Art is hard

I have been continuing my project to paint memories of walking in the Peak District.  Earlier this week I got out my art kit, and a photograph I had taken in January near Stanage Edge.  I aimed to experiment with a bolder style, and some less familiar colours, including Lunar Blue from Daniel Smith (which had been a free sample).  On rough watercolour paper and working very wet, this produced a high level of granulation.  Now, an ambiguous distant image I like, but this was a bit much.  There was a rocky outcrop in the foreground and I struggled to indicate this while keeping the distant view as the main focal point.

Stanage Edge first day

In another attempt, I gave more attention to a group of trees on the skyline, but failed to make them look austere enough for winter trees.

Stanage Edge another day

Today, I tackled this subject again, with a more familiar approach, colour mixing, careful choice of brushes, and the result is below.  “Moving out of your comfort zone” is one of the clichés of art.  Painting within your comfort zone is pretty hard, actually.

Stanage Edge second day

Who made your clothes?

scarf

In February/March 2015, I went with a group on a painting trip to Tamil Nadu in southern India, and I have been reminded of that in the last couple of days.
The pandemic changes everything, in big ways and small. I am involved in setting up and running, with Urban Sketchers London, a Thirty Day Indoor Sketching Challenge – Day One was Thursday 19 March 2020, but you can start it any time. Link to information here.

My sketch above is on today’s theme of ‘work’ and I decided to interpret this broadly as I don’t work, I am retired. I had pulled out a bright cotton scarf to wear yesterday, and it is one I had bought at a small weaving workshop in the Chettinad area of Tamil Nadu. You could watch a weaver at work on a traditional loom – I drew this scene (very badly, but I think she was entertained by my eccentric behaviour).

After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013, much was revealed about the poor conditions of work in textile factories globally, and the ‘Who made your clothes?’ campaign started. It struck me that (apart from some family hand knitting) the scarf represents the only occasion I have drawn someone who made my clothes.

My sketch above shows the scarf and the sketchbook.

Watercolour and the figure

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The challenge at my watercolour class this morning was painting the figure.  We had a model and the poses were mostly for five minutes.  I worked in monochrome, painting with a fine rigger brush.  It was a challenge, but useful as a way of practicing the use of the brush to make bold lines and marks.

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Painting from photographs

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As this is my first post of 2020, it seems appropriate that the painting above is of a walk I took on New Year’s Day.  It is a view of the Peak District near Bakewell; I was walking with my friend Jill.  I did not bravely sit on the hillside painting despite the January weather.  I painted it a couple of days ago, at home, from a photograph I had taken during the walk.

Actually, I rarely paint from photographs.  I am interested in painting on location, partly because I would rather get out of the house than paint at home.  On the whole I have either taken art classes and trips which take this approach, or making paintings from my own drawings.  In mid-winter, it seems worth trying an alternative approach.

I have started a new watercolour class, at London’s Morley College.  This is week three, and we have been painting landscapes from photographs, although next week we paint still life.  In the first class we were trying different watercolour techniques, such as washes and resists.  Week two, we applied these to a landscape, using a muted palette (French ultramarine, burnt umber, yellow ochre) and a photographic reference.  I think mine was a mountain scene in the USA or Canada.  I feel my painting, below, is less than successful, but it was a beginning.

Week two

I put in some practice at home, and I am more satisfied with the painting at the head of this post, which is based on my own photograph taken in the Peak District:

Peak district

Today, week three of the class, the challenge was to paint a snowy landscape, learning how to reserve the white watercolour paper, again using a muted, winter palette of colours (French ultramarine, burnt umber, Windsor yellow).  Here is the photographic reference (I have no idea of the location) and my two paintings:

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An update: the painting at the head of this post, of a walk I took on New Year’s Day, has now found a home with my friend Jill, who took the walk with me:

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In Southern Italy

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I have just returned from a painting holiday in Southern Italy, staying in Matera, and in Alberobello in Puglia.  Here are some watercolours from this trip, all painted on location.  Matera is famed for the Sassi cave dwellings which are believed to have been inhabited for 7000 years.  The view of the town, topped by the tower of the cathedral with a river gorge below was certainly challenging.  We then moved on to Alberobello, which is known for the trulli buildings, a traditional form of rural building now a focus of the tourist industry.

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From here, we visited Monopoli, Polignano a Mare, and Locorotondo.  Here are some other paintings I made on this trip:

Gardens and buildings

Some more drawings from my sketchbook, in coloured pencil on watercolour backgrounds.  The locations share a theme: a historic building set in gardens.  The first two drawings here – each pair of drawings is actually one continuous image in a concertina sketchbook – were done recently at Newnham College, Cambridge.  The ones below that were done at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, West London.  This was the country house of architect Sir John Soane, and I tried to capture some of the characteristics of his architecture, such as the use of coloured glass, and the rounded brick arches.

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