Late Spring: mixed media sketching in the woods

Late Spring, where the plant life is literally bursting out in colour accompanied by the buzz of insects and the trills and warbles of birdsong is a favourite time of year for a lot of folks. The day breaks early towards mid June, so no excuses – I made a flask of tea and got out in the local woods for some mixed media sketch studies in May and early June.

I’ve used all sorts of materials with the drawings here: oil and acrylic paint, felt tip and brush pens, charcoal, pastel, coloured pencil – whatever would give me the effect I was after. Spontaneity and free brushwork is important in my oil paintings, and with sketching I’m trying to make an interesting vibrant drawing. Responding to something rather than describing it.
All the work here is in an A3 cartridge wire bound sketchbook.

Broken beech
May 7, 2023. Broken beech: felt tip pen over spray fixed charcoal and pastel

Below on the left is a study of a stand of tall beech trees together with pines. I used gouache and watercolour, some acrylic paint, and felt tip pen over the top. I was interested in the grandeur of the trunks, reminding me of an early travel poster, with the light and shade cascading down to the ground, the track disappearing mysteriously round the bend. What’s around the corner?
The drawing on the right was made using some left over oil paint on my palette from a landscape study. Over the top of which I applied a little pastel and some more detailed work with felt tip pens.
I had been looking at the work of British abstract artist Victor Pasmore particularly his 1940’s paintings, so there is a heavy influence here, particularly in the stylised, dotted foliage.

May 25 and May 18 (right)

Painted from under a large oak full of character, with this very loose sketch I started with watered down acrylic over which is some charcoal, white conte and some pen work. This one didn’t quite come off the way I planned but I quite like the no holds barred ‘of the moment’ feel to it. There was also a Cuckoo calling nearby, a classic spring sound much less common of late.

Under the oak, May 28

Looking out from under the oak across buttercup meadows, with cuckoo just audible

There have been good numbers of Brimstone butterflies this year. This female looked to be settling as some clouds threatened a shower. Underneath the bramble leaves it is well camouflaged.

May into June

Below left: This avenue of stately beech trees were drawn in the late afternoon, using charcoal and pastel. I didn’t feel the need to render all the groups of foliage on the spot, but did add some felt tip pen and crayon work when back indoors, and some white acrylic to help separate the line of trees either side of the track.

On the right is a friend’s woodshed on their farm, at the entrance to a copse. The focus of my attention was the bright sunlight on the wooden frame, and the splash of dappled sun filtered through the elder in full flower on the left. This drawing is largely washes of acrylic with a small amount of crayon over the top. Like most of these sketches, it took about an hour and a half to get to a point where I felt I should stop! Interesting to compare these drawings with the plein air sketching I was producing ten years ago, and how I’ve loosened up! and also here

May 28, Beech avenue, and right, June 3 Woodshed

Here I was attracted to the very different shapes of the three trees. The oak in front is backlit by the sunshine, and there is a good carpet of bluebells. Largely pastel with some charcoal, I made another study (right) later indoors from the first one, using coloured pencils and charcoal, simplifying the shapes somewhat. More work needed to make this work, I feel.

Three trees in the Spring

Orchids can pop up anywhere
when trees have been cleared,
making them more visible in the
relative open space. This one is a
Greater Butterfly Orchid

Taking advantage of the continuing sunny spell, the two drawings below were made within a few feet of each other. I used acrylic washes so that the paint doesn’t ‘lift’ if I work over the top. With the hazel coppice on the left, I cut leaf shaped pieces of masking tape to leave those areas untouched, and paint freely over them, picking off when dry. I was rendering the effect of the sun reflecting off the odd leaf of ground foliage, and the reult works, but could benefit from a little more perhaps.

On the right the foxgloves looked splendid backlit by the sun in a clearing. I tried to describe what I was seeing without overtly drawing anything at all, to convey the sensation. There is more pen work over the paint with this drawing, I do like to try things out. Sometimes they work!

Hazel and foxgloves, June 7 2023.