Thursday, 30 April 2009

Rain, rain, go away...

Wish you could capture those ripples of raindrops on water?
Well, Yorkshire was there to assist you today.

I've been in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, for the opening of my solo show at the Calder Gallery (which runs until 24th May if anyone is in the area). A little bit of sketching but also some rain and drizzle as I walked along the canal today.

So the Wavemechanics project is officially expanded into water surface photos of bodies of water other than the Thames. While it does rain in London of course it's rare that two things will happen at the same time: 1. I'll go out in the rain and 2. The tide is high enough for me to get near enough the water to photograph drop ripples.

As always, these photos are free to use for your own artwork under the Creative Commons license. You can find all the photos at the Wavemechnics Flickr page.

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Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Studio Boat Afloat

Here she is, all spruced up and ready to go. New comfortable cushions, all waterproofed, new lino on the floor (wine corks image!) Lots of storage space for essentials, drawing materials, coffee, wine, warm clothes, maps, books and dog food. (yes, the art hound is being trained in seaworthy behaviour.)

Lots of jolly useful rope, some warm sleeping things for overnight stops,

That is the inside sorted. Here she is on her mooring, at the mouth of the very lovely Carn Creek, round the corner from Helford River. This is yesterday evening, we set off for her first little trip out to sea.

The paintwork is looking splendid and as we approach...

She turns slowly on the mooring and look, here she is

In all her glory... Spindrift, the studio boat.

All aboard and out to sea (I haven't finished the deck paint, but I will, on a good low tide, on a sunny day) Off we go... with me at the tiller, the sun behind us, all is well with the world.

And here is the wide open sea, with Falmouth glinting in the sunshine and a big sky.

I am so excited, Cornwall is beautiful from the sea. I am itching to get going and today, prompted by Vivien's blog post about the new bigger Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks, I took delivery of one A4 and one A3. They will be filled with sea, sky, sun and cliffs. Gulls, basking sharks, blue whales, Captain Nemo and Blackbeard...

A watery post script:

Here is the first sketch in the new large moleskine, it is 24 inches by 8 inches or 60 cm by 20 cm. Lovely thick paper that doesn't buckle no matter how wet it gets. This is the mouth of the river Helford, to see more detail you might have to visit my blog here. As you can see last night was a beautiful evening. Tonight it is grey, cold, wet and windy but so dedicated am I to understanding this thing called water that I have taken up the sport of gig rowing. Hugely enjoyable even in the bad weather. I did get a bit wetter than usual as the loyal dog Coco, my faithful art hound, decided, as her mistress rowed off into the stormy sea, that, rather than stay on the beach with all the other people, she would swim for as long as it would take and follow us! We were quite far out too, a boat goes fast with six people rowing! I had to haul her on board, soaking wet, a bit frightened and weighing a ton. She sat happily under my seat as we rowed about, a very good, absurdly loyal, wet art hound!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Moor Hen Pond in April

The Ecology Park Ponds are a mass of fresh spring green at the moment with intense colours even in the shadows. It's quite a challenge to find form in the middle of all that fresh bursting out all over spring green. Plus the colour of the water keeps changing!

Moor Hen Pond in April (from the Ecology Pavilion)
10" x 7", Talens Van Gogh watercolour pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm experimenting with watercolour pencils at the moment - on small 'sketch-sized' paper. I don't normally sketch and paint at the same time but I'm minded to give it a go. In the meantime I'm testing different brands of watercolour pencils to see which I like best. I'm also trying to find a way of 'painting' with watercolour pencils which suits me - and have been reading a book about Cezanne's watercolours which has proved very inspirational!

This was done last night at home using a reference photo but trying to use it for the purposes of making a sketch and working in my normal 'sketchy' way. I was using my Talens Van Gogh watercolour pencils which have a great range of colours in the blues and greens - however this 'sketch' came alive when I added in the pink and the red!

My brush technique is getting interesting and I think you may be seeing more!


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Shadow and light.

An oil
painting of a shady corner of the Loire on a sunny day.

I love oil work, but have always found it such an effort to do plein air with; the carrying around of the oils and the wet painting afterwards, the cloths(of which I use a lot), the containers, and the cleaning stuff for the brushes, the isn't a medium I can just hop onto my bicycle with. But in the end it is actually worth it. With only one stroke you can catch the fleeting light and it stays, whereas with watercolour I'm always panicking that I don't have enough pigment to really catch the contrast in colour quick enough. And the oils give me an immense satisfaction - seeing a stroke that just works with the first lay down...or maybe I just feel more confident with oil. I'm inspired again by painters like Michel Jouenne and Stéphane Ruais (peintres officiels de la Marine en 1991)

We are going to Coin Perdu in Correze for the next three weeks. It is a sort of solitude break I'm taking. I am packing ALL my oil stuff and my goal is to do as much plein air as the days allow. There are nooks and corners and pathways by the streams, in the forest, the fields and hills. There are fountains and springs, wild flowers and animals galore, so no reason not to come back with a gallery full of paintings. I'm also going to try my hand at gouache, a medium I still feel very stupid with. Pens and inks and of course the old trusted graphite to oil the drawing skills.

If the electricity and internet are kind to us, I may be able to post some work from there, but if not: see you in three weeks with hopefully a lot to show and tell.

...ombre et lumiére...

oil on linen, 36x36cm

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Water on Earth Day: no water in sight in Elquí Valley, Chile

... and yet: it tends to be a problem.

Tres Cruces, Elquí Valle

Elqui Valley in the Coquimbo Region in the Norte Chico of Chile is characterised by a semi-arid climate with annual rainfalls of only 90-100 mm. And yet, the ground of the valley is highly utilised farmland: of vinyards, oranges, avocados and, well, yes, more vinyards, producing the popular Pisco.

Pisco Elquí 1, Elquí Valle
Pisco Elquí 1,
Soft Pastel on Board, 35x25cm

Tres Cruces, Elquí Valle
Tres Cruces, Elquí Valle,
Soft Pastel on Board, 35x25cm

It's one of the most amazing landscapes I've seen so far. The blue of the sky in autumn heat, soft pink/yellow/red mountains filled with cacti vegetation enclosing lime green plantation. Such contrast! And, with Elqui Valley ranking as the top spot for clear night skies (300+ days pa without any clouds), it air sparkles and vibrates.

The ecological system is designed around the supply of freshwater through Río Elquí and its two contributories Río Claro and Río Turbío - with the latter passing through one of large mining areas of the country and thus carrying high loads of heavy metals.

Over recent years, however, heavy and erratic rainfalls - crazy rains, lluevias locas - that coincides with the El Niño phenomena threatens communities and agricultural production. It loosens debris from the hillslopes and causes dangerous debris flows into the valleys. Climate change - and with it an increased and more intense occurrence of El Niño as well as in the higher variability of melt water flow with the recession of many of the Andean glaciers which supply the original water source of Río Elquí is one reason for this. Anoether reason lies in the higher intensity of agricultural production on hill slopes as well as more intensive goat herding along the slopes.

  • A map of the region is here
  • An article on rain fall variability and vulnerability of the Elquí Valle is here

  • For more on my recent travels around Chile, a collection of my recent posts are here
  • And, there is a sister post on Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean poet and Nobel laureate who grew up in Elquí Valle, here

Water on Earth Day – Newfoundland’s pristine reputation?

Newfoundland benefits from being an island in terms of its ecological footprint on the earth. Lack of industry limits pollution of air and water, but the simple act of living creates its own challenges. Raw sewage still pours into the ocean from harbours, as it does in many parts of Canada and the world. The problem is being addressed, but it will be years before the harbours are fit to see anything besides seagulls in them.

There has been clean up of rivers in the past few years and one success story is the Rennies Mill River which now teams with fish and wildlife.

caplin 2 smlshell final hi res small

fish print 1 sml

Fish are the equivalent of the canaries in the mines and are the first to show that something is not right with the water. Frogs as well are never present in polluted waters. I am lucky where I live in that both are there in the water that flows from its source to the sea. If they leave, I will know there is a problem.

pouch cove 1 IMG_1221w

The Atlantic ocean is clean by many standards but still poses problems for fish and mammals that make it their home. The fishing industry is dead or dying so the incidents of whales becoming entangled in fishing nets is limited. Ghost nets still roam the sea, making life a misery for those who encounter

Plastic carrier bags and rings that hold six packs of cans together cause death on a daily basis for both sea creatures and those on land through slow suffocation or entanglement.

While Newfoundland is blessed with clean air and clean water, we still have a way to go towards a cleaner environment and a smaller footprint on the world.

Water on "Earth Day" Morning Mist on the Helford

My day usually starts with a walk. As I work from home I like to think of these walks as my "walk to work", also I need to walk the dog. I am very fortunate to live right by the Helford River in Cornwall, possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth (I think so anyway). And so, rain or shine, sweltering sun or swirling snow, I trudge the paths alongside this river as it makes its final mile out to sea. The river, its wooded banks, little inlets and hidden beaches have woven themselves into my heart and into my work, as I walk I see a thousand things that cry out to be painted. As artists we are compelled to record, thoughts, feelings, places and people, this beautiful earth and I have always felt that part of an artists job is to highlight or underline the ordinary. A metaphorical poke in the ribs... "hey, you there, take a look at this, see the light there, that line of trees in the mist, isn't it so wonderful, are we not the luckiest folk to have this, to live here?"
Lets keep it safe!

Water on "Earth Day" - Coast erosion

My ongoing English Coast project gives me first-person up-close experience of changes along our vast coastline (so vast I've not even cycled 10%!). While I appreciate the effects and implications of erosion often I see it from a strange mixture of an artistic and a pragmatic point of view. Here I'll share images from my photo-journey that I use as painting references.

Left to right: Blackgang cliffs looking down; looking across the clifftop at the walking path, altered several times; the clifftop literally breaking off along part of the walk.

Left to right: Alum Bay where tourist sand novelties are made with shipped-in sand, it's forbidden now to take away the unique geology; two more views east and west along the cliffs at Blackgang Chine.

What's shocking is that this entire area used to be a thriving tourist industry! Less than 60 years ago. Areas populated and accessible in the 70s are now underwater. See this site for historic postcards and photos.

I wrote in my sketchbook on the Isle of Wight, May 2008:
"This is the first real coast trip where I felt and saw a real environmental change in progress on the English coast. But I don't see this as negative because it simply is a natural consequence over time - be it a consequence of weather, temperature, erosion, human activity or other factors (human beings being, of course, part of nature). The destruction at Blackgang for example is profound and astounding, but perhaps my role is to capture the sight, the feeling. We can't stop the sea."

Even more striking to me, if that's possible, were the coastal changes in Yorkshire, from Bridlington down to Spurn Head, where I cycled in late 2008. The reason the differences were perhaps starker was simply because the human aspect of the landscape had been affected and the remnants were still very obvious. To be told a whole village is gone is one thing - to see existing roads ending as rubble in the sea is another. This has happened in the last 10 years, the areas were on my OS map.

Left to right: Warning along the road; Then it's remnants falling down; This path used to be a road that curved around following the coast and then up to the next village, and there was even a farm depicted on the latest Ordnance Survey maps - now it's a worn path along the field edge; A disused rail track on Spurn Head penninsula, which used to be much wider.

But beauty comes from even this. This sights resulted in some of my favourite paintings to date.

Left to right: Spurn Head (100x120cm), Filey Brigg (diptych, 50x100cm), Blackgang Below (120x150cm)
You can see my entire English Coast series on my website.

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Water on Earth Day-Chicago Lake and River Front

Over the three years I've been working on my waterways project,I've photographed Lake Michigan and the Chicago River in their many moods and colors. To celebrate Earth Day, I've chosen a few of my favorites.

Water on Earth Day rubbish in the city

Swans nesting amongst plastic bags and floating rubbish. photograph: Vivien Blackburn

The city try to clean up our waterways and the industrial pollution is far better than in the past with a good range of wildlife including kingfishers in quiet spots. But - It's sad how uncaring people can be of our environment with the way they dispose of litter.

The canal and river wind their way through the city with a footpath enabling you to walk the entire length, a green lung for the city. Unfortunately parts are spoilt by sights like this. Swans here are nesting amongst floating plastic bags and rubbish. :>(

This is at the shallow edge of the water just beneath where I sat to draw the scene below.

The recent move by supermarkets to persuade people to stop using plastic carrier bags can only be a good thing :>)

Why don't they go back to the paper carriers for those who come without a bag of their own? from sustainable sources of course, they are much more environmentally friendly - and look much nicer too.

previous work done here

and more

and more

Water on "earth day" - a clear brook

With today being earth day, how can we not contribute a special post to water on this day, seeing that it plays such an important role in the survival of our world.

My contribution is two paintings in watercolour of the ruisseau(brook) at our mountain house, Coin Perdu, in Correze. We are restoring it as natural as possible with natural building materials using the stone, wood, mud and clay from the area, solar heating, an ecological[partly self maintaining swimming pool(much later!) and of course a self maintaining garden with its wild herbs and insects and animals along with a bio vinyeard. So I felt it fitting to show the brook that runs down at the foot of our hill.

And today I'll plant some colour in my window boxes and revel in my frog by the fountain, the swallows who are back to nest in our cave, the owl who keeps me awake at night, the pair of red Robins who bounce around on the side of the cliff and I'll take a long stroll along the river - the sun a delightful gift in the sky!
...ruisseau en printemps.. (brook in spring)

Pen and watercolour on Fabriano artistico, 30x23cm.

...ruisseau en automne... ( autumn)

Watercolour on Fabriano artistico, 30x23cm.

**Be sure to see the Water on "earth day" - posts of the rest of the Watermarks-group today.

Water on Earth Day - What you can do today

"My Heron" at the Ecology Park Ponds
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

"My Heron" goes fishing most days in Willow Pond in the Ecology Park Ponds complex - a little more than two miles east of the Bank of England in the City of London. That's due to the fact that Millenium Project money was invested to create an Ecology Park and increase awareness of the ecological issues facing us all. I'm hugely appreciative of this green and watery space which is the subject of my Ecology Park Pond series.

How do you leave your mark on the world?

Today is Earth Day which is about inspiring awareness of and appreciation for the Earth's environment - and our watery spaces

If you'd like to be greener, here's some suggestions for things you can do to invest in your Earth on Earth Day.

The Big Green Purse Shopping Principles?

1) Buy less.
2) Read the label.
3) Support sustainable standards.
4) Look for third-party verification.GREAT
5) Choose fewer ingredients.
6) Pick less packaging.
7) Buy local.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Fogarty's Wetland

On Sunday as I was driving along a stretch of highway, an area of wetland caught my eye and I backtracked and finally found how to locate it. Its on the doorstep of the area where I work within Pippy Park. The area is called Fogarty's Wetland and is marked with walking trails and a little bridge across the wetter area.

The Google Earthh map shows how it's cornered by highway and road - a little vestige of bog still left to be explored within the City. I have to be ashamed to say that I haven't explored Pippy Park even if I pass by it every day on my way to and from work. I can see that I need to spend some more time there.

The wetland is littered with dead trees and cat tails. Its a rather sombre palette at this time of year, as not much is green and the day was rather overcast as well. I'm always a bit timid with colours at the best of times and this piece seems rather insipid, but the dead grasses and dulled colours really do dominate this landscape.

I did a quick sketch on the spot then took that home to do an oil study. I would like to paint the same spot over time to see the changes in colour of the grasses and see the levels of the water change.