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!

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.

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.

%d bloggers like this: