Sometimes it is a good idea to take a completely different approach to a painting. I normally start by painting the sky, background hills and trees and then painting the focal point, finishing with the foreground. There are practical reasons for this, as it is easy to smudge a focal point that you are pleased with when painting the area above it.
However, in the case of the painting illustrated here, a cottage in the Preseli hills, Pembrokshire, I began with the focal point, then painted the sky and trees ending with the foreground. The surface I am using is Fisher 400 art paper which has been tinted with a purple ink wash. This gave me a dark background and allowed me to leave some of the surface unpainted giving a unity to the work.
By adopting this order of working I found myself working in a much looser way, for example adding the light between the branches of the trees instead of the other way around, and painting the trees around the buildings rather than painting the building over the trees.
So experiment with your approach to a painting and see what happens.
I will be running a Pastel Workshop in the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough on 4th August, 2016. If you are interested in enrolling please contact Edwina Pearce on 01672 512071.at the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough.
David and I have just returned from a trip to Kent where David did a demonstration for Hythe Art Society at the stunningly beautiful Lympne Castle, overlooking Romney Marsh, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. We were made very welcome by this warm and friendly art group and shared their celebration tea with them after the demonstration.
We took the opportunity whilst in this beautiful corner of England to explore Dover Castle, Folkstone Harbour and St Margaret’s at Cliffe, which yielded numerous sketching subjects. The weather was beautiful as we sketched the White Cliffs of Dover in the hazy sunshine.
White Cliffs of Dover, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, sketch by Jenny Keal
I know I’ve said it before but I can’t emphasis enough how important sketching out of doors is to improve your painting. The watercolour sketch above only took about 30 minutes to complete. Working in a hardback cartridge paper sketchbook, with a slight breeze to dry the washes, I was aiming to capture the freshness of the morning and the delicate quality of the light. Leaving out lots of foreground detail to retain the freshness I was aiming for.
Photograph, St Margaret’s at Cliffe
So often a sketch can capture something that is lacking in a finished painting, and working purely from a photograph can rarely portray the magic of a place. When I look at the sketch I can smell the sea, but not when I look at the photograph.
Learning how to create atmosphere and recession in a landscape painting is an essential skill for a landscape artist. Artists will have their own techniques to achieve this effect but in my new DVD Pastel Demonstration Lingcove Bridge, I explain my methods. I like to give a painting a sense of space and a strong feeling of atmosphere.
My favourite techniques for creating recession are through the use of colour, tone and detail. Cooler, paler colours in the distance: warmer, darker colours as you progress towards the foreground. Less detail in the background and more in the foreground, especially around the focal point. The relative sizes of objects in the landscape is also a consideration. Trees in the distance, even if they are larger than foreground trees, need to be depicted as smaller. As Father Ted says, “this cow is small but those are far away”
Atmosphere is something that becomes easier to understand if you sketch outdoors, in front of your subject. There is nothing like getting out in the countryside to give authenticity to your landscape paintings.
These are not new ideas, the old masters excelled at giving a sense of depth through these methods. You almost certainly have heard these tips before, but it can’t be said too often.
The new DVD is 1 hour 23 minutes long and is filmed in close detail so you can see every mark I make, with a running commentary about my thought process. There is an excerpt on You Tube
Here is just a fraction of David’s many sketchbooks
I recently had an email inquiring about which sketchbooks I recommend. I thought other artists would find this useful too, so I am sharing this information here.
David and I both have a large collections of sketchbooks, The UK ones are dedicated to certain counties, or regions such as Mid Wales, Lake District, Yorkshire etc. and the overseas ones are illustrated daily journals of the trip, with text and drawings and paintings.
A page from my Egypt sketchbook
We have used a number of different brands over the years, some of which are no longer available but the ones we currently use are Daler Rowney Ebony Hardback Sketchbooks in either A5 or A4 sizes. Many of the UK ones and all of the overseas ones are in casebound hardback sketchbooks with cartridge paper, either A4 or A5. Casebound books are more durable than ring bound ones and have the advantage that you can write on the spine and then organise them on a bookshelf.
A page from my Crete sketchbook
The other advantage of a casebound book is that you can extend the sketch over a double page spread and with an A4 sketchbook that means you have an area A3 in size. The paper weight is also important if you intend to use watercolour in your sketches. I would say that 150 gsm cartridge paper is the minimum weight to look for. There are a number of casebound sketchbooks coming onto the market and not always in art shops, some stationery shops now seem to stock plain cartridge paper casebound books. but check the paper weight carefully before you buy.
David and I strongly believe that sketching out of doors is the best way to improve your artwork, and if you paint in watercolour then sketching in watercolour out of doors is a truly liberating and exciting experience and will almost certainly improve your studio watercolours.
I hope you can discover the pleasure of working out of doors in front of nature.
Cottage at Lynmouth, (Photo)
I know David has already blogged about this gorgeous old cottage in Lynmouth that we both sketched on our recent course for Alpha Painting Holidays but I cannot resist also featuring it in this, my first blog for some time. Circumstances have prevented me finding time to blog lately but it is time to rectify that.
Lynmouth (watercolour sketch)
Cottage at Lynmouth, Pastel by Jenny Keal
Those of you who know me are aware that old buildings in the landscape are my favourite subject and our recent trip to Exmoor gave me the perfect opportunity to seek out some of the best examples in the UK. This old cottage, perched high on the hill above Lynmouth harbour, seemed to almost grow out of the hillside giving it a timeless feeling.
The watercolour sketch I did included a number of the other cottages which descended the hill towards the harbour but for the final painting, which was done as a demonstration for the painting course, I decided to leave out the majority of the buildings and to focus on the one that interested me the most. The direction of the light in the photograph was confused by shadows cast by the trees so I decided to simplify things. The background and foreground were suggested with colour rather than detail.
I will be demonstrating a building in the landscape in pastel at the Sandpiper Studio on the Wirral on Friday 20th June, 2pm – 4.30pm, (scroll half way down the page for this event details) tickets are still available at £13 per head including refreshments from Julie McLean, booking details are here.