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.
From here, we visited Monopoli, Polignano a Mare, and Locorotondo. Here are some other paintings I made on this trip:
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.
This month’s challenge has been to paint some quick watercolour experiments at home. I wanted to paint in a freer, more expressive way, and also to use some of the kit I have already but rarely use. I combined the watercolour with watercolour pencils, crayons, salt (for texture), and used different brushes. I found it easier to do quick experiments at home rather than when I was in front of a location subject which seemed to need a more complex approach. I ended up painting mostly from flowers I had bought – an advantage was that I have continually had fresh flowers in the house. Next, I need to take some of this further in more developed pictures.
This weekend I have been sketching in London. Above is a drawing I did on Saturday of the ever-changing City skyline, drawn from near Tower Bridge. It amazes, and sometimes worries me how quickly major developments take place in key areas of London. A couple of years ago, Norman Foster’s ‘Gherkin’ building on St Mary Ax dominated the view of the ‘new’ City. Now new buildings have shot up which dwarf it.
On Sunday, I was helping run a sketch crawl with Urban Sketchers London at Trinity Buoy Wharf. This is further east, across the Thames from the O2 in North Greenwich (originally the Millennium Dome). Trinity Buoy Wharf has the only lighthouse in London, surrounded by other older industrial/nautical buildings. It is now a centre for cultural activities and related businesses, surrounded by very new high-rise housing and offices, with great views of the river. My sketches take different elements of this and put them together. All sketches are done with coloured pencil on prepared but random backgrounds in watercolour, on a concertina sketchbook. Below are the drawings from Trinity Buoy Wharf:
Lately, I have spent a week in Amsterdam, including the annual international get-together of Urban Sketchers. About a thousand urban sketchers explored the city, painting and drawing on location. There were record-breaking high temperatures here as in other parts of northern Europe. I looked for shade, in particular enjoying the Amsterdam botanic garden and the parks. Here are some watercolour impressions of the city, including the canals, typical houses, the derelict areas of dockland, and dramatic modern buildings.
This week I spent a few days at St. Ives, Cornwall. I took part in a three day course called Expressive Watercolour, which had a particular emphasis on techniques to create effects and textures with watercolour such as using salt, resists, and different tools to apply paint. I had hoped for more opportunities to paint out of doors, but took the opportunity in the studio to paint three versions of the same view using different approaches. These were based on a pencil drawing I did on location of the church and houses overlooking the harbour at St Ives.
Recently I spent a few days painting in the Exmoor National Park, staying at Selworthy. The painting above shows a view of Exmoor near the North Devon coast. Below, a farm building near where I was staying, and a wind-blasted tree which was painted on the coast at Porlock Weir. All the works are watercolour, painted on location.