Inspiration can be found everywhere in these islands. Recently I had the opportunity to paint in some stunning villages along the banks of the River Windrush in Oxfordshire.
Lower Slaughter is a renowned beauty spot, teeming with tourists of all nationalities. I enjoyed the busy atmosphere and spoke to a number of visitors who had also painted at this location. My first subject was the old mill (below) with its associated waterwheel and more recent chimney. Sometimes, when painting outdoors, your viewpoint has to be a compromise, as was the case here. The better view to the left was too close to a busy road. Because of this my view of the waterwheel, which was immediately to the left of the building behind the road sign, was restricted.
The production of most paintings usually consists of solving a series of problems – the better paintings having fewer mistakes than those with which we are not so pleased. The principal problem on this particular day was the variable cloud during the morning, which constantly changed the lighting conditions and therefore the tonal values and shadows. When this occurs you just have to make a decision regarding which lighting effect to accept and stick with it throughout the painting.
I made sure that I left sufficient white paper so that I could, towards the end of the work, paint the figures. Notice how the man’s shirt and the woman’s skirt are the plain white of the paper – their shape being described by the surrounding darker tones of the background and the man’s dark trousers.
In order to allow the scene to fit the paper format I let the chimney run out of the top of the picture. I think that it is quite acceptable to do this with vertical objects, provided that their shape does not terminate at the edge of the picture.
Scenes such as that in The Eye Stream at Lower Slaughter (below) can be very daunting, as we are presented with a myriad of greens that range from just staining the paper to the darkest tones in the picture. It is very easy to end up with a painting that is very disjointed, particularly if we try to apply the light tones, wait for them to dry, and then add the darker accents. The secret lies in applying the various shapes and tones wet-in-wet so that the forms merge and we get a variety of lost-and-found edges in the foliage.