I have had several pleasurable afternoons visiting various Yorkshire Forests and these have resulted in four new paintings of which this is the latest. None of them have been exactly specific to any particular forest but rather I have tried to paint the spirit of the places I have seen. There is something akin to spirituality in a forest. Maybe it's an unconscious ancestral memory from when we lived in the safety of forest and woods thousands of years ago. I don't know but what I do know is that I am always moved by being among old trees. This watercolour features a scene we have all probably come upon. Setting off for a steady stroll we are suddenly confronted by a seemingly impassable pool of water blocking the trail. What to do? If you're young you might happily splash right through but if a bit older make a detour into the trees till you get past it. Whatever don't let it spoil your day and continue to enjoy your time in our wonderful forests.
This painting started life as a challenge for a watercolour workshop I was conducting with Driffield Art Club. They are a talented bunch of artists so I wanted to give them something to get them thinking. The painting incorporated several different techniques and I was pleased how it turned out. It had to be a large one so everybody could see. This is the painting in its original form entitled 'Cascade of Light':
After the workshop I went home and hung the framed painting on my bedroom wall. I left it there for a couple of weeks and looked at it constantly. I do this quite often so I can see if any improvements can be made. There were certainly parts of this painting that I liked but generally the painting was a bit one toned which made it appear bland. There was no drama in it and I started to find the gap in the middle irritating. It split the painting into two halves and led the viewer straight through and out of the scene. That was the obvious starting point when I got it back in my studio. Once the gap was filled the painting started to take shape and make more sense. I added more trees and changed the tones of others to create more depth and space. Finally I made the reflections more exciting by emphasising the light and darks. The painting has more depth and the eye is now persuaded to wander through the trees before heading back to the light. I suppose the moral is never give give up on a painting and if you spoil it altogether you haven't lost anything! Incidentally the workshop went well and some excellent paintings were produced.
Once upon a time many years ago a fresh faced (well sounds good), young (might be stretching it a bit more!) artist who had just discovered the joys of painting wandered by chance into the Pannett Gallery in Whitby and discovered a treasure trove. Situated in a dedicated room he found the magical watercolours of one George Weatherill.The artist was of course yours truly and though you might well doubt the fresh faced bit and I was just turned fifty so hardly young - the rest of it true. I have waxed lyrical about George many times and will continue to do so. I have been back many, many times and am still always inspired by spending time with this quiet unassuming genius. I haven't done much painting so far this year but am looking forward to getting back in my studio before too long and had been toying with the idea of starting with another go at a Weatherill so it was opportune when I found myself in Whitby recently with a bit of time to while away. The Pannett Gallery beckoned and I whiled away a happy hour in the Weatherill Room. I thought I had uncovered most of his secrets but amazingly after seventeen years I found another.
The painting above is my first attempt in his style. Sadly this was in pre-digital days so this is the only image I have of it though I assure you the original had a lot more colour. But have a look at the rigging. I didn't get hung up too much about getting it right because that was not the object of the exercise and I knew I was no marine artist. Weatherhill and other artists of his day were surrounded by ships like these so the rigging would be second nature to them. For me it was a nightmare. The books all tell you that the rigger brush was designed specifically to paint ship's rigging.. right - so that's what I used and you can see how clumsy it looks. George's is impeccably done so he must have been an absolute whiz with the rigger brush. Wrong - the crafty old so and so used pencil. Pencil is so much easier to control, you can rub it out until you get it right and it doesn't fade. It's taken me all this time to discover that. So guess what I'll be using for the rigging on my next painting - just goes to show the importance of not just 'looking' but really 'seeing'.
It is quite a while since I did a blog and with Merice being ill, art has had to take a back seat for a few weeks, so I thought I would post something completely different. My mum is writing the third part of her autobiography and has asked me and my two sisters to share memories of our Dad with her. Gail and Gina have both come up with the goods and I am working on mine. Here's a little tale that I hope will give you a flavour of the man I am proud to call my father. I am not going to pretend that was he was a saint (thank goodness!)and there is no doubt he liked a drink so here goes.
After Gail's, my elder sister, wedding and reception family and friends were invited back to mum's house. She had laid on quite a spread I recall. Among the guests were the grandparents of the groom. They really were lovely people and when Mum was clearing up the day after she found some money left under a tray with a little note from Andrew's grandad saying how much he had enjoyed himself and that he had left a little token of appreciation to help defray the cost of the buffet. I remember Mum was really touched and she excitedly told me he had left £20. Not a lot these days but in the early seventies a handy sum. "I gave your Dad a fiver" she told me "and he's going out for a drink." Now when Dad had a few bob in his pocket and was getting ready to go to the village local (The Junction Hotel) he tended to whistle happily and as he skipped off down the road he was certainly whistling that day because I went with him and he bought the first round.
Fast forward thirty years. Sadly Dad had now gone and Mum was living in York in the same village as us. She rang me and was clearly in a state. "You'll have to come round", she said "I'm really upset!". Not having a clue what was wrong I hastily dashed round to her bungalow to find out what was going on. Fearing something serious I was relieved to find her in her chair and seeming more angry than upset. "Your father" she said in the tone that only women can use. As I calmed her down it transpired she had been talking to Gail on the phone and somehow the subject of her wedding had come up. When Mum had mentioned how touched she was that Andrew's grandad had left £20 behind that day there was a pause. "But Mum" Gail eventually said "he left £50!" That was the bombshell that had caused the upset and Mum was fuming that Dad had conned her yet again. He'd pocketed £30 before she found the money and to add insult to injury she'd given him another £5 to go for a drink. Obviously he couldn't refuse her kind offer - no wonder he was whistling so merrily! I just burst out laughing and eventually Mum saw the funny side of it too - how even though he was no longer with us he could still have such an effect on us. The laughter was mingled with tears because it brought back memories and we both realised how much we missed him and still do.
I hope you enjoyed this little anecdote and I for one am looking forward to the completion of Mum's latest book which will contain lots more memories of a man I am pleased was my Dad.
I haven’t done any classes since I retired a few years ago but recently I have been helping a friend to learn how to paint with watercolours. This is purely for fun and I have really enjoyed going back to the basics with him. It’s been good for me to refresh my love for painting in this lovely medium. This was this week’s exercise. The lesson was ‘painting with washes ‘and experienced painters will see the wet on wet, wet on not so wet and wet on dry washes used in the construction of the piece. However all I see is a reminder of the elegant simplicity of watercolour painting with the paint doing all the work for me! I only used four colours to capture the harsh beauty of the North Yorkshire Moors in winter. I am looking forward to next week’s session.
Roundhay Park is amazing. Situated on the outskirts of the thriving metropolis of Leeds it bears constant testimony to the foresight of our Victorian forefathers who created this haven of green for all to enjoy. I visited the park yesterday for the first time on my own. Well not strictly on my own as I was accompanied by my faithful guard dog - Dilly. Dilly might be a small lhasa apso but she is big on attitude despite not having many teeth. A true case of her bark is worse (much worse!) than her bite.I was there because Merice was attending a school reunion in Roundhay and not wishing to intrude on an all girl affair I escaped to the peace and quiet of this lovely space.for a couple of hours. Sadly I am not able to explore great areas of this wonderful park these days but I did enjoy a stroll up to an old bandstand overlooking the large lake. This is Waterloo Lake and an added attraction for me it that it features in one of the three paintings commissioned by the original founders to celebrate the grand opening of the park. The paintings were done by my very favourite artist - John Atkinson Grimshaw and typically he did three 'moonlights' even though the park would have been closed by then in those days. My watercolour is based on one of his oils and perhaps the great man even used the same vantage point that me and Dilly enjoyed so much. The park features the Lakeside Cafe and a more upmarket restaurant in the old Mansion House. There is another smaller lake, a folly of a ruined castle, a waterfall and acres of greenery to explore in between. Car parking is free (yup - free!) so if you fancy a day out put it on your list - you will not be disappointed.
This painting features a ruined church on the site of a medieval village called Cottam now long since abandoned. When I painted this I was puzzled about the church. Why, when and whom had it been built for? I presumed at the time that it was Victorian but have now found out its true history. It was in fact erected in the 1940s for RAF personnel serving in the nearby airfield. When the station was closed and the other buildings demolished it was left to the vagaries of Mother Nature and now forms the enigmatic focus for my painting. This is a beautiful area - the Yorkshire Wolds. It really is 'beautiful' with its rolling Wolds and big skies - a magnet for painters including the world famous David Hockney who used it as the centrepiece of several years work culminating in a wonderful (and unique) one man exhibition at the Royal Academy - "The Bigger Picture". Who then would like to see this marvellous countryside devastated and despoiled? Look no further than our new Prime Minister and her government who have expressed their determination to push ahead with plans for the whole area to be used for high volume hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' to you and me. I live a few miles from this idyllic scene in the small village of Kilham but this is not a NIMBY issue because vast swathes of Yorkshire, Lancashire and parts of Derbyshire are under threat. However we have had two meetings in the village hall to see what we can do to prevent the devastation and damage that fracking inevitably leads to. Response has been good and we are proud to be part of the growing resistance movement against this reckless process. But we need your help because no area is safe! Please, please get yourself informed and add your voice to the opposition against fracking in out beautiful country. There are lots of websites to explore to find out the facts for yourself but this is a good starting point: www.isfrackingsafe.com
Mark Mills is a successful businessman from Lancashire. I would like to leave you with a quote from an open letter he published after the one day's test fracking in his area which caused two earthquakes. The earthquakes damaged the drill and it is irrecoverable so presumably the integrity of the well has been breached and the area is already sitting on the time bomb of an environmental disaster. All that after only one test drill. Here's the part of his letter which I think neatly sums up the whole sorry matter:
" In years to come, does any sane person truly believe that injecting millions of gallons of chemicals into the earth beneath us, puncturing our protective rock and exposing water we drink to the chemicals, whilst drawing trillions of cubic metres of gas from the same area and then transporting radioactive waste in huge quantities daily for years to come will not, at some time in the future, cause some form of disaster, illness, panic, earthquake or unforeseeable adverse event?" Mark Mills
I was returning home this morning and was struck by the profusion of rosebay willow herbs at the roadside. Great swathes of colour brightened my journey and reminded me that these tall graceful plants, also known as fireplants or fireweeds, form an essential frame for summer scenes. A few years ago I was commissioned to paint some of these elegant flowers near Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire. We made a day of it. I set up to paint and Merice accompanied the client Judy for a stroll along the impressive scar past the white horse and then down the quaintly named 'Thieves Highway' back to where I was. The highway is a lovely meandering track down the steep slope back to my location here. Here is the painting I did on the day:
You will note some obvious differences to the finished piece. To suit Judy's whimsical personality I stripped back the strong pines on the left to let in more light and allow me to create an ethereal and colourful background while retaining the spirit of the place and emphasising the flowers. To round off the day we were treated to lunch at the imposing Byland Abbey Arms where I enjoyed the most expensive steak and kidney pud I've ever had in my life. All in a day's work...well someone has to do it! Keep your eyes out for and enjoy these beautiful blooms yourselves this summer.
I have been a bit distracted from painting recently. Since we moved to our new home we have a garden for the first time in ten years. The garden has not had much work done on it for some years which has given us a blank canvass to work on so a lot of time has been taken up. However it has been a very enjoyable process and at last we can enjoy the fruits of our labour so far and we have spent a very pleasant afternoon in the sun eating a delicious meal and enjoying some Yorkshire cider. It is a traditional dry cider and made entirely of Yorkshire apples so naturally it is the best cider in the world...with apologies to all my old friends in Somerset and Herefordshire! Anyway I had a quick trawl through some older paintings that I haven't shown before. This was done a while back and features one of my favourite places - Strensall Common. Strensall Common is an amazing place for a painter to visit. Situated on the outskirts of the historic City of York it is one of the last remnants of the mighty Galtres Forest which used to stretch all the way from York up into Northumberland. It's been able to preserve its ancient habitat as it forms part of an Army Live Firing Range which becomes out of bounds for obvious reasons when the red flags are flying. However several acres are still common land and access is available at all times as this area is not under MOD jurisdiction. I have wandered there many times and always been inspired. This is early spring and the many reedy pools overflow and flood with meltwater. Hope you enjoy it as I say a fond farewell and head back outside to the garden.... and some more cider. Cheers.
When I first started painting I concentrated on the delightful North Yorkshire Moors. Who would not be inspired by the magnificent vistas in every direction? Impressive at any time of the day and in any season I found myself drawn again and again to this unique location. One of my very early successes was the privilege of having three moorland paintings included in the prestigious bi-annual East Coast Open held in Scarborough Art Gallery in 2002. It was my first submission to such a grand open event and I was very gratified when the judges selected all three of my paintings to hang together as a set. Gradually I broadened my horizons and found inspiration all over Yorkshire but it was inevitable I would return to my first love one day. This painting was the result and I called it “Full Circle” as I felt that I had indeed come full circle in my painting life. The moors will always hold a place in my heart and I will return there time and time again but this painting will remain special to me. This is "Winter on the Moors" one of the three that featured in that East Coast open so long ago:
It's always better to see the original painting and "Full Circle" is part of my Summer Exhibition 2016 at the Bridlington Old Town gallery which runs right through until 31st July so plenty of opportunity!
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!