Tag: drawing

Project potential

This is the kind of site that to me, has great potential for drawing and painting projects. There is something about neglect and the resulting decay as nature reclaims surfaces at different speeds. The process throws up interesting combinations; unlikely colours with the ‘wrong’ textures, subtle patterns in stark compositions, the mechanical and industrial together with the fragile or picturesque. Fab.

Blue sky and yellow canopy, geometric patterns of shadows all combine at this temporarily neglected site.

Lines and curves

When looking for landscape subjects to sketch, sometimes there seems to be nothing, at other times everything seems to scream potential. I tend to overlook the obviously pretty landscape in favour of patterns and rhythms that catch my eye – the organic freeform mass of a tree balanced by a neat, man-made straight line for example. In this Hertfordshire lane, sketched in the late afternoon, the tree and pole frame the road
as it winds down the hill and away to the right with hedges either side.

The sun is shining through a haze of thin cloud, strong enough to cast a shadow but not enough to give a bleached out, high contrast. The school run is about to start as a yellowhammer sings from the wire.hertfordshire-hedges

Hertfordshire hedges with yellowhammer, watercolour, June 23 Hazy afternoon sun

No time like the present they say, so despite the sun having gone down and darkness fast approaching, when I came across this jumble of poles near a farm in Essex I had to stop and produce a rapid watercolour, racing against both the fading light and the bugs which were giving me no mercy. The roadside vegetation was uncut and shoulder high, and the newly surfaced road had neat white lines at the edges, accentuating the bend away to the left. I used mainly Naples yellow and lamp black with a tiny amount of cobalt blue, spending only five or six minutes on it as the unwelcome attention of the biting insects was literally affecting what I was doing! Actually I think they helped in a way…suffer for your art eh?

This sketch is of a similar arrangement of telegraph poles across a lane as the sun’s orange glow reflects on the hard surfaces. What attracts me to this type of scene is the rhythm of verticals but with obvious imperfection, the control with a little chaos thrown in, held together by the wires (important but kept as low key pencil lines) and in contrast to the mass of the vegetation in all its high summer green glory, turning to blues in the distance.

Positive in yellow

A crop of oilseed rape in full flower demands attention. There is something compelling about the strident, unnatural ocean of colour breaking the harmony. As dusk approached I drove around a country bend to see this yellow sea end abruptly at the grass footpath, as if it were a yellow Hokusai wave. I turned around, parked up and produced this rapid watercolour with my gear spread out on the bonnet of the car.
As darkness approached and the colours were fading to grey, I managed to leave it as it looked when
I first saw it.

This painting of two oilseed fields by the lane was produced on Sunday morning, and I used an easel for
a change, allowing me to paint quite freely, standing back often to decide how much is just enough, so to speak. It was quiet except for a Whitethroat that had taken up territory in the hedge separating the two oilseed fields and was expressing himself with his dry, jangly song constantly. A perfect soundtrack.

Of the many meanings of yellow across world cultures, ‘ol Wikipedia tells me, in Japan it symbolises courage; in China it is the colour of happiness and wisdom, as well as the colour chosen by Buddhists
for mourning.

On our life’s journey, we will all lose someone who was very proud of our achievements and in their eyes
we could do no wrong. This bright picture is for them.

Sunlight in the lane, Terling Hall Road. Painted on a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning in May

See that sunshine

I found these interesting, ivy covered oak trees in a narrow lane in Essex.
This lane hasn’t been widened, probably as it’s a quiet backwater with little traffic,
and so the trees are old and still in place close to the edge of the road. The field opposite
has just been rolled ready for drilling, and beyond is a large copse. I came across
them with the sun directly behind, and as there was little colour I used black ink
for this drawing.

A few days later I returned to the same spot, and in the opposite direction, the lane meanders away with trees large and small dotted along either side. I was attracted by the deep lavender grey of the rain cloud lit by the sun, a rare occasion where the tree branches are a tone lighter than the sky, and worked up a quick watercolour sketch. There is even a telegraph pole, one of my favourite motifs for suggesting rhythm and perspective, and most of the trees have a significant amount of dieback in the upper branches which makes for interesting shapes.

So taken with this scene was I that I decided to come back and produce a larger scale watercolour of this view. Most country lanes in my neighbourhood are not this ‘pretty’ and this scene could be straight from 1947, the only modern element being the oilseed rape in the field on the left, and perhaps the amount of dead branches on the trees.

It took an hour and a half to block in the main elements on the first session, before the light changed too much. As I was painting the spring afternoon light above all else, I was keen to finish it before the leaves opened much more. With that in mind I had to return three times before I could finish the shadows under similar light conditions, spending another half hour. I prefer to complete a picture in one session, as it’s not always possible to return,  especially with the same weather conditions!spring-afternoon-in-the-lane-watercolour

Aha vibrance!

It’s been extraordinarily dull and cold coming into spring. Questions have been asked.
This drawing was made early in the evening on Sunday into the light, with the sun obscured by the near hedge. I used old waterproof black ink on watercolour paper which I lightly sprayed with water. Putting the big shapes in, such as the foreground hedge, the ivy covered trees in the middle distance and the wood far across the field, allowing the ink to do its own thing filling in here and there, avoiding the water and suggesting tree branches, with a few wet dashes for the clouds hurrying by to finish off. Later I added the blue green watercolour for the newly sprouted crop, and brighter, yellower green for the sunlit grass.

This drawing was produced in March, also in Hertfordshire. It was going to be a watercolour, but as the light was fading I decided to carry on in pencil. I enjoyed working on a larger scale and with the drawing on an easel, instead of balanced on my knees. The result of this freedom seems to be a looser, more responsive drawing and I’m a bit reluctant to take it further.towards-cold-christmas

There’s weather coming

Soon be time to get those oil paints out and try some autumn landscapes, with those wild skies and mix of colours. Meantime I’m still battling with line and wash, trying to say the most with the least.

These straw bales caught my eye as they stood in an animated fashion across the slope, framing the village church spire in the distance. The foreground shadows are cast by tall trees just to my left on the edge of the field. What makes it for me is that one bale stands out by being in the shade.

In this sketch, the reflected colour of the blue sky in the tarmac seemed to be exaggerated
by the vegetation. I accentuated the colour slightly, the actual sky seemed unimportant
in comparison.

In this drawing, one single cloud arrived and gathered itself from a relatively clear sky and dominated the scene. The telegraph poles stride across the stubble field and past the maize crop on the horizon, where rooks perch on the wires. A shower of rain followed shortly afterwards.

The hidden beauty in grey

July 2nd 2010: A warm, sticky night. The heavy scent of honeysuckle in the air attracts a pine hawk moth, which can’t resist the light inside and flies indoors through the open patio doors. Conveniently resting on a flat surface, I take the opportunity to do a quick sketch with a biro and make some notes. Letting the moth outside, cupped in my hands, the strength of its flapping wings against my palms was so strong, it felt more like a small bird than an insect!

sketch book moth
Pine hawk moth at rest on my drawing board, quick sketch


Next evening, the moth was back, at dusk, just when it is hard to see straight ahead, but the skyline is sharp and the contrast is clear. Flapping then gliding, then flapping again, the moth danced over the honeysuckle in silhouette. A beautiful sight. I decided to make an illustration showing the moth at an exagerated scale in a suburban setting. Using charcoal would emphasise the soft atmosphere of dusk, when all edges seem to merge. The overall effect I was after was that of a period book illustration. After working out the layout of the drawing on a small scale in my sketchbook, I settled on a composition and drew quick studies of each of the main elements, honeysuckle, chimney, tiles.

The picture is all about atmosphere though, so I was careful not to include too much observable detail.

scamps planning the composition
gliding effortlessy across the honeysuckle, in silhouette
pine hawk moth, charcoal
Pine hawkmoth, charcoal, 40 x 59 cm


Close up, the beautiful irridescent greys and subtle browns of this animal were stunning,
effortlessly gliding acrooss the dusk skyline.  This is the picture of that moment.