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!!!
Finishing off my Seas & Shorelines book, a hiking trip to northern Italy, and a host of demonstrations, workshops and other items has left me little time to write blogs of late. I know some folk are quite happy to create their blog while riding across snow-encumbered steppes, I tend to leave most of my electronic appurtenances at home.
The Italian trip in northern Lombardia was really special, and accompanied by wonderful autumnal sunshine. The mountain scenery was outstanding, the granite peaks positively gleaming a brilliant white in the strong sunlight, and especially striking when set against the warm autumn colours on the trees. This brief sketch was carried out with a very soft Lyra sepia pencil in a few minutes, smudging the tones in places with my fingers as I tried to capture the beautiful evening light illuminating the peaks. Lyra make lovely pencils, and this simple approach is an excellent way to improve your drawing.
Back in Wales it came as quite a shock to learn that a wind turbine development is being allowed to go ahead by the Welsh Assembly in a truly beautiful area, despite being thrown out by the local planning committee and the inspector at the public inquiry, and with very strong opposition from local people. The environment minister, who appears to have no experience in the natural environment, decided to give the scheme the go-ahead ‘because of the national interest!’ Which national interest she had in mind is not clear as it is certainly in the interests of the foreign company constructing the turbines.
The photograph shows the glorious Llandegley Rocks ridge which makes for a really interesting walk. There are starling murmurations with up to around 80,000 birds, which the developer intends to get rid of by cutting down their trees and bushes. The World Health Organisation has recently produced a report that shows that wind turbines cause hearing loss, tinnitus, high blood pressure and heart problems, yet the Welsh Ass has not bothered to carry out an investigation into the health of people living near these contrivances. Mid-Wales relies heavily for tourism for its economy, but unlike other countries the Welsh Ass cares little. If they can do this to Llandegley Rocks then nowhere is safe in Wales from this industrialisation. There is no control, this outcome has indicated that public inquiries are a waste of time, effort, money and emotional resources, and that local democracy is absolutely dead in Wales. Planning control appears to be a thing of the past, and this decision throws all efforts to strike a fair balance into utter confusion. It is a very black prospect for the principality. God help the children of Wales.
We’ve just returned from Spain where we ran a group painting holiday in the lovely old Andalucian town of Ronda, based in a hotel right on the edge of those sheer cliffs. It was brilliantly organised by Richard Cartwright of West Norfolk Arts. I did several sketches of the mountain panorama from my balcony, taking care not to drop a pencil as it wouldn’t have stopped for over 200 feet straight down!
Ronda is full of fascinating subjects, apart from its magnificent Puente Neuvo, the bridge that links the two parts of the town and spans the dramatic gorge. The watercolour sketch shown on the right is of the old bridge, which I carried out with a sanguine pen and a limited range of harmonious colours to retain unity. I chose to do it fairly early in the morning when it was backlit, for added drama, but also to avoid the crowds of tourists. I could see the green fields beyond the bridge and the blue-grey mountains beyond them, but chose to introduce a misty atmosphere in which I could lose detail. This was especially helpful with the gorge itself as it enhanced the sense of space and depth, which is also true of the vertical dimension as it goes down a long way.
We were mainly blessed with good weather most of the time, although we did have a number of splendid storms, one of which was accompanied by a cloudburst that filled the streets with roaring torrents, trapping many for nearly an hour.
I have a great affection for rural lanes, especially old rutted cart-tracks. While they are superb for leading you into a composition they are also excellent subjects in their own right. When I plan a sketching trip I often seek out winding lanes on the walking map, and where they lead to an interesting-looking subject such as a mountain or hill, then there is a strong chance of a good subject.
This particular lane heads towards the Brecon Beacons and I tramped it on a sunny winter day. I particularly liked the way the low sunlight cast shadows across the lane, and was keen to include this aspect, as well as giving the feature a few extra ruts for good measure. Ruts, puddles, clumps of grass and weeds and stones can be exaggerated or even added if they are not present, to give the composition more character. Keep a file of drawings, sketches and photographs of these countryside features so that you can add them in when needed. Undulating hedgerows with gaps here and there enhance the rustic nature of the place as do mature trees and bushes, and if you’re feeling really bold why not include a rustic shepherd wending his weary way home?
The painting was done on a sheet of quarter-imperial Saunders Waterford rough paper, a beautiful surface to work on, and the rough surface enhanced the track, especially where I used drybrush strokes.
It’s been all-action since my last blog, from the marvellous annual festival at Patchings Art Festival in Nottingham’s Robin Hood country where I demonstrated the Saunders Waterford papers for St Cuthberts Mill, and had the pleasure of meeting a lot of you. I’ve also just returned from an immensely rewarding trip to Germany, so that has a lot of potential for some great artwork.
I do hope, like me, you’ve enjoyed this amazing summer and made full use of it with your paintbrush!