This painting of Charlestown in Cornwall was selected for ‘Open 28‘, the East Midlands Open Art Exhibition in Leicester, which is on at the Old Library Gallery, 50-54 Belvoir Street, Leicester, LE1 6QL from 6 July to 26 August, 2017.
The wide expanse of dockside at Charlestown seemed to lend itself to a marine landscape format. Interesting shapes fan out in all directions with walkways and slipways. Upright bulwarks and railings stand to attention, as do the masts of the fine square riggers, in this scudding light that all but bleaches out the colour and throws hard shadows. A line of dressed stone edges the quayside like teeth around the mouth of the harbour whilst marks in the pink and grey hued concrete spreads out in the foreground in imitation of a sunburst. The windows of the Pier House Hotel and those of a terrace of cottages keep vigil from their vantage point over all. The scene is becalmed in what must have once been a busily bustling port.
Earlier this week I delivered two paintings and a sketchbook to the Green Man Gallery in Buxton, as submissions for this year’s Buxton Spa Prize. The exhibition of entries runs from 1-31 July (The Green Man Gallery is at Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Square South, Buxton Spa, Derbyshire. SK17 6PY).
My first painting is ‘The Illuminating Light’, a view of the Church of St Mary the Virgin from Heath Street in Buxton. I came upon the building enfolded in its own paddock like a peaceful interlude from the surrounding busy roads and residential terraces. It reminded me of interwar children’s illustrations – Enid Blyton perhaps. Initially I was eager to portray the front elevation with its architectural details – arts and craft style dormer windows and heavy porch. But after much deliberation and at the eleventh hour, a prospect exclaimed itself at the opposite side of the building. The, by now, low sun had illuminated the trees from behind in such a way that the branches were lining the sky and their leaves were showering down in greens and golds against the silhouetted form of the church. Although in deep shadow, it radiated warmth from the reflected light of the surrounding grass, now sunlit and setting the building apart from the heavy shadows of the boundary wall. This wall and the tree trunks to the fore provided an edging to the building. Beyond the wall, strong radial marks flooded over the pavement, reminiscent of the sunburst motif beloved of the period the church belonged to.
The second painting, ‘Filtered’, looks along the cast iron and glass canopy of The Colonnade on Terrace Road in Buxton. This structure runs alongside the Cavendish Arcade, formerly the Thermal Baths that were built in 1852-53 on the site of the Roman Baths.
The Colonnade creates a semi-enclosed space that is also open to natural light. The brilliant sunshine on this day gave lovely warm colours to the buildings and sky, which were filtered by the overhead glass panes into something paler and less focused. Shadows thrown into the road by the translucent roof structure were ameliorated into pastel shades. Further interest came from reflections in the shop window panes, where the natural hues of the buildings opposite were deepened. The cast iron struts of the canopy extend into these reflections, creating the impression of walking through an enormous rib cage. The black supporting uprights were also reflected in the window glass with their arching forms echoed in the dark painted window frames. These uprights, the receding flags, paving stones and glass roof divisions enhance the sense of perspective. I loved the various types of light and imagery, filtered and unfiltered, that this prospect offered. Metaphorically, the shop windows are also offering a filtered vision to passers-by and ultimately there is the filtering of the artists eye.
I was delighted to learn that this work has been shortlisted for the Sir John Hurt Art Prize and will be in the ‘Exhibition of Shortlisted Works’ at this year’s Holt Festival (22–30 July at the Auden Theatre in Holt). It is a view of Wells harbour one early spring morning, with silhouetted uprights and horizontal shadows forming the bones of the composition. Pontoon mooring posts and the masts from Dutch clipper ‘Albatros’ have their lengths exaggerated through reflection in the harbour water, whilst the elongated shadows of harbour railings fan out in ladder form inviting you to step forward towards the ‘Albatros’ and ‘The Granary’ building beyond.
Yesterday, having planned an afternoon of plein air painting on this hottest of days, I found a heavily shaded spot under one of my favourite Bramley apple trees. Working in watercolour on a 22″ x 30″ sheet of Saunders Waterford, I attempted to capture the dappling light before it disappeared.
Here is the first in a new series of paintings based around Cambridge, and which I have been preparing over the winter. The Mathematical Bridge springing from Queens College is the focus of this composition. I enjoyed the simple structural elements of the bridges and the way in which its geometric shapes were reflected in the paving stones of the foreground. The bridge is largely silhouetted against the buildings of Queens College, providing a warmly illuminated backdrop.
Here is another painting composition I have been working on in my Norfolk series. This side of The Quay at Wells tends to be dominated by The Granary. Its gantry creates a striking cantilevered form with delicate supporting girders tracing through the air like ship masts. In this sketch I have aimed to balance the composition with the lobster pots stacked on the right.
This morning I started exploring some compositions for a painting I want to make of Wells in Norfolk. In this sketch I’ve been working in watercolour.
Several sketches later, this feels like a more interesting perspective from which to work. I rendered this view very quickly and directly, with Payne Gray and Yellow Ochre. Working quickly in this way really helps me to find the focus.