Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Moon Meanderings" 12-15-08

It was a full moon a few nights before, so tonight as I saw the glow of the moon trying to come to fruition behind the clouds...I was hopeful of some good moon gazing. such luck. It started to show promise as I saw a curious yellow glow in the clouds, so I grabbed my tiny Altoids watercolor kit, my reading light and very small watercolor field kit.

I set up in my bathroom where it's extra dark when the door is closed and tried to paint quickly in the dark. I didn't have anything to put my piece of paper on, so I held the little thing in my hand and the watercolor kit also; it was not a great set up but I was in a hurry!

Yes, it was quite dark, I could hardly see the colors I was using but I wanted to really see the moon and didn't want the distraction of the light. So as it slipped quickly away behind a dark veil of clouds, I just painted from memory and it was ok. It's only after when you turn on the lights and let the colors and wetness finish their 'melding' that you'll see what you've got. It's kind of fun! This one is only 3.5"x2.5" on watercolor paper.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Muncaster Castle Day Two" 9-9-08

Today was my second day at Muncaster Castle. I've uploaded a video for you to listen to at the end of this post, don't miss it!

I was invited by Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington to visit he and his wife Philida for coffee in the morning at the castle, they are the couple who own the stately castle. How wonderful does that sound? I was also invited to bring my sketch book and my prints to share with them. Patrick had to meet with the woodsman who oversees the property so Philida, a wonderful person to share time with, and I sat on a silk covered couch in the library and enjoyed hot tea. We chatted about my artwork and the castle. The picture below shows some of the library, it was filled with wonderful paintings, antiquities and memorabilia. I like the miniature chairs on the table. Since it was before the general public was allowed in, I was left to wander freely about the library on the 'other' side of the rope! I wish I had a whole week to spend wandering around and drawing the interior of the castle.
Below is a little painting I did while up on the balcony of the library. The library is round and if you look up you'll see there is a balcony with iron railings that goes all around it way up above. Well I was given a big old ancient key and told that I could use it to unlock the door to the balcony at my leisure! I did go up there and it was a little scary, you had to watch your step, the floor boards were old and the ramp around was quite narrow! But I'm adventurous...I wanted to explore! About the little painting, I had my painting kit on my waist, my small field palette, little bottle of water, small brushes and held the sketchbook while I worked. I set some things on the window sill and looked out over the valley through the very old and very drafty windows. It was blowing up a gale and very chilly outside, so I was glad to be in. This is a cherub statue with more antiquities and wonderful stained glass. I was walking down the stairs, a wide expanse of marble...and tourists were milling about with wonder in their eyes, and appeared Patrick. Patrick is a talented poet bard...and not shy. He stood on the stairs of their castle and recited one of his wonderful poems to all the visitors. He is genuinely interested in all who visit his castle!
Another view out a window in the great hall, everywhere you turned there were beautiful things to look at.

Then I picked a window just outside the billiard room to draw. I was in a narrow hall way outside it, so people were walking by, but I stood up as I drew this with my charcoal pencils, a stiff brush and tortillion. It was so chilly, but one of the ladies that worked at the castle, Candy, brought me hot tea! How nice was that? Very nice!! The perspective on this window was tricky, you have to remember when drawing NOT to draw what you think, but what you SEE, in the end it will (or should) come together. It's funny how when you stop to draw other people stop and look, wondering at what is so interesting! I like the way the blustery clouds came out through the window.
This last photo is from the Tapestry room and shows a Tudor carved fireplace, it commemorates the victory over the Spanish Armada. I just loved looking at all the carvings throughout the castle. I really do wish I had more time to draw what I saw, but relied on taking photos to use later for drawing.
This is a video clip taken at my window sill which overlooked the owl yard...every morning I was greeted by the song of a European Robin singing.

"Sunrise Studies" 12-3-08

The sunrise was just too beautiful to ignore. While I was making my morning coffee, I kept looking out the studio window at it. Knowing how fast a sunrise will change, I ran and grabbed my camera (literally!) to catch some photos. All the fantastic colors can bloom to unbelievable brilliance, then it can fade as the sun comes out so bright you can't look, or it will slip behind clouds.

After taking some photos, I then grabbed my watercolor pencils and worked very quickly to sketch out some colors. I used watercolor pencils, watersoluble graphite and inktense watersoluble ink pencils with my waterbrush to blend and wet them. These are all Derwent brand pencils I used. I played around with drawing on the paper wet and dry when I did the trees. At first I drew them on dry...then ran the brush over bringing out the darkness of the color, but it also washes it out or softens it. Then I tried drawing the trees on wet paper and they were dark and intense from the start. This is good for trees in the forground. You can use both methods to your liking.
(Below) I liked this one better, though it's more simple, the colors are so pleasant. When I do a sunrise sketch, the colors shift very fast so I work on the large color impressions and cloud patterns, then try to work from memory. This leads to a lively painting but don't be surprised if you look at the photos you took at the time and they look very different!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Muncaster Castle - Day One" 9-8-08

Imagine the most beautiful valley you can. The mountains surrounding the valley are covered with rusty reds of Bracken changing color in the fall, and rich, deep greens from the excessive rains and some parts have exposed rock face a pink tint in certain light. Now imagine a perfect winding lazy river meandering across it's deep valley and the view from where you stand is so perfect, you can see for miles down it's center, the distant mountains turning blue with the atmospheric mists. Now you look up and realize there are Buzzards (Hawks) flying up the valley, floating on the drafts that carry them.
You turn and look just behind you and there is a great castle, standing like a strong old soldier. This is Muncaster Castle, built in 1258 partly on Roman foundations. A Roman coin from AD380 was found there!

So, onto my adventure! You can see below I'm standing on the road that winds around the castle, sketching the view of the valley. My art kit is strapped to my waist, at the ready to grab my waterbrushes or pencils, and my backpack with extra supplies in case I need them, including my 35mm camera, rain pants, extra art suppies and snacks.
Below you can click on my sketchbook page to read the notes I wrote. I talked about my first English Breakfast, and my first impression upon seeing the castle. I was surprised when I turned the bend and saw it, wow! The color scribbles on the page are just that, I was testing out colors there for another sketch.Below, here I am now sitting at the top of Cannon Bank, the castle is right behind me again. I did the small watercolor below the picture, working with my little travel palette. It's from this bank that every afternoon they feed the wild herons...more on that later.
The "Eskdale Valley and Muncaster Bridge"
Below is a view of the back of the Castle, I'm now headed up the hill for a walk into the expansive woods. There are 1,800 acres with the property, I think that'd keep me busy exploring for awhile!

This is a great shot of a back door into the castle, what a great drawing this will make!
Everyday they hold an owl demonstration behind the castle, with the birds being flown to educate people about them. I think this might be an Eagle Owl.
I added this picture just so you could see (and enjoy) the fantastic wing span of this beautiful bird.
Here is another page from my sketchbook, not too many sketches here, but lots of notes about what I was seeing. I then headed into the Owl Center they have on the grounds to take pictures. I listed the owls I photographed for further reference.
Next..well you gotta eat sometime! I sat and had a most enjoyable hot lunch after all that exploring. There is a phenomenal cafe on the property with so many choices. I tried the carrot and marrow soup because I never heard of marrow and it's an English vegetable. It was great!
I have notes on the page about meeting the owner of the castle himself! Please read it and see!
As the day wound down I took an adventurous walk down the hill along a path that I had no idea where it went. All I know is it went down and I was curious to see if it got anywhere near that gorgeous valley? I had my trusty L.L. Bean rain hat with light in the brim so I could see if it got dim, and with the surroundings always noted, I began. The photo below shows the 'picture perfect' top of the hill path, this is a painting waiting to happen!
The path meanders down from there...crossing a noisy little brook on a wooden bridge, and many large stone pavers.
I made it all the way to the bottom and walked off to the left following the path. It ended suddenly at a big metal gate and the view I had was wonderful, yes it was my valley floor I was looking for! There were sheep grazing in the distance and as the light faded I did a small sketch with my watercolor pencils. It was getting chilly and hard to draw as my hands were stiff, I saw a bat flying overhead and then....the clock tower bell tolled 8 times...eight o'clock, time to pack up and go before it gets dark suddenly and I can't find my way back!
I don't have a picture or drawing to tell about the last adventure of the day but it was exciting. After dark, I grabbed my 35 mm camera and tripod and headed outside. It was pitch black and not a soul was about, absolutely quiet! I wanted to play around with getting some photos of the sky, it was just full of stars! I heard a deep hooting from the owl pens just near me in the owl center, I imitated it and then...I heard the same call answer but not from the pens...but from up the hill in the woods!! How cool is that?! I tried to imitate it as best I could and we called back and forth.
After this I walked down to the side of the castle that looks over the valley. In total blackness I sat on the same bench that I had sat upon that day, listening to the sounds of the night. I heard a very large bird (of prey) give an alarm call from the woods below. If I hadn't ventured out at night, I would have missed so much!
Please come back for the next post about Muncaster, I have so much more to tell!