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Watercolour at Wisbech

I’ve been on the road again, this time to the Wisbech Art Club who meet in the Elm Centre, a lovely hall in the village of Elm just outside Wisbech, Cambs. On Saturday 11th March we got together to paint in watercolour and had a really nice day.

Demonstration watercolour painting of Old Barn in Norfolk
Old Barn at Ringstead Downs. Demonstration watercolour painting 22ins x 15ins on Waterford 140lb NOT paper.

You can see my two demonstration pieces here. The first one, which was the Old Barn at Ringstead Downs, we painted through as a group, following my demonstration step by step. I find that this gives me the maximum chance to show and explain my watercolour techniques and for the group to follow them.

Demonstration watercolour painting of a boat on the mud
Moored at Morston. Demonstration watercolour painting 15ins x 11ins on Waterford 140lb NOT paper.

Later in the day, I did another short demonstration at the easel, with some of the group gathered round. This piece was a scene of a boat on the mud at Morston Creek. Both subjects are quite simple compositions, but there are plenty of things to learn even from the most basic of paintings. I’ve used both the Old Barn and the Morston Boat compositions before but they are ideal for learning many tricks of the watercolour trade!

My palette of colours was a very limited one in both paintings. Ultramarine Blue Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Primary Yellow in the Old Barn painting and Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna and Avignon Orange in the Morston work. All these colours are MaimeriBlu watercolours. If you’re using other brands then Ultramarine Blue Light is the same as standard French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna are pretty universal, Primary Yellow is a bright yellow tending towards lemon but a little warmer, Prussian blue is the same the world over, and finally Maimeri Avignon Orange is a reddish brown not dissimilar to Brown Madder. For both these demonstrations I used Saunders Waterford 140lb NOT surface paper. All these materials can be obtained from the SAA.

I had a really enjoyable day with the Wisbech group, so thank you all be being so friendly and I hope to see you again in the future!

Paint out Australia

Further to my last post, we have now made it down to Ocean Grove, on the coast south-west of Melbourne. Here we have a good friend, Merridy, and are staying at her house on Dare Street. The house has a great view out over the Bass Strait and it also has a lovely deck area which I managed to commandeer for a few hours painting.

Studio on the deck at Dare Street
Painting in progress, on the studio deck at Dare Street. Berwon Head can just be seen in the far distance.

So, here you can see the “studio” with a painting on my super lightweight travelling easel. The easel is assembled from a camera tripod on to which I have fitted a piece of thin plywood. To do this I used a tripod adaptor which I bought before leaving the UK, from Ken Bromley Art Supplies. The adaptor fits in the head of the tripod just as a camera would do, and screws to a small piece of fairly thick wood which is then glued to the plywood. Very light in weight and quite sturdy.

The painting on the easel is a view from our “home” out towards a local landmark, Berwon Head. There was a terrific sunset over the Head the other evening and I knew I would have to paint it. The next morning I set up the easel where I had a good view and managed to recreate the sunset from my visual memory. Well it may not be exactly like it, but it’s close enough! The tricky part of the painting was the foreground, as I wanted to give an impression of the trees that lie between us and the sea, without doing anything detailed. Hopefully I managed to achieve that, by a combination of painting round negative shapes, and scraping out damp paint with a small, blunt, knife that I carry for that purpose.

The colours used were French Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Scarlet Lake and just a touch of Raw Sienna in the sky. I hope you enjoy it and I will bring you more from the down under studio soon!

Painting of Sunset over Berwon Head
Sunset at Berwon Head, Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia. 20ins x 14ins on Arches 140lb rough paper.

Open Studios are Open

This weekend is the opening of the Dersingham Christmas Art Trail, with eight artists showing their studios off to the public. Down here at Alexandra Close we’ve had a steady stream of visitors, with plenty of friends coming to wish us bon voyage to Australia.

Open Studio November 2014
The studio, ready for visitors
Here’s a shot of the studio lying in readiness for the expected hoards of eager art buyers. Well, maybe! I will post some photos of the new work that I’ve been doing a little later, but it’s a mixture of old and new. some Norfolk landscapes, and some of my new “cityscapes” featuring places as diverse as Norwich, York, and Agra, India.

More sketching

You might remember that my last post showed a group sketching at Castle Rising, with everyone peering into the distance at – what? Well, as you can perhaps see from my own demonstration sketch, it was a distant church that could just be glimpsed between a couple of trees.

Sketch of church near Castle Rising
St Felix church, Castle Rising. Pen and wash sketch on Langton rough paper 12ins x 9ins.

That’s the great thing about painting on location. If there’s a tree in the way, just take it out, or move it to one side. Here, I’ve attempted to make an interesting sketch by using several simple devices. I ignored the small trees that were at the edge of the field and let the eye go through to the church, which I emphasised by making it a little bit larger than it actually appeared, and used the pen to give it a distinct outline. I made sure that it made a good light to dark contrast against some trees behind it. I painted quite a lively sky, and then finally added some interest to the foreground with a few dry-brushed marks on the green field.

All very simple, and somehow much easier to work out when you’re actually on the spot rather than working from a photograph. Why not get out with a sketchbook today!

A couple of Golden Oldies

Well, my exhibition has had its two week run and it seems to have been a success. There were plenty of visitors who made some good comments about my work. And yes, a few paintings were sold too!

Something that surprised me was the amount of interest that my early paintings stirred. In particular, this work from around 1995 entitled The Wildfowler was so popular that I had to start making prints of it. If you would like one, just contact me. They are £25 unframed or £45 framed, but unless you can collect the framed version from the studio here in Dersingham it would be better to order the unframed one, which is much easier to mail. Postage within the UK costs £3.

Another early work, which I did at the same sort of time as The Wildfowler is this view of Appleton Water Tower, near Sandringham. At this early point in my career I had already developed a love of simple subjects with a very limited palette of colours. Both these works are painted using Cobalt Blue, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna.

The Wildfowler painting in watercolour
The Wildfowler. Watercolour c. 1995. 15ins x 11ins.
Appleton Water Tower
Mist at Appleton. Watercolour c.1995. 15ins x 11ins.

From the Exhibition – Four from the North – Sunday 15th June

Here are some more paintings that I am currently showing in my Stephen Martyn at 21 exhibition. They are all scenes of the Northern England landscape, where I love to go hiking and have done so for many years.

Catbells from Skiddaw is a well known Lake District view from the summit of one the the highest peaks – Skiddaw, or Skidder as the locals say it. A long old haul up to the top and a very warm day when Margaret and I ascended this peak. Great views though. I took some photos because there were too many flies buzzing round on the summit for comfortable sketching. Why so many flies on the top of a mountain? Probably someone dropped their jam sandwiches!

painting of Catbells, Lake District
Catbells from Skiddaw. Watercolour 28 x 18cms.

Painting of Rain Clouds over Ingleborough
Rainclouds and Light – Ingleborough. Watercolour 33 x 25cms.

Painting of Ladder Stile
Ladder Stile near Ingleborough. Watercolour 50 x 37cms.

Painting of Great Shunner Fell
The Pennine Way at Great Shunner Fell. Watercolour 67 x 50cms.

Rainclouds and Light says it all. A wild day, with Ingleborough in West Yorkshire in the distance where, maybe, the sun is shining. On another trip to Ingleborough, in 2004, I sketched this ladder stile near the village of Clapham. This painting, made in the studio, was later selected for exhibition by the Royal Watercolour Society in London.

Finally, a view of Great Shunner Fell which is a huge hill on the Pennine Way. It forms the link between Wensleydale and Swaledale and makes a grand walk if the weather is good. Which is rarely, of course! I walked the whole length of the Pennine Way in 2005 and, nine years later, I think my feet have just about recovered.

From the Exhibition – Friday 13th June

What did I say about posting every day? Ah well, it’s been busy here, we’ve had plenty of visitors to the exhibition over the last few days and there have been some nice comments. The Shakespeare Barn is a beautiful gallery space and the work does look good.

As promised, here are a few more paintings from the show. This group of four are recent works in watercolour, all showing landmark buildings of King’s Lynn, with the common themes being people and the evening light. I’ve titled them “festival” paintings as to me they suggest the buzz of the King’s Lynn Festival (coming up soon in July), with warm evening sunshine and the chance for folk to wander round the town.

painting of red mount chapel kings lynn
Festival Evening – Red mount Chapel, King’s Lynn. Watercolour 47cms x 32cms.

painting of king's lynn custom house
Festival Evening – King St. King’s Lynn. Watercolour 47cms x 32cms.

painting of st nicholas chapel king's lynn
Festival Evening – St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn. Watercolour 47cms x 32cms.

painting of greyfriars tower kings lynn
Summer Evening – Greyfriars Tower, King’s Lynn. Watercolour 47cms x 32cms.

Off the Page

A new exhibition by the West Norfolk Artists Association opened today in the Red Barn gallery, King’s Lynn Arts Centre. The theme for the exhibition was works inspired by a piece of poetry or prose, and what a popular theme that tuned out to be. Nearly forty artist members submitted nearly seventy works.

The exhibition continues all week, until Saturday 29th March, although unfortunately not on Sunday. Otherwise it is open every day 11am – 4pm.

Painting of holkham Beach
Where the Wave Draws Breath. Watercolour 50 x 32 cms.
My own entry for the exhibition is this watercolour which I entitled Where the Wave Draws Breath. A poem by Algernon Swinburne was my inspiration, being a verse featured on an information board in the dunes adjoining Holkham beach. The painting itself is a little unusal as it had been on my pile of “the ones that didn’t quite make it” for nearly ten years. I unearthed it, completely reworked the sky, the sea (there was none) and the beach, and was quite pleased with the end result. Never throw anything away – it may take years for a work to finally be complete!

The verse that inspired the work is:

A land that is thirstier than ruin;
A sea that is hungrier than death;
Heaped hills that a tree never grew in;
Wide sands where the wave draws breath.

The Salt Marsh – Algernon Swinburne

Pen & Wash Demonstration

If you look back to my last post you’ll see that I recently ran an ink workshop at West Norfolk Arts Centre, Castle Rising. One of the participants on the course, Fay, very kindly sent me some photos of my demonstrations during the weekend, some of which you can see here.

I always appreciate it when people take photos or even video of my demonstrations, because I can’t, being at the coal face with brush in hand!

Pen & Wash Demonstration 1
Here you can see the inkwork before any colour goes on. I did this with a Faber-Castell Pitt pen, with a medium nib. The size of my paper is approximately 40 x 30 cms.

Pen & Wash Demonstration 2
I’m now applying the Rowney FW coloured inks, using plenty of water. You could do the same with traditional watercolour, but the inks give more vibrant colour.

Pen & Wash Demonstration 3
Nearly done, just a few more clouds. That’s a 3/4 inch flat brush that I’m using.

Pen & Wash Demonstration 4
Ta-da! A mount or mat round the work always helps.

A big surprise!

July is the month when the West Norfolk Artists Association hold its annual Summer Exhibition, usually in St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn. This year was no exception and Wednesday 17th saw a team of us start the task of setting up the show. There’s a lot to do, with over 200 works being submitted, of which 155 were selected for exhibition. Nonetheless, we worked hard and by Friday lunchtime the exhibition was up and looking good.

Among the selected artworks were four of my own paintings, all of them in a combination of Indian ink and watercolour. Imagine my surprise when, at the grand opening of the show on the Friday evening, I was presented with the Inga Miller Award for a work selected by the committee of the WNAA. Inga was a dear friend of mine and a great supporter of the arts, who sadly passed away in January 2012, and the award is in her memory.

Steve with the Inga Miller Award
In my studio with the cup that is presented by the WNAA committee in memory of the late Inga Miller, who was a great supporter of the Association and the arts generally

I feel very honoured to receive the award and the silver cup that goes with it, which is mine to keep for one year. Then it will be passed on to the next winner of the award. My thanks to all the committee members who voted for my painting “Three Trees at Sunset” which you can see here. To coin a phrase from Last of the Summer Wine, “your cheques are in the post!”

three trees at sunset
Three Trees at Sunset. Ink & Watercolour 10ins x 10ins

Do call in to the Chapel and look round the exhibition if you have an opportunity. I think it’s one of the Association’s best exhibitions, with a wide variety of colourful and interesting work, plus the Chapel is a beautiful building. The show is open everyday 10am – 4pm from now until Saturday 3rd August. St Nicholas Chapel is in St Annes Street, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 1NH.