A Day at the Seaside

The Path down to the Sea

Good morning everyone. A day at the seaside – I love this intuitive abstract that I made when I was thinking about a day out. Well, to be precise, I was only dreaming about going to the coast. And that’s because we haven’t been able to go for over a year now. Partly due to Covid restrictions and also for practical reasons – I chose to stay home and keep safe. Anyway, I can always dream!

A Day at the Seaside – an Abstract Acrylic

A Day at the Seaside – in my Dreams

However, I must insist that this composition must have come from my subconscious. As I have mentioned before, I do a first quick impulsive pass and create a full design, covering all the paper. Then I might leave it until next day, look at it and think about it a lot! After that, I’ll work on it from all angles and enjoy myself, creating texture. For the next session, I’ll choose which is top, and which is bottom and have a look at the balance of shapes and colours. And that’s when I get nice surprises!

The Unexpected Features

Fish or Seabirds?
The Path and the Fence?

Actually, this picture almost painted itself and it was the first of my summery abstracts. Before this, most of my intuitive abstracts were in a different palette of colours. For example, here is one I did at the end of winter, with dramatic, sombre colours. In contrast, my seaside picture is in warm, mellow colours, with hints of cloudless sky and fresh vegetation. And, of course, the almost tactile yellow ochre indicating sand.

On the Shore

Finally, I made this collage a couple of years ago, partly as a tribute to the wonderful Mark Hearld. So, my imaginary scene of a day out at the seaside was made up of painted collage papers, cut-outs and watercolour. And then rounded off with a pretty, decorative border in muted colours. Ah, it’s almost as good as being there in person (almost!)

You could look at more scenes of the fab Yorkshire coast in my Gallery – Landscapes here. It’s affordable art, folks! Contact me for details here.

A Charcoal and Pastel Sketch

The View through the Window

Good morning everyone. I have literally just finished this sketch. (And wiped all the pastel chalk dust off the table! ) As you can see, I made a charcoal and pastel sketch of the view through my window. Well, I have distorted the perspective slightly. But, your eye should travel down the garden, over the fence and the lovely, old brick wall. Then you get a glimpse of the rather fine sandstone office building to the left. And one of the small trees in my crowded shrubbery garden is featured, dominating the space. Actually, it’s an overgrown pyracantha, very hacked about over the years, in an effort to keep it in its place!

To be honest, I sketched this rather impetuously , and I don’t claim to have any skill with pastel painting. You see, I had been browsing the net and I found a great post by kestrelart, all about sketching quickly outdoors. The artist very generously described trying charcoal for capturing the scene and then adding colour with pastel. Or, watercolour and also spraying the paper in some places and leaving others dry. What fun! In fact, I couldn’t wait to try it out. By the way, does any one else use these materials together?

You can see how well the artist uses this technique if you look at his latest post here. As for me, I’ll keep on practising and I’ll definitely take charcoal and pastel out with me next time I go out plein air sketching.

A Charcoal and Pastel Sketch of the Camelia Bush

The View through the Window – a closeup

Here I have attempted to paint the camelia bush – it flowered really well this year. However, we’ve been having some late frosts recently and, at the moment, the blooms are partly brown and crispy! But, this is all part of the trials of life as a gardener, as some of you will know!

An Abstracted Cityscape in Acrylic

Cityscape 1

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you my attempt at a semi-abstract cityscape. Actually, I didn’t want to waste the leftover paint on my palette, so I started doodling. (Or, you could call it an intuitive abstract!). Anyway, when I saw the shape of a doorway, I thought I would try to paint a cityscape. Then, I loved the blocks of colour so much that it gradually led me into some semi- abstraction of the scene. And then a bit more! To tell the truth, this is my first attempt at this subject. That is, if you discount one collage of an imaginary view over a city that I did a few years ago. But, I would definitely like to explore this theme a bit more . And, I could even do a series, like a proper artist!

However, I must say that when I posted this on my Instagram account at least two friends saw this as an industrial scene, a steelworks melting shop to be exact. Well, at least they both liked it, so that’s the main thing.

Somewhere in France

And now, in complete contrast, this is a cityscape in southern France somewhere. That is to say, judging by the architecture and the strength of the sunlight. Obviously, I painted this based on a reference photo, and a bit of memory, not from my imagination like the first image. At the time I painted it, a few years ago, I was quite pleased with it. And, I still am, but, I’m quite glad that I am now moving away from following the photo so carefully. So, if I were to do a similar scene, I’m sure I would interpret it with more artistic licence.

An Urban Sketch Cityscape

The Calder Building at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Finally, this is an urban sketch I did, on the spot in about 30 minutes. Incidentally, I was out sketching with Urbansketchers Yorkshire, back in the day when there were no restrictions on mixing. Happy days! And, this old warehouse by the canal was part of the site dedicated to the well-known sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Well, I know it has its flaws, and I’ve learnt a bit more about perspective since then. But I do like the freshness and atmosphere I’ve captured here. Plus, of course the memory of a fab day out sketching.

So, whether I use acrylic or watercolour, a photo, my imagination or plein air approach. And, whether I paint in realistic or abstract style, I still find plenty of inspiration in this subject. You could see a very different type of cityscape if you look at this post here – the Piece Hall in Halifax, UK.

‘Floating’ Shapes – an Abstract Composition

A colourful abstract composition in crimson, blue and ochre. Shapes floating through the air or swimming.
Floating

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you an acrylic abstract painting ‘Floating’ that I have just finished. Of course, now that it’s complete, you can see all kinds of motifs. But, I assure you, these were not planned or anything. And, as I painted, after the first impetuous, free stage, I began to see shapes developing. So I just helped them a little bit to emerge more clearly. Actually, what is weird is that I rotate the painting round when I do this. And still something recognisable appears! Incidentally, this is quite a contrast to how I created this post here all about floating objects. As you can perhaps see, this was carefully constructed and planned.

What do You see, Floating in Air or Swimming?

A closeup of the strange face floating up close to the viewer.
Floating – a closeup
Floating – another close up

Obviously, there is a face appearing and that’s because I sort of painted the lips while the painting was upside down. (From the way it was started, I mean). And then I just went with the flow! And, in order to explain away the fishy detail in the second closeup, I can’t! But those fish just seem to find their way into lots of my abstracts.

However, I do remember reading somewhere that the human brain is programmed into finding patterns in what we see. Particularly, we perceive faces and people very readily everywhere. Perhaps it’s some kind of survival instinct. Personally, I do enjoy looking at abstract and semi abstract work more when I can see shapes and make a story. As if this way of seeing allows me into the picture more easily. Instead of feeling that I am blocked from entering.

Straight Lines and Curved Shapes

Finally, I’d like to explore the concept of design a little. Or, to put it more simply, how to decide where to put things, and how to arrange them on the page. Naturally, this element of composition is important for figurative and abstract paintings alike. In my own case, I think about the design about half way through the process in abstract work. To be honest, I have been watching stuff recently on line about various types of composition design. And I read all about the combination of straight lines and curved shapes.

In fact, I realised that I use this style of design quite a lot in my abstracts (see here ) And, I didn’t really know I was doing it! But, I shall carry on because you can create strong compositions with a lot of movement this way. However, now I can think about trying out some more design schemes as well. Well, it’s all part of the lifelong learning plan!

Painting Outside in the Spring Sunshine

A quick watercolour sketch of a charming scene, looking over the reservoir to the cafe on the hill.
Thrybergh Country Park

Good morning everyone. As you may know, I absolutely love painting outside and the glorious fine, sunny weather is perfect for me. So, yesterday I went to Thrybergh Country Park to meet up with some art buddies. And we could paint all morning in complete comfort. That is, no shivering with cold or battling with strong winds to keep hold of paper and so on.

The Colours of Spring when Painting Outside

To be honest, it was the colours of the scene which inspired me most. Because at this time of year, as the trees begin to come into leaf, some of the greens are soft and yellowy and even the more vibrant ones are still easy on the eye. However, in this part of the landscape that I chose, most of the trees are bare and stark. Actually, that gave quite a dramatic effect against the calm, lazy surface of the water, gently reflecting the sky and trees. Of course, I did use artistic licence and I left out all the waterbirds. Also, all the walkers. But, for today it was the sight of nature gradually progressing through Springtime that interested me. Incidentally, this man made lake is available for free swimming on two evening sessions during the week. Maybe one day!

A close up of the scene at Thrybergh, which I did when I was painting outside.  The cafe at the top of the hill, and the path leading down to the water's edge.
The Cafe at Thrybergh Res

Naturally, there was plenty of time for coffee and chat. Plus, most importantly of all, scrumptious cake! And we talked about pochade boxes and outdoor easels. Then how to prepare wooden panels with gesso. And we discussed the different methods of capturing a scene like this using realistic versus impressionistic styles. So, all my artistic batteries were charged up. And I really am looking forward to a lovely summer season of sketch trips with like minded people. Sheer bliss! Have a look at this post here to read all about another sketchcrawl on a hot summer’s day last year.

A Canal Scene in Acrylic

An acrylic painting in muted colours of a canal scene. A lock and a lock keepers cottage.
A Canal Scene

Hello everyone. This is my canal scene, a recent acrylic painting that I did while following an online tutorial by Care Visions. Actually, the teaching by the tutor John Skelcher was very good. And, it was free, so that can’t be bad! To be honest, my natural style of painting is not usually this realistic. On the contrary, I like to take a more loose approach and slightly impressionistic. Really, I do find it very difficult to describe my own painting style. But, on this occasion I found it very helpful to follow the instructions and paint like John! Or, at least, to paint in the style he adopted for the tutorial.

A Canal Scene in a Muted Palette

As you can see, the colours we used are quite toned down – the buildings in cream and brown. And a pale, unobtrusive sky, with brownish green trees in the background. However, I did manage to indulge my love of colour by painting some vivid greens in the foreground. But, I must admit that this restricted palette is very effective. Perhaps it’s a better representation of the actual canal scene than my usual highly saturated, intense colour choices would give? Hmm, something to think about here! Just have a look here at this post of some really monochrome paintings.

I’d like to to pass on to you a good tip that John gave us. Just don’t worry about not having an in depth knowledge of a subject when you’re painting. If you can reproduce the shapes of the elements of a scene fairly accurately, that will suffice. Hopefully the viewers eye will recognise the objects because of the surroundings. And, that’s just as well, for I know nothing at all about lockgates! Apologies to any canal experts!

More Houses by the Water

A bright, vivid painting of the view across the lake to some houses  on the hill.
Cusworth Hall

Finally, by way of contrast, this is an acrylic painting that I did a couple of years ago. And, as you can see, here I gave full rein to my enthusiasm for bright colours. In my defence, I must point out that it was a beautiful, sunny winter’s day. And the water and the grass sang out to me. So, no muting in sight! Admittedly, I can now see several bits that I could improve. Maybe I will! Because, I am quite fond of this painting. Perhaps a before and after version would show me the modest improvements I am making. So, the practice and studying are all worthwhile. And that’s good to know!

Sketching at an Old Colliery Site

A plein air sketch in watercolour.  Pit headgear at an old colliery site surrounded by trees in Spring blossom.
Barnsley Main – an Old Colliery Site

Good morning everyone. One fine day last week we went to have a look at this old colliery site – Barnsley Main in the Dearne Valley. Actually, we knew that the community group who look after it have worked really hard on it. So we had a wander round and I sat down at the picnic table and bench to sketch the view. To be honest, I had planned to do this some time ago. But, I suppose I was always too busy going somewhere else to sketch. And I needed a Lockdown to make me concentrate on the interesting locations that are just on my doorstep.

The Barnsley Main Pithead with Winding Gear at the Old Colliery Site

A close up of the winding gear at the old colliery site
The Pithead

Of course, I did this fairly quick watercolour sketch (40 minutes) on the spot with a little tidy up at home. To be honest, I didn’t want to use pen and ink. But I thought I must add a bit more definition. So I strengthened the black lines with more washes at home. This and the large building that houses it is the only remaining evidence of the pit above ground. However, it is quite unique and now it’s a Grade Two listed building. And it is well known as the mine that blew up in the Oaks mining disaster in 1866. Tragically, the fire from the explosion took the lives of over 380 miners and rescuers. If you want to know more, here is the link to the website.

The Oaks Mining Disaster Memorial

A quick pen sketch of Graham Ibberson's memorial statue.
The Mining Disaster Memorial

This is my quick, rough and ready plein air sketch of the statue by our local sculptor Graham Ibbeson. In fact, it is a very impressive and moving installation right in the town centre. Naturally, you can’t see all the details here. But, the sculptor has made up the hair and shawl of the miner’s wife out of pieces of coal. In effect, she waits at the colliery for news of her husband. And you can just make out the body of a miner, trapped underground beneath her feet.

Anyway, after I had finished my sketch, we walked down the path the miners used to get to work, over the canal and on to the fishing ponds. Really, it was a lovely sight, swans gliding on the water and families enjoying the sunshine and the outdoors together. A perfect day!

Have a look at this post here to see another recent plein air watercolour sketch done in my local surroundings, this time a lovely country park.

A photo of the memorial statue in town centre.
Graham’s Statue

Fishes Swimming in the Deep Blue Sea

Swimming Free

Good morning everyone. This is my latest little gouache painting for our Beginner Gouache group on Mewe. And I painted these fishes swimming among the coral for our March theme – Aquatic Life. If you want to see the other gouache of a lily pond that I did for the theme, see here . To be honest, I try to paint at least two each month for this group. Because it’s a great group and well worth supporting – the work we produce is really rather good. Also, I find that joining in like this is helpful for my development as an artist. For example, I think that the themes are quite inspiring (this month’s challenge is ‘Garden’). In addition, I am still quite a beginner with this medium and I do benefit from the practice of a new skill.

Fishes Swimming among the Coral

A gouche painting of tropical fish, swimming through the coral.
Photo reference by David Cloade in Unsplash

Actually, I did rather enjoy painting the faces of the fish, much to my surprise. And, I did somehow manage to put a little bit of character into them! But, we are, happily, allowed some artistic license in this group!

Swimming Free – a closeup

I was quite pleased with this effort, 11 by 8 inches in my sketchbook. However, I was disappointed that I didn’t work out how to add more vibrant flashes of green on the fish. Perhaps I need a better quality of paints, or more variety of colours. Or, maybe just more practice! I do find gouache more tricky to work with than acrylic. But I just love the chalky quality and the colours.

Fishes in a Tropical Sea

A watercolour background of sea and coral with collaged fish in black and white.
Under the sea

Finally, here’s another sketchbook page of collage fishes swimming in a watercolour sea, with some imagined coral! Well, I created this last year in deep Lockdown, hoping to cheer myself up. And, it still makes me smile! If you want to read more about this post, see here .

Stories of Strong Women in Acrylic

A symbolic view of a woman with wings confined in a cage, ready to break free. one of my strong women.
The Caged Bird

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to delve into the archive and show you some of my paintings of strong women. These are from a couple of years ago. And as I looked at loads of images, I realised that I quite often work on themes, sometimes without really being aware. Actually, I did this painting ‘The Caged Bird’ for an exhibition ‘Vote 100 – A Century of Change?’ . And it was to mark the one hundredth anniversary of votes for women in the UK. Honestly, I was so thrilled to be included in the show (and even more thrilled when it sold!) But then the curator asked me for more images of women for another exhibition. And I realized how many paintings and drawings I had on this theme of strong, brave women.

Purple, Green and White – the Colours of Strong Women

Incidentally, in this painting I wanted to show how the suffragettes broke free of a confined, stifling life. And then they led the way for all women to claim equal rights. Of course, this was just the beginning of female emancipation here in Britain. As you might have noticed, she is reaching out to a flower painted in the suffragette colours of purple, green and white. Just before she breaks out of the cage. Apologies for the poor image – I have since thrown that camera away!

The Problems of Modern Life

A mixed media painting of a modern woman struggling with the problems in her life - one of my strong women.
Woman Fighting Chaos

Finally, this is a mixed media piece, including oil pastel, chalk pastel, acrylic and ink. And I created it in response to a callout for a show about women facing the problems of modern life. In fact, I did the basic drawing at Life Drawing class – back in the day! Oh how far away that time seems now! Anyway, I found this model very inspiring and I made a few works based on her really dynamic poses. But, perhaps I’ll do another post with those pieces, plus more paintings of strong women. (You could look at Gallery – People for a sneak preview) Watch this space!

Purple and Yellow in Abstract Art

An abstract in purple and yellow,  full of dynamic shapes and intriguing details
Sunny Mood

Good morning everyone. This is an acrylic abstract I did recently, featuring a restricted palette of purple and yellow. With a bit of yellow ochre thrown in, plus black and white, if I remember correctly. So, today I’d like to think about how colours influence mood in abstract painting. Incidentally, I never set out trying to choose a mood or atmosphere at the start. Because I paint instinctively and ‘choose ‘ the colours and shapes unconsciously. And then analyse what I have created afterwards!

Probably I turned to making art on this occasion to help me with a low mood. As I’ve mentioned before, for me (and lots of other people, no doubt) art is therapy. It soothes my soul and very rarely do I not feel better after an hour or two of painting.

Shades of Purple and Yellow

Sunny Mood

Actually, I bought some artist’s grade cadmium yellow a few weeks ago, and I’ve never looked back! Because the pigment is nice and strong, unlike the student grade acrylic I had been using. So, I can use it freely and make a really definite mark. And, to me, the colour signifies sunshine and happy days – the vitality of life. In fact, I use it to create a cheerful atmosphere as in ‘Sunshiny Day’ here .

And, what about the purple? Well, I spent some time thinking about why I so love the colour. Usually straight out of the tube, which is rare for me. Anyway, I’ve come to the realisation that I use it to conjure up the richness and intricate variety of life. And how we should take advantage of that and live life to the full. (Apologies for the darker colours here – I found it almost impossible to get a good reproduction of the true colour purple in this painting and in the next one!)

Family

Another purple and yellow abstract,  bold, vibrant colours,  carefully  balanced with a cheerful atmosphere.
Family

Finally, I’d like to feature another purple and yellow abstract which shows my great love for these two beautiful colours. Now, if I hadn’t given it a title revealing my thoughts on the subject, what would you sense about the mood of this painting? Hopefully something cheering and heartwarming. But, who knows?

All my original artworks are available at reasonable prices. I sell them unframed and if you are interested, you could go to the Contact Me page and send me an email.

Signs of Spring in the Country Park

Signs of Spring – Blackthorn Blossom

Good morning everyone. This is a little watercolour sketch I did at Worsbrough Country Park last week. Finally we had one or two milder days and we really enjoyed the fresh air. Actually, I have been searching out the first signs of Spring this year. Because the winter did seem to me to be very long. And, it was such a pleasure to spot the first hazel catkins and the willow blossoms.

In fact I realised this year something I had never noticed before. That is, that the pussy willow flowers gradually open right out into larger flowers and the pollen escapes. Then the tree seems to be a vivid greeny yellow from a distance. As you approach, it gradually changes to be a dusty yellow colour. Just remember, the stark, dark brown branches are bare of leaves at this time. Honestly, this is the first time I ever noticed this!

One of the first signs of Spring on the willow trees

The Willow Blossom

But, just to return to the blackthorn tree and its creamy white blossom. What a welcome sight at the end of winter! Again, the branches have no leaves, and the trees are covered in clouds of creamy white blossom.

The Blackthorn Blossom

In order to sketch this view en plein air, I sat on a very comfy bench near one of the pedestrian entrances of the park. And we were looking down towards the paths that lead around the shore of the reservoir in both directions. Honestly, it was such a treat to sit in the sunshine, and see happy walkers, children and dogs relaxing. In fact, even the watercolour sketch went well until I tried to indicate the showy, white flowers! Eventually, I had to leave that part of the painting until I got home. Then, out came the little tube of white gouache paint , but even then, I couldn’t quite do the tree justice! But, it was worth it to do my first outdoor sketch of the season.

Last year’s Spring flowers

A colourful acrylic painting - semi-abstract composition of pansies and polyanthus in the rain  - the first signs of Spring in the garden.
Flowers in the Rain

Incidentally, this is an acrylic painting I did last year, in Spring to cheer myself up. It’s a semi abstracted view of pansies and polyanthus flowers in my garden, listening in the Spring showers. Well, it did cheer me up, but I’m so glad that I could go out this year. And appreciate the trees and their impressive blossoms in the Great Outdoors! If you want to read my post about last year’s exhibition ‘Springtime in Yorkshire ‘ see here .

Painting Portraits in Acrylic and Watercolour

Painting portraits- this is a face from my imagination,  painted in subtle shades of green and yellow.
A Green Man

Good morning everyone. Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about painting portraits. As you can see, for this one I took the slightly unconventional idea of deliberately not using flesh coloured paint . And I used watercolour which is not as forgiving as acrylic. So I had to think carefully about where I placed the brush strokes. Actually, I wanted a chance to practise using tones to model the flesh, something I learnt on an online tutorial. And, because I didn’t use skin tones like pink , orange and brown, this allowed me to be a bit detached. Probably because I could just treat the task like a problem to be solved, instead of wanting to create a lifelike portrait. Anyway, I had a go, my watercolour skills are a bit basic, I know. On the other hand, I do feel like I learnt something from the exercise.

Painting portraits and modelling the flesh

Painting portraits and making a tribute to artist Mary Cassatt. A beautiful,  red haired woman.
My version of a portrait by Mary Cassatt

Although I haven’t quite finished this portrait, this was the exercise I did during a tutorial hosted by Care Visions. In fact, I found it very helpful and the tutor John Skelcher skillfully guided us through the process. First of all, we sketched and checked that the proportions of the face were reasonably correct. Next we painted the face and neck with a mid tone. And then I added darker paint for shadowy areas and lighter colours for highlights. Finally I understood what I was trying to do, instead of adding too many shades and colours!

Incidentally, there was one other challenge in this session – we had to use the ‘ Zorn’ palette. Just to explain, an artist called Anders Zorn (1860 – 1920) made this choice of colours famous when he created his superb portraits in oils. For your information, the restricted palette consists of red, yellow ochre and black, with white allowed too. You could try it out — it’s amazing how many colour mixes you can create with this combination.

Drawing Faces on Toned Paper

A drawing of a man in red-brown pencil and white pastel on light brown paper.
Portrait in sepia pencil

Well, just to finish off with, in this portrait exercise, I used sepia pencil for the darker tones. Then the fawn coloured paper itself for the mid tones and white pastel for the highlights. Honestly, it sounds very simple, I know, but it’s taken me years to understand it!

By the way, I made this study with the aid of a photo provided by the tutor. Whereas, the first image I showed you – the green man – I created from my imagination. Because I’ve been studying the proportions of the face recently, I think I’ve managed to improve at this. And I made the painting look a bit like a real person! (Even though the eyes are not quite right!) If you want to see my baby angel portraits, see here for my tribute to Raphael.

Mountains and High Hills in Acrylic

An acrylic painting- a view of mountains and high hills in Australia,  with pasture and shearing sheds in the foreground.
The Shearing Sheds

Good morning everyone. I love painting mountains and high hills. And this is my latest acrylic painting for the online course I’m following. As you can see, it’s a beautiful view over to a craggy peak in Australia. And in the foreground there is some rough pasture and a couple of shearing sheds. Admittedly, I didn’t know what the buildings were until our tutor Rod made it clear. To be honest, I’m quite out of my comfort zone with some of these scenes, having no personal knowledge of the country. But, I love the challenge! (My apologies for the fuzzy picture – that’s the last painting on poor paper, because I’ve acquired something better now!)

Mountains and High Hills in Home Territory

A view of a track winding through Pennine hills , a stark, bleak landscape.
The Path through the Hills

Actually, you may have seen this painting before, if you follow my blog. Because I posted it in December last year. And I explained how I altered the lie of the land and the colour emphasis. So that it was more reminiscent of the Pennine Hills in Yorkshire. Of course, these are really high hills and they can be very bleak and devoid of much vegetation. In fact, in sharp contrast to the thickly wooded peaks in the Australian landscapes. But we are encouraged to make the paintings our own, so that’s ok! If you look closely, I have even added a gorse bush, a spikey shrub that grows delicious little yellow blossoms in Spring.

Imaginary Mountains

Mountains and high hills , green in the valley and snow on the peaks.
A Mountain View

Finally, this is an acrylic painting of a view that I made up in my head. And, that’s quite an achievement for me, as my visual imagination is not that strong. But I tried here to show how the highest peaks in a mountainous landscape can remain snow capped for a lot of the year. Also, here I experimented with applying the acrylic with a palette knife. However, I found it very difficult as the paint dries very quickly. But I’d like to try again – does anyone have a tip for this?

As usual, I’ll just remind you that all my original art is for sale at reasonable prices. Just have look at my Gallery- Landscapes here and if you like what you see, visit my Contact Me page here . And send me an email.

Virtual Sketching with Yorkshire Urbansketchers

A lively watercolour sketch of a fruit and veg stall in Leeds Market.  Done en plein air, not virtual sketching.
The Fruit and Veg Stall

Good morning everyone. To be honest, the image above is not an example of virtual sketching. However, I wanted to show you the sort of work I do when we go out into the real world . In fact, on this particular day a couple of years ago, we went to Leeds Market Hall, UK. And we had special permission to go onto the top balcony which is usually closed to the public. And, what a wonderful view we had, looking over the stalls below. This stallholder shouted his wares incessantly and he attracted loads of customers to buy.

Personally, I feel that sketching quickly like this gives a liveliness to the work. Even though the technique suffers of course. But practice does help me to improve at speed painting! Just to explain, the aim of the Urban Sketchers movement is to record what you see, record the world one sketch at a time!

Virtual Sketching during the First Lockdown.

A watercolour sketch of a peaceful harbour in Iceland.  Virtual sketching.
A Port in Greenland

Now, this is the first virtual sketch that I did back in April last year. Unfortunately, the people who put this group together decided to close it after a few months. But I really enjoyed taking part. And I virtually strolled around in Greenland, Venice and Manchester on Google Earth. We were instructed to sit in front of the laptop and imagine being at the scene. Also, I had to use my travel sketching set and work to the same fairly short timetable as when outside. So I did! Actually, it felt a bit odd to start with. But I gradually relaxed into it. If you remember, the first Lockdown in the UK was very strict, and this was a way of getting out! At least in my imagination.

Going out sketching with Urbansketchers Yorkshire

Sketching in Knaresborough

Finally, I sketched this on Saturday when we ‘went’ to Knaresborough together in North Yorkshire. To tell the truth, as I looked up images of this charming place online I realised something. And I thought about how difficult it has been for many people never going more than a short distance from home. But, of course , keeping everyone as safe as possible is the priority. Anyway, I chose to draw the entrance to a famous visitor attraction in Knaresborough – Mother Shipton’s Cave. Apparently, she was a recluse who lived in a cave on this limestone river gorge. And she made a name for herself seeing into the future, the predictions being written down for us to see today.

And I completed the sketch quickly, with my basic watercolour set (see here) and I tried to imagine myself en plein air. It’s the next best thing to being there. Thank goodness for daydreaming! If you want to see my sketch of Wentworth Old Church ( within permitted visiting distance), see here .

Waterlily Pond in Green and Gold

A semi-abstract interpretation of a tangle of lily pads. Green and gold on shimmering water, with glimpses of goldfish.  In gouache paint.
Waterlily Pond

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you this gouache painting of a waterlily pond that I did for our Beginner Gouache group on Mewe. Well, the prompt for this month is Aquatic Life and I think it’s a great choice. Because it’s nice and wide reaching. For example, I decided to concentrate on a pool , or you could choose a river or the sea. And, even better, the Life could be animal or vegetable. Actually, the reference photo of this scene really appealed to me – it’s by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash. In particular, I liked the arrangement of the waxy green pads, just lightly resting on the surface of the water.

The semi abstract approach to the leaves on the waterlily pond.

The Waterlily Pond – a closeup

To be honest, I was very attracted by the semi abstract jumble of leaves gently floating. And also, of course the shimmering light and reflections on the water and on the glossy pads themselves. Perhaps you remember that I am working on a theme of the semi abstract in these little gouache pieces. And you can click here to see my painting of a camel at the pyramids in this style. By the way, did you spot any other kind of life in the pond?

The Watercolour Version

A watercolour painting of waterlily leaves, in a small pond.
Waterlily Pond – the watercolour version

Finally, I just couldn’t resist exploring the subject a bit more and I tried a different medium. Frankly, I’m no expert with watercolour, but I do sometimes really love to play with it. Possibly it’s the complete contrast to acrylic paint that I like – wet and flowing rather than thick and textured. Anyway, I think I’m not done yet with this theme. And I looked up some images by Monet yesterday, seeking inspiration. So, watch this space! Meanwhile, here is my acrylic painting of a lily pond, with some more aquatic life!

A Bright Red Abstract Painting

A joyful. bright red abstract in acrylic.  With soft greens and earthy yellow ochre.

Red for Happiness

Good morning everyone. I finished this bright red abstract in acrylic a couple of weeks ago. And I propped it up on the dining table so that I could look at it everyday. Actually, after all that looking, I’m still not sure what it’s all about! Of course, I am aware that it doesn’t have to be ‘about’ anything. However, I do usually have some ideas on the main themes and so on. Strangely, I don’t in this case, but I do remember that I felt calmer and more settled as I was painting. So, maybe that was its significance, to me anyway.

The Bright Red Abstract, an Earlier Version

The bright red abstract as it progressed. This version is turned a quarter to the left.
The Bright Red Abstract, an earlier version

As I might have mentioned before, I do now always rotate the painting round as I’m doing an abstract. To be honest, I used to think that this practice was pointless. But I completely changed my mind and now, I find that it helps me to work on each ‘quarter’ individually. Perhaps you noticed that in the image above, I have turned the painting around. It was in fact the first version of the painting in watercolour. Actually, it’s an important part of the development of the piece. Also, it can help to prevent the artist from inadvertently making it into a realistic scene. For example, a landscape or a group of people. But, for me, the most intriguing thing is how the picture does suggest realistic images. Even after all I do to prevent it! And they always come as a complete surprise!

What Can You See ?

Red is Happiness

Of course, I haven’t talked much about what the viewer sees in this bright, red abstract, which is, of course, very important. So, that’s the deal – I paint it and you make of it what you like! And I hope it makes you feel calmer and more settled too!

As I remember, I wrote a post about red in abstract paintings. Mainly artjournal pages – earlier in lockdown last year. See here.

Incidentally, all my original artwork is for sale at reasonable prices. This one , acrylic on paper and 16 by 12 inches (unframed) is £60 plus shipping. And if you want to treat yourself, go to the Contact Me page and send me an email.

New Beginnings – a Story Picture

A fantasy scene of a lonely figure  about to set off on a new path, leaving her old life behind for new beginnings.  An acrylic painting.
A Different Path

Good morning everyone. Well, I thought I would show you this story picture all about new beginnings. Actually, the reason why I held back was that I never really felt that I had finished it. Just to wind back a bit, I went into this project quite blindly. To be honest, for the first time ever, I painted this narrative painting quite intuitively. And all I knew was that I wanted to do something with the idea of making a new start. Probably I started thinking about this after hearing stuff on the radio about the recovery from the pandemic . Apparently, this might be an ideal time to rethink the way we run our world.

How to Create a Story Picture on New Beginnings (Badly !)

Firstly, I sketched in a lonely figure and then I imagined surroundings that don’t quite look familiar. Next, I added a moody sky to set a slightly threatening atmosphere.Then I painted various elements like luxuriant plants, a stony path and a mysterious castle. Finally, I changed everything around, including the type of foliage, the sky and the colour scheme! In fact, I wouldn’t recommend this process at all!

An earlier version of the story picture with a stronger, moodier atmosphere.  New  Beginnings for this young woman.
A Different Path – one of the earlier versions

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get photos of all the different attempts I made to improve the composition. And I painted them all in acrylic paint on the same tired old piece of paper! Well, at least I taught myself to understand the importance of planning a complex composition in advance. Even if I chose the hard way to learn!

What’s the Story?

A Different Path – a closeup

Anyway, I eventually chose this version, I don’t think I could give the paper any more punishment! But, all the time I was painting I was thinking of fresh starts and a chance to break out of the old rut. And, I wonder if other people are having the same thoughts as me right now. So, what do you think this woman’s story is?

Incidentally, I have some other interesting story pictures in my Gallery here. For example, you might like to see the enigmatic Silk Princess here or the Green Knight in his rocky church here .

Winter Landscapes, in my Sketchbook

An instinctive,  semi abstract composition of trees in the mist, one of my winter landscapes. In graphite pencil, acrylic and ink.
Trees in the Mist

Good morning everyone. I thought I’d like to share with you some winter landscapes I’ve painted quite recently. In fact, I realized I’d better hurry up, as everyone is now spotlighting the signs of Spring!

Well, the image above is a mixed media piece I did instinctively straight after a short drive in local countryside. As you can see, the mist was fairly thick, and the sun just peeped through briefly in a couple of spots. Actually, I was quite fascinated by the tangle of bare, tree branches looming in and out of focus . And all this against the thick, soupy consistency of the off-white sky.

Closeup of Trees in the Mist

Winter Landscapes – Part One, the Instinctive Semi Abstract

Firstly, I scribbled some trunks, branches and random lines with a graphite pencil. And this gave me very strong marks, just what I wanted. Then, my idea was to lay in shapes in the negative spaces between the branches with acrylic paint. But the paint wouldn’t quite cooperate – I think it’s time I tried water mixable oils! However, I used what I had, sketched in some grasses and so on. Then I put some detail into the tree trunks with sepia ink, applied with a tiny brush.

A Winter Scene – Part Two , the Plein Air Sketch

A quick, en plein air sketch in watercolour.  One of my favourite winter landscapes,  Wentworth Castle Gardens.
Wentworth Castle – the Folly

And this is the other one of my winter landscapes – a watercolour sketch I did en plein air. To be honest, the ‘air’ was very cold! So I spent 20 minutes sketching from life, then painted more layers of washes at home. Again we have the bare branches against the beautiful, subtle greys of the sky. But I hope you can see the difference between the two approaches to the similar subject matter. That is, an impressionistic, imagined painting and an on the spot sketch, staying close to reality. Which style do you think gives a more effective record of a scene?

We often walk in the grounds of Wentworth Castle Gardens (NT) and I love to paint the mock castle here and the other features, such as the rockery, see here if you’d like to enjoy the views.

Plein air Sketching in Yorkshire

A watercolour sketch of a beautiful old church in glowing sandstone - plein air sketching in Woolley village.
St. Peter’s at Woolley Village

Good morning everyone. Last week we went for a stroll around a very picturesque village where I did some plein air sketching. Actually, the weather was extremely cold and we saw a fair few other people, wandering aimlessly around. Well, that’s the Lockdown effect for you, but I couldn’t think of a more pleasant place for an easy winter walk.

The Village Buildings – My Plein Air Sketching

In fact, Woolley village was full of beautiful old cottages, some farm buildings and a splendid Old Hall. But it was the church that caught my eye, and we found a bench under a huge yew tree. So, this is the view right in front of us- irresistible. Just look at the glowing sandstone, the backlit holly tree and the quirky shapes of the ancient gravestones.

St. Peter’s at Woolley Village

Plein Air Sketching at this Historic Site

In fact, there has been a church on this site since Norman times, that is since the eleven hundreds. Hopefully, you can just make out the odd shapes in the bottom left of the picture. Apparently, these are shrine like tomb boxes from the Norman period. In addition to this grade 2 listed graveyard, inside the church there is a William Morris stained glass window. Unfortunately, the church wasn’t open, so that will be for another day.

A photo of St Peter's and the tranquil churchyard that I painted while plein air sketching.
St. Peter’s at Woolley, South Yorkshire

If you follow my blog, you will be aware that I love to sketch en plein air or from life outdoors. For me, this means watercolour sketching and I do like to complete the sketch whilst outside. However, for this one, I managed to do about two layers and then my fingers froze! (40 minutes). Then I finished it off at home. But you can see the Quarry Park here and Wentworth Old Church here which were completed in situ. Oh well, let’s hope for some mild spring weather soon!

Painting Faces in Acrylic Paint

Painting faces. Two sweet cherubs, with small feathered wings, resting in rose pink and deep purple clouds,my study of Raphael's painting.
My Study of Raphael’s Cherubs

Good morning everyone. Well, I decided it was time to take the plunge and try painting faces! And I’m sure that lots of you will be familiar with this image taken from Raphael’s beautiful work. Because you do see it everywhere, on cards, tea towels, diaries and so on.

Raphael (1483- 1520) was an Italian painter and architect in the Renaissance period. In fact, he was very successful in his own lifetime. And he painted the little angels on this commissioned Madonna and child painting in 1512. As you can see, the clouds are not the same colour as in our Valentine’s Day version!

The Sistine Madonna by Raphael

Raphael's Sistine Madonna, a superb painting showing Mary and Jesus, two saints and the two adorable cherubs at the bottom of the picture.

As you can see, in this superb painting by Raphael, the scene shows us Mary, Jesus, two saints and the baby angels waiting and dreaming.

Anyway, I painted this study whilst following along with a free tutorial, hosted by Artclassesgroup. Actually, the tuition was very good and the tutor guided us through completing the angelic cherub on the left. You see, the session was only one hour long, so that, plus a bit of background was good going.Then I spent another hour and added the baby cherub on the right.

Half Finished Cherubs

The Three Stages of Painting Faces

Obviously, I was most interested in painting the faces, something I have tried to avoid in my painting practice. And that’s because it seems to me to be the most difficult subject of all. Fortunately, the tutor cleverly simplified it down and we were able to follow. To be honest, it had never occurred to me to treat the face like anything else I paint. So, firstly we mixed a reasonable flesh colour and covered the face in a mid tone. Then we darkened that colour mix and applied patches of colour for shadows. Lastly, (you’ve guessed it) we lightened the first mid tone and painted highlights, on the nose, forehead and so on.

Painting the Clouds

A close up of Raphael's cherubs - part of my painting faces project.
My study of Raphael’s cherubs

After all the careful brushstrokes of the faces, it was a real pleasure to let myself go and paint clouds! Not only were the colours so delicious, but also the subject really lent itself to expressive marks.And I enjoyed trying to create the fluffy texture of the wings too!

Painting faces- a close of my study of Raphael's baby angel.
A Cherub Resting on a Bed of Clouds

In all, I spent another hour to finish this and I would thoroughly recommend this exercise. Because there’s such a lot to be learnt from studying the work of great painters. And if you want to see how I painted my own version of a delightful abstract by Paul Klee see this post here.