Sunday, 28 February 2016

Red Dawn Whitby

Whitby actually faces North even though it's on the East coast of Yorkshire, which means that in high summer you can see the sun both rise and set out to sea. Unfortunately the dawns are at a horrific hour. This one was definitely worth the effort.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Valletta Harbour

150 x 50 cm oil on canvas

This is a blast from the past from a little adventure stowing away on a billionaire's yacht and ending up in Malta. This was the view from the balcony where I had breakfast of the British Hotel in Valletta. I wish I'd done more of this kind of thing, it's always a tricky balance when you have a gallery to run. 

I was in a gallery in Whitby at the time and was amazed to sell it straight away to a family with a Malta connection.

Canvas and Board blocks

When I first started out painting in oil I actually started big i.e. 5ft (1.5m ) wide and 20" (.5m) deep. I used to buy in a large roll of canvas and stretch it onto pine from the local builders merchant. The biggest problem with that was the quality of the wood, kiln dried pine warps.

To get round this I started buying seasoned tulip wood and I'd cut it to size using a cheap bench saw. Tulip wood is from the U.S. and is used by cabinet makers because of its stability. 

Eventually I gave in and started buying ready made canvases from a company called Harris Moore who also use Tulip wood. It is expensive but at least I get the peace of mind that I'm not going to see a great string of unhappy customers  complaining about bent pictures.

I still stretch medium sized canvases but buy in composite pine stretcher bars from Lion Picture Framing Supplies.

This is my Morso guillotine, I bought it second hand a long time ago. I can't sing the praises of this machine highly enough and if you get the chance to pick one up secondhand do so. this one was bought from a contract picture framers and had seen many years of abuse but it still keeps on going.

It allows you to cut a 45 degree angle to an accurate length and make making frames a doddle.

For small pictures I paint on MDF, I used to use canvas but the calluses aren't worth it. I make up a pine frame and the glue on a sheet of MDF. I'm very fortunate to have a friendly joiner who cuts up sheets of MDF for me into the require sizes 

 I use these little blocks because they fit nicely into a tray frame. I've found over the years that a large picture generally doesn't need a frame which is fortunate since making large frames is an art in itself, but smaller picture do. My work is very textured and putting a frame over the top of it just doesn't work. The moulding for this comes as bare ( unstained ) Ash from a company in London called Rose and Hollis.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Goathland sunset complete...maybe

Right that's it!!!!! no more's done.. I think. I've spent the day doing all sorts of little jobs and every now and then coming back to tweak this painting. The darker colours are already drying so it's time to stop. 

The other important job of the day was to sign up for the Clennell colossus, a ridiculous mountain bike race in June over in the Cheviot hills in Northumberland. Last year they advertised it as a fun family day out even though it was 50 miles off road and climbing the equivalent of 2 Ben Nevis's. It took us (The Egton Mid-life Crisis Cycling Club) over 8 hours to complete. I've never walked so much on a day out cycling.....but not this year we're going to pedal all the way.....maybe.

An introduction to my world

I'm having a little bit of a painting avoidance day today so thought it would be an ideal opportunity to show you my setup.

Five years ago I found myself single and in need of both a home and a studio. Rather than buying a normal house I decided to buy back my old place, the Grosmont Gallery. By doing this it meant I'd get a property that would pay for itself as well as giving me plenty of space.

It looks quite small from the front but the back drops down a bank and it has a total of five storeys. I was to live in the top two, the gallery is in the middle and the bottom two at the back are a holiday cottage and garage/workshop.

It's huge and cheap relative to a normal property, one of the reasons being it is in a quiet rural location. Well when I say quiet it does have the North Yorkshire Steam Railway running through it and their engine sheds, which means a large number of visitors invade over the summer months.

Grosmont high street and railway crossing.

As I bought the building I started seeing my now fiancée, Jayne, who promptly stole the top two floors and turned it into a B&B. So much for my plans for a fantastic bachelor pad...

I didn't even get the dancing girls round.... not that Grosmont is famed for dancing girls.

I've set up my studio at the back of the gallery, there was also enough room to allow for a café which is run by another Jayne, Jayne Harrison. 

Fortunately I don't mind working in front of people which is strange because if I ever go out to do some plein air work I become very self conscious.

Like many creative people I am extremely untidy, I like to think it's because my mind is on higher things rather than being lazy. Anyway what ever it is it works.

The work space is a little cramped if I'm honest but that is probably because I've also squeezed a pottery in. In the summer it does sometimes get a little too busy so it's nice to have a little haven to escape to and close the door for some peace and quiet.

Down the back of the building is my wood workshop, where all the framing stuff happens. Having the ability to frame is hugely important. Framing is expensive and my work doesn't sell at high enough prices for me to out source the work.

On the bench you can see some Ash moulding that is about to be stained. It will then get cut to size with a guillotine and then staple together using an underpinner.

It took me quite some time to discover this moulding, mostly I used to leave my work unframed which is fine for larger pieces but not so much for small.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Whitby Abbey

Whitby abbey in soft evening light.

I dug this one out from the archive and I'm quite taken with the lighting.

Goathland sunset continued

I failed yesterday again to get a video done, this time it was due to apple software not allowing me to do what I want....I'll get there in the end....hopefully.

I came into work this morning to this

To me it didn't look good at all and I was thinking along the lines of how long do I work at it until I scrape it all back. It was always going to be a tough picture being a winter sunset....lots of muted tones etc.

Throwing caution to the wind I quickly blocked in the foreground colour, fortunately a tube of Prussian blue popped into my hands. Within an hour I was starting to relax.

It's amazing how colours interact with each other and in my head it becomes very obvious which direction to take once the canvas is totally covered. There's a lot more tweaking to go here, hopefully I'll have the finished article for you tomorrow.

Just a quick up date, I've managed to get a little video up loaded.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The hell of commuting and a Goathland sunset

A while back I downloaded Strava (a GPS cycling app.) onto my phone so that now when I cycle to and from work I'm competing against myself from one or two days ago. Today was going to be my personal record breaking attempt at the Aislabyside route from Ruswarp to Grosmont (a hilly 7 miles) but was completely scuppered by a frightened Cockapoo and sheet ice. 

Damn you Chris Geall of win again!!

View across the Eskdale from Aislabyside

The Esk coming into Grosmont

Just to annoy anyone who has a real commute, I did actually meet two cars and the school bus on the way in but it was rush hour after all.

Last night on the way home I caught a lovely sunset up on the moors and so have decided to paint it. I though I'd take you through the process.

I always take a big chunk of photo's trying to capture as many exposures as possible. When you stand looking out over a scene your eye is continually adjusting where as a camera just takes one exposure. So I take the view that in order to paint a good picture you need to cheat like mad in order to get closer to the way we remember a view.

Here are a few of the photo's

As you can see by taking a photo directly into the sun the sky is nicely exposed but the lower half is almost in silhouette. 

By moving to the right and taking the sun right out of the shot all the lovely cool colours of the distant hills and valley come to life. I'm not putting the road in this picture I'm going to save it for later in the year when the sun sets right above it.

This shot shows how the sun changes the colour of the far hill to a rich orange.

By dipping the camera I've now got a better idea of the foreground, my foreground will be darker than this but I think I'll play with exaggerating the sunlight on it.

There's a kind of zig zag going on with this composition which I will use to lead the eye into the painting.

I'm going to publish this now, paint the picture and see if I come close to my original intention.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Sawmill Waterfall, Grosmont

It's very therapeutic trawling through old Photo's and rediscovering little gems. This one is of the Sawmill waterfall at Grosmont which is just behind the engine sheds. It's a great place to cross the Murk Esk if the water is not too high. 

Google online gallery

I thought it would be a nice idea to set up a gallery on Google, please check it out.

Waterfall below the bridge in Doctor's wood, Grosmont

I was just looking back through last years photo's and this one jumped out at me so I thought I'd share it.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Longniddry power station with Edinburgh's Arthurs Seat in the background

This is a commission of the now demolished Longniddry power station just outside Edinburgh. I have fond memories of windsurfing and beach parties in the area when I was a student. 

I tried to do a video of the process but hit problems getting my Android phone to talk to my Mac, I'll try again next week with my Nikon.

Friday, 19 February 2016


The lights going so I've taken the finished photo a little early.....just tweeking left to do.
My brain is a bit blown at the moment but I think I've done OK.

It's very difficult at this point from me to judge a piece, hopefully the picture fairy will come over night and sprinkle her magic picture dust.... I don't know where I'd be without her help.

A woodland study from scratch

I usually start with a very simple sketch just so that I can get a mental picture of where I'm headed. With this one I was wanting to draw the on looker in both with composition and colour. So the intention was to have dark cool greens in the foreground and shadows leading the eye up to the little clump of trees. In order to capture the vibrancy of spring time greens I wanted a grey background with quite a lot of purple in it.

First step was to put in the sky with the sun behind the clump of trees.

Now for the greys, there is a river off to the left so I've lightened the grey down there.

I've started stealing the grey paint from the background to take the tree branches up into the sky and warmed up the branches in the sunlit portion.

Now for more shadow and I've started defining the distant trees as well as putting the river in. I've also very carefully added some very grey greens. 

With the background complete it's time to get bold and put the foreground shadows in. Colour wise I'm using Winsor green, burnt sienna and purple, this will hopefully blend well with the greens to come.

It's going GREEN, make or break time. To keep the green realistic I'm putting in large anounts of burnt sienna and purple for the dark stuff. For the light I'm mixing lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, emerald green, cadmium green and lots of white.

Trees....time for lunch so I can stand back and come in clean for the final push.

Will post later to hopefully show off.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Request for small ones

In response to a request to see some small paintings I've put these up into the ether.

Evening study looking towards Sandsend from Whitby beach.

Holy island

Waves at Boggle Hole, Robin Hood's Bay

Sun setting over from Sandsend beach

Dawn , Sandsend beach

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Great Fryupdale head

This morning I decided to see whether Great Fryupdale would work on a squarish canvas, I'm undecided at the mo. 

And before you ask the name is not after the breakfast but rather the goddess Freya (Freyja) 

This lovely view is on the coast to coast trail.

Two little woodland studies

Just a couple of sketches from yesterday