brown paper

In a limestone gorge leading to the sea, my idea was to abstract rather than represent, using simple crayon marks on seawhite kraft brown card.  I found this almost impossible.

The drawings of Welsh megaliths by Rose Davies offer an idea of what I would have liked to have done.

I have drawn this same gorge, leading to a cove, in watercolour five years ago, in this link, and also this.

Holiday sketches: Cap de Formentor

The topmost corner of Mallorca is a promontory projecting about 11km out to sea.  It is made of high limestone ridges that cut diagonally across the line of land.  The single road zig zags up steeply from sea level to around 270 metres, a high point with dramatic views of the north coastal bays.  It then winds down on the other side to reach a beach on the southern side.  From there, it is a long shallow climb through pine forest, again crossing the line of the land, before reaching the last ridge that carries it to the tip, where sits the lighthouse.  In hot weather, this was a hard cycle ride for me.

This first pencil sketch was done 2 years ago, looking from the first ridge along the pine forest to the distant heights.

2012 Formentor

In the second, done a couple of weeks ago, I looked back over this same forest and at the deep blue bay beneath me.   As orientation, that near peak to the left in the painting is the distant height centre in the pencil sketch.    I have wholly changed my approach to drawing, no longer using pencil and instead committing myself to indelible pen lines to create a framework for colour.

2014-08-27 18.52.05 - Copy 1

The last drawing looks forward, along the line of the cliffs to the Cap and lighthouse.  This was done in water-soluble ink, liberated with a wash of clear water to create tones.

2014-08-27 18.53.15

Biting the paper III

I’ve more or less said all I wanted to say on this already.

This is the beck that winds its way down to feed the fall into Hull Pot.

I created this version at home, working into the original with knife and hard eraser.


The wall with the hole from which poured the water was there but was more behind my left shoulder.  Putting it into view is, what is termed, license …

As for the original, I propped myself against that wall, my feet in snow, and painted in a gap between drizzle and sleet.



Biting the paper

When I paint, I want to fight the paper.  Bite it, scratch it, hack into the layers.  I want to build the image and gouge holes in it.  Cover the image with another and another.

Buckden Out Moor looking west (2)

Somehow, I don’t think watercolour is really my medium.

Buckden Out Moor looking west Horton Scar

I enjoy the watercolours of other bloggers.  Looking at their skilled work, I think  you have to have to be kind to your medium, offer the paper understanding, respect the areas that should remain untouched, build the experience layer by glorious layer.

Horton Scar (1)

I took up watercolour so I could carry a field kit and paint outdoors not because I had any instinct for the medium.

Horton Moor (36 1)

In this series, I have drawn into each pocket sized rectangle with soluble graphite and crayons moistened with drizzle and drifting snow.

Horton Moor (37)

I have subsequently worked into each image first in watercolour and then with knife, water and a hard rubber, tearing the surface to create texture and claw back the whiteness beneath.

Malham Cove (15)  Malham Cove (18)

In one or two places the cratered paper was holed.

The Holy Moment, plus goats

Painting begins in frustration, self-doubt and swearing.  I look at the marks on the paper and cannot believe that I have ever painted anything worthwhile.  I have to persist, make myself paint,  if necessary abandon that piece and start the picture  again.  Eventually there can come a moment when I stop thinking in words, forget by doubts, my eye, brain and hand become wired together.  Then I am completely in the present.  This is the Holy Moment as described by Purplewax

During one particular holy moment I painted goats on a karst rock face.

No one says achieving the Holy Moment results in good draughtsmanship.  My goats were mutating into reindeer or donkeys and required a little surgery with a sharp blade to bring back a little of their goaty nature.

Limestone gorge sketches

In recent weeks I have changed my tools. I used a squirrel mop brush that hold a lot of pain but comes to a fine point for calligraphic marking.   I painted on a small notebook of Arches rough paper.   I took my colour selection from Darren Woodhead, who paints birds direct from life with a skill that made me want to weep (  Prominent in this is the absence of pre-mixed greens and the generous use of rose madder in the neutrals.

I have revamped the pages to create galleries, marked by the tabs at the top of the home page.  These show work I  value, if not for my skill, at least for the meaning the work has for me.  Please do look in on these.

Secret cove ii: plein air

This was my first attempt at this picture, leading onto the studio version posted a day or two ago.  I was perched on a slab high above the valley floor, sun on my neck, the repetitive cry of a falcon behind me.  image

The cove is at the end of a short gorge between high limestone walls. The rock beds are uneven and diagonal; thrust up, I guess, by the African plate moving north. However, there are strong vertical lines scored in the stone faces, carved by rain continually dragging the minerals down. The tops of boulders are pocked by deep grykes.

Our life spans are so short, it is easy to miss that this is a dynamic landscape, that over only a few millennia a high plateau has been undermined by caverns; waterborn solutes forming stalagtites then columns then rock curtains, before that transient carved beauty collapsed and crumbled leaving the present chasm.

Yorkshire Dales

Today I was seized with nostalgia, a longing to walk again in the Yorkshire Dales.

These sketches are from 3 years ago.  This first I think is looking west from the Ribble Way footpath across to Simon Fell.

The majesty of this limestone landscape arises I think from hidden sculpting by subterranean water.

I made these small sketches standing up balancing above a fifty foot drop looking down into a unroofed cavern

and later from the back of the car sheltering from the rain.

They cannot conquer for ever

Look! The king has got a crown again!

This was drawn in compressed charcoal on buff paper.  I have returned to a limestone block eroding from an arid karst platform, supporting trailing caper plants in flower.  My attention was drawn to a large hole, somehow reminiscent of an eye socket.  I have drawn this before, like a side view of an ungulate’s skull (  This time I saw a more anthropoid facies in the same image.  The overlying white flowers brought back to me a scene from Lord of the Rings describing an unexpected vision of hope for the beleaguered characters.  Unintentionally perhaps, my own image subverts this and is rather bleaker in mood.