A more cheerful post this time, a trip down the beautiful Wye, and an expedition to Henley and Cookham. I have found it hard to push myself out of the door to paint of late. I probably should have as I laboured for nigh on 2 weeks on a studio oil, only to scrape the damn thing out again. Sometimes a painting is just ill conceived and cannot be resolved. The picture was of folks dancing at a party that I had been lucky enough to be invited to. I have to say one of the best get togethers I have ever attended (My thanks to Richard, the most generous of hosts and for music meister Chris for inviting me). Set in a hut with pavilion leanings which looked out over a fantastic view over the Wye valley towards the Black Mountains. There were musicians and dancing and best of all a great mixture of people from watchmakers to flute makers and wonderful musicians by the dozen… in the early afternoon people started to dance and I just could not resist trying to sketch them. This can be a frustrating business but great fun, most of the scribbles are worthless, but astonishingly some of them do actually catch something of the dancers. I took quite a few photographs as well but the light was fading and the exposure times reduced the dancers to blurs. Still, good reference for light and ambience. Next I did a sketch sort of combining the various elements with large dollops of imagination, which turned out encouragingly. Then in a fit of over ambition transferred to a larger canvas. Then came the struggle and a fruitless one at that. It is odd how reluctant you are to admit defeat, it is not as if you can’t retreat and regroup, the war is never lost. Then again a streak of stubbornness is as useful for an artist as it is annoying for those around you. After nearly 8 days painting in and scraping out I just had to admit the painting was just not ever going to be as good as the sketch, it was just the wrong sort of painting for the subject. The snatched moment element is easy to catch in a lively drawing but becomes silted up and stuck in the creative mud when wrestling with the technicalities of painting in oils. I will try again though, quite by chance a good friend and I went to see the current Degas exhibition on his images of dancers. Although it is humbling to see what he could do with the same subject, I can also see how I should have approached the subject, so hopefully my next report should include a finished version. My lesson from Degas is to draw and redraw the figures until they are set in my mind and hand and then merely extend the drawing into paint allowing the drawing to dominate… good theory, we will see what happens. I’ll start with the ill fated dancers and move on to the river trips after. Some images can be clicked for a larger version.
Here’s a compilation of the sketches, one thing with dancers is that they keep returning to the same positions so several can be done at the same
adding a little more to each one as the dancers come around.
Here is my preliminary sketch done in photoshop, I have as I may have mentioned a Wacom Cintiq that allows me to draw straight on the screen as
if it were paper. It is fantastic for working out a composition but only if you keep it loose and don’t allow your references to limit you. No image of the
disastrous painting exists… and I wouldn’t show you even if there was!
First a 14in by 10in oil done just outside my house, very tricky light and it needs a few figures. It’s one of those paintings that I am pleased with but
will never get framed. Often the way with my local plein airs.
On my way to the party I snatched the chance to paint this, a perfect spot to paint.
I did this little sketch in the churchyard of Woolhope Church, I was filling in time so as not to be unfashionably early! I must do more
basic pencil drawings as I enjoy the medium, but I have been rather sidetracked by the attractions of working in pastel pencils.
The morning after… I was feeling a little strung out but wanted to get a sketch of the view. By the time I had finished I felt almost human and went
in search of coffee.
on the bonnet to paint. This is something I quite often do if there is room. It allows a better view in this sort of “Down the Road” composition. It also
prevents passing cars from killing you, but not alas cursing you. 14in by 10in.
I did this one twice, I got my lay in wrong tonally, if this happens it is really best just to wipe back and start again… still it’s just as well the swans
don’t understand cursing! 14in by 10in. This is of course the Wye Valley.
I perched on a dodgy bit of bank to do this, in fear of tumbling into the flood. The light was tremendous and once I had the relative tones organised
this was unexpectedly easy to paint. At this point the Wye is just turning to flow into the gorge at Symonds Yat. 14in by 10in.
This is the bridge at Mordiford on an offshoot of the Wye, every arch built in a different style!
A different river, the Thames at Henley. Despite it being such a beautiful place I struggled for subjects. I often find this is the case in official
“beauty spots” I don’t know why. This was harder than it looks the relative tones of the river and bank were quite different than I would have
expected. A fierce wind got up which made life interesting, whisking my palette away on one occasion. This was the second of the day, the first
went awry. This was a meeting of the Plein Air Society but I only saw one other painter wandering like a lost soul… 14in by 10in.
This is Hurley Lock. I really didn’t like Henley, too busy and tarted up. This was far nicer and more peaceful. Unfortunately it had clouded over
making the light a bit flat but this had enough contrast. As with all river views getting into a place to paint is quite tricky, here there was a handy
pontoon which I snuck on to, the fishermen said I would get evicted but the lock keeper let me be…
A bit further down stream the light was still flat but these trees on the turn were so beautiful I couldn’t resist. I hope to catch the full progression of
Autumn this year.
Last one of the day. The light had improved and I couldn’t resist looking at Cookham Church, stamping ground of Stanley Spencer. I was hoping a few
of the interrees would rise from the dead as I was painting but no luck, I must return on Judgment day.