Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Anatomy of a Landscape - Finished!

'Embsay Crag' - Acrylic on canvas, 16" x 20"

Anatomy of a Landscape - Part 3

Ok, whilst we wait for the paint to dry, let's talk about the paint itself. I use a very limited palette which currently consists of: warm red, warm yellow, yellow ochre and ultramarine blue (I have also used process blue), burnt umber and white - that's it! All colours are mixed from these basic colours. By using a limited range of colours hopefully a sense of harmony is achieved right across painting...

Right the first paint layer has dried so I then work back into the painting with additional paint:

Again the paint is applied quite thickly with a knife and I loosely mix the paint so that coloured 'flecks' of the various colours appear, adding detail and interest, as the close-up below shows:

Anatomy of a Landscape - Part 2

Once the under-painting has dried we can begin. Sometimes I draw a few pencil lines on the canvas as an aid, but most of the time I just get stuck in! I'll have an idea in my head of what I want and sometimes I draw a few compositional sketches on a scrap of paper first to see what may or may not work. I try not to be too restricted or prescriptive nowadays and I rely on what happens when I start applying the paint.

For this piece I had done a few sketches, based on past observation and a handful of photos, so I roughly mapped out what I wanted on the canvas:

The paint was applied using a large painting knife...

Anatomy of a Landscape - Part 1

I thought it might be interesting to post pics of a painting stage by stage...

I decided to paint a landscape based on Embsay crag, near Skipton in Yorkshire. I grew up in Embsay and used to spend many hours exploring the moors, so the crag has a special meaning to me.

I began by taking a blank canvas and spraying onto it some matt acrylic under-painting:

I use any aerosol lying around in the shed for this - I have used red oxide and black in the past, just as long it is acrylic-based and matt (I use 'Plastikote' products - no connection).

Monday, 18 May 2009

Ingleborough - reworked!

Since I posted the previous picture I have looked long and hard at my painting and I decided that the bottom lefthand corner just wasn't working. I have reworked this section and now I feel satisfied with the piece - I think it isn't as 'confined' as it was.

What do you think?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Ingleborough in acrylic!

We are very fortunate living where we do: The edge of Ilkley moor is just across the road from us, Bolton Abbey is just over the hill and Skipton and the gateway to the dales are just 6 miles down the road. Ingleborough is one of the 'three peaks', set in some stunning scenery. One of my work routes takes me between Penyghent and Ingleborough and up to Blea Moor skulking in the foothills of Whernside. I get to see this landscape in all weathers, all year round and it holds a particular fascination for me. On a crisp winter's morning with fresh snow and frost it is absolutely breathtaking; on a foul night in November with the rain being driven horizontally against the windows and a strong wind literally shaking the train on its wheels it is an unforgivingly bleak.

I wanted to produce a painting that reflected some of the character of this place: the empty landscape, the bare peaks, the dominant skies and weather. Once again I have used acrylics applied with a knife, canvas size 16" x 20"

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Simple basics...

My approach to painting is 'simplicity' - the simpler the better. I use a very limited pallette of colours: red, yellow, blue, white and burnt umber and that's it! Note that I do not use black paint except sometimes as a base colour. In some paintings I apply the raw colours direct to the canvas and then mix as I'm working them. Sometimes I apply a background colour before beginning, normally from an acrylic aerosol and quite often whatever colour is available in my workshop! I have used red oxide, black and beige in the past.

Dales Landscape, acrylic on canvas, 12" x 16"
A very swift painting, done from mental images of a bright spring day with heavy showers of rain. Canvas was sprayed with black paint before starting and some colours were mixed on the canvas. Painted using a knife.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Inspirational Inner Hebrides!

A few weeks back my wife and I were able to escape to Scotland for a break. We went by train (of course!) and first stop was Edinburgh for a couple of nights. We then travelled via Glasgow to Oban (a beautiful run past Loch Lomond and Loch Awe) where we sailed to the Isle of Mull. For anyone interested in wildlife, nature and landscape the Inner Hebrides ticks all the boxes: otters, seals, white-tailed eagles, golden eagles and whales satisfy the naturalists, whilst the dark basalt rocks and ever-changing skies and light quench the thirst of those in search of landscape.

The strong winds that scour the Hebridean islands make painting out in the open quite tricky, plus lugging all my gear on the train wasn't really an option, so instead I took lots of photographs and notes and just soaked up the atmosphere. On our return home I began to paint.

Loch na Keal, acrylic on canvas 12" x 16"

Looking across Loch na Keal towards Ben More. My wife and I went on a wildlife tour and we saw both white tailed and golden eagles on this loch. We returned a day later and waited in this spot for 3 hours in the hope of sighting them again but without success, but at least I was able to soak up the atmosphere and the lighting effects!

Tobermory, acrylic on canvas 12" x 16"

Tobermory is a great little place, with its brightly painted buildings and harbour. I wanted to capture the lively nature of the town and its relationship to the water and so I only used a painting knife and did my best not to 'fiddle' too much with the paint, hence this was finished in about 30 minutes!

Highland cattle, acrylic on canvas 12" x 16"

My wife has always loved the look of Highland cattle, with their majestic horns, shaggy coats and quiet nature. There are plenty on Mull, including the original Hebridean with its distinctive black coat, so finding a subject wasn't a problem. Many had calves with them just to add the 'arrrr' factor. I'm no wildlife painter - I don't normally 'do' animals and humans can be very tricky too as anyone who was with me in life-drawing classes can testify! Anyway I gave it my best shot - my attempt is to show the quiet majesty of these beasts and how they are an integral part of the imposing landscape... My wife thought perhaps is was a bit 'dark' (my wife and daughter are my best and most trusted critics) so in response and for a bit of fun I painted her this:


Thursday, 7 May 2009

More railway art!

This is another piece that I produced about a year ago. I called this painting 'Storming the Bank' and it is loosely based on Settle Junction on the Settle to Carlisle line.

Painted in oils on canvas

16" x 12"


Railways in the blood...

In my last post I mentioned that I am a train driver. Railways have always figured in my life: my great grandfather was a guard with the Midland Railway and one of my great, great uncles worked as a signalman on the Settle to Carlisle line when it first opened. One of my routes takes me over the same line today. As a child I had a train-set and I loved to make models, an interest I carried through to my graphic design degree where I created puppets and sets for animated films. I even had a short placement with 'Spitting Image'!

Here is an example of one of my 'railway' pieces:

This is actually a low-relief painting, where sections of the picture are built up using cardboard to create a 3D effect. The train and locomotive have been built up in layers of cardboard and the 'smoke' is actually natural sheep's wool taken from a barbed-wire fence in in field!

This piece now belongs to my father-in-law.

24" x 32"


Hello and welcome to this, my first ever blog!

Let me introduce myself properly: My name is Martin and I live in Yorkshire. By profession I am a train driver but I am also an artist and I use my time off duty to paint. I have been driving trains for about 4 years now, but I've been drawing and painting for 40+ years!

I started out my working life as an engineer and spent 5 years as an apprentice, followed by another 5 years on the shop floor. This was long enough for me to realise that life in a factory was not for me! I then did a graphic design degree at Leeds which changed my life and made me look at things very differently. Unfortunately I graduated straight into the UK's last recession and struggled to find work or employment. A variety of projects and jobs took me on a route through PR, event management and marketing, before illness made me take another look at where I was going. Train driving came along purely by chance. It is a great job: I swipe on-duty and do my job, I swipe off-duty and forget about it. I get time off in the week when everyone else is working and this is when I can focus on my art.

So that is my life in a nutshell!