Painting St. Benet’s Abbey Norfolk En Plein Air in the Snow

St Benet’s Abbey has got a special place in my heart and inspiration, don’t ask me why? it is just special.

The site has been covered in scaffolding for a most of last year, and I feared that the work would have tidied the building up too much and it would lose some of it’s mystery.

Knowing Saturday would be the last day the snow would be lying on the ground, I closed the gallery and took my French easel and oils down the track, where there were so many views I could have stopped to paint on the way, it’s only 2 miles from my studio.
On arriving I was relived to see the site has not been spoilt and tidied too much, the snow was undisturbed there were hundreds of Greylag Geese and 2 Marsh harriers soaring overhead, a sparrow hawk flew out of the mill building when I crunched past, with my easel, in the snow.
I wandered and found the position I wanted to be in to paint, I knew I couldn’t spend a long time out in the cold, a time limit is a good discipline.Image

My view point

First Layers applied

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I grounded the board with raw sienna diluted in Zest It so I wasn’t painting directly onto a white background, providing a mid tone for the eye to measure the tones of the other colours against.
I dipped my brush into my Cobalt Blue and Titanium White without mixing them blended them on the board for the sky. I then drew out where I wanted St Benet’s to be on my board with my brush in Burnt Umber.
Using dark tones as under layers will make the highlights in the finished piece appear even lighter. As the work progressed I was adding more linseed oil to my brush, this helps lay more accurate detail on top of wet paint, it also prevents the top layers drying before the lower layers which would result in crackle glaze.
I was at St Benet’s for approximately 1hr 20 minutes amazing what you can set you mind to when you want to do something.
I’ll be swapping the snow for the sunshine of Essaouira in Morocco next week so will share some of my inspirations there with you on my return.
I will be organising a painting trip there in 2014 so keep a watch on  http://www.paintncanvasholidays.co.uk

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