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Northumberland, Land of Distant Hills

As I was looking through my small sketches and watercolors from this spring and early summer, I found I have many that are of distant views of the hills. Scenes that are all around me here in Northumberland England, just drive anywhere and you will always see some far off huge hills in the distance that all the locals can tell you the name of. Yes, all have names, very old names! It’s fun to learn the silhouettes and names of them.

Our favorite thing to do is walk up any of the high hills and see into the distance; can you believe we can see all the way to Scotland!? You don’t have to climb a high hill to appreciate the views though, even walking on the upper lane out of our village gives you views across Whittingham Vale or up to Corby Crags.

(c)view of Cheviots + Glanton

View of the Cheviots and Glanton area in the Whittingham Vale.

The tiny watercolor sketch above is from one of my morning walks along the upper lane of our village. The blue hill in the distance on the left is actually two hills in the Cheviots, one being “The Cheviot” itself. The hill in the center I’m pretty sure is Low Pyke in Glanton, the next village that you can see across the valley. It makes you realize that all the way back to bronze age man, people must have named the hills and used them for direction.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor pencil.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor, March 10, 2015.

This little study above is of Corby Crags, as seen from my side yard in spring. It’s just a quick watercolor sketch to practice clouds and colors, but I remember standing there doing it on a sunny day in March, when winter was breaking.

(c)April 2015 Burning Heather on Brizlee 2

“Burning Heather on Brizlee”, watercolor field study, April 6, 2015

This one was done while walking along our upper back lane, I saw smoke from a fire in the distance and stopped to record it. I leaned on a big field gate as I looked past the buildings in the foreground to the long hill in the distance. My husband told me they were burning heather on the moors up on Brizlee, this is to promote new growth of heather shoots for the grouse and partridges (all for the hunting season). This hill I realized later when I looked on a map is all the way in Alnwick, the next village about 6 miles away!

(c)5-26-15 view of Demesne Farm + Thrunton Woods

“View of Demesne Farm and Thrunton Woods”, watercolor, May 26, 2015.

One of my favorite things here is to watch the clouds cast shadows and patches of sun creep across the face of the land. Where the sun goes the greens and golds of the land come alive, it’s so dramatic! The little 5 1/2″ x 7″ watercolor above I did while sitting on the side bank of the road out of our village looking towards Thrunton Woods and Demesne Farm. It’s one of my morning walks that is relatively short but always windy when you get to the top. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this view!

"View From Edlingham Lane" watercolor, July 21, 2015.

“View From Edlingham Lane” watercolor, July 21, 2015.

This 4 1/2″x 6″ study was done on the same lane but just a week ago. I was near the top of the lane where you really get hit with all the wind sweeping across this valley. It was a misty day and my hands got cold and stiff, yeah even in July! As I painted this it started to rain (see the approaching clouds?) so I quickly put my kit away…then it stopped….so unpack the kit again! The weather here is just like that, dress in layers because when the sun comes out you’ll get so hot and start peeling off jackets, but as soon as the clouds come it’s cold and there could be a surprise sprinkle in that cloud. I usually bring more than the average walker because I end up sitting or standing still a lot and it gets cold when you don’t move around.

┬áNext post I’ll share more photos of my surroundings, but still so many sketches to share too! Besides sketching I’ve been busy testing watercolor paper so I can dig in and concentrate on my illustrations, I also got a new watercolor field box that I’ve been using and love. I’ve been recording (with photos and sketches) the local flora and fauna (would you expect anything less from me?) So far I have positively identified 51 birds, 46 different wildflowers, 10 butterflies, 3 moths and any number of unidentified insects, moths, plants etc. It’s exciting to be in a new country with all these new things! I’ll share more of this coming up, stay tuned!

"St. Paul's Church in Alnwick" Oct 14, 2010

St. Paul's Church

St. Paul's Church

Just a quick little post to share a sketch I did the other morning while in Alnwick, (Northumberland England). While I was waiting for Gary I had about 30 minutes to walk to St. Paul’s Church to see if I could find something interesting to sketch. I was first drawn to the architectural feature that is over the door, like a large chimney pot with a crown. (Not sure what it is)

I walked around the church, pea gravel crunching beneath my feet on this cold October morning, and I met the grounds-woman Dorothy. She talked to me about the church and the plants, then I found a spot at the very entrance where I first entered and caught sight of the view I liked. I only had a short bit of time left to sketch and my hands were freezing and stiff, but I held my sketchbook with one hand while I stood there. I used a permanent ink pen so any lines I made were there to stay.

As I drew the biulding, I realized my eyes were fooling me and after reviewing the horizontal alignments I saw the roof was pitched much more dramatically than I thought. This is what I love about drawing buildings, you must draw what you see and take real measurements and alignments to check it.

When I got home I just touched up a tiny bit by adding more lines to indicate stones and darkened in the areas of the windows a bit. I hope you enjoyed this sketch, more coming soon!

“Green Batt House Gate” Alnwick

Green Batt Gate

Green Batt House Gate

This is an old gate in Alnwick, Northumberland, that I drew while waiting for Gary one morning. I don’t know how old it is or what the history of the name is but I liked the gate, green trees inside, golden sandstone blocks all worn away and the tread worn threshold stone below the gate. It’s just on a side street above the main shopping area of Bondgate Within in Alnwick. I leaned against a wall and many cars and passers by gave me a glance wondering what I was doing there.

Green Batt Gate + moths

Green Batt Gate + moths

Though it doesn’t show you much, I included the sketch in it’s early stages because I started it on one day and went back to finish on another. I wasn’t happy with the first sketch outline as I knew I had my comparative measurements off. So when I returned I decided to just draw over what was there with the pen and oh well! So it came out well, I bet you can’t really tell too much of where I drew over it? I like to show you my mistakes because they’re not really mistakes; every artist starts a drawing and needs to alter it to ‘make it right’. Drawing in permanent pen can make this difficult but also spontaneous, “wysiwyg” or “what you see is what you get”. You learn little things to cover up the mislaid lines or how to work with them. I was in a hurry when I laid down the initial lines but glad I was able to return to finish it!

I’ll save the information about the moth sketches for another post, just thought I’d show you how my pages get all kinds of things drawn next to each other!

“Bailey’s Cafe, Alnwick”

Here’s a quick little post about a building sketch I did in Alnwick, Northumberland England. Alnwick is an old town, perhaps 800 years or so, and therefor filled with interesting architectural elements. It has it’s very own castle on the edge of town and a huge stone gate that once was part of a wall around the town, now gone for building stones.

Baily's Cafe sketch

Baily's Cafe sketch

I sat on a cold, hard, stone wall on the busy “Bondgate Within” street, a street with shops, small hotels and the upper part still filled with bumpy cobbles. They do have new benches but none gave this straight-on view of the shop I wanted to sketch. I only had enough time to start my sketch when Gary showed up and we were off and running again; this was on June 17.

Baily's Cafe sketch finished

Bailey's Cafe sketch finished

Click here to see sketches of buildings in my shop as note cards, more coming!

We returned on July 20 and I, with sketchbook in hand, said I’d be drawing while he ran errands. I had about 35-45 minutes to finish this sketch, so I found the same hard, cold rock on the stone wall to sit on and got busy. This is with a permanent ink pen so whatever marks I made were not erasable. I first tried to put the rest of the lines in for the main building row and the dome. Then I added windows, lamps, people and cars. I didn’t bother to add the distant buildings and cars till the end, but glad I got them in, they really add some depth and interest to the drawing. What I loved about this building was it’s green patina dome, I would really like to do another sketch of it using my colors.