I have been doing a series of paintings to exhibit during my forthcoming stint as artist in residence at Burton Agnes Hall from 11th - 20th April. The paintings have been done in the very traditional manner of English landscape painters. The doyen of English landscape painters is surely John Constable and it is inevitable that his influence has shone through in my work. In effect I took the Yorkshire Wolds to Constable so to speak. For the last one I thought it would be nice to bring Constable to the Wolds if you get my meaning and what could be more iconic ‘Constable’ than a haywain? So here is the famous agricultural wagon transposed to a part of the Wolds Way overlooking Setterington. Of course farmers must have used haywains like this or very similar back in the days of horse drawn transport so it is not out of place. From the start I had a very clear vision of what I wanted.......
..... here is the initial drawing. As usual it is a very loose sketch apart from the haywain where I took a fair bit of time and trouble to get it right.
The sky always sets the feel of the painting. It's after a heavy shower so plenty of cumulus clouds in the sky.....
...soon the characteristic landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds begins to appear.
We have a haywain!
This is the final colour wash and all that needs to be done is to add the detail on the trees, foreground and muddy track leading to the finished painting:
I am an unabashed fan of the traditional English landscape painting and wanted to create one such as the centrepiece of my upcoming exhibition at Burton Agnes Hall where I am doing a stint as artist in residence from 11th - 20th April 2016. I had noticed this particular view of Bridlington Priory on my frequent trips down Woldgate and it fitted exactly what I wanted to try and create. I have used a lot of artistic licence with the composition to give it that traditional look and it took several sketches before I finally worked it out but once happy I was ready to transfer it to the paper and set to work.
This is the composition I finally settled on. I have made the road into a country track and turned it down towards the Priory rather than running parallel to it. I have removed the buildings but they are mostly modern anyway and did not fit my idea of what the early 18th century view might have been. A few sheep add to the pastoral effect so I am ready for the next stage.
I always paint the sky first. It is important as it sets the mood so I painted it loosely wet on wet leaving some unpainted paper for the whites of the clouds. This is a late afternoon sky in summer with the sun shining from the left of the composition.
The next stage was the background trees and the Priory itself. This took me the most time on the whole painting but this detail clearly establishes the direction of the light and starts to create space and depth as we move forward.
This first foreground wash emphasises the light but also starts to put the Priory into the context of the landscape. It will take several more layers of paint or glazes to build up the intensity of colour I have in my mind.
So after a couple more glazes I can start to add some detail. There's the trees to finish and the fence and sheep but definitely on the home straight.
So here is the finished painting. I have added more glazes to the trees to get them to this rich darkness of colour while retaining the light flowing through the two left hand trees for warmth in the midst of the dark shadows. It's a large painting and will be on display with me at Burton Agnes Hall from the 11th - 20th April from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm daily ..... it would be lovely to see you there too!
This is my latest watercolour painting. In it I have returned to a place which will always have a special place in my heart. Although I had visited the Dale several times previously it was not until 2004 that I really got to know it. It was one of my first plein air sessions with Tony Hogan and some of his students. We set up by Millington Pond and spent a relaxing day in summer sunshine painting the lovely scene before us. It was one of my very first outdoor painting sessions and here's a few memories of that enchanting day:
And here's my painting:
I'm pleased with it and it certainly brings back the day. Merice turned up in the afternoon and took the photos in this blog. She was helping me pack up but when she picked up my jacket my mobile phone fell out of the pocket and ended up in the pond. Back in those days mobile phones were pretty chunky devices so it sank like a stone and has never resurfaced! Could have been a lot worse of course.....I could have dropped it in the pond! Now Millington just doesn't have a Dale and a pond. It also boasts a nature reserve - Millington Woods. Again this is a delightful path to meander through the extensive woods that also feature the traditional art of charcoal burning. So this was another irresistible subject:
'Charlie' is the dog- faithful companion of our dear friend Margaret Hockney. Camera in hand she was forever catching us out with her candid shots to it was nice to get her back so to speak. Yes happy days indeed and many more happy days to come as I look forward to returning to this lovely place many times.
It's Valentine's Day today so here's a romantic little tale guaranteed to warm your heart.
Picture the scene- a storm is raging and a young man is desperately clawing his way through the muddy tracks to get to the ford. He knows the river is rising and this is his last chance to say goodbye to his sweetheart who lives on the other side. He's a poor man with ragged clothes now soaked, but he will not give in and continues on his perilous journey. But why attempt this desperate act - why not wait till the storm has passed? Well this poor lad has become enamoured with the beautiful daughter of a rich farmer. To his amazement she has reciprocated his feelings but there is a barrier in the path of their true love. The girl's father will not give his blessing to a marriage that would link his heiress daughter to a poor beggar wretch with no prospects. Although greatly grieved this is an age when a father's word is final and so the lovers have to agree to a separation. The boy is determined to win her though and knows the only way to succeed is to win fame and fortune for himself and then the reluctant farmer could have no objection. He has signed on with a merchant ship bound from Hull the next day and this is is last chance to assure her of his undying love and promise to return and claim her for his own. But this sudden storm has put his plan in jeopardy and now with beating heart he is scrambling down the treacherous Fimber bank. It's steep sides are a muddy quagmire and he falls many times as he tries to descend. Can he make it? Of course not. By the time he reaches the crumbling banks the river it is already swollen and much too dangerous for him to even make the attempt to cross. Bedraggled and in utter despair he can only gaze across the roaring river knowing he will probably never see her again. He just manages to catch his ship and sails off into the wide blue yonder. It takes many years and he has many adventures but eventually he returns. Now he is a prosperous gentleman of good standing due to his enormous wealth. With trepidation he makes the long journey back to Danby. This time the elements are kinder but his steps are heavy. He easily fords the gentle flow of the river and approaches the farm last seen so many years ago. Imagine his delight when his one true love catches sight of him and runs into his arms. She has waited all these years for him never doubting that he would return. Now her father was happy to bless the marriage of his daughter and the couple could be together at last. To ensure that no other young man would ever have to suffer his torment our hero had this bridge built across the river so it could be crossed whatever the weather.....and that is the romance of Beggar's Bridge.
It was good to get in front of my easel yesterday. What with moving, holidays and winter weather, inspiration has been hard to find. However I have a demonstration for a local art society coming up in a couple of weeks so realised I would have to do something pretty quick. Whether it was this deadline that sharpened my mind or what I couldn't say but out of the blue inspiration struck. We now live out in the midst of the glorious Yorkshire Wolds so every journey home is now on a country road. One of the few good things about cold winter days (for a painter that is!) is that the sun starts to set early in the afternoon and on our way home we found ourselves driving straight into a fabulous sunset. I had to paint it and this is my recollection of the entire journey home - a distillation if you like, of all the wonderful things that so inspired me from the colours in the sky and road down to the puddles all along the side of it. I am very pleased with the way it has turned out and, with spirits lifted, am now looking forward to meeting up with Bridlington Art Society on February 5th.
This is an oldie that I have found again while sorting through old photos and files. I'm not sure what happened to the original but I've a few more boxes to sort yet.The subject (believe it or not!) was the incredible display of rhododendrons in an old Edwardian garden near where I used to live. I think I got a bit distracted because the flowers, such as they are, have been swamped by the colours and techniques I was experimenting with at the time. I used plenty of masking fluid, lots of wet on wet washes and sprinkles of salt to get those interesting textures. Finally a bit of red and wash out the sunbeams "et voila!" as Monet must have said. I have to confess that I like it more now than I did at the time!
Hidden away in the deep East Arncliff Woods near the North Yorkshire Moors village of Danby is a mysterious stone which has the power to grant wishes. In bygone days maids (and lads too I suspect) would secretly go and stand on the stone to make a wish for a rich and handsome partner to marry and other blessings such as wealth and long life. The problem is that over the years the exact location of this stone has been lost. So it's lying there somewhere waiting to be rediscovered and start granting wishes again. A good few years ago Merice and I spent a happy afternoon strolling through these lovely woods armed with a copy of an old photograph by Frank Sutcliffe. He was one of the very first photographers to chronicle the life and times of life in Victorian Britain. He was based in Whitby and the surrounding area and claimed his photo featured the ancient stone. We reckoned this was the nearest match we could find. The photograph was over a hundred years old so the scene was very overgrown. I had to do a bit of 'pruning' for my painting and here it is - "The Wishing Stone". Now if you fancy having a look for it yourself just park near Beggar's Bridge and head up into the woods following the old 'stone trod' - another two legends before you even set off......good luck!
More 'legends' by Glenn Marshall
This is another published article from a few years ago concerning happy memories from a bygone age. I will be returning to my 'Rogue's Galleries' series in the new year but hope you enjoy a little chuckle for now.
"I was born in 1950 which means that I was a teenager in the so called "swinging sixties".
This was not quite as glamorous as it may sound.
Indeed it wasn't until 1961 that we moved to a house that actually had electricity!
Previous to that my family lived in an old semi detached farmhouse labourer's house. As I said there was no electricity and lighting was provided by gas. We had the old gas mantles and they were very delicate so lighting them with a taper was a very difficult operation best left to grown ups. There was no running hot water and it goes without saying that the toilet was outside about a hundred yards away with hardly any roof left. Can you imagine having to use that on a cold winter's night...no we didn't either! Bath night was a once a week family occasion in the old tin tub. The house was certainly semi detached - the end wall of the other house had literally fallen down. We were evacuated twice by the fire brigade who immediately condemned the property. However despite it's obvious shortcomings I remember being very happy there and though dark, the house always seemed warm and friendly. We lived next door to a timber yard and as my dad sometimes worked for 'Chippy' Schofield, we were never short of wood to burn. Incidentally bread toasted on a fork over an open fire is quite simply the best toast there is.
However the council had to provide us with accommodation so they pulled out all the stops to make one property habitable on a new building site and we duly moved in - the only inhabitants of Moorland Avenue.
This is not quite accurate as there already existed an old Moorland Avenue but this was always known locally as "Hollywood" because of the number of "stars" who lived there. That is another story for another day!
When we moved in we had no carpets but at least we had electricity and I remember my sister and me being enthralled by the light switches, switching them on and off to our amusement and annoyance of mam and dad.
Over the next few years our lot improved - carpets, nice furniture and eventually a telly.
And then in 1963 the Beatles appeared and so began the "Swinging Sixties".
Now to say that my village Gildersome was caught up in this new phenomenon would be a slight exaggeration to say the least. But we did have the most wonderful music of any era before or since and we had the Beatles which meant we had to have the Beatle Cut!
Our village, as every other small village in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, was self sufficient so we had our own barber's shop and incumbent barber - one Clifford Pitts. Clifford or 'The Barber' as he was universally called had a small shop attached to the local village pub (another story or stories some day!) and of course he cut men's hair only - unisex had not yet been invented. He opened on Saturdays only. He was a cloth cutter at one of the mills in his day job and this constant practise with the sharp shears ensured he was well qualified to cut the hair of the men of Gildersome.
So off we went as thirteen year olds, down to the barbers.
The barber was well used to generations of teenagers asking for different styles through the decades from the teddy boy quiff to a D.A. (ask your dad!) so he was certainly not phased by a request for a "Beatle Cut please barber". "Reet lad" he'd reply and set to work pausing only to dispense 'something for the weekend' and tips for the next race to passing males.
The trouble was that no matter what you (or anyone else for that matter) asked for, he always cut your hair exactly the same - short back and sides.
"That doesn't look like the Beatle Cut barber " you might dare to suggest....."It would if they came in here lad!" was the succinct reply!
Happy days indeed and we still have that glorious music to bring it all back to life."
The 'enigmatic' aspect of the title came about because the mysterious lady unexpectedly 'appeared' in the painting of her own accord as sometimes happens with watercolours but she certainly brought the painting to life for me. And she gives us all an opportunity to hum along to that glorious track from the Beatles...bet you're already doing it!
I have been watching the "Landscape Artist of the Year" on Sky. It has certainly provoked lots of comments from artists and friends. Whatever your personal view is there is no doubt that discussion can only be a good thing. So here is my contribution to the debate. I originally published this article a couple of years ago but it still represents what I think. Please have a read and let me know what you think.
"I maintain that two and two would continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five."
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
What is 'good' art or conversely, what is 'bad' art? Whistler certainly found out all about that question.Let's have a look at what happened to him and see if it will help us decide what is good or bad art. Whistler maintained that art should need no explanation - that it should stand entirely on its own merit. Unfortunately this brought him into conflict with the establishment and in particular one John Ruskin. Ruskin was the pre-eminent critic of his day and the final arbiter of what was acceptable or not, in other words, what was 'good' or 'bad' art. He thought art should have a moral or social value. Ruskin wrote a particularly vitriolic condemnation of a painting by Whistler. Our hero was incensed and took out a libel action against Ruskin. Whistler based his case on "art for art's sake", arguing that art was art regardless of what anyone else might think or claim, summed up in his quote above. He expected the support of his fellow artists but he was wrong - his 'friends' were too afraid of offending the establishment so they kept silent on the issue. Nevertheless, amazingly, he won his case. But even the Judge closed ranks against him and awarded damages of just one farthing! One farthing was one quarter of one pence in old money. The resultant court costs and other incurred expenses made Whistler bankrupt and his paintings and possessions including his home were sold off to clear his debts. He travelled around Europe continuing to confront and confound the art establishment. He made many friends and built up a large following becoming very successful on the way. These friends included the Impressionists, who invited him to exhibit with them at their first controversial exhibition - an offer he declined. Strange therefore that this enigmatic artist who was so modern in his ideas and subjects is best remembered for a painting he did of his dear old mum!
So what do you think? Who was right - Whistler or the art establishment?
I think that today the answer would very clearly favour Whistler. We live in an age when anything can be classed as 'art' and according to Whistler - rightly so because art needs no explanation and has no moral or social obligation. So what is 'good' art? There is no objective answer. When I worked in galleries I noticed what I called the 'Gallery Effect' on people. They would talk in whispers so that nobody could overhear their comments and think them stupid for liking or not liking the 'right' thing. There is still a great deal of snobbishness attached to art and critics still have far too much power in deciding what is good or bad. The older a critic gets the more he seems to favour modern or contemporary art...I think this is just to make him appear cool, but the knock on effect can be very detrimental to traditional painters who have taken a long time to learn their craft only to be dismissed as old fashioned and irrelevant(on the soapbox again!). I used to tell the customers that if they like it - it's good, and if they don't - just say it's not so good. My painting above was based on a faded print in my mother's home (perhaps I should do a painting of her.). I had always liked it and brought it back to life as a large watercolour. I later found out that the original artist was called Benjamin Williams Leader. A Victorian painter and a member of the RA, he fell victim to the obsession for modernity and is largely now unrecognised for his fantastic work.
For me though, this is and always will be 'good art'.
This is the greatest drawing ever done. That is quite a claim but I didn’t make it. It was in fact made by David Hockney. David had recently moved to Bridlington and was working in the Yorkshire Wolds as part of the build up to his monumental solo exhibition at the Royal Academy which was then some years in the future. His sister Margaret was exhibiting her scannergraphs at the Rudston Art Centre at the time so it was not unusual for her brother to pop in for a coffee and a chat. It was both fascinating and illuminating to be part of conversations with the world’s greatest living artist. On one occasion he produced a few prints of the drawing and it was then that he made his claim. What made it so in his opinion was the skill and speed Rembrandt would have needed to capture this fleeting moment and yet he has accomplished it with consummate ease using the absolute minimum of strokes. It was and is a master class in brevity and one that inspired Hockney in his future work. My easel and paints were at the ready and after David had gone I did this simple line and wash rendition of Rembrandt’s masterpiece. I have tried to use the principle of simplifying a scene to its essentials ever since. After all it would be unwise to ignore the lesson from two great masters! Here's a copy of the original by Rembrandt:
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!