Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Newsagents

The Newsagents
7 x 11 inches

Just because it's December and a bit too wet and blowy to stand outdoors and paint with watercolours, doesn't mean you can't do anything.
Rain can be a little bit too much of a good thing for a watercolour unless you have some cover and the danger is you end up with all the paint on the floor and nothing on the paper.
Sitting in a vehicle is a good option. You soon get used to the cramp, and anyway it's the painting that matters, but it's a good idea to keep it small. If you really find it too uncomfortable then make a number of pen or pencil sketches in a sketchbook adding in some idea of the tonal values, and even writing notes about the view in front of you and how you feel about it.. A back up photo can be useful.
The figures in 'The Newsagents' weren't actually all there at the same time, but jotted down on a sketchbook page and placed where I hoped they would help to tell the story. All the information was then gathered together and painted at home.
Grey days can be as interesting to paint as any other weather conditions.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Happiness is ...

A new sketchbook !
Would you believe it ? I came across this the other day and couldn't believe my eyes... a portrait format A4 sketchbook with watercolour paper
which at first glance seems to work how one would expect.

I think it is made by Clairefontaine and has a dark blue cover. The paper feels like 140lb/300gsm but is not as hard and brittle as some other books I have tried. I haven't been able to find it on the internet, but probably haven't been looking in the right place...
However I am really looking forward to playing with this in the coming weeks/months

Friday, 16 October 2015

A bite in the air

There was a distinct bite in the air this morning as I painted this view in Lower Slaughter. I have painted this a number of times as it is a well known landmark hereabouts but never before in October.
Now I know why. Perishing ! I thought I would see more of the chimney but the leaves are still clinging on.

Never mind, we sketchers are a hardy lot and don't mind a bit of cold ! Well, not when there is a mug of hot chocolate at the end of it anyway !

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A sketch a day keeps boredom away

  Retired ? Looking for something to do which doesn't require too much physical activity or loads of equipment, can be done inside or out, on one's own or with others ? I truly believe there are great advantages to be had in taking up the noble practise of sketching.

Equipment is minimal. A piece of paper and a pencil is all you need to get started. You may want to upgrade to a notebook and a biro, and one day, who knows - a fibre-tip pen !

You can begin making marks sitting in the comfort of a chair or even lying in bed, so not a lot of effort is required in getting started, and it needn't take up a lot of time at first.

How to get started ? Easy, sketch whatever you see. It may be something as simple as an apple, or a jar of marmalade on the kitchen table, a cup of coffee by your side. How about your library book or the television clicker ? Keep it simple at first, don't be too ambitious. Go at your own pace and slowly increase the number of objects in your sketch. Be inquisitive and a whole new world will open up for you.

Whatever you decide to sketch, do it for yourself. Sketch whatever interests you whether it is flowers in a vase, flowers in your garden, a plate of cakes or a dish of fruit. Your first attempts are bound to be a bit wobbly, but then nobody played a violin concerto straight off or scored a hole in one the first time they picked up a golf club.

You will soon find that it becomes addictive and you will want to keep your sketches together, so it makes sense to keep a notebook. If you are only using dry media, that is a pencil or pen, then you won't need to worry about the thickness or the absorbency of the paper. Later you may wish to go ahead and purchase an Artist's sketchbook. These are many and varied and come in sizes from about 3 x 5 inches upwards. We all have our natural drawing size in the same way we each have a natural size of handwriting so choose a sketchbook which feels comfortable to you.
As you become more proficient, so you will lose your inhibitions and maybe feel confident in taking your sketchbook for a walk, the way some people take dogs. Find a secluded spot and start scratching. No one need know. A sketchbook and pencil can easily be concealed in a pocket. 
Once you have conquered that, there will be no stopping you. Anything and everything will become fair game to your pencil ! Though please be aware that in public places some people do not enjoy being stared at, so do respect their privacy !
If you are sociable, persuade a friend to take up sketching too. You can arrange to meet every so often (perhaps over tea and cakes ?) and compare your progress, or you may decide to sketch together.
Make sketching a habit - it is not life threatening.
It keeps the brain active (sketching is all about observation).
Above all it is FUN.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Taking the plunge
There is nothing so terrifying as the first page of a new sketchbook. Its blankness stares back at you unblinking. Daring you to make your first mark. Willing you to make an error the moment your pen or pencil touches the paper.
For this reason I know of artists who deliberately ignore the first page, turning it over, thus feeling they have succeeded in out manoeuvring the book by starting on the next page !
I understand exactly how they feel. At one stage I always started at the back and worked my way forward. Hoping that by the time I reached the front I might have something worth looking at..
Wherever you start, a blank page can be daunting, and the best way I have found to overcome this feeling is simply to make a mark.
ANY mark
It doesn't have to be large. It can be a line. It can be a dot. It can be incorporated into whatever is going to be on that page or it can stand alone.
It doesn't matter. The fact is, you have done SOMETHING and the page isn't pristine any more. It cannot harm you.
Part of our trouble I believe is the feeling that our sketch needs to be a seeringly honest, painstakingly precise drawing, with every line immaculately placed at the first attempt. Nothing else will do.
Sadly, few of us have that ability, although with time and constant practice, our abilities will improve.
Sketchbooks are an artist's diary. What goes on between its covers is between the artist and the sketchbook. You don't have to show it to anyone, although it's always nice to share when things go right ! Ultimately, whatever you put in your sketchbook should be fun.
 Enjoy it.
 Don't give in to the tyranny of the blank page !

Monday, 14 September 2015

What to do on a dull day

A brand new sketchbook arrived at the weekend. A Stillman and Birn Beta series 5.5 x 8.5 ins with 270gsm cold press paper, which I have been trying to find for some time but the suppliers always seem to be out of stock..

Stillman & Birn are an American company and their range of sketchbooks have recently taken the art world by storm. So I thought I'd try one.

A little pricy at 12.00 pounds sterling but not the most expensive by any means. The big attraction for me is the hardbound portrait format which opens flat, and I look forward to sketching a range of subject matter in it.

I do like a sketchbook with watercolour paper rather than cartridge, although the better quality cartridge takes a watercolour wash perfectly well.

At 270 gsm, the paper is a good thickness (cartridge is usually about 150gsm by comparison) if a little on the hard side to be ideal for me.

However I have only tried one page so far and really it seems silly to be quite so picky. I think the advantages will be enormous as the physical size of the book and the fact that it doesn't have a huge dip in the middle far outweigh any other petty grievance.

Full marks to the manufacturers for filling the gap in the market and providing an excellent product in the format and size that makes so much sense.

Check out www.stillmanandbirn.com for their range of  premium sketchbooks for dry and wet media, watercolours and inks.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Autumn Still Life

First Squash
watercolour on paper
Summer is over, according to the Met office, but the upside to this means that is now officially autumn with a whole lot of new painting opportunities ahead.
Too cold/wet/windy for you to go outside ? Well then, why not consider an autumnal still life with all the colours associated with this time of year ?
Pumpkins and squashes are coming to the fore - some of my favourite subjects, I can't believe it is a year since I painted any. The trouble with seasonal subject matter -daffodils in Spring for example- they are with us only a short space of time and one has to remind oneself again how to capture their form and colour. Luckily where squashes are concerned there seems to be a never ending variety to choose from which means one can have fun making up new compositions from relatively few objects..
I'm looking forward to adding this year's harvest to a number of still life paintings during this wonderful season.
I may still go out and sketch between times !

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Lunch at the Rose Tree

Lunch at the Rose Tree
watercolour on arches watercolour paper
14 x 20 inches
This little restaurant with its bright umbrellas is a favourite sight and a popular location and at this time of year there are always a lot of people eating outside. This was painted from many smaller sketchbook studies.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Set Aside

Set Aside
I came across this little trailer on a recent walk when I was expecting to be able to paint/sketch a landscape. I felt sorry for it and the air of abandonment which surrounded it.
It's a mistake to go on a painting outing with a preconceived idea of what you are going to paint. Sometimes it is necessary to get out of your comfort zone and try something a little different, or challenge yourself to new subject matter. It doesn't matter if your initial attempt is a little disappointing - at least you tried - and in the process new techniques may occur to you, or you may use a colour range you had not thought of before.
And from this, great things may happen!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Roses round the door

This picture- postcard little cottage in Hutton-Le-Hole is actually for sale and who wouldn't want to live here? I can't imagine it will be on the market for long.
It was the perfect day when we saw it on our way around the village but you'd probably have to make sure you stock up the freezer in winter!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Yorkshire continued...

Scarborough Lighthouse
Another sketchbook page from our recent trip north. Luckily the seagulls weren't interested in mugging us for our fish and chips !
The sketchbook is an ordinary Daler Rowney A4 cartridge paper. It doesn't like too much water, but then I tend not to use too much anyway.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hutton le Hole

The Old School House
The old school house is now a gift shop in this beautiful and popular Yorkshire village where sheep roam at will. Every cottage is a picture waiting to be painted. The little craft centre is worth a visit too.

Monday, 10 August 2015


Boat of flowers
We visited North Yorkshire for a short break recently and one port of call was Whitby. It was so windy it was difficult to stay upright. It was also extremely crowded but we managed to have a good look around. This little boat caught my eye as we made our way back to the car.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Last of the lavender

Last of the lavender
watercolour on paper
This will be the last field of lavender to be harvested and distilled from this year's growth at the Cotswold Lavender farm and yesterday was the perfect day to see it.

Friday, 31 July 2015


watercolour on paper
I met my new friends during a break in my stewarding stint for the Birmingham Watercolour Society summer exhibition at Hanbury Hall yesterday. Luckily I had cream cheese in my roll and not chicken...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

In for repairs

In for repairs
watercolour on paper
11.75 x 17.75 inches (18 x 24 " framed)
"In for repairs" currently hanging in the Birmingham Watercolour Society Summer Exhibition in the Long Gallery, Hanbury Hall, School Road, Hanbury, Droitwich, WR9 7EA  - a National Trust Property - until September 1st 2015

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

MaimeriBlu watercolours

MaimeriBlu Watercolours
As I was saying - I was recently asked by the SAA(society for all artists) to take part in trialling some pigments manufactured in Italy by MaimeriBlu.
The reason being that this range of artist's materials will be available through the SAA soon.
In my case I received a small sample pack of their "Superior Watercolours" as shown above.
Maimeri was founded nearly 100 years ago in 1923 by Italian artist Gianni Maimeri and his brother Carlo an industrial chemist. From the outset, we are told, their philosophy was to seek perfection and purity in their pigments using traditional mixing techniques which they still use today.
I received five 15ml tubes from their range of 73 watercolours to test their colour strength, handling consistency, ease of mixing, expected transparency or opaqueness and the overall experience of using the pigments.
The pigments they sent were Cadmium yellow deep, Cadmium red light, Burnt sienna, cobalt blue light, and Burnt umber.
At first I was a little disappointed that both cadmiums were, as expected, opaque, and the other three are described as semi-opaque, whereas I really prefer to use transparent pigments where possible.
However, the tubes are a lot easier to get into as they have a much more user-friendly cap which can be unscrewed without hurting one's fingers ! First good point !
I started by making a colour chart to familiarise myself with the pigments. Straight out of the tube they felt a little weak and scratchy, but after pushing them around the palette with my brush, they soon cheered up and showed  me their full potential. Some interesting mixes too, for example the yellow (Giallo di cadmio scuro) and blue (Blu di cobalto charo) gave some useful greens which I could make darker by the addition of a little Burnt umber (Terra d'ombra bruciata). The Umber is a little darker than I expected and mixed with the cobalt blue produced a lovely near-Indigo.
Both cadmiums are certainly rich in pigment and equally certainly opaque and together provide a vibrant orange.
Some good greys from the blue / red and blue/brown combinations
Of the five I thought the Burnt Sienna was the weakest, but a little of the Umber added to it gave it a bit more oomph.
On the whole, I was pleased with the intensity of hue and their ease in mixing given that mixing two or more opaque or semi-opaque pigments is never going to be the same / as interesting / as exciting / as beautiful as mixing transparents.
In this small sketch of Nectarines, I was happy with the handling of the pigments BUT found myself battling with their opacity and wishing I could have tried some of the other slightly romantic-sounding hues such as Arancio di Avignone (orange), Rosso primario - Magenta or a Violetto permanente bluastro ( permanent violet blueish) as seen on Maimeri's hand painted colour chart - another good point !
Small landscape with barn has an autumnal/wintery feel to it as I tried playing with greens and greys from the chosen selection
My final experiment, Field with poppies, has a brighter feel to it and the opacity of the Rosso di cadmio can easily be seen.
With the opaque/transparency issue in mind, I would say that MaimeriBlu Superior watercolours are easily comparable to other manufacturers which I have used, and the more I played with them the happier I became with their handling. I look forward to trying out some of their transparent colours as I have a feeling they may be even more exciting !
My thanks to SAA  (www.saa.co.uk) and Gemma for allowing me to play. Contact saa direct if you want to know when they will be available from their catalogue.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Sweet lavender

Sweet lavender
watercolour on paper
Early morning, overcast, but I wanted to try and find a view with some lavender. Painted this from the roadside looking slightly down towards the road leading to the farm.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


                                                                 Superior watercolours

I have recently received a trial sample pack of watercolours manufactured by the Italian firm of Maimeri to try out. Looking forward to seeing what they can do. Watch this space!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Cherry ripe

Cherry ripe
Watercolour on paper
I drew this looking up into the tree. The reddest cherries were then picked as three large magpies were showing too much interest in them as well as worrying the smaller birds in the garden.

Thursday, 9 July 2015


Cherries from our tree
The cherries are ripening now and it will be a race between us and the birds to see who picks them first. These are not very nice to eat from the tree but make delicious jam !

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Summer interrupted

Summer interrupted
watercolour on paper
Summer has been interrupted by thunderstorms and heavy rain and the normal smooth running of everyday life has been interrupted by the return of a bathroom leak which has been dribbling on and off for quite a few weeks now. Something to do with a faulty olive apparently. Just time on the way back from the plumbing shop to pull up in a lay-by to paint the grey day before exchanging paint brushes for wrenches...

Friday, 3 July 2015

Friday lunch

Friday lunch
watercolour on paper
6 x 8 inches (image)
After yesterday's rain the sun came back today to lull us into believing that it really is summer! At least it persuaded this threesome (and others) to adopt the leisurely holiday spirit. Having painted this sitting on the ground I realised my legs had gone to sleep and for a moment I wasn't sure if I'd be able to walk again...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Before the rain

Before the rain
watercolour on Arches block 5.9 x 11.8 inches
It feels strange to be able to see the ground again after weeks of threading ones way through tall grasses - or not being able to get through at all. Suddenly it is all compacted down into a handful of bales. I just finished this as the first drops of rain began to fall.
An hour later I was sitting by the river with a mug of tea and sketched this couple enjoying their lunch. The earlier rain didn't come to much at all.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Where the poppies are

Where the poppies are
watercolour on paper
14.25 x 10.25 inches
(20 x 16 inches mounted)
One of the paintings inspired by my recent sketch. This is a wonderful area for poppies with fields and fields of them swathing the landscape with their scarlet glow.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Field of Scarlet

watercolour Moleskine sketchbook 8 x 11.5 inches
sketched this leaning on a gate beside a busy road, the car pulled half way on to the verge of long grasses. I was nearly finished when a car drew up behind me and a man jumped out. Someone wanting to see what I was doing ? Someone wanting to take a photograph of the view ? Neither -just someone wanting directions to the nearest town...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Garden planter

Garden planter
Moleskine watercolour sketchbook page
8.25 x 11.50 inches
Sometimes it's good to just paint something for yourself without worrying about how much detail you put in or leave out. Another words to do something just for FUN. Sketchbooks are a great place to do this as well as trying out new ideas or techniques. They are also good if you don't have a lot of time at your disposal

Friday, 19 June 2015

More bales

Silage bales
5.75 x 7.75 inches
(10 x 12" mounted)
A different field, a smaller painting. I barely lasted. Too much pollen in the air. A very high warning from the met office. I started sneezing... and haven't stopped since. This is the worst day this year - so far!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

What a difference...

Silage bales in the meadow
watercolour on paper
7.25 x 11.25 inches
(12 x 16 inches mounted)
What a difference ! A few days ago when I walked here you could hardly see one side of the field from the other due to the height of the grasses. Today, flat as a pancake and these black plastic-wrapped bales have sprouted from who knows where?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Farm Buildings

Farm buildings from the village hall
watercolour on paper
7.25 x 11.25 inches
(12 x 16 inches mounted)
Such a beautiful morning this morning. These buildings glimpsed through the trees were just too inviting to ignore.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Fresh Baked

What to do when it's too wet to paint outside - bake a cake, then paint it!  Another entry for my current Moleskine sketchbook

Friday, 5 June 2015

Another summer's day

Buttercups in a meadow
watercolour on paper
5.75 x 7.75inches
(10x12 inches mounted)
Two days of sunshine in a row may not seem much to some people but it's enough to get those of us who live in the UK excited! It meant I was able to go out and spend some more time painting en plein air for better or worse. This was done on my usual Saunders Waterford 140 lb paper.
Peaceful morning
watercolour on paper
5.9 x 11.8 inches
Here I tried a block of Arches watercolour cold press paper which I found lovely to work on. It was especially useful having a block as it meant I could stand and hold it and my palette in one hand while I painted with the other

Thursday, 4 June 2015

A good start to June

Buttercup Field
watercolour on paper
(10 x 12 " mounted)
That's English weather for you - after the recent strong winds today dawned bright and sunny and stayed that way all day with hardly a breath of wind to be found - Hurray!
There is so much happening in the rural landscape at the moment you don't have to go far to find something to paint. In fact you could probably choose one spot, enjoy a good paint and simply turn 45 degrees to find another beautiful vista crying out to be captured in your favourite medium.
June morning
watercolour on paper
(10 x 12" mounted)
..Which is exactly what I did this morning. I expected there to be more people out enjoying the weather but in fact there were very few.
I am hoping it will be much the same tomorrow so I can go out again and lose myself in the
 meadows before the next lot of rain which is bound to come.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

After the rain

After the rain and winds of the last few days it was good to get outside again and see how the views along the footpaths had fared. This sketchbook note will remind me of the fresh greens in the foliage and the fields of buttercups. The forecast for tomorrow is good so I'm hoping to take easel, hat and bug repellent and do some painting (provided the wind has dropped)

Friday, 22 May 2015

The coming of Spring

One of the still life demonstrations I painted this week. It was lovely to meet painters in Baginton and in Evesham and nice that they were so appreciative.
Now it is a quiet day at home catching up with things and plenty of...

Friday, 15 May 2015

The lushness of May

The lushness of May
Back to a small sketchbook during a footpath ramble this morning and I wanted to try and convey the lushness of the moment where nature is bursting with energy and nobody has yet tried to cut anything down. Having made this small sketch I am hoping to use the information gathered to paint a slightly more 'finished' watercolour.
Looking forward to going to Baginton Art Group on Tuesday and Evesham Arts Society on Wednesday to present a demonstration still life. A sneak preview of part of what I shall be doing is below..

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Over the road

Over the road
watercolour on paper
5.75 x 7.75 inches
(10 x 12inches mounted)
A little from the window of the village hall where I hold my weekly classes.
The colours are so fresh at this time of year.
As I finished and cleared up the class stuff and loaded the car, spots of rain began to fall.

Friday, 8 May 2015

A change in the landscape

This continues to be in my shiny moleskine which is really good for pen and ink, but not so much for watercolour except for a little "spot" colour  like this. Anything else just runs off and anything left behind also has a tendency to seep through to the other side of the page.

Which is why...

...it was so lovely to go out this morning with a moleskine full of watercolour paper and be able to flood some washes onto the page.

The landscape is changing. A week ago the hedgerows were full of frothy blossom and a general air of expectancy of a summer soon to come. Today the blossom is mostly gone and the ground has suddenly become overrun by equally frothy cow-parsley, chest high in places. A field of yellow dandelions has become a field of white dandelion seed heads.

The political landscape is changing too. Let us hope there really will be sunshine to come!