Learning New Techniques in Watercolour

A Quiet Walk

Good morning everyone. This is the first quick watercolour I did from a little book I have just bought. ’30 Minute Landscapes ‘ by Paul Talbot- Greaves and I can thoroughly recommend it. Actually, I had a couple of recommendations from friends. And as Paul is a brilliant, local artist, I thought I would treat myself and support him too! As you may know, I use watercolour paint for little plein air sketches. But I’m really self taught and I started to feel a bit dissatisfied with the direction my paintings were taking. So, I was ready to learn and experiment with new techniques.

To be more specific, in this sketch I learned how to make the last layer of background recede in a subtle way. That is, by adding a wash of light red plus cobalt blue over the base colour. Also, I understood the importance of using increasingly small brushes for the branches and twigs of the tree.

Down the Lane

Next I tried my hand at this sunlit, summer scene and I really enjoyed the challenge of portraying trees loaded with foliage. In this exercise Paul taught me how to put down the first wash of green with other colours subtly mixed in. For example, sap green, lemon yellow and ultramarine blue. Surprisingly, this makes the end result (after adding more layers) more vibrant. In addition, I tried stippling darker colours into the mass of leaves to show shade. Of course, you use the tip of the brush to dot the paint on. In fact, I was delighted with these two exercises and I can’t wait to attempt more . And I think this studying is changing the way I paint my own subjects – in a good way. What do you think?

Putting New Techniques into Practice

Down by the Bridge

If you would like to see more of my quick sketches, there’s loads on my Instagram margaret hall fine art

New Portrait of my Allotment

The Discovery Apples

Good morning everyone. This is my latest portrait of my allotment. Actually, I just realised that the little watercolour sketches that I do are really portraits. And they seem to me to show different facets of something that I love, very much like artists paint a loved one over and over.

In this particular painting I wanted to make a record of how the fiery red Discovery apples glow. And can be glimpsed through the gap in the hedge that separates two sections of the allotment garden. As you can see, the Brussel sprouts plants are going from strength to strength. Also the leeks in front of them are putting on lots of leaves before the winter comes. In fact, both of these plants will stand over the winter and, hopefully, provide fresh veg till spring.

Can you spot the gardener, weeding the few summer cabbages that remain? Incidentally, I make this figure nice and vague. Because I like to think that it represents both me and my husband, as we both look after the garden. You can see the gardener in this acrylic painting here too.

This Year’s Portraits of my Allotment

Picking the Blackcurrant Crop
Oriental Poppy Flowers going Over
Dreaming of Summer

Well, this last image shows how I sat in the fairly bare winter scene, And dreamed of beautiful mauve flowers! There’s another idealised portrait based on reality here, showing how I think of the time I spend in the garden. But, in reality, we work very hard here. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Trying Out Two New Watercolours

Wandering

Good morning everyone. Firstly I’d like to show you this little abstract I did in my sketchbook. And it was very much a quick, watercolour sketch done between chores with my travel paint set. However, it was also my first chance to try out two new watercolours, Mauve and Payne’s Gray. Actually, I’ve been doing a bit of research on watercolour technique. And I read that Payne’s Gray is a much better choice for a really dark dark, if you know what I mean! Also, it doesn’t seem to muddy the colour mix either, which I was having a problem with when I used black. In addition, I chose to use Mauve in this painting too, which is new for me. And I loved it – the colours seem so fresh and glowing! I wonder if you see the same scene as me- two figures in a cave?

Anyway, this is what my subconscious came up with, seemingly without much intellectual output from me! But, when I’d finished it, I turned it round all four ways, and I liked this one too. Incidentally, do you see anything in this one? You can see more of my intuitive abstracts here.

The Entrance

Finally, if I want to use new watercolours when I’m out and about, I’ll have to sort out the colours in my little paint set or carry extra tubes. Which could be quite awkward. Ideally I need something with more space for colours and larger areas to mix washes. And, at the same time stay compact enough to manage on my knee! Has anyone any good recommendations for this impossible ask?

My Travel Set of Watercolours

Wentworth Woodhouse Garden in September

The Path down to the Big House

Good morning everyone. I painted this view of the big house when we spent a few hours in Wentworth Woodhouse Garden , see here. And what a delightful place it is! However, this sight was a complete surprise. Because this is actually the original mansion, and the grander facade on the other side is the larger house that was built on to it. Who knew? Actually, the other side with its impressive carriage drive approach is the longest range of buildings in England. And that includes all our royal palaces. Really built to impress!

This quick phone snap shows you the real life view and we reached this point after a lovely stroll around the park. And there are plenty points of interest. For example, one of the follies carefully placed in the garden was this Ionic Temple. And it’s a quite convincing copy of a classical monument.

In fact, it looked good from all angles, but I chose to sketch the statue on the plinth. Incidentally, this is a representation of the Greek hero Hercules, fighting a mythical creature with his bare hands. Plus a hefty looking club.

Hercules in the Ionic Temple

The Camelia House in Wentworth Woodhouse Garden

Before I finish, I must just mention the Camelia House, now in a very dilapidated state and the subject of a fund raising campaign. But the camelia bushes are still growing and they are the oldest in the UK. And the original purpose of the building was the Duchess’ tearoom, when she entertained the guests of her husband, the Prime Minister in 1765. But, quite apart from that, I can’t resist painting my version of this intriguing building in Wentworth Woodhouse Garden. So, watch this space!

As you might have realised if you look at my blog, I am very fortunate to live in a part of the world where there are lots of beautiful historical places to visit.

Perhaps you might also like to see my visit to Melbourne Hall here.

New Intuitive Abstract in Acrylic

Flight

Good morning everyone. This is the first intuitive abstract in acrylic that I’ve painted in a long time. That is, apart from a few doodles. But I do know why I didn’t – I was trying to concentrate on landscapes for a couple of months. Actually, I was following the advice of my online tutor, Rod Moore and I think it’s sound. Apparently, studying and practicing one subject and medium leads to more progress. And I think it’s true. But, I was having too many withdrawal symptoms and missing creating abstract composition. So I had to paint this one!

A Closeup of my Abstract in Acrylic

Flight – a closeup

In fact, I had been getting ideas all along for combinations of colours and shapes for an abstract in acrylic. So, I retrieved this idea of interlocking gears from my memory archive. And combined it with a soft colour scheme of misty blues, greens and pinks. Although I followed my usual method of painting from all four angles, the pink figure emerged, and is determined to make its way out of the picture. I’m sure this is another example of art therapy!

A Doodle Abstract in Mixed Media

A mixed media abstract

Finally, here’s one of the aforementioned doodles, this time in biro and pastels. And, I definitely felt better when I’d done it! See more abstracts in this post here.

As you may know, all my artwork is for sale at reasonable prices. Just go to the Contact Me page and email me for more details. ‘Flight’ is acrylic on canvas board, 12 by 15.5 inches, unframed, and I’m letting it go at £50 plus shipping. Affordable art!

Last of the Summer Days

View from Sandal Castle

Good morning everyone. Well, summer is officially over now and there are signs of autumn showing. But, on one of the last of the summer days last week, we had our morning coffee break at Sandal Castle. Only 15 minutes drive away, and the weather was heavenly!

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about the castle. Just a few of the walls remain but they are quite impressive on the top of a mound on a hill. So the location is significant and played an important role in the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century. Just think Richard the Third. See here for more details.

Anyway, what attracted me was the glorious yellow colour of the fields in the landscape. And the juxtaposition of the old stonework and the modern housing at the bottom of the slope. Of course, I know you can’t see the ruins. But, I promise I will do a plein air watercolour painting of the castle soon. Meanwhile, here’s one of my favourite acrylic paintings of summer days, from a while ago, sunny Jamaica.

Reggae, Reggae

Finally, if you missed seeing this before, here is my imaginary scene of a sunny day nearer to home.

Painting a Castle in Ruins

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

Good morning everyone. Well, this is the last of the watercolour sketches that I managed to do on my little holiday in Derbyshire. And we went to the English Heritage site at Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire to look around the castle in ruins. In fact, the castle was built in the 15th century and deliberately partially demolished during the Civil war in 1648. However, enough of the shape of the buildings remains so that you can imagine the life that was lived there.

Actually, the weather was unseasonably cool for August, and the light levels were low. So I had to exaggerate the shadows a bit, as I sat underneath a huge old tree to sketch. And we were looking across at the Medieval Great Hall – that’s in the centre of the picture. To the right is just the edge of the huge kitchen tower. Incidentally, there is a tunnel connecting the kitchen to the hall. Just to make sure the food doesn’t arrive at the table too cold! If you want to know, the building on the right was the chapel. Perhaps you may know that this castle was one of the settings for the novel ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott in 1819. As I’ve not read the book , I can’t tell you much more, apart from the fact that Ivanhoe was a medieval knight.

Another Castle, not in Ruins

From a painting by John Piper

Now, just to finish off with, this is a real castle, not in ruins. As I recall, we picked up a postcard in Renishaw Hall, a painting by John Piper, one of my favourite artists. Incidentally, this is my version in acrylic. And, if you want to look at a folly in my own local area, see here for another plein air sketch.

Beautiful Garden at Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire

The Birdcage Arbour

Good morning everyone. This is another of the little watercolour sketches I did on my hols in Derbyshire. In fact, it’s a sketch of the Birdcage arbour in the beautiful garden of Melbourne Hall. And we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there, despite the cool, drizzly weather. Unfortunately, the house itself wasn’t open, but the garden was not a disappointment at all. If you’d like to know, it was designed in the style of Le Notre as a formal French garden. And I chose this view, looking down the gently sloped lawns to the pond. Of course the viewpoint was the ornamental arbour, known as the Birdcage, for obvious reasons. Incidentally, it’s made of wrought iron, constructed to mimic wood, as in the originals in French chateau gardens.

The Birdcage Arbour, a photo from the brochure

As I was sitting on a lovely French style park bench, the slight drizzle turned into a downpour, so I quickly packed up my paints. And we ran for cover under a spectacular tunnel made of a double row of ancient yew trees. Honestly, we were bone dry under that gloomy, atmospheric canopy. However, the rain dried up and I went back to my bench to finish off my painting.

The Other Melbourne

Well, I should of course say the first Melbourne! Because the larger, more famous Melbourne in Australia was named in honour of our Lord Melbourne from this town in Derbyshire, UK. And, as you may know, this chap was Prime Minister to Queen Victoria in 1837. But, that’s another story!

And this is just one of my phone snaps that I plan to paint now I’m back home. But, that is no where near as much fun as painting in situ, en plein air (just to say it in French!)

A View over Melbourne Hall Gardens

And if you want to see a similar bird cage, in a very different context, see my painting ‘The Caged Bird’ in my gallery here.

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