Is there anywhere in Norfolk more painted than Cley Mill? Maybe not, although Burnham Overy Mill must run it a close second. However, apart from a few pen and wash demonstrations, it’s years since I last made a painting of this iconic landmark.
The opportunity to remedy that came last week, when I visited Spalding Art and Crafts Society for a watercolour demonstration evening. I wanted to choose a subject which would show the beauty of a simple watercolour, painted in a very limited palette of colours, and Cley Windmill fitted the bill perfectly. I kept the composition simple but made sure that the mill and buildings made a good statement against the sky. Don’t be afraid to use strong tonal contrasts in a subject like this, from white to almost black.
My palette of colours was simple in the extreme. Just two, one blue and one red. I used French Ultramarine for my blue and Brown Madder for my red, but a similar effect could be obtained by using Cobalt Blue and either Light Red or Burnt Sienna. But I like Brown Madder as it makes nice, slightly purple, darks when mixed with Ultramarine, and it can be varied from pale pink to reddish-brown by using more or less water with it.
The Spalding group were lovely people to paint for and it was a very enjoyable evening. When I got home, well after a few days actually, I looked again at the painting and decided the tower of the mill needed a little more fine tuning as it was looking a bit lop-sided. Often, it’s only when looking at a painting with fresh eyes that I can spot something that just needs a small adjustment. For that reason, I’m never in too much of a hurry to sign and frame a work, but prefer to look at it for a few days. However, there is a danger in this – fiddling! Only do what you feel to be essential, then put the brushes down.
I was pleased with the finished painting and will be showing it in the West Norfolk Artists Association spring exhibition, which is coming up soon. Thornham Village Hall, from Friday until Monday of the Easter holiday. 10am – 5pm on each of the four days. Do try and call in, if you’re in the area!