It’s been almost impossible to do much painting or writing lately, thanks to a very happy event. On 22nd February my daughter Catherine gave birth to an absolutely gorgeous little daughter, so for the first time I am now a grandad. She goes by the name of Guinevere, and I can’t wait to paint her. She’s already had a trek across the mountains at around 10,000 feet in the Italian Dolomites, when Catherine was carrying her last July, and as you can see from the photograph she is obviously deep in artistic contemplation.
For my own contemplation I’m beginning to put together thoughts and images for my next book about coastal scenery, for which I have a whole host of new work from both the UK and abroad. My Arctic book will be coming out in June, so there will be more on that later on, but it’s important to keep thinking ahead when you work on various projects. The sea has always been one of my favourite subjects, and the coastal book will be the fourth and last in my current series of how-to-paint books.
Before I go, just a quick tip on painting those boaty things – you don’t always have to insert a complicated harbour background into the composition, or indeed any sort of complex background. In this watercolour sketch I have simply brought the atmospheric sky down to meet the sand, and left it at that. Just because something is there, you don’t have to include it!
And don’t forget – if you want to get views of a boat from all angles it pays to take along a pair of wellies before you dive into that lovely mud….
Jenny and I have just returned from running a watercolour course in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, where we were blessed with some fine blasts of wind that made the sea froth, heave and crash onto the rocky coastline in a truly dramatic fashion. In Solva habour, however, things were tranquil, with hardly a ripple disturbing the reflections. The place seemed to be crammed with boats, making it a marine-painter’s paradise.
Picking out a good composition with the more shapely boat or two takes some time when you’re wading through a veritable forest of masts. Any sensible artist would sport a pair of wellies and a suitable chair that keeps one well clear of the mud….and perhaps a small table for the water-pot and cappuccino, for then, if the tide rises during your painting you can gallantly continue even if your lower regions are below sea level.
Mud, as I have ruminated on before, is a particular favourite element in my paintings: easy to get right and you can stick it all over the place – well, in the foreground, anyway. You can also use it to hide any mistakes. In this photograph the muddy channels act as an excellent lead-in to the two main boats, and can be moved to suit the composition. The ropes and chains can also be employed in this way. Emphasise rusty red chains and green seaweed-draped ropes (there is a magnificent example in the centre right) to include some colour variation, and perhaps change a white buoy (as seen on the far left) to a more colourful orange or red. Reduce the number of masts and perhaps break up their reflections with a lump of mud or two in the water. If you would wish to include the background boats they should be painted in a far less distinct manner, otherwise the background becomes too cluttered and confusing.
There are still places available for my watercolour seminar on painting skies, light and atmosphere, at Pontypool on Saturday 27th – if you are interested please telephone Jenny on 01982 560237 The mixed exhibition at Barnabas Arts House in Newport Monmouthshire has been extended until the end of October. A percentage of the profits will go to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. I had to re-supply them with new paintings. Telephone no. 01633 673739