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Take a day trip to sunny Kent!

Take a meander through Kent to Sissinghurst to find these beautiful oast houses.

This image is the photo reference for my new watercolour project which is available from today with my Online Watercolour School.

These beautiful old oast houses form part of the National Trust property at Sissinghurst. Although they are no longer used to dry hops (as part of the beer making industry), you can still take a look inside as they are currently used to house exhibitions throughout the year. In other parts of this NT property you can also climb the castle towers, discover the enchanting gardens created by Vita Sackville-West or discover the beautiful countryside views on the wider estate.

Did you know that the hop industry was still reliant on manual labour to harvest hops as recently as the 1950's? Hop picking was actually a seasonal tradition amongst many families, who would often return to the same farm year on year ~ often going back generations. As the hops became ready to harvest in late August/Early September, families would arrive en masse from London to pick the ripened hops ~ often spending 2-3 weeks with their family on a hop picking 'holiday'.

In reality the word 'holiday' was not quite the same as what we consider a holiday nowadays! Instead it was a labour intensive break, away from the city. A chance to earn some money, work in the countryside and enjoy some cleaner air! Whole families would stay together and pick all day, knowing they would be paid by weight of hops picked ~ no wonder even the children pitched in! Their 'holiday' living conditions weren't great, with no 5* resorts awaiting them! No running water, no plumbed toilets, no lighting or heat, (although, from the late 1800's accommodation was often provided in the form of hop-picking huts).

There is a lovely reminiscence by Anne on the National Trust website recounting her memories of hop picking as a child at Scotney. Click the link to find out more:

If you live in or near Kent you can also visit some surviving hop-picker huts on a visit to the National Trust's Ightham Mote, (sited on the wider estate, which is just a short walk from the car park) (photo copyright NT). Each of these doors was the entrance to one dwelling, so you can imagine how cramped each of these little rooms would have been!

Living in East Surrey I am fortunate that Kent is just a stone's throw away and visiting National Trust properties are my go to thing on the weekends! The photograph for this painting was taken on one of these visits on a hot August weekend and I have selected it for our next watercolour painting as I think it depicts a typically British summer ~ where the meadow grasses grow long, the once green lawn thirsts for rain and the sky is full of billowing clouds! I think that the techniques which I will show you within this project would be easily transferable to other landscape paintings ~ so if you like to paint 'en plein-air' and you're thinking of venturing out with your paints over the summer, this is a great one to wet your whistle!

In this project you will have lots of opportunities to try out (or learn if you are a beginner) a whole range of basic watercolour techniques. I will show you how to recreate the feeling of those lovely clouds using wet into wet and lifting out techniques. You will also discover how to establish soft areas of colour to form a muted background.

Throughout the painting you will work using both the wet into wet and the wet onto dry techniques, building up colour, and mixing it on the surface of the paper.

To finish the painting you will also add details working onto dry including developing texture using the dry brush technique.

To find out more about this watercolour project take a look at this short video.

I hope you really enjoy this one ~and don't forget to share your finished work on the forum.

Happy Painting!

PS. If you happen to visit any of the properties mentioned and you would like to share photos for other members to use as reference for future paintings ~ feel free to upload and share them in the 'news & views' forum!

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