Swaffham Prior windmill, Cambridgeshire

8"x12" oil on board Swaffham Prior mill

8"x12" oil on board Swaffham Prior mill

This is a beautiful working mill near Cambridge, still producing flour under the care of its owner, Jonathan Cook. I tried painting this mill years ago and gave up because it’s difficult to get a good view of it. Actually I wanted to get the old water tower in the picture because although it is modern compared with the mill, and takes wind from it, it is nonetheless part of what makes the setting different from that of other mills. And whenever I paint a mill, and try and pick out what is different about the mill or its setting.

Anyway, I found the angle I wanted last night, and painted this oil study as the light faded on what had been a dull, grey day. As I finished (9pm) the street lights were on, and the sails of the mills merging into the sky. It became a challenge to try and get the lighting on the sails just right. I enjoyed the fading light, and the sombre low-key result. This is a good study for a bigger painting.

On the subject of low-key high-key, someone once gave me a useful tip – in a high key subject always have some small area that is really dark, otherwise the whole image just looked washed out. The opposite is true in a low-key subject, which is why I have painted a small area (the cap) in white, although in reality is also was merging with the grey of the sky. Maybe I’ve overdone it a bit.


~ by noelgarner on May 15, 2009.

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