I can now share an oil painting that I completed earlier this year which was painted as a surprise wedding gift. I was commissioned to paint the stunning All Saints Church in Handley, Cheshire, where the happy couple were to be married.

Painting of All Saints Church, Handley, Cheshire

All Saints Church, Handley, Cheshire – Oil on canvas, 12” x 16”


Situated in the historic village of Handley, south of Chester, All Saints is quite simply a beautiful church. While there has been a place of worship on the site since the 12th century, the majority of the exterior dates as far back as the 16th and 17th centuries.

The church is built from ashlar red sandstone which displays some fabulous colour variations where it has weathered over the centuries and where moss and algae has grown. The red masonry coupled with the blue-grey of the Welsh slate roof makes it a colourful building which was a joy to paint.

Painting Plein Air

I developed the painting by first completing a plein air colour study of the church, church grounds and sky. I planned the composition by trying different thumbnail sketches of the church to determine the best viewpoint before setting up the field easel and canvas board.

Working on a 12″ x 16″ canvas board (the same as the planned final painting) I was able to establish the main tonal shifts across the building and really understand the different colour variations of the sandstone.

I took a series of reference photographs and managed to develop the colour study to a point where I was happy before rain stopped play!

Gary Armer painting Plein Air

Painting the Colour Study Plein Air

Painting Plein Air

Painting the Colour Study Plein Air – just before the heavens opened!

Plein Air Colour Study of Church

Plein Air Colour Study of Handley Church – Oil on canvas board, 12” x 16”

Painting in the Studio

Back in the studio, the colour study was invaluable as I progressed what would be the final painting on a fine detail canvas.

While it proved to be time consuming, I made the decision to accurately depict the stonework stone by stone. The light coloured mortar between the stones created some interesting grid patterns and a looser, suggestive approach wouldn’t have done this masonry justice.

The details of the arched windows, gargoyles, castellated tower and gravestones were all great fun to paint and I think these details help bring the painting to life.

A Special Wedding Gift

The painting was presented to the happy couple, the new Mr and Mrs Banks on the morning after their big day.

Speaking of the painting, the groom, Joe describes:

“What an incredible talent! We wanted something unique to remember our special day and a painting of the church where we were getting married was perfect. A stunning building, beautifully realised.

His patience is endless, capturing all the tiny details we didn’t even know were there! So great to work with and would highly recommend to anyone.”

You can view more photos of the process behind the painting of Handley Church in the portfolio section here.