Tag Archives: studies

Restless…

I feel a restless energy, this evening, it’s still windy outside, I should be going to bed now but the urge to paint again is returning, after a long period of observing, reflecting, sketching, seeking inspiration from others in exhibitions, doing other things..

The most recent catalyst was spending time in the Van Goch Museum in Amsterdam, including a painting workshop, about which more in a subsequent post.

Since returning and diving back into a very busy time at work, with its own circumstances to drive my restlessness, I managed finally to start some acrylic sketching on Sunday night; just acrylic on brown parcel paper, the tone and texture of which are perfect as a mid-tone.

This evening, a quick and rough self-portrait study in a small mirror by poor light and using up the last paint in the palette …

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I feel like something’s going on, a step forward, it feels to me…

Time to sleep, while the wind blows.

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Evening exploration – hidden waterfalls, smugglers’ caves.

Yesterday late afternoon, after a successful trip to get a new expedition rucksack to replace my old worn-out pack, I decided on a quick walk up onto the edge of the Ochil Hills through the deep and atmospheric Alva Glen.  Previously I’d left the woodland by a path that leads up onto open hillsides and a steady ascent to the ridges above.  This time I decided to turn left and follow the path further up the glen itself; gorge is really a better term.

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The path becomes precipitous, in these lower and more popular parts there is a sturdy fence to prevent a fall into the deep gorge below, hissing with concealed waterfalls in deep channels with occasional huge rounded boulders that indicate a period of immensely powerful spate, probably resulting from the collapse of lakes forming above behind ice walls as the Ice Age gave way to a warmer climate.  Many of the trees here struggle up against vertical rock, exposed roots enlarged and contorted by long gripping the cracks and edges in their upward growth; long, arthritic twisting limbs supporting trunks with dramatic shapes, reaching for the narrow band of sky.

I emerged from the forested section onto a rougher, rockier path around a tall spur and pinnacle.  As I reached the top, I saw the dark overhang of the so-called smugglers’ cave below me, where the hard lavas had resisted the water and only given way in a grudging compromise with a thin, dark channel for the water that had scooped out a cave-like section.  Climbing beyond on steadily narrower paths on a steep slope, I kept an eye out for future small camping spots, mindful of the occasional undercut soil and fragile nature of the path.

The gorge continues, with at least one hanging valley discharging a tall and lovely waterfall into another wooded and atmospheric bowl on the eastern side.  I saw this as I climbed up the western slope through short-grazed bilberry plants and, a welcome change from bracken, well-established ferns and heather.  I had to choose whether to stop and sketch, my original aim, or press on to reach the head of the glen; I chose to sketch before returning.

Evening cool was setting in and I wanted to get back in reasonable time before sunset so the studies were quick.  I enjoyed the process and think I’ve captured something of the feel of the view there.  My phone battery was too low to take photos so I spent some time just looking, letting go as best I could of the concepts that kept popping into my mind and that I find interfere with clear perception and inspiration.  I don’t think I had much success but the practice is the thing.

 

Later, at home, looking back through my landscape sketchbook, I found these from a bigger day on Ben More and Stob Binnein in the snow back in March, when I found a sheltered snow seat on the south side of the summit of Stob Binnein and made some quick studies in water-soluble Inktense pencils, tried to add a wash and found the water freezing in the brush despite the bright sunlight.

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Looking SE from Stob Binnein – Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin

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Ochil Hills – walking to Rough Castle Roman fort.

A few days earlier, I’d taken a walk from my flat in Falkirk to the old Roman fort known as Rough Castle, a major encampment on the Antonine Wall.  The snow remained on the hills, no longer keeping us off work, but the clouds were low, the hills hints of different tones.  Then the clouds made gaps and the hills revealed themselves briefly, partly camouflaged by their snowy coat.

There are a lot of full berries growing on the Rowan trees, some say that is a sign of a hard winter to come.  I’m looking at a new pair of winter mountain boots, a purchase for the Autumn, more comfortable than my present ones and better for arduous winter days and icy slopes.

In the meantime I’m also looking again at my sketching and painting equipment, at ways of making it more efficient and easy to use on the hills, lightweight and fitting the practical demands of being outdoors in what may be poor conditions. I’m looking back at the studies I made in acrylic on brown card last year during a trip to Mull.  I’d like to do more like that but am still getting the hang of dealing with paint, water, slow drying in damp air and the rigors of a box squashed into a rucksack.  Work in progress.

 

Sketching & Gathering 2

Sketchbook, pigment ink pen with water-soluble Inktense pencil washes:

Snow Tree

I’ve felt dissatisfied with my art recently, stuck, able to see where I’d like to be but not able to make the moves that actually take me there, or getting bogged down in the details or technicalities and losing the experience that caught me in the first place.

Last week, in a weather imposed break from work – heavy snow led to them shutting down for 3 days – I took a walk through the lovely woods nearby, returning along what remains of the Antonine Wall, trees growing where once were Romans.

A young but twisted birch tree caught my eye, the snow and light giving it a quality of appearance as if drawn. The wind was cold and another blizzard squall beginning. I looked at it, held by the colours and quality of it, took a photo and moved on.

It stayed in my mind, on the way back home.

I thought I’d done enough sketching, a few minutes before, hands cold enough to feel I could use that as an excuse.

Looking back at the photographs, I tried a couple of small sketches. Something was niggling my mind, just before bed, I did another study, pen dipped in ink, scratching the paper, watercolour quickly applied. .. A result I felt happy with, to sleep upon.

Now, this evening, again a little late, before bed, a study of myself in the big mirrors. Drawing pen, quick, then watercolour with a very limited palette. Allowing rather than trying to put into practice what I’d learned from the tree. .

First new step, maybe..

Goodnight.

Wonders, and New Colours

Monday was a contrast to the weekend. After a splendid couple of days in the mountains, camping in a wild place and achieving my objectives of ascending Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin, I had a day at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh to visit the “Ages of Wonder” exhibition of Scottish art.

I had carried a small box of watercolours, some of the pans I’ve had since I was in my late teens, before the age of home computers, when the only mobile phones were on Star Trek! My plan had been to use them on the mountain but the combination of strong, cold wind and freezing air with the exhilaration and desire for movement meant that I only made a couple of quick pencil sketches from the summit.  It was only on the walk out, later on, that I was struck in the sunset by the glowing quality of the land and, more subtly, sky and attempted to capture something of this with the paints; partially successful.

Relaxing in cafes and in the gallery, I felt the urge to sketch and, later found the superb Greyfriars Art Shop, in Dundas Street, where I found both a type of palette that I’d seen in a demonstration recently and decided to try some new colours from tubes rather than pans, to allow me to use the paint in greater density than is easy with pans.  The same demonstration left me feeling re-inspired to explore watercolours again, for their qualities and also the relative ease of use in the typically awkward situations I end up painting in, even at home; it’s why I do not use oils, despite several people urging me to do so, it’s just not practical in my present situation.

It’s reminded me that I really enjoy sketching, both with pencil and pen, and like what can be achieved with watercolours, even if I have so far largely failed to get the kind of results I would really like.

Here are some of them.  I may write more in due course about the exhibition and my impressions of some of the works, but I have an early start in the morning and need to sleep soon… and there is a heap of dull but necessary paperwork to be sorted…. I hope for a stormy weekend in which to deal with it and leave me feeling I can play more freely… self-created inefficiency for which I alone am responsible.

I hope you like the sketches.

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.

After Easter

I’ve been staying with friends whom I haven’t seen for about four years. They have the luxury of a real studio and invited me to do some painting this morning. I was given a free rein with acrylics and a few brushes and objects to select, plus a mug of good strong coffee…
I had an hour before the train. 
So, first a quick still life, then a rapid little self portrait study on a small pad of watercolour paper to use up some spare paint from the palette:

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