Monday, April 09, 2007

A Ferry Tale

I fished this painting out of a draw today because my wife remembered it and thought it would be nice to send as a birthday card to a friend who has helped with her genealogy researches. They go back a long way, so to speak, he is a distant cousin several generations removed. It turns out he is also related in a similar way to the guy who was once the ferryman which I suppose my wife is too.

The ferry has long been replaced by an ugly footbridge and in the old days you could ferry a horse and cart and farm animals across the Severn - now you can't. This was one of my early watercolours - must be 20 years old - and I''ve never thought of selling it because in our courting days my wife and I would walk upstream along the west bank of the Severn from Bewdley cross on the ferry and walk back downstream on the east bank. We never realised as a couple of dewy-eyed lovers that she might be distantly related to the ferryman.
The Place of Stones

I began this painting by simply taking pleasure in making vigorous marks with a few pastel sticks and blending them by rubbing. I continued the process until the patches of colour began to ‘read’ as a landscape.

I had no particular plan or location in mind until I remembered a couple of quick studies made a few years ago in an A4 sketchbook. They were drawn on location while walking one of the routes up Cader Idris in the Snowdonia National Park.

One of the sketches showed a group of stones that were once a farm dwelling. Built high up at the limit of cultivation life was always going to be hard for whoever lived there. Now I’m thinking ‘Highland Clearances’ and wondering if the former tenants were forced to embark from Liverpool for the New World.

So a painting that began in a dreamy sort of way by toying with the abstract elements of painting took on a point and a meaning. I rather like that way of working – when it comes off!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Autumn Evening, Great Langdale.

The Royal Watercolour Society’s Diploma Collection has a wonderful painting of the ‘Dents des Bouquetons, Arolla’ that will cause anyone who loves mountain subjects to catch their breath. It’s by Cecil Arthur Hunt (1873-1965) and he’s created a marvellous rendering of swirling wisps of cloud forming in the valley below two alpine peaks.

To render the clouds he’s used Chinese (Zinc) White body colour – the direct handling is a tour de force. I’ve attempted to follow his example in this watercolour of Great Langdale by using White Acrylic Ink rather than the traditional Chinese White.

Hunt’s painting is reproduced in ‘The glory of Watercolour’ by Stephen Spender (p186) and ‘Watercolour Masters – then and Now’ foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales (p36). Both books are a ‘must have’ for serious study of the art of watercolour. If you haven’t got either of them search the online catalogue of your local library and reserve a copy.