in our village hall we have an art group designed to help fund the hall, run by Duncan Thomas, who although rejecting any claim to be a teacher, is in fact a marvellous one. he has enabled several people who had never picked up a brush before to paint very well, and encouraged others to change habits and find different ways of working with tone, drawing, and then colour and acrylic paints, which he sets out for the whole group.

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as you know if you follow this blog, I take a lot of photos of local landscape, but have never felt I could translate them into paintings. I had been joining in the art group to support the village hall and for the company, and some time off from my main concerns.

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mostly I had been playing with watercolour, ink and folded pen in the same mode as the wonderful course I did with Larry Thomas at Newburgh last summer but eventually I succumbed to curiosity as what Duncan was getting with acrylics seemed to work, and I remembered my old music teacher at school, Ian Houston’s painting career, following in the wake of Edward Seago … so perhaps I could do that after all.

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we had some wonderful skies and I chose this photo for my third attempt, having ascertained that I needed to work on board not canvas and found some things that did and did not work for me.

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there were no square boards cut so I had to crop. “another snow shower coming over”

I learnt that having a focal point, like the wind turbine, helps push the horizon into the distance. this is a field I keep coming back to. it is high up and you can see multiple hedges and trees.

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looking for the dramatic skies all the time I started taking slightly different photos. this was my next subject.

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ebouche or blocking in the under colours very thinly (using water, not medium – this is the delight of acrylic, no nasty white spirit or turps, washable mess)

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not quite finished here but I’m finding sky much easier to paint than land

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final version. obviously I found more in the foreground than is visible in the photo.

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next one a slightly different version of the same field, including some tiled roofs which are bale hall farm’s converted barns

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now something different, technically more complicated, still Bale but not that wide open space

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something looser, wilder. the changes to the photos – taken on my iphone with an app called hipstamatic – in terms of colour translucence and brilliance, and in tone, are a huge help. an ordinary photo is flat in comparison, and hipstamatic lends mood.

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after that a bit of a break, i was busy with Paris, going to Spain, a week or so in Scotland. when I got back I pulled out an old book from a Monet show at the RA in 1999 which has very good detailed photos of texture, paint application and colour. also Duncan gave us a talk on colour harmony – stuff I was taught back on foundation at Yarmouth art college but had never really applied.

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looking at a similar photo to this I could see strong harmonies between magenta pink and a light green with some cyan going on (check out your printer cartridges)

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so here is the base

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and details of what went over the top

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I was a bit timid about painting over that translucent magenta

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except in the foreground where it got very Monet

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so this is the finished painting. (these are all 40 x 40 cm, by the way)

the next attempt was a total failure which I am not showing you!

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then I got braver – this is preparation for potato planting

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pink and green being my harmonies this time

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with a huge amount of help from Duncan. this took about twice as long as the other paintings and it was a hot day in our village hall, the acrylic dried out on the palette (paper, tear off) very fast and it was hard. but I’m very pleased with it, I learnt a lot and am much more confident as a result.

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the next week I was captivated by the cow parsley in the lanes and attempted something different again

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putting more detail into the underpainting

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and working up gradually through layering

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and then highlighting with loose brushwork

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to something I think works, and I understand what is making it work.

but massive thanks to Duncan who has such a structured attitude to painting and is a great critic. I am also a convert to acrylic, once you get the hang of it it is so much easier and cleaner to control in terms of paint getting on things, the smell, and the clean up. maybe one day I will go back to oil paint, but not just now. so I have become a Monday painter.