Pobbles & Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

Oil on canvas board, 16×16 inches.

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Early evening sun, Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

This is one of a number of paintings that has been hanging around in my studio for some months unfinished. So this week I took it upon myself to finish it, and this is the result. I’ve tried to capture that warm early evening glow from the autumnal sunshine that pervades the landscape and envelopes everything in it. The sea is flat calm, tranquil, no wind, just one of those rare evenings where you can easily be seduced into believing that God is in his heaven and all’s well with the world.

12 x 24 inches, oil on canvas mounted on a panel.

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New year; new pochade box

My apologies for not having posted anything for three months, the reason being I suffered a bereavement and so painting has been put on hold for a while.

However, I am now back in the saddle, and rearing to try out the new pochade box, that I purchased from Martlet Pochades based in Penza, Russia. An excellent product and an excellent service. So, now I am all set and determined to get outside and do some plein air painting again. Watch this space!

The painting above was not completed outside, but is a trial run using one of a series of 10x8inch panels I cut and applied with three coats of gesso. The pochade I chose to purchase has space to carry two wet 10x8in panels. The subject of the painting above is that old favourite of mine, Worm’s Head, Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula, south Wales – my local playground!

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A few notes on painting

This week I discovered a rich seam of drawings, paintings and videos online of the American painter, Martin Campos, at work. I found them inspiring, and below I’ve jotted down some notes of things I have taken away from my viewing. These primarily serve as a reminder to myself, but I thought they might be worth sharing on this blog as well.

1. Use big brushes, and learn to use them, discover what they can do through continuous practice. Avoid small brushes as far as possible.

2. Use a roller – on its own, or roll down on paper towel over the paint. 

3. Use generous amounts of paint. The more paint you mix the more successful your painting will be. 

4. Don’t over mix your paints.

5. Use knives and spatulas as well as brushes. Leave the impasto until last.

6. Be fastidiously clean, clean your palette regularly and often – about every 20 minutes. Wash brushes and rollers, etc. frequently.

7. Enter into a dialogue with your painting, add and subtract paint. Don’t be afraid to make changes as the painting develops…

8. …remember not to treat your painting as precious. Enjoy the doing. 

9. Use the best pigments you can afford such as Michael Harding, Winsor & Newton Artists or Old Holland.

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The Great Tor, Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

Yet another painting of The Great Tor, Gower. A beautiful beach, a monumental chunk of limestone – what’s not to like about this place. It’s a subject I never tire of painting.

All work is available for sale. Enquiries: pobbles2000@yahoo.com

The Great Tor, Three Cliffs, Gower. 16 x 16 inches, oil on canvas board.

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Painting my favourite bay

This summer I have spent a lot of time swimming, walking and drawing in this beautiful corner of the Gower Peninsula. This is the Great Tor, the monumental promontory that separates Three Cliffs Bay from the smaller, and lesser known, Tor Bay. These are rocks I know well having been drawing and painting them for some 40 years. Below is a closer view of the Tor with the inclusion of figures to give some idea of its monumental scale.

I continue to try to loosen up my style of painting – still a very long way to go! – but I have left both these paintings be, when once I would have spent more hours putting in detail and moving in with a smaller brush to sharpen everything up.

Receding Tide, Tor Bay, Gower, oil on canvas board, 36.5cm x 36.5cm.

Exploring the rocks, Tor Bay, Gower, oil on canvas board, 12 x 12 inches.

Both paintings are for sale. Enquiries to pobbles2000@yahoo.com

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The loosening up process.

This is a follow up to my blog entry a few weeks ago, Painting and Gardening, posted 5 June. It’s the development from the underpainting of Rhossili. As you can see the square format is no more! To my eyes the composition wasn’t working so I decided on the rather drastic (and irreversible!) step of cropping the painting down to a rectangular format. There’s something about taking a saw to a painting that feels a bit like an act of vandalism that grates against my gut instinct, but I feel it is good for my soul – accepting that no individual painting is that precious, but part of the flow of a continuous learning process.

I’ve been studying the work of American contemporary painters: Martin Campos, Douglas Fryer and Sangram Majumdar, amongst others. I love their boldness and liberal use of paint, the way they allow the paint to do the work and incorporate accidental effects into their work. I am experimenting with the use of tools other than brushes – trowels, knives, rollers and silicon paint shaping tools – in order to relinquish some control. I am feeling this is now the way forward for me.

This is a detail from another painting I’m currently working on. The roughness of the edges and general mark making, which may not look unusual to most, are nevertheless a bold departure for me.

The paintings above are still clearly recognisable and controlled, but at least I have resisted my strong compulsion to tidy it up, put in more detail and tighten up aspects of the work. It’s a start. Onwards and upwards!

Looking back, Rhossili village from the clifftops. Oil on canvas board, 16 x 10.5 inches.

The Great Tor, Gower. 10.5 x 9.5 inches detail from a larger oil painting currently in progress.

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Two under-cooked paintings

Oil on stretched canvas, 24 x 16 inches

Oil on canvas on board, 24 x 12.5 inches

I have ‘let go’ of both these paintings sooner than I normally would. This follows on from the point I was making in my earlier blog entry, Painting and Gardening (5 June 2021), where I talked about trying to avoid diving in with a small brush, putting in too much detail, and generally tidying everything up… and at the same time tightening everything up, thus losing the initial spontaneity/directness/raw vitality – all qualities that I like and admire in other painters’ work. Like my steaks, I prefer my paintings to be medium rare rather than well done, though, in truth, I think I must do some more work on the first painting, without getting bogged down in detail – I reckon another five minutes or so under the grill! The wide panoramic painting I think can stand as it is.

The other thing that both these paintings share is a warm, brightly coloured ground. In both paintings fragments of this underpainting are left to show through. Below are two earlier stages of the first painting showing the hot, pinky-red ground. A bright underpainting influences subsequent layers of paint, and can result in an overall warm glow to the work if the paint is not applied so thickly as to obliterate the underpainting.

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Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

Another painting of the ever popular Three Cliffs Bay, Gower. This is has been hanging around the studio unfinished for a while, so yesterday I decided to get it done and posted. The tide is out, and the river winds its way to the sea.

Oil painting on canvas board, 30 x 30cm (12 x 12 ins).

The painting is for sale, as is all my work unless otherwise specified. Enquires to pobbles2000@yahoo.com

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Painting and Gardening

Recently I’ve been thinking about what I feel are parallels between painting and gardening. I have a reasonably sized garden and like to leave it a little ragged around the edges. I’m not one for manicured lawns, or formal, regimented flower beds. I prefer to leave some of it uncultivated and allow nature to do its own thing. We are told that this is a good thing for insects and wild life. For instance, it is fashionable to grow wild flower meadows to attract bees and other insects rather than mowing grass to within an inch of its life. But it is also the aesthetic that appeals to me. I like to see how nature goes about reclaiming its own.
What is this to do with painting? Well, I would like to adopt the same philosophy when I paint. I must admit this is a challenge for me. I find it difficult to let go and allow paint to do its own thing, to accept ‘happy accidents’ and let them be. To simply enjoy oil paint for its own intrinsic qualities. It doesn’t come naturally to me to relinquish control in my painting as I am more than happy do in my garden.

The above are recent underpaintings – that is to say, the first monochrome stage in the development of a painting, where I work out the composition, the main blocks of dark and light and intermediate tonal values. There’s a rawness about them that I like. I like that the artifice is visible – you can see the brush strokes, the unmodulated lines and edges, and the lack of fine detail. My natural tendency is towards ‘higher resolution’, as it were, to go in with a small brush and add detail ad nauseam, and tidy up lines and smooth out areas of colour. In doing this, the initial energy of the painting slowly but surely drains away.

The challenge for me is to retain this initial freshness into the final image…

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