Thursday, 28 July 2011

Summertime blues

I switched off my PC at work today and said goodbye to the stressful world of embedded software engineering for a little while :)  As I've no doubt mentioned a millions times already, we're off to Dorset on the South West coast of the UK for a week and so I won't be around in blogland much now until we get back - although I will be taking some form of 21st century communication and a camera with me, so anything is possible ;). To all those I follow, please don't think I'm ignoring all your wonderful work. I'm probably lazing on the beach, walking in the hills, paddling in the sea or eating fish and chips - I can't wait. Anyway, as they used to say ... here's one I did earlier - a couple of weeks ago I think, but very appropriate! Happy painting and drawing everyone. Bye for now, have a lovely week, Michael.

Seascape IV, gouache, 6.5" x 9"

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Shepherd's delight

It looks like the weather may finally be on the turn here if last night's glorious sunset was anything to go by! I just happened to venture outside at the right time to see the sky had turned into one of those sometimes fleeting visual spectacles that we often get treated to here in Cambridgeshire. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few reference photos and then went back indoors to paint what I had seen. I really enjoyed painting the dark green foliage which for me was almost like painting an interior wall at this size LOL! I used a big palette with lots of gorgeous tube colour, a squirrel brush for the sky and most of the foliage, and finally a rigger to add the detail of the dark leaves against the luminous sky. I really must get some house and garden tidying done today. 'See' you all again soon :)

Shepherd's Delight, watercolour, 9" x 12"

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Rainy days

As a final (or perhaps penultimate) post before I disappear for a week or so, this is a watercolour I did this evening/morning based on  a photograph of a slightly gloomy day at Weymouth taken on a previous holiday week in Dorset. For some bizarre reason it always seems to be either raining or a little chilly there when we visit, but thankfully it normally brightens up a litle ! The beach was unusually empty apart from this dog walker and a few other brave souls. This was painted on Arches 140lb Rough using lovely transparent Winsor & Newton tube watercolour :O)

Weymouth beach, watercolour, 9" x 12"

Friday, 22 July 2011

Secret garden

Over the next few days, my wife and step-daughters are camping a few miles out in the Cambridgeshire countryside and taking in the sights and sounds of the eclectic local arts festival that is  The Secret Garden Party. Whilst they're all away, I'll be sorting out my art materials for the family summer holiday in Dorset here in the UK the week after next. I may also get around to a spot of much needed real gardening myself, if only to mow the lush meadow at the front of the house!

I thought these small studies of fruit and vegetables I did last winter were quite appropriate for this post. Hopefully, I may also get around to doing something new over the weekend but this may be my last post until I get back from holiday. Before you all start to weep LOL, I do intend to do lots of sketching there, and hopefully a couple of full paintings and if I get the chance and manage to get a decent cellphone signal, I may even post while I'm there! Bye bye for now :)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

After the Deluge

I don't know about any of you out there in blogland who aren't here in the UK but recently we seem to have been having quite a bit of weather - in fact some days you could say it's been of biblical proportions! I stopped off in town again today with the intention of getting a sketch done but it was just too wet and even if I could have sheltered from the rain, there was absolutely nowhere dry enough to sit!

To satisfy my desire to paint today, I decided to try out my latest, and probably last, addition to my gouache palette - Red Ochre. I use Light Red or Venetian Red in my watercolours quite a lot so this was one I had planned to get as soon as possible. It's a gorgeous natural red that mixes beautifully with Ultramarine to give nice atmospheric skies. My latest offering for you is the third in my series of seascape practice runs. I kept the use of  white gouache to a minimum and applied the paint quite thinly for this, so it's almost a pure transparent watercolour (well almost).

Seascape III, gouache, 6" x 8"

And here is a snippet from the previous page in my Canson HP watercolour sketchbook showing all the colours I use in the Winsor & Newton Designer's Gouache range. The Zinc White is barely visible in this scan - a bit like a polar bear in  a snowstorm I suppose LOL.  I hope you can read my engineer's scribble! Happy Tuesday :O)

My gouache palette

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Wave theory

'Then the tide rushes in
And washes my castles away.'

The second in my seascape practice runs. This was done entirely in Winsor & Newton designer's gouache in a small Canson watercolour sketchbook, filled with 230gsm hot pressed archival paper. The sky was a mix of Ultramarine and Cerulean blue applied wet in wet with the paint diluted to a watercolour consistency. The sea was painted with a mixture of the sky colour and Pemanent Green for the turquoise colours, then pure Ultramarine for the deep water colour and finally Zinc white applied quite dry for the surf. The distant coastline was a variegated wash using a mixture of Ultramarine and Spectrum Red (or possibly Permanent Rose). Five pigments .... Simples!

Seascape II, gouache, 6" x 8"

Thursday, 14 July 2011

At the end of the day

Feeling very inspired by the last few beautiful acrylic paintings of the wonderful Dorset coastline by Lisa over at Seaside Studios, and in anticipation of the upcoming holiday to the very same coastline, I thought it would be useful to try my hand at a seascape. I did this partly from imagination and partly from past experiences - visual memory as it were. It started as a pure wet in wet watercolour but I added a little gouache with a hog brush to give a little sparkle to the sea. It looks reasonably convincing but I have a few photographs from previous holidays to use for reference so I may do a couple more practice runs before I get to paint the real thing :) If I don't post again for a little while, have a super relaxing weekend everyone.

Seascape, watercolour and white gouache, 7" x 10"

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Weak Bridge

This is a quick sketch, completed on the spot in pencil on the way home from work, with watercolour and a little BrushPen added later at home. This is a very old stone bridge that crosses the River Great Ouse between Huntingdon and the neighbouring Roman town of Durovigutum (or Godmanchester as it is now known). The bridge can only take light traffic and so there is a 'Weak Bridge' sign on the approaches to it. My wife and I always laugh and make groaning sounds whenever we cross over it. You'd just have to be there to appreciate the joke ;)

My blog has now come of age and so I'd like to say 'Hi' to my latest followers, Maggie and Sharon, who have pushed the total up to twenty-one this week. I'd also like to say a big 'thank you' to all of my lovely followers. You all make it very worthwhile :O) !

The Old Bridge, Huntingdon, watercolour, 8" x 5.5"

Sunday, 10 July 2011

... and again in a distant land

This watercolour is based on a photograph I took last October whilst out on an anniversary holiday in the Azores. This is a typical street in the town of Mosteiros which is just about the most western point on Sao Miguel island. The residents of this little group of typical Azorean rural houses must have one of the best views on earth, looking as they do out across the vast Atlantic ocean which batters this low lying part of the island and several massive rock formations formed from ancient sunken volcanoes lying just a hundred metres or so out at sea! Behind the houses rises the rim of the 12km crater which holds the town of Sete Cidades, the seven cities, with its mesmerising twin lakes of blue and green. The crater is believed to have formed in the 1440s when an eruption destroyed the peak of the volcano that formed the western part of the island. We walked part of the way around the crater rim one morning - pretty awesome stuff!

For all the pigment and paper junkies out there,  I used Schmincke single pigment watercolours on Arches 140lb CP. No unintentional mud was used in the creation of this painting ;). Happy Sunday to all :)

Mosteiros, Sao Miguel, The Azores, watercolour, 7" x 10"

PS If you want to see the real place then take a look here and here. Beautiful yes?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

... In England's green and pleasant land

I thought I really ought to devote some artistic time to my first love again, so I made some room on the table last night, took out a block of Arches and set to work. The results were just too awful to post! I'm undecided whether it's going under the tap or in the bin!  So I was feeling a little sad that watercolour was definitely not my medium anymore. Perhaps I was just tired.

However, I decided to give it another go this morning and so, working from a recent photograph (naughty, naughty), I painted this scene of the local flood meadows by the river here in Hartford. I hope this goes some way to satisfying my fellow watercolourists - you all know who you are LOL ;) Have a fantastic relaxing, but hopefully artistically fulfilling weekend everyone. :o)

Flood meadows, Hartford, watercolour on Arches CP, 7" x 10"

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A further pause for thought

Some of you may remember an earlier post of mine that featured this statue of the Thinking Soldier from a slightly different angle. I did a fairly detailed pencil sketch on Bockingford 140lb watercolour paper but I didn't have a lot of time so I decided to take a reference photo and finish it later. When I got home I used my set of Caran D'Ache gouache cakes and a 1/4" flat synthetic brush to add colour, using the photo for reference.

Huntingdon Market Square, gouache on paper, 5" x 7"

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

... in that quiet earth

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

Powerful words indeed, taken from the last lines of 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte. In a previous life (metaphorically speaking), I lived a few miles from the Bronte Parsonage in Yorkshire and it was a delight to walk the same cobbled streets that those famous sisters had done so many years before and below the moors where Emily had found the inspiration to write such beautiful prose.

So I stopped for a while in town on the way home from work tonight and sat and sketched in an old cemetery, now carefully maintained as a beautiful garden complete with willows and a monkey puzzle tree. I did the initial drawing in pencil, added watercolour and then a few scribbles with a pen filled with Indian ink. I actually prefer dip pens back at base, but to avoid having to take bottles I use a Pelikan Steno fountain pen which has a nice flexible nib and is actually designed for taking shorthand! It started raining, but luckily I had just about finished and managed to get the sketchbook safely away in my sketchbag and headed off to Starbucks for a well-earned Latte and a slice of blackcurrant cheesecake. Nom, nom :)

Old cemetery, Huntingdon, ink and watercolour, 5" x 7"

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Krafty planning

I recently bought a really nice A4 kraft card sketchbook made by Seawhite here in the UK. I thought it would make me paint bigger, but the main reason was to have a single sketchbook that would allow me to use various opaque media like pastel, oil, acrylic, gouache and possibly charcoal and conte, and that I could take on holiday with me in a few weeks time. I've only managed to test oil and gouache but I really like the results so far. 

For the first page shown here I used Caran D'Ache studio gouache cakes, These give similar coverage to normal tube based gouache but are in a convenient ready to use cake format so I could certainly use them on holiday.

For the second page, I used thinned oils at the top and normal Winsor & Newton designers' tube gouache at the bottom. I did a couple more samples with oils and they look really good, applied thicker than I did here, but unfortunately I cannot show those for reasons of plagiarism! If I do decide to use oils in this sketchbook, then I really ought to use a primer to stop the oil sinking but still keep the nice mid tone of the card and not loose the texture too much either.

I'm just trying to minimise what I take since boot space and weight is at  a premium. I suppose I could take fewer clothes -  I always take far more than I need!

PS Ralph Parker  has some excellent tips and general thoughts on using gouache as an alternative to oils and acrylics and even advice on varnishing gouache paintings to give the effect of oils! But please leave me a comment before you zip off to Ralph's blog!

Friday, 1 July 2011

An affair of the heart

I have something to confess to you all. I've been having an affair recently. I've been getting up at the crack of dawn and staying up well into the early hours of the morning just to spend some time with my new love. I know I've been unfaithful and have neglected my true love but the mutual attraction was just too great. I may never be the same person ever again.

So I went to see her again one more time this afternoon. We walked dreamily through the meadows by the river and sat down together for a while in the long grass. I held her hand, gazed into her beautiful coloured eyes, and said what I should have said much earlier; We really have to stop this now.

But who is this mistress - oils of course !!! And the true love I have abandoned all this while - watercolours. This is my first plein aire oil painting. Have  a lovely weekend :)

Flood meadows, Hartford, oil on gessoed cardboard, 6" x 8"