Saturday, 27 August 2016

Slow with the pen, fast with the brush

So much for plein air . . . too hot - too cold  - too wet - too busy - no opportunity to get the sketchbook out - my excuses are endless!  Luckily, while leafing through some old art books one unsuitable afternoon recently, I was reminded that there is an alternative.


watercolour sketching from the invaluable iPad
© Teresa Newham

The book was Big Brush Watercolour by Ron Ranson, one of several I inherited from my mother.  Ron was a hugely popular artist and tutor in his day but I must admit I find the colours he used a bit dull.  And from the looks of her sketchbooks, so did Mum - she copied many of his pieces to improve her technique, but with a brighter palette.


R Stour at Sturminster Newton
© Teresa Newham

In this particular book Ron was encouraging his students to loosen up by using - you've guessed it - a big brush; one which makes detail impossible.  He recommended making simple tonal watercolour sketches to establish light, dark and mid-tones.  And had no problem with working from photos, even in a pre-digital age . . .


R. Stour at Sturminster Newton, pen sketch
© Teresa Newham



I'd just completed a pen sketch of the River Stour at Sturminster Newton, where we spent a few days at the beginning of August.  I'd loaded one of my photos onto the iPad, and worked slowly and meditatively, at the same time trying not to reproduce every single leaf or blade of grass.


R.Stour @ Stur, tonal watercolour sketch
© Teresa Newham

A watercolour sketch was the logical next step, in French Ultramarine with a one-inch brush - Ron's was a hake but he was working on much larger paper than A4!  He also advised using any old paper to free up his students from worrying about the result.


the River Ouse at Bedford
© Teresa Newham

I enjoyed this exercise so much I repeated it, basing my next go on a picture taken in Bedford a couple of weeks ago.  Drawing slowly paid off again, and the watercolour sketch which followed (in Permanent Sap Green) was a joy to do.  In fact, I think it took less time than the drawing . . .


Water's edge, Bedford -  pen sketch
© Teresa Newham
Ron, of course, wanted  his students to produce lively paintings using the tonal sketch as a guide, rather than slavishly copying a photo.  I don't know whether I'll work up either of these into actual paintings - but it might be fun to try!


Water's edge, Bedford - tonal watercolour sketch
© Teresa Newham



Sunday, 14 August 2016

a walk round the corner - hedgerows & horses

the first field, full of wheat
© Teresa Newham
We're still walking the fields near our house - and our stroll last Sunday prompted me to share these photos. We could scarcely see the new fence along the edge of the first field for the vegetation which has sprung up, even though the ground had been completely bare the last time we wandered that way!

the old oak, silhouetted
© Teresa Newham
The old oak was in full leaf, rustling and swaying alarmingly in an unseasonal wind, which was also moving the wheat beneath it; while the crop in the second field was so high that the trees at the far side were barely visible:

lush growth in the second field
© Teresa Newham
Perhaps thanks to the wet Spring, the hedgerows were almost completely blocking Mud Lane - which was so dry it should have been renamed Dust Lane.  It was almost completely free of puddles!

Mud Lane - sunlight & shadows
© Teresa Newham
Amidst all this abundance some berries made a bright splash of red amongst the green. Mother Nature is giving us a little reminder: although August is still officially Summer, Autumn is definitely on its way . . .

first signs of Autumn!
© Teresa Newham
Thames Wood looks very different at this time of year.  Parts of it are difficult to access through the undergrowth, although my favourite trees are still visible.  It's a special spot, with what looks like a badger sett nearby.

Thames Wood in summer sunshine
© Teresa Newham
As a couple of riders came ambling past, I gave thanks that we have such lovely countryside round the corner for everyone to enjoy.  And made a mental note to get out more in the future . . . !

riders enjoying the afternoon
© Teresa Newham