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.

How to Paint a Castle

Somewhere in Portugal

Good morning everyone. As you may know, I love painting castles and old ruins. So, when I saw an article in a painting magazine about how to paint a castle in poster style, I had to have a go!

A Castle in Spain

Actually, the instructions in this article by Andy Walker in the Leisure Painter magazine were very clear and helpful. First, we had to restrict ourselves to a very limited palette of colours – blue, yellow ochre, deep red and white. Of course, these suited the subject very well. In particular the dull greens of late summer vegetation and the weathered stone of the castle. Next we had to simplify the composition and the shadow areas. And, finally, restrict added detail to a minimum, the most difficult part for me! But, I must admit, I’m really pleased with the painting. It’s a strong, appealing image and people really seem to like it. And, there’s a lesson in there somewhere for me – don’t complicate or over elaborate! Therefore, I had to paint another castle. However, as you might have noticed, this next one is in my own painterly style.

The Next Step in my How to Paint a Castle Mini Course

Somewhere in Portugal

In fact, for this gouache painting, I remembered the tuition about restricted palette and simplifying the composition. But when it came to painterly details, I followed my instinct and added as many as I wanted! For me that’s really a lot of the pleasure of painting.

A close up.

Well, the next step in my project on how to paint a castle is an attempt to put these new principles into my painting. But also to retain some of my own approach and style. So I’ll show you this unfinished gouache, and I’ve not yet decided how to complete this. What do you think, how much more should I add?

A Castle in Scotland

And, while you are thinking that over, have a look at this happy, sunshiny watercolour painting of a castle 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.

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