Even in these uncertain times Mother Nature is always on hand to provide us with an abundance of beauty – we just have to look!
A couple of weeks ago we were on our way back home after a pleasant stroll on the beach at Bridlington. It turned out to be a spectacular journey. The quickest way to Kilham is to drive straight down Woldgate right into the village. The sun was starting to set as we set off. It is the usual time to get a good sighting of barn owls. And one did indeed oblige, posing happily on a post whilst Merice snapped away on her iPhone. As we got nearer home, the setting sun was providing an awesome end to the day. I drove slowly and Merice took several shots that I was able to reference when I started the painting, but most of what I wanted to portray was already in my head.
Even in these uncertain times Mother Nature is always on hand to provide us with an abundance of beauty – we just have to look!
I was having a rummage through some of my art books and came across an old sketch book. On Saturday 3rd June in 2004, I went to Stainforth Foss with my wife Merice. Situated in the Yorkshire Dales, this was the location for a painting I had been commissioned to do, hence our visit.
I know the date because I had recorded it on a series of sketches I made on the day in preparation for the painting. The actual focus of the work was to be the Foss itself, a place where the River Ribble tumbles down a series of cascades, but I made drawings of the surrounding area as well, including this delightful Packhorse Bridge just up from the Foss. Sketches are so important. The time spent doing them implants not just the scene in your mind but also the ‘feel’ and the emotional response to the day. A photograph would have captured the details, but the sketches captured the essence of the area. I had made a few notes which brought back how soggy it was that day. We arrived in the afternoon, but it had been raining all morning. We were glad of our walking boots as we squelched our way to the Foss. We crossed over the bridge on our way. Because of the rain, everything was sparkling and sharp to the eye. The sky was clearing rapidly, and we ended up with a warm end to the day.
This week then, I decided to concentrate on the bridge sketch. I used five colours – French ultramarine, Antwerp blue, Payne’s grey, Windsor yellow and brown madder – and painted it in one sitting in a couple of hours (All right- I might have had a break or two for a cuppa!). But if I get asked the usual question – “How long did it take you to paint that?” – then I can truthfully reply – “Fourteen years.”
I’m looking forward to having another perusal of that old sketchbook to see what else I might find.
The Yorkshire Wolds are just on my doorstep. A couple of days ago, we had a meandering drive through this lovely area. Even on a cold (but bright) winter afternoon it was still inspiring - so much so, that the following day, I dug out an old sketch book and found this composition. I painted it quickly with my usual five colours and here it is. This is the first of many!
All days are special of course but some are ‘diamonds’. This sentiment was expressed by my friend and inspirational artist Ashley Jackson and how true it is. Without doubt yesterday was a ‘diamond’ day for me.
It started innocuously enough with our usual routine of taking Dilly for a walk and breakfast. But about 11 o’clock things changed. I received a singular phone call from another artist friend who lives in Driffield which is about five miles away. He informed me that he was with a lady from South Korea who was trying to find me. Now I’m told that each day is a day full of unlimited possibilities but I have to confess that this startling message was pretty low down on any list I might make of how the day would develop.
So I offered to meet up with her to find out exactly what was going on. On arriving at our meeting place I was greeted by a delightful lady who offered me a polite oriental bow. She is called Kyoungjin Park but happy to be known as ‘Jin’. It transpires that she is an avid David Hockney fan. Apparently he is very big in South Korea and has a huge following there. She had come to the UK specifically to explore the Hockney Trail which meanders its way through the Yorkshire Wolds. Somehow she had obtained my name and knew I was an artist living in Kilham who might be able to help her.
I took her to my house and over a cup of coffee with Merice and my good (!) self she told us about herself and her quest. Fortunately she speaks excellent English and in fact teaches English back in South Korea .Part of the reason for her trip was to assimilate more conversational English that she could take back to her students. She is an artist who is fascinated by the differences between the Western and Oriental approach to art. Her intention is to study for a M.A. degree in art. Conversing together, it was heart-warming to experience the universal language of art but also the universal experience of humanity in general. Despite the cultural divisions she was very similar to us in background and her tales of her childhood and present life were a happy reminder that in reality we are all human beings and that any differences between us are minor and inconsequential. She certainly shares our passion for art and we chatted away freely and enjoyably. Jin wanted to stay the night in Kilham before returning to London the next day for her flight home. We got her settled in at the Blacksmiths Cottage B & B and met up later for a little tour round the village and surrounding area including the famous ‘tunnel’ above. This was followed by an excellent meal at the St Quintins Arms in Harpham. The food was excellent as usual and time just flew by in this excellent and interesting company. Her train was at 6.45 next morning so I gladly volunteered to take her to the station. She has now set off on her long journey back home with our very best wishes and promises of keeping in touch.
She is not going home empty handed. She liked my painting so much that she bought it and a part of the Yorkshire Wolds is now winging its way to South Korea. We also taught her a few ’Yorkshire’ expressions so if you are ever in South Korea and hear “Eee by gum lad” you know where it came from!
Apparently I have developed a slight tremor. I haven't noticed it myself but some people who know me very well have. A quick look on the internet revealed I might be suffering from all sorts of deadly diseases so a trip to a consultant was in order. I duly arrived at Bridlington Hospital for my appointment. Now I just don't 'do' hospitals. Apart from a couple of operations after my accident I have had very little to with doctors let alone consultants. Things are different now they tell me....and they certainly are. First a nurse needed to weigh me and check my blood pressure. You used to just stand on a weighing machine but nowadays it seems you have sit down in a contraption that resembled an old fashioned electric chair we used to see in black and white photos from the USA. Of course they may have took one look at me and decided I was too old and decrepit to stand. Be that as it may I was duly weighed. Asked if would like to know the result in kilos or good old fashioned lbs and ozs you can guess my reply. I weigh 13st 9lbs. This is the same weight I was forty years ago when I got married and I still have the same 34" waist so I am classing this as a result.
Next I was whisked off to see the consultant. I asked him if Merice could come in with us to save me the bother of having to try and remember every exact word of our consultation to relay to her later. Mr Jones agreed and off we went into his room. Mr Jones was not Welsh which is neither here or there because he was very open and easy to talk to. He had probably come to the hospital straight after finishing his paper round - well that's how old he looked to me. Anyway he asked me about my bowels and waterworks. Moving on we then came to the technical side of the examination. This consisted of several exercises, the first being clicking my index finger and thumb together as quickly as possible and then touching my nose and his raised finger a good few times. After this he asked me a lot of questions about my general health, medication and memory....but I can't remember them!
Then I was finally given the diagnosis. I am suffering from a non life threatening condition called "Essential Tremors". Quite why it should be called 'essential' I have no idea. To my mind if something is 'essential' I might actually need it or even want it. Nevertheless it is quite common and one in four of us will get it as we grow old. More important however I suppose is the treatment. Number one option is beta blockers. Although I have no idea what beta blockers are he did kindly read out the possible side effects and they became an immediate no no especially when he told me his second option. It appears that a moderate intake of alcohol is excellent at suppressing the shakes (always thought it was the other way round!) and that many sufferers take a little medicinal drop or two before they are going out or mixing with a group of people.
So to sum up - the only concern I have is that I might end up merrily nodding away to all sorts of unfortunate circumstances. For instance Merice could decide we were going on a raw salad diet for a month and take my unfortunate nods as my assent to her proposal. She wouldn't take advantage of me like that would she? I will finish with a request. When we next meet please, please do not be intensely scrutinising me to see if I have got the shakes - I won't have because I'll be happily half cut....following doctor's orders of course!
The photo shows me finally meeting up with one of my idols - the great Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson.
.....or mistakes, mishaps and bird poo!
Knowing that you, my regular readers, are a very intelligent bunch I thought I'd impress you with a bit of Latin. I got an 'O' Level GSCE in Latin which I must say has been very useful throughout my working life......yeah right. It means "woe is me!" in English or "bugger it!" in Yorkshire. The reasons for my dismay are twofold. Against my better judgement I submitted to exhibit in the Wolds Open which is held at the Pocklington Art Centre. It's a good venue and seemed like a good idea at the time so I was pleasantly surprised when they accepted two of my paintings for the show. I was sent full details of what's what including delivery times. Somehow I managed to get mixed up with the dates and ended up missing the deadline for delivery of said paintings for the show. This means that 'Wild Roses on the Wolds' will definitely not be in the exhibition. Now you will rightly dismiss that as not bad luck but neglect on my part to which I gladly hold up my hand.
However my second cause for dismay is definitely not down to me. When I went into my studio yesterday I found a baby starling. It had somehow managed to get trapped in there overnight.It was obviously terrified but as soon as I opened a window it flew off seemingly none the worse for the experience probably heading post haste for the fat balls on our bird table. However it did leave behind one or two (or three or four) reminders of my unasked for hospitality. I'm sure you can already guess where one of these little mementos ended up. Yup...slap bang in the centre of a recently finished painting waiting to be framed. I can absolutely confirm that watercolour paint does not react well with bird droppings. Ah well perhaps the starling was just 'sharing' its opinion of the painting. Back in the studio today if I dare. See you soon.
I have said it before and will gladly say it again. The Yorkshire Wolds is a delightful place to live. Unlike its more famous cousins – the Dales and the Moors – it is still unspoiled, peaceful and quiet. One of its many features is the miles of winding single track roads that meander through undulating valleys and Wolds. At this time of year the hedgerows burst into life. It almost seems as if it happens overnight. Suddenly the trees are resplendent in full foliage and the hedgerows are an extravaganza of flowers and plants in vibrant colours. All this of course makes for happy times if you are a painter.
This is one of many little roads that head towards the village of Rudston and beyond. It was an absolute joy to paint. I used my usual six colours and wanted to portray the sheer dazzling exuberance of nature in springtime. I painted quickly and joyously just enjoying the whole experience rather than concentrating on the finished piece.
There are miles and miles of these scenes waiting to be explored and I look forward to seeing you here. Don’t all come at once though – we cherish the tranquillity of the fabulous Yorkshire Wolds!
I am heading for St Mark's Church in Scarborough tonight. Both Merice and I have submitted a piece as part of a Community Art Project to be held all next week at the Church. As well as paintings a whole host of other activities will be featured including a singing vicar! You are all invited for a preview from 6.00 to 8.00 tonight. This is a chance to meet the artists and share a glass of wine.
It is always interesting to revisit a familiar place at different times and seasons. This is the tunnel made famous by David Hockney in his epic ‘Bigger Picture’ Exhibition at the Royal Academy. It is literally just round the corner from where I live so I have been able to easily chart its progress through the seasons. This is my fifth painting of this iconic scene but the first morning view. This means that the sun is shining through from the right which gives a complete new perspective to the shadows. Of course autumn is the season of colour and it is always a joy to add an exuberant splash of reds and yellows to a painting. Even with lots of colour though, it is still important to get the tones right to create distance in a painting. I mix my colours on the paper so had to make sure that the trees were not as vivid in the background as the ones closer to us. I painted it quickly, more interested in the ‘feel’ of autumn rather than the detail. Mother Nature certainly does put on an amazing show for us at this time of year.
I knew I would be painting this scene as soon as I came across it. It’s a bridge crossing Gypsy Race in the Boynton estate. Gypsy race is a typical fast flowing chalk stream so named because it seems to appear and then disappear on its meandering way to the sea. The scene is so tranquil and peaceful and makes a perfect composition. However if you can’t improve on nature you sometimes have to improve on man made objects. The actual bridge is a simple platform across the stream and fenced on both sides for safety making it eminently practical but not very inspiring. It had to go and in its place I substituted an old fashioned pack horse bridge which might originally have been there in the first place. I painted quickly and freely, focussing on the impression rather the detail of the place. I’m happy with it and will be happy to back there too.
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!