Looking south; Sessile oaks, holly and bramble drawn with a brown 08 Pilot Drawing Pen in Hahnemuehle Travel Book.
4°C, no breeze, 90% stratus, 1 pm
IS THIS the perfect lunchbreak? – twenty minutes brisk walk, yomping through the mud in places, twenty minutes with my sandwich and flask and even time for a lightning sketch of oaks, holly and bramble, then twenty minutes yomping back.
Nothing but the distant white noise of machinery (or is it the rush of the flooded stream?), the drone of aircraft and the occasional clatter of Wood Pigeon’s wings.
The upper branches of the oaks meet to form a canopy, a tree-top highway for a Grey Squirrel which carefully examines the mossy upper-side of the boughs before stopping to nibble some item – an acorn perhaps – that it has found.
I’ve got a long session of research on the computer today, so I can justify the break as essential rest for my eyes but I better be getting back as my twenty minutes has already extended to thirty.
Coxley Dam is well up – at its maximum, giving an impression, as the opaque eau de Nile water laps around the Crack Willows of its former extent. Plenty of headwater to power the looms of the silk and blanket mills, both now long gone. Power that didn’t have to be translated into electrical current before its final use (that isn’t strictly true as energy can neither be created or destroyed although my post-lunch dip doesn’t seem to recognise that law of thermodynamics).
A Blackbird alarms – perhaps because of the Squirrel.
I THINK of English Oaks like this as being great galleons of trees with masses of dense dark foliage but as I sketched this one in wet-on-wet watercolour I realised that there’s a lot of empty space in that canopy.
This is the last page in my little travel booklet sketchbook and I’m now going to make myself a European passport-sized sketchbook, which is one centimetre shorter than the traditional Moleskine notebook. That should fit snugly into my mini-art-bag, which is intended as a passport wallet.
I’ll be using a whiter paper than this, which will make it easier to scan but I’ve enjoyed using this Hahnemuehle sketch paper. It’s more absorbent than the cartridge that I’m used to so watercolour washes soak in almost instantly, instead of lying on the surface. It gives a mat granular quality to the watercolour. This isn’t all that obvious in my same size scans but you can get an idea from this close up of a part of my drawing just 18 millimetres across in which you can see the individual fibres of the paper.
Newmillerdam from the Lakeside Kitchen.
I DREW this with my 08 nib Pilot Drawing Pen and made a start adding the colour as I waited in the queue for advice from a government helpline. After all the waiting, it turned out it was a problem of my own making but at least the hands free phone gave me an interval to sketch. I keep thinking that all the work that I put into mundane tasks like accounts and tax returns will eventually give me some freedom but at this rate by the time I get all the loose ends tied up it will be time to start all over again.
In this view of the woods there’s a Sycamore in full leaf on the far right with an oak just coming into leaf behind it. There’s dark green ivy on the boughs of the big Ash tree on the left, the branches of which are dotted with the Ash flowers, now going to seed, and its fresh green leaves. At the bottom left by the little store house there’s a Blackthorn bush, which was in blossom a few weeks ago.
In my efforts to catch the subtlety of the greens which are actually made up of a stipple of different colours I’ve ended up with an autumnal cast to my watercolour. When I compare the finished result with the actual view from my studio window the real foliage is a fresh light green. I’ve added too much ochre and the odd touch of crimson. There might be traces of both those colours in the barely perceptible flowers, twigs and buds but the foliage is the predominant colour.
You’d have to go for a pointillist technique of lots of tiny dots of pure colour to reproduce the experience of all the colour that you can see but in washes of watercolour you’ve got to average it out and any attempt to introduce those flecks of red and brown will simply dull down the dominant pure greens of the spring foliage.