My first purely painting expedition of the year. I find alas that it is hard to get down to painting when in company. Painting is a selfish activity, best carried out in solitude. Also very few people want to sit in the rain for an hour in an uncomfortable corner of a field! I’m based in Newport Pembrokeshire staying at my sister in law Judy’s bungalow which sits high above the bay. I often find it very hard to settle down to a scene and paint and often drive and walk for many hours before settling on a subject. The early morning and late evening are always good but I like the challenge of making a picture out of unpromising light or difficult conditions. Once you start there are always unexpected beauties that you discover as you work and hopefully these make the result worthwhile.
This was painted at the end of a very grey day, suddenly at 9.30 in the evening the light improved so I went down to the sea try to and
catch the mood. I had to settle very quickly as I only had about half an hour of light… and the rain started as soon as my easel was set up.
In conditions like that I try to deal with each area in turn finishing in a single pass, but being very careful to get the values as right as
I can, though when the light is fading so fast these can be very hard to judge.
Most of the day spent walking with friends. I did stop to do a quick water colour from this spot but it all went horribly wrong so when the
evening light became beautiful at the very end of the day I rushed out to get my revenge! This was done at 10pm and I only really had
15 minutes, the colour of the water was amazing and if anything I have toned it down. I tried to keep the brush work fluid and put in only
enough to suggest forms. I have to report that Welsh mosquitos laugh in the face of “Jungle Formula” and the light had so far gone
by the time I had finished that navigating the marsh loaded down with painting gear was distinctly tricky.
My first full day painting, I decided to paint inland as the light was quite flat and hazy. I went to Nevern a small village that is named
after the river running through it. I decided to take a path that the map showed followed the river, but before I had hardly started I came
across this fine tree which had lovely strong tones. I tried to get the balance of detail to focus on the tree, dealing with the background
shrubbery in a fairly cursory way.
After a fair bit of up hill and down dale I reached the river. A fallen tree had tumbled into the Nevern and it allowed me to sit almost
almost mid stream. I just worked with my pochade box on my knees. River scenes like this are very tricky to sketch as the detail is
almost overwhelming. Sure enough I was soon battling against putting too much into the trees, painting like fury when the sun
came out as it was only then the scene came to life. Wooded subjects like this are often good in middle of the day light when other
scenes would be too flat to be interesting. After 45 min I called a halt as I was in grave danger of tumbling off my perch into the flood.
The path followed the river for short distances then climbed up steeply before dropping down, I had covered about 7 miles and my pack
which weighs nearly 23 lbs was getting heavy. I was pleased to find this scene which made a better composition than the last one.
I try not to force plein air sketches into a formal composition, that’s better done in a studio panting I feel, so I just try and get it
down as simply and honestly as I can. Here I made a conscious effort to simplify the blizzard of foliage and pull out the broad
areas of light. This requires a lot of squinting that makes passers by think you are mad as a herring.
A visit to Tenby on a scorcher of a day. I often find it hard to find subjects I like in beautiful sunny weather, but after a pleasant
wander round the town I settled down to paint this. I did it on a slightly larger board, usually I use 10in by 7 or 8 but this was twice that.
Getting the tones of the town high above the harbour was distinctly tricky, in reality as the day was very clear the darks were nearly
as strong as in the fishing boats but I wanted the boats to stand forward but not too much. The foreground was great to paint with
lovely textures and values. I had to resist putting too much in. An insatiable desire for ice cream decided it was finished, but very
few paintings were ever ruined by stopping early.
After painting in Tenby I decided to explore the coast path a bit. I took watercolours only as I didn’t feel like hauling the full kit. The
Pembrokeshire coast path is always a delight and I could have done a dozen paintings with each new vista open up worthy of a paint.
I settled on this view of St Govan’s head. I’ve been rather neglecting watercolours of late but they are marvellous for catching the
brilliant light, the photos I took don’t capture the scene half as well. Alas my little water jar of 20 years use, escaped and rolled off
the cliff, now I will have to buy some overpriced condiment in order to get another jar of the right size!
A determinedly wet day of unremitting rain made painting unlikely, but when out shopping in Cardigan the veiw from the Supermarket
car park took my eye. It’s often the case that the most unpromising of days throws up the best subject and these subtle tones and
beautiful reflections just cried out to be painted. I got very very wet mind you. I left out half the boats to reinforce the feeling of calmness.
Another grand day, the met office seemed determined that it was going to pour down all day, but it was mostly bright with the
sun and the clouds conspiring to shadow and light up the landscape in wonderful ways. This is Strumble Head near
Fishguard. The wind was pretty fierce so I had to hang a rock from the easel to stop it being blown away. After doing this I walked on
along the coast path with just my camera, the changes of light were just too fast to paint, but I got material that will make for
a few studio based paintings on my walk.