I Painted Out – in Norwich

My last post was about the upcoming Paint Out Norwich painting competition in which I was taking part. So it was that on a very wild and windy day last Tuesday, Margaret and I travelled to Norwich where I was to paint against the clock and against twenty-seven other artists.

The event was organised by the Hostry at Norwich Cathedral, as part of the autumn Hostry Festival. We met the other artists there and saw this superb building where the exhibition of completed works was to be staged. The Paint Out Norwich team were very welcoming and, considering that this was the first running of the event, pretty efficient most of the time. Our base during the event was the Maddermarket Theatre where we had room to store some of our gear and get a bit of lunch at their cafe between the morning and afternoon sessions. Mercifully this was only a few hundred yards from our hotel, because my efforts to slim down my en plein air painting kit were only partially successful!

Painting at Norwich Forum
Wednesday afternoon with me outside the library at Norwich Forum. You can see my Winsor & Newton easel – a bit heavy but very sturdy.

As for the painting, on Wednesday and Thursday, it was actually great fun to be out in this beautiful city and have three hours to ‘do a view’. Yes, it was cold but at least it didn’t rain! There were four sessions, one morning 9 – 12 and one afternoon 1.30 – 4.30 and we were sent to a different location for each one. Once at the location you were free to paint any view, which meant that there was never any difficulty finding a good composition.

I resisted the temptation just to do pen and wash sketching, and set up an easel with a half-imperial sheet of 140lb weight Arches rough paper for each session. It meant carrying the easel and quite a bit of other stuff, but I enjoyed tackling a full scale watercolour painting. Of the four I completed, I enjoyed doing them all, but there are always things that you can see when you look at a painting that you might have done better, or at least differently. But at the end of the three hours, that’s it, the paintings are taken from you and no more fiddling is allowed!

Here are the two that I consider the most successful. One where I was looking down on the city from the ramparts of Norwich Castle, and one where I set up my easel by the library which is inside The Forum, a fantastic building buzzing with people, cafes, lots going on. It was also a bit warmer than the street outside.

I didn’t win any prizes, but I enjoyed the experience and will be doing more plein air painting in the future. It’s very different to working in the comfort of the studio and cityscapes are different to my usual landscapes. But I like ’em!

Interior of Norwich Forum
Figures in the Forum. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins on Arches Rough paper
Painting from Norwich Castle
Looking Down – from Norwich Castle. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins on Arches Rough paper

You can see all the paintings done by the twenty-eight artists at the Paint Out Norwich exhibition, on now until the 2nd November, at the Hostry, Norwich Cathedral, Tombland, Norwich.

Paint Out Norwich

It’s always nice to have an excuse to get out with the painting gear and actually do some work on location. So often, pressures of time or weather mean that I end up working from photographs not actually in front of the subject. Not that I mind working from photos, there’s a lot to be said for starting with one and then creating an artwork out of it that bears only a passing resemblance to the original photograph. The photo just becomes the kickstarter of your inspiration. However, I digress.

Painting of Indian market street
Early Morning, Agra, India. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins.

On the 22nd and 23rd October I shall be in Norwich, a fine city, to take part in Paint Out Norwich. An open air painting competition which is part of the autumn Hostry Festival at Norwich Cathedral. Sixty artists applied to take part, and thirty were selected. We shall step up to our easels at 9am on the morning of Wednesday 22nd and there will be four three hour sessions over the two days. Each session will see the artist working at a different location, so I will get round four of the seven that are on offer. The sessions will be 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm each day. At the end of the competition all work will be judged and there are some nice cash prizes up for grabs. Following on from that there will be an exhibition of the work for the remainder of the Hostry Festival, until the 2nd November I think.

Having recklessly accepted this challenge, I thought that I’d better brush up, so to speak, on my cityscapes. Here is one that I did recently. No, not Norwich, Agra in India. And no, I didn’t paint en plein air, that would risk being mobbed. But if you saw my photo you would find it very different in mood and lighting to the painting. Wish me luck and do come to Norwich to cheer all the artists on. The public, and the media, are encouraged to look over all the artists’ shoulders. No pressure then!

You can find out all about the event, the artists, and the locations at the website paintoutnorwich.org