I love to walk along the Stiperstones Ridge in Shropshire. It’s great to take in the 360 degree stunning views of the Shropshire Hills, that you become spoilt for choice with what to paint. First and foremost though, what makes the Stiperstones so distinctive are the rocky outcrops along the ridge. The names for the outcrops are Manstone Rock, Devil’s Chair, Cranberry Rock, Nipstone Rock and Shepherd’s Rock.
I chose to paint the dramatic, jutting rocks against the soft, meandering heather, rather than the distance views from the Stiperstones ridge. My aim is to share the contrast I see between the white, grey rocks sprawling along the ridge against the spreading tufts of purple heathers. The initial outline was drawn with the help of my outdoor sketches as a guide.
Lots of small brush strokes of watercolour are added, with each layer allowed to dry, before adding another layer. There are no broad strokes of watercolour paint, as I need to protect all the white areas of the rocks and the paler, yellow gold grass stalks, that lie between the heathers. I don’t use masking fluid or white paint, instead I rely on the paper to be the white.
Small brushes, detailed painting
Here you can see me painting. Thought you’d like to see the overall scale of the Stiperstones painting and the size of brushes I’m using. You can see it is a painstaking process to add layer upon layer of watercolour and keep outlining the definition in the rocks and heathers. The green mix palette is actually black paint I’ve mixed, for painting the outline and definition in the rocks. My paints are mixed from three primary colours (blue, yellow and red). I only paint with pure transparent watercolours, no mixed media, no masking fluid, no white paint.
As you see the progression of the painting, the layers of watercolour are starting to develop depth, with the lighter tones coming through the darker brushstrokes of paint. It can be a slow process painting the rocks, as I try to retain their quirky, individual forms and distinctive markings and tones of greys, blues and greens.
The tumbling rocks on the right are nearly complete. I’ve also added a darker brown tone, to the heathers. This gives more depth. When you look closely at the purple heathers, they seem to waver between a purple and brown tone. The winding path on the right has started to take shape too.
Now the painting is in the final stages. I love the mix of green and gold grasses amongst the purple heathers. There are lots of brushstrokes of watercolour to give an overall three dimensional feel to the painting.
Above you can see the remains of my watercolour palette mixes. The mixes were created from three colours.
Finally, here’s the completed Stiperstones watercolour painting for you to enjoy.