In December I decided to embark on a 30 day painting challenge throughout January, and duly kitted myself out with 30 6x8” canvas panels and a list of things I wanted to paint, so I wouldn’t be thwarted by indecision and procrastination! The list was complied to include subject matter I wouldn’t normally paint, such as portraits from life and a self-portrait, and specific exercises such as painting in a specified time, using specific colours, etc etc. I basically wanted the challenge not to be just a test of fulfilling a challenge (which I admittedly have tried and failed at before), but also to enable a certain amount of education and growth. I’m noting my thoughts of each days painting as I go along, to gain as much as possible from the process.
So here is the end of week one, which is actually only 6 days worth this week...
DAY 1 - I thought I’d get in a painting of a Christmas tree before twelfth night. A certain amount of artistic license was taken with this interior, a subject which I’m not completely comfortable with, my natural painting environment being outside, but a good way of getting stuck in without issues of rapidly changing light etc.
DAY 2 - This was painted in a fairly short period of time en plein air. What did I learn from this painting? Don’t take the dog out painting with me as it will end in disaster if his tail accidentally gets in the paint (see my Facebook or Instagram feeds for the story on this!). Secondly, it was also a good exercise on getting the values right at the start - I wasted too much time with this one making big changes at a later stage. I know it’s far from being a great painting, however I do like the overall feel of it, and think I eventually got the essence of the grey January day with it. By the way, it’s of the 1000 year old steps which, along with the foundations, are all that remains from the ruins of Duffield Castle here in Derbyshire.
DAY 3 - This was an exercise I set myself to paint something in 5 minutes. Without too much deliberation, I chose a bowl of chestnuts and a candle, pre-mixing a bit to save time, and using just one brush. Due to time limitations, it is to be expected that there is little background and detail, just big descriptive shapes, but it was a great exercise in using brief gestural marks and resisting the temptation to continue and to fiddle. I am planning further exercises during the challenge with limits on time and brushstrokes allowed, so will continue to explore this theme on how setting such limitations can help loosen my work up and prevent over-working.
DAY 4 - This was a challenge to paint entirely with a palette knife, no brushes allowed! So I was pleased to have my husbands birthday cake to hand, which made the perfect model for a palette knife painting, as it was almost like icing a cake with knife and thick juicy oil paint! Very messy, and lots of paint was consumed, although I did miss the control that brushes offer versus the knife.
DAY 5 - Today was a challenge to paint something in 10 minutes, so I grabbed studio bear and got to work. It’s a great discipline to have such a limited time and strictly place down the brush on the 10 minute timer. I might even employ this tactic the next time I paint en plein air, to avoid overworking. On the palette you can see the pile of grey which I mix at the end of each painting session using all the unused colour, making a nice neutral for next time.
I will do a weekly round-up blog post at the end of each week, showing the progress of the challenge, and a few of my thoughts on the paintings.
If you read my last blog post a couple of days ago, you would have read that I was headed London-bound again, to paint at Chelsea Physic Gardens yesterday and at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Paint Live event. Well things yesterday didn’t go to plan. My plans for a quick afternoon painting in Chelsea Physic Gardens didn’t happen due to heavily delayed trains. What should have been a 1 hour 30 minute train journey turned into 4 hours 30 mins, so I arrived too late to paint, unfortunately.
However, already in London the night before, I was raring to go this morning for the ROI’s plein air event at the Mall Galleries. The premise is to paint any subject of your choice within half a mile radius of the Mall Galleries. There were about 40 artists taking part, some of whom I recognised from social media, so it was good to put faces to the.names and make new friends, some who actually live fairly local to me, which is nice. As planned I headed straight to Waterloo Place and set up to paint.
As to be expected it was very busy, but if you don’t want to be talked to and/or photographed by random people, I always think it’s best to stay in the studio, so it doesn’t bother me at all to have loads of people walking past and looking at what I’m doing.
I was really pleased with my painting. I admit I was totally out of my comfort zone in regards to subject matter. I’m far more used to painting broken down barns and cottage gardens than posh London architecture. But I wanted today to be an experience and to push myself to try something different, and I loved the challenge. Unfortunately the weather today was grey, with flat light (unlike yesterday, which when I was stuck on a train was beautiful and sunny - oh well!). But it stopped raining as soon as I started painting which was good,
So here’s my painting, as it was when I stopped painting. I’d been working on it for about an hour and a half, and had reached the point where I was just fiddling with it...
I headed back to the Mall Galleries for the judging. I honestly can say that I was never expecting a prize, and I wasn’t disappointed! But I really enjoyed the day, trying out a new kind of subject and setting to paint in. It’s by trying out new things that we find out what we truly enjoy, and I know my heart is in painting more ‘country-fied’ subjects, not urban settings like this, which is lucky as I live in Derbyshire and its flipping expensive and exhausting going to London! Today was also a good exercise in mixing grey!
I would like to do a little more to my painting back in the studio, just to rectify a couple of things and put an umbrella in that I decided later would look better, so I will post the finished piece next week when I’ve finished it.
Big thanks to the ROI for organising this great event, and you never know, I might do it again in 2019!
This week I am painting in London, and Tuesday was day 1.
Unfortunately it was raining heavily throughout the day, so I only had a chance to do a quick sketch in Whitehall Gardens, then opted for a pub interior, which was warm and dry!
I also visited the Royal Institute of Oil Painters private view of their annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries, which is a great exhibition, and well worth a visit if you can. Unfortunately PV’s are not the best place to have a good look at the art on show, as they are just too busy, as the photo below shows, but luckily I’m heading back to London on Friday and Saturday, so will have a chance to take a longer look when it’s quieter.
One of the tasks of the day was to find a good location to paint at the ROI’s Paint Live competition on Saturday, which I’m taking part in, and I’ve successfully found a good location with lots of interesting things to paint in it (and things I don’t get to see when painting in Derbyshire!), but I’m keeping the location a secret until the day! It was going to be Whitehall Gardens, hence my visit there, but I subsequently found somewhere better.
I will post a blog again on Friday, when I’m painting at Chelsea Physic Gardens. Fingers crossed for fine weather - forecast looks good at the moment!
I’ve been meaning to take a video when I’m out painting for a while now, but each time I completely forget, and remember as soon as I get home! But today I remembered when I was painting at National Trust Stoneywell Cottage, and here it is.
It’s just a short clip, showing the viewpoint I was looking at and the painting as I finished up, after an hour and a half’s painting.
I’ve been painting locally this week, and Belper certainly offers much to inspire the plein air painter, in fact, I’ve not really left one area! All these paintings below were painted in the gardens on Wyver Lane, and the field behind it.
I was back at Stoneywell National Trust today in Leicestershire, to hand over my cottage painting from last week for exhibition there, and to paint as it was such a lovely day.
I concentrated on the old stable yard this time, which was a great subject.
As is normal for the U.K., the weather so far this October has been a bit hit and miss. We’ve had some of the hottest October days ever recorded and some very wet and windy weather, so it’s been a bit of a mix between plein air and studio work for me.
Here’s a couple of recent pics of studio paintings...
Making the most of the exceptionally warm October weather yesterday, I headed off to paint at the stunning Stoneywell, a unique and quirky arts and crafts style cottage in Leicestershire.
The property is now owned and cared for by the National Trust, and is well worth a visit if you can.
I’ve been feeling a little poorly this week with an ear infection, and feeling a bit dizzy from the antibiotics today, so thought it would be wiser to stay close to home to paint. So here’s my painting of the dining room...
. I wanted to paint the lovely handpainted cabinet together with the sunflowers and Anthropologie plate my sister in law recently bought me. The light and the blue-grey colours really caught my eye, and perfectly complement the yellow of the sunflowers. This is the finished painting. It’s the sort of subject that you can carry on fiddling with forever, but I want to keep the spontaneous brushwork, so I’m calling it finished as it is...
It’s been nice to get out and enjoy some of the late summer sun in September. Here are a couple of local places in Derbyshire I’ve been painting...