I had to go to the Uk for a bit of an emergency, but thought while I was here that I could try the `plein aire` exercise, and describe the Somerset countryside as a change from the Andalucian one. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time, but I went for an early evening walk with my sketchbook. I had in mind a classic view of the tor from a place called Bushey Coombe, but when I got there the trees were all much higher than I remembered (yes, they had grown…) and I couldn’t actually see the tor… so I walked on until I got to a field at the foothills of the tor. An artist friend of mine had told me when working outside to be ware of the three Ws…weather, wasps and weirdos. In Glastonbury I could have sat there in a pink tutu and fairy wings and no one would have taken any notice of me.
I sat away from the small path and indeed nobody bothered me, apart from the occasional dog. At one point I actually screamed when one very large one bounded over. I tend to go off into my own world when drawing or painting and so was not aware of what was happening around me. I felt I had found the picture I was looking for. I noted light and dark areas and the evening light, which was lovely and golden, and the direction of everything; the sky seemed to be vertical at an angle from left to right, the mound itself had lines running around it and the fields lines across diagonally. I did a pencil sketch and a line sketch and I took a couple of photos with my phone, and I noticed also the moon, not quite full and it had risen and was right next to the tower, which I thought would be an interesting thing to add into the composition. Most of the clouds were in fact, I think, from aircraft vapours.
So the next afternoon I did a small A4 colour study and worked out which acrylics to take with me; they were borrowed from my mother (also an artist) so I needed to be familiar with them. I had bought a canvas A2 in size and on a wooden frame. I have done a lot of work on these frames and I will need to work out how to get them off when I send my work for assessment, so this will be a trial for that as I will need to remove the canvas to take it back to Spain in my suitcase. (This I managed to do successfully and rolled it to go into my suitcase with no damage).
I persuaded my husband to come and sit with me ( he had not been well so this was very good of him! 🙂 ) to warn me if dogs were approaching. It is hard to relax if you think a large dog is going to jump onto you. It was an even more beautiful evening and the light was incredible. The sky was clearer. I had worked out how to paint it, starting with the sky and then the mound, the fields and finally the trees and bushes in front. I started painting at 6.45 . The moon rose about 7.30 and I painted it on as it reached to the side of the tower. pretty much finished by 8.30. Not so many dogs but tonight lots of small black flies which decided to land and stick to the paint. These I flicked off or used my nails to extract…The light kept getting even more golden and I was adding in lots of yellows. The only changes I made the next day were to make the moon rounder, and to slightly straighten the tower, and to yellow down a white mark that was too dominant at the front. The rest is all as it was at the time, my immediate response to what was in front of me. It was thoroughly enjoyable; a beautiful evening filled with light aircraft, hot air balloons and bunnies bouncing in the fields.
I think the painting works; however the sky the first night was perhaps more interesting with the stripes of cloud across the sky; but I wanted to paint truly what was in front of me and this I think I did fairly successfully. Ideally, yes, I would have done more prep but in this case I did not have time. I felt I was working in quite a loose, fluid way but I am surprised in fact how ‘neat’ it has turned out…I would have been happy for it to look sketchier.
Retrospective reflection: I don’t like the sky. The original sky on the sketch was better but then I was painting from life and that’s how it was that evening. I think the trees and the light on the fields is good and putting the moon in was a good touch and adds to the overall picture. As I said if I had had longer in this area I might have found a more unusual view than this classic Glastonbury tor view. However, it brings back memories of a very enjoyable couple of hours lost in plein aire painting. When I am back again I will try and look for a more unusual or unexpected view of the tor to work on.