As landscape artists we often see far too much in a scene for the good of our painting, and slavishly copy as much of the detail as we can. It really does pay to think about your need to include even what may seem to be an important part of the subject, and ask yourself if it does help to include the whole feature, or can you make subtle changes before that brush touches your paper?
In this view of Penyghent in Yorkshire, although I could see the entire mountain clearly, I felt that the profile was too stark: there was no mystery. So I introduced some lower cloud on the right to lose that strong curving edge of the peak by bringing down the shadow part of the cloud with French ultramarine and cadmium red over the yellow ochre of the mountainside. Then, by emphasising the shadowy shape of the lower part of the fell as it came out of the cloud, the overall shape of Penyghent was retained. The work was done on Saunders Waterford 140lb NOT paper.
I will be demonstrating at Patchings Art Festival on 14th, 15th and 16th July. The demonstrations will take place in the St Cuthberts Mill Marquee each morning. It will be great to return to Patchings after the two-year absence because of Covid. We will also have a small stand at the event, so do come along and see us.
Unfortunately my webinar with Painters On-line had to be cancelled because of my throat and chest infection which made it impossible for me to speak properly, but we are back on track now and the event is rescheduled for 11am on 4th August when I will be painting a Nile scene. I’m sorry for any inconvenience to anyone who booked. See details at Painters Online
With so much happening at the moment it’s not easy to remember everything I need to say, so chaos is reigning here. My exhibition Arabian Light, which launched my new book of the same name, has ended at the excellent Osborne Studio Gallery in London, and it was a great success – quite a relief during these straightened times!
I shall be continuing with the same theme during my Webinar for Painters-online where you can book a place. It takes place at 11am on Tuesday 21st June, and I shall be painting a view of the River Nile in evening light with an interesting sky and lots of atmosphere. You are welcome to ask questions during the event.
Arabian Light is not a practical guide, but is packed with sketches and watercolours from the Middle East, with lots of colour, and shows how I approach working on location. Signed copies are available from my website
I recently dropped some new paintings in to the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven (tel. 01646 695699), which is right on the quayside opposite the marina. They include one of St Govan’s Chapel viewed from across the bay from St Govan’s Head.
This shows the main part of the composition, the chapel caught in strong sunshine while mist is rising over the backgroiund cliff. Most of the rocks in sunlight have been left as white paper and lacking in detail, while those in shadow stand out in contrasting tones. It is the cast shadow that emphasises the effect of sunlight, further accentuated by the dark foreground rock structures.
In any painting, if you include everything you see the result will just be an overworked photographic version. While some people appreciate this approach, most see the benefit of ‘editing’ the image to produce a cleaner, more atmospheric and painterly work. One of the most important aspects of my creative process is that of using atmosphere and the ‘lost and found’ technique to heighten the effect of a moody scene.
This watercolour of the tombs of the caliphs in Cairo shows the scene bathed in warm evening light after the sun has set, using the atmosphere to completely eliminate any detail in the distance, while also subduing much of the architectural information on the main buildings. Not only does the rising smoke hide much detail, but the lost and found effect can be observed further to the left where some of the elements have been faded out. You can achieve this by deliberately reducing the detail until that passage becomes almost blank, or another extremely effective method is to simply paint in the main architectural features as normal, and when this is dry fade part of it out with a damp sponge or by lightly scrubbing out with an old soft-haired brush. I shall be painting a similar scene to this as a demonstration at The Bookshop in East Grinstead at 7pm on Thursday 19th May. It is pretty much fully booked, but because of Covid there are likely to be a number of cancellations, so it might be worth telephoning the bookshop on 01342 322669 They will, of course, have copies of my new Arabian Light book. The exhibition of the same name will be continuing from 18th to 27th May at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London Tel. 020 7235 9667, where you can see the paintings from the book. Watch out also in Leisure Painter Magazine for my on-line webinar on 21st June where I will be painting a sunset scene on the River Nile – more about that in due course.
Jenny and I have just returned from running a painting course in St Davids in Pembrokeshire, where we were blessed with some wonderful autumn sunshine for most of the week. Solva looked especially appealing in the clear light. The picture at the bottom shows me demonstrating with a ‘lay-flat sketchbook’.
The lay-flat sketchbook is made up of the superb Saunders Waterford NOT paper backed with strong card, and designed so that each double page lays flat, so that it is easy to create a painting across both sides as shown in the illustration opposite. As the paper is flat and taut it is the watercolourists’ dream surface to work on, and I enjoyed producing the alfresco watercolour. Although this is not quite the finished painting it does show how I altered the strident background ridge above the buildings to become a misty, indefinite background which throws the emphasis onto the cottages. Changing elements of a composition to suit your creative ideas is fine. We did however, find one or two of our old favourite subjects very much changed by nature, though. The storms of last winter did much damage – by comparison a few artistic changes hardly seem significant! The line down the centre is the centre-fold. The lay-flat sketchbook is available from the Society for All Artists (SAA). Check out their site on
Light is critical to our painting. Without it our subject is lost. On my recent trip to the Lake District I experienced many exciting ‘light moments’, often simply gazing at the light in wonder at the sheer beauty, then snapping out of my mesmeric state to quickly record the moment. Just watching, and observing, though will tell you a lot about how light and shadow affect what we see and paint. In the mountains these effects are often accentuated by the numerous folds in the mountainsides and the inter-relationships of peaks and ridges, which can seem to change continually in windy, broken-cloud conditions. If you take a series of photographs of these ever-changing moments it can be quite revealing how the emphasis changes.
This view of Upper Loch Torridon is just part of a composition. While on the spot I sketched it once and photographed it several times while the light and shadows on the mountain were changing. This method of working extends your options for the finished painting considerably. Note where the hard and soft edges to the shadows appear, and how certain crags are highlighted at times, thus providing a potential centre of interest. On distant peaks I prefer to suggest detail rather than make it stand out too strongly.