As a painter I am always interested in what is going on in the art world. A few years ago there was a bit of a vogue for paintings in very subdued hues but featuring single splashes of colour. I liked some of the work and as “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I thought why not give it a go. Not that working in subdued colours was a new thing for me. Ever since I began to paint I have used as few colours as possible. This makes you concentrate on getting the tones right as well as guaranteeing harmony in the painting. I have noticed that lots of painters confuse colour and tone. Put simply the tone is the strength of colour used so that it is paler in the distance and gets stronger towards the foreground. So even if you use only one colour you can get depth in a painting and that all important illusion of space, providing you manage to get the tones right. So back to Strensall Common - another of my favourite locations - for this simple piece. The whole painting except for the leaves was done with just two colours – French ultramarine and madder brown. I had masked the leaf shapes and when the rest was completely dry painted them individually mixing red and yellow wet in wet to avoid a flat orange. Although I didn't pursue this particular method to any great degree, you will always find the same control of tone no matter what colour or colours I use in my work.
This is a painting of a scene at Skipwith Common. Skipwith Common is a marvellous location at any time but especially as the sun starts to set. Although the composition was pleasing enough I decided to give it more drama. I thought I’d concentrate on the complementary colours of orange and blue. I reasoned that the blue would make the orange more orange and conversely the orange would make the blue more blue. Make sense – well it did to me. Of course I didn’t use orange as that would have been far too flat and boring so I mixed Winsor red and Winsor yellow in a single wet wash leaving me with all these lovely graduated orange hues. Add a ‘Whistler’ title and the result is a spectacular painting extravaganza.
I painted this several years ago and to be frank I haven't a clue what happened to the original so let’s hope it sold for a good price. You can imagine then how pleased I am to find an image to show you. Regular readers will know just how much I admire the old Victorian watercolour painters and this scene would definitely have interested them as much as it interested me. In fact it could well be based on an old painting but I can't remember which one for the life of me so any ideas would be most welcome. There is no doubt though that it is a typical Victorian composition and I have even included a ‘Grimshaw’ lady though for once she is walking in daylight and hopefully can see where she is going especially as she has that rickety old bridge to cross on her way home! It might be a traditional scene but I have used a few modern techniques to do it. There’s a bit of masking fluid, some flicking and scratching out, and even some 'rainbow' painting though the outcome has that traditional look I admire so much.
Strensall Common furnished yet another painting for me here. This is a departure from the usual scene I paint in this magical landscape. We were crossing the track that bisects the Common. It is one of those unmanned crossings with a little gate for pedestrians to cross. It bears the quaint advice to ‘Look both ways before attempting crossing”. Although I wouldn't advise doing a painting this near to the tracks, we had ample time for Merice to take a photograph. When I decided to paint the scene from memory using her photo for reference I made a slight change. The track actually runs in a dead straight line off towards Scarborough but I made it curve as it makes a better composition while still leading the viewer into the scene. After a bit of careful masking I was able to paint quickly and loosely. After a bit of tidying up I was well pleased with my efforts. Now for me this was a ‘happy’ painting – a memory of a happy day strolling about in one of my favourite places. However it can evoke different memories for different people. It was hanging on the wall in my old Studio/Gallery in Old Town, Bridlington. A young couple came to look round and the lady shivered when she stood before the painting. I was intrigued and asked why she had reacted so. The couple had just come back from a visit to relatives in Poland. During their stay they visited the Holocaust Centre in Auschwitz. The unimaginable horrors there had impacted on her family and these things were still on her mind. She said the painting reminded her of the railway line leading into the camp and that was why she shuddered. So there you are – the same thing can produce a vastly different experience for someone else. I have to be honest and tell you that since that encounter I look at this painting in a different light. But there are some things that should never be allowed to be forgotten.
Codbeck is a super little reservoir near Osmotherley on the western fringes of the North Yorks Moors National Park. It’s a little gem with picnic places and a lovely stroll around the perimeter of the lake. I have painted it several times but usually include the lake. For this painting though I was more interested in the view from the lake side up towards the conifer forest. The red veins in the single tree caught my eye. I painted little dabs of red round the tree trunk along with a stripe for the middle distance rosebay willow herbs. I painted the whole single tree red and then applied masking fluid to preserve the colours safely. After the painting was complete and masking fluid lifted I was left with reds and yellows painted first. It was an interesting experiment that worked well. Here are a couple more that this time include the lake:
The Yorkshire Dales have a unique beauty of their own. Whatever the weather and whatever the season they are a source of artistic inspiration. This painting was a first working of a collaboration with renowned photographer Nicky Busby which eventually produced photo and painting to raise funds for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. I used just a few colours and concentrated on getting the tonal values right and added a dash of yellow in the sky for dramatic effect. I love the painting and am pleased to find a record of it. However I decided I had strayed too far away from Nicky's superb photograph.
So I started again from scratch and added a bit more colour this time:
This is obviously a lot more cheerful and better suited to both the photograph and raising funds but I still like the first one for its drama.
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!