I wanted to paint skies and after looking at Constables at the Ashmolean, I turned to Edward Seago.
Edward Seago (1910 – 1974)
Seago had no formal training, and joined a circus at 18, later serving in the army. His style was roughly post impressionism and he was immensely popular in Britain. The Queen Mother was an avid collector of his work. Prince Philip invited him on an expedition to the Antarctic and some of the resulting paintings are at Balmoral.
I copied one of these Antarctic paintings and learnt a lot in the process. Seago’s work often has a low horizon line and cloudy skies – this suited me as I am passionate about skies and mood. I expect it is because it gave me an abstract anchor. I wanted to paint landscape, but in a way that was exciting rather than merely descriptive. His love of water is obvious and you won’t find many paintings by Seago depicting people.
I painted this in a traditional way starting with a rubbed ochre ground and building up layers after blocking in main tonal areas in paint thinned with medium. The water was scumbled at the end.
My sky paintings
My first sky paintings after this workshop were small studies, 20cm x 20cm. I think that a square format gives a more contemporary feel to the artwork. I began with my camera collecting sky photos, resisting the urge to download from the internet which I think is cheating! I like skies with a strong composition – often diagonal, and a low horizon.
I began with an outline drawing of the tonal areas, using a brush and oils. I mixed the right shades of blues, mauves and greys and first painted the areas that would be blended. Then I alternated painting the white clouds and their shadows, using a brush and also blending with my fingers.
I see lovely sunsets in Oxfordshire and drive in this area regularly, but it is not always easy to stop the car to photograph them. I’ve begun to loosen up in depicting the foreground.
This was taken from photographs I took on Christmas day at sunset at 3.00pm in Sweden, where we stayed with my son and family. I think you can feel how icy it is. My finger-painting is very evident in the wispy clouds in the sky.
By now you can see that I am using my fingers to blend carefully (top right) and to get painterly effects just below the white clouds. I’m also using a palette knife in the whites where the cloud is bright. These were all painted in early 2017. My skies are getting much wilder now – but that is a topic for another day!
(View some more skies in my gallery)