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.

Sketching at World Heritage Site

Cromford Mill

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!

Cromford Mill – World Heritage Site

If you want to see more sketches from this trip, see here.

Quick Sketching in Walled Gardens

The Walled Garden at Calke Abbey

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.

The Walled Garden – image by Wikimedia Commons.

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

The Walled Garden at Calke Abbey

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.

See more of my plein air sketching here.

%d bloggers like this: