Sunday, March 31, 2013

After the Thaw

"After the Thaw" - watercolour - 18 x 26 cm

It's been a long winter this year. There seem to have been hints of Spring for a while now, but it's stayed cold and occasional snow showers have covered everything in a blanket of white. The sun is getting warmer now though and any lying snow doesn't last long. We put the clocks forward one hour for British Summer Time this weekend and, as if on cue, we are having a spell of beautifully sunny days. Maybe Spring has finally arrived and will gain a foothold at last.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Brims Castle

Brims Castle, a few miles West of Thurso, is in a ruinous state now. It's rather overshadowed by the large, modern farm buildings next to it. Originally, I think, it would have consisted of a strong tower with a courtyard around it. The beach below would have formed a natural harbour. Later it seems to have had a large house added on to form a more comfortable dwelling. 

I used the controlled-wash method again for this painting and just three colours: French Ultramarine; Burnt Sienna; Raw Sienna.

Stage One
Starting on damp paper, I applied Raw Sienna to the bottom of the sky and then mixes of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna over the rest. While it was still wet, I dropped in stronger mixes in some areas to establish some of the colour and tone.

Stage One

Stage Two
I let the whole painting dry and then I started to build up the mid-tones, still keeping everything fairly loose. I think, with hind-sight, I probably could have put more of these in at the first stage.

 Stage Two

Stage Three
I put in some stronger touches to sharpen up the painting.

Stage Three

Stage Four
I finished off with a few darks in the foreground to give some depth. I also felt that a background was needed. There is in fact a hill behind the castle, but I couldn't see it from my position down on the beach. I decided to use a bit of licence and put it in.

 "Brims Castle" - watercolour - 18 x 26 cm


Friday, March 15, 2013

Ghost Washes

I've often heard stories of people holding failed watercolours under running water to wash the colour off. They then paint over the faint image that's left. Some artists make this part of their usual practice by starting with an overall variegated wash. Trevor Chamberlain calls this a “ghost wash”.

I haven't tried washing a painting off before. If it's that bad I usually just start again on a fresh piece of paper. I had been reading about the ghost wash idea, so I thought I would try it with an old reject. It worked well and I liked the idea of covering the paper and quickly establishing the general colours. It's definitely something that I am going to try a bit more.

I took some photographs while I was working on the painting to show the progress. The colours are a bit off because of the light, but the finished view is fairly accurate.

Stage One
I held the painting under a running tap and gently wiped the paint off with a brush. This was Saunders Waterford Rough paper, which I find retains the pigments more than other papers, so a faint image remained.

Stage One

Stage Two
I re-wetted the sky area and painted the clouds with a mixture of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. As this dried I dropped in a stronger mix of the same colours, with a bit more blue, to give more form to the clouds.

Stage Two

Stage Three
Once the sky had dried I put in the distant hills with French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and a little Permanent Rose. Some wet-in-wet touches of pure Ultramarine gave a bit more definition.
I continued with the foreground areas, using Raw Sienna alone or with Pthalo Green for the fields. The moorland at the bottom was Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine with a bit of Permanent Rose.
I also put in the roofs with Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.

Stage Three

Final Stage
I finished the painting off with some strong darks, using Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Some dry-brushing gave a bit of texture to the foreground, The vertical telegraph poles helped to break up the horizontal lines a bit.

"A Hill Farm" - watercolour - 18 x 26 cm 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dawn Light

"Sheep in the Light of Dawn" - watercolour - 25 x 36 cm

I had to be out earlier than usual recently, before dawn. I wasn't expecting to be doing any artwork but I always have my sketchbook with me, just in case. It was a cold grey morning and rather uninteresting, but then the sun rose above the clouds and lit up the landscape. A group of sheep were caught in the light, making a subject which I couldn't resist sketching, despite the freezing temperature. A few pencil lines and colour notes were all that I needed to make a painting back in the warmth of my studio.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fifies off Wick

"Fifies off Wick" - watercolour - 35 x 51 cm

Having finished a few smaller paintings of the fishing boats, I felt confident enough to tackle something larger. This was the commissioned painting that all the preparatory work had been leading up to.