Friday, November 17, 2006

Finding Time to Paint

Hello to all my readers! How are you both?

Well since I last wrote most of the garden has been tidied but that hasn’t left much time for painting nor sorting the almost 450 photographs I took whilst on holiday. The past week however has been mostly wet so some of the photos have been sorted.

The picture above is in fact two photographs stitched together and I think it will form the basis for a very good landscape painting. The main farmhouse will need to be changed somewhat with the extension behind being lost and the white farmhouse itself being modified to obtain more character without losing the general feel of the place.

With luck the change in the weather will hold so that I can get some paintings done. There is a good deal more to do in the garden but I will not be losing any sleep if it doesn’t get done now until the spring.

Till next time, take care.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Wanderer Returns

Wheal Coates, St. Agnes, Cornwall

Well, I am back at last. I had intended to update this post last Wednesday but while I was on holiday I took nearly 450 photographs. Sorting these and the notes and sketches, as well as making ‘contact sheets’, has kept me busy during most of this week.

The area of Cornwall I visited, near St. Agnes in the north of the county, is beautiful. It is fairly wild country littered with the remains of past tin and copper mining. There are the remains of many old engine houses, like the one in the picture above, where the pumps, which removed water from the mine workings, were located. There is one mine still working at Blue Hills Streaming Tin where the full processes can be seen during one of the guided tours of the site. This is well worth a visit and details can be found at Much of the more inland area is farmed and the produce is available in local shops; the local cheeses particularly are a must to try.

The coast is very rugged and rocky with high cliffs and steep sided valleys leading to the most delightful sandy beaches. I spent long periods of time photographing the scenery and the sea hoping to catch the precise moments when the waves were breaking across the rocks. Some of the time I was successful but at others the shot didn’t quite come off. The weather was very changeable with some rain and very strong winds. One afternoon I was lucky enough to be walking along the coast path when a full arc rainbow occurred which stretched from the cliff top ahead of me across the bay, finally disappearing into the sea to my right. A truly magnificent and unusual sight – well I hadn’t seen a rainbow quite like this one before.

The beauty of digital photography is that if the shot doesn’t quite meet the requirement it can be deleted and another attempt made without the waste of a costly frame of film.

Many of the photographs were taken in groups of three or sometimes more with the intention of turning them into panoramas. Once the pictures are sorted and the notes and sketches collated I shall begin a series of paintings, which I hope will capture the way I feel about this part of Cornwall. I would like to begin painting very soon but now that the weather has begun to improve it may have to wait as the garden is in need of much tidying before the winter sets in.

My garden is used to grow a variety of vegetables and to make things easier I made a number of raised beds about nine years ago. Now they all need repairing and in some cases completely rebuilding and it is better to do that now rather than to leave things until the spring. Then of course there is the general tidying up that needs to be done like removing all the old plants and shredding the woody parts. The shreddings I use on the paths between the raised beds so that during the winter months it is possible to get to the various parts of the garden without too much mud accumulating on the boots.

None of this has much to do with art but it all needs to be done and priorities have to be made and adhered to. So for a little while the fun of painting will have to wait – unless of course the weather changes.

That's it until next week. Take care.


Friday, October 06, 2006


Holiday, isn’t that a lovely word!

This week I had intended to write about doing a few thumbnail sketches prior to beginning a painting in order to work out composition and related problems. Instead I have been doing much more mundane things like harvesting and pressing the grapes and making the current year’s crop into the best wine produced in the South West of England. Unfortunately I only have two vines and harvested 62lb of grapes, which all being well will give me a grand total of 24 bottles of wine. So you see it is very exclusive stuff.

The other thing I decided during the week was that I am in need of a holiday. There’s that lovely word again!

So in a bit I am off to North Cornwall for a spell to do some sketching, painting and photography. One of the ideas I have is to take photographs to produce a resource CD for painting. Primarily it is intended for my own use but if there is enough interest I shall probably make it available to anyone out there who might find it useful.

The area of Cornwall I shall be visiting is north of Redruth in the ancient tin mining region of the county. I am interested in the possibilities for dramatic paintings that may be offered by the old engine houses, which stand near to cliff tops, as well as the rugged cliffs and rocky coast. There may also be sightings of seal and other wildlife giving a chance for some interesting photographs.
By the time I get back I am hoping to have acquired enough material to keep me painting throughout the winter and also to continue with a lively and more interesting blog.

My next posting will be around about the 25th October. Till then, take care.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Source Photographs for Painting

Several years ago painting using photographs as source material was frowned upon. These days probably most artists use some photographic reference material but quite often once back in the studio this material falls short of the requirement in a number of ways.

One particular failing is that the coverage of a standard camera lens is insufficient for the requirements of a painter. This failing can be easily overcome once it is recognised. Here is a single photograph taken using a camera fitted with a standard lens -

The picture is fine so far as it goes but it would be nice to know what lies to the left and right of this scene.

One possible way out would be to use a wide angle lens. This would certainly improve the coverage but it would introduce distortion which unless compensated for would make a finished painting appear a little odd. It would be difficult to define the oddity but it would be there and detract from the finished painting.

A better way is to take several overlapping pictures and then fit them together to make a composite whole. This can be done by making a number of prints and cutting them to fit together and then pasting the sections onto a single support.

The method I use is to ‘stitch’ the different photographs together using computer software. This also allows some experimentation with contrast and colour.

Here is the above example extended in this way –

you can see how much better this version is.

Next week I will continue with some pointers on sketching prior to starting a painting.

Until then, take care.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Sketching - The First Step

Last weekend I received an email from a young lady who said she liked my paintings and would like to do something like them herself but she didn’t know how to start. She wanted to know if there is a simple "painting by numbers sort of technique" that she could follow which would give her the basic skills to create a painting worth framing and hanging on her wall.

Since receiving the email I have given the question a great deal of thought. Is a simple approach which would produce an acceptable painting possible? I think the answer is a qualified yes. The qualification? Well, if the approach has to be simple then the picture content will also have to be fairly simple as well. Complex subjects necessarily imply complex drawing.

The picture above is a scan of a page from one of my sketchbooks. The subject is simple, just a couple of trees. The important features of these two sketches are the layout and the subjects’ lighting. The picture is about light - the effect of low angle light illuminating the trees against a dark, sombre sky.

The page shown here is from an A5 Daler Series 2 sketchbook. The pages are approximately 8 by 5 inches which is large enough for a detailed drawing but convenient in that it fits comfortably into a coat pocket. I also use Daler Lyndhurst sketchbooks in various sizes for different purposes. All the sketchbooks I use have a very firm hard backboard and are spiral bound so that they open out flat for drawing.

The two sketches shown on the page above were carried out using a Pilot drawing pen with sepia ink. I also use a range of pencils varying in hardness from HB to 4B and carry a sharp pocket knife to sharpen the pencils and a soft eraser for making corrections. The latter is not used often as a better way to make corrections is to start with a lightly drawn line and adjust it by overdrawing. This gives the finished sketch a more spontaneous look.

The only other ingredients needed to produce initial sketches are observation and practice. Go out and find a simple subject, which interests you. Then settle down in a quiet position where you will not be disturbed and start sketching. At first your results will probably not look too much like the subject. Stay calm. All is not lost, you can do it. Look carefully at the subject, study it closely, then compare your drawing with it and see where the differences lie. How could your drawing be altered to make it more like the original? Having decided how the drawing could be changed do another one. This time concentrate on those areas which need changing in the first drawing.

Compare the subject and this second drawing. Is it a better representation or can this drawing be improved in any way? If necessary try again. Above all else, do not give up. It will take time but you are only making a sketch. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I usually put the date and place on my sketches because they are interesting to look back on. I wonder why I didn’t do that with these?

I think that is enough to be going on with. Next week I shall talk some more about sketching and using photographs for note taking.

Until then take your sketchbook with you whenever you go out. Above all use it. Make lots of sketches.

Take care.


P.S. The two sketches may look a bit like a ‘Spot the Difference’ puzzle. Can you?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

About More Space

'Return Flight' . . . . . .Acrylic Watercolour

Since my last post on the 4th September 21 people have visited the site but no one has left a comment or sent me an email about anything.

This leaves me feeling a bit like I felt when I stood on this cliff top in Pembrokeshire one October, alone and wondering if there is any other life on the planet. Human life that is, because of course the ducks were there.

In reality though there were only, I think, five ducks flying home from who knows where that evening.

It was exceptionally quiet, almost no noise at all. Just a very soft hint of wind noise and the sound of gentle waves touching the shore below.

As the sun finally dropped lower the light faded and the sky reddened. Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight was the saying when I was a child. That was supposed to foretell bright sunny weather to follow next day. On this occasion at least it was right.

Well the sun is sinking in the painting above that I did from memory a few days later. Perhaps the sky will redden again and tomorrow will be filled with comments and emails. Who knows?

Till next week, take care.


Monday, September 04, 2006


'Wind From the West' ................Watercolour

For those of you who have followed this Blog from the start it will be obvious that I have a number of obsessions.

One of course is Birch Trees, which for me are the most beautiful trees in creation. That says a lot because all trees are beautiful.

Another of my obsessions is space, which accounts for why I paint landscapes and why I seek out those places where space is clearly evident. Places like beaches, cliffs and open moorland. In fact any place where I can get away from the crowds.

The painting above is of just such a place. When I had completed the picture I wasn’t too happy with it. In fact I still regard it as one of my least successful pictures and it came very close to receiving the acrylic gesso treatment and having another painting done on top.

The reprieve came about because ‘she who must be obeyed’ liked the picture and demanded that it be framed and hung in her study. And that is where it is today.

Perhaps you will leave a comment telling me what you think of this painting. Who is right – she or me?

Until next week, take care and keep on painting.