Norfolk Plein Air Paintings

Plein air landscape painting of boats at Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK

Boats at Low Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Here are the paintings from last week in Norfolk, England.

One of the best things about painting in the UK, I think, is that there is a large number of excellent plein air painters to work with. This trip was organized by David Bachmann, and we were joined by Roy Connelly, Tony Dakin, Jory GlazenerTim King, David Pilgrim, Mike Richardson and Karl Terry. (One evening the English artists were insisting that there aren’t really that many plein air painters in the UK, but then the two spots where we painted had large groups of plein air painters from the Norfolk Painting School, run by Martin Kinnear, and David and I saw another group earlier in the week at Pin Mill).

Plein air landscape painting of Burnham Market, Norfolk, UK.

Saturday in Burnham Market. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

While the weather in the UK was beautiful all week, we had a marine layer over northern Norfolk. I enjoyed the grey skies though, after a very hot August in Italy (well, the second half of August at any rate).

Driving inland a bit I was able to find some sun.

Oil painting of a bull in a field in Norfolk.

Bull in a Norfolk Field. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of sheep in a field in Norfolk, England.

Sheep in a Field, Cranworth. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Painting of the garden at Teal Cottage, Burnham Overy Staithe.

Teal Cottage Garden. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the sky at Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.

Norfolk Sky. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Norfolk is famous among artists for its skies. The flatness of the land combined with the unstable English weather makes for some great sky paintings. Or so I’ve been told. We only had one day when the clouds were distinct, most of the time it was hazy or a flat grey.

Plein air oil painting of the church at Burnham Market, Norfolk.

The Church at Burnham Market. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I spent a lot of time painting the boats at low tide, I guess since I find it such an unusual subject.

Plein air painting of a sailboat at Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk.

Sailboat, Burnham Overy Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a boat at low tide, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.

Boat at Low Tide, Brancaster Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a cornfield in Norfolk.

Cornfield, Brancaster Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Norfolk has a lot to offer for subject matter. It’s also a really nice place to work as the people are friendly, it feels really empty (at least in September), and there are very few fences anywhere.

Plein air painting of morning light, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.

Norfolk Morning. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Pin Mill

Plein air painting of a boat on the mud in Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Boat at Low Tide, Pin Mill. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Pin Mill is a couple of small buildings on the south shore of the the tidal River Orwell, in southern Suffolk, England.

Plein air painting of a sailboat in the mud at Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Sailboat at Low Tide, Pin Mill. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I recently spent three days painting there with three other plein air painters: David Bachmann, Roy Connelly, and Paul Rafferty.

The English painter Edward Seago did some of his best paintings there of the Thames barges. Since I spend a lot of time talking to other plein air painters, and Seago is seen as one of the best plein air painters of the 20th century, I assumed everyone in England had heard of Pin Mill, and that it was something of an English Giverny. So I was surprised when I called my studio painter friends in England to brag about going to paint at Pin Mill and no one had heard of the place. Then, at the B&B where I stayed up the road, they had never heard of Edward Seago.

Plein air painting of a barge in the fog at Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Grey Morning, Pin Mill. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

The place should be more well-known. It is one of the more picturesque quarter miles anywhere in the world. The Thames sailing barges that Seago painted are still there, and often have their sails up still.

Unfortunately, when we were there the barges were all up at the nearby town of Woodbridge for a maritime weekend. We drove there to try to paint them on the last day, but they had just left to go back to Pin Mill.

Plein air painting of the pub at Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Late Morning, Pin Mill. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Pin Mill at Sunset.

Pin Mill Sunset. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Cala di Forno

Plein air painting of the beach in the afternoon.

Afternoon on the Beach, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of morning clouds.

Morning Clouds. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Cala di Forno is a magical little spot on the southern Tuscan coast. It’s a tiny clump of buildings just next to the beach, in the middle of a large natural park. Much of the park is off limits, even to those staying in the houses, so there is a lot of wildlife around. Down near the houses there are tame deer that stand under the fig trees, waiting for the kids to pick the figs for them (though they don’t stand still enough to paint with any accuracy).

plein air painting of deer in the parco dell"uccellina, maremma, tuscany.

Deer and Olive Trees. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a deer by the old well in Cala di Forno, Italy.

Deer by the Old Well. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

We spent last week there with a few other painters. After walking all over Rome in the heat, it was nice to be restricted to a tiny area in which to work. Many of my paintings were done within 10 meters (30 feet) of the front door.

plein air painting of the old well at cala di forno.

The Old Well, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a stone pine tree in cala di forno, maremma.

Stone Pine. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the houses in Cala di Forno, Italy.

Houses in Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painters often look for people who are going to be in the same place for long enough to paint. Fishermen, for example, work great as subject matter as they move very little over the course of hours. I spent a few sessions painting the other artists while they worked. Other painters make great subjects since I have a good idea of how long they take to finish a piece, and thus for how long they’ll stay still.

plein air painting of a watercolorist on the beach.

Tina Painting a Watercolor. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Ben Fenske painting Beatrice on the beach.

Ben Painting Beatrice. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

plein air painting of a painter with his family.

Ignacio Painting on the Beach. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of another painter painting.

Ben Painting. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The beach can be accessed by boat, so many arrive and park their boats in the little bay. The water is so shallow, they often just walk from their boat to the shore (swimming the first bit, obviously).

plein air painting of boats in the surf at cala di forno, tuscany.

Boats in the Surf, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I spent a lot of time trying to paint people on the beach.

Plein air painting of a mother and child on the beach.

Tamara and Moss. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a woman backlit in the sea.

Backlit. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

I even tried painting kids, though I have no idea how Sorolla did it, they moved much to fast for me.

Plein air painting of a kid on the beach, cala di forno.

Irene on the Beach. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of kids playing on a beach in Italy.

Kids Playing on Driftwood. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

In plein air painting, sometimes I find restricting myself to a small area in which to work can be better than moving around a great deal. The extra time not spent scouting and traveling means more time for the paintings.

Plein air painting of sunset at Cala di Forno, Italy.

Sunset, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Rome

A few paintings from a four day trip to Rome. I was looking for bigger views, where the foreground, middle-ground, and distance work together, so I walked a lot. The August heat and the mass tourism made work difficult.

Plein air painting of the gardens of the Villa Borghese in Rome.

The Gardens at Villa Borghese. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

For the first time in my life I also had the police tell me to put my painting equipment away in Piazza Navona. Another Italian cop later apologised to me and said there was a problem with that particular spot as there was some issue with the guys who sell paintings there. At any rate, plein air other painters should be aware of the situation. Despite 400 years of painters depicting Rome and its beauty, the police might hassle you if you’re painting in the more famous areas.

Plein air painting of the piazza dei Monti in Rome.

Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I painted a couple days with Kelly Medford, Marco Carloni, and the local plein air painting group. It’s always much easier to find to good places to work by traveling around with the locals. Rome has just a ridiculous amount of subject matter, one would need 4 years there to do the place any justice. 4 days is way too little.

Plein air painting of a Roman ruin in Rome.

Roman Ruin #1. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of ruins in the Foro Romano.

Roman Ruin #2. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of the entrance to the Colosseum in Rome.

Cypresses at the Colosseum Entrance. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the Colosseum in Rome.

Colosseum in August. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Postcards from Italy

Below are some paintings from my week here in Italy. I was supposed to be on the lakes up North this week, but I got rained out. Here in Tuscany the weather is a bit more summery, even if there is an early Autumn chill in the air (and we’ve had a few days of rain here too).

Plein air oil painting of San Gimignano.

San Gimignano. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I lived in Florence for 20 years and never painted the classic, postcard view of the Duomo. I also spent my summers about 20 minutes away from San Gimignano and never painted the towers. I thought this year I would get them both out of the way.

Plein air landscape painting of the Duomo of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo.

Tourist Stands, Piazzale Michelangelo. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Most of the time I stayed in the countryside working on this larger piece:

Plein air painting of a mulberry tree in Tuscany.

The Mulberry Tree. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

I’m hoping for one more day of sun to finish, but it’s not looking good.

Here is the sketch:

Study for a large painting of a mulberry tree in Tuscany.

Mulberry Tree Study. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And in the evenings I painted a series of sunsets from the house:

Plein air landscape painting of sunset in Tuscany.

Torricella Sunset #1. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of a Tuscan sunset.

Torricella Sunset #2. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of a sunset near Noce, Tavarnelle val di Pesa.

Torricella Sunset #3. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Turban Portrait

Portrait of my wife wearing a turban.

Tina with a Turban. 70 x 50 cm, oil on linen.

Here, quickly, is a portrait I did last month during the overcast and rainy days we had on Korčula. It’s for a turban/hat-themed group show this fall at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC.

Below are a few of the sketches we tried with various styles of turban. The one we settled on was bought on Ebay, and shipped from Turkey. I had actually wanted a more Venetian-style turban, as it fit with our setting, but getting turbans right is more complicated than one would think.

Turban Sketch #1.

Turban Sketch #1. 25 x 23 cm, oil on panel.

Turban Sketch #2.

Turban Sketch #2. 25 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Turban Sketch #3.

Turban Sketch #3. 25 x 23 cm, oil on panel.

Pelješac Paintings

Plein air landscape painting of Mali Ston, Croatia.

Sunset, Mali Ston. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Pelješac is a peninsula in Southern Dalmatia and it’s probably my favorite area on the Croatian coast. While there are other islands and areas with more beautiful cities, they also tend to get a lot more of the cruise-ship crowds. Pelješac manages to have more of that slow-paced beach feel to it, and the people seem much friendlier. They also make the best red wines in Croatia, and the food in general is excellent (they have these great little oyster stands by the side of the roads with the local Adriatic oysters).

Plein air landscape painting of Ston, Croatia.

Ston, Midday. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of a church in Broce, Croatia.

Church in Broce. 32 x 23 cm, oil on panel.

There is a wide variety of subject matter on Pelješac, as there are relatively high mountains on the western side, whereas the eastern part has a much more gentle slope to the sea. Though the towns may not be as postcard-perfect as the other places along the coast, they are still exceedingly picturesque for painting. They are also very small, and the views are concentrated. When one is scouting with equipment in the August heat in Southern Europe, smaller is better.

Plein air painting of a BBQ in Mali Ston, Croatia.

Street Barbecue in Mali Ston. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a sleeping dog.

Sleeping Dog. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Vrnik Painting Timelapse

Here is a quick, 30 second, timelapse film taken over the course of five days while working on my large plein air landscape painting of the village of Vrnik. I was standing on the island of Korčula, across the small channel seen in the painting. The footage is of five days, but I was actually there six, and I have no idea what happened to the photos from the sixth day, sorry.

Below is an image of the final painting.

Plein air landscape painting of Vrnik, Croatia.

Vrnik. 70 x 90 cm, oil on linen.

It was a great spot to paint as I could stand in the shade the whole time. Also, in the painting I’m looking east, so the shadow of the tree is pointing north. This allowed me to work for up to six hours a day without the effect changing too much. The only really dramatic change was the sun came around and put Vrnik in full sunlight, whereas I wanted the buildings to be half in shadow for the effect. In the afternoons I could work on the foreground and the water, provided the wind didn’t get too strong. Finally, the clouds did the same thing, with only a slight variation, almost every day.

Korčula Paintings, Part Two

Update: Below is the last larger plein air piece from the trip. It took three days, and I had to hold the canvas with one hand while painting to keep it still in the high winds.

Plein air seascape of Korcula, Croatia.

Afternoon Light, Korčula. 50 x 70 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Vrnik, Croatia.

Vrnik. 70 x 90 cm, oil on linen.

Here are a few more plein air landscapes from this summer on the island of Korčula, in Southern Dalmatia.

As I said in the last post, the weather has been really difficult (it’s supposed to hail today), so I haven’t gotten as much done as I would have liked. I’m hoping for one more day of sun to finish up the other larger plein air pieces I have going. I’ll try to post them before I leave for Italy next week.

In the meantime here are a few more of the smaller sketches:

Plein air sketch of our terrace in Korcula, Croatia.

The Terrace. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the stalls in Korcula.

Market Stalls, Korčula. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of afternoon on Korcula.

Afternoon Light, Korčula. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.