On my way back from morning dog walks, these winter tree silhouettes kept catching my eye. They are particularly beautiful in contrast with the orange field in the background.
I was out walking one day and these beautiful fallen leaves seemed just too wonderful to leave behind. I wanted to paint the background black as a contrast to the bright leaves.
Here’s a pen and wash study of a little squash I grew in the summer this year, I love that deep, dark green and the lighter verdigris veins that demarkate the segments.
I added a digital background to the version below as I thought the orange would contrast well with the green.
Back at the end of the 1970s, aged 10-11, I had a brilliant teacher for my last year of primary school; Janet Hall. She was a gentle, creative person with flowing hair, flowing skirts and clogs, and she lived on this boat. The Steam Tug Brent.
I’ve had the good fortune to have had enjoyed some excellent travel adventures but one of the best was during that last year of primary school. Mrs Hall arranged for our class to travel by boat (not the Brent!) from Maldon to Saint Osyth’s Priory. I still remember that exhilarating feeling of freedom as we skimmed across the water that dark grey morning with a hair whipping wind. Below – my school photo from around that time.
I got back in touch with Janet having returned to Essex after many years away. As luck would have it she was on the deck of the Brent as I walked on Maldon’s prom one day. Once Covid restrictions eased we met for a coffee and caught up on the intervening years.
Janet told me the story of the Brent’s rescue from the salvage yard in 1971, the years when she became the Hall family home through to the Steam Tug Brent Trust being set up in 2010 as a means of raising money and a voluntary workforce to conserve and restore this lovely old boat.
The Brent has achieved iconic status after 50 years in Maldon. To celebrate, a group exhibition of Brent related artworks was staged at St Mary’s Church Octagon in July 2021. The range, number and quality of pieces was really impressive; models, paintings on metal and board, watercolours, textile pieces, primary school submissions. Really lovely.
Circumstances, Covid and otherwise, have so far conspired to prevent me from getting on board on one of Brent’s open days. I’d love to have a really good look around, and of course it would be marvelous to see her fully restored and sailing under steam power again one day.
After many years admiring other people’s summer hollyhock displays I finally managed to grow some from seed this year. My Mum loves hollyhocks too, she had collected the seeds from some beautiful plants that were growing out of the concrete at the edge of a car park in town. I think the fact that such delicate but exuberant loveliness can thrive on apparently nothing adds to the wonder of the hollyhock. The name is also a bonus for a Hockey!
I noticed recently that my Mum’s bookmark had been well used into tattiness so I painted her a new hollyhock bookmark for her birthday.
Water resistant pen, watercolour paint, 300gsm watercolour paper.
Catching the full moon, as it rises bulbous on a clear night is most uplifting.
It’s so large when it’s low that I can almost feel the weight of its pull. Being made of mostly water I probably can feel that pull…
This is the view over our neighbours’ garden through the evergreen border bushes, and while the pylon may not be conventionally beautiful there’s drama in the contrast of its strict geometry behind the softer silhouette of the branches.
Winter certainly has its consolations.
It’s easy to make excuses not to sketch: my shoulder hurts, the weather’s too hot, the weather’s too cold, too wet, too windy, it’s winter – I’m uninspired, there’s nothing to see…
Then I started to pay attention to how beautiful the sky can be as the winter sun sets behind skeletal trees. Its position slightly shifting everyday so that eventually it’s setting over the road and visible from my bedroom window, which has a radiator under it.
So with no discomfort excuses I succumbed to the urge to try and capture this lovely view. I drew the trees in water resistant pen at a leisurely pace and left my sketchbook on the windowsill with my brushes, a jar of water and my paint box so that the next time the sunset was dramatic I could quickly paint the watercolour wash over the top.
I repainted this version so that I could sell the painting without disfiguring my sketchbook and it’s now my plan to redraw the trees in preparation for a new attempt next time there’s drama in the sky.
A friend asked me to make another of these little coffee pot candle illustrations which I first produced back in 2014. It’s a fun technique: first drawing in charcoal, then painting with acrylic but the crackle glaze proved to be a bit tricky this time and took a few goes to get right. I rubbed white oil paint and beeswax on top of the glaze once I was happy with the cracks and finally a smear of glitter gel for the festive finish.