Quaint English villages

Time to get back to my stock-in-trade, painting houses! I have 3 village shows/exhibitions coming up and I thought it was time I painted something in keeping. Here’s one of Ayot St Lawrence, a beautiful little Hertfordshire village close to where I live and the home of George Bernard Shaw. His house is now kept by the National Trust and it’s worth a visit, followed up by a cream tea in the pub. The Ayot show will be in the church (a Palladian stunner!) June 6, 7 & 8 2009. I should be on commission from the Ayot Tourist Board.

Actually, most of the place was covered in scaffolding when I visited and the house below was one of the few I could still see. I’m sure it will all be pristine for the summer. The painting took about 3 hours to complete, using my own photos for reference.

Even now I don’t like painting outdoors. A terrible admission for an artist, but I really don’t like the hassle of lugging gear around, trying to set up where I won’t be in the way, (and the public won’t be in MY way) keeping the paper in the shade/out of the rain; the list is endless. I strongly advocate taking furtive photographs, even on a camera phone, and sorting it all out later in the comfort of the studio. Buck the trend – give plein-air painting the elbow! When you see one of those glorious transient lighting moments, don’t fumble around around trying to get your paints out because the moment will have passed before the easel’s set up. Just click and the job’s done.

Of course, if you just enjoy sitting in the sun and showing off, that’s a different matter. I do hope I’ve raised a few hackles – tell me what you think!

Ayot St Lawrence
Ayot St Lawrence
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13 thoughts on “Quaint English villages

    1. Thank you David, but don’t feel guilty! Many great artists have used – and still use – photos for reference and many more would have done so if they had had the technology at the time. Conversely, I know several watercolourists who treat it as an extreme sport, painting in all weathers and even adding gin to the water to stop it freezing!
      When the weather is good (rare in this country) and I have time on my hands (also rare), I do enjoy painting outdoors occasionally, but if I’m in, say, Venice, with my family and I’m faced with the choice of producing one or two paintings a day or taking 200 reference photos, I’ll take the latter and spend my time experiencing the place with the family and having fun! I then also have 200 potential paintings when I’m home and in the comfort of my studio. No contest.
      A photograph is just a kicking off point, an aide-memoire; the painting has a life of its own and is never a straight copy of the photo any more than a plein-air painting would be a straight copy of the scene.

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      1. As I’ve commented many times Keith, you have the skill and ability to be able to create work that replicates “en plein air” in its looseness and freedom – a skill I don’t possess. However, I do find that an initial spot of sketching on location gives one a sense of “place” and an understanding of subject matter. This, alongside photographs, provides all the reference to complete the work. Of course, this is too often impossible to achieve and Google Street View may be the only recourse!

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      2. Thanks for your kind words Pete; you certainly have skills I don’t possess. I do agree with what you’re saying; sketching a subject fixes it in the brain and I find it’s possible to then replicate the scene from memory with surprising accuracy. Glad you take some photos too though!
        Google Street View – God’s gift to Architectural Illustrators 🙂

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  1. Hi Annie
    It is indeed Tudor Cottage, right next to the pub. Glad you recognised it and hope it brought back some good memories. It is a watercolour and I still have the original if you are interested.
    Also, if you look at my more recent posts, you will see a painting of the new church which you may or may not recognise; I also painted the old one – opposite Tudor Cottage – which is also posted here somewhere!
    Thanks for getting in touch.

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  2. hi,

    I used to live in Ayot St. Lawrence as a child and I was wondering if you know the name of this house because it looks an awful lot like my old house… in fact i think it is! Is was called Tudor cottage, located next to the pub? …Sound familiar? Also, it is great! did you use water colors?

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  3. Listen Keith – whatever people say life WAS meant to be a struggle: where’s your Protestant work ethic? I know where mine is.

    P

    ps – must stop looking at your work and concentrate on mine!

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