A Splash of Red

Wednesday, 23rd February 2005
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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sky5.15 p.m., Coxley Valley

A snow shower goes over, coming out of the north and leaving clearer skies and smoky purplish grey shreds of low stratus straggling along behind it.

I've been so into drawing recently that I thought it was time I worked in colour again. I take out an old watercolour box, a larger one than I normally use, with 33 half pans of artists' watercolour in it, most of those now looking dried and hollowed out.

woodWithout any initial drawing, not even a faint pencil outline, I use a no.9 sable to wash in the pale sky, adding a touch of yellow or yellow ochre to the mix as I work downwards, because the sky grades from a cooler to a warmer grey down towards the horizon. I add a light tan for the wood (you can still see bits of it showing through the sepia, right), being careful not to let it touch the grey wash of the sky, so it doesn't run back into it.


I use green and sepia for the meadow, which has been trampled to mud in this bottom corner by the three resident ponies. When that has dried enough, I add the branches and other details with a 3 and a 5 sable.

red figureLady in Red

Constable often managed to find a spot of red in the landscape to contrast with all the green - such as a woman in a red shawl sitting under a tree. That's just what I need but what are the chances of that happening this afternoon?

wood and meadowWell, heavens to Betsy, what this?! A woman in a red waterproof walks into the meadow pushing a wheelbarrow and trundles it off behind the bare blackthorn bushes.

The paper I'm using isn't brilliant for watercolour: it cockles when wet so blobs of brown collect in the channels (left). But I quite like the effect. I think sometimes I try to be a bit too in control in my drawings so perhaps some painting is what I need.

I find that painting is very like drawing anyway; it's just that I'm drawing with a brush. I'm still looking for shapes.

Lost Posts

It may look as if I've been free and splapdash in this sketch this but in fact I was observing what I painted with every brushstroke. I had to accept that I couldn't easily include details like the row of slender white posts between the grass and the mud. I would certainly have included them in a line drawing.

And I couldn't think of a way to show snow falling! Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk

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