Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Painting No 26 - Church and Mill, Ivinghoe

Oil on canvas board 12" x 16"

I've started doing several paintings in parallel as I often have to wait for the paint to dry, so this one is close on the heels of Trofeo Kima Rocks.  I attempted this windmill years ago when I briefly dabbled in watercolours but never finished it.  This view is from one of my runs out with the dog.  I made the clouds a bit more interesting and added the pheasant to complete the composition (in exactly the same way I added the way-marker in Trofeo).

This mill is the oldest postmill (the whole structure rotates on a central post to face the wind) in England and has an interesting history.  I visited this mill way back in 1978 when I cycled down to Invinghoe youth hostel (recently turned into flats) on a whim, from Doncaster (via Grantham youth hostel).  I never imagined then that I'd be living nearby.  I've always thought it was called Invinghoe Mill but apparently it's called Pitstone Windmill.  Invinghoe is the nearer of the two villages.

I'm planning another one with the mill and Ivinghoe Beacon for the near future.  I've been encouraged by my experiences with the Joss Naylor prints so I intend to do a series of local scenes and sell them as prints.

This one was interesting as I tried to keep the field and trees fairly loose but had to provide some very fine detail with the church and windmill sails.  I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Painting No. 25 - Trofeo Kima Rocks

Oil on Board 18" x 12"

Another one for the runners and mountains series.  This is based on the excellent photograph by Ian Corless (host of TalkUltra) taken at this year's Trofeo Kima event in Italy.  This event is conducted at high altitiude and involves an element of climbing using via ferrate chains and cables.  It is very spectacular and is typified by this picture, all cloud and rocks.  Ian's photos from the event can be seen here: .

I chose to do this picture for its mixture of textures with the ephemeral nature of the clouds and the solid ruggedness of the rocks.  It's almost an amalgamation of two of my previous paintings "Aldbury in the Spotlight" and "Joss Naylor, Wasdale, 1970's".

I only made two alterations from the original photograph.  I moved the runner further up to place him closer to the golden mean rather than in the centre and I added the red and white way marker to help create a diagonal running through the runner's gaze to the marker, to compliment the diagonal of the rocks.

I've also started to use a new signature or monogram after getting some negative feedback on my usual scrawl.  After experimenting with wren (the bird) graphics I opted for making use of the fact that my names and the year all consist of 4 characters resulting in this:

2 0 1 2

Not revolutionary I know, but at least I can be consistent now and it looks like a Chinese hieroglyphic from a distance.

In terms of the process I went through, I started with a quick pencil outline then blocked it in with diluted monochromatic paint.  It was then a case of around four passes over each part of the painting refining in finer detail each time.  I paid especial attention to the values on this one to avoid loosing the runner against the background.  After putting down the overall shading on the rocks I again resorted to the painting knife to provide the variegated look and texture.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this.  I believe that I have achieved the aerial perspective I was looking for and have learnt a lot in doing it which is always good.

Update 11/11/12: Finally found the trofeo Kima 2012 results.  The guy in the picture is Marco Zanchi.  Here's a video of him being interviewed (hope your Italian is up to scratch).

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Painting No. 24 - Back Garden in the Sun

Oil on Canvas Board 16" x 24"

Well this has been a pleasant surprise.  I started this weeks ago as an experiment in plein air painting (albeit from the safety of my back garden (again!)).  The first pass was not very impressive so I left it for a while.

I then picked it up after finishing the previous two paintings.  I've practically repainted it.

It has been interesting due to the challenges of the shaded areas versus the sunny areas.  I'm not sure this comes out properly in the photograph.  I like the contrast of the sun loungers against the dark background and the sunlit bushes.  I also feel that I've managed to get the depth of field quite well.

I plan to come back to this again at some point to tidy up the house brickwork and windows but for now I'm happy with it.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Painting No 23 - Due West from Bacombe Hill

Oil on board 8" x 10"

This is one of my favourite stiles.  It is on the bike path down from Coombe Hill towards Wendover looking due west down to the houses on Bacombe Lane.  I've often thought that I'd like to do a series of paintings of stiles before they are all replaced by those awful metal kissing gates.  It won't be long before this one goes.

Whilst I quite like the overall result I once again allowed myself to get tied down in the detail so I've not really moved forward with this.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Joss Prints for Sale

I have agreed with the legendary British Fell Runner Joss Naylor MBE, subject of my painting, that we will try and sell limited edition Giclee prints of the painting in aid of the Eden House Children's Hospice with serves terminally ill children across Cumbria.  To this end I have set up a website to enable the prints to be purchased.

There's a choice of two sizes and materials: either a 20" x 20" canvas print or a 14" x 14" fine art paper print.  Each size is limited to 250 copies so get your copy while they are still available.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Painting No. 22 - Joss Naylor, Wasdale, 1970s

Oil on board. 24" x 24"

I've been planning to do this one for quite a while now, every since I saw the original photograph on the cover of the Keith Richardson book 'Joss', a biography of the fell running legend Joss Naylor MBE.

The photograph is by the late Brian Duff so I had to obtain permission from his family who own the copyright to be able to paint it. 

There were clearly some challenges here.  Firstly, once again it's painting from a photograph and not real life.  Secondly the photo contained more than the usual mix of photographic distortions not least of which is the massive foreshortening which brought the background hills much closer than they appear in real life.  Also, how did he get that haze around Joss? This was in the days before Photoshop.  Finally, it's monochrome so I was going to have to decide on the colour scheme. 

This painting is important to me as it is in the genre that I want to specialise in: mountain activity scenes, and it is of a real celebrity in the fell and ultra running circles in the UK.  I have plans to hopefully use this painting to raise some money for charity. 

So, I had to plan this one carefully.  I started by getting used to the image by making some pencil sketches. 

The face was a mass of shadows making it difficult to extract any detail but there was just enough to work with.  I then did a value sketch in oils on a 10" x 10" board, as the tones within the picture were vital to making it work.  I was particularly keen to get the figure to stand out against the background. 


Before doing this I had to choose the composition.  I tried various positions with Joss on the left, in the centre and finally chose the one above with him appearing to run into the picture from the right hand side.  A square shape also seemed to suit the composition within a nice diagonal running from top right to bottom left.  His arms are on the horizontal golden mean whilst the left hand side of his body (his right) is on the vertical.

Next I  had to decide on what colour his kit was.  I tried various combinations, using a scanned image and Microsoft Paint, before going with a dark blue top and red shorts.  I couldn't make out the type or make of shoes he was wearing in the photograph so I changed them to the classic Walshes which he typically wears.

Now I was ready to start.  I'd originally intended to do this on stretched canvas but the one I bought was too cheap and nasty so, being too impatient to source a decent one, I cut and gessoed a piece of board.  I then drew the main outlines in pencil onto the gesso, using grid lines in the more detailed areas such as his face.  I blocked in the main areas using a dark red wash then proceeded to add the colours. 

As I was doing the background it struck me that there was a lot of interesting detail missing on the original photograph.  As a fell runner myself I like to be able to make out the paths and features that are so familiar to me.  So I found some reference photos and proceeded to do a reasonably detailed background, knowing full well that I'd have to fade it out by scumbling to the required tone to make it recede.  This has worked quite well as the detail is still to be found through the haze.  For example the path up the western flank of Great Gable can be seen under Joss's right arm.  That brings back memories of battling up there in a monstrous gale in the 2008 OMM (Original Mountain Marathon).  (See this video at the 2:08 min mark to see the conditions). 

This painting includes my first use of a palette knife.  I used it to obtain the markings on the rocks in the foreground.  Interestingly, I paint with brushes with my left hand but use the palette knife with my right. Very strange but I do like the effect it gives.  Perfect for those rocks. 

I did two passes of the whole figure, making sure the values worked, until I reached the point where I thought doing anymore would spoil it.  Overall I'm very satisfied with the effect.  I managed (in my opinion) to get the figure to project out of the painting.  The end result is not yet where I want to be as a painter but I get the impression that painter's are never satisfied so for now I'm happy with the end result.  I hope others like it.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Painting No 21 - Bridgewater Monument across Aldbury Common

Oil on board - 10" x 8"

Yet another picture taken while on a run.  The trees and monument looked great against the dark sky.  I tried to focus on the tonal values in this one.  Whilst it has largely worked I did find the sky a bit tricky (to keep the values light enough) although I'm pleased with the final result.  I ended up by rubbing the sky over with a kitchen towel to get the edges to blend. I also rubbed backed to the underlying gesso to get the highlights in the clouds.

I stayed very loose with the plantlife in the foreground.  I think any more detail there would have detracted from the overall composition.

Compositionwise, I used a very useful iPad app called  Value Viewer from Plein Air to find the golden mean (although I could have easily measured it at 0.618 x length (or width)), and placed the monument on the vertical GM and the bottom of the right hand trees on the horizontal GM.  It does seem to work.

My numbering system for my paintings has collapsed as I now have two other paintings on the go plus a finished value study for one of those paintings.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Painting No 20 (take 2) - Aldbury in the Spotlight

The original version of this (see previous post) was nagging me.  The sunlit area just wasn't strong enough to overcome the massive cloud formation.  So I expanded it (and also added some colour to the clouds and added a few sheep while I was at it).  I'm much more pleased with this.  It is much more balanced.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Painting No 20 - Aldbury in the Spotlight

Oil on Canvas Board  18" x 24"

This is based on a photograph (yes, I'm still working from photos, sorry) that I took while out running. I couldn't resist this cloud formation and trying out the hotspot technique by placing Aldbury in the sun. I took a risk with demoting the land in favour of the sky but I think I just about got away with it.

It is amazing how effective the sunlit area is.  I had the painting on the easel for a couple of weeks with just a dull green and blue middle ground and the whole picture looked flat and uninteresting. I particularly the like the natural greens and browns in the sunlit patch.  There is something soothing about them.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Painting No 19 - Rosie on Whangamata Beach, NZ

Oil on canvas board - 24" x 18"

Another picture I'd been wanting to do for a long time.  It is also conveniently very similar to the picture we did on my recent course.

I applied a few (by no means all) of the techniques I'd learned from my course, not least of which was to take some artistic license.  Previously I'd largely relied on choosing the right picture to copy to get the composition right but his time I rearranged the picture by compressing it laterally.  The beach is a lot wider in the source picture so I left out the middle section to narrow it.  This meant that I had to reorientate the pools on the left to get the perspective back.

We were taught that lighter colours (tints) help give the impression of distance compared to darker (shades) so I made the beach in the foreground much darker than it appears in real life while gradually lightening it as it receded.  I think it works.

I also used impasto in the nearest waves to give the impression of closeness.  This was made of titanium white paint mixed with chalk.  (I made the chalk powder myself by simply grinding down some pieces of chalk I picked up while out on a run.  We live in the Chiltern Hills so are sitting on millions of tons of the stuff.)

Another technique I used was to apply a light scummble over the sky and the central hills to recede them a little.  (The glare at the top of the picture is not from some Turneresque skill of mine. It's from a light bulb just above the picture).

All in all I'm quite pleased with this (especially as I survived painting my wife from behind!).  It's possibly not as ambitious with the indirect painting techniques as it could be but it's a good start.

Paintings Nos 18a-e Simply Oils Painting Course

Well I'm back from the painting course at Norfolk Painting School.  It was a 3-day course called Simply Oils which, as the name suggests, is for new painters.  You can read about the course and the school here so I'll give a brief summary here.  Suffice to say it easily achieved my objectives of giving my painting a kick up the backside.  The course was built around teaching the indirect painting technique which essentially consists of painting in largely transparent layers, allowing the underlying layers to show through.  Martin Kinnear who runs the school is a very passionate and patient teacher (as well as an excellent artist) and I'd recommend the course to anyone wanting to break out their amateurish ways and open the door to proper oil painting.

Beach Scene - Oil on Canvas 30 x 24

This picture was the final piece of the course and took most of the final day.  It utilised all of the techniques and method we'd learned in the previous two days.  The foreground is rushed but the required effects still works. I particularly like the lower clouds with their mix of purples, yellows and whites as well as the salmon underpainting coming through. The overall style is clearly very different to my previous work.  A series of smaller sketches were produced during the previous two days all leading to the above picture.  I struggled to get them done in the time allowed.  They are shown below in reverse chronological order.

Beach scene sketch - Oil on Board 12 x 10

This was a preliminary sketch for the large beach scene above. 

River scene sketch - Oil on Board 10 x 12

Turner's Fishermen upon a Lee Shore in Squally Weather sketch
Oil on Board 12 x 10

The pink base layer is clearly visible under the clouds lending them a light that would be very difficult to achieve any other way.   

Turner's Fishermen upon a Lee Shore in Squally Weather 
monochrome sketch (tonal study)
Oil on Board 12 x 10

A great deal was learned on the course.  It was only 3 days but it raised my awareness to whole new level so that I can come away and study and practice these techniques.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Painting No 17 - Tree, Cleeve Hill

Oil on Canvas 16" x 12"

I've been wanting to paint this lovely solitary tree ever since I saw it on a walk with friends on Cleeve Hill in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds about 5 years ago.

I'm very pleased with the overall effect of this one.  The deep blue sky is almost pure Cerulean Blue.  I initially did the sky using rough multi-directional strokes but this didn't work.  The rough surface made the sky look close so I re-painted it using smooth horizontal strokes.  I think this works very well.  The tree stands out nicely on the distant sky.

My daughter Lucy has asked for this and, as it's her birthday tomorrow, how could I refuse.

This will be my last painting before I go on a painting course at the Norlfok Painting School.  I wonder what effect this will have on my painting style.  A positive one I hope. Watch this space.  

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Painting No 16 - Dave on the Really Wild Boar

Oil on canvas board 18" x 14"

I've been intending to do this for ages, for over a year in fact.  It is a surprise present for my mate, and mountain marathon partner, Dave on his 50th (today 28/1/12), which is why I couldn't publish it until now.  I nearly started it last year thinking his 50th was a year earlier.  Good job I checked on Facebook. Ironically I left it until the last minute having only painted it last weekend.  I had to do a touch up during the week to make sure it actually was recognisable as him.  I suppose that makes it my first miniature portrait as well.

This is hopefully the first of many fell and mountain running paintings.  The combination of runners and mountains makes (in my mind anyway) a brilliant combination of scenery and action. 

I'd managed to find a number of photos of Dave on the internet, largely by slogging through the photos of events that I knew he'd entered.  This one is on the Really Wild Boar fell race near Sedbergh. There were better action shots with better views but this one attracted me because of the contrast offered by the shadows and sunlit areas.  The composition is quite nice too. I'm quite pleased with the looseness of the shadowed area on the right.  He didn't really have race number 50.  I thought it appropriate to take a bit of artistic license and change it.

All in all I'm a happy bunny with this.  Happy Birthday Dave!

P.S. If any runners have found their way onto this page you may be interested in my running blog.