I never cease to be amazed at what watercolour can do. Over the years I have added all sorts of things to the stuff - gouache, acrylic ink, wax, sepia - but just recently I've been adding a lot of indian ink. As I've been developing paintings for my summer exhibition - Tales of the Dales (details below) - I have found that I wanted a richness and a gravity to reflect the mystery and the dark nature of some of the stories.
Indian ink, as the name suggests, comes from China, along with oil paint, gunpowder and chess. It has a wonderful couple of properties. On the one hand it will give deep stains into watercolour paper, but on the other hand it will not leave a mark when certain kinds of resists are used.
This is the method I've been working with recently. I've been combining it with rich glazes of watercolour which float over the indian ink and allow me to find the warmth (or lack of it) which the landscape I'm portraying requires.
Above is Tan Hill Inn, England's highest pub, silhouetted against the sky. Left is The Ribblehead Viaduct one of the most amazing landscapes in the Dales. I wanted to capture the drama, the light and the way in which the viaduct becomes part of the landscape. In the painting its barely distinguishable from its surroundings.
In this way I am, as always, trying to paint the personality of the landscape, and I feel its working. I hope visitors to the exhibition will think so too.
A date for your diary:
the exhibition preview is at 7pm Friday 26th July at Wensley church.
For further updates on the work for the this and other exhibitions visit my page on Facebook by clicking HERE
or follow me on Twitter by clicking HERE
I've been looking at some interesting architecture over the last couple of years and I'm continually amazed at some of the strange and beautiful buildings there are near where I live.
About two hundred years ago a craze seems to have started among the local aristos for building follies. Not tiny, one- off fripperies but bridges, castles and, just outside Masham, a stone temple with every imaginable bell and whistle.
From an artist's point of view they are fascinating and challenging. Challenging because they look so strange in the context of the landscape which surrounds them. How do you make them look as though they really exist?
On the left here is Mowbray Castle
- one of the follies at Hackfall
, a wilderness "garden" created by John and William Aislaby. The Aislabys also created the landscaping and follies at nearby Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.
Hackfall has undergone extensive restoration and much of its current popularity is down to the excellent work down by its warden Paul Mosley. Go and visit - its wonderful.
This pair of bridges are only a few miles apart and both feature in my July exhibition - Tales From The Dales.
This is Quarry Gill Bridge.
Its on a little-used road which skirts the walls of Swinton Castle.
Its a Gothic wedding cake of a structure which spans a stream a mere few feet in width. The bridge stands on an old pack horse bridge - small, humble and efficient.
To come on this bridge, particularly in autumn when the surrounding beech trees are hung with gold, is amazing.
This is Middleham
Castle Bridge. Its not part of the castle - its just down the road and spans the River Ure. It was originally built as a suspension bridge but, unfortunately, wasn't quite up to coping with the weight of a herd of cows.
Mid-crossing the bridge collapsed landing the cows in the river. The bridge was rebuilt with a normal road deck but, fortunately, the distinctive towers were retained.
The big daddy of local follies has to be the Druid's Temple
just outside Masham. Built by local folly-nut William Danby
in the eighteenth century, it is an amalgam of every neolithic building feature. It has guard houses, a grotto, an altar and an enormous "phallus" stone! William advertised for and installed a hermit here for a while until the poor man deserted his post for good.
The local landowner has tried unsuccessfully for years to hide its existence, refusing to put up any signs leading to the folly. Consequently everyone knows where it is and it appears on countless websites dealing with the odd, the ancient and the para-normal.
I've got a couple more odd places to paint for the next exhibition and I'm looking forward to tackling them.
Exhibition details below.
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I’ve been collecting stories from the Yorkshire Dales for a while now in prepartion for an exhibition this summer. When I started asking for it didn’t take long to realise that some places attract legends like a hedgehog attracts fleas. Pendragon Castle is a case in point.
Pendragon Castle lies on the north western edge of the Dales in the shadow of Wild Boar Fell and the crumbling ruin sits on a mound in which a dragon lives. The castle’s name is well known from the legends of King Arthur. Uther Pendragon was Arthur’s father and was reputedly born here. That’s the first legend. Uther lost the castle when an enemy poisoned the castle well during a siege killing a hundred soldiers.
Wild Boar Fell
The castle was also home to Sir Hugh de Morville, one of Thomas Becket’s murderers. Sir Hugh was haunted by the similarity between the silhouette of Wild Boar Fell and the shape of Becket’s face in death. From the right angle the hill looks like the profile of a fallen man.
As if all this wasn’t sufficient for one ruin there is also a buried treasure which is guarded by a spectral black hen. As fast as a treasure hunter digs a hole the hen fills it back in.
So, for my forthcoming exhibition, I’ve been wrestling with how to portray this mysterious place. In the first painting I played with idea of an aura, using a halo effect to enclose the castle and echo the shape of the tree. In the second I drew my inspiration from the colours of the hen: black feathers, red wattle. And in the third I tried to bring an other-wordly, unreal feeling to the castle’s silhouette.
For Wild Boar Fell I wanted to capture to remote wildness of this high outpost of the Pennines and also something of the sadness that here was where the last wild boar in England was killed.
As an ensemble I hope they reflect the various legends of this little-visited corner of the Dales.
All the paintings will be on show at the eventual exhibition (see the poster - right).
| |Tulips in Watercolour
For those interested in watercolour floral painting there are still a few places left on the course I’m teaching at Constable Burton. Run by Artison studios of Masham, the course includes a tour of the beautiful gardens and lovely Palladian house of Constable Burton as well as lunch. CLICK HERE
for further details and to book a place.
For exhibition updates, pictures and other news please visit (and "Like") my Facebook page. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter there. CLICK HERE
Queen's College, Cambridge
Trinity Lane, Cambridge
I've spent much of the winter (when not working on paintings for my exhibition about stories from the Dales) making nine new screen prints of Cambridge.
I've had a long association with the wonderful gallery on Trinity Street - Cambridge Contemporary Art
- which began with them selling my abstract paintings. Now they sell my screen prints.
I was very pleased when they asked me to produce some new work for an exhibition on Cambridge. It really is a lovely city. Here a few steps through a gateway from a busy shopping street can bring you into an ancient, shadowed courtyard. A short walk down a high walled lane will lead you to a medieval bridge over the shallow River Cam.
I decided from the outset that I wanted a mixture of images. In some I wanted to celebrate Cambridge's varied roofscape. In others, to focus on the city's more contemplative spaces. And, of course, there were particular architectural gems I just had to portray. One of my favourites is the court at Queen's College which has the most beautifully proportioned half-timbered building. While I was working on this piece I came across a photograph of a play being performed in the court showing one of Stephen Fry's first performances (he was a student at Queen's).Evening, King's College
A few days ago I drove down with the pictures to Cambridge along with my daughter, Rosie Scott-Massie
, who also is showing new work in the same exhibition and fellow artist, Josie Beszant
. Despite a biting East wind we had a very enjoyable time in the city and, as always, discovered a couple of interesting bits we hadn't come across before.
The Round Church, Cambridge
So the prints are all finished and the exhibition is open from 6/4/13 to 28/4/13. Information and opening times can be found on Cambridge Contemporary Art's website
. To see the new prints please CLICK HERE.
If Cambridge is a long way to go do call into the Masham Gallery
where a large selection of my paintings and prints is always available.
I'm teaching, in May, at this beautiful country house between Leyburn and Bedale in North Yorkshire. Artison are running some courses there. This course fee includes an excellent lunch, a tour of the gorgeous gardens and a tour of Constable Burton Hall itself.
I'm enclosing below Artison's poster for the courses. If you wish to book a course click on the image and it will take you to the Artison site.
This Friday, the 22nd March, at 7.30 in the evening, sees the preview of 35 - an exhibition of the work of John Degnan who is celebrating thirty five years as a professional artist. The venue is the Masham Gallery in Masham Market Place, North Yorkshire, HG4 4EB. Please come if you would like to see more of the work of this wonderful artist.
Throughout his career John has portrayed the people and places of North East England: cathedrals, antique shops, sheep, tractors, trains and the varied landscape of the Tees Valley.
I was delighted to be asked to write the book which accompanies the exhibition and tells of John's beginnings and gradual development as an artist. The book - also entitled 35 - is to be launched at the preview.
John and I both grew to our trade in Durham in the late 1970s - a great creative period for the arts - and I have long been an admirer of his work. His lovely painting of Durham Cathedral cloisters hangs in my teaching room and I enjoy looking at it every day.
The book contains virtually all the work from this substantial exhibition which shows John's considerable talents as a painter, printmaker and carver.
For further details CLICK HERE
John Degnan at work in his studio.
above, was based on sketches in which I was trying to capture the atmosphere of horses training at Middleham
. Every morning long strings of thoroughbreds make their way from the town's stables up to the gallops. Here, overlooking the long sweep of Coverdale, the riders put the horses through their paces. It a wonderful sight. Racing Green
is a limited edition print which was published as a set of fifty copies which are now nearly all gone. Only a handful remain.
The same is true of The Steam Rally, Masham.
The original painting from which this print was taken was painted for an exhibition about Masham
Market Place which was held in Masham church a few years ago.
The highlight of every Steam Rally, which takes place on a field just outside Masham, is when the engines are driven into the square on the Saturday evening. Here, as the sun slants through the trees and the smoke and the steam, admirers of the lovely old engines walk through their steaming ranks.
The Kings Head usually does a good trade on this evening, as does the fish and chip shop, so the steam fans are usually carrying a pint of ale in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. Its a very English event.
If you would like to enquire about either of these prints please CLICK HERE
which will take you to the Masham Gallery
, which handles these prints for me.
My March newsletter is currently available to read online. CLICK HERE to be taken there.
Updates about new paintings and prints, exhibitions and art courses appear every few days on my Artist's Facebook page. By visiting and clicking the LIKE button, news will magically appear on your own Facebook feed. CLICK HERE
for a visit.
I'm just gearing up to teach a series of art workshops at Artison, just outside Masham in the Yorkshire Dales. I've been teaching art for many years. First in art clubs and then through running courses in Masham. Eventually four of us got together and set up Artison to be a teaching centre for excellence in arts and crafts. Its now run by the excellent Sue Palin and Gaynor Pearson who invite me along each year to teach painting and printmaking. So what's coming up in the near future?
Friday, 1st March 2013, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
A comprehensive grounding in the principles of using watercolour. Suitable for beginners or for any artist who wishes to go back to basics.
I love teaching this course. I cover everything you need to know to start working with watercolour:
the principles of watercolour painting, the equipment and materials and the key skills required.
Painting With Inks
Friday, 19th April 2013, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Acrylic ink, Indian ink, fountain pen and sepia inks give strong colours, interesting textures and are easy to use with brush and pen.
There are lots of different kinds of ink around these days and they are a great way to bridge different media. If you're a watercolourist then there are a host of techniques you can bring to working with inks. If you're an oil or acrylic artist the ability to create impervious layers of ink will appeal to you. And the colours you can achieve are gorgeous.
Introduction To One Colour Screen Printing
Friday, 26th April 2013, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Screenprinting is a vibrant, flexible medium beloved of artists and craftspeople in which the print is created by pressing ink through a stencilled fabric screen. This course will introduce you to the equipment, materials and methods of this medium. Screen printing can be adapted to your own style and can be used for anything from t-shirts to fine art prints.
I first starting screen printing in the 1970s and came back to it about three years ago. Its become an indispensable part of my repertoire. I am always amazed at the fantastic things people achieve in this workshop.
If you want to book on any of these courses (which all incude an excellent home-cooked lunch) go to the Artison site: CLICK HERE
You can see lots of examples of my work in these three media by going to my page at Masham Gallery: CLICK HERE
or go to my webiste: CLICK HERE
I'm working away at a huge pile of stories which people have drawn my attention to about various places in the Yorkshire Dales for my exhibition at Wensley Church
later this year. I'm gradually creating images for the tales as I go - this one's of Aysgarth Church
where the screen from Jervaulx Abbey
ended up. (if you want to know more about that have a look at this great blog on Pip's Patch
I'm trying to find out about another story at Aysgarth: the legend that Garibaldi - the liberator and unifier of modern Italy - had his soldiers famous red shirts made at Aysgarth. The story goes that the mill
had a surplus of seven thousand worsted jerseys that it couldn't shift but managed to sell them to the Italian leader after dyeing them red.
Does anyone out there know the truth of the story?
Here's a little tale that I've been writing up recently about a body that turned up near Masham a few years ago. I'm indebted to the archives of the Northern Echo
for the details.
The Colsterdale Man of Mystery
The Dales are a strange combination of cosy villages, rambling roads that thread through the valleys and bleak empty moorland. Walking the moors is one of my greatest pleasures but the remoteness these open spaces, studded with old coal pits, lime kilns, grouse butts and prehistoric earthworks, is sometimes brought home with a story like this one:
The gamekeeper had noticed traces of bone flecking the peat for about four years as he passed the ditch on Thorny Grange Moor, but he thought they were the remains of a long-dead sheep. When he finally had a closer look the grisly truth became apparent. The remains were of a man who would have been about sixty when he died, the time of death being around twenty-five years earlier, in 1977.
The decased was dressed in a grey suit, a white shirt, a brown and orange tie and a pair of shoes by the George Ward Boot Company. In his pockets he carried a 1958 shilling, a 1971 penny, a mortice key in a tin, and a Cadaux 600 transistor radio. At some time in the distant past he had fractured his left collar bone, two ribs, both heels and suffered from mild arthritis.
Despite all this information, a facial reconstruction and a lot of publicitythe Colsterdale Man was never identified. In one of the most pathetic press releases ever written a spokesman said: “A tooth has been retained for DNA comparisons.”
Illustration: Colsterdale, Sunset
Paintings and Stories of the Yorkshire Dalesby Ian Scott Massie
Holy Trinity Church, Wensley, N Yorks.With kind permission of the Churches Conservation Trust
27 July – 11 August 2013
A major exhibition of new paintings based on stories from the Yorkshire Dales collected over the last two years. In addition to artwork the exhibition sees the launch of a book for children: The Penhill Giant, which is an illustrated retelling of events which took place on the hill overlooking the exhibition location. The exhibition will also see the launch of a book illustrated with new paintings created for the exhibition work which will also include a collection of Dales stories, many of which will be appearing in print for the first time.
I'm well into the text of my book on Stories from the Yorkshire Dales which will be launched at my Yorkshire Dales exhibition which is in July at Wensley church.
Because there has been a lot of interest in the stories themselves I thought I'd release a few as the exhibition gets closer.
Hope you like this one.
There’s a nice story about about Dales economics from Selside, It’s a tiny village – blink and you’ve missed it. But if you’re coming up from Horton in Ribblesdale towards the Ribblehead viaduct there’s a little barn by the side of the road where someone, years ago, put up this lovely sign saying Selside. Its right in the middle of the Three Peaks and you get a gorgeous view of Penyghent all the way up that road.
Now there’s a group of houses there that back onto the railway line and an old dear used to live in one of them, and she came up with a great way of keeping warm in winter.
Every time she had something out of a tin she would take the empty tin and put it on the back wall where the trains went by. Then, whenever one of the engines passed, the driver and fireman would chuck pieces of coal to try and knock off the tins. So then she would go out and, hey presto, free coal!
Of course the only downsides to this were that she had to remember not to put up the tins when she had her washing out, and she had to dash indoors whenever she heard a train coming to avoid get clobbered.
This is the Settle to Carlisle Railway by the way, where the very last British Rail steam train ran in August 1968 so this story has to come from before then. I don’t know what she did for fuel when they changed over to diesels.