A busy few months!

Well, it seems a long time since I updated my blog (again). But I promise it isn't because I've been idle - far from it - I've had a fantastic and slightly frantic few months!

So, I thought I would add some of the paintings I have been making whilst I've been away in Scotland, Ireland, France and Norfolk.

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Winning Colours

A very happy and successful trip to Dublin for a workshop and painting competition. I spent a delightful 5 days painting on location with a wonderful group of people from North Dublin and surrounding areas. 

Over the weekend I took part in 'Painting the Parish', a plein air painting exhibition and competition to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of St Kevin's Church in Dublin City.  I've been focusing on the use of 'warm whites' in recent weeks. With this in mind, I decided not to use titanium white on my palette for the competition on Saturday, instead I chose warm white, warm light yellow and lead tin yellow lemon as my lightest values. I wanted to capture the warmth of the candle light inside the church. It seemed to work well - my finished painting won first prize in the competition!

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Little moments captured in paint

What a fabulous time of year to be painting in Cumbria, the colours this autumn have been particularly striking and I spent a lovely few days teaching on location from Higham Hall last week.

As part of the course I gave a painting demonstration on the shore of Derwent Water, with ever changing light and occasional squally wind it was a scene fraught with classic plein air challenges!

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Art in the Open

A brilliant trip to Wexford for 'Art in the Open'. I met some amazing painters and shared lots of laughs with lovely people. And that's the best bit about the whole thing, the people. Yes, Wexford is beautiful and the painting locations are always full of inspiring material, but the thing that really makes Plein Air festivals wonderful is all the plein air painters. They're just such a great bunch. Always game for a laugh, no drama, just down-to-earth, genuine, out going, friendly people. And where else on earth can you discuss the finer points of easel design for a whole hour, without anyone getting bored?!

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Shropshire Calling...

I had a lovely surprise this week when I was called by BBC Radio Shropshire. They wanted to have a little chat about art and how to get started with drawing or painting. You can listen to it for the next few days by using the link in the post and forwarding through the programme to 2 hours 15 minutes. 

It was on Jim Hawkins Show on Friday 20th February at 11:15am, you can listen again on their website if my link doesn't work for your browser. 

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A late night conversation

I sometimes talk about how a painting can only be ‘steered’ so far by the painter, then we have to stop, step back and ask the painting what it needs from the painter. This two way ‘conversation’ with the artwork made me scrape off a big chunk of a ‘finished’ painting this week – and I’m so glad that it did! Here’s what happened…

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A trip to Tuscany

I went to stay with a painter friend in Tuscany last month. After a few rainy days in the mountains we found some sunshine by the sea in the beautiful Sestri Levante. A traditional Italian town with earth coloured houses built right up to the edge of the stunning 'Bay of Silence'.

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Cloud studies

Back in August I spent a couple of days painting at Heybridge Basin on the east coast. The tail end of a hurricane was forecast to arrive the following day so I decided to get out and make some studies of the gathering clouds. These two studies were made whilst hanging onto my easel in increasingly strong winds

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Pintar Rapido Amsterdam

... this view of the distinctive Westerkerk seen from a classic city street in the beautiful (and slightly quieter) Jordaan region. The weather conditions were very helpful as there was a bright but incredibly flat grey sky all day. This allowed me to work on the painting for a lot longer than usual...

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My painting won first prize in the 'quick draw' competition at Art In The Open!

I'm so pleased that my painting won first prize in the 2 hour timed painting competition in Wexford yesterday. 

Participating artists were required to complete a painting of Wexford's Selskar Square in the time allowed. Finding a good outlook I took shelter from the torrential rain in a restaurant doorway with a view down the square.

I decided to paint a cafe with a bright orange awning in front of a deep blue house. I hoped that the complimentary colour combination would brighten an otherwise grey scene. As the rain got heavier I could see the colours reflected...

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Pintar Rapido...what a buzz

Well, what a weekend that was! My first attempt at Plein Air painting in London, with 501 other painters for company...

Last week I took a last minute decision to sign up for the second annual 'paint out' on the streets of Kensington and Chelsea and I'm so glad I decided to go, I had such a great time and learned so much in my 3 days in London.

So what is a 'paint out'? The idea has come from America where they are very popular. Basically, a bunch of artists go out and paint on location for a day, then they frame their paintings for an immediate exhibition where prizes are awarded for the best pictures and members of the public can come to buy the fresh local paintings; often before the paint has even dried! 

I had a lovely day painting on Saturday and met some wonderful artists and buyers at our exhibition on Sunday at Chelsea Old Town Hall. The excitement of painting outside, trying to capture the wind and weather on canvas is heightened further by the presence of so many other painters; and the pressure of an 8pm deadline to present your finished work. It all makes for a very intense painting experience that just cannot be matched in the studio.

I will definitely be taking part in plenty more of these events - in fact, I enjoyed it so much that I'm thinking of going to Wexford, Ireland next week for a whole week of painting at 'Art in the Open'!

The pictures below show the stages of my painting from Chelsea Embankment on the stormy Saturday morning...

The finished painting

The finished painting

View from the embankment - including other painters!

View from the embankment - including other painters!

Adding some colour

Adding some colour

Blocking in lights and darks

Blocking in lights and darks

Composing the blues

Bluebell glade 24x18cm

Bluebell glade 24x18cm

This study is smaller and was painted faster than the first one, because of this, it has more energy and movement in the brushwork. I returned to the same spot as before but this time with the intention to focus on the composition. I climbed a bank and discovered the 'S' shape of the path winding up the hill, I liked the way that the path was striped with light and shade. The greens turned out to be the hardest part - so many hues yet all the same value!

Got the blues

Morning bluebells 30x40cm

Morning bluebells 30x40cm

I returned from my foggy sojourn to the East Coast to find that the most amazing bluebell carpet had appeared in the woods near Winscote on the Apley estate. This year seems to have been a bumper year for bluebells so I took the opportunity to capture them on canvas.

I set up quite early in the morning to catch the pattern of light and shade on the flowers . I have never seen so many bluebells in an open glade like this and their colour was just spectacular.

It was a challenge to mix the right colour and in the end I needed to use several shades of blue and purple together to give the right depth to the blue. I had so much fun that I returned the following day with a friend to do it all over again!