Going Back to Cafe Sketching

Waiting

Good morning everyone. At last, I managed to do a bit of cafe sketching, especially when in a well ventilated space, reasonably distanced from other customers. Actually, it’s probably also the first time I felt relaxed enough to do it. Anyway, we went to the Carding Shed cafe last week and I hid my sketchbook behind my bag and discreetly sketched a couple on the next table to us.

Pencil sketch

Unfortunately, I had left my tiny water bottle behind, so I couldn’t do a watercolour sketch and I had to make do with pencil only. Not my usual style. But, I completed this before they got up and went, so that was lucky.

The Couple at the Next Table

Honestly, this is something I rarely do, add colour afterwards at home. Because I much prefer sketching with the brush and splashing colour around on the scene as I drink my coffee! And, I feel that the resulting painting is more lively, even if it’s a a bit less accurate. However, I really enjoyed myself and I now look forward to doing more cafe sketching.

There are lots of paintings and drawings in my Gallery on the People section here.

Finally, I realised I had done lots of imaginary people sketches over the past year or so. No doubt missing company and lifedrawing classes, so I leave you with this latest one.

Waiting

Revisiting Old Sketches for Inspiration

Burbage Valley

Good morning everyone. This is a gouache painting I did before Christmas and I had a look at some old sketches for inspiration. Actually, I remember this day very well – we had gone for a short walk in Derbyshire. And we were in the beautiful Burbage valley on a hot August afternoon, when my son was small. The heat was shimmering up from the moorland grass and there were no trees to sit under. In fact, this beauty spot was quite busy with people who had come out for some fresh air. But, everyone seemed a bit subdued in the heat. As we neared the car park, my husband and son went and queued for ice creams. Meanwhile, I sat on a rock and sketched the view in my tiny sketch book.

Burbage Rocks

As I worked quickly, I thought about the ancient peoples who once lived here. Incidentally, behind me there was an Iron Age hillfort a field away. So it’s not difficult to imagine figures walking the paths all those years ago. By the way, that brings to mind a painting of mine showing a prehistoric man walking home at dusk. I must find it to show you. Anyway, if you look at this post here, you will see another sketch of the area that I did recently. Or, have a look at my page Gallery – Landscapes for more country scenes. (I’ve just updated the page). As you might have realised, I have many old sketches done over the years. Happily, I find them quite inspiring to repaint. Not to mention the lovely memories they bring back.

Green and Gold Gouache Landscapes

On the Lakeshore

Good morning everyone. Now that everything is getting back to ‘normal ‘ after the festive season, I am catching back up. So, here is a little green and gold scene I painted in gouache, back in November. As I recall, the reference photo was a touristy one I saw somewhere. But I altered it quite a bit and added a figure. That’s me, standing on the rock in the cool morning air with my cagoul hood up. And, I’ve probably got my field sketching kit in my rucksack. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’m looking at the leafless tree on the left. Unfortunately, a much more common sight now when we’re out walking. Anyway, I still managed to fit in plenty of green and gold to cheer me up. Also, it was good practice to paint in gouache and I am gradually getting more used to manipulating the paint.

In a Park, Somewhere in Wales

Actually, the title says it all! For this scene, I used an old watercolour sketch I did when we were in Wales. However, I can’t remember the location other than it was a lovely ornamental park in North Wales. And, we had the place practically to ourselves. Because the season had been quite wet, all the late spring flowering shrubs were really blooming.In addition, the foliage was glistening after a brief shower. On the technical side, the paint was gouache and I built the painting from my watercolour sketch and , surprisingly, a bit of memory. In fact, it’s really addictive and I have a huge archive of sketches to mine!

The Flowering Shrub in my Green and Gold Gouache Landscape

Incidentally, there’s another uplifting green and gold painting in this post here , this time a woodland scene.

As ever, all my work is for sale at reasonable prices. Just go to the Contact Me page and send me an email for further 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.

Summery Days – Painting the Sheep

Good morning everyone. I’ve been doing a bit of finishing off again and this little watercolour, Summery Days was started about a month ago. Actually, I was following a free tutorial one evening. And, putting the first layer down was straightforward, But, after that I found it difficult to make progress. So I left it to one side for a bit, busy with other projects. After a while, I couldn’t ignore it any more. So I tried to move it along by myself. Honestly, I wasn’t very confident. I often feel like that when painting a subject that wasn’t really of my own choosing. However, I persevered and I’m reasonably pleased with the end result.

Summery Days – Painting the Sheep

On the plus side, I learned how to make the sheep look more realistic . Initially I did this by putting a medium tone on the body, reserving the white of the paper for the light patches. Then I added the dark tones after. And, most importantly, I did all this as soon as possible so that the animals look part of the scene from the beginning.

Well, that’s all for now. And, I’ve now got a lovely summery picture to look at while we wait for the snow to melt here in the UK! (And here is another post with summery pictures in it.)

Work for our New Exhibition

Ready to Go On

Good morning everyone. Well, I have been quite busy again doing “art” business. In fact, I’ve realised that I’ve made myself just a bit too busy. But, in my own defence, it’s probably a natural reaction to the situation. First, no art activity for a long time. Then, say yes to every opportunity that comes along! Anyway, what could be nicer than taking part in Rotherham Roar artists’ group exhibition? Because it’s the first one we’ve had for quite a while. And so, I took these two pencil and watercolour sketches I did at life drawing class ages ago , for our new exhibition.

Ready to Go On
Thinking

In fact, the space we are exhibiting in at Rotherham Market Hall is like a wall of glass. So, works on paper and unframed are the way to go. Therefore I choose these two prints.

Working in my Allotment
Clematis at Dusk

As I recall, the flower painting was part of a project at my art society to capture the colours of flowers as the light faded. See here for more of my flower paintings.

And, finally, these last two made the final choice for our new exhibition. Up first is my version of a microscope photo of a neuron (one of those things in your brain that makes everything possible).

Neurons

And, finally, one of my favourites, a mixed media piece I call a semi abstracted memory of a walk in the woods.

A Walk in the Woods

To be honest, I’ve probably got enough work to fill the whole wall, not that I’m an excessive painter or anything! But, for now, six is enough!

Sketching Faces – my New Challenge

Good morning everyone. After I’d finished the Inktober challenge this year, I realised how much I had benefited from the daily drawing exercise. So I was pleased to find a new Instagram challenge – sketching faces on #facetasticfriday. Actually, this is hosted by a great group I joined a while ago – Kick in the Creatives. And I think the reference photos are very good and sometimes different (like the one above!) As you can see, I couldn’t resist adding watercolour to the image, to bring it to life a bit. But, I drew most of my sketches just in biro, with no pencil sketch beforehand, just to add that bit of excitement when sketching faces!

Well, I’m only writing a short post today, because I’m just getting busier and busier! So, I’m off to the printers, getting some stuff ready for an exhibition, more of that later.

However, if you want to have a look at some of my adventures in portraiture, see 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.

A Pink and Yellow Abstract

Pink and Yellow

Good morning everyone. This is just a short post today, about pink and yellow! I’m a bit busy delivering and collecting paintings, now that galleries are working again. But, more of that later.

Actually, I think I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes paint a quick watercolour abstract. Usually when I’m pressed for time and I need to be creative. Well, I painted this pink and yellow effort in lovely calming and optimistic colours. This version is the original one turned around. So have a look at the original.

As you can see, in this intuitive abstract, I seem to have created a cartoonish figure with a large smiling face. And yet, turned around, I see a bowl of fruit, perhaps on a table near the window. Or, perhaps you see something different!

Now, I must go and take my paintings to our Northern Fringe Gallery in the Ridings centre in Wakefield. And here is another post about our lovely gallery.

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.

A Country Walk in Watercolour

A Country Walk

Good morning, everyone. I’d like to show you this watercolour painting, ‘A Country Walk’. Because it’s the third exercise I have done from Paul Talbot-Greaves excellent book, 30 Minute Landscapes. And I’m really pleased with the result. But I’m well aware that I’m not yet at the stage where I could make such a beautiful, striking composition as this from a simple scene. So, I’ll keep on practising!

However, this painting was an excellent way to practise the new techniques I’m learning and have fun at the same time! For example, I practised stippling, as I explained in my last post here. Also there’s spattering of paint, created by flicking a paintbrush, loaded with paint. Please wear protective clothing! Seriously though, see if you can spot these two techniques in this closeup of a holly bush.

Trees in Closeup

A Country Walk-a closeup

And I also had the chance to practise painting nice fine branches and twigs by gradually changing brush size. Yes, I know I should have thought of that myself, but I didn’t! Finally, you might also see the shadows on the road are carefully painted by following Paul’s method. To be honest, I was very nervous about this part of the painting. Mainly, I think because I am so used to manipulating acrylic paint which very generously allows you to paint over your mistakes. In fact, I might now have a bit more confidence when painting shadows in a landscape. Instead of just fudging it and hoping for the best. Here’s a closeup of branches and shadows.

Anyway, I do think this study will help me to progress my painting. And , to finish off with, have a look at this acrylic painting from a couple of years ago, with a similar composition. Of course, this is an imaginary scene and seems to me not quite finished. Perhaps I will feel more inspired to finish it now, who knows?

Another Country Walk

Which Way Now?

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!

Trying Out Two New Watercolours

Wandering

Good morning everyone. Firstly I’d like to show you this little abstract I did in my sketchbook. And it was very much a quick, watercolour sketch done between chores with my travel paint set. However, it was also my first chance to try out two new watercolours, Mauve and Payne’s Gray. Actually, I’ve been doing a bit of research on watercolour technique. And I read that Payne’s Gray is a much better choice for a really dark dark, if you know what I mean! Also, it doesn’t seem to muddy the colour mix either, which I was having a problem with when I used black. In addition, I chose to use Mauve in this painting too, which is new for me. And I loved it – the colours seem so fresh and glowing! I wonder if you see the same scene as me- two figures in a cave?

Anyway, this is what my subconscious came up with, seemingly without much intellectual output from me! But, when I’d finished it, I turned it round all four ways, and I liked this one too. Incidentally, do you see anything in this one? You can see more of my intuitive abstracts here.

The Entrance

Finally, if I want to use new watercolours when I’m out and about, I’ll have to sort out the colours in my little paint set or carry extra tubes. Which could be quite awkward. Ideally I need something with more space for colours and larger areas to mix washes. And, at the same time stay compact enough to manage on my knee! Has anyone any good recommendations for this impossible ask?

My Travel Set of Watercolours