Week 4 Visual Notes

The sketches from last week…and a bit of a mixed monochrome bag. There are some pens and inks and some tonal sketches because, at long last, I have decided to try a few oil paintings. I made a few unsuccessful attempts in the past but after being both inspired and encouraged by my friend Brenda, queen of plein air and my friend Denise queen of fabulous feline paintings I have finally got going..well almost.

I’m starting at the beginning by looking at tonal sketches. It’s something I do anyway, for my watercolour and design work, but have slipped into undisciplined and haphazard bad habits, skipping steps and doodling on the back of envelopes.

This time I am trying to knuckle down and do things properly.. so on Monday I left my much loved pen behind and I took gouache with me.  I am using gouache as a half way house between the pen and oils. It dries quickly so no problem with smudging. Again they are quick studies on 5 x 7 card, although I have left it a bit late in the year to start my plein air adventures. Typical!

MON Sept 17th


Brampton Wood tree.


The giant humbugs down the lane. Rolls of silage (?) wrapped in green and black striped plastic.

TUES Sept 18th

Lots of pen sketches for images see Burghley Sketching post.

WED Sept 19th

A disused farm building down the road,  20 mins

farm bg

The Church yard, just 15 mins because it started raining and gouache is not good in the rain.

church 1 bg

It’s sometimes hard to get across the importance and fun of tonal sketches..The mention of them can generate yawns.. I wonder why .. I really enjoy doing them. They do tend to become rather formal because you are looking for bigger shapes of tone, but it’s such good practise for seeing the lights and the darks.

THURS Sept 20th

On a busy day it’s back to the sketchbook and 2 very quick sketches on a short very early walk.

10 min sketches

Crows on crow tree.


A surprise of cormorants and gulls who flew up from the hidden shore line, it was grey and still dusky over Perry at 7.15 am.

FRI Sept 21st

An equally busy day but on my quick morning walk I had seen this wonderful long tree trunk so later I cycled up to the Visitor Centre to draw it.  I spent a blissful half hour sitting on the grass listening to the birds and squirrels. It rained a bit but was well worth the trouble.


The long, pine branch was like some strange giant millipede creeping towards the wood.


A bunch of rooks were on the field by Church Hill. I love rooks and am planning a linocut soon, so need to do some more rook drawing.

SAT Sept 22nd

This is something of a breakthrough day for me. My first ever plein air work in oils. I know, it’s only 2 little sketches but it’s a start.  It seemed an awful lot of faffing about to get the stuff organised but it was such a beautiful day that it was now or never. I cycled up to the spot where I was yesterday and made two quick (20 mins each) sketches of the tree line, then turned round to face the water.


After the gouache I am finding it slippery and smeary and that it mixes too easily. But I guess if I can persevere I may improve.

These are small, 5 x 7 sketches on card primed with acrylic.


The dark dark wood on a sunny day


Looking towards the water with a few people, a boat and a buoy.

SUN Sept 23rd

Two more small oils. I had sketched the first one in yesterday because of impending rain, which sure enough has arrived.


The lane to the reservoir.


Sky, from the water looking east, water tower to the left. Early Sunday morning. Fab sweep of white cloud before rain arrived. I am not sure how or if these will develop but I will do some more.. after all, I have bought the wretched paints now 🙂
I have really enjoyed doing them. They are not perhaps the compositions or subjects which I normally choose… maybe a little too formal for me…but they are just as I saw them.

Sunday Stoat

Earlier in the morning on my cold grey 7.50 am walk, when I thought it was all going to be uninspiring, I saw a stoat ( or weasel?). I am not sure who was more astonished.

Both of us were transfixed for a few seconds. It was utterly charming. I was standing still looking out over the water and it popped its head above the rocks, disappeared,  then like magic reappeared from behind another stone. It peeped out sideways from behind a small bush before scampering away. I willed my slow camera to snap just one picture.


Sunday Stoat, Grafham Water Shore

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  1. Some of these are fantastic – well they are all fantastic but I like some better than others, which is different, and the ones I like a lot – I like a LOT. How wonderful to be able to create such beautiful and affecting images one after the other.

    I feel bad that I have not been here in a while. I've been random about blog reading recently – whatever happens to have been just posted when I happen to be able to connect to the internet – which has been a bit wobbly over the last couple of months.

    Hope you are well and happy.


  2. Stunning drawings! My favourite is the gulls sweeping over the landscape. And I adore the stoat.

  3. Thanks very much both!
    Lucy: lovely to hear from you. I feel the same about the drawings I hesitate to put up the ones I am not so keen on but it's a good record for me to be able to look back on (better than the chaos of the art cupboard).
    Emily : thanks for your kind words..the stoat was amazing I have never seen one so close. such beautiful colours and silky fur. very beautiful little thing and I would imagine very well fed as we have LOTS of rabbits here!

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