Painting the Winter through a Parental Haze

Painting of Appleby

A demonstration for Heswall Artists Association this Saturday provided my first opportunity for an extended painting session since the arrival of our baby Robin. Though feeling significantly rusty after a 2 month layoff, struggling to concentrate fully after several sleep-deprived weeks, and making by no means one of my finest paintings, it was hugely enjoyable to pick up the brushes again in front of a friendly, appreciative audience.

Asked to demonstrate painting in acrylics, I thought a winter landscape might be a pertinent choice of subject matter for an early February event. The subject matter was agreed upon several months ago, little thinking that our winter would be quite so mild and snow-free. The reference photograph from which I worked was taken on a holiday to Appleby in Westmorland a year previously. It depicts a countryside landscape of receding snow dominated by a lone foreground tree rooted in rolling farmland, with the Pennine hills rising in the distance.

I chose to paint over an existing demonstration painting, covering it in several layers of gesso in the days before the demo. In my semi-befuddled state I foolishly put a coat of gesso down on the Friday evening before the demo and left the canvas in our chilly conservatory. Still very wet on the morning of the demo, I was forced to hurriedly dry the gesso against a radiator, a practice which I would normally avoid. Happily it doesn’t seem to have affected the paint surface yet, though admittedly at the time of writing it’s only been 4 days since it was painted.

The painting was made in around one and a half hours, either side of a tea break, in a combination of Winsor & Newton and Pip Seymour acrylics on a 16” x 20” canvas. I find it more important to successfully demonstrate my approach to painting than to achieve a very polished, ‘finished’ painting during such demonstrations. Hence, in cutting several corners in order to quickly illustrate my technique, the completed painting is a little rough around the edges.

Following the morning demonstration, the afternoon session provided the opportunity for me to help the Heswall artists with their own work, which I found to be both enjoyable and rewarding. Many thanks to the Heswall Artists Association, and in particular to organiser Kevin Adams, for a fun and productive day. For more information on Heswall Artists please visit www.heswallartists.com. For more information on my painting classes please visit www.birtall.co.uk/paintingclasses.htm.

Painting set up

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