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Category Archive: Landscape Challenges

From the Riverbank: Week 6 Hurley

June 28, 2021

Late Afternoon, Hurley: Looking toward Harleyford Manor
Watercolour

These are the results from everyone painting or drawing at Hurley in very different weather conditions from the previous week, while I visited all the drawing locations and took a few photos plus made the briefest of sketches. The view of Harleyford Manor was painted in 2000 from location sketches and was about 27 inches wide so a bit large to paint on site!

Your paintings:

Sketchbooks and paintings from Hurley
Lamp Post by the River, Hurley
Watercolour by Sarah
Looking Upstream
Watercolour by Sarah
Kayak Class, Hurley
Watercolour by Elizabeth
Boats at Hurley
Watercolour by Elizabeth
Looking Upstream, Hurley
Watercolour by Jan
Gazebo by the River, Hurley
Watercolour by Virginia
Looking toward Harleyford Manor
Watercolour by John
Watercolour by Liz
Tree at Hurley
Watercolour by Liz

From the Riverbank Week 3: Boats, Boathouses and other Structures

May 23, 2021

Evening Pairs Henley
Pastel

The challenge this week is to make a painting of boats and/or constructions on the river including weirs, locks, boathouses from sketches made from the riverbank. If the weather makes working by the river difficult why not look at any photos you may have of boats threading their way through the twists and turns of the Thames. It’s more difficult to draw a moving target from life so becoming familiar with the structure of boats and their effects on the water surface is easier from photographs.

However if you have the opportunity, it’s much more rewarding to work outside with a sketchbook. Start with the static objects and develop your confidence, and then try drawing the main shapes of boats and their wakes as they pass by,as swiftly as you can. With a little practice a real notion of movement can be achieved.

After the Races Henley
Pastel

A few photographs of local parts of the Thames with moored and moving craft are below.

Boats heading for Hurley Lock
Photo

Think about the river and its banks, the relation of the boat to the water surface (the waterline, reflections and if moving the bow wave and wake, or if a motor boat how the water may be churned up by a propeller at the stern). The patterns of waves may extend far beyond the immediate vicinity of the boat.

On the Thames at Runnymede
On the Thames: Remenham Meadows

If you attempt to draw or paint a lock, perhaps looking down from a bridge as you can at Maidenhead. Try drawing the large shapes of the lock first so that you get a feel for for its structure and aim to show its perspective. That will help you when you place a boat in it. Think of the lock as a big rather long box so the end away from you appears smaller. Then look at the water level in the lock and how the boat sits in it.

Before the Gates Closed: Boulters Lock
Photo
Beyond the Gates: Boulter’s Lock
Photo

There are also occasions where boats are included as only a small element in a river landscape work so just as observing and drawing from human forms, observing and drawing boat forms will help you to be able to just ‘drop in a boat’ to enliven a composition.

Ducks and Distant Boats Upstream of Boulter’s Lock
Photo
Boat and Boathouses from Ray Mill Island
Photo
From Ray Mill Island
Photo
Old Dredgers new Houses by Boulter’s Lock
Photo

Also included are boathouses and a couple of old rather abandoned looking dredgers and the turbulent water of the weir at Maidenhead.

The Weir at Maidenhead
Photo

With the weir draw its underlying structure lightly before indicating the frothy water tumbling over it. Hopefully we’ll be sketching outside but if not feel free to use any of these references or find a boat scene you would like to paint.

Some examples of paintings of boats and locks etc can be found on Jo’s Pinterest board using the link below:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/from-the-riverbank/boats-locks-weirs-and-buildings/

Your Sketches and Paintings:

Boathouses from Ray Mill Island
Watercolour by Jan
Honfleur
by Liz
Three Men in a Boat
Watercolour by Virginia
Pastel Pencil by Shane
almost finished
The Thames at Boulter’s
Watercolour by Ann
After the Races Henley
Watercolour by Ann
Pastel by Heather
Rower at Henley
by Elizabeth
Moored near Henley
Pastel by Barbara
Moored at Remenham Meadows
by John
Bagas Mist
Pastel by Mali
Watercolour by Mali
Watercolour by Maryon
Boathouses from Ray Mill Island
Watercolour by Sarah

From the Riverbank Week 2a: Some Photo reference in case of rain!

May 16, 2021

OK it’s a Coot!

The Weather forecast is miserable for this week so here are some photographs of river birds and a few cows for inspiration, a contingency in case of rain on Tuesday.

As anything that moves is a challenge in real life, becoming familiar with bird and animal shapes will be helpful before sketching them outside. We can work in real time together either from the following references or using your own. We’ll choose a bird or a cow and make rapid thumbnail sketches in real time; four or five to a sketchbook page so don’t think too large. I will be using a stopwatch! You will see from the reference that you should be able to make several sketches of the same or a similar bird in different poses.

Where birds in groups overlap each other, as in the cygnet photos it can be useful to treat them as a single shape and then sort out the individuals. They move in amazing ways, with mother swan looking out for them all the time.

After a few warm up sketches we can move on to a more considered drawing or painting, making a good start that can be finished during the session or in your own time afterwards. This work may either be a painting that has the creature as the main subject, or a work where the beast or bird is placed in its landscape setting.

Most of the heron images are from the water garden at Cliveden where the carp fry are easy prey for a hungry bird. I watched and sketched this one before resorting to record his antics on camera. but sadly never caught him actually catching a fish.

Heron on the Cam
Heron on the Cam detail
Cows and Swans on the Cam
Ducks on the Stour at Flatford
Duck on the Stour at Flatford

Your paintings and sketches:

This week’s drawings include two minute drawings and two minute blind contour drawings, where looking at the image but not the paper was permitted. There are also 30 minute or longer drawings from the Canada Goose image posted just before them.

Drawings below were 30 minute drawings from the image above

Canada Geese
by Virginia
Canada Geese
by Elizabeth
Canada Geese
by Jan
Canada Geese
by John
Canada Geese
by Liz
Canada Geese
by Shane
Canada Geese
by Ann
Canada Geese
by Heather
Canada Geese
by Sarah
Canada Geese
Pencil by Maryon
Canada Geese
Acrylic and Ink by Maryon

Two minute drawings and blind contour drawings:

Two Minute Heron
by Sarah
Two minute Herons and blind contour Ducks and Geese by John
Heron: Two minute sketches, Ducks: blind contour drawing
by Jan
Two Minute cows
by Sarah
Two Minute Cows
by Jan

From the Riverbank Week 1: A Challenging Surface

May 4, 2021

Hurley looking upstream from the Bridge before the Lock
Watercolour

Over the next six weeks we’ll be drawing and painting anything that can be seen from a riverbank.   The first session will be online but if you do have the opportunity to sketch your subject by the river and paint afterwards that would be brilliant.  We’ll start by considering water, waves and reflections and go on to explore the riverbank vegetation, birdlife, bridges, weirs and locks that can be seen locally.

The Bridge downstream of Hurley Lock looking upstream
Watercolour

Some words that sprang to mind when thinking about water were flowing, calm, reflection, spray, fierce, roar, crash, wet, wave, ripple, current, whirlpool, eddy.  By the Thames locally, the extremes in appearance of water going over the weir at Maidenhead  and the wonderful reflections of trees in the very calm water that can be seen from  the towpath just a couple of hundred yards upstream, reveal what a varied and challenging subject this is.

Quiet Water upstream of Hurley lock
Photo
Large ripples in foreground give very distorted reflections.
See how little patches of sky are reflected and the large tonal differences in this picture: the palest areas are the small poles in the middle distance and the darkest are in the trees and their reflections.

 We may often notice the reflections of boats, trees, poles etc. in and on the water but the sky is perhaps the most important element, being reflected not only in calm water but in every ripple and almost always brings an element of fleeting and shimmering light to the surface.  The Impressionists found good ways of depicting this, using strokes of different colours and tones alongside each other to create shimmering effects.

Boathouses from Ray Mill Island
Photo
Criss cross ripple patterns in the wake of the ducks.
Ripples appear smaller in the distance and eventually look like a shimmering tone on the water.

If you can, get to a riverbank and watch the water.  Better still make some sketches of what you see.  Take two L-shaped pieces of card with you so you can use them as a view finder.  These are more versatile than a camera as they enable the isolation of very tall thin slithers of the landscape or extreme panoramic views, as well as squarer and more conventional landscape shapes for your composition.  In the sketchbook try several small sketches in different formats concentrating on the shape and tones of what you see.

If you can’t get out this week try exploring different compositions within one photo reference.

Calm Day on the Cam
Photo
The following images were all cropped from this one photo. You may like to do something similar; crop a reference photo in different ways and make a tonal sketch of each. Choose the most successful for your painting. Choosing and isolating the elements you wish to paint is an important part of painting outside and why a sketchbook is invaluable to try out different composition ideas. I was amazed at what lay hidden in this reference taken mainly for the very subtle cloud cover and its reflection.
Crop 1
Crop 2
Crop 3
Crop 4
Crop 5
Crop 6
Crop 7

I am forced to admit this photo was taken from a boat and not the bank but the various crops show the great choice we have from the quite dark composition of crop 4 to the light airy feel of the original photograph.

Start to think in terms of shape and tone.  Instead of thinking I am drawing a tree and its reflection say to yourself,” I can see a large dark oval shape.  Below it is a similar dark shape that fragments into elongated light and dark shapes when the wind blows.” If you can stay long enough, observe different patterns on the water surface as a boat passes, and when there is wind or no wind. Try to translate these into drawing. Can you observe differences in size between ripples near you and those further away?

Observe and note whether there is a difference in tone between the sky and its reflection and do the same for reflected objects. As you can see from the photo taken on the Cam, the sky there was almost the same tone as its reflection but this is not always the case.

When you have found a composition that pleases you either paint or make a more considered drawing.  Both the observation of the water surface and the composition exercise will be good preparation for the outside drawing/painting sessions.

Have fun and experiment!

Perhaps look at a few Impressionist paintings!

Your Drawings and Paintings:

Stream in the Savill Gardens
Pastel by Shane
Boat Houses from Ray Mill Island
Watercolour by Virginia
Mallard
Drawing by Maryon
Reeds by the River : crop 1
Drawing by maryon
Reeds by the River: crop 2
Drawing by Maryon
Maidenhead Bridge
Watercolour by Ann
The Thames at Pangbourne
Pastel by Barbara
View from the Bridge at Wareham
Watercolour and Pastel by John
Watercolour by Heather
Clapham bridge, Yorkshire
Watercolour by Liz
Exploratory Sketches by Liz
Odney
Watercolour by Jan
Sketches by Jan
Sketches by Jan
Pastel by Mali
Capel Curig
Coloured pencil and watercolour by Sarah
The Moat at Hever Castle
Watercolour by Sarah