By Sally Pudney on 10th August 2020

I’m not getting much painting done this month, because I have the builders in, and can’t get into my studio. I am planning on my monthly visit to the field, but whether I can get the painting done this month, or whether I have to play catch up in September, I’m not yet sure.

Those of you who have been to my house for Open Studios may remember that as you came in the back door there was a little lean-to room, and then a small step down into the kitchen. That little lean-to was the original coal shed and wood shed of this 1907 Edwardian house.

It was never build to be part of the actual house, although the house owners before me had knocked a door through the outside wall of the house to gain access to it.

It had no damp proof course, no foundations to speak of, and it was only single skin brickwork. It has always been something of a problem, and as time has gone on the issues of damp, cold, and ants (!!) became worse.

In February I took the decision to have it demolished and a proper extension built, taking the opportunity to make it bigger at the same time. The architect just got the plans finished as lockdown was beginning, and I was able to deliver the approved plans to my builder on 24th April.

Work finally started on 20th July, with a week of demolition –

and digging  of footings, which, on the Friday afternoon turned up the problem that there was a big sewer pipe running exactly along the line where the footings needed to be dug. That was just the first of what seemed an unending array of drains and water main problems, but eventually it was all sorted.

The foundations got ‘poured’ last Wednesday afternoon, one of the hottest days of the year! The engineering bricks have been laid almost up to the damp proof level –

and this morning the middle part, where the floor will be is being sorted out, and the bricks, sand, gravel and insulation have just been craned onto my drive as I’ve been typing this!

When it is finished the building will have a wide sliding door on the south wall, taking up most of the wall, with roof lights to the south and east. Inside it will be open to the roof, with a beam across. There will be a new outside tap, and outside lights,  a new downstairs loo to replace the old one which was demolished, a storage area for my paintings, and a small room  – I’m not sure how it will be furnished until I can actually see what the finished space will look like!

With a bit of luck it will be finished by the end of August . . . 🙂

Essex Field in July

By Sally Pudney on 19th July 2020

Last Monday evening I made my monthly visit to The Field. Catherine told me that the barn owl chicks had fledged and to watch out for them while I walked round. As I drove to the farm the sky clouded over so it didn’t turn out to be the lovely sunny summer evening that I’d planned! But I was on my way by then so I kept going.

I walked down beside the maize field – way taller than me now – and saw several rabbits playing on the grass. As I approached they vanished into the maize. And a moment later, only about ten paces ahead of me, a big fox came out of the hedge and also went into the maize . . . . !

It was the first time I’d visited since the oil seed was harvested, and the field looked huge and empty, with a lovely light over it. It was warm and still and very quiet.

The previous week I had made an extra visit while the harvesting was going on.

It was anything but quiet then, and incredibly dusty! When the harvester emptied the seed into the trailer it poured out in a black river, and went on and on and on . . . . How many millions of tiny seeds!?

I completed a small painting (30cm square) of the field after the harvester had made its first sweep around the outside.

I used a limited palette of Jackson’s acrylics for this little painting, using only their Primrose Yellow ( Nickel Titanate Yellow), Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue, Titanium White, Black ( their black is a mixture of Carbon Black and Mars Black), and a substitute for their Venetian Red, chemically the same, as theirs was out of stock. It was really interesting using this limited range, and having to think hard about how to mix the colours I needed without reaching for the tubes of paint which I usually use! The achievable mixes are all quite earthy and muted, but it was an overcast morning so that was quite appropriate.

So, back to my ‘proper’ visit last Monday evening . . . This is my ‘proper’ painting!

Essex Field: July (Evening)

The bare field was very pale with short dark stalks sticking up. The field margin had been partially mowed down the north western edge, so there was a wide grassy track. This painting shows the view part of the way down that side of the field, looking back up the slope towards the railway cutting trees. The uncut margin did have some wild carrot and lady’s bedstraw flowering, but this margin has never had much in the way of flowers. The field margin along the top of the field, by contrast, was still thick with common knapweed, much of it browning over now, lots of beautiful pale mauve field scabious, corn chamomile, ox-eye daisies, some bird’s foot trefoil still flowering, agrimony and lady’s bedstraw.

As I walked along the top of the field I had a good view of a kestrel flying towards me and sweeping round over the big oaks near the railway bridge. Then I heard the plaintive, high pitched mewing call of a buzzard. After a bit of scanning around I spotted it down by the river, and after a few moments it was joined by its mate. Both of them continued calling, and came to roost in a big dead tree at the bottom of the field. They took turns in making short flights around the river area, and returning to the tree, so I was able to watch them for some time.

Of the barn owls there was no sign at all!

I picked fruiting shrubs for my ‘snippings’ drawing this month: blackberry brambles still flowering but with partly forming blackberries, blackthorn with sloes still green, haws from a field rose also still green, and hips on the hawthorn just beginning to colour red.

Here they are in a ‘Raspberry Seedless’ Tiptree jam-jar.

I am intrigued to find out what happens in the field next. Will it be ploughed by the next time I visit? And what will be growing there next? 🙂

Essex Field: June

By Sally Pudney on 29th June 2020

Here is the sixth painting in my Twelve Months in an Essex Field painting project!

Essex Field: June

This is the top field margin, looking east showing the wonderful wild flower growth. It is a very similar view to the one I painted in March, just a little further west. Comparing the two paintings the changes are astonishing!

I went over to the field for an extra visit last Thursday. Catherine let me know that one of the resident barn owls had been seen hunting over Martins field at about eight o’clock every evening, so I went to see if I could spot it. We had a lovely walk round the farm – but the barn owl chose to hunt elsewhere . . . . However, I was struck by how different the field was in the evening, the light, the direction of shadow, the mood. I have decided that my July painting will have to be an evening one, to try to catch this whole different look.

And if I’m sitting still drawing then maybe the barn owl will float by! 🙂


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All images © Sally Pudney 2020