On trips to Osogbo, we always buy Wara from the same ladies. It is a type of milk curd sold fresh and is delicious cooked either boiled or fried with lemon, and quite healthy, it turns out. Click here for more info and recipes. The ladies are familiar to us and come over to our car if they see us around town, as we will usually buy from them. This time around I asked for photos with a view to using them later. The girls were happy to pose with and without their bowls balanced on their heads. For this first painting I’ve used the light to describe the girl’s features, complete with tribal scars, as she poses in the shade. I covered the canvas in dark washes using a very limited palette and painted thinly throughout, doing just enough to describe what I was interested in and no more.
This painting is of a Mona monkey, part of a troupe that visit the Osun Grove regularly, where they are tame enough to accept bananas fed by staff and locals. Painted using acrylics, plenty of colour and the use of energetic brush strokes evoke the vibrance of Osogbo, the serenity of the forest and my excitement at being there.
Previously I have experimented with the faces of these monkeys with a view to producing some designs for t-shirts or whatever. Something that’s on the back burner, which is piled high…
Misty distant woods and field margins. Hares, pheasants and deer tracks.
The sound of running water, the ‘good earth’ aroma of autumn leaves.
As I wait for my washes to dry enough to carry on, it starts to rain.
Fine, soft rain, but enough to force me to abandon this painting.
The four hares in the field remain undisturbed.
Here are some line drawings from my sketchbook where I’m using a sepia coloured felt-tip pen to draw the scene. Quite a slow, deliberate process compared to my usual freer pencil drawings, and with a couple of these I found it useful to add some watercolour to ‘key in’
some of the spaces.
This first spread shows two drawings of a country road not far from home. I was interested in a graphic, linear shorthand to describe forms and textures. No need for a colour wash here.
Cat’s Hill Lane, Ludwell.
I spent the Easter break with family in Dorset. I’ve driven past this winding lane countless times over the years and only now decided to stop and draw it. The couple walking their dogs came from behind me and strolled down the lane. I waited until they reached the shed before sketching them in. I added some colour to the verges and meadows, including the far field where the cows are grazing.
This drawing is of a small stream winding its way through a copse in the spring sunshine. The bottom of the stream here is muddy but in other places it is stony and moderately fast flowing. In many places the water is only two inches deep, but there are some deeper pools where small fish find a decent living. I edited out quite a lot of ‘tree bits’ and settled for just enough to describe the overall look of the spot.
At the end of this small copse, the stream emerges and cuts across the green lane before
falling through the roots of a tree in a mini, noisy waterfall and creating a deepish pool, before continuing on through the hedgerow. I got the watercolours out for this one.
Here are a few sketches from the countryside around me. With Winter now passed into Spring, the sun is higher in the sky, with brighter days lingering longer into early evening.
There is much activity, and so much energy around, with leaves about to burst open, birdsong and Hares having dust-ups in the middle of the green wheat fields.
This first sketch is of a sunny hedgerow leading up to a wood on the hilltop.
Although drawn back in February, the day was bright and the wind was kind.
March 20th, late afternoon, a little weak sunshine and a cold wind. Still fully kitted out in hat, scarf and gloves (aiming to avoid any unnecessary discomfort) maybe I’m just getting old! This drawing is the same view from a little further to the right. I wanted to show the hedge curving uphill to the wood, from where a buzzard was mewing. Both of these were painted on the spot on 140lb paper.
The two sketchbook drawings below started out as felt-tip pen sketches and colour was added back at home. I like this method as it forces me to simplify things and the marks become more gestural and stylised. Also, I can’t seem to be able to “paint” landscapes indoors, I have to be out there, in the moment.
I can’t resist the bend in a country lane. I think it’s because I’ll always wonder what lies beyond. With the field entrance drawing, using Naples yellow in the sky sells it as early evening, and the looming dusk atmosphere comes across pretty well.
This picture was painted on another cold afternoon, but there was some sunshine. It’s a painting of not much at all, but the rows of young broad beans sweeping across the field lent themselves to the cause well enough. Apart from being a memory aid, I do see the
cold when I look at it, so it has a subtle something about it, so I’ve included it here.
Here are some sheds sitting on a bend in the road that were once the premises of a small village business. There are interesting details, such as the concertina sheet metal doors, the home made sign using old 3d letters from car license plates that faded from use in the 1960’s, and rust has taken hold of the sheet metal and galvanised roof, but the site is still in use. I love this sort of thing. It’s a real gem.
For my watercolour and ink drawing I chose a viewpoint from the grass verge opposite, as I was interested in the ragged edges of the tin roof and the willow trees behind that framed the buildings nicely. Starting with a rough pencil guide, I laid muted watercolour washes working over them in places with mid toned and then darker black ink washes to achieve the muted effect, finishing with some black dry brush textures and a few lines. I titled the drawing ‘Stebbing 235’ after the old telephone number.
Only when I’d finished did I see that among the wild flowers in the verge were these bee orchids. Fab.
When the sun shines it seems to breathe life into the everyday, easily overlooked scene.
Being aware of this, some months ago I spotted this satisfying arrangement of trees and shrubs tumbling down the hillside, with a few poles and fences giving nice accents. Only needed some light and shade to model it I thought, preferably from the left.
This is the result of painting for an hour or so. There is usually a moment, when I’ve blocked everything in, when I look at it and decide it’s just terrible and I should tear it up in disgust and just get back in the car and drive away, after all who am I kidding, right? Then after putting one or two flicks and shadows in, the picture (usually) starts coming together. I may have left it a little late in the day, towards noon, when lower angled shadows might have been nice, but I’m quite pleased with the outcome. I was after the bright, spring sunshine look, rendered in a fresh and simple way.
These elevated beach huts are at Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast. I really liked the battered but defiant appearance, and the very cool colours. Out of those that were painted, it seemed like only one or two were a colour other than blue/pistachio/cream….
For my large sketch I was interested in the repetition of the shapes and colours, reduced
to strips and blocks by the perspective, but the kids playing on the sand make the scene.
Here are two watercolour sketches of cloud shadows rolling across the new spring crops.
The high hedges of Holly Grove Road wind their way to the Hertfordshire village of Bramfield, passing farm cottages on the right hand bend, in front of a large field of rapeseed in full flower.
An irresistible yellow when in full sun, in shade the crop can appear almost greenish.
The clutch of roof angles together with the contrast between the purple-grey slate and
the saturating yellow caught my attention. There are calm pastoral scenes
still to be found in today’s agricultural landscape, but these pumped-up, urgent and vibrant scenes are now commonplace and dominate today’s countryside.
On a Saturday morning in early March, the gently rolling fields near Tewin are silent, save for a light aircraft circling nearby and an early skylark rising to sing loudly behind me. The clouds pass by quickly, continuously changing shape, their shadows race across the land, throwing the field’s contours into contrast.
The tree covered green lane in full sun bends around and up to the wood, which is in full shadow just for a few seconds as cloud passes over.
In this watercolour the sun shines low in the sky. All is in shadow and at the top of the hill you can only really see bright light reflecting off the wet road, a small area of grass and shrubbery bathing in the sun’s intense warm glow and small specks of white light bouncing off of ivy leaves. There is no sound except for water flowing into the nearby ditch from a raised pipe.
More sparrowhawk action, this time at the bottom of the garden in the crook of cherry branches. This male was busy with his (obscured and unidentified) kill for twenty minutes or so, giving me the chance to attempt live sketches using binoculars. This was a bit awkward as I had to memorize what I was looking at and then draw it, then look through the glasses again. From the top of the page down you can see how I eventually got something lifelike and reasonably accurate… drawing around an abandoned sketch
of a sunning woodpigeon. Needs must.
Pheasants have a reputation for being a little dim, or slow, but maybe they’re just
cautious. This male dawdled across the road a few evenings back in between the four wheel drives and the farmer’s pick-ups. Slowly enough for me to have two attempts at capturing that swagger that says “I’m handsome and in control…oh wait, I could be roadkill here…best move it along…”
Rainham Marshes along the Thames, a dull Sunday afternoon. A peregrine surveys the marsh from high up on a pylon, with his back to the streamlined, 16 car Eurostar trains that whoosh by every few minutes. The ducks and waders roost on the banks of the lagoons, and a light pink blush washes into the blue grey cloud cover. As dusk approaches, the distant lights of industry become prominent towards the city
Sometimes you’re in the right place just at the right time. On a dull, wet and breezy January afternoon I parked up in a gateway to quickly sketch this ivy covered old oak, where the lane gently slopes away down the hill. A sparrowhawk came gliding past a few inches above the ground, following the centre line of the lane and on down out of site, and perhaps to suddenly fly up over the hedge to catch some unlucky small bird by surprise. I had been there barely five minutes.