Tag Archives: clouds

more grey sky thinking, out of the blue

Friday 30 July 2010

more cloud gazing this week, torrential rain all day on tuesday (a typically british summer’s day) – this was the view from the window at about 6pm…

electricity power lines outside a window, with cloudy sky
a room with a view

i hadn’t really noticed how prominent these power lines were before; my days must be slowly draining of any meaningful structure if i get distracted by this visual discordance with nature’s billowy curtain… today when i awoke, i did, for a brief moment, wonder what day it was, whether it was saturday already, and that a day of more domestic to-do-tasks await me, tasks which fuel so little enthusiasm as to be remotely filed and archived for just such rainy days

in the manner of these featureless, grey days i have been feeling somewhat melancholic in heart and the vast canvas of the sky seemed to be a reflection of the reality of recent events…

thus, i have not been motivated to paint much, well perhaps for an hour or so, here and there, when the mood takes. it seems too self-indulgent to ‘just paint’ when real-life concerns pile up like the laundry, and then there has been the issue of the quality of daylight

here are a couple of close-up images of one of my current paintings, lichenscape II (a work in progress), taken earlier on today…

lichenscape ii - abstract painting - lichen textures detail
detail of the surface of the painting, lichen on stone textures

i had a rash moment of destructive thinking when evaluating this canvas (perhaps inspired by these photographic reframings, seeing paintings within paintings), deciding that i might cut up the canvas into nine smaller ones – the lack of a decent-sized studio space to work in is almost unbearable at times…

i have found that in attending to these two large canvases (aka the lichenscapes) it has clouded my creative process – i realise that i am trying to condense into these two paintings a subjective concern which would be better pursued over eight or ten (or even more) paintings. myriad other thoughts (too nebulous to be proper working concepts or ideas) also run daily through my mind, and then i have to remind myself to just focus

lichenscape 2 painting - detail of surface textures
another detail of the textured surface of a lichen-esque painting

exhibition news

yesterday evening i attended the private view of the exhibition rebirth. lorraine cooke, the curator of the exhibition, has done an amazing job in bringing this show together. i feel most privileged to have some of my paintings included in this art exhibition.

i realise that i am still reticent in ‘working‘ the private view scenario, as i slowly perused the exhibition on the opening night – this is probably due to: a) being very slight and thus am always less ‘visible’ in a busy gallery crowd, and also b) a (now) love/hate relationship with my new dr marten boots. i walked to the gallery from the train station and worked up some fine blisters – such small injuries can really be the breaking of the spirit.

i also met and chatted with the artist veronica grassi – she has some quite beautiful textural, sculptural pieces in this exhibition. barbara leaney’s dogwood sculptures are also quite spectacular, as are the smaller, detailed works of the contemporary japanese artists included in the show. i urge anyone passing through the fine city of norwich to go and see the exhibition at gallery art1821 – it is open until 8th september 2010 – you can also read more about the rebirth exhibition on art 1821’s website

to further the idleness of my daily musings and observations, dear reader, may i introduce to you my humble sketching kit? (i always like to travel light, a habit instilled in me since my inter-railing journeys across europe)

winsor newton cotman sketchers watercolour box
my winsor & newton sketchers’ box of watercolours

very small jam jar for sketching watercolours
a tiny tiptree jam jar (for water)

assorted sketching pencils derwent and caran d'ache
an assortment of stubby sketching pencils, mostly derwent & caran d’ache

and here is a composite image of my sketchbookiness of the last few days, 21-29 july, 2010…

sketchbook pages - studies of clouds and skies, late july 2010
skies and clouds sketches

sketchbook drawing - study of a grey cloud
monday, mid afternoon, looking east across fields towards marshes, high up in the sky, grey centre… in graphite, pencil and watercolour…

sketchbook drawing - more skies and clouds
wednesday, early afternoon… looking east, cooler, bright, clouds moving fast… in graphite and pencil…

sketchbook drawing - study of an afternoon sky
thursday, late afternoon, slim, dark clouds moving laterally, about 5pm…

this is becoming slightly obsessive; i have a mild desire to master the morphing art of the east anglian skies…

and i penned another haiku style poem, or my own ode to a cloud

a cloud
tarnished silver
darkening the weeping willows

i am now thinking of joining the cloud appreciation society, whose pledge is to fight the banality of blue-sky thinking

see my cloud drawings animation from last year: the art of idleness

last chance to seetextures, traces & elements at beyond the image gallery – the exhibition closes at 4pm on sunday 1st august 2010.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust (remembrance of things past)

on thinking, clouds in a sketchbook

Saturday 24 July 2010

dear reader, i have had my head in the clouds again, a mild attack of the vapours… the heavy rains came (more of a rain deluge, really) and then swiftly went away again, giving us brilliant blue skies for a day or so, but then those rain clouds gathered ominously once again…

sketchbook drawings - studies of skies and clouds
[sketchbook pages, july 2010]

these are some small sketches from the last few days, all completed during the course of travelling to places – and by humble bus, no less. it’s a surprisingly bumpy ride by bus in the countryside – the pencils which i thought were securely retained in a pencil case threatened to jump overboard and skittle across the floor of the bus, as one did, but luckily the bus was close to empty…

n.b. all of these sketches are all 14cm x 20cm.

drawing study of rain clouds, in a sketchbook
some rain clouds… i guess they are cumulus… with a peek of sky blue…

this is my favourite sketch of one day’s travelling, a brief glimpse of rainfall in the distance (or perhaps it was just the sun’s rays as seen through water vapour after a rainstorm), sketched on the return journey…

study of rain clouds - sketchbook drawing

here is another one completed around lunchtime… it was a bright and breezy day with some sunshine, the clouds gathered up (so to speak) and it was ‘looking like rain again’

sketchbook - sketches of clouds and sky

here is another sketch from earlier in the week (a single, small grey cloud, amongst the white fluff, that caught my eye). i had, to save some money, decided to draw on both sides of the paper in my sketchbooks – but i have noticed how the fugitive nature of graphite has transferred smudgy tones between the sketchbook pages, thus unintentionally clouding this drawing even further…

sketchbook drawing - sketch of a cloud

single grey cloud

sketchbook drawing - sketch of a grey cloud

another dark grey cloud – perhaps these incidental smudgings of graphite add a little life to the process..

there is no desire to use these small sketches as part of a preliminary process for painting – i think they will feed into my painting in other, less obvious ways…

artists sometimes use photography to record the details of things, as visual references for their work, but plein air drawing (or as seen through a window in many of these examples) as a process has its own sensibility – one that is exploratory and purely responsive, of the moment – of making brisk, spontaneous marks in real time, marks that have no definitive end…

i have, i think, a bit of a sketchaholicism when it comes to travelling (when not driving). there is the time and space to just gaze, to drift into momentary vistas, spied for perhaps only a few seconds. this inspires a loose, gestural style of drawing that i continue to work into for a few minutes, with the landscape or sky still there to refer to outside the window, slowing shifting in its perspective… this creates an immediacy and vitality of drawing, which if one were ‘still’ might produce a more technically-laboured outcome as one wrestles with capturing the singular ‘view’. here, in these sketches, the most time i spent on a sketch would be three or four minutes… i look, i draw, i memorise – perhaps it is a form of (re)training,  for the eyes and the visual memory, to hone one’s perception, to be more receptive and impulsive in drawing what one sees… and i like the self-imposed restrictions of drawing on the move

for some contextual reference it would be churlish not to mention suffolk-born artist  john constable, and also jmw turner, for their studies and sketches of skies and clouds. constable and turner were contemporaries, born only a year apart, with perhaps some professional rivalry if not open hostility towards one another at the time. three of the sky studies below are from the period 1822-23… perhaps the industrial, revolutionary smogs of those times made the turbulent skies into art…?

this also begs the big question: who’s the master of the painted skies, constable or turner? constable appears to offer a deeply respectful and naturalistic view of the landscape (rising metaphorically from the dark shadows of the industrial revolution), whereas turner immerses himself (and us, in turn) in the subjective, spiritual nature of landscape as a means to convey elements of the sublime…

john constable - cloud study - tate collection
John Constable, cloud study, circa 1822. oil on paper, 476 x 575 mm

constable - study of clouds - victoria and albert museum, london
John Constable, study of clouds, 5 september, 1822. oil on paper, 298 x 483 mm

what is most interesting in constable’s cloud studies is how they give an insight into his process. his often detailed annotations referring to time and place offer some evidence of the influence of advances in science during the age of enlightenment, although i am sure that romantic painters such as constable would have been a little sceptical.

constable produced many preparatory studies and the final paintings were then completed in the studio. arguably the most famous constable painting, the haywain, was actually completed far away from the suffolk valley it depicted – in hampstead, london. he was truthful to the spirit of nature as he perceived it, a deeply nostalgic and poetic vision of britain’s rural landscape, at a time when the real countryside increasingly exhibited the advancement of a more mechanised, industrial agriculture. i wonder if back then his paintings were seen as aspirational manifestations of a rural idyll existing only in the mind – he once said of his clouds that they were the chief organ of sentiment in his paintings…

turner - storm at sea - watercolour in sketchbook - tate collection - london
JMW Turner, storm at sea circa 1822-3. watercolour on paper, 178 x 257 mm

turner - study of clouds, tate collection, london
JMW Turner, study of clouds, with a shower passing over water circa 1826-32. watercolour on paper, 307 x 487 mm

you can view turner’s sktchbooks online at the tate

constable is undoubtedly the better painter of real skies but turner captures the essential, intangible beauty of the ethereal elements. turner seems to delight in the deft touch, the merest suggestion of colour in atmospheric movement, of a fresh breeze or a sea mist rising. this is meteorology without the boring science bit. these are not absolute recordings but sensory responses and turner’s later paintings always remind me that less is often more.

i find the implied sensitivity in these small studies most fascinating when what we know of turner’s personal life is that he was often brash and, how shall we say, a tad unrefined in demeanour, but let’s not spoil the painterly magic. turner’s magnificence as a painter and his influence on modern art is undeniable – as rothko once apparently said, this man Turner, he learnt a lot from me‘. sometimes, i can’t help imagining that if turner had just cleaned his brush on a scrap of paper it would be later viewed as yet another sketch of a storm at sea… constable, i think, would not have been so carefree…

lastly… i have just penned a quick haiku style poem, in honour of some fluffy white clouds…

reigning clouds
sometimes flirt a little
when spurning summer’s heated advances…

more field studies [sketchbook]

Friday 23 April 2010

thirty five landscape studies in an A5 sketchbook, 17th to 22nd April 2010…

sketchbook - landscapes fields drawings

from realism…

landscape hedgerow field - sketchbook drawing - realist
[sketchbook study – corner of a field with trees and hedgerow, 6″ x 8″]

landscape-sketch-field-crows-rooks
[sketchbook study – field with crows, or rooks 6″ x 8″]

landscape-sketch-marshes
[sketchbook study – marshes 6″ x 8″]

to the abstracted…

landscape-sketch-ploughed-field-striations
[sketchbook study – ploughed field pattern striations 6″ x 8″]

ketchbook - landscape field drawing abstract
[sketchbook study – field/hill 6″ x 8″]

from day…


[sketchbook study – view over marshes with sky, 6″ x 8″]

to night…


[sketchbook study – field with row of poplar trees, 6″ x 8″]