Tag: watercolour

Spring lane

The lane winds downhill, right and left, and right again, then on up to the village.
The shadows from the copse throw themselves over the closely pruned hedge and across the field margin, dancing back and forth in the breeze. Walkers and horseriders are out enjoying this Saturday lunchtime stroll. This is one of those locations where there is plenty of potential for the landscape sketcher in
all seasons.

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.

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

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 …


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 thrill of it all

We all think the London Olympics were a triumph, and getting swept along on a wave of feel good olympic euphoria I went with my two grown-up kids to a once-in-a-lifetime morning session in the Olympic Stadium for some paralympic awesomeness.
As soon as you exited Stratford station the smiles and waving foam finger pointing began, and you couldn’t help but have a huge grin on your face by the time you got your morning coffee and blt sarnie. The xray security checkpoint guys were a little curious about my tin of watercolours though.

Once in the stadium, I made a pencil drawing of what I saw in front of me…but really only intended to scribble down a few lines, just enough so that when I put some colour on it later, I could suggest the excitement of just being there. I hope that comes across.


There is so much colour everywhere, this group of athletes, officials and camerapersons at the long jump add to the overall feeling of animation and vibrance in the stadium…
even in the shade of the funky spotlights…

Below is a photo of the velodrome looming like some huge, sleek vessel or craft of somekind.

I’d set out thinking I might do several drawings around the park, but it was just too hot with not much seating available in the shade. That isn’t to say the whole day wasn’t brilliant, it truly was.