The recent Patchings Art Festival in Nottinghamshire was something of a whirlwind for us, with almost non-stop activity on our stand, and interest in my new book, Seas & Shorelines was astonishing. The book sold out and that was not including the other books. Having meetings with a number of people, I really didn’t manage to see even half the show this year, and had to miss out meeting many artists, but as usual it was a fabulous show, easily the best in the UK. It was a delight to meet so many students even though I was torn away so often by sheer numbers. I did three demonstrations in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on their superb Waterford and Bockingford papers, and had the privilege of being accompanied on stage by some local wildlife: at the rear of the marquee a nest of bees became interested in the demonstrations. Having these massive bees circling round your head as you paint away does tend to inject a real buzz to your work!
Getting back home was no picnic. The next day my two-year-old grand-daughter arrived and more or less took over the place, causing delightful mayhem and scattering my toys all over the place. About a week after returning from Patchings things returned almost to normal and I decided to go for a hike in a local gorge. Unfortunately it was massively overgrown with vegetation and I’d forgotten my boots and stick. It took some time to break through to the lip of the gorge, but once there I managed a couple of pencil sketches, one of which appears above. I had to leave out most of the background tree detail.
I continued upstream, high above the rocky course of the stream along a slippery, eroded pathway, but by now armed with a sturdy pole I’d found lying on the ground. Under some cliffs and round the corner I descended into the undergrowth from hell. Nobody had been this way for years probably. I was confronted by a dense area of briars, nettles, branches and other vegetation, all covering many fallen tree-trunks. I didn’t want to return the way I’d come so I literally thrashed my way through the undergrowth, mounting each tree-trunk and attacking the undergrowth beyond before leaping down the far side. This took ages and in the heat the perspiration was running off me. At the far end – some 70 yards or so – I looked back and realised it would have been better to have jumped into the river and waded up, thus avoiding the undergrowth.
There was much more to the day, but I shall pause there. I returned home happy with a brace of sketches and having had plenty of exercise. Just being in such a marvellous spot and enjoying the natural environment is something really special. Even for a few scratches!
Signed copies of Seas & Shorelines are available from my website
I will be giving a talk and demonstration at The Galtres Centre, in the Market Place at Easingwold on Friday 26th April, and you are welcome to come and have a chat. The theme will be “Wild Serengeti” and I will be covering encounters and sketching with African wildlife. The event starts at 7.30 pm and for those using satnav the postcode is YO61 3AD. For tickets and information please ring the Galtres Centre on 01347 822472
The scene shows wildebeeste startled by a lion during the annual pilgrimage across the Serengeti, when the line of wildebeeste runs from one end of the horizon to the other. The lion watched them with indifference, probably having eaten so many he couldn’t face any more for a while! I enjoy working on a narrative like this, where there is more than just the visual image. To make the main animals stand out I deliberately simplified the ground directly behind them. Fast movement is depicted not just by blurring the legs slightly and placing them in running positions, but also by the angle and attitude of the body. This is at its clearest in the two beasts 3rd and 4th from the left, where they are moving away from the viewer and their bodies are slightly leaning over to the left as they turn away. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford 140lb rough paper.
Some folk may wonder why I don’t use Facebook, even though there is an account in my name (which I don’t use). I find it almost impossible as I live quite an action-packed life with little time to spare – in fact I don’t paint so often these days because 21st-century life just is too demanding of one’s time. Technology is supposed to make life easier for us, but I find it just adds an extra burden, being so incredibly slow and error-prone. It’s much greater fun to be out in the wilds or at least brandishing the old-fashioned paintbrush somewhere nice and remote.
There are so many times these days when I just want to get off this mad conveyor-belt of constant action, and be back in the wilds, away from phones, the internet and all the trappings of 21st-century life as it becomes more and more dehumanised. Being amongst wildlife and the mountain peoples is a great pleasure, and one of the marvellous aspects of being an artist is that your paintings and sketches recall so many wonderful moments in these places.
This scene shows a group of buffalo, wary of the intruders to their patch in the Gol Mountains of Tanzania. I’d just been sketching the frenetic activities of a gaggle of Nubian vultures gorging themselves on a carcass. These were days of constant excitement amidst outstanding scenery. In this watercolour I broke up the skyline with wreaths of mist as it tended to intrude right across the composition. The cliffs have been rendered with Daniel Smith Watercolour Ground, which is similar to Gesso, but easily painted over with watercolours. This was applied with a painting knife and injects strong texture into this large work.
The painting is on view at Brecon Library in a small exhibition entitled Wild Moments, and I will be giving an illustrated talk there at 11 am on Saturday 9th March. Many Powys libraries are now under great threat of closure and I feel it is so important to support them. Do come along if you can. I will also be taking new paintings to the Ardent Gallery in Brecon next week – telephone 01874 623333
There are still a few vacancies on my course at St Davids in Pembrokeshire from 2nd to 7th June. It takes place at the superb Warpool Court Hotel overlooking St Brides Bay, and we have such an outstanding wealth and variety of painting subjects both on the coast and inland, not to mention the amazing display of flowers along the coast path and hedgerows.
Enjoy your painting and don’t forget to get off that mad conveyor-belt every now and then to recharge your batteries!
Here in Mid-Wales it’s been a really gloomy start to the new year, and that’s not just the weather – confrontations at Llandegley between many protesters and the wind-turbine developers escalated when they began delivering concrete. It really shows the amazing commitment to saving the planet by these truck-drivers in having to rise about 1am to drive down from Yorkshire, about 150 miles, to shatter the sleep of the locals before 5am. Somewhat unfairly, the developers do not seem to have told them that these turbines will not be connected to anything, as there is no connection to the grid! Apparently so long as they look OK this doesn’t matter, and they will still get their millions so long as one of the seven turbines is standing up by 31st January. They have brought a large generator along, probably just to make sure the little thingie at the top goes round and round anyway.
Many security staff had been drafted in, but the protesters held their ground. The trucks stood still. At first the police present were unsure about the legal situation, as this was on common land where we had every right to wander around, sketch, watch birds, have a picnic, etc, but in the end the issue was resolved by protesters walking slowly in front of the trucks at less that funereal pace. The security staff tried to bully some out of the way. One elderly lady slipped on the muddy surface, just as the truck behind saw a gap and raced forward. Fortunately she managed to roll out of the way, but inches from the wheels that would have crushed her. The truck did not stop. Many dear little ladies that day and subsequently found themselves intimidated as in the sketch, by these aliens.
It would take a book to write up all this. If this were happening in Surrey or Sussex where they don’t appear to have a single turbine, there would be a national outcry. We already have hundreds and the scandalous manner in which these speculators accrue vast wealth for trashing the livelihoods, well-being and local tourist economy is shocking. But we carry on the fight, though there’s not much time for painting.
I wish you all a rather belated happy new year, and every success with your painting!
When I visited Llandegley Common to see the extent of the construction of the wind turbines I carried out some sketching, especially those delightful corners, as well as the beautiful panoramas of this much-loved landscape, now under severe threat.
The early morning sunlight lit up the tangled undergrowth at the entrance to the common, a delight for nature-lovers and wildlife. In the ensuing painting I have changed the greens in the main for warmer colours – I do so love the Daniel Smith Transparent Red Oxide, so powerful and transparent. Here I have tried to show the backlit effect of sunlight catching the rims of the trees, and dropping the Transparent Red Oxide into the trunks while they were still wet with the initial green and yellow ochre mixture. Background trees have been rendered with the wet-in-wet method to suffuse them into the distance, even though I could see them in clear outline.
The situation with the development at Llandegley Rhos has become appalling: the county council were asked by protesters to stop the developers’ access across the common until they had permission to do so, but the council planners have failed at every turn. They are running around like headless chickens, not knowing what to do, to the disgust of residents and some council workers themselves. One lady living nearby has had a dead fox planted in her drive, its tail cut off – a clear threat. They want these turbines up by 31st January so that they can claim millions for producing absolutely nothing. What other industry works in this way?
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales has put in for a judicial review, but will it be too late? It was in by 6th December, the cut-off date, but with the developers working round the clock it may well be fait accompli before the case comes to court. CPRW is only a small organisation, unlike its sister in England, but has shown far more professionalism than the Welsh Assembly, Powys CC or the developers, who have shown arrogance and bullying tactics all along. This is an absolute shambles as far as planning law and local democracy is concerned: it simply doesn’t exist in Wales.
Thankfully I shall be spending Christmas in Sussex with my gorgeous little grand-daughter, and I wish you all a very Happy and peaceful Christmas. May you find lots of lovely arty things in your Christmas stockings!!!