Category Archives: plein air

A New River Daemon

a photo of the view upstream where the river falls through a rocky cleft

the view upstream, looking into the river ‘grotto’

This summer we found the river had created a new daemon …

sculpted by the river, some grass has a monkey-like form

the new river daemon

nature sculpture - a small form created by the action of river water on grass

the daemon stares from its rock

a dog staring

the dog stares back

The new daemon appeared in the special place up the river, where rocks have faces and cliffs grow trees and flowers. This was a small daemon, a bit monkey-like and perched above the waterfall, very difficult to reach. I felt it might have been a bird in spirit and, sure enough, my mother produced a suitable skull that she just happened to have been keeping safe (for such an occasion?)

photo of a river daemon sitting above a waterfall, an assembled form made out of natural materials in the environment

a new river daemon perched above the waterfall

bird daemon, river god, assembled from natural forms in the landscape

a closer view of the strange bird daemon as it perches over the rushing water

The waterfall is usually impossible to climb because the rockface is covered in slime and there is nothing to grab hold of within reach. As if by magic, when my mother was visiting and had brought the skull the weather became very dry. The once-slimy rocks were bare and easily scalable. Once on top of the waterfall I discovered another way in and out of the roofless grotto via a natural staircase in the rocky cliff. My dog looked on, unwilling to join me. She decided that she preferred to stay in the magical pool below the waterfall – the place I always expect to find a golden crown one day …

ripples and sunlight

the magical pool below the waterfall

dog looking up

daemon watching

river daemon made from hay and bone, an art in nature piece

startled by my dog, the river daemon turns its head

There’s a beautiful tree that somehow grows in the sky to form a roof for the grotto.

photo of a tree with rocks and sky

the beautiful tree

The beautiful tree reminds me of my sister, once photographed drinking tea.

a photograph of my sister sitting in a tree drinking tea

Clare sitting in a tree with a cup of tea, an old photo from the 1980s

Further afield, we travelled to Scotland and I did some oil sketches, some more successful than others. At first there was the compulsion to be too relentless in pursuit of the wave forms, daubing away until they were deadened. Then there was the trap of getting carried away by the sunset colours and losing some tones here and there. In spite of it all some hints of the sea eventually crept in, as if nature finds its way into your paints no matter what. This is heartening.

plein air painting of Culzean beach, 6x8 in oils on canvas

light fading over the beach at Culzean, plein air, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

small oil sketch, plein air, of Culzean beach during sunset

the sun well into setting with deep, rich hues – a plein air sketch from Culzean beach, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas

Culzean beach and Arran at sunset, quick oil sketch, plein air, 6x8 inches on canvas

Culzean beach and Arran in the distance. A quick oil sketch carried out at sunset, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas.

small plein air sketch of waves at Culzean, oil on canvas

rusty attempt at a wave study, Culzean beach, 6×8 inch oil painting on canvas

small plein air sketch of the sea at Culzean, oils on canvas, 6x8 inches

the sea and sky at Culzean in a pale light with Arran looming blue on the horizon, small oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

My sister Clare in the 80s, staring out to sea on the Isle of Skye

An old photo from the 1980s showing Clare looking out to sea (and I have no idea what she’s carrying)

The sea, the sea and the dehumidifier

plein air oil sketch, Howgill fells

small oil sketch painted crouching in the bracken looking north across the Howgill fells, 6×8 inches on canvas.

Summer became a bit abstract … at least while painting in the hills. Maybe the real hills lost their appeal or I couldn’t hear them calling any more. After Cornwall the sea has been in my ears and a September visit to Skye with unexpectedly lovely weather meant that afternoons and, even better, evenings could be spent perched on the rocks wrestling with slippery oil paints while the silvery light took on pale colours. The first pictures were sketchy but the paintings changed as the days went on, leaving me a bit exasperated that I had to stop at the end of a week spent getting going. The sea project will be continued though.

plein air sketch of Loch Pooltiel

plein air sketch in oils carried out while sitting on the shore of Loch Pooltiel, Skye. Oil on canvas, 6×8 inches.

plein air sketch in oils, Loch Pooltiel, Skye

another go at painting Loch Pooltiel from the shore, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas.

Back at home our flat seemed to have developed its own affinity for water as the walls became damper and the atmosphere more dank. In October it was too cold to move around and the backs of some of my canvases were suspiciously mottled. Perhaps the sea business was going too far? It felt like it had invaded the fabric of my living space. Some kind of balance was required. I bought a small robot machine, a dehumidifier, and set it humming away to itself in the heart of the flat. It seemed to draw the sea into itself and I emptied waves of crashing water down the sink every evening. The Cornwall and Skye paintings looked brighter on their respective walls and the air felt warmer and more pleasant.

oil painting looking across Loch Pooltiel as the sun started to set

the first colours of the sunset reflected in Loch Pooltiel on a pale silver evening, 6×8 inches in oils on canvas.

small plein air painting in oils of a sunny day at Loch Pooltiel

Loch Pooltiel painted in the warmth of a sunny day, sitting on the rocks, oil on 6×8 inch canvas.

sunset and swelling waves at Loch Pooltiel, small plein air oil sketch on canvas

swelling waves at sunset. Oil on canvas, 6×8 inches, painted from the rocks at Loch Pooltiel.

second plein air painting of sunset at Loch Pooltiel

a second attempt to capture Loch Pooltiel’s waves at sunset, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches.

painting of Loch Pooltiel seascape, in oils on small canvas

Loch Pooltiel painted from the rocks before sunset, oil on 6×8 inch canvas.

So where is the sea? In Cornwall, in Skye, in my mind or inside a whirring water collector? Maybe all of these places. It certainly hasn’t gone away and the sketches feel as if they are leading somewhere. A large canvas is taking shape on the easel but it feels, at the moment, as if it’s treading water.

Loch Pooltiel, silvery evening light, quick plein air oil sketch

a final, hurried attempt to sketch the scene in the silvery evening light of Loch Pooltiel. Oil on canvas, 6×8 inches.