Friday, 30 August 2013

Cuernos del Paine

The Cuernos dominate the view for much of the trek on the classic W circuit in Torres del Paine National Park. The distinctive darker summit rocks make the peaks easily identifiable even when many miles away from the park.
I struggled a bit with this painting getting the tonal values to look right and scrubbed quite a bit of the colour off in the bath, but have got as far as I can with it. Far from one of my best, but I thought I would post it as an interesting subject.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Stromness, the beach

Another painting of the abandoned propellers on the beach at Stromness, this time on Saunders Waterford paper rather than the tinted paper I did the previous painting on, and no body colour this time of course.
I certainly won't be framing this one, but thought I'd upload it for the sake of completeness. I've pretty much reached the end of the South Georgia paintings I'm likely to do; who knows, I might get inspired to revisit some of the old sketches and try to do something new, but in the intervening period since being there and returning home, there has been so many more painting subjects which have grabbed my attention.
I've still got a few Patagonia painting ideas which I hope to do and upload, but in the meantime, here is the half imperial 15x22" picture of Stromness. As always, comments good or bad welcome. Blogger seems to have made it harder recently for people to comment.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Iceberg, South Georgia

A brilliantly sunny day, with an iceberg sitting incongruously off to starboard. I'm not entirely happy with this one, but as with many of my paintings, there are bits of it that I like. 15 x 11":

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Torres del Paine

From Puerto Natales, I headed up to Torres del Paine National Park for a few days trekking and sketching .   The scenery is truly incredible, and the weather has been really good given the Patagonian reputation for gales lasting weeks. Instead, I've been treated to blue skies and warm temperatures.
This is the classic view of the Torres del Paine, but it's classic for a reason! Half imperial size.

Torres del Paine

I thought I would upload some of the sketches I did on the spot too. As is often the case, despite the difficult working conditions, I find I prefer the immediacy of sketches done on the spot. This is the one I did of the Torres del Paine on which the painting above is based:

Looking the other way from the viewpoint, there is a significant change in the mountains as the granite disappears and lower, more eroded softer rocks give much less spectacular peaks:

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Church, Esquel

Not following a strict geographical progression here, but until I photograph the paintings I've done of further south in Patagonia, here is one I did of an attractive church in Esquel, which certainly had a bit of a "wild west" feel about it, being all facade and tin roof and brick behind. It sits opposite the station for the Old Patagonian Express, made famous in Paul Theroux's book. The church had quite an unusual facade, with numerous angles. Esquel has some welsh influence, and nearby are several villages with Welsh names.
Arches rough, 300gsm, 30" x 22"

Monday, 6 May 2013

Patagonia- Puerto Natales

A temporary halt to the South Georgia paintings- I've got a few more in the pipeline but haven't had a chance to work on the ideas recently, so thought I would post some of the Patagonia paintings and sketches I've done.
First one is a painting based on a sketch I did of the shore at Puerto Natales. A windy day (as is the norm here) but warm and sunny, with characteristic lenticular clouds formed over the mountains.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Elephant seals, ocean harbour

A different view of Ocean Harbour,this time, looking over the gray sand spit. I'm not entirely happy with the elephant seal representation, but it is the first attempt at a group of them so I will persevere with this; it's hard to get a view on South Georgia without a group of them in the foreground.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Glacier, king Haakon Bay

A Zodiac cruise along the snout of the glacier at the head of King Haakon Bay gave me a chance to sketch the basic forms; it took a bit of experimentation to try to capture the intense blue-greens that appear to emanate from a light source within the glacier itself. a first try, I'm keen to return to this subject and play around a bit more with the colours. This was a fairly clean glacier, but others have various bands of earth colours running through them. I'm not sure of the origin of these bands, any glaciologist reading this is welcome to provide an explanation.
On arches 300gsm rough paper again, 22x15"

Monday, 15 April 2013

Peggotty Bluff, King Haakon Bay

A cold overcast morning gave way to brilliant sunshine and the view from the Zodiacs returning to the ship was magnificent. Peggotty Bluff is where Shackleton's party landed after resting at Cave Cove, and some of them began the trek over the island to Stromness. The route taken was, if I recall correctly, to the left of the prominent peak. I can't find a name for this on the map, which reflects the sheer number of impressive mountains South Georgia has.
Arches rough 300gsm, 22x15"

Monday, 1 April 2013

Early light, Fortuna Bay

A very early (5 am) start as the ship was anchored in Fortuna Bay. The sky was changing rapidly, with thick mist giving way to patchy sunshine and cloud. I made a couple of quick sketches, and have just finished a half-imperial (21 x14") painting on 300gsm Arches rough paper.
I tried boldness with the sunlit slope colour; at first I didn't like the result, so washed it off and applied more layers.

We were waiting for the ski traverse team to descend to Fortuna Bay, just as Shackleton's crew had done a hundred years earlier.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Cave Cove- finished painting

I could have put the word "finished" in inverted commas, but I've reached the stage where I don't want to do any more. I've hopefully suggested the tussock grass without getting too involved in detail. In the end, I feel I've learnt quite a bit in tackling this subject, and feel a bit more confident in trying to paint more scenes with tussock grass in them. Useful, given that tussock grass is everywhere at low level on South Georgia.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Cave Cove- painting in progress

Working from the sketch I made on site, I'm now engaged on a half-imperial( 22x15") painting using arches 300gsm rough paper. I'm delaying tackling the foreground tussock grass till last, as I haven't really worked out a way of dealing with this yet. Ideally I should have been less impetuous and sketched out some more ideas and experimented a bit before committing to paper, but I was keen to get started.
Here are a few work-in-progress shots, although this is my favourite size of paper to work in I do find it a bit large to truly adopt a wet-on-wet approach.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Following seas

I've worked the quick sketch I did of large following seas into a finished painting. A smaller size than I usually work on, 27x40 cm, and I tried a more wet-on-wet approach with this one. I haven't concentrated on detail, but have gone for a more impressionistic approach:

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Grytviken church- finished painting

I've just finished the full imperial sized (30x22") painting of Grytviken church; I've darkened the shadows on both distant and middle distant mountains, which has brought the church out a bit.

Propeller graveyard, Stromness

I've just been working on a painting of the abandoned propellers on the beach at Stromness. These are a leftover from the time when Stromness became a ship repair base, and are much photographed- in part, I suspect, because they lie on the edge of the 200m health and safety exclusion zone.
There is a sculptural, surreal aspect to the shapes, and they make a great painting subject. This is on grey paper, with white body colour for the snow, and (very sparingly) for one or two highlights on the propellers themselves.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Grytviken church- work in progress

I've been working on a full imperial-sized (22x30") painting of Grytviken church, based on the sketch  I put on a previous blog post. To scale up the sketch, the full-sized version is around 1.8/1.9 times the sketch size. As I don't possess a pantograph, and the maths were too much for me, I opted for the simpler solution of just scaling it up x2. Whilst this doesn't sound much different from the 1.8/1.9 scaling, I was worried that the church might appear too large in the finished painting. The aim in the sketch was to show the church dwarfed by the surrounding landscape.
I did a cartoon on cartridge paper rather than drawing straight on to the arches 300gm watercolour paper, as I wanted to get the drawing of the church just right. Seeing it from a sitting position, and slightly off to one side, there is already a degree of distortion which needs careful treatment. After a bit of trial and error, I was reasonably satisfied with the proportions:


I'm part way through the finished painting, having started with the sky (not too happy), then the distant mountain (better) and the middle distance rocks behind the church. With a bit of ultramarine for shadow, it is now starting to take shape.    

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Grytviken Cinema

As I mentioned in my previous post, this was the cinema that existed close to the church until recently. I don't know who took this photo, apologies if Im infringing any copyright. It makes you wonder what it would have taken to preserve the exterior structure- presumably quite a lot given the weather down here.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Grytviken church

A quick sketch of Grytviken church, which has recently been restored. It's very atmospheric inside, and I was treated to an Impromptu organ recital whilst  sat sketching the interior. The surroundings are now clear of industrial debris, but one sad loss is the former Grytviken Cinema. I'm not sure when this finally disappeared but there are pictures of it semi-collapsed in the 1980s on the Internet. A shame, as it looked a very interesting building and gave a glimpse of another facet of life in South Georgia during the whaling heyday.
The sketch is not quite as crinkly as it seems , this is due to the glancing light when I took the iPad picture. Again, I think this might make a good large scale subject and must stretch a sheet of full imperial to tackle this.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Random sketches, Ocean Harbour

Until I get some more finished works to show, I just thought I would upload a page from the sketchbook- various quick studies of penguins and the odd piece of rusting ironmongery that is such a feature of the place. Again, hardly finished pieces, but I always like the immediacy of field sketches however basic.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Hans the Flenser

To raise funds for the Rat Eradication Project, an auction was held on board ship. I was asked to illustrate  a poem about the largest blue whale ever recorded, which was landed at Grytviken (and hence the largest animal ever known to exist).
The Rat Eradication Project, as the name suggests, is a project to get rid of the introduced rats on South Georgia . This is a colossal undertaking involving helicopter drops of poison bait. It's also a race against time before the glaciers recede and allow the current discrete populations to merge.
due to a printer malfunction, I had to re-do the final page, I've only got a photo of the double-printed original one. It should be clear enough to read though.

Ocean Harbour- the Bayard

A quick sketch of SS Bayard, with elephant seal and whale vertebrae in the foreground. Very quickly done due to the onset of rain, and i'm not happy with how the elephant seal looks. I guess that is in the nature of elephant seals though, their facial appearance changes a lot depending on how squashed their nose is when they are lying down.
The Bayard, incidentally was built in Liverpool and wrecked here when it broke loose from its moorings on the other side of the harbour in a gale.

Monday, 25 February 2013

melting snow- finished painting

After trying it out in sketch form, I've done a half-imperial painting of the hillside with melting snow revealing the underlying ground, Its on arches 30gsm, rough which is a pleasure to paint on at times, depending on the subject matter.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Early spring hillside

I liked the abstract nature of the stripes of vegetation that appear as the snow slowly recedes, and have attempted to gain a sense of this in the sketch below. I think this might work well as a larger painting, and I've just taken delivery of some rough arches paper which would lend itself ideally to this type of subject.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Reluctant subject, Fortuna Bay

An email from Fio, one of my fellow passengers on the MV Plancius, reminded me of a sketch I did of him taking a photo of a shy penguin. Once again, a poor photo taken with my iPad which I hope to rectify shortly.

David Attenborough's film

I've just seen the publicity for David Attenborough's new film about King Penguins, which was filmed on South Georgia. My curiosity aroused, a quick google to see whereabouts on South Georgia it was filmed produced this image:

Gold Harbour on an overcast day, the other side of the stream from where I painted, and summertime rather than spring judging by the lack of snow. It seems camera crews have no more desire than the rest of us to lug heavy equipment around, as this is right by the main zodiac landing spot.

Thursday, 31 January 2013


Stromness is one of the larger and best-preserved of the South Georgia whaling stations. In latter years it became a ship repair base, and the foreshore is littered with large propellers , giving the place the atmosphere of Nash's "totesmeer". Unfortunately access is restricted, and there is a 200 metre exclusion zone around the site. I skirted inland around the back, and sketched a view of the graveyard with an incongruous backdrop of rusting oil tanks. Until I find the battery charger for my camera, I'm stuck with posting iPad photos of my paintings, so once again apologies for the poor reproduction. The painting is half imperial size, my favourite size to paint.

The drab grey screes in the background gave the place an even more melancholy atmosphere than usual.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Fortuna Bay- a better image

I left the painting over the weekend, and decided that the sky wasn't really dark enough. A mix of burnt sienna and ultramarine on the foremost clouds improved the contrast. The photo is still low-res, but hopefully shows the changes (half imperial, 22x 15"):

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Fortuna Bay

Another magical place, this is where Shackleton and his party first reached the other side of the island after their crossing. An early start, at 5am the skies were still largely clear and I managed a quick sketch before the cloud came in. On landing after breakfast, thick cloud and mist suggested poor painting opportunities, but the sun came out and produced brilliant contrast between snow and rocks. A threatening storm forced us to leave the beach in a hurry, but I had enough information to later finish this half imperial watercolour. Apologies for the very poor quality photograph, but I will try to take some decent quality photos of my work in due course.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

More Ocean Harbour paintings

I've been working on a couple of Ocean Harbour paintings; I particularly like the few rusting relics set against a snowy , desolate landscape with the occasional penguin wandering around. I've completed a full imperial (22 x 30") painting on arches paper of the old steam locomotive, together with a half imperial view of nothing much in particular- I like the snow and rock backdrop as much as any foreground interest here.