Friday, 24 July 2009

Watercolour Sketch Book

As readers of the blog will know, Sheila and I are fortunate to spend quite a bit of time in the Lake District and whilst it's not always possible to spend lots of time painting, there's usually the opportunity to get out the sketchbook and splash a little bit of watercolour around. Time has been a little pressing recntly and we're off to a family wedding in Slovakia for the next couple of weeks so there will be little to report here. The oils have been put away for the last week, since finishing the Gun Hill picture, so I thought I'd post a few pages from my Lakes sketchbook. As you can see, I've been trying to work on matters like recession and differences in chroma and I think that the work is beginning to reap rewards. Given the weight restrictions and costs associated with luggage on economy airlines it's not possible to carry a lot of gear abroad, but I have managed to sneak a small watercolour box into the luggage while Sheila was engaged elsewhere. With any luck I'll get the chance to splash the paint in venues new to the family.

All images from my Lakes Sketchbook - Watercolour on Not paper

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Gun Hill - Tweaked

I drummed up the courage to tweak this after helpful comments here and on Wet Canvas. What I did was to work on the foreground land first of all. I added rough strokes of Naples Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber and then blended them in with a rag to soften most of the edges. I then turned my attention to the water. Here I used mixes of Indanthrone Blue, a touch of Alizarin Crimson, touch of Raw Umber and Titanium White to produce a variety of tones that would give a better range of contrast as well as get rid of the highlight up the left bank. Having just finished painting I'm not sure whether it's done but my first thought is that it's about finished. Any comments?

Gun Hill - Oil on canvas board 20" x 16"

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Gun Hill - Clearing Storm

This is my first stab at producing a painting from the source material brought back from Norfolk. The inspiration was the board sketch posted on June 30th. As you can see there are significant changes that were designed to produce an image with more drama than the original scene. The design was arrived at after a process of producing sketches and notans prior to deciding on the final composition. At the moment it is standing on the easel where it will stay until I can decide what additions might improve it. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Gun Hill - Clearing Storm - Oil on canvas 20" x 16"

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Brain and Back Dead

The exertions of the two days with Martin Kinnear left me exhausted and the constant standing at an easel had my fragile back screaming for relief. But I was in Norfolk to paint and paint I would. The solution for me was to dig out my trusty watercolour box and armed with it, a couple of sable brushes and a Fabriano block I took up position on the sensibly located benches overlooking the harbour at Burnham Overy Staithe. This picture is the result.

Burnham Overy Staithe - Watercolour on Fabriano Rough 12" x 9"

The Daily Painting Routine

Analysis of the previous day's work stimulated us to thinking carefully about our successes/ failures of the previous day. By far the most difficult thing for all of us was editing the scene in front of us and taking away enough to provide the basis for studio painting. It followed that we should make a concerted effort to enhance our skill level in observing, editing and making crucial decisions about the approach to any composition.

Martin put up the photograph below as a prompt (scare tactic!) and asked how sense could be made of it in translating it into something simplified that could be built upon.

The following three pictures are how he then stripped this down to its essence in terms of a composition that had a focal point, colour notes and tonal relationships.

M. Kinnear

M. Kinnear

M. Kinnear

To summarise the approach:

1) On a daily basis, take a difficult photograph or go outside. Decide on a focal point and from that decide on a compositional plan;

2) Decide between a tonal or colour approach as the dominant feature for your composition;

3) Unify the elements, creating as few blocks of colour or tone as possible;

4) Block in the shapes then develop them with tones or hues keeping lit areas opaque and shadow areas translucent;

5) Try to minimise the detail to a few important and suggestive - rather than illustrative - marks.

Martin has published the routine on his blog, 'The Studio' at

The next three panels are a selection of the ones that I produced in the ensuing feverish activity.

Light in the forest - 11" x 9" MDF panel

Sea Cave - 11" x 9" MDF panel

Boats laid up for the night - 11" x 9" MDF panel

This procedure along with Notan sketches provide significant source material for paintings and most of all underline, what for many of us, is the most difficult hurdle in developing our painting that being forgetting the ingrained search for photographic type imagery in our work. The essence of good painting being the way we draw the viewer into an interactive approach with the work prompted by the suggestive marks we have created on the canvas.