Assignment 1 – preparation

Initially I made a series of pen drawings  in the garden and orchard at Danecroft in Stowmarket and added a splash of coloured ink. It was chilly but sunny day in May and the predominant colour was a very vivid green.


This was the sketch I developed

danecroft6 danecroft4 danecroft3 danecroft2 danecroft1


Clockwise from top left: Sir John Lavery, Van Gogh (2), Monet

I decided to develop my sketch of the two  apple trees in the Orchard with the aid of a few photographs. I chose this scene because the slightly improbable shapes of the branches grabbed my attention and I liked the way the light glowed through the branches .Also the sense of age and antiquity about the trees, the knobbly shapes, cut off branches, lichen and moss – these things grabbed me more than the blossom, of which there was very little left after the wind and rain had done its work.


Clockwise from top left: Paula Smith, D Levin, my past work (2), Jim McVicker

Before starting to paint I stopped to do some internet research on paintings of orchards. Clearly they are something of a classic theme as I discovered several inspirational works and pasted prints into my sketchbook.




The Old Apple Orchard at Danecroft, A3, acrylics – first try

I dived in and did and experimental painting as way of testing colour, composition and different brushstrokes. This was reasonably successful, after quite a bit of trial and error, in capturing the nature of the trees, dappled light and atmosphere of the orchard. However, I felt the composition was unbalanced and it might work better if conforming more closely to the ‘rule of thirds’. I photographed my picture, printed out and did a cut and paste job in my sketchbook to explore a slightly changed composition.


The Old Apple Orchard at Danecroft, A3, acrylics – second try

My second painting, which I’d hoped would be my final assignment piece, came out very differently. Taking a long hard look at the piece I felt I’d lost much of what was good about my first much more quick and instinctive reaction to the scene. This painting looks more like a Disney take on an apple orchard. I was now about 10 days from my visit to Danecroft and I think my visual memory and emotional relationship with the scene had faded with the result that I was falling back on photographs. But I don’t entirely condemn this second painting. It’s quite appealing in its way even if the trees look as though they have been modelled from Plasticine and I lost the sense of space in the orchard which was created by the diagonal angle between the trees in my first painting.

Harumph! It pains me to say that despite the extra hours of effort my first painting is the better one and so that is what I am submitting for this assignment. This decision was confirmed when I realised I could crop it slightly to improve the composition… and even though this means the painting is now slightly smaller than A3 I am putting forward what I consider to be the better painting for this assignment.

As a final note, the second painting was an good learning exercise even though I didn’t get to where I wanted to be. I painted a large part of of it on a dark blue-black ground which has created much sharper contrast. Also I introduced a brighter blue sky which changed the nature of the painting completely but possibly contributed to the feeling that it doesn’t quite look real.

You can see my final painting for assignment one here.



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