Beautiful Garden at Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire

The Birdcage Arbour

Good morning everyone. This is another of the little watercolour sketches I did on my hols in Derbyshire. In fact, it’s a sketch of the Birdcage arbour in the beautiful garden of Melbourne Hall. And we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there, despite the cool, drizzly weather. Unfortunately, the house itself wasn’t open, but the garden was not a disappointment at all. If you’d like to know, it was designed in the style of Le Notre as a formal French garden. And I chose this view, looking down the gently sloped lawns to the pond. Of course the viewpoint was the ornamental arbour, known as the Birdcage, for obvious reasons. Incidentally, it’s made of wrought iron, constructed to mimic wood, as in the originals in French chateau gardens.

The Birdcage Arbour, a photo from the brochure

As I was sitting on a lovely French style park bench, the slight drizzle turned into a downpour, so I quickly packed up my paints. And we ran for cover under a spectacular tunnel made of a double row of ancient yew trees. Honestly, we were bone dry under that gloomy, atmospheric canopy. However, the rain dried up and I went back to my bench to finish off my painting.

The Other Melbourne

Well, I should of course say the first Melbourne! Because the larger, more famous Melbourne in Australia was named in honour of our Lord Melbourne from this town in Derbyshire, UK. And, as you may know, this chap was Prime Minister to Queen Victoria in 1837. But, that’s another story!

And this is just one of my phone snaps that I plan to paint now I’m back home. But, that is no where near as much fun as painting in situ, en plein air (just to say it in French!)

A View over Melbourne Hall Gardens

And if you want to see a similar bird cage, in a very different context, see my painting ‘The Caged Bird’ in my gallery here.

Rotherham Steel Henge in Watercolour

Rotherham Steel Henge

Good morning everyone. Well, the image above is a page out of my sketchbook and I completed it on Thursday. You see, I went to a very interesting location with Rotherhamroar artbuddies. The Steel Henge at Centenary Riverside nature park, Rotherham. Honestly, it seemed at first like a very odd choice for a sketchtrip, but nothing could be further from the truth! Admittedly, it was a tiny green space in the middle of an industrial area. However, it was a haven for wildlife, with a river and wildflower meadows.

The Wildflower Meadow

In addition, there is this very powerful art installation right in the centre of the space. Honestly, we all reacted strongly to it, and set to work straight away with pencil, oils, acrylic and, in my case, watercolour.

Watercolour Sketching at the Henge

The History Bit

Just to give a bit of background, before much industrial development, this beautiful spot was used as a swimming place. And, very likely a picnic area by the locals. Then came the building of steel works. Actually, as they were investigating this site to add to the existing plant, the workmen found the remains of a Roman fort here. Apparently, it was sited to guard the crossing place of the River Don. What a history! (You could take a peep here at my painting of the mighty Hadrian’s Wall, another Roman remain in Britain.)

The Steel Henge

Anyway, the artist created the sculpture by using these huge pieces of steel, discarded parts of machinery that were found nearby. As you can see, the artist had the inspired idea of shaping them into a Stonehenge like formation. And, it certainly does pull at your heartstrings when you stand among the monoliths of the Steel Henge.

After my first watercolour sketch, I looked out in a different direction to see a modern factory in the distance. Now, perhaps it’s just me, but these buildings often remind me of a castle. So, that’s what I thought of as I painted. All in all, a very thought-provoking place to simply sit and sketch.

The Factory at the Edge of the Reserve

Painting Clematis Flowers in Watercolour

Clematis Abstract

Hi everyone. I saw something online explaining how to do a nature inspired abstract, so I thought I’d have a go. The idea was to study the subject you have chosen – in this case, glorious pink clematis. Then, make a small sketch, recording the details you really like. And then, let your imagination go wild! (That’s the bit I like!) I’m not sure it’s finished, the pink isn’t vibrant enough for my liking. But it was interesting.

The Real Clematis

You can see why I was inspired! Anyway, just to finish this quick post, this is the same scene (a few years ago) with a different treatment. Acrylic, and painted more slowly. Also with a bit of artist’s license on the colour!

Flowers at Dusk

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

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 .

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 .

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.

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!

From Sketch to Acrylic Painting

Scarlet Flowers

Well, here it is, as promised . A step by step demonstration of the runner bean plant in my allotment – from sketch to acrylic painting! To be honest, it really seems a long time ago now when the growth was at its height. Of course, I’m talking about August, when I did this quick, plein air sketch.

The Working Sketch

The Working Sketch of Runner Beans

As you can see, (if it’s not too faint) I wrote myself a few notes about colours. Actually, I often do this, if I plan to paint the scene later. But, on this occasion, I did find another few minutes later that day to add watercolour to the sketch . Although I took a few photos as well, a colour sketch at the scene is much more helpful.

From sketch to acrylic painting.  This is the working sketch in pencil with added watercolour.
The Runner Bean Plant in Colour

So far, so good. Perhaps you may have seen these sketches in a post I wrote a few weeks ago. And, I drew our cabbage and sprout plants too here . Really, I find my garden very inspiring. But, I’m often far too busy working on the plants to do much artwork. But, when I got home, I drafted this painting in acrylic in a couple of sessions.

From Sketch to Acrylic Painting – the First Draft

The Runner Bean Painting – First Draft

At last, some time to paint! In fact, I had already done a lot of the editing and designing of the composition in the working sketch. To explain, I had to decide which of the shapes of leaves and so on I wanted to include in the final version. Because the design would have looked too busy if I had included them all. Also, I tried to give the arrangement of the stems, beans and flowers some movement across the page. After all, this would give a more pleasing picture. Well, that’s the theory, anyway!

The Final Version

From sketch to acrylic painting  - the finished version.  A runner bean plant climbing up a cane support .
The Runner Bean Plant – Acrylic Painting

Well, this is the version I decided on. First of all, I painted in too much detail in the background. So , all that had to be calmed down so it did not take attention away from the plant . Then, I made some decisions about the different shades of green and tried to be more consistent with them. Finally, I made sure that the focal point – the scarlet flowers – were as red as I could paint them . So , I really hope you like my painting! By the way, we ate the last helping of runner beans last night at dinner. So, all the work is really worthwhile!

All my work is for sale at reasonable prices. This painting is acrylic on paper, 16 by 20 inches. Unframed and without a mount. Price – £ 60 plus shipping. I’m based in the UK . You can pay by PayPal. Just go to the Contact Me page and send me an email

Urban Sketching Art in Rotherham

A quick watercolour sketch of Clifton Park Museum -  a  beautiful sandstone mansion. Urban sketching art in Rotherham.
Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham

We had a great day out yesterday , making urban sketching art in Clifton Park Museum . To be honest, we didn’t really go inside the museum this time . Although it is very interesting and full of inspiring things to draw . No, we stayed outside and drew the beautiful sandstone building. Actually, this is the view at the back of the mansion where the modern extension is built. And this lower building on the left is the cafe . Well, you’ve got to get your morning caffeine somewhere !

Watercolour Urban Sketching Art

Perhaps, the way I see it, urban sketching art includes any quick sketching that I do when I’m out and about. Another way to put it would be ‘ en plein air ‘ . Or simply, outside sketching from life. Also , I have to say that I personally sketch mainly in watercolour. For example, I didn’t draw out the shapes with a pencil or pen on this one . Sometimes I do . Obviously, this is not the world’s most accurate, well finished drawing of the big house. But , for a 40 minute piece, it has some of the freshness and life I was aiming for.

If you want to see more plein air sketching adventures, see here and here .

The Front Entrance

Of course , the front entrance of the mansion is very grand . But, the whole building is well proportioned and pleasing to the eye . And it is set in an elegant Victorian park.

The Art Cafe Exhibition.

In the afternoon, we went down into the town centre to Fitzwilliam and Hughes cafe. Or, as I call it, the Art Cafe. If you look at my post here you’ll see that I had two paintings displayed with them earlier this year . And then in March I changed the paintings round a little bit . But I hadn’t had chance to see them due to Lockdown. So it was great to sit with a coffee and a slice of banana and chocolate cake and admire my handiwork! All-in-all , a great day out in Rotherham .

The paintings on the wall.
The cosy Fitzwilliam and Hughes cafe
Rest in Peace - my acrylic painting on display in the art cafe. Developed from urban sketching art done on the spot.
Rest in Peace
Somewhere in France

Colourful Painting – Sunshiny Days

A Colourful Painting of a Mediterranean Coastal Scene in Watercolour

Colourful painting in watercolour of a harbour and a castle on the  Mediterranean coast .
The Med

This is my latest – a fairly quick watercolour sketch of a harbour scene. Because I was so fed up of all the dark , damp days we were having , I chose something light and sunny to paint. And it really worked ! My mood lifted straight away and , as an added bonus, everyone else who looked at it cheered up too . I really enjoy creating a colourful painting . I don’t know about you , but what I work on always affects my emotions. Art Therapy, anyone ?

An orange and blue abstract composition.
Sunshiny Day

Now , this acrylic painting is another example of my colourful painting that I did to brighten up dark November days . But this was put together in a completely different way from the harbour scene which is carefully detailed . To be honest , Sunshiny Day was painted quite instinctively . And I really had no idea before I started whet it would turn out to be . And it evolved gradually. It was a surprise to me , but I liked it ! I must say , I don’t often produce work this way – but I feel a series coming on. Are there any more Abstract Expressionists out there? ( I added the words afterwards to make it into a poster for my current exhibition – see previous post for details )

You can find this abstract painting with a few more in my Gallery Abstracts here