Tag: painting outdoors

Rolling shadows

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.


After rain

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…”terling-jan-17-2014-sketchbook-pencil

Raptor express

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
behind me.

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.hawk-gliding-down-the-lane

Recent Sketches

Although this is a pencil sketch, the pattern of light and shade through the oaks,
with greens and oranges setting off the blue road were the attractions here.


Something very satisfying about all the shapes and textures in something like this.
Drawn at the end of the afternoon, still mild with some weak sunshine, while House
Martins wheeled above, catching flies on the wing on their way South.


A view across the Thames at Rainham Marshes. So much potential in places like this.
A quiet and still late afternoon, sun almost gone. Watercolour over pencil drawn
while best bud Roj Whitlock photographed.

Shadow play

Here are some re-workings of some recent sketchbook pencil drawings reproduced in ink – with a little scratching out– using as big a brush as possible, aiming for that “just casually arrived on the page” look.



Down by the river, lined with willows and reeds, umbellifers and nettles. Cars and vans park up wherever there is space. Not a picturesque horse and cart, sure, but I find including the modern and mechanical describes today’s heavily industrialised agricultural landscape. On the field side, the tree has not been allowed to encroach on farm machinery and has been trimmed back, giving an open right angle underneath it. Conveniently, this acts as a frame for the white van, and the high tonal contrast helps provide a
focus here.


The white van under the dark tree attracted me here

In this picture I was attracted by the shadows of the trees across the road. The barn was black,
the door was red. There was no sound. I went a little ‘nuclear summer’ with the colours, but hey…


A quiet, still summer afternoon shattered by my choice of colours!

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.

Quiet Places

On a sunny spring day in the UK, there are many colours and sounds that take you back, sometimes to childhood, sometimes just to last year. This bench is where I’ve had many
a strategy meeting or just a gossip over a cup of coffee, or tea and a sandwich. Like an outdoor conference room. These days it’s a place of quiet reflection on what is gone, and what can be.

With so much visual excitement, the riot of orange on the Berberis, the pink and green of the flowering blackcurrant, the golden conifers thrown forward by the copper beech tree in the background, I couldn’t resist a quick rendering of the scene. It was all too easy to get distracted and want to include everything. I started to fiddle. This is invariably fatal with watercolour, laying a wash and getting its value right first time is a hard lesson to learn. Still, I was only really interested in the journey past the shrubs and across the recently mown, sun drenched lawn, down to the bench beyond the long grass.
A quiet place, and a very personal picture.

the-benchAcross from the bench, in the far corner of the garden, is a neglected old toolshed.
The door has been nailed shut, and the ivy is overgrowing it, now even creeping across the broken window.
I was really attracted to the colour combination of the neighbour’s cherry blossom against the clear blue sky, the dark reds of the cherry plum tree and the fresh greens of the suckering cherry saplings in the foreground (no garden boundaries recognised by this tree). I’ve been meaning to do something with this for a couple of years now. The effect I was after was that of dappled sunlight and shade in a busy corner, but painting suggestively, without detail at all. I’m quite pleased with this one…forthright but restrained. I’ll even forgive myself for using pure cerulean …


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