Storm blowing by Chicago harbor light

detail of a white lighthouse and red sailed boat as a storm approaches chicago in a painting by kathryn sassall A storm can blow in to any place at any time. This particular one came as a brooding dark sky  reflected off of Lake Michigan below. The clouds sweeping across the sky. A lighthouse can be a clue of dangers below or close by or part of a harbour entrance. These boats were heading back towards harbour to anchor up. Shelter from the storm needed as the water turned into a sea of  unsettled waves. Just minutes before it had been blue and sunny with just a darkness in the distance. The storm flew across the lake fast and low.

The Chicago Harbor Light was state of the art in its day, 1893. It’s stood on the end of the breakwater surrounded by rip-rap since 1919.  A listed ironwork structure which is automated. The buildings below the tower are a fog signal room and boathouse. It is a clear beacon even in the daytime due to the white of the building.

I was strolling on Navy Pier. Distracted by the motion and shouts from the swing chair ride I was aware of a sudden change in temperature. I looked up and noticed the change in the water. The clouds looked full.  The rains had not started to fall but did follow.

Storm

This painting captures the moment  I noticed the weather change across the Lake. The dark maroon sail filled with the winds that blew the storm clouds. The darkness was brooding. An energy was created.  I chose to capture this by using a warm tone of the roof of the lighthouse buildings. The burnt orange background setting off the green hues. What dangers lurked in the water? impressionist painting detail of a boat on lake michigan in a storm

expressionist painting of stormy lake michigan chicago with sail boat and lighthouse

Storm £190
45 x 34 cm
Acrylic, brush application A2 (59.4 x 42 cm) acrylic paper

45 x 34 cm [13.60″ x 18.00″]
Brush applied acrylic paint on 59.4 x 42 cm (A2) acrylic paper.




Hues of the highlands

detail of the sky and mountains in an abstract impressionist acrylic painting by kathryn sassallNot just the hues of the highlands these colours to me are the colours of Scotland.Smoky peat soil from which the green grass and purple-pink heather sprouts. There’s that point as you drive up the motorway where the landscape changes.

The darkness created by the pine forests and the dark rock outcrops that peek through the farmer’s fields. As the roads wind around the hillsides it’s a breathtaking moment as the vista opens up to a loch. The reflection of the sky, mountains, forest and purple hues. Wheeling upwards the birds enjoy the freshness of the air.

The coolness of the lilacs, pale blues and whites in the clouds or mountain tops (you decide) swirl. Whilst the landscape is still my mind is whirring from the exhilaration of the climb to the top of a rock and perhaps one too many visits to distilleries of whisky.

heather and tree detail of an abstract impressionist painting of the Highlands by Kathryn Sassall

Highlands

31 x 45 cm [14 x 18 “]
Acrylic paint on 42 x 59.4 cm (A2) acrylic paper

expressionist sky and moutnains of Scottish Higlands

Highlands £190
42 x 59 cm
Framed acrylic on paper




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Sunflower soldiers in the fields of France

impressionistic painting of sunflower in field detail of a paintingSunflower – what does that mean to you? Perhaps you enjoyed the Vincent film last year? You may travel to France for a holiday or to a second home passing the sunflower fields which nudge the roadside. For me it is visits to friends or to Le Mans or the Tour de France in July when the sunflower fields are coming in to bloom.

The tall sunflowers stand in rows like soldiers. Their lines slightly wonky as the tiller will have hit the odd stone or bump. Perhaps the driver got distracted by a crow or buzzard. The tall strong stems may have more than one flower head. Different colours sometimes creep in with an antique burnt umber mixing with the bright yellow.

detail of an scrylic impressionist painting of sunflower in a field with green trees and blue skyAt the top of the field are the farm buildings. A line of trees partially hiding the farmstead. A stunning bright cobalt blue cloudless sky which is seen so often in France during summer.  No sign of airplane trails or birds as all is hot and still.

Standing under the heads makes me feel like a flower fairy. The pom-pom style of some of the flowers like teddy bear heads. Watch the fields as you travel back and forth to notice the sunflower heads will have followed the sun during the day. Each one competing for the warmth and light to ripen the seeds that will go off for food production.

Hellanthus – the sunflower

This painting is Field of Sun  III as  I’ve painted these beautiful flowers several times. A watercolour resides on a wall in France. Another watercolour is in Essex given as a prize for a Crohn’s and Colitis UK regional raffle in 2012.

This acrylic painting is  strident. The colours are bright. There is an energy in the brush-stroked sky and the sunflower heads beam out. They are well named.

impressionist painting of a sunflower field in France

Field of Sun III £190
46 x 35 cm
Acrylic, brush application A2 (59.4 x 42 cm) acrylic paper




Parting the waves; French KOM storms it on Bastille Day

photo KOM spotted houseIt’s like a parting of the waves as the leading group pedals hard up the stage climbs. The fans have been up early to grab a spot. They have cycled or hiked to their place by the roadside . The circus has been through. The gendarmes try to hold the crowd back as the circus comes to town. The course car leads through the spare neutral bikes car.

The fans have re-grouped after the first posse of gendarme and press motorbike riders. Holding up their mobile phones, flags and posters, the fans ripple back. The riders, team cars and motorcycles go through.

Every once in a while a maverick will chase the riders up the climb. The more reckless (strangely often dressed in a mankini) will run in front of the motorbikes hoping to be caught on camera. There’s a lot of yellow caps for support of the maillot jeune. Here too there are also white caps with red dots for the King of the Mountain.

Parting the Waves.

The painting I have created for you is to celebrate Warren Barguil.  He became the first Frenchman to win a Tour de France stage on Bastille Day in twelve years. It was the shortest road stage with three climbs. It was lucky Stage 13 for the Team Sunweb rider as he held off Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa in the final straight. The first stage win of his Tour career.

A case of earning your spots rather than your stripes, Barguil had been wearing the distinctive jersey, Maillot a Pois or King of Mountains, since he first claimed it on Stage 9 and held on to it. By the time he won Stage 18 his nearest KOM rival could not make up the points lead he had opened up. He was tenth in the overall GC classification. His tenacity and push saw him also hold the Combativity Award for 2017. Sadly he was dropped by Team Sunweb during the subsequent Vuelta over alleged differences on tactics.

acrylic painting of tour de france rider for sunweb Barguil KOM by kathryn sassall

Parting the Waves £790
80 x 60 x 2.5 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

The painting overlaps the edge by a couple of millimetres, and then the rest of the sides are painted in chalk-white paint.




The Great bears down on Bern; green jersey winner Tour de France 2016

Green jersey winner 2016 Peter Sagan takes his third stage win arriving at the home of the bear pit, Bern in Switzerland a whisker in front of Kristoff. Certainly, a tour year to remember for Peter Sagan, as after a third place on the first stage, and a win on the second stage he claimed the first yellow jersey of his career.

Confident and eloquent in his speech, maybe the Cantona of cycling? “If I lose yellow, I have green. If I lose the green jersey, I have the rainbow jersey.” Peater Sagan,  declared at a press conference during the 2016 Tour de France.

We are artists

After Stage 11 he’d pulled off another fantastic sprint to upset the then yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome’s plans. When asked why he said “We are artists”. So he seemed to deserve a painting to capture a moment in such a strong year and for his wonderful words.

Sagan is shown moving towards his 3rd stage victory in Tour de France 2016, on the 16th stage, finishing in Bern, Switzerland. He beat Norwegian Alexander Kristoff by a whisker. The photo finish camera seemed to be particularly busy during this Tour.

2016 – a very good year

The Slovakian, riding for Russian team Tinkoff, ended the tour with a second place stage win behind Greipel, which meant Sagan was the green jersey winner for 2016. On the 10th stage he had finished second, but it meant he also won the combative award for the efforts he had put in.  So for Sagan 2016 was a very good year.

Peter The Great Sagan painting by Kathryn Sassall

The Great Bear £790
60 x 60 x 2.5 cm
Acrylic on canvas

The painting overlaps the edge by a couple of millimetres, and then the rest of the sides are painted in chalk-white paint.




Out of the darkness, so many stories unfold into the light

pastel drawing of time square lights during millennium celebrationsDarkness has been where a lot of my work has come from. Not in a Danish noir or Peaky Blinders way but literally capturing the light or working in the dark. In my early days various dining tables were my only supports for small works. I originally worked in pastel as it was easy to transport, has no smell and is easy to clean up.  This is one of a couple of images I created from being in New York as the new millennium arrived – capturing the ticker tape fall.

So another artist’s similar style work caught my eye in response to a competition to write a blog.

It’s been fun to look around the ArtFinder online marketplace where I have a shop to look at other artists’s work in response to a competition to find an ArtFinder gem. I thought that I’d choose either a sculptor or printmaker as those are areas I don’t work in. However as soon as I spotted Damion’s work, after following a comment made by him on one of the forum posts, I had to put fingers to keyboard. Enjoy exploring his work. Here’s my blog piece which came second (please go to Artfinder to look at the pastel paintings).

Artfinder Gem by Kathryn Sassall

Darkness – journeys by night are lit by the beauty of moving headlights, pulsating shop signs, the glow of the setting sun or the brightness of the rising moon. Driving has been such a big part of my life seeing these pastel paintings of roads and cities at night capturing the feeling of movement and mood makes me smile. The atmospheric images  of darkness that Damion Maxwell has posted on ArtFinder have made me think about so many moments from my life over the last 18 months. The bright pastel work is wonderfully drawn on dark paper.

Observation

Damion is observing what’s around him and capturing it. Such a simple thing to say, but a really challenging thing to do, when you’ve chosen nighttime for the subjects.  I love the way he appears to have painted with fast and free strokes of soft bright pastels. The perspective leads me through the pictures, but I just have to stop off several times on the way to look at other bits of action. Vibrant colours are singing off of the black background. A fleeting moment captured, giving an impression of the rush and steady stream of traffic moving.

The darkness really comes alive in “Drama on the hard shoulder” which appears to be just a random shot of vehicles travelling along the road. However, it’s one of those paintings which you can enjoy from a distance but you really should look closer. You gradually see more and more. So many individual stories – who is in what vehicle? Where have they been? Where are they going? Will the traveller broken down reach their destination? All the time the blue overhead signs calling my eyes to the back of the picture.

Exploration

It’s great to then read that Damion is self-taught and still exploring mediums and styles. Interestingly his day job, which I’m sure is also very often a night job, is as a firefighter. Has that flicker of light in the darkness shaped his choice of subjects I wonder? To start with a dark ‘canvas’ and create light on it is an additional challenge. However, it does bring with it a sense of freedom to layer colours. Drawing light from the darkness. Then I read the descriptions and Damion has a good sense of humour and loves what he is creating. I think that shines through.

The latest series of pastel works that Damion has uploaded to ArtFinder include another magical image. He’s captured the rainy pleasure of “Late Night Shopping”. Those enticing windows glowing in the darkness, bright jewels of colour. the shoppers under umbrellas on a grey rainy night. Still out there enjoying the excitement of the thought of getting a bargain and probably a cup of coffee too. The choice of colours in this picture is lovely. Sherbetty yellows and pinks with a touch of orange and tourquoise blue making it shimmer. I am really looking forward to seeing more pieces.

 

 

Why scrumping in daylight is not a bright idea on the M4. Blue sky thinking?

Daylight scrumping is unusual. There’s a spot on the M4 where a lone apple tree sits among the other trees. One day the fruit was just too tempting. A white van parked on the hard shoulder area in broad daylight had on the roof four guys scrumping.

As I drove on carefully, slowing down,  as many of the drivers going by were distracted by this sight, there was another car driving along that hard shoulder. It was a white car with fluorescent stripes. My brain switched to cartoon mode. The police car seemed to be slowly prowling along lifting one tyre at a time as it crept forward.

pencil sketch for toffee apple I have moved the location of the tree for my painting. The early sketches were just of a line of grey roadside fence. The final painting includes the beautiful grey-pink hand-crafted stone walls that are noticeable in different places along the route. These walls snake along the side of the road – solid and dependable.

Daylight robbery aside …

After I told my mother this tale, she reminded me that one of her favourite things used to be a sugary toffee apple. Her eyes were bright as she recalled a fair from her childhood on a green in London  (Tottenham or Lambeth most probably).  Toffee apples were also a post-war treat that my father bought for her when they went to the beach in Kent. Happy memories.

Also, I recalled the intense light of the bright blue skies with airplane trails from when my two sisters and me would play in the orchard part of the garden. Apples and cherries from the four trees there tasted like no other fruit ever does. The skies in the Summer holidays were always so so clear blue and it was so hot. We played out in the daylight without a care in the world.

In conclusion, it would be lovely to think that the four guys went on their way with the ability to make an apple crumble when they got home.  Perhaps with lashings of custard or a dollop of clotted cream to reward their blue sky thinking.

Toffee Apple
50 x 40 cm canvas

This painting is part of the “Light” series. More tales in the previous blog here.
Acrylic

 

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Dark skies and lightning hit trees portent a storm brewing

storm brewing grey cloudy sky photograph

Dark and brooding. Dark skies do not just occur at nightfall. Have you seen it when a storm’s brewing. So who’s turned  the lights out?  The sky weaves it’s own magic by creating clouds which filter out the light.  They hold water which absorbs the light from the sun. The clouds reflect the storm that is brewing.  So here comes the science bit. The size of water droplets (or ice crystals) inside clouds are much larger than visible wavelengths.  The visible wavelengths are  therefore scattered about equally by those particles. Very little sunlight reaches the underside of the cloud, less light is scattered, and even more is absorbed in the bigger ready to rain drops. The clouds appears dark and grey.

On a couple of journeys East in the early months of the last two years, I’ve enjoyed watching the deepening colour of the sky over the fields spreading into the distance. The amazing colours against the rapeseed flowers is particularly spectacular to see. Dark skies create a colour contrast of pink-purple-grey against the bright yellow. The heavy rolling clouds, the undulating sea of flower heads in their ploughed lines. They froth over the edge of the fields towards the road.

There were also storms in my head. It’s not always plain sailing when you get to that stage of life where the children need to be the carers for the parents. One of the first things you find is that everyone (both family and well-meaning friends) have an opinion but not necessarily the time or skill to assist. Once you’ve narrowed down whose opinion counts – the person being cared for – it can then be a stormy ride to try to achieve what they want.

I have to thank a friend who introduced me to a book called “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. This takes you on a journey that you have not yet had to experience from a son who is a doctor. An illuminating read for anyone who is helping an aging parent with their decisions about how to be happy but safe in later life. It’s an uncomfortable glimpse into a possible future for many of us.

Balancing love and our fear of injury with their wish to continue to live as they have done (as an adult at least) for over fifty years until the inevitable mortality stops. It’s very difficult at times. Families feud.  I know some who have fallen out from trying to care for their parents with conflicting views.  One sibling may end up doing more than the others, either by choice or circumstance. The others may be totally absent and unaware of the stresses or feel left out or unappreciated. There are often dark skies that have to be faced but as with storms once the rain has fallen the air is clearer.

The lightning tree of which there are a lot visible between Herefordshire and Sussex is a nod to the damage that is done to us in old age whether physically or mentally. Electricity hits the tree and impacts the areas of moisture causing damage at either branch or root level. The skeleton of the tree stands damaged. However, the often whitish grey trees are given a new lease of life by the many animals and birds who find nesting places in the nooks and hollows. The dark trees have been burnt out but still provide fibrous matter or ash for the surrounding soil. The rolling fields remind us though that there is also growth and brightness. Hopefully the needs are worked out together and solutions are brokered that satisfy all. At least until the next calamity or moment which requires all to think – what now?

Storm Brewing

40 x 50 cm canvas

Acrylic paint

 

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Making light of it; all those creaks and groans

Old bones. Creaks and groans seem to be the daily soundtrack to the effects of ageing. When someone has two medical dictionaries hidden in their sideboard you know that they’re curious about changes to their health. No surprise when the family has been visited by various forms of chronic diseases over the last ten years.
Those enquiring days have gone as my mother is no longer able to recall the location of those books. Instead she has reverted to a few mantras. If she catches her breath, or makes a few moans and groans there is nothing wrong apart from “these old bones”.
old bones detail of painting of treesIt was these thoughts that were in my head as I started this painting in response to the sight of ploughed fields against the cooler blue skies of spring.  The image in my head was clear.   Warm red-brown earth which had been ploughed, undulating with the hills, creating strong lines. The grassy bank not showing a lot of tonal change in the flat light. However, the shadows were very strong, defined and dark.
The image reflects a couple of spots on the journey along the A417 where hills rise to the side of the roadway. Sometimes the view is clear at other times it is visible through the trees. Those trees became abstract fragile bones similar to ribs. Old bones.
The picture is bright as there has always been an airy positivity and lightness to my mother’s response to it all. Her response to the professionals tasked with a ‘base line’ assessment was jovial but she also was keen to give the right answer. Wherever we went she has charmed the people and she continues to do that today. Yet the picture is also stark reflecting the fear of illness,vulnerabiity, and the fragility that often arrives in old age even if it is just “Old Bones”.
Paintings Old Bones in acrylic with texture old bones painting of trees placed on a fireplace

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Journeying from expressionism into abstraction. Can you see the wood for the trees? 

Experimenting with abstraction was part of the task I set myself in the first two months of 2017. I wanted to release the need to observe so closely to capture detail. Experimenting to capture the essence or emotion of a moment through marks and colour.
Tree trunks made of newspaper that reflected the conversations that had been had around Brexit and other key events n 2016 looked too flat and still. The addition of paint before and after the paper collage, began to add some life and depth, but no movement.

flicker test lines for painting

Some of the colour combinations were interesting. Complementary colours giving the test piece a bit of vibrancy. I saw a painting in Abergavenny at this time where luminescent paint had been laid at an angle across the painting which appeared to create movement in the changing light. I mixed some with different colours to see the effects as well as just laying some across the already painted acrylic lines.
A small test of lines in a limited colour palette which also had bowed lines to bring in movement seemed to create an effect. However this was not translatable to a piece twenty times bigger. Sometimes scale makes it. I concentrated on a simple palette of colours (tonal yellows, purple, brown, blue and pink) and the direction of lines for the trees.
lines and pyramids of colour make up this acrylic painting of treesThe shrubs below became pyramids of hawthorn – dark leaves and white flowers. Feedback on the piece was that the hedging pyramids distracted from the stripes. Dividing the picture into parts lost the movement.
underpainting of Forest Flicker in luminescent and yellow stripes
So the painting was sanded and gesso relaid. Then lines were laid of luminescent paint and pale colours. The second painting dropped the idea clearly creating shrubs. The density of the lines and additional part stripes were used to create areas of darker denser vegetation. In different lights the colour patterns shift.

It concentrated on the light in the trees. Some arcs where added to the straight lines Luminsecent paint was laid in some of the areas at the top of the painting. The flicker was still missing.Finally I laid over more dark trees. I then used acrylic paint pens to create the forest.

Different thicknesses and lengths of the darkest colour have helped create the effect that I wanted. The finished acrylic painting has been sprayed with satin varnish. Staring into the top right (the area I’d normally see first travelling) and then moving your eye level across and down to the bottom left corner creates the flicker I was looking for.
See previous blog for more about this painting and the completed work which has been sold.

 

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