Autumn in Germany

Gourds blog

Gourds (A5 Faber Castell watercolour pencils on sketchbook page 2015)

One of the many things I enjoyed about living in Germany was the way seasons are celebrated: Christmas markets are well-known, but there are festivals built around the first applewine pressing, the start of spring, young wine and many others.

I can never think of Germany in October without remembering the baskets of gourds that appear at many farm gates, at least in southern Germany where I was earlier this week. At three or four for a Euro, there’s no excuse not to decorate the kitchen table with an autumnal pile of gourds, turning leaves and lichen-covered branches.

These three also gave me the excuse to try out my daughter’s splendid set of 120 Faber Castell watercolour pencils. They’re wonderful, like drawing with coloured butter…

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Here it comes…

Autumn Apples blog

Apples (A5 pastel 2015)

…Autumn, that is. It has been, we’re told, a bumper year for apples in the U.K. Well, not in our garden, I’m afraid. These three represent the extent of nature’s bounty in our corner of Suffolk: a Blenheim Orange, a Russet, and an Elstar.

The mildly interesting thing about this little pastel drawing is that I positioned them with the biggest at the back and the smallest at the front. The result being that the perspective looks flattened, an effect I find very pleasing in others.

One of the many things I discovered on Ed Cooper’s inspiring oil painting course was to see objects as blocks of colour and tone, rather than an outline filled with colour. That’s probably glaringly obvious if you went to art college, but something that needs to be understood if you didn’t (I didn’t). The outlines here, such as they are, were added later, as design elements almost.

‘Mellow Fruitfulness’

Rose Hips 1509 blog

Rose Hips (17cms x 24cms watercolour and ink on Hahnemuehle ‘Leonardo’ watercolour board 2015)

“Good fences make good neighbours,” wrote Robert Frost in Mending Wall. So, when we moved into our house two years ago we planted a line of 100 rosa rugosa shrubs down the middle of the lawn and our neighbour added a wooden fence, thus ensuring harmonious relations from the start.

After the first year I pruned the shrubs back to their stalks. The following spring was a tense time, waiting for signs of life to show. Suddenly, it seemed, about half of them sprouted leaves, then one by one the rest followed until we had a bushy hedge. It was a relief to discover that I hadn’t killed it.

Leaves were followed by buds which opened into blowsy red roses. When their petals fell rich red hips replaced them. Here are a handful picked last weekend and painted while listening to the nature-inspired music of John Luther Adams on BBC Radio 3. The rose hips mark the end of the summer, the beginning of autumn’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (to quote a different poet) before the onset of winter. In East Anglia, with our big open skies, winter can seem very long and very grey, so these vibrant red fruits are things to be treasured.