Sunday 31 December 2017

My Painting Year 2017

A selection of paintings in my studio 
Its been an amazing year....over the past 12 months I have blog posted 127 paintings, taken part in the Surrey Open Studios plus 5 joint exhibitions, and been on many paintings trips home and abroad!
It was a very busy year but it feels like I have made some progress in my painting and career (and had fun with it too!)

My focus has been plein air - working outside: the more I do the more I love and I find it is quite addictive :-) Although plein air is not easy! As there are so many elements which you have to battle to be able to paint. From changing light, tide, weather, sun in your eyes or snow freezing your feet to rain resisting your oil paint. There is a challenge every time I go out, but I like that and it keeps me on my toes and interested! 
Painting at The Seven Sisters, East Sussex
I had some valuable input from artist Richard Pikesley who suggested I paint small and often, my average size is 8x10". 
I really want to improve my painting and I do all I can to make that happen! I read art books, watch painting DVDs, talk to other artists but I think the most important thing to help improve is to paint as often as I can.  There is a tussle between working on my art career and having a life away from it. Getting a balance is not easy!

I think the most paintings I did in one day was 4 but on average I paint 3-4 a week. I am getting quicker at completing a painting so I generally finish outside. I may make small adjustments back in the studio but as artist Ken Howard says painting in 'one wet' or alla prima is the ideal: often if you come back to complete the painting the next day the light is different.

Light conditions, whether it's sunrise or sunset feature a lot in my work. It’s what excites me when I’m looking for a subject, for example contra jour, looking into the light when you get sparkles on the water & strong tonal shapes. 

London has also become a project. I aim to go at least once every two weeks, finding inspiration along the River Thames - the life and structure around it and the light on the water!

I won two national awards at The Patchings and with The Artist magazine, which means I will be doing an exhibition ‘The Artist Collection' at the Patchings next Autumn. 
I was also pleased to win a local award with top painting in the Haslemere Art Society exhibition. 

One of the highlights was getting into the ROI (Royal Institute of Oil Painters) Exhibition at the Mall Galleries which is so hard to do (high standard and a lot of competition).  To sell the painting at the Private View was also very exciting!

I’ve just had a painting selected (see below) into the Royal Society of British Artist (RBA) Open Exhibition which means I'm through the first round.  The next step is taking the framed piece to London to be judged for their annual exhibition.

'Fishing Boat Beer, Devon' 8x10"
I was really lucky to go on several painting trips this year. Some on my own and some with husband Nick who is a photographer. Ile de Re in France stood out as I enjoyed being with other artists and painting sunnier climes. Venice was amazing and inspiring I plan to go back next September.  Going to so many varied places to paint has stretched my comfort and helped my skills.

Its been exciting to sell to people around the world with clients in America and Australia and home in the UK. Several people would have opened my paintings as Christmas presents too.

I have been working on my Social Media especially Instagram where I’ve just hit 2000 followers and Facebook. I would recommend Social Media to other artists as it does help with getting people to know you and your work and and can be a selling platform too.
My Instagram page & name
I aim to continue to blog. It is a commitment with posting my work regularly but I like having the record and the story saved for each painting and I hope my tales can be of interest and help others!
I also plan to do some more informative posts for example continue the plein air equipment theme and favourite painting DVDS & art books, & social media using it as an artist.

I really appreciate your support over the past year. I enjoy reading your comments, they help to keep me going! Heres to a happy & creative 2018 for us all. Clare

Saturday 30 December 2017

#279 'Sunrise, Devils Punch Bowl' 10x10"

This was the last painting I managed before it poured with rain and the snow sadly melted. I have painted this scene before but from a photo during our joint exhibition in March this year, doing this I felt more familiar with the subject.

I chose a square format to help the composition and make a strong design. 
I simplified the shapes of the trees and bushes and used similar dark tones and colours. The distant trees closer to the sun (left side) are a warm red-violet colour as the sunlight is influences them.
When I arrived the area was in shadow and then the sun came up and the light hit the snow and the colours were amazing! Intense yellows and oranges, I painted the light quickly without any purple shadows looking for the light shape patterns. Squinting my eyes helped to see the light shapes.
The purple shadows in the snow were more intense closer to me and duller further away - so I mixed some complimentary yellow to dull the purple down.
I'm happy with how this painting turned out!

Friday 29 December 2017

#278 'Sheep Grazing, Bramshott Chase' 12x16"

This was my third time painting this view (from our back garden) and I felt brave enough to have a go with a larger board (my biggest to date outside.) I had no idea whether it would work out, but having 'learnt the subject' and feeling comfortable with it I completed the painting in 90 mins and it wasn't a disaster! 

The sheep seemed comfortable with me, see the pic below grazing close, there's something lovely about being near creatures and wildlife when painting.  
The sheep circumnavigate the field so when they were in compositionally good spot I paint them in. You can see they are quite yellow compared to the snow.
The middle tree was the main focus so I painted that in first thin dark paint, plus the next two trees, changing the intensity of green/brown and tones.

I struggled with my paint as it was sodden from the snowy morning and still very sticky. I scraped off a whole section of snow I'd painted as it was too thick and clumsy. Scrapping back often works as you have remnants left and you can leave some of it showing.

The larger size felt a bit daunting to start with but once I got some blocked in it felt ok, and actually nice to have more space to work with. I feel pleased to have managed a bigger painting outside and will do more in the future as they make an impact in exhibitions and to improve my skills.

Thursday 28 December 2017

#277 'Snow falling, Bramshott Common' 8x10"

We had heavy snow yesterday and it was carnage outside our house, we are on a hill and cars were slipping, sliding and crashing into each other, and then abandoned. Quite a sight!
Plus 40mile hour gusts made blizzard conditions. So I wrapped up in many layers - 3 trousers 2 pairs socks, 2 coats... hardcore balaclava, 4 hand warmers, feet warmers. I was ready to paint!!

It looked so pretty as the snow had settled on the trees a good two inches. But I found it hard to find a composition as everything was either white or very light. I walked to another common nearby, with pine trees, and managed to fall over as I slipped off the pavement as I didn't see it under the snow, thankfully no harm done.

I had the usual battle of water (snow) getting on my palette and board. Too much of it and the paint wont stick when brushed onto the panel and goes into a sticky mess. Also the snow melted rapidly. 
Lots of tonal work. The sky is darker than the snow and the trees are darkest with variations of colour between green and red-violet.
I made adjustments in the studio of the snow on the trees as it was too contrasted so I softened it.
I painted for over an hour being totally alone, nobody else ventured onto the common until it stopped snowing.  I enjoyed being out there. Yay for snow!

Wednesday 20 December 2017

#276 'Spire in the Mist" 10x12"

Gorgeous light when I arrived at the Trundle yesterday.  I liked the contrast of rich greens and strong shapes in the foreground to the soft pastels colours diffused by the mist on the horizon. You couldn't see the sea or Isle of wight and the land and sky merged as one.

I painted this scene before in August this year, it was mid summer where the colours and light were so different, see pic.
The bright contrasted day on the right to the hazy soft day on the left.

First time on a 10x12" board, nice size and feels a squarer format to the 8x10" I have been using.
I started on the horizon line and sky as it's what would change fastest and was important to the painting. Difficult to get the light quality, greyed out colour and very light in tone with the sky peachy and warm.
The Cathedral spire I added later, there was other stuff I could have added in the distance but this stood out as a good focal point (and landmark to those who know the area.)

The two people I also added at the end. I put them in and then tried to adjust them as I made them to big for the positioning. Back at the studio I wiped them and did them again with a few fresh marks best not to overwork figures as they look stiff. I spoke to the Mother and son when they came up the hill they were so chuffed to be in my painting :-)

The fence posts most were put down with a quick sweeping stroke same for the shadows too. Put too much effort on them and they look overworked and out of place.
I'm pleased with the end result!

Workshop News
For those who are fairly local to me I am starting to plan a Plein Air day workshop. It will be in this location (The Trundle, nr Goodwood) around May next year. Open to those who have had some experience of outside painting, limited to 8 places. Let me know if your interested and would like more information.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

#275 'First Light, The Devils Punch Bowl' 8x14"

A very tricky subject, as the composition is minimal, you have to make more of it than is actually there! 
The mist rolled up the hill at the end which changed it as well.
When I got it back to the studio it was one of those that was disappointing, it didn't work. So I decided to scrape the whole thing back. Nothing to loose as I didn't like it how it was. I used a palette knife and took as much paint off as I could and leaving a ghost of a painting. I did it in sections here's the second. I had just done the sky & hills...

You can also see I changed the composition as the tree line was coming off the bottom of the board, so I moved it up and made it a bit smaller, which helped.
The light hit the tops of the trees which I captured it also hit the top of the middle distance hills I put that in but decided it was confusing and when I repainted it, it more how it was in the beginning of the morning. 
A good learning piece, bitter cold too!

Sunday 17 December 2017

#274 'Silver Birch in Snow' 8x10"

I have been distracted with Christmas preps so haven't posted the last of my snow paintings from the beginning of the week.

Across the road from us we have Bramshott Common with lots of Silver Birches, I have found it difficult to find a composition I like in the past, but snow definately helps.
I saw this scene but thought I could find better, so walked at pace with my gear though the snow.
I ended up 40 mins later back at the same soot with only minutes to spare until the sun was behind the tree line. So I painted the sun & sky first leaving gaps for the tree trunks.
The rest of the painting was with a warm or cool grey. A mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, warming the mix with Permanent Rose or cooling with more blue and white.
Very little white in the trees and foliage in the foreground which helps with ariel perspective.
Pleased with the result considering it was a quickie!
Lets hope the snow comes back soon :-)

Thursday 14 December 2017

#273 'Shadows on Snow' 8x10"

Second painting from the back garden this time quite different weather being a sunny and crisp morning with long purple shadows on the snow. 
The shadows went surprisingly quickly which meant there was no time for mixing. I used some of the paint on my palette from the previous days snow painting, just tweaked a bit. 
I also spent some time painting the sheep I put them in before the main light snow as I wanted to paint around them as it seams to connect and structure the painting better. I simplified the sheep to 3 tones of muted yellow. (Light mid and dark) which helped make them look solid. You also don't have to put in all the detail like four legs just a suggestion is enough.
The tree trunks I did a dark green-brown tone first then a light strip not the left. The little tree in the centre was in direct sun and glowing orange!
Snow seams to make the land quieter, all I could really hear were the sheep munching on grass nearby :-)

Our back garden with the fence and then the field.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

#272 'Grazing on Snow' 8x14"

Second painting from the snow in the past couple of days. Really lucky to have this view from our back garden, with snow and sheep it transforms! 
Not much light but the snow was still really bright and the sheep looked surprisinlgy yellow! 
I came back from my first snow painting in the morning and saw the sheep in the snow field and thought wow they look great! By the time I'd come out of my studio with my gear they'd all gone! But knew they be back as there was a big patch of green to munch on! 
They did come, so I quickly got them down, hard not to make them to cutesie looking. 
Here's the beginning stages....

I wasn't sure how the green of the grass would work in the painting of greys and neutrals but it seams to lift it and work.
I hadn't really noticed how sloping the field was until I painted it! But it fits the format well.

On a different note I went to London today for artist Peter Browns talk and to see his amazing exhibition at Messums gallery on until 23rd December. One to get to if you can.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

#271 'Snow on Bramshott Common' 8x10"

Really tough painting conditions. Snowing, windy and bitter cold. Snow on the land makes it magical and I didn't want to miss the opportunity so I wrapped myself up in two of everything- trousers, coats, scarfs, socks...! Even a new fleece balaclava, allowed me to face the weather. 
I used my husbands old tattered golf brolly which I held religiously over my board and palette as if it gets too wet from the snow, paint resists on the board and you can't continue. So I had to do everything one handed not easy! It wasn't an option fixing the brolly to the easel as we would have taken off! So I held it up the whole time (I need bigger muscles!)  
I put the background trees in first a silvery violet leaving space for the foreground pine which was more intense colour and stronger in tone. Putting the lightest white snow next to test the tones. The distant snow is greyed down with a little violet and yellow. The tones of the snow are quite close together as it was a flat light, I changed the colours slightly between yellow and violet.
I got so cold by the end I could barely walk home, thankfully only 15 mins away but it was worth it!
I'm not sure if I will add snow flakes to the painting, and I may adjust some areas like the path later, once I've sat with it for a bit.
Got another 3 snow paintings to post... :-)

Me in my layers!

Monday 11 December 2017

#270 'Morning Frost, The Trundle' 8x14"

I'm a bit behind with posting as I have three to put on, two snow paintings and this frosty one.
Took artist friend Sarah Manolescue for the first time to the Trundle. It was a gorgeous morning and she was wowed! I moved so I could get the sparkle on the sea in the distance and trees and shadows in the foreground. 
It was difficult to see the sky as it was washed out with the bright low sun. I wiped it off and repainted it when I got back to the studio. The sky tone had to be darker than the sea but lighter than the distant land. Using yellow in the sky and violet in the hills, complementaries working together.
Making the middle distant hills a green-blue colour and light in tone made it look like frost. The cows were tricky I hadn't put them in and the farmer turned up in his truck beeping his horn they all came running, so cute to watch. Feed time. I was pleased they did disperse again so I could paint them in - small and dark.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Equipment #2 Oil Paint Brushes

I love Rosemary & Co brushes, why? High quality, easy to clean, keep their shape for ages, lovely to use! (no, I'm not sponsored by them sadly!)
I used to use their Ivory range a synthetic bristle, a cross between the feel of nylon and hog bristle, they are an excellent brush for all round mark making.

I now use The Ultimate Bristle a traditional brush which has interlocking Chinese bristles - this makes them springy, wonderful to use and easy to clean, they are firmer than the Ivory range which gives a more painterly and brushy quality to your work.

Rigger Ivory useful for lines and details, the Round Ivory is the similar. 

Pro Arte Sterling Series 201
Synthetic, soft but manages oil paint well, good for detail and blocking in areas. Nice to use. 
I use long handles as I stand to paint and you need that extra length.

Bamboo Brush roll I brought mine (see pic) from Rosemary & Co. It has 8 pockets and you can put more than one brush in each, plus short or long handles. It allows the brushes to breath and doesn't squash the bristles.

Ceramic Brush Rest (See bottom right pic) Stops brushes rolling about and saves your tables and surfaces.

Brush cleaner Everyone seams to clean brushes in a different way. I use low odour solvent first and some sort of soap. Either: Murphy Oil Soap (USA) washing up liquid or Pears hand soap. 

Pots in Photo These are my extra brushes! Hard to throw away when they get used or types I've liked in the past but now changed my painting process or subject and they don't fit me now. For example Short Flat Ivory brushes I find them too soft for the result I want, 

I haven't written the next equipment post yet, I will be covering pochade, tripods, carrying bags, Palette Garage & how to transport equipment and wet paintings......See my previous post for Oil Paint, thank you Clare

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Equipment #1 Oil Paint

A fellow artist asked me to do a post about the equipment I use. I thought this was a good idea as I'm interested in what others use and can often learn and get ideas.
So I hope to do four posts on my equipment especially around plein air painting (outside painting). This can be translated into studio work as well.
It was tricky putting this post together as my equipment changes as I change and develop but here it as at this point! 

Oil Paint
Comprises of the 3 primaries, a warm & cool of each, an earth and whites.

Scarlet Lake (orange red)  Mixes well with Cad Yellows & muting greens
Permanent Rose (pink red) Lovely purples with Ultramarine, intense needs controlling

Ultramarine (has violet in, a dark tone) good all rounder for mixing Michael Harding rich colour, use a lot for mixing with Burnt Sienna
Cerulean (greenie, like turquoise, light tone) Great skies & water nice mixed with Naples Yellow

Naples Yellow Deep (warm & light tone) skies work well with this colour
Cadmium Yellow Lemon (cool greenie) strong, acidic light in tone, mixes well with Ultramarine for a clean green
Cadmium yellow (rich & warm) Use a lot of sunrise sunsets great mixer and 
Yellow Ochre (opaque) good for earthy greens and darker in tone than Naples Yellow

Burnt Sienna (mid brown) wonderful greys mixed with Ultramarine, love the M.Harding colour of this

Titanium (strong opaque),  Zinc (soft strength semi translucent),  Warm (medium strength good mixer)

The colours really differ between brands and I'm now leaning towards Michael Harding paint although it's on the top end of cost its quality is amazing as you only need a little to tint a colour mix for example their Cadmium Yellow Lemon is so powerful usually lemon yellow is a bit wishie washy not this, you just need a smidge to change the colour of your mix.
You can see which colours I use the most by the size of the tubes

The occasional use tubes (see pic) I will add extra to my palette depending where I go to paint eg a seascape I will add my two extra blues: Cobalt & Kings Blue Deep.
The Manganese Blue is a translucent version of the Cerulean, nice colour and useful for early stages in a painting when you want it thinner and translucent.
Raw Umber this used to be a favourite earth it's great for mixing with other paint to mute colours down also a greeny earth colour good for tree mixes.

Whites are important as we use so much of them in oil painting. I find Jackson Artist Titanium white good, and excellent value. Warm White is useful when you want a warm tint instead of the Titanium cool. Zinc is new for me, it's good for tinting a mix without loosing the colour to milkiness.

The ridged paint tubes - I have a tool to get all the paint out the tube! I will put on another equipment post.

I have written the next equipment post on brushes do sign up to receive my posts so you don't miss the next one. If this post has been helpful please leave a comment, and if you have any questions I welcome feedback. Thank you, Clare

Tuesday 5 December 2017

#269 'On the River Dart, Devon' 8x10"

We have just spent a long weekend down in Devon visiting with a friend I did a couple of paintings but it was more of a social visit. 
Hated the first painting I did! Fussy, overworked, not confident, it was an off painting day and not easy as I was on display in a busy harbour!

This one was second,  easier in some ways although when I arrived it was beautiful light with the river snaking down to the Dartmouth estuary. But the light went quickly to grey and the river disappeared on the low tide!  Still a nice area to paint, reminded me of the Lake District. 
I painted it with the tide half in otherwise the whole scene is mud! 
I take my photos with my iphone which works well but it does pump up the colour and tone contrast so the yellow is popping out more than it should.

Here is a picture of my palette before I started painting, with the main colours mixed I can then mix colours together as I'm painting for subtle nuances and a harmonious palette.

Saturday 2 December 2017

#268 'Sunrise, Bosham Channel' 8x14"

I had seen this view passing in the car so it was a bonus it was so gorgeous.  I was surprised to see over 30 swans nestling in the sea grass, cleaning and having breaky, it was quite a sight!
A very cold start, the sun rose to the left of the picture and the shape of the shoreline where the tide level was just right, it led the eye in nicely and with little posts in the foreground not sure what they were for. 
The tower in the distance is the witches hat of the Bosham Church. Nice to have a focal point along that horizon line.
The green sea grass was very dark in tone but had a little light and colour on it. I used the mix for the brown foreground foliage and added Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine Blue and a little Zinc White - which lightens but not too much. I will go back there it was a great spot!
(The above photo was taken not of the exact subject I painted as the sun came up and it was too bright to see the work so I moved the easel around.)

More news..... 
This week was the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) Private View and start of their exhibition. My first time showing at The Mall Galleries so I was hopping around with excitement looking at the wonderful work - worth a visit if your in London. I felt so proud to have my painting on display, it's the landscape above my head. It's been one of my goals as an artist so lets hope it continues!