My artist’s summer this year seemed to come late and leave all too promptly. In common with many people I spent a frustrating spring and early summer dodging rain showers, bemoaning overcast days guaranteed to give the poor artist eyestrain and thoroughly resenting the endless days from winter to summer before outdoor activities once again became pleasurable.
By a strange quirk of fate as soon as summer did arrive I found my diary filling up all too quickly with indoor engagements and following the increased activity came the inevitable downturn in health that ME / Chronic Fatigue sufferers will know so well. With holidays and painting trips fast approaching some compromises had to be made as I quickly realised that my usual outdoor artists bag was heavier than I would be able to carry.
Out went the spare sketchbook and watercolour block, the various tins of watercolours and gouache and extra brushes I usually pack just in case……….. then my trusty knife useful for so many things from sharpening pencils to slicing up lunch, you might say pencils hardly had a point without a knife to sharpen them so they went too.
Hmmm, my bag was nice and light by this stage which was not surprising really as it contained only a black 0.5mm Pilot pen and a tiny book of Aquafine watercolour postcards 6″ x 4″. True, it was featherlight, but just how much could I achieve with such minimal kit? I decided a little present for self was overdue and ordered Da Vinci’s travel brush set in sizes 2, 4 and 6, brushes which are that rare thing, a perfect Kolinsky Sable of unsurpassed quality which folds into its own handle for protection and is a mere 3 1/2″ long for carrying. My final addition was a tiny plastic pot of the sort that is usually sold for carrying a splash of salad dressing to jazz up the picnic. In this case I was hoping to jazz up the black and white images which were all that I was going to be able to produce with an art bag now the size of a purse.
So how did it all go? I am pleased to report that I had fabulous trips to beauty spots from Rutland Water and glorious Bradgate Park in Leicestershire to the stunning Dunstable Downs and fertile countryside of Bedfordshire to name but a few. I discovered a few more benches and useful rocks to sit down on than I previously knew existed and feel a great debt of gratitude to the family of Bill Kidd, who placed a bench half way up Markfield Lane in Leicestershire dedicated to his memory. Thank you, I wouldn’t have made it to the top of the hill without you.
Here are a few of the sketches I was able to achieve with this most minute of art kits.
The water pot and brushes added greatly to what could be achieved with pen alone but be sure to chose a pen which is water soluble at least for a short while and find a sheltered spot to work on wet days or you risk your lovely sketches floating away.
This charming cottage in Newtown Linford, Leicestershire beckoned not only because of its undeniable beauty, it had a very well placed bench on the opposite side of the road.
Above, ruined Bradgate House where the nine days Queen, Lady Jane Grey lived. Bradgate Park is stunningly beautiful with herds of deer roaming freely and many beautiful aspects to tempt the artist.
Below, Ford End Watermill in Bedfordshire has working Open Days. There has been a mill on the site for many centuries and was an interesting change from the windmills which I frequently paint.