Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sketchbook from England

I just got back from a two week trip to England, where my brother-in-law and his family live. We spent one week with them, outside of London, and one week in Cornwall, on a working farm. Here are some images I made in my sketchbook from our time in Cornwall:

This one's a watercolor, which is a medium I use from time to time. I have mixed feelings about working in watercolor. I find it very intriguing, and like the look and feel of it, but it's hard as hell and almost the anti-thesis of oil paint. The working methods are completely different, forcing you to employ the white of the paper as your light, and is obviously transparent and fluid, versus the opacity and density of oil paint. The thing I like about it, is how marks can be made 'unguided', that is, by letting the paint bleed into the wetness of the paper. There is a certain loss of control to this that can yield some great results. I love looking at the great watercolors of Turner, Sargent, and Homer, which have a Zen-like immediacy to them.

This one was done overlooking a pasture at dusk. The clouds were blocking the sun from time to time, giving me a small window of time to look at the scene without being totally blinded by the setting sun. The cattle were wandering to and fro, dotting the vast expanses of green fields with their presence. Looking at these now, I realize how much I need to hold on to that sense of immediacy with the paint. At times, my oil paintings can 'tighten up': I need to retain that freshness and 'roving eye' that these sketches and pencil drawings have.

Here's a couple of pencil drawings depicting the view in back of our cottage. (Sorry about the quality of the photos, the drawings are quite light and hard to photograph.)

This last drawing was done at Whitesand beach, along the southern coast of Cornwall. There's some amazing rock formations along this stretch, with dramatic cliffs, caves, and tide pools. It reminded me of the Maine coast, as well as, Big Sur in California and the Oregon coast. It's the kind of place I could paint for the rest of my life and never get bored. Cornwall has some stunning landscapes, and I can see why artists have flocked there over the years. When I went to St. Ives, I visited the Tate, which has a wonderful location overlooking the beach. I saw some great work there, and enjoyed learning about the history of the area. It was a real haven for nature-based abstraction during the post war era, and I got to familiarize myself with the artists who lived and worked there. In my next post, I'm going to focus on some of the treasures I found at the National Gallery in London....cheers!

For more photos and commentary, check out my wife's blog entries about England!

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