Saturday, 21 December 2013

Merry Xmas

It has been far too long since I last posted on my blog, and even longer since I spent any time visiting the blogs of my friends here in in blogland. As we all know, life sometimes has a habit of getting in the way. But I couldn't let Xmas pass without getting in here to send my very best wishes to you all.

The painting above is one I copied (for my own amusement and pleasure) from a Xmas card I received this year. For quite a long time I have been wanting to find a subject that would allow me to work again with watercolour and pencil, and I really liked the opportunity this scene provided. It's all a bit rushed, especially the buildings and background trees, but I like the way the graphite background has pushed the Robin, Holly and Post box to the front. I will definitely being doing more of this mixed media combination.

Though very busy I have been keeping my hand in with occasional small sketches. As you know I really like working with pen and soluble ink, and loose watery sketches like this one of a small church surrounded by fir trees was great fun to do and only took a few minutes. This was using a new Rotring ArtPen which was a birthday present back in October, and I really liked the way it flowed over the paper. I also received a set of Carbon Pencils which I haven't yet been able to do a lot with but I believe they can work quite well with water to, so I'm looking forward to playing with them in due course.

A few weeks ago I painted this Fairy for one of the Painting Projects in my Art Forum. This was something completely different for me as I studiously avoid painting people. That's something that I really must address and when I'm able to get back into my art properly I think 'people' must be high on my agenda of things to paint. It's too early yet to be thinking of New Years Resolutions but when we get to that point this may be a very good subject to put near the top of my Resolutions list.

On the other hand, I'm hoping good ol' Santa will bring me a new Macro lens for my camera. I have a page on my web site showing the flowers in my garden during every month of the year. The present photo's are passable but I'd really like to improve on them and then paint them. I quite fancy doing more floral work. Hey, if we were living in the sixties I could do paintings of the Flower People and kill two birds with one stone. lol.

Finally a word about 'motivation'. I have none. Lifes little tests have a way of knocking the stuffing out of us and robbing us of what inspiration and motivation we may have once had. I have recently come to realise that when I say "I haven't got time" I really mean "I don't feel like it". That has to change and I am determined that it will change.

I wish you all the very best Christmas you can have and, if I don't see you before, a very Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Monday, 22 July 2013


A while ago I painted a Rose and it was my first serious attempt at applying multiple layers to a watercolour. I found the technique of adding glazes quite alien to anything I'd done before but was determined to have another go when time allowed. Well, here it is ....

As I neared the end of the process I was sensing that the pigment on the paper was very close to turning to 'mud'. Parts of it were feeling a little over worked and other parts where losing their luminosity. I think one more glaze would have been a step too far. My guess is that some of the pigments I used lacked sufficient transparency but I'm also thinking that maybe I mixed some glazes a little too dense. I think that more water and a better understanding of transparent pigments would help a great deal.

Still, I'm not disappointed in the result and it was great to be holding a paintbrush again. And I'd love to hear any tips from all you competent exponents of glazing out there. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tempus Fugit

... or, in other words, Time Flies. It certainly is doing for me. I looked at the number of posts I've made on my blog so far this year ... 7. We're halfway through the year and I've managed only 7 and I missed the month of April completely. I decided to throw together a quick post just so that I don't miss June as well.

This week, for the first time in a very long while, I actually found a few hours to do some painting. I had a go at this anemone which I found in the Reference Photo section of my forum. I used the layering technique I learned about a while ago but applied my own thinking to the method rather than follow 'instructions' rigidly. I felt much more comfortable doing it this way and I'm not disappointed with the result. I've still got a long way to go with it but I definitely felt I was understanding more.

On another matter, I've finally dragged myself kicking and squealing into the 21st century ... I've bought myself a tablet ... a Samsung Galaxy Note 8. There are many reasons why I preferred it to other tablets, one being it's built-in pressure sensitive digital pen. I've tried a few doodles and doubt I'll ever do any serious drawing with it, but it's great fun and I'm now on the lookout for the best drawing software to go with it. Don't be surprised if you see some digital doodles posted here from time to time. I'm also hoping my new tablet will help me get round your blogs more often as I'll be able to use it at times when I can't normally get to my PC.

Our local Art in the Park exhibition ended last week and I had to go and collection my "Fuchsia 'Winston Churchill'" painting. No, it did't sell, but I'm not disappointed. There was a time when I mistakenly thought that a person couldn't be classed as a proper artist if they didn't sell their work.  Since then I've come to realise that it's not how much we sell that makes us an artist but what is in our heart. We should be called 'heartists'. lol.

I had taken my camera with me to the park, as always, and on the way back from the exhibition I detoured to the lakes. An enjoyable half-hour with my camera resulted in scores of photo's to be scrutinised once back home and I'll close this post by sharing 3 or 4 of them with you.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope to get to YOUR blog very soon.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


Though lacking the time to do very much art, it's very important to me that I try to keep things ticking over in my forum. It's only a small group so it's all too easy for discussions to dry up and for people to drift away. Regrettably, since I promote it as a forum for beginners that has a tendency to stop accomplished artists joining in. I say 'regrettably' because accomplished artists have so much to offer beginners by way of WIP's and simply sharing hints and tips about technique. To that end I frequently set painting and drawing challenges to try and drag beginners out of their comfort zones.

The most recent drawing challenge is of a wooden duck called "Henry". The challenge was to make him look wooden and varnished. This is my effort and although it only took a couple of hours, it was nice to be working with my pencils again.

A few weeks ago we spent a few days in the Peak District and the nearest village to where we were staying was called Longnor. On our first morning we went for a short walk round the village exploring the pathways and  narrow alleyways between the old stone buildings. It's an enchanting place full of character. One view in particular, of the church behind old stone houses, caught my attention and I would have loved to have pulled out my sketchpad and pen there and then. As it was I contented myself with a photo and the promise to myself that I'd tackle it back at home. For a bit of fun the other day I pulled the photo up onto my computer screen and tackled the sketch as if I was there in the village. It only took 10 minutes, if that, but I love this technique of washing over non-permanent ink with a wet brush.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Trying something new.

Though I haven't been getting any time for art recently, I was away on holiday for a few days the week before last and I decided to have a go at painting a flower by following the instructions in a new book I have by Michael Lakin. He is a wonderful botanical artist and I thought it would be interesting to try his technique.

The subject is a Rose and included with the book was a tracing, so I can't take any credit for the drawing. The painting process was hugely different to anything I've tried before. It involved putting on pale graduated washes, letting them dry, and then adding another, gradually building up the painting in layers. I know some of you already work this way and I was keen to experience it for myself. In total I put on something like 7 or 8 layers. It was interesting putting a wash of French Ultramarine on top of the Cadmium Red petals ... something I would never have dreamed of doing.

I started the painting nearly 2 weeks ago and it has taken me 3 sessions in all to complete it. I was surprised at what a slow process it is. I shall definitely try this method again soon but I'll leave it until I have enough time ... it's not a method to be rushed, that's for sure.

And big apologies for not getting round your blogs as much as I'd like ... I'm missing all your wonderful art.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Snap happy !!!

Well, I warned you that I'd be posting some "Birds on the Lake" photo's soon, and here they are. Like everything else, if we want to be good at anything we have to practice. Nothing could be truer when it comes to using a DSLR properly. I have no desire to be a 'point and shoot' photographer so I switched off 'Auto' on day one of owning my new Nikon D5100. I already had a good understanding of exposures from using my bridge camera for the past several years, but a DSLR provides me with a wealth of new things to get to grips with and it can't be done just by looking at the manual. Hands on experience is the only way.

I have taken hundreds of photo's around my garden of all manner of irrelevant subjects just to give me something to point my camera at but one day last week I treated myself to a walk in the park. It was great fun - I was only there for an hour and during that time I took 266 photo's. Here is just a small selection.


As nice as it was to watch these birds and take photographs of them, I was even more delighted when a pair of Mute Swans moved in fairly close and one of them started 'displaying'. It looked so majestic, stately and regal.

The Swans were near enough for me to get some really close head-shots. I like this shot because of the water dripping from the beak but I can't profess to skilfully timing my moment. I was just lucky that this is a messy Swan that dribbles a lot. 

Later I found one of them enjoying a spot of preening in the shade of the tree-covered island and thought what a great watercolour painting the scene would make, especially with those reflections. White Swan and white reflections ... could this involve some interesting negative painting?

But not all of my shots were clear and sharp. I tried my hand at shooting (photographically) flying birds. I salute all those photographers who have posted on the net pin-sharp shots of birds in flight. This is something I've tried many times with the small birds in my garden, with little success, but I believe that if I keep trying I will one day get the hang of it. Either that or I'll buy a shotgun and find another way of shooting them. My efforts aren't complete rubbish as I managed to get a few shots where at least the bird was in the frame ... but hopefully I will eventually learn how to get them sharp.

And there was one hilarious moment when a handful of Gulls were about to share out a large slice of bread and a Black-Headed Gull swooped through and stole it from them. It was over in a flash and there wasn't time to worry too much about camera settings, but I did react quickly enough to at least record the event, as this sequence shows. The culprit was last seen disappearing into the distance with a gang of half-a-dozen furious ex-mates on his heels.

During my brief walk I took many photo's. Some carefully planned that turned out bad, and some hastily taken that turned out reasonable. I had some lucky shots, like the drips from the Swans beak and some unlucky ones, like the kissing Swans disturbed by a barking Alsation just as I was framing them, but every single click of the shutter brought pleasure, and that is what I went out to find. Do I have a favourite from that particular day? Yes .... this one.

I look at the work of competent photographers submitting their work to online photo sites and know that I have a very long way to go before I'm even close to being good but I have the same feelings when I look at my paintings and drawings. However, what I have learnt over time is that the pleasure of our hobby doesn't come from how good we are, it comes from the journey we are on. ;-)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Robbie and I

It is a fact that most British gardens can boast their own resident Robin, and mine is no exception. I can't ever step into my garden without Robbie whistling out a greeting and hopping into a prominent position where I can see him, and he can keep his eye on me. I say "keep his eye on me" because that's just how it feels.

I have two Apple trees in my garden that are the last remaining evidence of a small orchard that used to exist here in what used to be a Victorian Kitchen Garden. Regrettably, both trees have become hollow inside and are unsafe. We have therefore made the decision to take them down and plant 3/4 new fruit trees in their place. It doesn't need me to tell you that this wasn't going to happen without some very enthusiastic involvement of Robbie .... Site Supervisor, Health & Safety Coordinator, Project Manager and Buildings Inspector.

A week ago, I headed outside armed with my Chain Saw and Pruning Saws and set to work. And as I was sawing away at the first of the trees I was sadly reflecting on the fact that these weren't just trees. Okay, so they haven't produced very good fruit for several years now, but the Bees love the Apple Blossom in the spring, and so do I. They provide structure and height in the garden and there is nothing finer than sitting in their dappled shade on a hot sunny day, especially with a beer close to hand.

As I was felling the first tree today, Robbie sat in the other watching my every move and he was more vocal than usual, if that's possible. It took me two days to cut the trees down to just a few feet from the ground and get everything stacked tidily, but Robbie was with me throughout. I actually found myself talking to him and sometimes he would tilt his head as if he was actually listening.

But it was in his management roles that he excelled.

He inspected my wheelbarrow (look closely) ....

Warned me of poorly stacked (strewn) piles of cut branches ...

Monitored how long I took for tea breaks ...

And closely inspected the finished works.

I don't know if this little chappie is just being naturally terretorial and worrying about what I may or may not do to HIS back yard, or whether he's genuinely curious and interested in what we humans get up to, but whatever his motives, he's great company in the garden and a lot of fun.

Circumstances, coupled with an inability to set my mind to anything, are preventing me from getting on with any art right now, though I do try to get round the blogs I like to follow as and when I can. I took my camera for a brief walk in the park the other day so I may come back and bore you with a few 'Birds on the lake' photo's one day soon. Don't say you haven't been warned. ;-)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Horse and Carriage

First of all, an apology to my fellow bloggers. I just haven't been able to get round all of your blogs of late due to family commitments. Following a recent illness and a few days in hospital, my elderly parents (87 and 94) have reached the stage where they can no longer manage to live in their rather large (for them) 2-storey house. So I am heavily involved in driving across town every day to deal with the things they can't manage and I'm also house-hunting to try and get them a smaller bungalow close to where I live. I'm as enthusiastic as ever to look at your creations and I'll get to your sites as and when I'm able.

Wanting to continue with my art but seriously lacking time, a couple of weeks ago I decided to start a new pencil drawing because I knew this would be something I could work on a few minutes at a time as and when opportunities presented. And this is what I've been working on ......

A pencil drawing of a Horse and Carriage in Cockington

If any of you have ever visited Cockington, in Torbay I know you will have seen this local horse and carriage. It actually provides a valuable service as it is a fully licensed Horsedrawn Hackney Carriage and offers a taxi service from the seafront in the nearby town of Torquay, along the country lanes to the Blacksmith's Forge in Cockington village. 

I underestimated the amount of detail in the carriage and chose A4 paper (Daler Rowney Heavyweight paper 130lb 11" x 8"). I'm thinking it might be nice to do the drawing again but much larger and I'm contemplating doing a series involving different carriages. In readiness I intend to research carriages and try and identify this one but if any of you know what type of carriage it is please let me know.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Double Portrait

Some time ago, around the middle of November, my very dear friend Ingrid (Ingrid Ormestad Art) asked me how I would feel about drawing a pencil portrait of her husbands sister and brother-in-law, Caroline and Ian. Caroline had sadly passed away some weeks earlier and this was to be a gift for Ian. I was honoured to be asked, and accepted with much delight, but I do confess to being somewhat apprehensive.

I knew I wanted to work on this drawing slowly, over time, and without frequent breaks away from it. Knowing what a crazy month December is, I decided not to touch it until the new year. Thankfully Ingrid was happy for me to do it in my own time and that helped a lot.

About two weeks ago I picked up the reference photo, sharpened my pencil and laid out a blank sheet of paper. As I progressed I took many Work In Progress photo's so that I could show the various stages to my forum members. I won't bore all of my fellow bloggers with them but if anyone would like to see them, and their accompanying explanations, they can be seen here. Work-In-Progress

Although not everything went as well as I would have liked, as you'll see in the WIP, I can't remember the last time I was so content with my art. Sitting at my desk with my favourite music playing and my mind totally absorbed in the movement of my pencil, I was in seventh heaven. The frustrations of trying to control watercolours often drive me to despair but a few minutes with my pencils and those frustrations just melted away.

I have been struggling with my art for some time, especially watercolours, and my confidence has been taking a few knocks, but this project was just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Wandering around with my camera, I often find myself pointing it at something I think is attractive without necessarily knowing what it is that I'm looking at. Such is the case with Cupola's. In fact, I didn't even know what they were called until I decided to do some research.

Cupola's are small dome-like structures on top of buildings. It would seem that they serve many purposes, some to provide light or ventilation and some to be used as lookouts. Some Cupola's have been built as small buildings in their own right, but those I've recently seen are fairly small sitting atop a modest, but old, building. 

Today I was suddenly taken by the urge to throw out a quick sketch or two. Nothing that needed too much preparation, thought or concentration, if you know what I mean. Opening my photo folders for inspiration I  came across a Cupola I photographed only a week or two ago, and it didn't take long to find a couple more. Square, round, enclosed, open, glazed, slatted ... all different, each serving it's own purpose but all attractive in their own right.

One other piece of news is that I have just launched a new "Artist Showcase" on my web site. This is something I do in connection with my art forum and consequently I don't always mention it here. However, this time I have succeeded in roping in one of my favourite artists, Sandra Busby, and since many of you are familiar with her work I thought you might enjoy looking at the Showcase on this occasion.

Though the prime objective of my forum is to provide a non-intimidating environment for beginners to show and discuss their work, through the blogs I follow I have come to appreciate that there is also much to learn in looking at the work of more accomplished artists. The "Showcase" is a way I can introduce them to the work of other artists. To this end, if any of my followers would like to be featured in a Showcase, please let me know.