I managed to get out a couple of times this weekend in the sunshine. It feels like Spring already! On Friday I took the day off work and headed into Oxford for a spot of urban work. In the morning it was overcast and half way through the painting the sun burst through. Yes, I was the insane guy in the street shaking make fist at the sun :) I decided to leave that one and come back on a cloudy day but was determined to get something ‘in the bag’. I headed to a nice spot outside the gates of Trinity college where I’ve painted before. This time round I focused on a slightly different angle which made use of the dark tree to frame some of the architecture. That sandstone really glows in the full glare of the sun and I wanted to capture something of it whilst it lasted.

Gates of Trinity College, 10x13in, oil on board
The clouds came back after an hour or so which meant for the last half an hour I was pulling things together and working partly from memory. I figured it best to do this on the spot though whilst it was all fresh. I liked the contrast of the feathery little tree on the right with the solidity of the stonework (admittedly the little tree is further to the right but I wanted it in the painting).
On Sunday I opted for the open countryside at Ivinghoe Beacon. I’m quite taken with the airy atmosphere you get on clear days and wanted to see if I could get a sense of being perched up there and looking into the distant haze. It’s not easy finding a spot where there are enough compositional elements to latch onto but after wandereing around the slopes I settled on a portrait format.
West from Ivinghoe Beacon, 8x14in, oil on board
The tonal range was quite narrow and I didn’t want to destroy the ‘cushion of atmosphere’ as Ken Howard calls it. There’s not a huge amount to latch onto but I like the challenge of working with the open space and the subtle shifts in tone/colour. The rhythms of the roads and fields is quite tricky to manage and I move them about to try and make the composition work better. If nothing else it’s a good learning curve that might open up other avenues. Maybe the clouds need a bit more tonal adjustment but I’ll let it rest for a while. I still haven’t decided if the foreground trees would be better in or out……