En plein air

Just back from a trip with the school to the south of the Lake District, painting oils in the open -an entirely new experience!  The area, set around a large estuary, was beautiful, and the drama of the mountains could be seen as distant blue giants to the north. We all got stuck in, and worked hard all day, all week. But I struggled, I wanted to produce rich, but not realistic, pictures. I was overwhelmed with new colours to use, adoring synthetic Windsor and Phthalo colours and the potent properties of Cadiums. But it was confusing, the landscape didn’t read as a series of subtle shades of green, I could see violets in the shadows, reds in the rough grass, ochres in the hills, even warm shades of brown in the clouds, and all these changed as the light shifted. I’m not used to drawing, let alone painting, the natural world, and struggled to find a language for so much detail and large distances. In hindsight, I should have been more selective and edited what I saw, but it was so new and strange a subject to me that, perhaps too often, I got caught up in details and overloaded the board. Anyway, these are a few of the better finished results. By the end of the week I was frustrated and fully resolved that I am not a landscape painter, but I hard given it my best. I wanted to charge up the hills on a bike, not paint them. A happy conclusion was spending the last day painting animals. I’d never drawn live sheep or cows before. From stillness, to something that bleats or moos and refused to keep still, my laboured painting turned into something more fun and fluid, with looser brush strokes and lurid colours.

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