Showing posts with label rain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rain. Show all posts

Monday, 14 September 2009

Waterways Project: Swithland Reservoir, still day, overcast and about to drizzle

Swithland Reservoir, still, overcast day, about to drizzle, watercolour and coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

I visited Swithland Reservoir on a day that was sunny when I left home, but grey and overcast by the time I'd been there a couple of minutes, turning to a light misty rain, dulling colours and contrast.

It's interesting to catch different lights. The foliage in summer is heavy and solid - I don't find that as interesting as spring, summer and autumn, where the structure of the trees shows and colour is more varied. It made for an interesting abstract shape across the centre of the image though, with lots of lost edges and mystery.

It's certainly somewhere to revisit once the autumn colours are advanced.

Watercolours plus polychromos pencils, about 10x9 inches unless I crop it a little - or decide to show the messy edges (they are a bit messy, not just ragged).

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Oil or Water?

Rain, Frenchman's Creek. Watercolour

Oil or water, obviously they don't mix, I know that! However what drives the decision to use which media, especially when depicting water in all her many guises?
I love watercolour, I am in love with watercolour. I think it is a difficult medium, it takes an almost sneaky type of control on the side of the artist. On the one hand you need to have some experience of what it will do, which colours will cause which reactions. Who will sit happily with who, who will repel and rebel. On the other hand you need to be able to let it go its own way, invite the "accidents" encourage the unexpected. Sometimes the place or mood that I am trying to capture seems to dictate the medium.
The picture above is watercolour. It was a damp, misty day but muggy and steaming too, then it began to rain. There was a cleaning property to the air brought on by the rain and the water in the river seemed to clear showing beautiful patterns of copper and yellow colour. I couldn't imagine catching that feeling in oils. It needed the transparent quality of watercolour.
I also love oils. I love the buttery feeling of the colours, the freedom that the addition of light right at the end of the painting gives you. I can paint and paint and then flick in some light and it is literally like switching on a light switch. All of a sudden the picture is transformed and brought to life. Magic! The picture below is oils. The day was sunny but very still. I was sitting above the small beach at the mouth of the river, where the river widens and meets the sea. Often here are loud and powerful waves but on that day, not a breath of wind. The water seemed almost oily, slightly thick but clear. As the sea slowly sucked out the tide the sand became silver and the pebbles shiny and bright. All I could think of was painting it in oils. Dabbling in all the rich greens and blues that were under the water, speckling on all the yellows and ochres and almost blacks that were the shore.

Ebb Tide, Oil.

Maybe I should stop worrying about being a watercolourist or an oil painter and just be ambidextrous.
I suppose they are a bit like cats and dogs.
Some people are dog people, they just like dogs (that's oils I think, don't you? Quite predictable, loyal but capable of doing tricks and performing very obediently. A dream companion in the right hands, a nightmare in the wrong hands!)
Some people are cat people. So this by rights must be watercolours: Haughty, independent. Make you feel great when they are purring and curled up on your lap but off like a shot for sardines from the house down the road. Startlingly beautiful, wild, free and proud. Or mangy, hissing and untouchable.
And some people are both. I think I must be, the nutty dog woman and the mad cat lady all rolled into one. I suppose one just has to "go with the flow" Try to listen to your emotions, find the feeling that comes from what you are wanting to paint and then reach for your cat or your dog!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Journey to the Sea - Part I

I've worked a bit more on the concept of water's origins and how it wends its way to the sea. This will be a series of six oil paintings, all 8 x 8 on canvas panels. They will then be grouped together to form a larger piece. I so dislike the close up views of a painting or drawing that are presented on a computer and prefer to see a painting from where it should be viewed, at least several feet away. So I've given you a slightly different view as well as the traditional close up.

I started out with some rough thumbnail sketches which are more like me thinking on paper to gel ideas in my head. Then a few plein air sketches of places that may be starting points along the journey.

The progress of water images will be

1. rain/snowmelt,
2. wetlands,
3. brooks,
4. ponds,
5. rivers/waterfalls,
6. rivers meeting the ocean.

This brings me to the first painting in the series. Rain.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Water Through Trees

I feel a theme developing here, water seen through the tracery of trees, different times of day, different weather and the inevitable march of the seasons.

The gallery has asked me to produce more of this subject, so of course I set to, stomped off down the creek to paint, rain or shine.

Sometimes the day smiles on me, sharp colours in beautiful sunlight. Sometimes the gods are sulking, or gently crying and misty grey rain sprinkles diamonds of light droplets on everything, I get wet but...

I love the result, the change in tempo and mood. Sometimes the wind whips across the water, cold and biting but throwing up variations in colour, breaking up surfaces.

So all to do now is varnish, take them to the gallery, adorn them with frames and hope that they sell... what an exquisite way to make a living!

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Mawgan Porth, Cornwall

Light changes a scene dramatically and is one of my key interests - the particular colours that it creates, the way the sea changes from indigo to lavender to turquoise to jade.

In the mornings the far cliff is bright, lit by the morning sun and shining. Below it the small stream that comes down the Vale of Lanherne (or Mawgan) trickles to the sea, shining and reflecting sky and cliffs.

This is the wild Atlantic coast. The tide ebbs and flows leaving deep pools scoured in the sand, in drifts across the wide beach, with intricate patterns of wriggling ripples between. As these dry out a little the wind across the surface creates a series of neat tiny steps leading down to the waters edge. The beach shelves more steeply than the Norfolk coast and so the tide doesn't go out anywhere near as far and therefore moves a bit slower in and out, giving the surf time to carve deeper. In Norfolk the pools and strands of water are very shallow and dry fast on the almost level surface, the sea is calmer and ebbs rapidly for a mile or more, here water remains until the next tide. Down at the waters edge the waves loom high, the horizon isn't straight but a mass of heaving swells and it's noisy with the waves crashing on sand and rocks.

As the day goes on the far cliff becomes a silhouette with little detail, backlit by the afternoon sun and then with evening the sun sets over the sea in a spectacular variety of colours and clouds.

The colours change constantly, the clouds change, the reflections in the pools change - the tide ebbs and flows. Rain approaches across the sea and I watch the approaching edge cross the cliffs, obscure them and a rainbow moving forward with it appears to end on the beach below, in front of the cliffs, then the rain reaches me and the rainbow is gone and there's just a silvery haze. Nothing remains the same. If only I could paint faster ......

In another post I'll show some of the paintings and sketches done there and studio works from them.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Introducing Ronell van Wyk

I feel honoured and priviliged to share this journey with eight very talented artists, Vivien, Lindsay, Katherine, Tina, Jeanette, Laura, Gesa and Sarah, whose experiences with and connections to water are each so unique.

As a little girl, the sun and water were my constant companions and it has been that way ever since. I've always been around and/or close to water.

I did my final year research on sea life in the tidal reefs of Tsitsikamma, SA. With its rugged coastline and protected wild life and abundant marine life, it will always be my most favourite place.

...movement, oil on canvas block, 45x20cm...
I then married a man who was an avid snorkeler and scuba diver. Even our honeymoon was spent in a real cave on the rocky side of the Elandsrivier canyon, swimming in the dark pools and basking in the sun like lizards on rocks.

In the Cape winelands, we had a home where our two little girls splashed in the water canals that ran by the garden, losing shoes and hair bands. They ran barefoot off to the Eerste river a few metres further, collecting pebbles and pick nasturtiums.

We lived on a farm with a stream flooding the road to the house every winter, with marshes providing arms full of Arum lilies for our house. A high swing over the stream echoed constant shrieks of mixed fear and delight across the valley on weekends.

We had a family home on the south coast of Natal where endless days were spent on the sun drenched sand beaches; skimboarding in the shallow waters, diving in the clear waters between the reefs, fighting to keep the children from swimming in the warm lagoon and failing, giving medicine at night for upset stomachs and fighting again the next day.

The memories of experiences are vivid: caught by high tides on huge boulders, rescued by helicopters from drifting in to deep at sea, sandboarding down sanddunes, picking mussels from the rocks, diving for abelone and pulling lobster from a dilapidated canoe, watching the play of animals in the bush by the waterholes, swimming under waterfalls, catching fish with handlines...

..castles in the sand, oil on linen, 73x60cm...

We lived a short while in an old watermill in Wickham Market, and then a flight of stairs away from the promenade on the seafront in Felixstowe, Suffolk.
We lived on a lake with magical views and sailboats on sunset cruises.
We had a home high on a cliff, overlooking the Vienne river down below. And now we are living at the foot of a cliff in Montlouis sur Loire, right next to the river Loire. And the cherry on my cake is our small house in the mountains of Corr├ęze, facing south into the sun and looking down on yet another stream.

My connection with water has a very physical element to it and I can see every day here by the Loire continuing this element; animating an activity, telling a story: the birds nesting on the islands in spring, just to suddenly have it all swept away by rains. The violent floods in winter. The melancholy flow in summer, exposing the treacherous sandbanks. Cyclists. Photographers. Kayaks. Gypsies. Determined fishermen early mornings. Strollers. Powerwalkers. Picnickers. Coffeedrinkers(me).

...a corner of the Loire, watercolour, 30x23cm...

I'm not a landscape painter. I enjoy capturing, with exaggeration on certain aspects, a corner of a scene, a colourful detail of a story, a frozen moment of an activity, I'm not interested in a realistic rendering, but rather a reflection of reality, a suggestion of stillness or energy and movement .
With sketching I hope to capture the spontaneity of a water related moment in studies, and then work that into more defined oil paintings. We regularly return to most of these places and experiences and I'm looking forward to capturing some moments.