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!
I will be holding my Summer Exhibition this year in the Bollington Room, Bridlington Old Town Gallery from 1st June to 31st July 2016. The gallery is open daily from10:00 am-4:00 pm Monday to Saturday and 10:00am to 3:00 pm Sundays. Admission is free and as the gallery is situated in the heart of Bridlington's famous Old Town a visit could be part of a great day out. This is one of my new paintings for the exhibition - "Flamborough Head from Fraisthorpe Beach"
We are fortunate to have some wonderful beaches here on Yorkshire’s East Coast. It is always a pleasure to enjoy an evening stroll together with our little dog and wonder at the ever changing mood and atmosphere. Flamborough Head is a well known landmark with its iconic lighthouse which was clearly visible on this warm spring evening. The setting sun just caught the gathering clouds and made these lovely reflections on the wet sand. I really enjoy working with a limited palette and this painting features just three colours – brown madder, French ultramarine and a just little tinge of Winsor red. I used a slightly unusual technique for me – drawing in the clouds for accuracy instead of using colours wet on wet. In this instance I needed control as the clouds were the main feature of the composition. After a bit of careful masking though I was able to be as free as ever with the sea, beach and reflections relying on the magic of watercolour to get the desired effect.
"The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're an artist."
Do you know who said that? All will be revealed.
I am very fortunate to live where I do,with just a ten minute drive to the beach. We have wonderful beaches here on the east coast, and the ones around Bridlington are among the best.
This is a view towards the town from the beach where Dane's Dyke meets the sea. I remember the first time I visited this wonderful beach at low tide and just how inspired I was (and still am) by the amazing vista. This is painted in tea time light which makes it a crepuscular painting (go on - look it up).
One of the chief joys of being a painter as opposed to a photographer is that we can change things at will to improve composition, tone or even colour to make our painting more beautiful. For example - the chief attraction here is the light all pointing to and centered upon the distinctive Bridlington skyline but ..was the scene just like this? Of course not. These days anyone can capture exactitude with the modern wonders of digital photography, so the painter must do something more than faithfully reproduce a scene..he must enhance it by putting 'feeling' into it. Every painting contains something of the painter and this is what makes it special and unique. This also explains why no painter ever paints the same scene in the same way as, of course, we are all different.
So should we cheat for the sake of beauty...of course!
And the author of the above quote...David Hockney one time Bridlington's most famous resident.
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.
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!