I have wanted to paint this for a long time. In fact, I started to paint it some time ago but was so unhappy with the results and gave up! So I recently resolved to start afresh, and here is the result. One of the many challenges was making the carts and horses pleasing to the eye – I always find livestock a challenge! I experimented in this painting by applying a mix of white gouache with a watercolour base on the roofs of the oasts and barn. I think it makes them look more solid somehow!
Friends moving away wanted a painting to remember the area by. So I painted this scene in Cookham Dean.
I started with a pencil sketch and then did a quick watercolour of the scene to get a feel for the subject. I liked it and still think there’s something natural and pleasing about this initial sketch
I then did a larger watercolour. I liked this painting too – naive in style, but I wasn’t happy with the trees and felt it needed more interest and contrast.
So I tried again. This time I used black ink for the barns and spent a little longer on the sky. The darkness of the ink needed counterbalance, so I used some yellow, white, green and pink gouache to depict sunlight on the hedges and trees. Our friends seemed very happy with the final painting.
Here’s a photo of the farm.
A small sketch based on Hilder’s original, using watercolour, gouache and ink. I like the construction of the scene and the way Hilder conveys the wind sweeping across the landscape. We’re looking out at characters who themselves are looking out at the scene. What are they saying to each other? Note the formal – almost Victorian – dress. I wasn’t going to use ink at first but the use of gouache for the blue sky necessitated greater contrast across the whole picture and only black ink could achieve that.
A Kentish scene. Oasts shrouded in mist, waterlogged fields and trees with no leaves. Who else could it have been inspired by than Hilder? Dark, sombre, bleak, but strangely beautiful. Hilder uses the painting this is based on to describe aerial perspective in one of his books – the technique that enables you to convey distance by painting objects further away more faintly and with less colour. A technique used by the Old Masters. And attempted here by me.
After a long break, a landscape. Based on a Hilder, this watercolour uses rough, dry brush techniques to create a turbulent, choppy sky. The contrast of light and dark further emphasises the changeable weather and gives an impression of passing storm clouds. Hilder painted the same subject in the snow, a scene I’ve also tackled in the past.
It’s been a while since I last posted. But it’s not because I haven’t been painting. I’ve been very busy with a number of still life compositions for a book I’m writing with my colleagues on how the behavioural sciences can be applied to various fields of marketing. The Moka Bialetti Express and Art Deco coffee service in my previous posts are also for the book. Here are a few more – a Coke can, a deck chair and the McClaren B-01 pushchair. The book will be published in June, it’s called System1, Unlocking Profitable Growth.
By popular request – another still life. This time the design on which the Bialetti Moka Express was modelled – an octagonal Art Deco silver coffee service with its characteristic black angular handles.
And now for something completely different. A quick diversion from the landscapes to paint this design classic – the Bialetti Moka Express. With its Art Deco octagonal form and glistening metal surface it’s an interesting and rewarding subject to paint.
There are two colours here – lamp black and neutral tint. I didn’t know whether watercolour would be well suited to the depiction of metal, but the run of the washes works surprisingly well. I used a craft knife to etch out some of the subtle lines and imperfections in the metal.
There’s an interesting story behind this little stove-top coffee maker. It was inspired by early 1920s washing machines, which forced water up under pressure through a central tube to disperse the detergent over the clothes. In the Moka Express (1933), the heat from the stove creates pressure in the bottom compartment forcing the water up through the coffee and into the upper compartment. It provided cafe-quality espresso in the home for the first time. But it was undoubtedly its elegant design – based on a popular octagonal Art Deco silver coffee service of the time – that ensured its success and reserved its place in history.
This week I’ve turned my attention to a snow scene. There’s something satisfying about painting snow. The brilliant sunlit white against the sharp contrasting darks, the blueish-red shadows that give the snow its depth, and the bright heavy skies laden with the promise of further flurries to follow.
After drawing out the scene in pencil, I inked in the barns in indelible black. This gives the greatest possible contrast to the snow, rendering the unpainted paper bright white. It also holds firm when you apply further watercolour washes.
I then began to paint in the clouds over several washes and to mark in the shadows on the snow in the foreground and on the buildings. I left it there to dry until the next day.
The next day I finished the sky and worked on the trees in the middle distance. I began to give greater definition to the middle distance and foreground. Things were going well and I stopped, pleased with my progress.
I started on the large foreground tree the next day. I never begin a major tree when I’m tired! I find they require great concentration if you are to get them looking anywhere near plausible. This tree was no exception. I worked on it for a while but wasn’t happy with it and packed in for the day, deciding it was better to leave it and come back to it after a break once I’d figured out how to make it look better.
So the next day I got some tracing paper and, in pencil, traced on to it the main branches and outline of my tree. On the tracing paper I played with giving greater weight to some of the branches, breadth to the canopy and tried generally to balance it up a little. This felt better. Tracing paper gives you the chance to play with ideas before committing yourself to them in your painting!
I returned to the painting and tried to replicate the look and feel of the altered tree in my tracing. It helped. A few final details and I decided the painting was done.
A pencil, pen and wash sketch of a local scene: Hambleden Mill, on the Thames, near the Chilterns. This is after a Hilder sketch.