Just over a week ago I spent a mostly sunny Saturday painting with Graham Webber down at Heybridge in Essex. Graham is a very talented artist who knows the area well and we both share a passion for painting outdoors. It was great to find a place where there is plenty of water, boats, mud flats and other marine subjects that I love to paint. Living in the land locked Midlands, there is a predominantly green theme going on at this time of year and it’s nice to have a break from it all and find something a bit different to work with.

We found an interesting barge which was made all the more appealing with the surrounding mud and puddles of water. Out came the 8×16 board for the first effort. In the distance there were a couple of ‘Seagoesque’ barges with the angled masts. Lovely! With the letterbox format I wanted to create a more dynamic composition and the ropes were very handy in softening the lines, accentuating the curves of the boat and linking everything from left to right.

‘Blue barge, Heybridge’ (8x16in – oil on board)
Next up was a slightly different angle, perched down some steps making the boat more prominent. What I liked about the hull of the boat was the colours, muted purple/grey towards the back and stronger blues towards the front. The shapes of the boat were quite hard to judge, almost defying what you ‘think’ they should be…’paint what you see’ I reminded myself. The mud was nice although quite tricky to judge the relative colour, tone and temperatures. The aim was to have enough detail to maintain interest but keep it as clean and fresh as possible, otherwise the greys would just become muddy (but not the kind of mud I was trying to capture!).


Resting barge, Heybridge (11x14in – oil on board)
Graham and I scouted around but came back to the boat for a final attempt, this time with the tide back in to create a different element to play with i.e. the reflections. We both really enjoyed having the sun fully out (check out the tyre shadows) and the colours heightened by stronger light. Despite there only being one main boat there’s a lot of drawing in this subject. I was conscious of not making it into a ‘boat portrait’ though so tried not to get too wrapped up in the technical details


Sunlit barge, Heybridge (12x16in – oil on board)
As I was painting the last piece a rather majestic looking boat came past us and had it not been moving so speedily I would have been tempted to make something of it
All in all, an enjoyable days painting with a touch of sunburn for us to take home as souvenirs (even though I slapped on the factor 30 but about an hour too late!). Graham produced three cracking paintings on a wider format which I’m tempted to experiment with sometime.