Four randomly selected sunset and dusk sketches of the Cape from October to January made over the past few years. Last October I finally completed the first part of a long-term project which involved sketching the Cape under every condition of lighting and weather with a view to having a series of paintings for every day of the year. For various reasons ( severe weather, real life getting in the way etc) some days missed in one year were taken up the following year ( or the next!) so the series is not strictly sequential. Having sometimes made more than one sketch a day I ended up with around 450 in all. My next task is to select 28 of these ( roughly 7 per season ) and work them up into larger finished studio paintings for the next stage which is where the really hard work will begin.
Great to be painting the sea again. It’s been a while. I hope ( depending on the gods of painting and the vagaries of tide and weather ) to paint the ocean more this coming winter than I’ve tended to previously. I lucked out this time around. Following the passage of a couple of active weather fronts conditions improved enough that I had some good light, some decent waves, and the wind wasn’t quite strong enough to trash my gear although I had to stop it being blown over a few times despite added ballast.
Two recent oil sketches from late summer/early autumn: a typical moorland farm above Botallack close to Carn Kenidjack, and sunset behind the may tree and derelict cottage overlooking Kenidjack valley.
Higher Botallack farm, plein air, oil on board, 20x30cm
Derelict cottage and may tree, plein air, oil on board, 20x30cm
A few plein air oil sketches from earlier this summer taken from the moorland around Bartinney Downs and the village of Sancreed. I was particularly interested in the distant landscape as the intervening atmosphere affects the colours one sees. The weather was troublesome on a few ocassions with, sun, high winds, cloud and heavy blustery showers ( sometimes all at once! ) which made for an interesting experience on the open high ground where there was no protection from the elements. Despite this, Nature is simultaneously the best teacher and harshest critic when seeking out a path by which to interpret the visual world. Trying to capture a small part of the ‘ground truth’ that she freely provides is one of the many challenges that makes the act of painting endlessly fascinating.
Bartinney Downs, plein air, oil on board, 20 x 30cm
Bartinney Downs, towards Carn Brea, plein air, oil on board, 20 x 30cm
Summit of Sancreed Beacon, plein air, oil on board, 20 x 30cm
Towards Sancreed Beacon, plein air, oil on board, 20 x 30cm
Grassland and heather, Bartinney Downs, plein air, oil on board, 20x30cm
Field at Sancreed, plein air, oil on board, 20x30cm
Plein air sketches of the ‘pond islands’ and Karn Kenidjack in golden light, from last autumn, and lastly the Karn from a few days ago as the heather starts to flower, adding some much needed colour to the otherwise overwhelmingly green landscape on the moors. In places on the surrounding cliffs and in the valleys the bracken, usually still green at this time of year is turning yellow a few months early, likely due to the lack of water over the spring and summer months.
Once work on a painting has got to a certain point I tend to put them away in a corner facing the wall for a couple of weeks ( sometimes longer! ) and come back to them later in the hope that the painting will tell me what it needs in order to move forward to the next stage. I often put them in a temporary frame. This gives me a better idea of the final effect. I find this the most lengthy part of the painting process, spending more time looking at the work than actually painting. I’m at that stage with this 20 x 24 inch painting now. It still has a way to go but is beginning to tell me what it wants me to do next.
Two plein air sketches done almost exactly a year apart in mid-May. The fields opposite my place are often left to go fallow and the various grasses that grow over the summer acquire changing colours which can look particularly nice in the last of the evening sunlight. I’ve painted a few sketches of the Cape under moonlight but the opportunities to do so are limited by the weather and the fact that the Moon is in the right area for a few nights around full moon twice during the course of the year. It’s a subject I’d like to explore more fully. While muted in tone the range of colour in highlights is remarkably similar to daylight, but often warmer in colour temperature. This makes sense as moonlight is after all reflected sunlight, and, as anyone can observe, reflected light cast into shadows tends to be much warmer in colour than the object reflecting that light.
Walking up through the fields towards the church in St.Just earlier in the week I thought it might be fun to try and paint the last of the buttercups alongside the cottages at the top of Venton Hill. The fields have been left fallow and as the year progresses the changing procession of flowers and various grasses will undergo some fascinating and beautiful changes of colour which can be quite a challenge to paint.
Rarely does the weather here spare the leaves in autumn, the first gales usually strip the trees bare before the leaves have time to develop any of the rich colours one associates with the season. However, last October the weather was generally calmer than usual giving some of the trees growing along Kenidjack stream time to develop some nice colour. In particular the Japanese Knotweed that has infested the area for many years despite the best efforts of the council to control its rampant growth, turns from bright lemon yellow to vibrant oranges, deep russets, reds, and even hints of purple before the leaves finally wither and drop. I took the opportunity to try and capture some of the colours alongside the stream just before sunrise.
Plein air sketch from immediately below the calciner chimney on the floor of Kenidjack valley, of early morning light on the granite escarpment below which the outflow of Kenidjack stream reaches the ocean.