Tag Archives: Stamford

How to grow a tree…

..well a tree ‘portrait’ anyway!

I quite often get asked how I approach making a painting and as I remembered to take some photos of work in progress on this one (which is rare!) I thought I would share.

The approach varies depending on the medium I am painting in but this is fairly typical for paintings done in oil.

My painting surface here is 3mm MDF which I have primed with several coats of household primer and then a coat or two of artist’s ‘gesso’.  I then stain the white surface to a cool or warmish grey, either with diluted oil paint rubbed in with a rag or sometimes with acrylic paint.

I start by roughly drawing out the main shapes with diluted oil, taking note in particular of where the darks will go (stage 1). The next stage is to mix up the colours I will be using and to ‘block in’ the main areas of colour, trying to get the lights and darks and the colour mixes approximately right (stage 2).

Stage 3 then involves refining the block in until the painting is finished.  There are lots of mini stages here and what amounts to ‘finished’ is often hard to gauge.  Some people like a very detailed, refined image.  Personally I strive not to fiddle and to try to achieve a ‘painterly’ work, which hopefully has interest to the viewer.

Here is the finished piece.  I hope you like it.

Tree avenue, Burghley (February) 10″ x 12″ oil on board


Burghley dog walkers, February

Burghley dog walkers

Burghley dog walkers, February (8″ x 8″ oil on board)

Those of us living in Stamford are fortunate to have the grounds of Burghley House to explore throughout the year. Very popular with dog walkers! I’ve tried in this piece to capture that low light one gets in late Winter and the haziness of the distant trees.

Tree study. February morning. Burghley

Tree study. February morning. Burghley (6" x 8" oil on board)

Tree study. February morning. Burghley (6″ x 8″ oil on board)

Here’s the second of the small plein air pieces I painted at Burghley last week.  There must be thousands of old trees in Burghley Park, many of them adorned with mistletoe, so it is easy for me to find subject matter everywhere! However last week I only had a short amount of time and a small board so I concentrated on trying to capture a small stand of trees which was being lit by the low sun. There were fantastic shapes – a couple of fallen trunks and some amazing twisted branches.  I was also treated to deer grazing in the field! The best I could do that morning was to capture an impression of shape and colour.  I may work this and the first painting up a little larger to explore the subject further.


Cold February morning

Cold February morning (6" x 8" oil on board)

Cold February morning (6″ x 8″ oil on board)

Waking up to a frosty but bright Monday morning I took my paints and pochade box out to the parkland surrounding Burghley House.  The light was lovely, the dog walkers were out and the parkland deer were quietly grazing.  A pretty magical time.  This is the first of two small oil sketches I was able to make before the cold got the better of me!

A snowy walk

Overnight snow.  Early morning walk towards Stamford (12" x 8" acrylic on board)

Overnight snow. Early morning walk towards Stamford (12″ x 8″ acrylic on board)

Continuing with the snow theme.  Can’t you tell how excited I was to see the white stuff?!

This painting does what it says on the tin – records my early morning walk across the snowy fields towards Stamford town centre.  The towers/spires of no less than three of Stamford’s many churches were just visible in the distance.

Oh the weather outside is frightful…

Long wait to get home (6" x 8" oil on board)

Long wait to get home (6″ x 8″ oil on board)

It’s been pretty overcast and gloomy out there, although that doesn’t seem to have put off the shoppers at Stamford’s weekly market.  The other day I caught a quick glimpse of weary shoppers waiting for the bus – and here’s my small oil sketch.  They do all look rather morose – maybe the weather didn’t help!  Working with a limited palette is all well and good – and I have found lots of ways to mix brown and grey for this one! – but I am starting to hanker for something a little more colourful.

Autumn colours

Here are three more pochade-sized pieces, this time with an Autumnal theme.  It’s hard to believe that only just a few weeks ago the trees were in leaf.  Some of the colours this year were spectacular!