Sketching Outside in Winter with Watercolour

The Town Park

Hello everyone. Happy New Year to you all – let’s make this a good one ! Well, sketching outside in winter actually depends on just a few things, a fine day, some simple art materials and enthusiasm! To be honest, I have sketched outside in drizzly rain (see image above ) But, if the rain persists, the paper becomes too wet and the watercolour develops strange patches of colour that you definitely didn’t intend! Seriously though, I do enjoy sketching outside in cooler weather. And you can always go for a brisk walk to warm up and drink some hot coffee from your flask. ( I forgot to mention this in the list of essentials )

Sketching Outside in the Town Park

Sketching outside in the town park. Ink and watercolour sketch showing the impressive tower and the grand entrance with a flight of steps.
The Town Park

Back in November, on a cold, intermittently rainy day , I sat for half an hour and managed this watercolour sketch. And I just went straight in with the ink and didn’t bother with a pencil sketch. Incidentally, this is my preferred method of outdoor sketching. Actually, it does help me to produce a fresh, lively painting, a record of the occasion, which is what I’m aiming at. Although it was damp and grey, the park was quite busy with families, pairs of friends meeting up outdoors and loners, coming out to stare hungrily at company. There was also an elderly jogger doing a circuit round the tower and up and down the steps. Actually, this tower is a fine sight. And a team of volunteers look after it and show visitors round on Sundays. However, I must explain that my sketch only shows about a half of the impressive height of the tower.

Sketching from the Car

A watercolour sketch showing a wide view of snowy fields and winter trees, through the  car windscreen- almost sketching outside.
A Snowy Day

As you can see, in December the weather became much colder. And I was dying to go out and attempt to paint the snow covered fields. Fortunately, we found a decent parking spot with a huge view over the fields and little copses of trees. And, I was still hankering after propping up my sketch book and paints on the dry stone wall. But, it wasn’t practicable, so I settled for the passenger seat of the car. I wanted to convey the way the tufts of rough grass were forcing their way through the slowly melting snow. And, I enjoyed leaving the paper white for the snow – it seems ages since I painted a wintry picture. This one took 40 minutes

The Winter Trees

The Winter Trees

As I have tried to show here in this close up, in the golden sunshine, the bare branches almost glowed a warm russet brown. And, then I realized that I was trying to change the temperature of the colours and the sky. Because the stormy clouds were moving in and I hadn’t noticed! So, it was time to call it a day and go home to get warmed up. Let’s hope for more milder, fine days – ideal for outdoor sketching!

If you would like to see more of my recent winter sketching, see here and here.

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 .

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.

See myThree Art Journal Abstracts

Frantic

Hello everyone. This morning I’d like to show you some of the art journal abstracts that I’ve been painting over the past week or so. My art journal has been such a lifeline to me during the pandemic. For example, when I felt that everything was beyond my control, I would turn to my journal. Then I would grab the nearest materials to hand and just randomly create. Invariably, I would have some precious time engrossed in painting or drawing and not dwelling on problems. And , afterwards, I would feel better !

The Ceramics Patterns One

A softly coloured,  calming abstract composition in watercolour and gouache.  Muted palette of green, gold purple and fawn. One of my art journal abstracts.
Patterns

I painted this one above very quickly in watercolour and gouache. Actually, it was only afterwards that I realised how much I had been influenced by the beautiful ceramics on display at Cannon Hall. In fact, I can also see echoes of the colours in the pieces – soft green, gold, purple and fawn. As it happens, that’s quite an attractive combination of colours to inspire feelings of calm, I think.

The Ink Drop Art Journal Abstract

A chaotic jumble of shapes, half glimpsed figures and patterns in orange and red acrylic inks, fineliner and watercolour wash. One of my art journal abstracts.
Frantic

To tell you the story behind this picture, I had watched an interesting documentary about the British artist Maggie Hambling. And she explained how, every morning she sat down and ‘ doodled ‘ or scribbled very quick sketches using acrylic inks. Interestingly, without pen or brush – just moving the ink around with the dropper in the bottle. But, as she explained, this was an exercise to loosen up before spending the rest of the day painting. As you can see, my small abstract clearly reflects my agitated state of mind ! However, I really enjoyed the process, especially adding marker and watercolour afterwards. So, having a sketchbook and a few art materials handy enables me to follow any inspiration straight away and on the spot ! ( The dining table, actually )

The Graphite Mark Making One

Making Marks

Obviously, my mind was still running on pattern in this one. But I had also been looking at art blogs online where people had been experimenting with pencil and marker. So, I had a go and, I must say, it was very soothing to do. And, I quite like the black and white movement around the page in this example of my art journal abstracts. Well, that’s another reason to keep an art journal – a little safe space to experiment and practice different media and techniques. And I was also quite pleased with some of the collage that I experimented with in my journal. See here – my underwater scene. To be honest, my journal is almost full up, but I’ve got another one, all ready in the wings and waiting to be put to good use!

Gouache Landscape – High Viewpoint

A dramatic gouache painting of a turquoise blue fjord in a craggy landscape.
The Fjord

Hello everyone. I thought I’d show you a gouache landscape that I did for my Beginner Gouache group. You see, this month’s theme is Norway and I found a fab high viewpoint photo by Alexey Topolyansky on Unsplash. Honestly, it just blew me away- it’s so dramatic. I’ve never been to the country so, of course, I’m not familiar with this type of scenery. But I think it’s quite beautiful with its craggy peaks and deep, still mountain lakes. However, it still posed a challenge to capture the subtle changes of colour in the sky and water in gouache. Also, the layering of textures on the rocks. Nonetheless, I am still persevering and I will continue because I love the pure, clear colour I can achieve using this medium. And, today’s takeaway is : remember to let the first layers dry overnight and then continue your layering next day!

Another Recent Gouache Landscape

Down by the River

Now, fortunately, I don’t have to remember to give a credit for the photo this time. Because this scene was painted from my imagination. As you can see, it’s just a simple view – a bit reminiscent of the Lake District in the UK. Happily, a place where I have spent many lovely holidays. Of course, it was a good opportunity to practise painting with gouache. And, on this occasion, I decided to concentrate on getting a full range of tones. So that it would appear to recede into the background. Perhaps you may remember from a previous post that I am working on this aspect of composition – see here . It’s all part of a great online course that I am working through. But, maybe more of that later ! There are plenty more gouache landscapes to be attempted – so come along with me on my artistic journey!

Another High Viewpoint View

An acrylic painting of a deep blue lake in gentle, rolling Derbyshire  hills.
Ladybower Reservoir

This is a view over the moors towards the reservoir in the Derbyshire Dales. But this one is in acrylic paint, on paper. Obviously, a more rounded, gently rising view, if you compare it to the Norwegian scene. But, in my opinion, both equally wonderful and ideal for virtual travelling in these restricted times!

Autumn Landscapes- Plein Air Sketching

A watercolour sketch over the water to a hillside clothed in masses  of autumn trees.  Brown against the vivid green of a farmer's field.
Over the Reservoir

Hello everyone. Well, we had a few fine days last week and I was able to get out for some fresh air. And we went to a couple of local beauty spots to enjoy the autumn landscapes. So, the image above is the view across Worsbrough Reservoir, looking towards the fields and hills beyond. Honestly, it was a feast for the eyes – soft, mellow brown, gold and russet. We were sitting in a nice sheltered spot and the gentle autumn sunshine kept my fingers warm as I sketched. (35 minutes)

Sketching Autumn Landscapes at Wentworth Castle Gardens

Looking over to the Church

Another one of my autumn landscapes. This took me about 25 minutes. To be honest, it was quite difficult to isolate just one part of this view. Because the vista was huge, stretching from the stream at the bottom of the parkland and then up the hill. And, right at the top was the village and the church. As you can see, the trees in the parkland are beautifully placed. And, at this stage of autumn, all the leaves are now shades of brown. Really, I feel so very lucky to have such delightful countryside so close and accessible. Especially now that we are again in lockdown here in the UK. Personally I think it’s so important now to go outside, somewhere pleasant, if that’s possible. And just breathe and let your mind relax.

Plein Air Sketching with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire

A pen and wash sketch of the corner of the town hall, complete with towers and turrets. Surrounded by autumn trees in the park.
Sheffield Town Hall

This is a watercolour sketch I did last year when I went out with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. And what a lovely day it was! To explain, we sat outside on the terrace of a coffee shop and watched the crowds dash by. And I even tried my hand at frantically sketching figures as they wandered around the park and admired the fountains. But, that’s a skill that doesn’t come easily to me. And, now is not quite the time to practise it, for obvious reasons. Oh well, perhaps soon! Stay safe.

P.S. This area is just around the corner from the wonderful Millennium Gallery – click here to see an intriguing exhibition by a local artist from last year.

Two Little Gouache Paintings

A gouache painting in tones of soft grey and ochre. A dramatically lit wall statue of Pharoah in an Egyptian temple.
Pharoah

This is the first of my little gouache paintings and I was thrilled to bits to find the fab reference photo .Thank you Elizabeth Van Der Weert ! You see, I thought the lighting was so perfect and gave just the right atmosphere I was wanting to convey. That is, a mixture of realism (after all it is just a statue ). And , a slight hint of mysticism – is it a real flesh and blood figure ? To be honest, as I was painting I had to restrain myself from using flesh tones, Of course, this would put too much life into the face and skin. Actually, I have been in this position before when painting tomb sculptures in churches. And I had to get rid of rosy cheeks and use more grey ! See my blog post here .

Meanwhile, as I was painting, I also began to think of a sort of a horror film scenario. One where the colossal, crumbling statue of the Egyptian king comes down from the temple wall and walks around ! However, I don’t possess a talent for creative writing so the plot doesn’t get anymore developed than that!

Something Completely Different – a Pattern Based Gouache Painting

A circle based pattern ,in gouache paint. restricted colour palette - inspired by a  beautiful exhibiton of ceramics.
Circle Patterns

I painted the second of my little gouache paintings after seeing a marvellous display of ceramic pieces. And they were in a display all about pattern. Actually, I have written several posts that were inspired by some of the treasures at Cannon Hall , Park and Gardens , For example, this post here on Mythical Creatures. In fact, I plan to write a post soon on these very patterns in ceramics that I saw on this occasion. So, here’s a little example to whet your appetite. And, I do apologise for the blurring – the beautiful piece was in a glass cabinet. Do you know, sometimes you don’t have to go very far from home to see something extra special ?

Inspiration for my Little Gouache Paintings

A Patterned Jug

Plein Air Sketching in the Quarry Park

The Quarry Park

Hello everyone. I don’t think I told you, but last week I managed to get out plein air sketching on a fine day. (After several weeks of rain ! ) Anyway, we drove to a village in West Yorkshire and had a look around this park inside a small abandoned quarry. For more info and photos, see here . The space is small but very picturesque. And the volunteer gardeners have done a marvellous job tidying, planting and looking after the public space on a daily basis. In fact, I’m not quite sure where we would be without volunteers ? Certainly, life in our society would be a lot less rich.

The Quarry Wall – a Perfect Place to go Plein Air Sketching.

Photo of the quarry wall, beautiful trees in autumn colours- a perfect scene for plein air sketching.
The Quarry Wall

After a little walk around, I finally settled on this view – showing the impressive, tall quarry wall which is used as the boundary for the little garden. Actually, the wall was very high. And I don’t think it is so easy to get the full effect on this photo , or in my drawing. To tell the truth, I was quite inspired by the play of sunlight on the thin slabs of stone which the wall was made up of. So I got to work with my lovely dark marker pen and made some bold, definite marks. And I wonder if you can tell from the gestural drawing how much I enjoyed doing this ? in the end, I thought it was time to put the pen down and break out the watercolours !

A pen and watercolour sketch in glowing autumn colours.  Plein air sketching in the quarry garden.
A Pen and Watercolour Sketch

Well, I tried very hard to capture the autumn colours in the flickering sunlight. Actually, the green gold foliage of the trees behind the wall was at its best . But, there was still a lot of fresh green in the undergrowth. Anyway, the temperature in this shady spot was quite low, despite the sunshine. So, after thirty minutes, I packed away my art things and we strolled around the garden and stopped to admire this timber sculpture.

The Tree Trunk Sculpture

Well, I felt a bit warmer by now, so we walked through Cliffe Wood, full of oak and beech trees. Blissful . When we reached the end of this thin strip of wood, it came out at the little back lane. So we retraced our steps and found a handy bench and sat down to drink some hot coffee . It was a lovely morning, and I highly recommend it to calm the nerves and soothe the soul !

You might like to have a look at this post here to find out more about my open air sketching adventures.

Sketching on Location

Landscapes in Gouache Paint – New Experiments

An atmospheric view of the sunrise over the sea in tones of greys and blues.
Sunrise

This is my first attempt at a very small painting in my experiments on landscapes in gouache, 6 by 4 inch. You see, I watched a lot of great videos online about this medium . And I was very impressed by the amount of beautiful detail in these little paintings. So, here’s my first try – just ignore the botched border . ( I’ve had some issues with the tape I used, anyone got a good recommendation? ) Anyway, this photo was given to me by a friend and it’s a sunrise scene from New Zealand. Actually, I also tried to concentrate on tonality, and I struggled with the different tones in the cliffs and hills. But, it was a good exercise and I think I did learn a bit about seeing the values of colours in the landscape Just to make it clear, this means identifying where the shadows and colours are light, darker and darkest.

A Second Attempt – Landscapes in Gouache

Down the River

As you can see, this was the second of my landscapes in gouache on a smaller scale. In fact, it’s one more super scene from a trip to New Zealand. And again, I foolishly set myself two challenges on this. Firstly, the small size (6 by 4 inch ) and secondly how to capture the quality of light on the water. To be honest, working in this way tends to make me paint more tightly and carefully. And that’s not really my style but, again, I did call this a series of experiments. Realistically, I can see how my practice on the tones of faraway hills did help here. As did the use of white gouache to create convincing water in this wide river !

A bright, cheerful gouache painting of a small stream, shaded by trees in a sunlit wood.
The Brook in the Wood

Finally, in this piece, I treated myself to a slightly larger sheet of paper 6.5 by 6.5 inch ( in a mixed media journal). The photo is by Nicola Soricelli Boerer on Artists Free Reference Photos. I must admit, I do feel a bit more comfortable with the paint now. However, I’m still learning all the time about how to paint layers without making mud! To explain, the paint never dries which makes washes and detail over a previous layer tricky ! But, I must confess, I find it quite addictive and I’m looking forward to more experiments. If you want to know more, there is a good video by Sarah Burns here .If you want to see a wood that is atmospheric in a different way (The Boy and the Bird ) have a look at my Gallery here. In fact, I almost included this one in my Halloween post here , but then I thought that might have been a bit over the top!

Halloween Paintings- Past and Present

A ghostly bride waits in the lonely graveyard, one of my favourite Halloween paintings.
Waiting at the Church

Hello everyone. I thought I’d do a quick round up of my Halloween paintings from the last couple of years. And it took me quite a while to find them in my chaotic ‘filing system’ , also known as the piles of sketch books, canvases etc. in the spare bedroom! However, the one above was easy to find because I only just completed it . You see, I painted this for an online Halloween challenge for Artists Free Reference Photos. The original photo was of a peaceful graveyard scene by Fiona Evans. But, I decided to inject a bit of melodrama into it by adding the ghostly bride, waiting at the church. Of course, this is my tribute to Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’, an image I’ve been longing to paint for a while.

The Churchyard after Dark

A digitally altered sketch of a sinister looking graveyard - one of my Halloween paintings for this season.
The Churchyard at Night

Actually, you might recognise this painting above from a recent post I wrote here . Except for the fact that I took the plein air watercolour sketch and tinkered about with it. And, in fact, this is the first time I used the editing tools on my tablet to change the colours on a piece of my own work. And, I must admit, I’m quite pleased with the outcome. Spooky or what ?

More Halloween Paintings

Which Way to Go ?

I must admit that I painted this sketch ‘Which Way to Go’ a couple of years ago. Initially, I had the idea when I was doing a series of ‘scary trees ‘ pictures. As you might know, I find a lot of inspiration in trees and this was a project to let my imagination run wild. But, at the time, I became engrossed in another theme and this painting didn’t quite get finished ! However, I’m going to include it as one of my Halloween pictures. And, I will get around to completing it soon. Because I rarely leave anything unfinished – that’s just the way I work.

Anubis

Finally, I’ll show you a little watercolour sketch I did when I visited the Ancient Egypt exhibition at our town museum .The exhibition was curated by Professor Joann Fletcher of York University, who actually comes from Barnsley. And there is an interesting review of the exhibition here . Well, the ceremonial mask of Anubis, the god of death with his jackal head looked threatening enough to me! So, I had to include it in my Halloween themed show of paintings.

Autumn Colours- a Gouache Painting

A beautiful old tree in autumn colours,  next to St. Mary's church in churchyard.
St. Mary’s

Hello everyone. Don’t you think the autumn colours have been beautiful this year ? Happily, this charming church in its tranquil garden churchyard is about five minutes walk from my house. To be honest, you wouldn’t think it was right in the middle of a busy town . Yes, I know it isn’t as busy as usual right now. But even when there are no restrictions, it still has that air of peace and quiet.

In fact, there are some glorious trees in the garden , each with its own unique character and shape . Of course, I can enjoy the sight of them all year round, in every season. However, the trees in their autumn colours have to be the most impressive sight of all.

The Dancing Leaves in Autumn Colours

The Dancing Leaves

So, in this closeup of my gouache painting, I really tried to show how the subtle yellow green leaves flickered and gleamed in the autumn sunshine. Well, I tried but it was an impossible task really.

More Autumn Colours

A basket of ripe, red apples in a basket - autumn colours in the harvest.
The Apple Harvest

As it happens, this is an oil pastel drawing of last year’s harvest. But the tree is very reliable and we usually get to eat these delicious fruits all winter ! Actually, this painting was on display for a few months in the Rotherham Art Cafe here .

A bright, impressionistic sketch of a tree in a beautiful garden, full of autumn colours.
View from the Glasshouse Window

Finally, something completely different. To explain , I went to a printing workshop in the elegant Victorian conservatory at Wentworth Castle Gardens last year . It was part of our Inktober 2019 activities. And, this is my impressionistic painting of the show of autumn colours in the garden, through the window. And, if I remember correctly, I used some acrylic inks to do a quick sketch, while my print was drying !

In my opinion, this time of year is truly beautiful. And, the display doesn’t last so long. So, get out and enjoy it while you can !

More Gouache Experiments

The Pathway to the Sea

Hello everyone. Well, as promised, I’d like to show you my gouache painting now it’s finished. Yes, yet more gouache experiments ! Just to remind you, here I wanted to use the paint in the same way as I use acrylics. That is, applied quite thickly to the paper . And, also, using bigger more gestural brushstrokes. As you can see, I really enjoyed the freedom of using the paint this way. I could allow myself go to town on painting the shape of the rocks and pebbles in the path.

To be honest, I didn’t take this photo myself. But it reminded me so much of the seaside closest to where I live . The Yorkshire coast here in the UK can be quite spectacular with its steep cliffs and rock beaches. So, I must give a shout out to L J George for the permission to use this lovely photo, on the Artists Free Reference Photos Facebook page.

Yet More Gouache Experiments

Coffee with Friends

Now, I must admit, this is not the best urban sketch style painting I have ever made. But I’d like to explain why I’m showing it. To explain, a couple of weeks ago, I met with two friends to go sketching en plein air. However, it was raining too heavily, so we went into a sweet, little cafe nearby. And we were chatting all the time, not having seen each other face to face for months. Bliss! But, when I got home, I was dying to do some sketching. And so I tried to recreate the scene from memory. As you can see, my visual memory is not so good! But, I’m sure the exercise must have been good for me. Click here to see a more successful urban sketch , drawn from life, outside, a few weeks ago in Wentworth.

The Experimental Bit

In this little painting , I tried to indicate that the trees through the window in the car park were obviously further away. And more indistinct than the figures and the furniture etc in the cafe. Also, I tried to indicate the shapes of the figures using deeper colours in the shading on the clothing. I know, just baby steps – but it sometimes feels like going back to the beginning ! And, my friend really did order a banana with her coffee !

Scene of a pathway to the sea, through rugged cliffs.  Paint applied thickly . More gouache experiments.
Banana and Coffee

Floating on Air – an Acrylic Painting

A peaceful scene , beautiful white flower-like shapes floating on air in a warm, pink sky.
Floating on Air

Hello everyone. I finished this acrylic painting quite recently. But I had started it a few weeks ago . And I had begun seeing pictures in my mind a little while before that. Pictures of things floating on air – first of all fluffy, cold snowflakes drifting down from a peaceful , warm sky . Then I visualized white flowers or petals slowly sinking on to a dry, dark landscape. To be honest, the inspiration for this idea was easy to see. Because every time I look out of my kitchen window, I see glorious, blooming begonia flowers in the windowbox. Actually I was inspired earlier by my flowers in another planting arrangement here – a painting in a very different mood.

Blooming Begonias

Begonias in the Windowbox

As you can see, these beautiful flowers with their delicate layers of petals are very appealing. However, when I picked up my paintbrush, I had decided on the main idea of something white , drifting down. Also, I was clear that that I wanted a subtle pink sky above a grey expanse – perhaps landscape or rolling waves ? After all, that’s the image that came to me. But, I kept seeing snowflakes or clouds, balloons or parachutes. And that’s what took me so much time to plan this painting. Well, a long time for me anyway.

The Close Ups

Floating on Air

I hope that I managed to capture the light, drifting quality of these white objects. In effect, I was thinking of all of the ideas I had at first. For example, clouds, snowflakes and petals, and so on. Although, obviously, the actual form they took was the shape of flowers.

A Flower Floating on Air

A close up of a flower with ruffled,  layered petals , floating on air.
White on White

As it happens, the actual painting of the white flower shape was quite difficult. In order to give it some idea of form, I had to introduce other colours to suggest the layers of ‘ petals ‘. Hopefully, you can see this in the detail above. Well, I tried ! But , I don’t think this particular inspiration has finished with me yet. And, I might have to work with it again !

New Paintings for our Exhibition

A bright, colourful abstract composition in orange and blue. One of the new paintings for our exhibition
Sunshiny Day

Last Friday I went to look around our gallery in the Ridings Shopping Centre in Wakefield. Perhaps you may remember that I am a member of an artists group called Northern Fringe Artists. And we have a lovely gallery in a shop unit there. So I took some new paintings for our exhibition. Obviously, we like to change things around so that visitors have something fresh to look at. Actually, I’m quite fond of this painting – Sunshiny Day . In fact, I painted it quite simply to cheer myself up last year . Because we were in the middle of a dark , damp winter and I was longing for some sunshine! Incidentally, I borrowed the title from the lyrics of a song by Bill Withers ‘ Lovely Day ‘, an old favourite of mine.

Elephant Festival

Another One of the New Paintings for Our Exhibition

To be honest, this was great fun to do. In my opinion, elephants are fascinating animals to paint. I could really go to town on the pinkish tinge of the skin on the elephant’s face and ears. Actually , I’ve done another sketch of a model of an elephant in battle armour . It’s somewhere about -I’ll find it and show you soon. As I recall, I was at the Leeds Armouries Museum, back in January, with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. Do you remember those days when being out with a group of friends was a pleasant, stress-free experience?

The Apple and Pear Harvest

A semi abstract scene showing apples rolling on the grass under the tree - green and red.
Apples Falling

When Inspiration Strikes

As you can probably see, I used this painting for one of the online posters I made for my solo exhibition. Have a look at this post here to see the other paintings on show in January this year. However, this painting does have a nice back story. Well, we went to Cannon Hall Museum, Park and Gardens last year to join in the celebrations on Pear Day. There are lots of heritage varieties of pear trees in the Walled Garden there. And, it’s usually quite a jolly day. As usual, I took my sketchbook with me. And , in spite of all the luscious pears on display, a box of apples, spilling out over the grass caught my eye. A couple of watercolour sketches and a few photos later, I went home and started painting an acrylic painting of the scene. You see, when inspiration strikes, you’ve just got to go with the flow!

Playing with Gouache Paint

Bathing in the River – Early Morning – reference photo by Frank Holleman from Unsplash

Hello everyone. I thought you might be interested to know what else I have painted while playing with gouache paint. First of all, I tried using a better quality watercolour paper. Because I wasn’t really satisfied with the mixed media paper I used for this painting here of a woman, carrying water home . To be honest, I put so many light washes on places that I rubbed the surface off ! So, I experimented on a small piece of smooth watercolour paper in this painting below.

Playing with Gouache Paint on Smooth Paper

A colourful abstract in gouache applied with watercolour techniques.
Abstract Gouache Experiment

As you can see, I put several washes on some areas to darken and strengthen them. And, the paper would easily take three or four. Also, I tried to apply dark colours over light too and that was quite successful. I must admit , I might use this as an idea for a larger, acrylic painting. And, people seemed to like it on my Instagram account here . So, next I used good watercolour paper for this painting of a figure bathing in the river. Actually, this was done for the India theme we are following in the Beginner Gouache group I belong to.

Gouache Experiment for India Theme

More Experiments – Acrylic Style

I was quite pleased with this painting and I enjoyed trying to show the early morning light on the water. In fact, I think it might be the Ganges river but I’m not sure. Anyway, I’m not really a watercolourist, so my next painting is different. And, this time, I’m using the gouache paint more as I would use acrylic paint . Obviously, gouache paint is very versatile. And, I am much more in my comfort zone when putting on thicker layers of paint ! Of course, I’ll show you the picture when it’s finished . So, that’s all for now.

I Love Trees.

I love trees - I really enjoyed sketching with a thick pen, fineliner and watercolour wash to create this close up of an old massive tree trunk
The Old Tree

I love trees and we often walk in the country in order to enjoy the peaceful, green spaces. And we had a stroll around Cannon Hall Park and Gardens yesterday to have a look at the restoration of the Georgian walled garden. You see, the park finally acquired the cash to restore some of the original features. For example, the 60’s style rectangular pond and pergola was replaced by a beautiful round lily pond. And the old glasshouses that grow the famous 200 year old grapevine are being restored too. However, the work is not quite finished . And when it is, I’ll write a post all about it .

I love trees

But yesterday , I simply enjoyed being in the formal garden. As you know, I love trees and I’m always attracted to drawing them when I’m out plein air sketching. The sketch above was completed in 20 minutes using a super dark pen, a fineliner and a wash of black watercolour. In fact, I sat on a low wall right under the tree. And the markings on the bark and the shadows cast by the foliage of the tree itself were quite fascinating up close .

Some other trees

The Tree in the Park

Actually, I feel quite affectionate towards this drawing. Because it was the first urban sketch I did back in May, when we were at last allowed to go to the town park .

The Wentworth Folly

To be honest, I don’t think I have shown this sketch before. As I have already said, I love trees and at all times of the year too! So this is a tiny pen and watercolour sketch I painted at Wentworth Castle Gardens last year.

I Love Trees – Even in a Spooky Wood !

The Boy and the Bird

Finally, I couldn’t resist showing you one of my favourite acrylic paintings. Obviously, this is what happens when I just let my imagination go wild! You could see another abstracted tree in this post here . But, these paintings and drawings have one thing in common – they are all inspired by trees.