Northumberland Paintings and Lino Prints
A painter and printmaker's busman's holiday
Updated: 5 Aug 2016
I spent a week on the coast up at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, UK, during late July. A beautiful and dramatic fairytale landscape I've been to before, but only as a stop-off or single day-out from another base. I've promised myself a ‘busmans holiday’ here, painting and sketching, for years and finally, my wish is fulfilled.
My plan, besides enjoying the scenery, was to fill a sketchbook with ideas for paintings and lino prints that I could complete once back home in the studio. This meant I needed to be thorough and study the place well, given I would be creating finished landscape paintings and lino prints from my sketches back at home, some 130 miles south. There would be no popping-out for an hour, or two, just to check how this, or that, looks. I'd never set out to get to know a place so thoroughly in such a short space of time before so it was an experiment, adventure and a serious project.
On the beach, or in the dunes, every day, all day
Though I'd visited Bamburgh Castle and beach before, so had an initial familarity with the location, there was much I needed to study – to observe – in order to get to know this special place well enough to make paintings and prints of it. By spending a concentrated period of time there, I could learn about the character of the place - on the beach or in the dunes every day and almost all day – come high tide, low tide and inbetween; morning, noon, afternoon and evening; sun, cloud, wind and even rain (though thankfully it was mostly the idyllic sunshine of dreamy days beside the seaside).
The details that matter in landscape paintings
Details like where rafts of Eider ducks shelter when the wind is from the North, accompanied by Cormorants drying their wings on nearby rocks, and where they move to when the wind changes direction (See my drawing ‘Idea 26’ above). Where snaps of photographers (my name for a gathering of these creatures) wait in the hope of a great sunset, shutter release in hand on the shoreline. Where families set-up camp and how small children race across the vast sands in excitement toward the sea with mum, dad or older sibling following. How the light catches the Farne Islands and the sea sparkles with early morning or evening light. The way a mist rises from the surf when it's lively, creating an ethereal softness below the hard lines of the castle rising above. All these observations have the potential for paintings or lino prints that tell a story of Bamburgh beach and castle.
Back at the studio…
I arrived back home, exhausted from all the walking, but elated and so full of ideas for paintings and linocuts that I was fit to pop! I couldn't wait to get cracking though unfortunately it was not to be as other commitments crowded in. I have made a start on the painting below and produced other preliminary Bamburgh artwork.
Can you see what it is yet? Does it look unpromising?
I hesitated to show this publically, but decided it demonstrates I'm actively working on something – and surely no one would mistake this for a finished painting. Paintings can often look discouraging when just begun, though this one doesn't – to me.
This is a canvas that's been ‘toned’ - meaning a rough wash of colour has been applied to create a mid-tone against which light and dark can be more accurately judged. It has been marked-out ready for laying-in oil paint. Pretty-much all classically trained painters begin paintings this way.
It's a wonderful iconic view of the castle from high above the beach at Black Rock Point, where the Lighthouse and 'Stag Rock' are. You knew that!