This past summer my husband and I tried to pop out to the Lake District when we could. Unfortunately time slipped by and we only got out there a few times for the day, except of course when my son visited and I got to stay in Keswick two days with him! (but that’s another story). On this occasion we explored Kendal, then some small tarns but the best part was walking up Gummer’s How and having a picnic. (please click on photos to see larger views)
The Chocolate House, Kendal.
First we stopped in Kendal and had a quick run around, but lingered a little longer in the Chocolate House. It’s a very small shop filled with all kinds of chocolates and candies. To be honest I didn’t buy any this time, I just didn’t feel in the mood….I must have been NOT feeling myself! Well it’s a reason to go back again.
An amazing old door on a small church we visited.
This is an amazing old heavy wooden door on a small church we visited.
A very scary ford to cross.
This is a ford we came to, I’ve never seen one this wide! There was no sign saying not to cross it but I told Gary I’d get out of the car if he tried! It looked far too deep.
I’m so glad we decided not to cross this ford!
We drove around the long way and this is the ford from the other side. It was awful, the ground was all broken up from previous flooding, and it must have been 2 1/2 feet deep! There should have been a sign to warn people!
Gummer’s How, waiting for us to come up!
This is Gummer’s How and you can just see Lake Windermere at its base. Time to get our boots on and get walking.
There were some really pretty areas on our walk up.
We passed small grassy glades and this one had a small stream that sounded so refreshing.
This is the path that curves around towards the top
As we get near the top the path goes close to the edge and you get a great view of Windermere. I had to stop and take it in, though Gary said to keep on, he knew the view got better!
Now don’t get jealous of this next photo! It looks like a scene from the “Miss Potter” movie and I love that!
Settling down to do a watercolor of the view at Lake Windermere.
Of course my big plan was to do a watercolor study up top and I’m happy to say I did. Many times we walk and when we’re at the top of our hill I don’t feel like painting or there’s just no time.
The day couldn’t get more perfect!
After our picnic of Ploughman’s sandwiches (cheese and pickle), various biscuits (cookies) and a can of apple cider we shared, I settled down on some soft mossy heather to draw.
This apple cider was nice with our picnic.
It helps to carry a plastic bag to sit on, the ground is usually very damp so I always have one tucked in my field kit.
My small sketchbook and travel palette balanced on my knees.
The difficult part is translating that huge expanse of landscape to your small pad, I focused in on several of the distant mountains and first sketched with pencil.
This shows how far I got while working in the field.
The above picture shows how far I got in the field. One of the best things about painting or drawing outside, is all the things you see as you sit there! We heard loud airplane engines and then two really big military airplanes flew right up the lake; it was below us and that perspective made it even more exciting! They must have been returning from an airshow?
Finished watercolor of “Lake Windermere from Gummer’s How”
Here’s the finished watercolor (above). The most challenging thing (as always) was the changing shadow patterns on the hills. You can sit and gaze all day at the moving shadows from the clouds, picking out brilliant greens in one area then fading to appear in another spot. It helped me greatly to look at photos I shot when I finished up details at home. I had to pick a bit from many to fit what my painting was showing.
Click on this Wikipedia link to read more about Gummer’s How. I love the quote by Wainwright at the end, I guess I don’t have to hang up my boots just yet!
The end of a very nice day, this was the sunset as we drove through the Pennines back to Northumberland. I hope you enjoyed the extra photos today, though I know August is long since gone, I’ll always remember our hike and painting on Gummer’s How.
I wrote this post way back in July, when it was sunny and warm, now here we are at the end of October! I still have new drawings and paintings to share, it’s just been more hectic than I expected! I’m still settling into this new life, trying to learn how to drive standard (badly!), finding a new accountant, and not being able to find some of my supplies because many things are still packed and stacked in plastic bins! But what has been most excellent is our walks near our home and a few trips to the Lake District. The greatest joy Gary and I share is our love of walking in the countryside. I’m overwhelmed with subject matter, it’s just finding time to sit and work.
So, on to my July post! Please click on the pictures to see them enlarged and clearer, enjoy!
(July 2015) I’m very lucky to have an ancient castle near where I live. I can go visit the site and walk around it, or view it from the fields.
Brown ink drawing of Edlingham Castle done in the field in April 2015.
I did this drawing in brown ink (Faber Castell Pitt pen) while standing in the field where only local villagers usually go, way back in April. It’s great to switch your mediums once in awhile when out painting. I think it’s great ‘brain training’ as you have to approach it in different ways, seeing shapes, values, lines, textures and measurements; and thinking what you will use to capture that.
As I am settling into my new studio space here in England, I am still re-organizing my ‘stuff’ and wanting to play with materials I’ve had packed for ages. One of those is charcoal, I haven’t really used it in a long time so lately I’ve been rediscovering it. Below I’ll show you how I did another small drawing of the castle en Plein Air or sitting in a field with my art kit.
Sometimes I set my stuff out on the ground, this is charcoal drawing supplies.
This shows my small backpack, a big lawn + leaf type garbage bag, Altoids tin with loose charcoal sticks and one plastic box with charcoal pencils, tortillions, brushes, sandpaper and eraser. I almost always stand when I work but today I had a small folding camp stool to sit on. The garbage bag is great for when you want to throw your backpack or kit on the ground and it’s all damp OR use it for sitting on.
Here’s part of my field kit for charcoals, good ‘ol Altoids tin.
And the ever popular ‘Altoids tin’, once used by me for watercolors but now I put my charcoal sticks in here. The rubber bands on the lid are holding a piece of paper towel and some cotton balls in place.
Here it is open and ready to use; I put the messy hard and soft sticks in here.
The base holds an assortment of soft vine and compressed charcoal sticks also a piece of chamois for blending and shading.
You can use the ‘messy’ charcoal powder in the tin to draw with a brush.
When I sharpen points on sandpaper I let the powder fall into this tin and then it’s great to pick up with brushes for shading. A great way to start your sketch with soft blocked in areas of value, using soft or stiff brushes.
Work in progress, my support is just the cardboard back of a sketchpad.
Above here it is almost finished, just a few touch ups and strengthening of darks and details to do.
Charcoal drawing of Edlingham Castle, July 2, 2015.
And it’s finished! I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my kit and how I worked. I’ll try to post more of those sketches I’ve done! Leave me comments below, I love to hear from you all.
Winter has passed by and I’m still settling into my new life in England. I did some sketches as I could, being tired from unpacking, cleaning or just being overwhelmed in general. But happily I can see my sketching has increased as the months slip by and I will share all that in further posts to catch up.
Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport…the big day way back in December!
Today I’m posting sketches I did way back in December and January. The one above I did while waiting in the Buffalo International Airport, Gate 12, for my flight to the UK. I like the way it came out, a person sitting ‘almost’ in silhouette in front of the huge windows. It definitely helped to pass the time and calm my nervous excitement.
Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.
After I settled in I started walking in the mornings, mostly on my favorite lane above the village. Just like at ‘home’ in New York, sketching in winter I mostly use very small pocket sketchbooks. It’s just too cold to stand around freezing my fingers off, so I just do smaller quicker sketches; the most important thing is just to keep sketching.
The drawing above is actually tiny, done at the top of the page, but I like how it came out. It’s done with a brown Faber-Castell ink pen; I love using these pens. It’s a twisted little hawthorn along a sheep field, very exposed to the winds at the top of a ridge. I like it’s character because it reminds me of a bonsai tree. Some of the little trees you see hedges made of are actually very old trees that are trimmed all the time.
“Tree on Upper Lane”, a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven’t wet yet!
This sketch was done very quickly because it was so darn cold! I love walking on this one lane that goes out of our village because it’s lined with ancient trees and gorgeous views of distant hills and fields. I did it using water soluble pencil but wanted to scan it before I wet it. When you wet them they can get very dark and intense…it still waits for me to wet it with my brushes and mess around.
This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed.
This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small. I made a pen holder out of duct tape and attached it to the back cover. I have another one that’s even smaller that I used at home a lot too, just loved sticking it in my barn coat pocket when I went walking.
Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.
January 7, 2015 – I walked down to Edlingham Burn (small river) and found a mossy rock to sit upon with this lovely view. Well maybe it’s hard to imagine from such a small sketch, but it was a view of the burn and moss covered trees everywhere, just lovely!
Me in the freezing cold, painting Edlingham Burn.
I was very cold painting this, I did it with mittens on mind you, no easy task! I sat on a bit of rock, cold and damp, but it felt so good to be out and finally messing with my watercolors, that I didn’t notice (until I got up, all stiff!) I used one medium sized waterbrush to do this.
The livestock fence across the burn.
Farmers use old pallets across small streams or ‘burns’ here, to keep sheep and cattle in sectioned off fields. I put it in the background of my watercolor sketch you can see above.
A walk along the burn in January.
This is Edlingham Burn, I walked along it looking for a spot to paint. Where the rest of the land was pretty bleak and bare, the river was/is fascinating to me. With all it’s mossy trees, ivy climbing everywhere, dry grasses draping over dark banks touching the cold water and the sound of splashing water, wonderful.
From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.
These two trees I found behind the old church, in the farmers field. I really like how this sketch came out. They twisted together, almost in an embrace, part lichen covered, part moss. Standing in a cold, bare hedge, naked of leaves or flowers, just waiting till spring! Maybe someday I’ll do a larger color study.
Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.
January 26th – I did this sketch on a day where I was tired and not feeling particularly inspired. That’s an especially good time to stick to your small sketchbook, just do something small until you ‘do’ feel inspired. It helped me to focus and relax; practice is always a good thing. I noted the birds I saw while doing it, Seagulls, Jackdaws and a Tree Creeper.
A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.
I thought I’d leave you with two more photos, from Jan. 6th on my morning walk. I love watching the sheep in the fields all around me, there are so many kinds here!
A sheep wondering what I’m doing in her field.
This little ewe was watching me, they run away if you get too close, so having a zoom is needed! They are all carrying lambs at this time and I can’t wait to see them in spring!
Check back for more updates, yes there are more sketches, paintings and photos to catch up with from this spring and I can’t wait to share them with you! Sign up in the right column with your email, if you want to be notified when I do new posts. Please leave me comments if you like!
It’s been weeks since I’ve been out in the field sketching, and now that I’ve been out I feel renewed! I guess that’s how we should feel in Spring. I put on my Wellies or “Mud Boots” grabbed my sketch kit and camera and set out. Come with me and I’ll show you my walk with sketches and photos! (Please click on pictures to view clearer.)
Dried grasses in “Pasture Lane” on the way to the pond.
The first lane I walk in follows the pasture so it’s always been called “Pasture Lane”. No animals in the pasture now but still lots of wild things to look at. This lane has lots of nice dried rushes and sedges in it; I love this color, especially with the blue sky. It won’t be long I’ll be spotting all kinds of Nursery Web Spiders and underwater little nymphs and creatures.
Natural arch of branches on Long Lane
This is on “Long Lane”, looking towards “Aspen Hall” and it’s a natural archway of branches that’s been forming the past few years. I keep breaking branches when I go under it to keep it a bit under control! I’ve done sketches and paintings of it before, and not too long ago photographed it covered with snow! But as I was standing here I decided to go up “Memory Lane” to my left. This leads me to “Oak Lane”, one of my favorites, where I thought I’d check things out.
Woodpecker hole in dead tree by “Memory Lane”.
Just at this intersection the woods are quite wet and I always see dead trees with lots of woodpecker holes. This one looks like it’s been freshly pecked at.
One of the ancient oaks in “Oak Lane”, standing tall and strong.
I ended up in “Oak Lane” my favorite place on my property where the oaks are huge and tall, standing for many many generations. I made a little place to sit right up next to the tree at it’s base, by spreading my trusty garbage bag out, first checking for pokey sticks and bits. There I sat, ate a snack and enjoyed the peace, then did a small sketch of the grapevines growing about me. Hmm…funny but that seems sort of rhymy to me…lets see:
“Here I Sit”
Before I sat down
Upon leafy ground
I gave the spot a good scour
Where I’d while away the hour.
There were pokey sticks
And hard little bits
I had to clear before I sat,
So I could sit and have my snack.
Well, now here I sit
With favorite sketchkit
Having a think and a good look,
At what will go in my sketchbook.
by Mary McAndrew
Well that was fun! I just made that up!
Here’s the start of my “Grapevine” sketch
I put my sketchbook on my knees and decided to draw the big grapevine branch hanging near me…that’s it by my leg.
My watercolor palette, I just love the colors!
There’s a close up of my watercolor palette I take when I go afield, it’s getting pretty stained now and I’ll have to look for a new one. Some of my colors I have in temporary little plastic containers, just to see if I want to add them to the kit.
Using a waterbrush to paint.
This is one of my waterbrushes, it’s actually not one of the more expensive ones but it worked great for me today. It has good juicy water-flow and the tip stayed sharp for details. I also wrote words about the grapevine on the page that I’ll type out below:
“The grapevine grows greatly
reaching upwards with twisted limb.
It’s rough bark twisting tightly tense
along it’s sinuous length.
Great muscle of wooden rope reaching right up
to entangle and strangle it’s host.
And gentle innocent long trailing tendrils
Hang down from above,
stirring in the breeze
by Mary McAndrew
As I wrote the words I let my mind think poetically and freely. I knew later I’d like to write a poem from some of the words I found because I liked the way they sounded together. Here’s the finished sketch below and then the new poem follows:
Grapevine sketch and words done in the field.
Here’s my little poem I wrote just now while looking back at the words:
Grapevine growing greatly
Reaching upwards with twisted limb,
Rough bark twisting tightly
Tense, sinuous and slim.
Great muscle of wooden rope
Reaching right up to entangle,
Clinging to unwilling host
As you wind about to strangle.
Gentle, innocent tendrils trail
Stirring in the breeze.
Stronger than you look so frail,
Climbing any tree you please.
by Mary McAndrew
Watercolor started in the field of purpley red bushes.
The watercolor above I did half in the field and half at home. On my way back I stood in an field we call “The Maze”, because of all the intertwined paths in it, all cut by me years ago using a tractor and brush hog. It was very difficult to paint the stems while standing there in front of them, tired, cold…but I loved the colors so much and wanted to try and ‘study’ it. When I got back I looked at photos I took using my computer, and did more detail and study. I found myself using Dioxizine Violet mixed with Alizarin Crimson for most of the purpley colors; mixing it with Sepia made a nice shadow color. I had to use a bit of Cadmium Red to brighten up the color here and there. You can see my color notes on the left side there. By the way, I can’t really recall what the name of the bushes are, I think “Red Pannacled…something or other! Sorry, I packed all my field guides up, I’ll see if I can look for them.
The old stick bridge at “Aspen Hall”
This is the old stick bridge in “Aspen Hall”, I add to it every spring and summer, tossing on dead branches to go over the ditch. “Aspen Hall” is located along “Long Lane”, so I’ve done a circle and am coming back towards home now.
A very old car frame.
This is a very old car frame just sitting by the pasture, it’s been there ages! I think the former owner of the farm told me it was Model T or Model A …wooden spokes! How cool!
I’ll leave you with one more picture from my spring walk…
Ahhh…this is the life!
I didn’t want you to miss my favorite picture! I love taking pictures of my boots when I go hiking, wherever I am. In my shop I have pictures of my boots in England too! Go here to my shop then scroll down left side column and click “Hiking – Walking + Boots”
Hope you enjoyed our ramble!
Click on the pictures below to see my photos as note cards, it has a nice ZOOM feature that’s lets you look closely.
Today, before I started cooking our Thanksgiving Day dinner, I popped outside for some air. I’ve been trying to walk laps around my yard for exercise but today I brought my lonely field sketch kit. It’s gotten ‘dusty’ from non use and how great it was to refresh with a sketch. I did this small, quick sketch of a tree covered with Wild Grapevines. (Click pictures to see clearer.)
Quick sketch of wild grapevines all over a tree.
As I was drawing/painting, I noticed that the vines on the right (in the sun), were best drawn by showing the darks around them. By painting the dark areas the vines showed up. And on the left side they were best shown by making the vines themselves dark and the space around them light. Opposites on each side of the tree they clung to. Hmm…might be something poetic here but haven’t gone with that inspiration yet.
The tree was absolutely choked with vines!
You can see the tree was choked with vines but they were so graceful looking, swirling around and in and out! What a good hiding place for critters when covered with leaves.
Yes that’s me sketching, wearing my Dad’s old Woolrich hunting coat and my fingerless mittens.
I got a picture of me sketching, wearing my Dad’s old Woolrich hunting coat that I love as it makes me think of him. He loved to be out in the fields in fall hunting birds with our Brittany Spaniel “Red” and in winter he’d don this coat with it’s matching trousers and go deer hunting. I remember going with him to ‘run the dog’ in fall, to get Red in shape and work on training. I loved going with him! I’m also wearing my fingerless mittens which later I took off, along with the coat because it was so nice and warm in the sun! I wear my sketch bag crosswise over one shoulder and my camera strap over the other.
Such blue skies!
I thought it was going to be colder. The sky was clear and blue, I love looking up at the tree tops like this. There were a few Chickadees flitting around keeping me company.
Get Outside and Sketch!
And there’s my final words! “Get Outside and Sketch!”
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you don’t celebrate it, I hope you still had a good week and got outside for some fresh air!
This is a little (5 x 7″) oil painting I did “en plein air”, or translation… “while standing in the snowy field freezing my fingers off”! What I wanted to do was study the colors in oil and not get too caught up in the finished look of a painting. It was a good exercise in study of color for me, it would not have been as successful if I did it from a photograph.
My oil field kit, closed.
I rigged up a little field kit for oil painting, just for taking out on hikes. Here’s a picture of the kit closed, it’s a plastic case you can buy at an office supply department. I’ve only used it this once but hope to work with it more and ‘tweek’ it. The main objective was to keep it as light as possible.
Here it is open to show you the metal pencil case and use of 'sticky tack'.
This shows the kit open with two areas of gessoed canvas ready to use. Notice the four dots of ‘sticky tack’ on the left, they’ll hold the lid of the metal pencil case when I want to paint, using the lid for mixing. I used tape to make loops to hold brushes; just put tape sticky sides together to make it ‘not’ sticky in the middle.
I created a loop of tape to slide my medium cup into.
I used the tape in the same way here, keeping it sticky on the ends but not in the middle, I created a loop that my medium cup would slot onto. At the angle I would hold the kit, the cup would not come off! It was then held from behind with a dab of ‘sticky tack’.
Here is my field kit in action!
I held the homemade kit in one hand, using my arm for support, and painted with my right hand. It’s all in my reach and I brought no tubes of paint. Notice my fingers are holding one brush at the ready and the other ‘dirty’ or ‘in use’ brushes are kept on the left of the hinge, clean ones to the right in the loop.
Of course Ginger was along for the adventure and waits patiently to continue with our walk!
I put a squeeze of my colors in a metal pencil case and put some in a pill box from the pharmacy before I left the house. The pill box was an experiment and I wasn’t really satisfied with it, it gets too messy on the lids and doesn’t keep the paint really airtight. Since then I’ve moved to using contact lens cases that screw shut…we’ll see how the paint lasts in them as they’re all back in England and I won’t see them until spring!
This shows you my view of the field as I worked.
The above picture shows you the view I had as I worked, it also illustrates how dull the colors look on a photograph and how I perceived the colors with my eyes to be a bit more vivid. This is why working in the field is so important whether you are oil painting, using watercolors, pastels…etc.
When I came back home, I stuck the little study up on a wood post in my living room using ‘Loctite” sticky tack. I hung there for ages and I enjoyed looking at it whenever I walked by. It wasn’t until I found a great frame and laid it on top that it popped out and said “HEY…I’m a good little painting!” hahah…yes sometimes my paintings talk to me…don’t yours? It also told me to stop ignoring it and get it framed so it could have a proper place on the wall! Yes…yes, the voice of guilt, this painting actually was done last year (12/31/10) and since I traveled to England it got sort of forgotten!
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Today I went for a walk with Ginger. We ventured forth out into the wet lanes and fields, the mud sucking at our feet, water swirling as we waded. Not all my land is wet mind you, but this time of year it certainly is in some areas. I start my post off today with my drawings of the little snail I met while out walking, because I knew you’d be curious to see him.
Little Golden Snail Sketches
I did these studies actually back at my studio while looking at him under a magnifying glass. I did some while in the field (you’ll see below) but it was so small it was hard to really get a good look at him while I sat on a log! So he came home for a visit. I first lightly sketched him with pencil then drew with a permanent ink pen and then watercolor on that. After I drew the swirly curly border I drew over it with one watercolor pencil then just dragged a wet waterbrush over all of it to soften it and make the color bleed out a bit.
Now back to our walk.
Secret Circle Lane
This is “Secret Circle Lane”, as wet as it always is in springtime; (click it for high res. view in my shop) how pretty reflecting the sky like that! Ginger and I crept quietly along through this water because I heard an interesting call from some kind of frog along with the zillions of peepers that were singing.
Here’s a short video clip I shot while standing in the water, just to let you hear the sound of the Peepers calling.
Ah yes, the trusty boots! Can’t go anywhere without these mud boots or “Wellies”. Well these boots weren’t made for “walkin” they were made for “sloshin”!! I did see some interesting little critters in the water before our feet disturbed it, some snails and a few water beetles.
Oh, and there’s me…had to show you my favorite hat of all time and my Dad’s hunting coat! The hat I bought in England at a farm supply shop, where they sell the expensive horsey equipment and clothes. Well it WAS expensive too, BUT well worth ever penny! It’s waterproof, lined for warmth, has a flap that drops down over your ears and makes it fit your head like a helmet and has an elastic cord that goes under your chin for high winds. When the wind blew hard on the high hills of Northumberland, my wonderful hat stayed put!! The other nifty thing is it has a little button on the brim you click and you get two settings of led lights! High power beams!! I’m telling you we’ve used it to find our way on paths past dusk and it’s great for visiting old castle ruins because you can point your beam into dark places that you wouldn’t have seen before. I should get paid money to promote this hat!
And the wonderful old Woolrich hunting coat my dad gave me so I love it. He used to put it on when going out hunting, I still remember seeing him in the kitchen with the pants on with bright red suspenders and laughing playing like he was Santa! It is covered with pockets and has a special pocket at the back for carrying your ‘game’ home in. I have been known to carry sketchbooks there and always keep a spare kitchen size garbage bag for sitting on wet ground.
Crocuses in Aspen Hall
I told you before that we planted flowers in “Aspen Hall”, here’s two little crocuses I wanted to sketch. Click to see a note card of it where you can zoom in and see it bigger.
I love the close up pictures of this pretty little golden snail. I spotted him on the ground amongst the leaf litter, but in the sun he glistened like gold. I took my tiny Olympus camera on the macro setting and shot this picture through a close up part of my magnifying glass! It really works at getting a little closer. Click on the pictures to view note cards that you can view close up.
golde snail pointy end up!
Here’s another shot of him, I love the form of the shell twisting up like that.
Studying the snail closely for sketches
Now this picture is important because it shows you how tiny he was and when you need reading glasses to see things better, it doesn’t help. The other thing that made it difficult to draw him in the field was sitting on one little log made my back hurt terribly so I was not comfortable. I wrote my notes and did some little sketches anyways.
golden snail peeking at me
Another great shot, I love the patterns in the shell that the sunlight catches. And notice the subtle color that runs up through those eye stalks? I notice how well it matches the dead stick he was crawling on.
My Journal page
Here’s my actual journal page from my time sitting in “Aspen Hall”, go ahead and click it to read it.
Tiny Golden Snail with metallic gold watercolor paint added.
Now I had a little more fun with the snail studies I did by using some metallic watercolor paint on them. I took some pictures of the snail paintings tipped at an angle to catch the sun and really show the metallic watercolor paint I added on top. It was a lot of fun using it and really made it look like the snail did, it sparkled in the sun!
Golden Snails in watercolor with gold metallic watercolor over.
And one more shot showing the glitter in the full sun.
I hope you enjoyed our walk today and you didn’t even have to get your feet wet! 😉 Don’t forget to visit my SHOP by clicking the pictures above to see note cards of the little golden snail or the landscape photos in this post.
Here’s a note card using the watercolor studies:
Speaking of snails I’m honored to say there’s a wonderful blog written by two talented women one of which was inspired by my posts about the snail I found and did studies of while I was in England! Have a look here: “The Dao of Doing”
It is a cold and dreary day here in Western New York, I guess it is in many places around the world. But the drippy dreariness also shows me spring is coming; snow melting on soggy but still frozen ground, dripping of ice from the trees and an almost silent occasional gurgle of air from under the ice as I worked quietly.
Oil sketch field kit, ready to be tested.
I created this lightweight kit to take outside with me, just for oil painting sketches. I mostly want to focus on practicing mixing colors for landscapes from the real thing. I’m not concerned about finished paintings, though as the weather is warmer I may work longer on them.
It’s a plastic box that I bought at an office supply store. I used a metal pencil box for my paint and as a palette; it’s held on with blue sticky tack. I also have a pill box that has colors in it, though I want to buy a long one so it will fit better. I have canvas paper cut to standard sizes and tape it in and also created a place for brushes with loops of masking tape.
My mineral spirits container slots over a strap I made out of masking tape.
I had a tiny plastic bottle of mineral spirits with me but didn’t need to pull it out, I had a tiny bit in this metal medium cup. It’s got a screw on lid and I created a strap with masking tape that it could slip over to hold it in place. Then I stuck a blob of blue sticky tack behind it to keep it from slipping off. (Just love that sticky tack!)
Here's how I held the kit and painted while standing.
It was very lightweight as I worked. As all tests should do, it helped me find what was ‘not’ working great; I need to make a little holder for dirty brushes on the left and both need a holder with some kind of bottom, like a pouch. My brushes were sliding out the bottom too easily and may get dropped.
A view of the painting and the subject.
Here’s the whole thing in progress. Note the paper towel with red paint all over it!! Ok, I admit it, the very first thing, when I lifted the lid of the metal pan (with my very cumbersome mittens on) I inadvertently got Cadmium Red paint on my mitten thumb, WITHOUT KNOWING IT! It suddenly showed up in three to four places, probably on my face too and I didn’t know it! Ok, those who paint with oils know that sometimes this just happens, oil paint likes to migrate. Cad Red is one of the worse to get on stuff! You see traces of where I had to scrub off the second canvas paper there, sigh. Nobody’s perfect.
Ginger is waiting patiently, telling me her tootsies are cold!
Ginger loves to go out on walks, but gets bored when I stop to paint or sketch. Today was worse because her feet were cold! But a good sign, when I was ready to leave, she didn’t turn towards home, she wanted to go further.
Cleaning my brushes, stand them up in the snow as you go.
When I’m done, I set the kit on the snow and stuck my dirty brushes in the snow (bottom down) and just dipped the tip of each one in mineral spirits and pushed on the lid/palette to work much of the paint out. Wipe it really well on paper towel, it won’t be clean but well enough to travel home for cleaning. Most of my brushes I used were bristle brushes for scumbly strokes and one small, flat, soft but firm nylon brush for the thin line strokes.
The field study for today.
Here’s the quicky field sketch fresh from the icy field. I know my colors look brighter than the photo, but that’s the beauty of painting from life, the colors were more vivid and beautiful to my eyes, a photo will lose a lot of true color and atmosphere. If I want I can let this dry and work more on it or do it while it’s still wet. Ideally, touch up what you want right when you return and it’s fresh in your mind. I don’t want to fuss too much over these sketches unless I do one that I feel is worthy of fussing. My main goal is to just get out and get quick color studies and not complicate things too much.
Hope you enjoyed, I’ll be trying out my field kit more and will keep you ‘posted’ as they say! haha.
Happy New Year everyone! I’m looking forward to a year filled with tons of new paintings by me and look forward to getting back to England for more adventures! Please share my blog with those you think would enjoy it.
(This post is done AFTER returning home to NY…gosh I miss my Northumberland!)
Come along with me as I do a small oil painting in a very gorgeous location in the Coquetdale (River Coquet Valley) area of Northumberland, England. I think of all the areas I’ve traveled around in Northumberland, the Coquetdale is one of the most beautiful and always catches me by surprise when we drive along it’s long winding path through the valley. It has quite a few meanders before reaching the North Sea which makes it that much more picturesque to an artist, it’s curves reflected in the sun as a shimmering snake in a green velvet valley.
Painting while looking over the River Coquet
There I am! We hiked up this great high hill and entered the Bronze Age Celtic ring fort at the top. It’s surrounded by a deep ditch, as was the practice for all ring forts, though I guess a few thousand years ago it would have been deeper and very impressive. After exploring the fort and ditch I settled down inside a ditch with my back to the VERY brisk wind! While I painted I had my hood up to keep the wind off and you notice I’m wearing fingerless gloves, a must for outdoor painting!
For my set up, my favorite wooden field easel and a backpack with attached stool. This is a popular one found in many art supply catalogs but I altered it (as usual!), I took the backrest off by hammering on it until it came away. With the backrest off, I can now sit on it in any direction I like, sometimes the bars of the seat hurt the back of my legs and I feel less attachments equals less weight. I’m put a camping inflatable pillow on the seat, makes it a bit better. All in all, I don’t usually sit when painting outdoors, I find it tiresome to my back; usually I stand up and feel freer with my painting and you can move around to keep warm.
My View Over Coquetdale
Here’s a view of what I saw, you may wonder how my masonite board is staying up so magically on the easel? The wonders of Blue Sticky Tack never cease!! I use it all the time, I have some little dots of it on the easel to hold small boards like this, just where I want them. With a small board, I don’t like the wood of the easel’s clamp to get in the way.
stage 1-View Over Coquetdale
When in the field I usually don’t pencil sketch the scene on the canvas, but use either Burnt Umber thinned with mineral spirits, or pick a color in the landscape and sketch directly with the brush. Just pay attention as you divide up your canvas with the horizon line placement and other important elements. If you get it wrong in the beginning, it’ll always be wrong! I go for blocking in big shapes in the ‘nearest’ color to it’s overall color.
When I started this one I blocked in some really bright green, later I decided I should have tried to match the color better to begin with. I just wanted to get it going, so I painted into the wet oil to adjust the color. You’ll notice my river color is quite light, just laying it in to mark it, I’ll adjust the color later. I wanted to have a wet base to paint into. I painted the sky with an all over tone of blue with the gradation of dark to light, later I’ll add the clouds. I also started to establish where the dark areas are, the tree lines.
Stage 2- View Over Coquetdale
Now I’m set up back at home and continue working from my laptop where I have photos of the scene. I’m sorry I missed a few stages with the photos as I got involved with the painting! I studied where the background mountains should go and toned down blueish green for them. I continued to study where the tree lines were and payed close attention to the light and dark areas of the hills and tree clumps. Don’t put too much detail in the distant trees, just let them describe the curve of the hills as their lines criss cross and disappear. I also started to tuck darks under the tree lines and to the shadow side of them. You begin to notice the tree line on the left front is different than the ones on the right. They are different types of trees so the form and colors are different.
Stage 3- View Over Coquetdale
Picking out a little more detail of the hills in the mid-ground, I add some lights to define the hills and more detail to the tree lines. I lightly defined the little dirt road in the front left and a ‘hint’ of a fence, but kept it soft and also added more light to the left field. I put a small path that crossed the field in the middle but then later decided it was just too much of a distraction and took it out. I also added some lights to the trees on the right, you can see they are more pointy than the other trees as they are pines.
Stage 4- View Over Coquetdale
Above you can see I’ve added some darker (but still bright) blues to the river, taking care which direction I stroked it on. I added some yellow to the fields on the left to warm it up and cut down on the lightness. I added more bushes and detail to the front right side by the bank.
Completed "View over Coquetdale" 6x8" oil
The completed painting,6 x 8″ in oil, click it to view it larger in my Gallery of Landscapes. Here you can see I’ve added just a little more detail on the bank and sheep (whitish dots!) on the hills. One thing you notice when driving about the countryside of England are sheep just about everywhere! No hill would be complete without some of these white dots. Of course I didn’t just make blobs but made sure they had a bit of a long shape and slightly darker underneath, it’s just to ‘hint’ at a sheep, not to paint one in full detail at such a distance.
To view prints, note cards and more with this painting, click the links below to see them in my shop! (You can personalize any of them with your own text.)
Come with me on a sunny, breezy stroll along the Northumberland coast of England, south of Cullernose Point and Dunstanburgh Castle.
South of Cullernose Point, Northumberland
This sketch is done looking northwards while I sat on the grass. I used one water soluble “Inktense” pencil (Ink Black) by Derwent, ; after doing a light sketch I wet it with my waterbrush to create tonal values. It’s like doing an ink wash sketch, great for quick sketches and you can go back over it later with color. The inktense pencils are relatively permanent once dry, so I’m experimenting with using the black then coloring later from photos. These colors of Inktense are very intense, so you need to practice and go lightly with your pressure. You can also achieve very black areas which I like.
Drawing near Cullernose Point
Here I am with my field sketchbook, what a view! (click on the picture to see it as a note card with a quote by Pablo Picasso)
Enjoy the many photographs I took below, they show the things we discovered as we walked and some I used later to do sketches from at home.
Brown Lipped Snails on Cowslip Leaves
It’s funny, once you learn about something you start noticing it more and more, as is the case with snails for me. Now when we walk I see them everywhere!
Brown Lipped Snails
These are Brown Lipped Snails; notice the brown line at the edge of their shell. I just love the striped patterns they have.
Pool with Grey Heron
This is looking down from the coastal path we walked on, there is a Grey Heron in that pool down there.
Well spotted! He’s a beauty; we watched him fish in the pool as I took pictures from afar.
View of the coastal rocks we explored
Here’s another view of the coast where we walked. You can see two figures walking on the path ahead, that’s where we’ll be going.
Common Limpets and a Sea Slater bug
When we ‘clambered’ down to the shore, (hey it’s an old word but it fits here!), we found lots of Limpets, snails and Periwinkles. It wasn’t until I looked at my pictures on the computer later that I noticed the bug, a “Sea Slater”, how interesting! The Limpets are living creatures that cling very tightly to the rocks, you’ll see a watercolor sketch below of one I did.
This is called Yellow Scales, a type of lichen that grows near the coast on rocks. It’s very beautiful along with the whitish lichens and grey rocks.
Southern Marsh Orchid
When we returned to the top of the cliffs, we found these small unusual orchids growing here and there. I was surprised at how tiny they were and may have passed them by if Gary didn’t point them out. As near as I can tell they are Southern Marsh Orchids, if anyone knows better, please let me know!
Me Drawing near Cullernose Point
This photo will show you how tiny they were, the orchid is just in front of my sketchbook. I just lay in the grass and did a tiny light, sketch with a pencil. (click to see this and other photos like this, in my shop)
Shell and Flower studies
When I got home I downloaded my photos and did these studies from the laptop. I used watercolors for these, but using Titanium White this time for the white highlights and ‘wet’ look. I don’t usually use white paint, I rub or scrape off to create lights, but I quite liked using the paint for the glaze look. You can read my list of things we saw while there that day on my page.
Studies of Grey Heron
The little studies at the top of the page show my experiment with “Inktense” and just a black watercolor pencil, using watercolor pencil to color it. I wanted to see how much the blacks would lift or blend, hoping they wouldn’t. As I thought the Inktense didn’t lift as well and that’s exactly what I wanted.
The heron studies are also done from the laptop, just painted without sketching him out first. The little one in the left corner was an experiment of painting solid blue water then lifting color and using white paint to add the heron after. I’m not thrilled with how it came out but you should always experiment!
I hope you enjoyed coming along on this walk by the sea. Get outside and bring a small sketchpad with you, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll see when you sit and start to draw things around you; a whole new world opens up before your eyes.
Here’s a little video clip of the waves washing over the rocks where we were, enjoy!
NOTE: Many of the photographs in this post have been made into beautiful glossy note cards and gifts and are in my shop (home page link). There are many more besides the links in this post, I hope you have a look and please pass it on to friends!
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