Tag Archives: evening plein air

Shadow, sun, moon

photo of Arant Haw in the evening

high on the hill, looking up to Arant Haw summit in evening light and shadow

At last the weather warmed itself enough to trek up the hill carrying outdoor painting gear. As well as paints and canvas you need a bag full of scarves, woolly hats and gloves to prevent the cold from seeping in as you sit still while the sun lowers itself. Huge shadows unfold themselves, draping down the hillsides like giant black backdrops. They make the foreground look even more unbelievably golden in the slanted sunbeams before sunset. Wearing their shadows the steep slopes become massive dark forms, quite terrifying in their glowering vastness. They seem to lean towards you as you fiddle about with boxes, a puny being attempting to set up a painting site clinging to a slippery grass perch on the hillside. One shrug of their shoulders and you’d be off.

hills in evening light, bright sun

evening sun bounces off the lens, looking down Crosdale

plein air painting spot in evening sun

dark shadow looming above my painting spot

After a winter break plein air painting skills are always rusty but there’s nothing like the elation of being the last person out on the fells on a brilliantly lit evening. There’s always excitement with every brush stroke even if the finished picture isn’t quite what you had hoped. Eventually, after the furious attempt to daub the view into its new life on the canvas has gone on for half an hour or more, you realise just how cold you are, sitting on your scrap of mat as the air around you chills. I’ve found the best way to stay alive, with blood flowing to all the relevant parts, is to have something hot to drink. So I crack open the flask of steaming cocoa I lugged all the way up and feel warmth returning to my fingers.

plein air painting tea break

a hot drink helps to stave off hypothermia as the sun goes down

Once the sun really starts to drop it gets much colder very quickly. You have to rush to pack up and keep moving to avoid numbness.

plein air painter setup

as the sun disappears it’s time to pack up and depart

While the sun was saying goodbye in the west I felt an eery ‘you are being watched’ prickle on the back of my neck and whipped round to see an old white face. Fire and warmth were ebbing away on one side as bright paleness entered the sky on the other, gleaming and peering at my activities.

moon over my shoulder

a white face …

moon rising

… peers over my shoulder

One last look towards the Lake District mountains and the invisible sea beyond, underneath a red strip of sky, and I was on my way down.

fading sunset over the hills

last glowing embers in the west

In the east the colours were gentler and the moon was already halfway up the sky. Not a breath of wind stirred as I made my way slowly and happily down the Gill towards home.

moon at dusk

misty pink clouds gather over the hills as the moon takes off

Work. Don’t Think. Relax.

large oil painting, wip

large painting of Crosdale shortly before being hung up to ‘mature’

The latest big painting I’ve been working on is in its death throes/finishing stages. It’s reached the point where I thought it might be done and so hung it on the wall to ‘mature’ (this is something that paintings are mysteriously able to do by themselves while the artist isn’t working on them). Usually, after a painting has matured for a while you will either be able to see glaring problems that need correcting or you will realise that, in spite of everything, the work is actually done. While paintings are maturing you should only sneak quick looks at them now and again as it’s important to ‘forget’ them in order to be able to see them anew.

An evening of plein air work resulted in several new small sketches and I have placed them below. The light had seemed promising and I staggered out with my kit imagining that I would be sitting bathed in the sun’s last rays as they lit up the fells in spectacular fashion. Instead, the sun disappeared behind a bank of misty cloud and there was very little light to work with – although some interesting pink, red and purple hues did make their way into the scene just before hypothermia set in.

plein air oil painting of setting sun, 6"x8"

plein air sketch, oil on canvas, 6″x8″, setting sun from Crosdale looking west

small plein air oil painting of hills in the evening, 6"x8" on canvas

last light hits the slopes, oil on canvas, 6″x8″, plein air

small oil painting of Crosdale in the evening, on 6"x8" canvas

evening colours in Crosdale, plein air oil painting on canvas, 6″x8″

As winter creeps ever nearer I’ve been working on still life projects more often and enjoying them. This painting of apples (Coxes, I think they were) was one of the first.

still life oil painting, apples, 6"x8"

apples in a bowl, oil on canvas, 6″x8″

I also have plans for a family portrait. The first oil sketch, which turned out pleasingly strange due to the odd lighting we ended up with, is here. The lighting would have been fine but by the time dog and humans had managed to settle themselves in some kind of order the original set up was no longer pointing in the right direction – we should all have been ‘over there somewhere’. So, we are bathed in fierce white light which attacks us from odd angles.

portrait, family, 6"x8", oil on canvas

strange family painted from observation, oil on canvas, 6″x8″