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!
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.
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.
Above all, I really love painting intuitive abstracts, whether they are small or larger, like this one in this post here.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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?
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Finally, if you missed seeing this before, here is my imaginary scene of a sunny day nearer to home.
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
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.
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.
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.
Good morning everyone. As you may remember, I spent a few days in Derbyshire last week. And I managed to fit in quite a bit of sketching, including at this World Heritage Site, Cromford Mill. Perhaps you’ve heard of it – I had too but it didn’t look anything like I had imagined. In fact, it was quaint and very sketchable. Actually, this part of the complex is the original mill and it dates back to 1771. Incidentally, it was the first successful cotton spinning mill ever to be driven by water, so no wonder the complex is a World Heritage Site.
The founder, Sir Richard Arkwright is credited as inventing the first factory system, bringing workers together in one large building. And also providing housing nearby in Cromford village. But, as you might guess, my main interest was in the pleasing views I could sketch. And I really liked the juxtaposition of the old mill building and the even older limestone crag. I spent about thirty minutes on the watercolour sketch. Then I felt like my eyes needed a rest, so we had good coffee and cake in the courtyard cafe. Sometimes I realize that I benefit from taking a break from a painting, even a quick one. Then, I can see it clearer, and, in this case, add a bit of pen and ink for emphasis. What a lovely way to spend a few hours!
If you want to see more sketches from this trip, see here.
Good morning everyone. Well, we just got back yesterday from a few days holiday in Derbyshire, UK. And, it was very pleasant indeed! So, I thought I’d show you some of the quick sketching I did. Actually, I painted this yesterday afternoon when we were visiting Calke Abbey, an old stately home managed by the National Trust. To be honest, we chose not to go on the tour of the house, although I’m sure it was fascinating. But we are still being a bit cautious about indoor spaces at present. However, the estate, park and gardens were very impressive.
Part of the Walled Garden
As you can see, this section of the walled garden was laid out with delightful flower beds and very healthy looking tree ferns. But for us the best bit was the vegetable garden and the fruit trees. And we admired a medlar tree in full fruit and the most bright orange pumpkins we have ever seen! Then we walked out through one of the lovely arched entrances. Fortunately, there was a very well placed bench for me to sit on, where I quite happily spent almost an hour watercolour sketching.
Quick Sketching in the Walled Garden
To tell you the truth, I had just read an article in my art magazine about keeping plein air sketches simple. So I immediately put it into practice and followed the three steps. Firstly, make an accurate sketch using light pencil strokes. Then draw over the lines in ink – without following them too carefully. After erasing most of the pencil marks, next add colour. And, it’s nowhere as easy as it sounds! Especially the add the colour bit – but it did simplify and speed up the process. Finally, back in the cottage, I took a good look at it and just added a few more darks. In fact, I think I needed that bit of time and distance to assess it. And add the finishing touches to my quick sketching.
Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to write you a quick post about sketches from life – something I love to do. Especially when the weather is kind ! Actually, this image is from a sketchtrip we went on two weeks ago. And we went to our local town park, which is a lovely, green space in the middle of an urban environment. So, here I am trying to show the patterns of light and shade, cast by the well established trees. Normally, the contrast between light and dark can be quite muted in Britain. But, on this particular day the sun was very bright and the patches of shadow were very dense.
Please bear in mind that I painted this plein air sketch quickly and instinctively. Honestly, this type of sketching is more about practising observation and recording the occasion, and less about producing a finished, complete painting. Incidentally, I’m a member of an Urbansketchers group, and our intention is to ‘ record the world, one sketch at a time’.
Sketches from Life at Pot House Hamlet
Perhaps you remember that we went sketching at Pot House Hamlet in Silkstone village recently. And I had the chance to paint a goat and some chickens (see here). Well, the place is so picturesque that I had to go back and capture this scene at the entrance to the plant shop. Of course, it was a very busy location, and I had to select what to include and what to miss out. For example, all the parked cars and the customers. You see, painting from life takes a lot of practice. And sometimes I feel like a beginner! Anyway, I enjoyed myself and the sketch is a nice reminder of my visit. Maybe you might enjoy it too, making sketches from life, if you give it a try! If you want to see more plein air sketching, have a look at this post here.
Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you two watercolour paintings of lovely old buildings that I have just finished. In fact, you may have seen the pencil sketches of animals in the petting zoo at Pot House Hamlet before. (See here). Because we visited this place in Silkstone village on a recent sketch trip. And we were surrounded by the beautiful old buildings of this little settlement – now a garden centre, cafe, shops and small zoo. Actually, the original buildings were 17th century glass making workshops and later pottery kilns. To be honest, I’m not sure about this building, but I chose it because of the unusual shapes. And, of course, the attractive colour of the stone. Then I added more washes of colour at home – the hot sunshine drove us into the shade!
Secondly, this is a sketch I more or less completed en plein air here at Elsecar, despite the steady drizzle. But, when I got home, I decided to heighten the colours, just for impact. Interestingly, one of my art buddies was painting his dramatically coloured acrylic paintings that morning. And I felt that I just had to have a go! I think I need a bit more practice, but I really enjoyed it.
Good morning everyone. This is a little watercolour sketch I did yesterday, when I was sitting in the shade. Actually, it was a hot day and I thought that I had been in the sun long enough. And I had been quite busy. Firstly preparing a small patch of soil in the polytunnel and putting in some lettuce seedlings. Also sowing spinach and sorrel for salad leaves – we do love salad leaves! Next, I raked a small bed of ground outside to break the soil up a bit. Then I planted sixteen chicory plants and, hopefully, we shall have some winter salad next year. Meanwhile, my husband checked the courgette plants and did a bit more picking in the blackcurrant bushes . As you can see, I just managed to sketch him, examining the bush closely, not wanting to miss a berry. Unfortunately, it’s not been a good year for blackcurrant.
Man at Work, a Watercolour Sketch
Did you spot him? Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the ‘palm’ tree in my watercolour sketch, it’s actually a house plant we put there a few years ago and it really flourished! But I do confess to having used artistic license on the tomatoes in the green house. In effect, they are not red yet, rather pale yellowish green at the moment.
Well, this is good evidence, I think, that I really am very busy at the moment. Because everything in the veg garden is growing madly, and it takes up all my energy. If you want to see more paintings of us working in the allotment, see this post here. Anyway, some day soon I’ll put together a post with all the paintings of the garden that I have not yet shown you. Because it really does give me a lot of inspiration.