My Natural Style Christmas Decorations

A gouache painting, showing a Christmas wreath , natural style. Hanging on a garden gate
Christmas Wreath

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a peaceful few days. Before the season is over, I’d like to show you this little gouache painting in my artjournal, a natural style of Christmas decoration. To be honest, I chose this subject in response to the challenge ‘ Christmas at Home ‘. It was set to inspire us in our Beginner Gouache Group on Mewe. And, I think it is a really good subject to explore. Especially now, of course, when some people can’t get home or see the ones they want to.

Anyway, this little illustration took far longer then I expected to complete, considering that it is only 8 inch square. But, I think it is really good that I try different styles of painting and drawing – it gets me out of my comfort zone. And it can also be surprisingly enjoyable.

Christmas Tree – Natural Style

Christmas Tree – Natural Style.

Actually, I painted this gloriously impressive tree from life, whilst sitting in the beautifully decorated Ballroom at Cannon Hall, a nearby stately home. However, I don’t think that my on the spot watercolour really captures the full effect of the tree. It must have been at least 18 foot tall! Personally, I adore real life fir trees and we always have one in the house ( about 6 feet tall ). It really makes Christmas for me. And, I also choose a very simple, natural style wreath, made of fir or holly, with just a simple ribbon bow. In fact, a lot of the decorations in my house are painted wood and ceramic,textile, my own festive paintings, flowers and plants plus candles – quite simple and natural.

A photo of a twig garland decorated in natural style with holly, fir ,slices of dried lime and white wooden stars.

We went for a walk before Christmas in the formal garden of Nostell Priory, another big house nearby. And to my delight, as we walked away from the lake towards the Menagerie Garden, we caught sight of the natural style decorations in the trees. And they were beautifully made by a local artist, using twigs, pinecones, twine and holly. As you might imagine, I felt quite inspired. Something to bear in mind for next Christmas! Click here to see some of my festive paintings from last year.

Christmas Robin in Oil Pastel

Christmas Robin

Well, folks, it’s nearly here, so I thought I’d show you my Christmas Robin. In fact, this is the second version and I did enter them both into the Birdmas challenge. It was hosted by the Triwing Art Challenge blog on Mewe. Honestly, the artwork presented for this fun project was first class – Draw Twelve Birds for Christmas. And, I’m pleased to report that I did complete it in twelve days, running from December 1st till Dec 12th!

Robin in a Thorn Tree

So, here’s version one- a quick watercolour sketch in my art journal. And the super photo I used for inspiration was taken in my daughter in law’s garden. You see, she loves feeding the birds who visit and some of them become quite tame, like this lovely little Christmas robin.

The Abstracted Version of my Christmas Robin.

A Christmas robin,  drawn in oil pastel,  perching on a little branch in a thorn tree.
The Christmas Robin

After I had drawn a couple of straight up, realistic birds, I suddenly felt that I wanted to branch out a bit and use my imagination a bit more. So I drew this alternative version, and really enjoyed myself! Because I chose oil pastels from the very first sketch , I knew the lines would be a bit unpredictable. But, that’s ok – I really did want to create a loose drawing. So, this is my Christmas card to you – have a good one, in the circumstances, that is .

The Crazy Bird

A quick sketch in acrylic  marker.  Drawn from my imagination,  a bird in green and red feathers with a crest on its head, to keep my Christmas Robin company.
The Crazy Bird

Finally, here is my ten minute, acrylic marker crazy bird, created purely to cheer us all up! If you want to see more of the birds I painted for the challenge, see here and here.

A Moorland Scene in Acrylic

In the Hills

Hello everyone. I’ve been busy working on two more projects from the Acrylic Painting course I’m following on line. But, before I tell you about the painting above- the moorland scene, I’d like to describe the first exercise I did. It was studies of skies, as part of a module on landscape features. Actually, I found it very helpful to concentrate on this subject as I have found this difficult to do. And, to be honest, I have more or less limited myself to simple sunny or overcast skies in the past. So, taking up the challenge to paint sunrise and sunset was, for me, both daunting and encouraging at the same time!

A hint of the sunrise behind a headland in a calm seascape.
Sunrise
The sun setting in a blaze of glory over a moorland scene.
Sunset

Admittedly, these little paintings are only studies, not finished works. And I had never chosen this subject before, but I felt quite pleased with my first attempt. Then, I tried my hand at clouds, something I had often included in my landscape paintings. However, by taking advantage of my tutor’s advice, Rod Moore of the Learn to Paint Academy, my clouds looked much more convincing!

Clouds in the Sky

Our final study addressed the problematic subject of heavy storm clouds and driving rain. Of course, I will need to practice this much more to improve, but, at least, I will now know how to approach it.

The Storm

A Moorland Scene

A moorland scene in acrylic,  showing a lovely path through the hills, in the north of England.
In the Hills

And now to the best bit – a landscape painting of a moorland scene. Well, to tell you the truth, the image provided was a view over Australian countryside, looking over to a mountain range. But, as we were encouraged to use the method and, also, paint the landscape we were familiar with, that’s what I did! You see, a short drive from where I live, there are moorland hills like these, with plenty of footpaths. So, I just imagined a walk in the hills and tried to convey the atmosphere of an English summer’s day. In fact, changing the colours and the vegetation whilst keeping the features and the tones was a bit mind boggling. But, I expect I’ll get better with practice! And, it’s also what I love to paint. See here for more paintings of northern England landscapes.

More Christmas Birds Artwork

A little painting in gouache of a duck coming close to beg for food. A yellow beak and shiny green and purple feathers on the head. One of my Christmas birds.
A Duck Begging for Food.

Good morning everyone. Well, as promised, here are some more Christmas birds that I created for the Birdmas challenge. As you might remember, the challenge was organised by the Triwing Art Challenge group over on Mewe. And, it was a real pleasure to be taking part – one bird a day for the first twelve days of Christmas, or thereabouts. Anyway, here is my close up of a duck, coming really close in, prospecting for food. However, on this occasion the bird was unsuccessful. Because my daughter in law, who took all of the fab photos that I used, she hadn’t got any duck food handy!

Actually, this is the first gouache painting I’ve done in a while. You see, I’ve been working hard on the online acrylic painting landscape course that I’m following, See this post here for an update on that. But, to get back to gouache, much to my relief, I hadn’t forgotten too much about how to handle the paint. To be honest, the main difference between them is that acrylic layers dry completely and gouache never seems to dry. Of course, this makes it awkward to paint layers of colour, but it can be done. And, gouache has a charm all of its own.

Christmas Birds with Shiny Feathers

The plumage on the drake was quite subdued in colour, but the feathers on the head were iridescent. I tried to show the subtle changes of colour, shifting from green to purple by blending small brushstrokes together. But, I’m not sure the photo really shows this well.

Closeup of bird’s head
A pastel drawing of a fluffy, white hen - one of my Christmas  birds.
Chicken

I had been really looking forward to painting a chicken. So, I decided to use chalk pastels – I thought they would best portray the fluffiness of the feathers. And, I am fairly pleased with the outcome . But, I did make a big mistake in choosing the wrong paper! Purely because of my impatience to get started. You see, the paper was so smooth that most of the pastel fell off! There must be a lesson to be learnt there.

The Comical Seagull

And, finally, the photo I used for inspiration for this quick watercolour sketch was an absolute gift. For, the pose, the cheeky attitude – they were already there . And, all I had to do was concentrate and alter nothing. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my Christmas birds -there might be a few more posted before long! Check out this post here to see the bird paintings I posted last week.

Drawing Twelve Birds for Christmas

Sparrowhawk

Good morning, everyone. I think I mentioned that I joined a great Beginner Gouache group on Mewe . And that led me to another group running the challenge – Birdmas. That is, drawing twelve birds for Christmas, from December 1st to 12th. Well, it looks as though I’m on track to complete the full set. So I’d like to show you a few of the earlier ones. For example, my sparrowhawk.

A gouache painting from my drawing twelve birds for Christmas challenge. A powerful sparrowhawk.
My first bird

Drawing Twelve Birds for Christmas – Day One

Just to be clear, the photos which inspired these paintings and drawings were taken by my lovely daughter in law. And they were taken mostly in her garden. And this particular one shows the sparrowhawk peering around carefully to make sure it can safely carry on eating. In fact, it had just brought down a pigeon and in this shot, the grass beneath its feet was covered in white feathers. Actually, during Lockdown, and afterwards, we saw two birds of prey bringing their kill into our own garden. To be honest, I live almost in the town centre and this is something we’ve never seen before. Anyway, I enjoyed painting this magnificent creature in gouache paint.

Day Two – A Pigeon

A Woodpigeon

Actually, this pigeon is quite tame and it will come down on to the lawn to be fed. So there is plenty of opportunity to get good close ups. I focused on the head and tried to capture the softness of the feathers in a pencil drawing.

A Hungry Bird

An ink and coloured pencil drawing of a hungry young crow, beak wide open and with a caption " feed me "
A Hungry Young Crow

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed taking part in this challenge in the Triwing Art Challenge group. And the best part was seeing the creativity unleashed in my fellow artists. In fact, the artwork is a very high standard and it’s very pleasant to see this develop . Personally I think the challenge of drawing twelve birds for Christmas was very well chosen. And, finally, the image above, A Hungry Young Crow was completed in ink and coloured pencil. I tried to show the texture of the ragged wing feathers and the tree bark. To my own surprise, I was inspired by the beautiful work of the other artists to add a caption, not my usual style. The story behind the picture is that this bird was continually exhausting its parents with loud demands for food. I’ll post some more of my drawings soon.

If you want to see more of my bird paintings, look at this post here .

Two Acrylic Practice Paintings – Works in Progress

A dreamy view over the beautiful Australian countryside to the distant Mountains m, in the early morning light , one of my acrylic practice paintings.
The Red Path

As some of you may know, I am following an online course on painting at the moment. And I’d like to show you two of my acrylic practice paintings. In fact, the painting above is almost completely finished and I decided to leave it a while. To be honest, I am learning such a lot on this course. And I want to think a bit more about the techniques and design ideas I now know about. Then, later I will bring the painting to completion. However, I am fairly pleased with the stage I have brought it to. Incidentally, this method of working is quite new to me. Actually, I usually work in a more impulsive manner, but I do always put a lot of thought into my paintings.

New Techniques and Design Ideas in my Practice Paintings

In this painting, I used a different choice of colours on the palette, following the instruction given. And, this took me right out of my comfort zone, which can be a good thing! But, as you can see, these were the right choices for this dreamy Australian landscape. Secondly, I attempted to blend the colours in the sky – again something I never try to do. Admittedly, I need to practise this more, but then, hopefully, I will have acquired a new skill.

The Tribute to Monet Acrylic Painting

A spectacular deep lily pond with pink and white blossoms - one of my acrylic practice paintings.
The Lily Pond

Again, I must make it clear that this one of my acrylic practice paintings just lacks the final finishing touches. And , I’m prepared to leave it a while before I decide how much extra detail to add, if any. As you can see, there were plenty of challenges in this. Including, naturally, the subject – reflections on still water, a subject I have skillfully avoided until now! Well, I did do my best, but there’s room for improvement. On the other hand, I managed to suggest perspective in the floating flowers and leaves. That is, to put it simply, the furthest ones smaller and the nearest ones bigger and all at the correct angle to suggest they are lying on the water. Baby steps I know, but it’s very valuable to a self taught artist like me ! I really can’t wait to see what else I can learn. If you want to see a painting that I completed with the tutor’s help, see this post here . I will post another update soon!

A Covid Art Journal – Work in Progress

Good Day – Bad Day

Hello everyone. I’d like to tell you all about the Covid art journal we are putting together. When I say we, I mean the Rotherham Roar group of artists that I am a member of. Obviously, we have not been able to hold our meetings in person since March now. And, as for the exhibition we were planning to put on together, that’s been put on hold. However, we’ve been meeting on Zoom. And we decided to make a record of our feelings during this strange time. For most people this has taken the form of work on paper in a sketchbook.

My Contribution to the Covid Art Journal

A bright , cheerful abstract gouache painting. My Covid art journal page.
Good Day

This is the first half of my double page spread. You see, I decided to highlight the way my mood fluctuates from one day to the next. So here we have ‘Good Day ‘ and it shows optimism, hopefully. Perhaps this day the sun is shining and I’ve been out for a walk in the fresh air. And I’ve been counting my blessings and feeling confident that things will work out well. To explain, I tried to show the beauty of the world and hope for a bright future.

The Second Half of my Pandemic Art Journal Contribution

A dark, sinister abstract with spiky shapes,  dark shadows and uncomfortable contrasts of colour. Showing the mood of a bad day for my page in the Covid art journal.
Bad Day

As you can tell, this gouache painting represents those unhappy feelings that we have probably all experienced recently. To be honest, I had fairly sad things on my mind when I painted this . And I tried to show this in the spiky shapes, gloomy shadows and uncomfortable atmosphere of the piece. Anyway, that’s enough of doom and gloom for the moment. But, I must admit that the situation and free time has given me the opportunity to do a lot of creative work. So, it’s not all bad!

Some Happy Pages from my Own Covid Art Journal

Under the Sea
Cheerful

This mixed media piece ‘ Cheerful ‘ was painted back in March, and it certainly cheered me up at the time ! You might like to have a look at more of my art journal ideas here .

Finished Drawing and Unfinished Drawing.

A watercolour sketch of a stretch of countryside. showing the autumn colours of the trees, hedgerows and fields. With a little house in the foreground of my finished drawing.
A Sunny Autumn Day

Hello everyone. Today I’d like to explain about the difference between plein air drawing and finished drawing. Well, this is only my opinion, and, I know for a fact that many other artists feel differently. Anyway, to my mind, a plein air painting or drawing is one that is completed outdoors and on the spot. Of course, you could complete it indoors, if you were in a museum or a gallery, church or anywhere really. The point is that you draw your impression of the scene and then leave it . To be honest, this means that some parts of it could perhaps benefit from some improvement later. Personally, I prefer to leave it as it is, as a true record of what I saw.

An ” Unfinished ” Drawing

A finished drawing of a copse of pine trees  - a finished drawing done en plein air.
In the Park

This watercolour sketch was done in 25 minutes in a medium sized sketchbook whilst sitting on a bench. In fact, this is one of our favourite places, an English Heritage garden. And it is beautiful even in cold, overcast autumn weather. Actually, I love this spot, looking across at the majestic Scots pines to the ” daffodil meadow “. (You’ll have to use your imagination ! ) You see, some people might think that this is not a finished piece. Mainly because it could stand quite a bit of improvement. But, to my way of thinking it is one of my finished drawings. Because it’s a true record of my immediate reaction to the scene, full, I hope , of spontaneity and memories.

A Finished Drawing

A Sunny Autumn Day

Well, this is an example of what I call a finished watercolour sketch. To be clear, I sat for half an hour in front of this glorious bright view and sketched it and laid down about two layers of colour. Then, time was up! And I had to leave it at that and come home. In effect, I was very inspired by the beauty of the mellow autumn colours of the trees and hedgerows . So I did some work on it afterwards to do it justice, spending a very pleasant hour doing so. To sum up, I have now created quite a nice finished off painting. But I can’t describe it as a plein air watercolour sketch. I hope that I have made my reasoning clear and that you can appreciate both kinds of work.

An Unfinished Drawing ?

The View from the Car Park

Finally, this watercolour sketch was completed in 40 minutes as I sat in the car, while my husband was shopping in the supermarket. In my mind, this is finished, although some people might think of it as unfinished. Mainly because it could be improved. You can see more real plein air sketches here . As we say in Urban Sketchers, a true record of that day. And, I do hope that you can see the difference.

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