My Brand New Bright Watercolours

Pumpkin Time

Good morning everyone. How do you like my brand new bright watercolours? Actually, that’s my little joke, because they aren’t brand new at all! Well, I was getting so fed up with the pale colours on my plein air quick sketches, see here.

So I looked a few things up on the internet, and found out that my paints should be ok. Because they are reasonable UK brands. Also, the paper is decent quality, but I’m working on finding something a bit better. Then I tried to remember not to muddy the colours too much. Eventually, I even started using gouache colours for their brightness, but I really prefer watercolours for on the spot sketching. Anyway, I decided to try something I read in a few posts and articles. And that is really wetting the pans of colour with lots of drops of water ( from a water brush). Then I waited ten minutes and painted two examples, this one being an imaginary landscape.

New Improved Bright Watercolours

View over the Bay

By the way, my Australian tutor Rod Moore encourages us to paint from imagination to help develop composition skills. But I’ll talk about that in another post. Next, I just had to do a little abstract doodle to test the colours again!

Another Purple and Yellow Abstract

As you can see, these are very bright watercolours. But, just a word of caution, let the paints absorb all the water before taking the box out on a sketch trip. If not, it will leak all over your bag! Perhaps you knew all this already, however it’s new to me. And, I’m very glad I read this advice on line.

Finally, I gave this new system a proper road test this weekend when I went to the allotment. After working hard all day watering, picking and tidying, I just had to do a quick 30 minute sketch. Can you see the pumpkins and the scarlet flowers on the runner bean plants? Happy painting!

Pumpkin Time

My Sketchbooks Over the Years

The View from Patterdale Hotel

Good morning everyone. In my last post I showed you little watercolour sketches from my sketchbooks. And it got me thinking about how many sketchbooks I had filled over the years. Quite a few! So, I looked through one or two and found plenty that I drew whilst on holiday in the Lake District.

For example, this one is a view over to the hills from the garden at the front of Patterdale Hotel, near Ullswater. Actually, we used to stay here once or twice a year, pre pandemic. Unfortunately, I still don’t feel brave enough yet to stay in an hotel. Anyway, the views all around are spectacular. And it was very tempting to sketch while sitting on the patio garden with a cold drink after a walk in the hills.

Place Fell, from Patterdale Hotel

Well, this is another view from the garden, the majestic Place Fell, which rises to 2154 ft. How could you not draw this? If you’re wondering where the lake is, this view shows the end of the lake, which is rather boggy and soon floods after heavy rain. These two paintings from my sketchbooks are about three or four years old, but, look what else I found! A very similar sort of landscape from 2003. And, I have some even older! How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!

A Lake View

Please note, these are all plein air sketches done in 25 to 40 minutes, to capture the moment and they are 7 by 5 inches. If you wish to see a white cottage view in the Lakes, all neatly finished off, see here.

Plein Air Painting in Cumbria

Inside Brougham Hall

Good morning everyone. We are just back from a short break in the Lake District, UK, where I managed to fit in some plein air painting. And we visited this lovely place here- Brougham Hall, pronounced ‘Broom’, apparently! Of course, quite a lot of it is in ruins now. But a friends group (volunteers) look after it, on a small budget. And they are managing a long project of restoration. However, it is quite charming and I sat in the courtyard cafe here and did this watercolour sketch. Actually, you can see the well which provided the castle’s water, the structure in bottom right.

In fact, on that day we were spoilt for choice. Because we spent the rest of the day visiting another castle and not one but two henges. In case you didn’t know they are the remains of earthwork structures constructed in Prehistoric times. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly why they were created. So, it’s all guesswork from there onwards. But, you can let your imagination run wild about what they were used for. Most likely meeting places of some kind, but, very evocative and intriguing!

A Plein Air Sketch of a Lake

Haweswater

Next day it was misty and drizzly, so we drove to Haweswater, a lake up on the high ground. And they enlarged this stretch of water to provide a reservoir of drinking water for Manchester. However, to achieve this they flooded the land near the top of the lake. And in my sketch here I painted the remains of the village buildings that are usually under water. After all, this has been the driest summer for years in the UK. Anyway, I tried very hard to show the misty atmosphere. But I stopped sketching when I realised I subtly changed the lighting , as it naturally happened! Obviously one of the challenges of plein air painting.

Just to remind you, I painted both of these watercolour sketches on the spot and quite quickly. So, by no means are they finished paintings. If you want to see studio painted landscapes, have a look at the landscapes in my Gallery here.

A Holiday in the Dales

Kilnsey Crag

Good morning everyone. We have just arrived home from a holiday in the Dales. That’s the Yorkshire Dales, UK, a peaceful, fairly unspoilt rural area about an hour and a half from my home. Anyway, we drove up to Kilnsey Crag, and sat on a bench overlooking the trout fishing ponds. And I attempted to capture a bit of the ridge rising up to the skyline. Actually, the most impressive part, the sheer drop of the crag is a bit more difficult to get to. So, that’s for another time!

Quiet Churchyard in Grassington

Actually, this watercolour sketch is not quite finished, but I’ll show it anyhow. Well, we spent the afternoon in Grassington, a town which is always very full of tourists. However, we found a peaceful spot to sit for a while. And I painted away, lost in my thoughts, until the rain made us move away.

Clitheroe Castle Keep

Finally, we spent a lovely day in Clitheroe on this holiday in the dales. And I couldn’t resist painting the imposing ruin of the castle keep. Amazingly, I wasn’t alone – there was a local art group there to keep me company! Perhaps you think that I make a habit of going on holiday in order to paint castles! And, you may be right – see this post here. By the way, these are plein air watercolour sketches, completed on site in roughly 40 minutes.

Some Beautiful Old Stone Buildings

Kirkham Priory

Good morning everyone. I thought I would show you the last of the three watercolour sketches I did on our mini holiday. ( See the other two here) Perhaps you have noticed how much I love painting old stone buildings. So, here’s another one! In fact, I did this as we were driving home from the coast. And we stopped for an hour to eat a sandwich at Kirkham Priory, a beautiful ruin looked after by English Heritage. Well, this was the view from the picnic table and we we were in the old gatehouse. Obviously, I couldn’t resist sketching this section of the massive wall and a glimpse through the door. Meanwhile, my husband walked around the site with a guidebook, trying to imagine the splendid buildings as they once were.

Conisbrough Castle

Actually, we seem to do a lot of this, trying to imagine what old stone buildings once looked like. But, just to show you the exception to the rule, here is the keep at Conisbrough castle which is completely restored. As I recall, when we visited in November last year, we saw all three floors. Then we climbed up to the viewing platform at the top, to see a glorious view over the town. If you want to see another historic English castle, see this post here.

A Day by the Sea

North Landing, Flamborough

Good morning everyone. We’ve just spent a lovely few days by the sea. And I painted this quick watercolour sketch looking down at North Landing Bay at Flamborough on the Yorkshire coast. Although it looks deserted in my sketch, there were actually some families playing on the beach. And the snack bar was open and doing a roaring trade. Also, a small boat came back to the shore, with a few crates of fish. Then they pulled the boat up the ramp to the boat house. After I had finished my sketch, (about 30 minutes) we walked a short way along the cliff path on the headland. Actually, we were looking out for puffins, but they were all hiding! What a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

In fact, I had paddled in the sea on the beach at Scarborough that morning, in freezing cold water. And when I got back to the flat I decided to do an intuitive abstract. So I painted an impression of the movement of the water, as the tide receded around my feet. If you look at this post here from last year, you’ll see another sketch of this coast.

The Tide

Two Birds in One Week

Royal Tern, inspired by Shari Blaukopf

Good morning everyone. This is a cheeky little bird I painted from a good tutorial by Shari Blaukopf in the Karen Abend ‘Sketchbook Revival ‘ series. And it was great fun, so that makes two birds in one week! (More of that later). Anyway, the reference photo and the tuition were excellent, and I learnt how to make the feathers look more realistic. Hopefully the bird then doesn’t seem too ‘solid’, a pitfall I have fallen into sometimes. In the case of this watercolour sketch, things were a bit more tricky because of the windy weather. Perhaps you can see that the wing and breast feathers are ruffled up into a fluffy ball by the breeze. In fact, the bit I am most proud of is the effect of the reflections of the legs. Unfortunately, I know nothing about the bird itself, how about you?

The Reflections

Two Birds in One Week

A Mallard

Well, I did say two birds, so this is the other one! Actually, there were plenty of birds to spot on our quiet walk around the Dearne Valley Country Park . But this one very obligingly stood still for me to do a quick pencil sketch, as we sat in front of the small lake. By the way, we did go to see the bluebell display in the ancient woodland. And, Nature didn’t disappoint – I really love this time of year. ( You could see more of my bird sketches in this post here . )

Painting Houses for our Street

John Knox House

Good morning everyone. On Tuesday evening at our art society meeting we started a new project – painting houses for ‘our’ street. In fact, we are each taking a sheet of paper and painting or drawing a house or building. Then we will make a folding, concertina book of our street. Actually, we do a group project like this once or twice a year. And, it feels very good to be involved in something together. Especially a book which we can enjoy looking at and showing off afterwards.

Anyway, I chose this scene as my contribution – I’m guessing it’s in Edinburgh, Scotland (image from Unsplash). If you’ve got very good eyesight, the placard reads John Knox House. And now the original dwelling serves as a museum, no doubt telling the story of this religious leader in the 1500’s.

John Knox House – a closeup

As you can see in this image, I applied the paint lightly and delicately in a watercolour technique, but it was actually gouache paint. Usually with gouache I layer it on thickly and use lots of white paint to achieve that gorgeous chalky look. Instead, I painted wet on wet and encouraged the paint to be more transparent. And here are some houses in gouache, using the thicker technique.

Painting Houses in Gouache

Harbour in Norway

As I was looking at all the photos of my paintings, I realised I had actually painted loads of houses and other buildings. So, that gave me the idea to make a section for them in my gallery here – I let you know when it’s ready. Meanwhile, there are more houses here and here.

White House in the Valley

White House in the Valley

Good morning everyone. This is my latest acrylic painting and I chose a view of a white house in a valley for my inspiration. Actually, this is based on watercolour sketches I made in the Lake District, Cumbria in the UK. In fact, we used to go once a year, usually in spring or autumn. But we haven’t been in a while. Fortunately, looking at my sketches brings back lots of happy memories. For example, I did the two sketches I based this on whilst sitting in the hotel beergarden. A nice cool drink was just perfect after a days walking. And, as you can see, the views were spectacular.

Patterdale, sketch looking left
Patterdale, sketch looking right

Anyway, I also drew on my own memory to create this, remembering the varied colour and texture of the vegetation on the slopes. By the way, lots of the older buildings are painted white in this region. And they do stand out very picturesquely in these views over the rolling expanse of hills.

I seem to quite enjoy painting a white house, as you can see in this post here and here. All my paintings are for sale at reasonable prices. So if you see something you like, just go to the Contact Me page and send me an email for more details.

Some New Small Sketchbook Abstracts

Good morning everyone. Well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t seem to have much time to start on big projects lately. So, I thought I would show you some of the small sketchbook abstracts I managed to squeeze into my busy days. Actually, I find it quite a comfort to grab the nearest small sketchbook, relax in my armchair and paint!

Just Breathe

However, this first one started life as a rapid ink sketch, intuitive really. Then watercolour, but this time I made an effort to keep the colours very clean. That is to say, adding glazes on top of the three basic colours to add tone, instead of creating mixes on the palette. Also, having seen something online about adding depth to abstract shapes, I tried to think of them as 3d objects. Incidentally, this is very pleasurable to try. In fact, I’ve just realised these small sketchbook abstracts are arty experiments, as well as being good for stress management.

Watercolour pencil experiment

As you can see, this small sketch book abstract has been built using watercolour pencils. Actually, I haven’t played around with these for ages and I was considering taking them on an outdoor sketch trip. So I wanted to remind myself how easy it is achieve quick, bright colour. Obviously, it is very easy and so I took a couple of pencils with me when we went to the Danum museum, before Christmas. And I really enjoyed using them.

Objects in Doncaster Museum

Above all, I really love painting intuitive abstracts, whether they are small or larger, like this one in this post here.

Castles, Palaces and Stately Homes

Once upon a Time

Good morning everyone. At this week’s meeting for our art society, we are having a Studio evening. By that we mean an opportunity to sit and paint together and have a bit of a chat. And the theme for the night is ‘Castles, Palaces and Stately Homes’, in any painting media and style. Of course, this is only a suggestion for inspiration and members often bring their own work to continue instead. But we find that it’s sometimes helpful to concentrate the mind that way.

Conisbrough Castle

The Keep

This is a quick watercolour sketch I painted in September and my intention was to show the huge, overwhelming feeling of standing at the base of the castle keep.

The Fairy Tale Castle

After a painting by John Piper

Actually, I really enjoyed painting this acrylic a while back, taking inspiration from one of my favourite artists – John Piper. But I gave it my own spin and emphasised the out of this world magical quality of it (I hope!)

Castles, Palaces and Stately Homes

Calke Abbey

As you may know, I spent a week this August in Derbyshire and saw a few beautiful old buildings. Including this imposing stately home, Calke Abbey which was rather forbidding in real life, built in greyish stone. Now, that could be a real challenge! However, I’ll show you how I get on later.

If you like looking at English stately homes see this post here.

Going Out Sketching in Wakefield

The huge sandstone cathedral towered above me, when going out sketching in Wakefield.
A Modern Madonna and Child in Wakefield Cathedral

Good morning everyone. This is just a quick post to update you on my plein air sketching. And we spent a lovely morning, going out sketching in Wakefield. Actually, I was with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire and it was great to see everyone after a long break.

Well, the city is full of characterful streets and imposing buildings. So we headed straight for the cathedral and me and my art buddy found a little wall to sit on. Luckily, the cathedral precinct was a little quieter than the main streets. And I particularly liked being so close to the huge building. In fact, that’s what I tried to capture in the watercolour sketch – the stone work towering above me.

The Side Door

After about fifteen minutes we had enough of the battering gusts of wind, blowing round the building. So, I slapped some colour on the pen sketch and we went for a coffee in the octagonal shaped cathedral cafe.

The Modern Madonna and Child

As I recall, there was almost too much to choose from in the beautiful church. But, my eye was caught by this modern statue and I found it was very moving. Somehow it reminded me of what’s really important in this changing world – the love of family and friends.

If you like looking at sketches of English churches, see this post here and here.

Autumn Harvest in the Garden

The autumn harvest in the walled garden, some big, bright orange pumpkins.
Big Pumpkins

Good morning everyone. I painted this watercolour sketch of the autumn harvest a week ago in Wortley Hall walled garden. Actually, it’s one of our new favourite things to do – walk round and inspect all the crops! Also, we chat to the volunteer gardeners given half a chance. And ask about planting, pest deterrent and so on, only fascinating to fellow mad gardeners!

Anyway, the pumpkins were a triumph, and the earth around them was quite bare. Because all the luxuriant growth of their stems and leaves were withered away, having given their strength to the fruit. And you can see the drying green runner beans on their bamboo supports in the background. Perhaps the red bush beside them is amaranthus – I’m not quite sure. But the nasturtiums right up front, left side are in their prime. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get mine to flourish for a few years. When they do, we eat the peppery leaves in salads and make a pickle from the seed pods, like capers. Quite a good autumn harvest, I think.

Our Autumn Harvest, this time Last Year

A quick pencil sketch of three pumpkins, ripening on the soil.
Three Pumpkins

Perhaps you may remember this quick pencil sketch I did last year, showing some of our pumpkins ripening on the soil. Incidentally, this year’s harvest was even better . And we’ve already started enjoying my favourite, pumpkin soup. On a different note, have a look at this post here for glorious autumn colour in the leaves of trees. In effect, quite a beautiful time of year here in the north of England.

Painting Buildings – Real and Virtual

Cityscape

Good morning, everyone. I thought I’d do a little catch up post. Because I’m producing lots of small drawings and paintings at the moment, including painting buildings. Rather than big projects and I suppose that doing Inktober 2021 is partly to blame for that. ( It’s all on my Instagram @margarethallfineart)

Anyway, I really enjoyed doing this quick, virtual urban sketch, thanks to the challenge set by @tobyurbansketch. Actually, I don’t know the location of this photo, but the idea is to imagine that you’re on the spot. Then sketch quickly and fluently, spending the same time on it that you would in the field. In fact, for me that’s about 40 minutes. In this way, you can try to retain the freshness and not overwork it. By the way, this way of urban sketching was very popular during lockdowns, for obvious reasons.

Painting Buildings in the Garden

The Little Shed

In contrast, I was actually here on the spot for this sketch, nothing virtual about it! In effect, we have three sheds, a greenhouse and a polytunnel in our allotment. So, I always have plenty of material to paint, not to mention the plants and the crops. Have a look at this post here, for more garden buildings.

Although you might not notice, I can definitely see some improvements in my watercolour sketching now. Because studying techniques in any styles and paints usually does pay off. For example, I’m pleased with the way I’ve achieved more fluidity in the sky and foliage here. Although I’ve spotted a tendency to push the paint around like I used to, if I don’t concentrate. So, more practice required, I think – but, that’s the fun part!

The Little Shed – a closeup

A Windmill House in Watercolour

The Windmill House

Good morning, everyone. This is the windmill house in Wentworth village, painted in plein air on a sketchtrip in September. At least, I painted the main part of it outdoors. But, as conditions weren’t great, we dashed off to the garden centre cafe for coffee and a chat. This image below is the first draft that I did outside.

The Windmill House – the first draft

Actually, I was quite pleased with this and I tried to use the techniques I have been learning about recently. However, as we were standing in a field of rough pasture and nettles, behind a 5 foot wall, it wasn’t ideal ! Anyway, at home later that day, I tried to think ‘ plein air sketching ‘ and not paint the picture to death!

The History of the Windmill House

Most of the land and the buildings in Wentworth village were built and are still owned by the Wentworth Estate. And this is now separate from the big house Wentworth Woodhouse, just around the corner from this lane. Perhaps you may remember this post here, where I reported on my visit to the mansion gardens. In fact, the family built this mill here on Clayfield Lane in 1745, obviously to process flour from the grain grown on the estate. Of course, it is now a private dwelling in a charming cottage garden, giving pleasure to everyone who walks by. To be honest, the whole village is full of picturesque views. And, I don’t think this will be the last sketch trip we will make to Wentworth village.

The Windmill House – a closeup

Watercolour Experiment in Autumn Colours

Autumn Wood

Good morning everyone. This watercolour experiment started off as a doodle really, then I began testing out different ways of manipulating the paint. After studying Paul Talbot-Greaves’ lovely book, I realised that I needed to practise techniques. And, by making a sample sheet, rather than a ‘proper’ painting so that I felt free to play. And, it definitely worked! So, here you can see wet-in-wet, stippling, spattering, dry brushing dripping and, hopefully, more movement of paint. However, it’s not in my nature not to put a bit of a story into my painting. Consequently, it became a walk in a wood at autumn time. Actually, the choices of colours and shapes must have come from my subconscious.

Autumn Wood, a closeup

In fact, I found this exercise very useful and I think I shall be a bit more confident now when painting in watercolour. Honestly, I wasn’t using enough paint or making it wet enough, so things had to change!

Last Year’s Watercolour Experiment in Autumn Colours

Lovely Autumn Day

Really, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season than to sit and drink in the atmosphere of a beautiful autumn day. And then to paint a memory.

You could see more of last year’s autumn plein air watercolour sketches in this post here. And, don’t forget, all my work is for sale at reasonable prices. Just go to the Contact Me page and send me an email for more details.

Painting Outdoors in Late Summer

Longshaw Estate

Good morning everyone. This is just a catch up post where I’m showing you some of the watercolour sketches I did whilst painting outdoors. In fact, the weather this year was very kind to us artists. And I spent quite a lot of time sitting quietly, painting the view. Sheer bliss! So, this the view over the rough pasture to the pond at Longshaw Estate in Derbyshire, UK. Now the pond is man made and designed to be seen as you leave the formal garden and take the path to the stream. Actually, I’m not sure whether this is the pool for boating or swimming – there are two! But, as you can see, it’s idyllic and right on the edge of the moors.

While I painted this little scene I tried to use some of the techniques I’ve been studying. In particular, I wanted to show the contrast of light and shade in the trees behind the water. Not all that easy on a low sunlight day. Also, I used a gentle touch with the reflections on the water, which were very subtle.

Painting Outdoors at Cannon Hall

The Small Glasshouse at Cannon Hall

Lastly, we also went to Cannon Hall on a warm, sunny day and we sat in the shade in the formal garden. And I had another attempt at portraying the glass panes of the little greenhouse. And the effect is a bit more lifelike, I feel, (see here for another attempt!) Incidentally, this is where the 200 year old grapevine lives, but that’s another story!

A Flower Abstract in Watercolour

Coleus Abstract

Good morning everyone. It’s just a short post for you today about this flower abstract composition. Actually, it was a couple of weeks ago that we went to Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire.

And we sat in the formal garden a hot late summer’s day in the shade, next to a beautiful display of red coleus.

Fortunately, I had my plein air sketching set in my bag. So I spent a blissful half hour doodling shapes and colours whilst looking at the flowers. And, the result was this flower abstract. What a lovely memory this painting brings me!

If you want to see another ‘flower memory’, look here.

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!

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