Lune Year: Sycamore and Flood Grass

A short lived spell of warm sunny weather in the past few days has finally brought a touch of green to the trees. This sketch is of the brand new sycamore leaves opening, the grass from last December’s floods still wrapped tightly around the branches.

Its mixed media; acrylic and pastel, on a watercolour background.

New leaves of Sycamore with Flood Grass, mixed media

New leaves of Sycamore with Flood Grass, mixed media

Spaces available on Tuesday and Wednesday morning art classes at Halton Mill

There is currently one space available on my Tuesday morning art class, and three spaces available on Wednesday mornings. The classes are from 10-12.30 and you can read more about them here.  The classes are open to anybody*, from complete beginners, to experienced artists. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.

This lovely pastel drawing was made this morning by Carol Gaston who attends my Wednesday morning art class. You can see more of Carol’s work here.

Girl on Beach by Carol Gaston

‘Girl on Beach’ by Carol Gaston

*Aged 12 and over

Lune Year: Buddleia and Flowering Currant with Warlocks Whiskers

These drawings are of buddleia and flowering currant bushes growing alongside the River Lune in Halton, outside my studio. They are just beginning to bud, and I wanted to record the budding leaves and blossoms tangled in the ‘flood grass’, or warlords whiskers, as a friend calls it.

Buddleia & Flood Grass #1, mixed media

Buddleia & Flood Grass #1, mixed media

Buddleia and Flood Grass #2. Mixed media

Buddleia and Flood Grass #2. Mixed media

Flowering Currant with Flood Grass. Mixed media

Flowering Currant with Flood Grass. Mixed media

Without really planning it, I’ve embarked on a project I’ve called Lune Year. I am drawing and painting the river, and the riverside, for twelve months following the ‘big flood’ of December 5th, 2015. I’m fascinated by the way that the riverside has been so profoundly changed. From late November until mid January, give or take a few days, the river was in spate. On the night of 5th December, the river flooded to unprecedented levels. The environment agency recorded the flood on 5th/6th December as follows:
The River Gauge at Caton on the River Lune recorded the highest ever flow on an English river as 1742 cumecs (m3/second) – That’s 1742 tonnes of water flowing down the river every second! The flow peak was recorded at 00:15 on 6th December 2015 following the intense sustained rainfall from Storm Desmond.

The river throughout December and early January was pretty scary to be honest. However, it was also utterly fascinating. I spent a lot of time filming and photographing it, at different points within walking distance of my studio, and I began my series of paintings and drawings. I’m planning to exhibit them next spring, once the twelve months is up. In the meantime, I’ll post some of the work on my blog.

Museum Inspired Exhibition at Lancaster Museum

This exhibition has just opened at Lancaster Museum, showing a series of work by myself and four other artists: Milan Ivanic, Fay Collins, Gill Aiken, and Rosa Mackinder. The artwork was made in response to the museum collection.

Here’s my two paintings.

Gerrard Street Ginnel, August 2015

Gerrard Street Ginnel, August 2015

Looking around the museum I was fascinated by the old photos of the city. I saw how much some aspects of the town and surrounding landscape have changed in the last 200 years or so, yet how little others have, at least outwardly. Photos of Lancasters’ back alleys, or ginnels, in the late 1800’s do not look much different than they do now, the chief difference as far as I can tell being the wheelie bins, which have to be carefully parked so they don’t roll down the hills. This is the ginnel (alley way) behind the street I used to live on, and I wanted to try and capture the somewhat timeless feel of the place. It was August when I painted this, although there are no trees visible, and the flat grey light of a rainy day looks pretty much the same in summer and winter.

Coromorant and Lune Bridges, Halton, November 2015

Coromorant and Lune Bridges, Halton, November 2015

There are several paintings showing the River Lune and the Lune Valley in the museum’s collection. Joseph Mallord William Turner painted ‘Lancaster, from the Aqueduct Bridge’ in 1825, when the aqueduct was being constructed. I decided to paint the River Lune today with the new Lune West Bridge under construction at Junction 34 of the M6. My studio at Halton Mill is just upstream from the new bridge, and I have watched the progress of the bridge over the last year or so as I walk along the riverside. I wasn’t really sure how to go about painting such a large-scale subject. I looked time and time again at the bridge over the course of 2015, looking for inspiration. I even canoed underneath the bridges in search of an unusual angle! I thought that the huge yellow cranes would form an interesting composition to paint. In the end, however, the inspiration behind my painting was a fleeting moment on 12th November when I watched a cormorant fly under the two motorway bridges, reflected in the still water of a perfect autumn morning. I found the simple beauty of the bird, the trees and the water far more interesting than the vast bridges. My painting reminds me that in spite of the expanding and changing human landscape, the river will always have to flow downstream, and the cormorants will continue to dive for fish.

Retrospectively, what I find most interesting about this painting is that it represents one of the last days of a long dry spell of weather, before the seemingly never-ending rain of most of November and all of December. The floods of December 5th were monumental, and have really changed this part of the River Lune – large parts of the bank were washed away, the trees are now adorned with debris several metres above the river level. It looks odd, carpets, black bags, hay bales, twisted gates, electricity pylons, and rubble, everything out of place. New islands have been created, trees uprooted. A shipping container from the building site of the new motorway bridge I painted was washed down into Lancaster, damaging one of the bridges there. The river rose to 8.5 metres at Caton, over a metre above the highest previous record.

I’m now working on a series of new river paintings – I’ll post some images of them shortly.

 

 

 

Wintry Watercolours available as Christmas Cards

My watercolour landscapes (and sheep-scapes) of NW England are now available as Christmas cards via my website shop.  These can be ordered as standard with the greeting ” Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year’, but you can also choose your own customised inside greeting.

Wintry Watercolour Christmas Cards

Wintry Watercolour Christmas Cards

Wintry watercolours

I really enjoyed painting these watercolours last week.  I love the colours of winter, (although I really dislike the darkness). Even into December there’s still autumn colour in the grasses on the moors, and in the remaining leaves which haven’t been whipped away. So far this autumn has been a really colourful one, we haven’t yet had too many gales. These paintings are from photos and sketches made in previous winters, although not so much from last year, when the predominate colour was mud.

December Fields, Bowland

December Fields, Bowland

February morning, Lune Valley

February morning, Lune Valley

Snowy Sheep

Snowy Sheep

Three Trees, Swaledale

Three Trees, Swaledale

Winters Day, Howgills

Winters Day, Howgills

 

 

 

 

Denmark Street, Lancaster

This painting shows the ginnel (alley) behind the street I used to live on. I went  there last week in the rain, for no particular reason other than I was nearby. I set myself the challenge of trying to paint, without exaggeration, the flat grey light of a grey street on a rainy day.  Dreich, to use a good Scots word. There are no trees and you can’t really tell if the scene before you is summer or winter. The grass and slime on the stone is bright green year round. When l lived there I used to say the reason I knew it was summer was the snails climbing up the windows. I like the way the wheelie bins have to be carefully parked in order not to roll away down the steep slope. I’m not sure if the painting is finished or not so I’ve propped it up in my studio to observe it for a while.

Denmark Street, Lancaster

Denmark Street, Lancaster

 

 

 

Art classes September 2015, Lancaster

My art classes finish this week for a summer break, but will start again the second week of September. They are held at my studio in Halton, and at Williamson Park in Lancaster. You can read more about them here. Please contact me if you would like to join one of my classes.

Art classes Halton Mill Sept 2015

Art in the Park art classes, Sept 2015

The Last Skydancer limited edition prints in aid of Birders Against Wildlife Crime

Limited edition prints are now available of my oil painting “The Last Skydancer”, which I painted earlier this year in memory of Hope and Sky, two young hen harriers who went missing, presumed shot, shortly after fledging from their nests on the Forest of Bowland. Following the recent news of a further five hen harriers missing in Bowland and elsewhere in Northern England, rendering them all but extinct in the country, I decided to try and raise some money to help tackle the illegal persecution of these beautiful birds. I’ve never seen a hen harrier except on the road signs around the Forest of Bowland. I would like to hope that this painting is mis-named, and that one day I will see a Skydancer swooping over the moors near where I live.

£16 from every print I sell will be donated to the campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime, to raise awareness of the plight of the hen harrier.

You can order a print of The Last Skydancer here. Please note that the prints are printed on demand, and delivery times are up to one month. Postage is free within the UK.

The Last Skydancer. Limited edition print

The Last Skydancer. Limited edition print

Silver Darlings – Acrylic painting of herring at Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary

Fish are a longstanding favourite subject of mine to paint, I love the glow and flash of their colours when viewed underwater, and their beautiful movements. This shoal of herring swims in a mesmerising non-stop circle at the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary. The herring are local, scooped up from the water of Loch Creran, just outside the sanctuary near Oban in Argyll.

Herring used to be called Silver Darlings, and they used to exist in unbelievably vast numbers; the word herring comes from the Old German for “multitude”. Like so many species which used to be so abundant, however, the herring was over exploited by people, overfished to virtual extinction, and the fishing industry surrounding it crashed. The silver darlings are now relatively rare, although there are reports of slight recovery.

I filmed and photographed the fish, then painted them back at my studio.

The painting is for sale on my online shop here.

Silver Darlings. Acrylic. 2015

Silver Darlings. Acrylic. 2015