post will have some recent sketches, clover from a fallow field, fixing nutrients for a future harvest.

Happy weekend to you!

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Wild sketch, 1 of several. .

Phone charging opportunities are too infrequent at present to keep this blog updated en route so I’ll post something on return when I have mains electricity again.

Meanwhile, I’ve been lucky so far with the weather and winds, I had help uphill this afternoon, after a morning of beautiful cycling but arduous steep pushes on slopes up to 25%, rewarded by a long fast cruise into Scourie and a very pleasant campsite this afternoon.

I’ve made a reasonable number of sketches so far, lots more photos, though today I used the camera much more due to the need for making distance.

Here’s a sample from my first camp near the impressive Stac Pollaidh, a wild camp on a beach by the Loch:

Favourite places

I returned to mid-Wales, a week ago, to visit my mother, join the celebrations of a good friend’s birthday and meet friends not seen for a long time. It was good.

The surf forecast proved reliable too, though with strong winds that made it hard actually to catch the lovely waves that break here more often than people expect. The water was colder than I’d experienced there for years, about the same as the North Sea!

The next day, before going to visit an artist friend, I sketched the south end of the beach :

I’ve caught more of it than I’d thought at first. something to build upon.

The Wheel before the Horses.

Yesterday I made a sketching journey along the Forth and Clyde canal from the Falkirk Wheel on the west side of the city to the Kelpies and Helix Park on the east side. I had seen a similar, though much shorter, documented journey that I made in one of my sketchbooks in 2015 on a workshop day with Art North Wales at the Trigonos Centre in Nantlle. It’s an approach I don’t use much, though I do a lot of sketching overall, and when I do I find it very useful in forming a narrative link between the studies and finishing with an enhanced sense of having made a journey, not just a random set of sketches; perhaps I feel a greater sense of completion, though they are not in themselves ‘finished’ pictures.

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I drew with a pen, the UniPin pigment pens from Mitsubishi Pencil Co, which I like for its combination of strength of line, lack of ‘bleed’ through the paper, waterproof nature that allows me to paint a wash over shortly afterwards. I tried a different, more compact, set of watercolours, in a well-designed metal case that doubles as a water bottle and pot. It’s a gift from a friend whose father worked for Windsor & Newton for many years and I don’t think they make anything as good any more. With a piece of old cotton cloth and a water-brush, I was ready.

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I travelled by bike, by far the most pleasant way to move around on such a trip, no parking issues, always the chance to stop whenever something catches my eye and the clean, fresh air, sociability of it and the opportunity for exercise at the same time. The paths along the canal are very good and a tribute to the bodies who refurbished and reopened the canals after the shameful abandonment of them from the 1960s. It’s such pleasant cycling that I feel almost in the Netherlands.

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The access to the canal is not far from where I live at present, from there it was a quick ride to reach the upper canal, the Union, that links to Edinburgh, where it emerges into the top of the Falkirk Wheel. As I’d started a little later than intended, I made this a coffee and lunch stop and found a spot for my first study.
There are usually lots of people at the visitor centre, cafe and watching the Wheel as it turns with its cargoes of boats of all sizes, bringing them between the upper and lower canals, an elegant solution to avoid what used to be many more locks.

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Further along, near Lock 16, I spotted an intriguing boat that I thought at first was a Thames Barge but turned out to be a sailing Dutch barge, with large leeboards on each side (they can be lowered to provide a side-mounted ‘keel’ as the boat is flat-bottomed). Het Leven, from Westzaan. She is a long work in progress for him but a worthwhile, if considerable, project. After talking about the details of rig and how she handles at sea, I set off.
Past the old Rosebank distillery, which, unaware, I pass most days on the way to work and which apparently used to produce a fine whisky. It seems there may be plans to restore the distillery, which would be a good addition to Falkirk. Later, swans grazing by the path while a man on his phone was watched patiently by his dog; he was still there in the same position (definitely alive!) when I passed again later.
A threat of rain began to hang in the air and I pedalled on more quickly to the end of the trail, by the Kelpies, where I celebrated with cake and coffee.

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Notes from the sketchbook:
“There is something about these magnificent sculptures that is more than their form or scale alone, I feel drawn here by a sense of living presence.
Yet it is really created by us, the people who are transforming a place not just by our [own] presence, activity and artefacts but by the meanings we make in our own minds, the relationships we perceive and form from our senses and emotions. It’s more than just the literal history and allusions to the important role the great draught horses played in the growth and prosperity of Falkirk and [the Central Belt]; the horse has a deeper, more emotional, meaning for us, even in this age of distracted mechanisation… most people have become separated from … close experience of the energy and power of horses and other domesticated animals who serve, endure and die for our own well-being.”

Scotland – storms and light

It has been a wild week: low cloud, strong to gale force winds, regular bands of rain or slushy snow,  punctuated by brilliant sparkling sunshine and, on the last day, luminous rainbows framing mountains that I have not made time to climb on this journey.

On the way north, I caught the last ferry of the day, just, to the isle of Mull, which was hiding under a thick grey winter blanket with a cold wind raising a small choppy swell.

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I have achieved all but two of the main objectives that I had for this half-term break. I have spent time with friends not seen for too long, explored some new places, slept under stars and stormy nights in my oldest tent and on a boat, immersed myself briefly in the sea and made a number of paint sketches on most days. I had intended to paint more outside, but the general wetness of everything meant that the car was my main studio, if only to prevent the sketchbook from disintegrating.

Inspired by a recent presentation to the Wolverhampton Society of Artists, I had bought a brown card sketch book to experiment with painting quickly on a nearly mid-toned ground. I have enjoyed the results, in part because I  tried to loosen up my painting and catch impressions rather than details.

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At one place, the enigmatic Clava Cairns near Culloden, I felt a figurative sketch wouldn’t work. Instead I followed a more expressive approach, a response to what I perceived in the place: the sense of the geographical location, the feeling of a flow of something through the site,  the sense of presence I felt standing near some of the cairns and upright stones.

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I’ve been able to get used to using my reduced palette of acrylics in the outdoors or in the car, refinishing the logistics of deploying and stowing paints, water and a brush or two; all good practice for a possible trip further afield around Easter.

Inspirational Workshopping

Until yesterday, I had never tried the monoprint technique. I had not really understood the advantages and potential of this approach until the workshop, run by Art North Wales at the Trigonos centre in Nantlle.

We had a busy, productive and inspiring day, everybody producing very different and interesting work, with a vibrant atmosphere of playful exploration in the room as people rolled out ink and paints and experimented with paper, card, natural materials, collaging and more to try out new ways of image making.

For myself, I am trying to take a more free and loose style in my painting and drawing, especially in my landscape work.  After the first demonstration, I started to get a flood of ideas for possible ways of using this to achieve a shift in my paintings.

I started working on backgrounds, inspired by the wonderful autumnal colours that are persisting here and the layers of colours and forms in these Snowdonia valleys between the dramatic ridges.  Leaves and  stems from the grounds provided a set of printing medial to add layers to the pictures and I tried making multiple impressions, each one very different, as is the nature of monoprinting.  The results are below, I have been inspired and will be looking at how I can incorporate some of these methods into my work…

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Autumn Change 1

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Autumn Change 3

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Autumn Change 2

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Autumn Change 4

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Ivy 1

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Ivy 2

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Ivy 3

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Nantlle rain

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Nantlle 1

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Nantlle 2

 

“Into an old, new land”

Here is a preview of a new landscape painting, inspired by recent experiences in Scotland as dramatic rain clouds rolled in over Creag Meagaidh , as well as other things seen in the Cairngorms, earlier in the year.  Unusually, for me, it combines elements from several experiences. This and other acrylic works are on the updated Acrylic paintings page.

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Into an old, new land – acrylic on canvas 76x51cm 2016

The inspiration for this painting ‘boiled up’ for me in the wake of the UK’s referendum on EU membership, added to what transpired to be a fruitless journey at short notice.  I felt the result in a very personal way that surprised me; I spoke to others who said the same. As the train rolled south on the day of the result, I felt I was returning to a land that was less home, more foreign, to me now.  The heaviness of the greys in the clouds, which I find beautiful and fascinating to watch, along with the strong contrasts and feeling of compression of the mountains, the gaps of light offering possible escape routes from the crushing presence of the rain-bearing masses.. all these had a resonance for me in the present situation.

I may add some finishing work to this, though not a great deal, it is essentially ‘done’.  I feel the sense of danger but also opportunity that changes bring; it is not an easy time.