Tag Archives: Cornwall

All set for watercolour

Annual holidays eh? Such a treat! For me they are increasingly a chance to get some mental breathing room to rein back my long-standing depression and let me paint for a while. Change of location I guess, away from everything. Lovely.

So, in a couple of weeks I’ll be off again to my all-time favourite destination, the Lizard Peninsular in Cornwall.

I love working plein air, usually with a pochade box, a tripod and oils or acrylics. This year however I’m leaving all that malarkey at home so I can concentrate on watercolour.

Must say I’m nervous. I’m far more comfortable painting in oils or acrylics, but on the plus side this is an opportunity to practice. And, as a bonus, the switch will make my kit considerably lighter. My back’s going to thank me for that!

Personally I’ve always found pure watercolour particularly difficult. I really love the luminosity to be had, but struggle so much to keep things clean and ‘pure’. The very act of mentally deconstructing a scene to paint from light to dark makes my brain bend like a banana in a yoga class…

But, when I work on holiday my paintings are usually only intended to be sketches for pleasure, not finished pieces. Does it really matter how I resolve an image as long as it works for me? I guess not. Big plan then: loosen up and to hell with that transparency gig. I’m taking gouache. And pastel pencils too. I can hear the purists screaming; I feel your pain.

In terms of kit, I plan to take:

  • My trusty Frank Herring Dorchester watercolour palette. I’ve tried many through the years and always come back to this one. Lightweight and with plenty of mixing room. And as I’ve had it since the early ‘90s, I guess it’s pretty robust too!
  • W&N and Holbein artists’ gouache, although I’m not too certain about the latter. Probably my lack of experience, but I find the Holbein extremely strongly tinted and difficult to handle.
  • A self-sealing palette specifically for the gouache. Not tried this one before, (pinched it from Carole…), so let’s see if it really does keep the paint moist without an unholy mixture of runny Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson dribbling into my rucksac… Colourful, but it makes a real mess of your butties. Palette for gouache
  • A plastic rosette palette for mixing gouache – I don’t want to mix it with my watercolours, well, not off the page anyway…
  • Da Vinci sable travelling brushes 3, 6 and 10.
  • A selection of synthetic brushes for the gouache.
  • Pastel pencils. Looks like I’m taking a lot, but will edit down each day depending on what I’m doing. Pastel pencil roll
  • Various graphite and carbon pencils for sketching. There’re a few spares in there so again I’ll edit down to essentials once I arrive.
  • Masking tape (broad and narrow). I like to divide my pages, and a white border always looks so good.

As usual I’m going to keep my colour palette simple with warm and cool variants of the primaries: 2 reds, 2 blues and 2 yellows. I’ll supplement these with a few earth colours and darker variants to create denser areas of tone.

For paper I’ll be using my favourite: Saunders Waterford both in a large hard bound book (my Cornwall book) and in a few pads.

Cornish sketchbook

I’ll also take my Stillman and Birn sketch pad and a Moleskine watercolour journal for ‘light’ days.

And that’s it. Hopefully, Wi-Fi willing, I’ll be able to post more when I get down there. In the meantime remember I’m often more active on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts so please check me out there too.

Cornwall in September

I always look forward to my visits to Cornwall, it really feels like a second home now. This time we’re celebrating my wife’s ‘big’ birthday, so we’re here for three whole weeks. We’re about to go into our third week.

It’s not meant to be a painting holiday, but I’ve brought my plein air kit anyway! Oils this time rather than my usual acrylics.

To be honest, since we arrived on the Lizard Peninsular from our first week on the Isles of Scilly the weather hasn’t been exactly clement. A succession of storms have passed through, including a spectacular one at three in the morning which was more than biblical in proportion. Thunder and lightning accompanied by the most severe torrential rain I can recall seeing. Not good.

So in between relaxing as a family and dodging the weather, times to set up and concentrate on painting have been relatively few. I have sketched a little, but not very much.

The paintings

Here are my three 8” by 10” efforts in oils to date. The first is a view from our cottage garden.  I’ve moved a few things round, but I’m still not that happy with the composition. The second is in one of my favourite spots on the Lizard, Poltesco a long abandoned serpentine works. And the third is a roundhouse from the 16th century on the road to Church Cove.

It’s been very restful using oils again. So much more time to think about colour mixes. Acrylics are very unforgiving. Turn your back and they turn into an immovable solid lump of plastic on the palette and brush. It’s nice to be able to take the generous time which oils allow.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance paint some more in the last week of our holiday. If I can, great, if not, oh well, the holiday comes first.

Remember, my FaceBook page is often updated first with snippets and odds and ends.

Of pets and sketches and being unbusy

With my studio still stuffed full with boxes of stuff from my late Dad’s estate, apart from making occasional sketches I’ve not been at all productive over the past 18 months. I completely underestimated the sheer physical amount of personal material I’d have to pick through and the ongoing, negative emotional impact that would have.  In truth, I’ve had neither the time nor inclination to get stuck into anything very much.

A new pet portrait commission…

Before I completely filled the studio, early in the year I started a new commission in alkyds, a pet portrait of a gorgeous Italian Spinone dog. As I needed to work from photos I’ve found my iPadPro remarkably useful, being able to zoom in and adjust the lighting to reveal structural detail at will.

At the moment this is on hold with my client’s blessing, but it is close to completion. Unfortunately at 70cm by 100cm it is rather large, and I’ll only be able to finish it once my studio’s clear again.

…and a Cornish break

At least my June holiday gave me time to settle and sketch. Here are a few 6″ by 8″ acrylic sketches from my visit to the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall.

And I’m off again in September. First to the Isles of Scilly for 1 week and then the lizard again for 2 weeks. A three week holiday! I won’t want to come back! My plein air kit will go with me of course.

I’m still undecided whether to take oils instead of my usual acrylics. So many advantages including extended drying time and retention of brush strokes. But after a few trial runs in the garden I really need to brush up. I seem to be very good at making panels of mud!

With things as they are at the moment it’s a lot less of a faff for me to upload a post to Facebook and Instagram than this blog as I can easily do it on the fly from my phone. So, i
f you’d like to see more frequent updates, please head on over and like my FaceBook page. 

Creativity Crash

Kennack sands acrylic painting
Kennack Sands 10″ by 8″ acrylic

Well, that’s it then, I’ve definitely had a big creativity crash. I find it difficult to understand how I can go on holiday to the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall with great weather, drop-dead gorgeous coastline, and so much to inspire and enthuse and come back with virtually nothing; just a couple of ill-judged watercolour sketches and a forced plein air beachscape.

I wrote about how much I was looking forward to this holiday in my last post, and I’d packed loads of plein air gear and panels along with high hopes of knocking out a painting or six. The reality is, once I was there, I simply couldn’t get enthused. I tried to force myself, thinking that simply pitching in would break the deadlock, but no. Don’t get me wrong, the holiday itself was a very welcome break away from everything, and yes I did enjoy the time with my wife Carole, all the walking, the wildlife and in particular the long periods of staring aimlessly out to sea on my evening walks. I got quite good at that.

Alice Hole and Ade Turner
Great to meet talented painter Alice Hole

There was one special highlight too: meeting talented Helston based artist Alice Hole. I’ve known Alice as a digital friend on Twitter for quite some time, and it was so nice to actually meet up over a real life coffee. You can visit Alice’s Facebook page here. Besides reinforcing my long held desire to move to Cornwall, Alice also encouraged me to start actively using my dormant Facebook account. She told me that as a professional artist she finds Facebook a very useful tool, and more effective than Twitter for encouraging sales.

Although I’m very familiar with Twitter, this was new territory for me. So, over one rainy day in our cottage I did my research and went live. You can see, and ‘Like’, my ‘Ade Turner: Artist’ page here. I have to say, Facebook really isn’t as intuitive as it could be, and there are many areas of confusion and potential for privacy slips.

For me, the main difficulty was getting my head around the relationship and differences between my personal account, and my artist ‘Page’. Naturally I would like to encourage people to ‘Follow’ my page, but you can only add a ‘Follow’ button onto your personal page.

Now, my personal timeline is filling up with the usual banter between friends, which will be of little interest to anyone looking for my artwork. So I thought, not unreasonably, I’d start a new Facebook account specifically for Ade the artist. Nope, can’t do that. Apparently it’s a big Facebook no-no, and they will challenge and close multiple accounts held by one person. That is so dumb.

The ‘business me’ is a very different entity to the ‘private me’ with distinct needs and expectations. Why shouldn’t I be able to separate and manage both while retaining useful Facebook functions across both? As long as I can prove I’m a genuine individual responsible for the content of each account, where’s the problem? I can run as many Twitter accounts as I like. Facebook really needs to sort this, as it sounds like it’s a common gripe on forums.

Thumbox2
Thumbox2 open for business

While I’m talking of online things, I succumbed to a spot of art-based retail therapy while I was away and bought this Guerrilla Thumbox2 pochade from Dick Blick art supplies. There’s nothing like the anticipation of new kit to cheer me up, and I’d had my eye on one of these for a while.

The American art market seems spoiled for choice when it comes to plein air gear, and their service was brilliant. We ordered on a Sunday, had an email to confirm the shipping cost was OK on the Thursday and it arrived on the following Monday morning. Just over a week from order to delivery. I’ve had longer waits from some UK suppliers!

Guerrilla packaging
Pristine in packaging

It arrived well packed, and the quality is what you’d expect of a mass produced item. The finish is a little rough here and there, and I’ve a few little gripes like the palette extension doesn’t sit flat at 90 degrees as described and the nuts holding the tripod plate are a little intrusive in the box cavity, but these really are minor things and I love it.

Of course, now it’s arrived, I can’t summon up the enthusiasm to get out and use it…

You know, I’m pretty sure this creativity crash is all part of my grieving. It’s only just been over a couple of months since my dad died. Odd thing is, if you ask me how I’m coping I’ll probably say OK. In truth, deep down, all is not as well as it would seem on the surface. There’s an underlying numbness and disassociation which I just can’t shake. Some days even getting out of bed is a struggle.

And now here I am, back home, trying to reignite the spark. These pages may be painting free for a while, please bear with me.

Back to Cornwall

It’s been seven weeks now since my dad died. Funny, it seems much longer somehow. Those weeks have been both awful and hectic.

All packed
All packed

Not surprisingly, my creativity has taken a huge hit. I just can’t get interested in anything much, let alone enthused. Hopefully, that’s about to change. This weekend we’re off to the gorgeous Lizard peninsular in Cornwall for a two week holiday, and I’m packing my plein air gear along with a big parcel of good intentions.

I’m looking forward so much to getting time away from the house and work.  It’s surely going to be therapeutic just being able to have a break to reset my mind, whether or not I actually get round to painting.

Spurred on by my wife’s holiday picks, alongside my standard acrylics and watercolours I’ve also thrown in my Unison pastels. I’ve only ever played about with them, never anything serious, but I do enjoy the colours and feel. Unison pastels are so velvety; from what I remember, using them is a seriously sensuous experience.

So, keep a lookout on my Twitter feed for updates. I know I’m starting to feel better, and this trip should prove just the boost I need.

Early evening light over Housel Bay

During the last week of our June holiday the weather settled down, becoming bright, sunny and pleasantly warm.  On one gorgeous early evening, the light was magical over the cliffs  of Housel Bay looking west towards the Lizard lighthouse in Cornwall.  I had to paint it.

Back home I decided to take my watercolour sketch and work it up into a finished painting. While I am pleased with the original, I don’t think it really captured the quality of the light. However just sitting in front of it, painting it en plein air, the scene  etched into my mind, and if I shut my eyes I can still take myself back there.

Housel-Bay
Housel Bay, The Lizard, Cornwall

Besides the sketch I also took a photo the next day for reference. For me it felt important to get the proportions within the painting correct. My original sketch made the cliffs a little too deep.

Scaling-up-Housel-Bay
Scaling up Housel Bay

I gridded up the photo and transferred the basic outline in pencil onto a piece of 60cm by 20 cm MDF. I primed this with Golden 100 acrylic resin to prevent any potential staining from the board seeping up into the paint layer over time. Over this I painted three coats of Winsor and Newton’s white acrylic gesso primer. I didn’t sand this as I wanted the brush marks to contribute to the finished painting.

Drawing-Housel-Bay
Drawing Housel Bay

Once the pencil drawing was complete I reinforced the line using Ultramarine Blue. If any portion of the line remained visible in the finished painting it would sink back and not jar.

Housel Bay Underpainting
Under painting

For the under painting I wanted to intensify the warmth. As you can see from the foreground this  bordered on cadmium orange in places.

Intermediate Housel Bay
Intermediate Housel Bay

The background cliffs, sea and sky fell into place quite quickly, which is more than can be said for the foreground… Unfortunately I went a bit OTT with the ‘grassiness’. I knew it was both too busy and too light in tone, so I decided to completely over paint it.

Evening at Housel Bay
Evening at Housel Bay

This was the right decision. I worked with broader strokes from a flat brush to establish the form and the general run of the grasses. Once dry I darkened and unified the foreground using several alternating glazes of Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue. This intensified the brightness of the evening light. For me this highlights one of the real advantages of acrylic over oils. In a warm room I managed to lay down several layers of glaze all in the space of an hour. This could have taken days or weeks if I’d been working in oils.

Very pleased with the final result. The exciting thing for me is that this is one of the first paintings I’ve produced ready for Andy Bill’s ‘Closer to the Art 2’ event on October 25th in Stone in Staffordshire. It will be framed and up for sale with several other works. This will be my first appearance at any show. Ooh, scary! Watch this space.

Taking a gamble on gouache

You know, I didn’t realise it had been so long since my last post. Rather been letting things slip a bit haven’t I? I had intended to blog during my last week of holiday but, well, you know what it’s like…

To be honest, between getting back to work and navigating some rather challenging bits of ‘real’ life lately I’ve been feeling a bit drained, like my rubber band’s broke. And sadly I don’t always have the luxury of time to devote myself completely to my art.

The holiday was wonderful, such gorgeous weather. The Lizard Peninsular is one of my favourite places in Cornwall and really feels like a second home. It’s unfairly picturesque with a potential painting around each corner and over every rise. I really had to resist the temptation to paint all the time though; it was meant to be a family holiday after all…

Lizard lighthouse
Lizard lighthouse

Even so, I’ve still managed to bring back a fair bit of reference material, both sketches and paintings which will no doubt will appear on here in due course. And I’ve taken loads of photos too which I intend to use through the year, but with the usual caveat against becoming slavishly fixated. Photos can be a mixed blessing. Great for prodding the memory where it’s lacking, but they can also be flat and deceiving in so many ways, and they sucker you into the details.

Nothing beats sitting outdoors in front of a subject and letting it fill your mind. Observation always pays dividends. Not only does it reflect in the work created on site, regardless of its perceived quality, more importantly it reinforces the memory of a place and time for future reference.

In the week which followed my last post about painting at Church Cove I started to relax and find my feet. By the end of that week I was pretty pleased with my efforts. Besides working up some plein air sketches in both watercolour and acrylic, I also took the plunge and tried gouache.

I’d previously only used gouache in black and white many years ago for some professional illustration work. To keep things simple I decided to use just a handful of colours from Winsor and Newton’s Designer’s Gouache range: Primary Blue, Red and Yellow along with Ivory Black and Permanent White.

Thrift wall
Thrift wall

For my first attempt I painted a section of a Cornish ‘hedge’ covered in wildflowers including Thrift. It took a bit of experimenting – too much water at first, then too little – but after a while I started to get the hang of it. Working light over dark, letting each layer dry thoroughly before working quickly and lightly over the top. I was impressed by the covering power. While the sketch may have many problems, it was a useful exercise.

View towards Lloyd's Signal Station
View towards Lloyd’s Signal Station

For my second attempt I sat in our cottage and quickly sketched the view over the back garden.  I kept the paint creamier than my first attempt and started to get the knack of laying paint without disturbing the underlying layer.  This contributed towards a more graphic feel to the sketch, and a particular flatness. Although I have to admit that I quite like the poster-like effect, I can see why some artists don’t and avoid gouache. because it can appear ‘dead’ and chalky.

Chun Quoit
Chun Quoit

I was determined to push things a bit for my third outing and at Chun Quoit, a stunning Megalithic tomb, I deliberately painted both looser and on a larger scale, 60cm wide, on the ever excellent Saunders Waterford watercolour paper. This time I used a mixture of thick and thin washes. Sometimes I’d let the washes dry, other times I blended and pushed the paint about before scumbling drier paint over the top to catch on the texture of the paper. I was very pleased with the result. Sadly the limitations of the photo don’t reveal the more subtle colour modulations or hue the juicy intensity of the stronger passages, but trust me they are in there.

After making this painting I seriously started to reconsider my plein air approach. I use both watercolours and acrylics, but gouache seems to offer a great, easily portable halfway house without the irreversible drying qualities of acrylics. And, while I can make pure watercolours which use and reserve the white paper, gouache fits more easily with the way I like to work; it still feels a bit like cheating though.

Kew Rambler
Kew Rambler

For one more test I added French Ultramarine Blue, Lemon Yellow and Flame Red to my limited palette and spent about three quarters of an hour making this painting from my studio window. I think my gamble might be paying off. I’m going to chuck a few earth colours into the kit and see what happens. Watch this space…