Big Tree in my Garden

The Big Tree

Good morning everyone. Well, it’s finished at last! And, to be honest, I don’t really know why I didn’t complete the Big tree in my Garden earlier. Actually, I started this big painting back in the spring, after doing at least two other studies. In fact, you may remember these mixed media versions, because I think I did post them.

Study 1 for The Big Tree

As I remember, I painted the twisting shapes of the branches, still really visible in spring, before the leaves grew thicker. And I found these fascinating, at the same time realising that we had created them ourselves. Simply by hacking the growth back every year in a vain attempt to keep the tree small for our modestly sized town garden. Anyway, I sketched first in charcoal and then I worked in oil pastel.

Study 2 for The Big Tree

Now, this is the second version that I sketched in charcoal and then added watercolour and pen for finishing touches. By the way, I sketched both of these through the living room window. And, as you can see,the season is moving on!

The Big Tree

But, to get back to the bigger painting, I decided to paint the tree quite simply and make sure that it dominates the space. But I also wanted to give emphasis to the rather fine building on the other side of my garden wall. At present it is used as offices, but, using my artistic licence, I show it as the grand family home that it once was.

And, I daydream about the people who live there, do they watch my house from their windows? And, what is there over the hill that the house sits on top of? So, as you have realised, I have created an imaginary scene from the reality I live in. Because, there’s always more than meets the eye, in my imagination anyway!

The Big Tree – a closeup

Finally, this acrylic painting on paper is 16 by 20 inches and the price is £80 plus postage, free in UK. Just email me on my Contact Me page here. And, if you want to see more of my trees, see here.

I Painted these Beautiful Sunflowers

Beautiful Sunflowers

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you my beautiful sunflowers, painted in acrylic on paper. Actually, I’m quite pleased with this effort and, as I said in a recent post here, I feel like I’m finally making progress. Because this picture seemed to come together fairly well.

Anyway, I also tried something different here and I used gloss medium for the bright petals and leaves. Just a dab when mixing the sunny yellow, the vibrant green of the sunflowers. Not to mention the rich purple of the irises.

In fact , the other intention of this project was to try to work in a looser style. That is, not to concentrate too much on precise detail and leave something for the viewer to work out. In other words, not to paint the picture to death! Well, I did manage to loosen up a little, but I clearly need more practice!

Sunflower in Watercolour

Now, just for the sake of contrast, I painted this sunflower in watercolour last year. And here I tried to show the accurate shape and arrangement of the petals and the seeded centre. But the actual brush strokes were quite loose and gestural. So, you see there’s clearly more than one way of painting beautiful sunflowers!

All my artwork is for sale at reasonable prices. Have a look at more flowers in my Gallery here.

Adding Colour to Quick Sketches

Flowers on the Runner Bean Plant

Good morning everyone. Well, I had a little bit of time to play this week and I read something online about not forgetting the importance of experimenting with your art. So I spent some time adding colour to this very quick pen sketch I made last year. As you might remember, I wrote here about how inspiring I found the lush growth on the runner bean plants. Anyway, I took the opportunity to really try to work out how to use the Inktense paints I bought. And, I had a breakthrough – use more water! In fact, as you will see, a bit too much water in places!

Flowers on the Runner Bean Plant

Adding Colour to the Pencil Sketch

The Big Glasshouse in the Walled Garden

Actually, this is the second very quick sketch I made when we went to Cannon Hall Park and Gardens (see here). And now, here’s the coloured version.

The Coloured Version

Now I feel that I’m getting to grips with using this type of watercolour, and the colours certainly are bright. And, to be honest, I felt very relaxed when I just concentrated on texture and colour like this, so it’s a win-win situation for all! So, have a good weekend, everyone!

Sketching in the Walled Garden

The Pear Trees in the Walled Garden

Good morning everyone. Firstly, this is my quick sketch of part of the walled garden at Cannon Hall. And, if you look carefully, you can see the pear trees trained against the old brick wall. Actually, this garden has Heritage Pear Tree status and these varieties are amongst the oldest ones growing in the UK. In effect, some are over 200 years old. And the lovely old brick buildings forming one wall of this space are part of the estate offices and courtyard complex. In fact, the garden is conveniently next to the ‘big house’ . Because, this is where all the veg and fruit for the household was grown. Here’s the link to Cannon Hall’s website, it’s a really interesting old mansion.

Our Sketch Trip to the Walled Garden

The Pear Trees in the Walled Garden

To tell you the truth, this was our first outdoor trip as a society for two years! Also, our art society met for the last time indoors in March 2020, when we had an illustrated talk on painting icons for the Orthodox Church. And it seems such a long time ago – have a look at our Facebook page here to see more. Anyway, we had an absolute blast! Because sketching together outdoors, chatting and the all important coffee and cake is what we love to do.

Two Sketchers in the Garden

In this image you can see two of our sketchers near the ornamental pond (just hidden). Also, you can see part of the installation displayed here temporarily. It’s inspired by the story of a local woman, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who brought inoculation into England in 1721. Apparently, she saw this medical procedure being carried out in Turkey to protect against smallpox. And, given our present situation, this is surely something to celebrate.

A Section of the Wall

Well, in my sketch, which I did in 30 minutes, I tried to capture the soft, mellow colour of the ancient brickwork. In addition, I was interested in the contrast between the formal, espaliered trees, flat against the wall and the modern prairie planting in the foreground.

What a fabulous day out – the first of many, I hope!

An Abstracted Cityscape in Acrylic

Cityscape 1

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you my attempt at a semi-abstract cityscape. Actually, I didn’t want to waste the leftover paint on my palette, so I started doodling. (Or, you could call it an intuitive abstract!). Anyway, when I saw the shape of a doorway, I thought I would try to paint a cityscape. Then, I loved the blocks of colour so much that it gradually led me into some semi- abstraction of the scene. And then a bit more! To tell the truth, this is my first attempt at this subject. That is, if you discount one collage of an imaginary view over a city that I did a few years ago. But, I would definitely like to explore this theme a bit more . And, I could even do a series, like a proper artist!

However, I must say that when I posted this on my Instagram account at least two friends saw this as an industrial scene, a steelworks melting shop to be exact. Well, at least they both liked it, so that’s the main thing.

Somewhere in France

And now, in complete contrast, this is a cityscape in southern France somewhere. That is to say, judging by the architecture and the strength of the sunlight. Obviously, I painted this based on a reference photo, and a bit of memory, not from my imagination like the first image. At the time I painted it, a few years ago, I was quite pleased with it. And, I still am, but, I’m quite glad that I am now moving away from following the photo so carefully. So, if I were to do a similar scene, I’m sure I would interpret it with more artistic licence.

An Urban Sketch Cityscape

The Calder Building at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Finally, this is an urban sketch I did, on the spot in about 30 minutes. Incidentally, I was out sketching with Urbansketchers Yorkshire, back in the day when there were no restrictions on mixing. Happy days! And, this old warehouse by the canal was part of the site dedicated to the well-known sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Well, I know it has its flaws, and I’ve learnt a bit more about perspective since then. But I do like the freshness and atmosphere I’ve captured here. Plus, of course the memory of a fab day out sketching.

So, whether I use acrylic or watercolour, a photo, my imagination or plein air approach. And, whether I paint in realistic or abstract style, I still find plenty of inspiration in this subject. You could see a very different type of cityscape if you look at this post here – the Piece Hall in Halifax, UK.

Waterlily Pond in Green and Gold

A semi-abstract interpretation of a tangle of lily pads. Green and gold on shimmering water, with glimpses of goldfish.  In gouache paint.
Waterlily Pond

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you this gouache painting of a waterlily pond that I did for our Beginner Gouache group on Mewe. Well, the prompt for this month is Aquatic Life and I think it’s a great choice. Because it’s nice and wide reaching. For example, I decided to concentrate on a pool , or you could choose a river or the sea. And, even better, the Life could be animal or vegetable. Actually, the reference photo of this scene really appealed to me – it’s by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash. In particular, I liked the arrangement of the waxy green pads, just lightly resting on the surface of the water.

The semi abstract approach to the leaves on the waterlily pond.

The Waterlily Pond – a closeup

To be honest, I was very attracted by the semi abstract jumble of leaves gently floating. And also, of course the shimmering light and reflections on the water and on the glossy pads themselves. Perhaps you remember that I am working on a theme of the semi abstract in these little gouache pieces. And you can click here to see my painting of a camel at the pyramids in this style. By the way, did you spot any other kind of life in the pond?

The Watercolour Version

A watercolour painting of waterlily leaves, in a small pond.
Waterlily Pond – the watercolour version

Finally, I just couldn’t resist exploring the subject a bit more and I tried a different medium. Frankly, I’m no expert with watercolour, but I do sometimes really love to play with it. Possibly it’s the complete contrast to acrylic paint that I like – wet and flowing rather than thick and textured. Anyway, I think I’m not done yet with this theme. And I looked up some images by Monet yesterday, seeking inspiration. So, watch this space! Meanwhile, here is my acrylic painting of a lily pond, with some more aquatic life!

Painting in Monochrome in Acrylic and Watercolour

Sunday Best

Hello everyone. Today I’d like to show you some of the monochrome paintings I have done. To be honest, I haven’t actually done a lot of painting in monochrome. But I have done loads of drawings in pencil and charcoal and some of the principles are the same. Just to be clear, monochrome means using one colour only. However, you can create all the different tones of colour to create form and perspective. Of course, this is done by adding water to watercolour and white paint to acrylic to make the original colour progressively lighter. ( I’m sure some of you know this already!)

Painting in Monochrome – a Welsh Valley

A watercolour painting in sepia tones. A beautiful, tranquil landscape of brooding Welsh hills, the valley and the river. After John Sell Cotman.
A Valley in Wales, after John Sell Cotman

Well, this is a watercolour exercise I painted this week , following an online tutorial. We were advised to use sepia coloured paint or ink. But the artist himself used black ink, back in the 19th century and it has since faded to a pleasing soft brown . In fact, I mixed burnt umber and ultramarine blue to create a faded sepia look . As we were doing a study of this master’s work, we gridded up the page to copy the composition. Incidentally, this simple scene is really quite complex!

A close up of the bridge and the cattle

The different tones of the hills and trees were carefully mixed , copying the artistic decisions of the artist. Actually, I really enjoyed the experience but I must just mention how much I struggled with the paper – supposedly a good quality one . But I found that the colour wouldn’t lift off at all and also , it ran down in strange vertical lines! And now the painting pad has been firmly placed in the ‘scrap paper’ pile!

A Nostalgia Painting in Acrylic

An acrylic painting in monochrome, faded tones of brown. A man standing proudly outside his cottage in his Sunday best clothes.
Sunday Best

Finally, here’s one from the archives, inspired by an old photo from a local mining museum. This worker stands proudly outside his humble cottage in his Sunday best clothes. As you can imagine, I was well inside my comfort zone with this acrylic painting, making all my own artistic decisions . And, I’m pleased to say that this nostalgic painting went to a new home last year. But, of course, I have plenty more artwork for sale in my gallery here

Sketching Outside in Winter with Watercolour

The Town Park

Hello everyone. Happy New Year to you all – let’s make this a good one ! Well, sketching outside in winter actually depends on just a few things, a fine day, some simple art materials and enthusiasm! To be honest, I have sketched outside in drizzly rain (see image above ) But, if the rain persists, the paper becomes too wet and the watercolour develops strange patches of colour that you definitely didn’t intend! Seriously though, I do enjoy sketching outside in cooler weather. And you can always go for a brisk walk to warm up and drink some hot coffee from your flask. ( I forgot to mention this in the list of essentials )

Sketching Outside in the Town Park

Sketching outside in the town park. Ink and watercolour sketch showing the impressive tower and the grand entrance with a flight of steps.
The Town Park

Back in November, on a cold, intermittently rainy day , I sat for half an hour and managed this watercolour sketch. And I just went straight in with the ink and didn’t bother with a pencil sketch. Incidentally, this is my preferred method of outdoor sketching. Actually, it does help me to produce a fresh, lively painting, a record of the occasion, which is what I’m aiming at. Although it was damp and grey, the park was quite busy with families, pairs of friends meeting up outdoors and loners, coming out to stare hungrily at company. There was also an elderly jogger doing a circuit round the tower and up and down the steps. Actually, this tower is a fine sight. And a team of volunteers look after it and show visitors round on Sundays. However, I must explain that my sketch only shows about a half of the impressive height of the tower.

Sketching from the Car

A watercolour sketch showing a wide view of snowy fields and winter trees, through the  car windscreen- almost sketching outside.
A Snowy Day

As you can see, in December the weather became much colder. And I was dying to go out and attempt to paint the snow covered fields. Fortunately, we found a decent parking spot with a huge view over the fields and little copses of trees. And, I was still hankering after propping up my sketch book and paints on the dry stone wall. But, it wasn’t practicable, so I settled for the passenger seat of the car. I wanted to convey the way the tufts of rough grass were forcing their way through the slowly melting snow. And, I enjoyed leaving the paper white for the snow – it seems ages since I painted a wintry picture. This one took 40 minutes

The Winter Trees

The Winter Trees

As I have tried to show here in this close up, in the golden sunshine, the bare branches almost glowed a warm russet brown. And, then I realized that I was trying to change the temperature of the colours and the sky. Because the stormy clouds were moving in and I hadn’t noticed! So, it was time to call it a day and go home to get warmed up. Let’s hope for more milder, fine days – ideal for outdoor sketching!

If you would like to see more of my recent winter sketching, see here and here.

My Natural Style Christmas Decorations

A gouache painting, showing a Christmas wreath , natural style. Hanging on a garden gate
Christmas Wreath

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a peaceful few days. Before the season is over, I’d like to show you this little gouache painting in my artjournal, a natural style of Christmas decoration. To be honest, I chose this subject in response to the challenge ‘ Christmas at Home ‘. It was set to inspire us in our Beginner Gouache Group on Mewe. And, I think it is a really good subject to explore. Especially now, of course, when some people can’t get home or see the ones they want to.

Anyway, this little illustration took far longer then I expected to complete, considering that it is only 8 inch square. But, I think it is really good that I try different styles of painting and drawing – it gets me out of my comfort zone. And it can also be surprisingly enjoyable.

Christmas Tree – Natural Style

Christmas Tree – Natural Style.

Actually, I painted this gloriously impressive tree from life, whilst sitting in the beautifully decorated Ballroom at Cannon Hall, a nearby stately home. However, I don’t think that my on the spot watercolour really captures the full effect of the tree. It must have been at least 18 foot tall! Personally, I adore real life fir trees and we always have one in the house ( about 6 feet tall ). It really makes Christmas for me. And, I also choose a very simple, natural style wreath, made of fir or holly, with just a simple ribbon bow. In fact, a lot of the decorations in my house are painted wood and ceramic,textile, my own festive paintings, flowers and plants plus candles – quite simple and natural.

A photo of a twig garland decorated in natural style with holly, fir ,slices of dried lime and white wooden stars.

We went for a walk before Christmas in the formal garden of Nostell Priory, another big house nearby. And to my delight, as we walked away from the lake towards the Menagerie Garden, we caught sight of the natural style decorations in the trees. And they were beautifully made by a local artist, using twigs, pinecones, twine and holly. As you might imagine, I felt quite inspired. Something to bear in mind for next Christmas! Click here to see some of my festive paintings from last year.

Christmas Robin in Oil Pastel

Christmas Robin

Well, folks, it’s nearly here, so I thought I’d show you my Christmas Robin. In fact, this is the second version and I did enter them both into the Birdmas challenge. It was hosted by the Triwing Art Challenge blog on Mewe. Honestly, the artwork presented for this fun project was first class – Draw Twelve Birds for Christmas. And, I’m pleased to report that I did complete it in twelve days, running from December 1st till Dec 12th!

Robin in a Thorn Tree

So, here’s version one- a quick watercolour sketch in my art journal. And the super photo I used for inspiration was taken in my daughter in law’s garden. You see, she loves feeding the birds who visit and some of them become quite tame, like this lovely little Christmas robin.

The Abstracted Version of my Christmas Robin.

A Christmas robin,  drawn in oil pastel,  perching on a little branch in a thorn tree.
The Christmas Robin

After I had drawn a couple of straight up, realistic birds, I suddenly felt that I wanted to branch out a bit and use my imagination a bit more. So I drew this alternative version, and really enjoyed myself! Because I chose oil pastels from the very first sketch , I knew the lines would be a bit unpredictable. But, that’s ok – I really did want to create a loose drawing. So, this is my Christmas card to you – have a good one, in the circumstances, that is .

The Crazy Bird

A quick sketch in acrylic  marker.  Drawn from my imagination,  a bird in green and red feathers with a crest on its head, to keep my Christmas Robin company.
The Crazy Bird

Finally, here is my ten minute, acrylic marker crazy bird, created purely to cheer us all up! If you want to see more of the birds I painted for the challenge, see here and here.

More Christmas Birds Artwork

A little painting in gouache of a duck coming close to beg for food. A yellow beak and shiny green and purple feathers on the head. One of my Christmas birds.
A Duck Begging for Food.

Good morning everyone. Well, as promised, here are some more Christmas birds that I created for the Birdmas challenge. As you might remember, the challenge was organised by the Triwing Art Challenge group over on Mewe. And, it was a real pleasure to be taking part – one bird a day for the first twelve days of Christmas, or thereabouts. Anyway, here is my close up of a duck, coming really close in, prospecting for food. However, on this occasion the bird was unsuccessful. Because my daughter in law, who took all of the fab photos that I used, she hadn’t got any duck food handy!

Actually, this is the first gouache painting I’ve done in a while. You see, I’ve been working hard on the online acrylic painting landscape course that I’m following, See this post here for an update on that. But, to get back to gouache, much to my relief, I hadn’t forgotten too much about how to handle the paint. To be honest, the main difference between them is that acrylic layers dry completely and gouache never seems to dry. Of course, this makes it awkward to paint layers of colour, but it can be done. And, gouache has a charm all of its own.

Christmas Birds with Shiny Feathers

The plumage on the drake was quite subdued in colour, but the feathers on the head were iridescent. I tried to show the subtle changes of colour, shifting from green to purple by blending small brushstrokes together. But, I’m not sure the photo really shows this well.

Closeup of bird’s head
A pastel drawing of a fluffy, white hen - one of my Christmas  birds.
Chicken

I had been really looking forward to painting a chicken. So, I decided to use chalk pastels – I thought they would best portray the fluffiness of the feathers. And, I am fairly pleased with the outcome . But, I did make a big mistake in choosing the wrong paper! Purely because of my impatience to get started. You see, the paper was so smooth that most of the pastel fell off! There must be a lesson to be learnt there.

The Comical Seagull

And, finally, the photo I used for inspiration for this quick watercolour sketch was an absolute gift. For, the pose, the cheeky attitude – they were already there . And, all I had to do was concentrate and alter nothing. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my Christmas birds -there might be a few more posted before long! Check out this post here to see the bird paintings I posted last week.

Halloween Paintings- Past and Present

A ghostly bride waits in the lonely graveyard, one of my favourite Halloween paintings.
Waiting at the Church

Hello everyone. I thought I’d do a quick round up of my Halloween paintings from the last couple of years. And it took me quite a while to find them in my chaotic ‘filing system’ , also known as the piles of sketch books, canvases etc. in the spare bedroom! However, the one above was easy to find because I only just completed it . You see, I painted this for an online Halloween challenge for Artists Free Reference Photos. The original photo was of a peaceful graveyard scene by Fiona Evans. But, I decided to inject a bit of melodrama into it by adding the ghostly bride, waiting at the church. Of course, this is my tribute to Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’, an image I’ve been longing to paint for a while.

The Churchyard after Dark

A digitally altered sketch of a sinister looking graveyard - one of my Halloween paintings for this season.
The Churchyard at Night

Actually, you might recognise this painting above from a recent post I wrote here . Except for the fact that I took the plein air watercolour sketch and tinkered about with it. And, in fact, this is the first time I used the editing tools on my tablet to change the colours on a piece of my own work. And, I must admit, I’m quite pleased with the outcome. Spooky or what ?

More Halloween Paintings

Which Way to Go ?

I must admit that I painted this sketch ‘Which Way to Go’ a couple of years ago. Initially, I had the idea when I was doing a series of ‘scary trees ‘ pictures. As you might know, I find a lot of inspiration in trees and this was a project to let my imagination run wild. But, at the time, I became engrossed in another theme and this painting didn’t quite get finished ! However, I’m going to include it as one of my Halloween pictures. And, I will get around to completing it soon. Because I rarely leave anything unfinished – that’s just the way I work.

Anubis

Finally, I’ll show you a little watercolour sketch I did when I visited the Ancient Egypt exhibition at our town museum .The exhibition was curated by Professor Joann Fletcher of York University, who actually comes from Barnsley. And there is an interesting review of the exhibition here . Well, the ceremonial mask of Anubis, the god of death with his jackal head looked threatening enough to me! So, I had to include it in my Halloween themed show of paintings.