Sunday, 14 August 2016


Having said that there would be no more painting before the exhibition, I was organised enough to be able to go to AVA group as usual and painted a picture with which I was quite pleased.

The hydrangea have been really lovely this year, perhaps because of the very damp spring. The various ones in my garden are very subtle shades of pink/purple/blue. They proved to good to resist and so whilst dog sitting a friends pet whilst they are away on holiday, I managed a second more abstract painting covering the initial wash with random dyed tiny squares of silk. I also used a little lilac pen and added some of the loose threads from the silk.
I tried not to overdo the collage part of the painting and kept some of the edges quite shadowy.

Two completely different ways of tackling the same subject. I hope you enjoy looking.

The top painting was done on Fabriano Artistico extra white rough 300g paper, and the second painting was done on Hahnemuhle AndalucĂ­a 500g rough paper

Friday, 29 July 2016

Painting without drawing

I recently went to a demo by Soraya French and she said the too careful a drawing was very limiting to freedom. She suggested that if you spent ages on a complex drawing, when you came to paint it, you became too afraid to spoil all your efforts, that the process of painting became less spontaneous and hence less free.

I took up this idea and over the last few weeks at AVA I have tried to paint images with no drawing at all. It started with the Bluebell Wood in the previous post and over the next three weeks produced 3 more images with no drawing other than a couple of circles to place the flower heads in the right place. In the poppy painting, I did not even do this.
So all the paintings were straight in with a brush loaded with pigment, to see what I could do.

They are not totally successful, my visual memory is poor and there is very little room for error, but it was liberating, and I will certainly do more.




This will be my last post for about 3-4 weeks as I now have two weeks of hard work getting over 90 paintings ready for my annual exhibition in Wells Cathedral and 2 weeks of being there to man it. I cannot be distracted by painting etc, so it will be quiet until the beginning of September.
Hope you like looking at the images.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Bluebell Wood

Just a quick post. I have been away for a short break and came back with the need to prep something for AVA the following day.
No time for detailed drawings so decided to go a bit abstract/creative.
Sorry there are no pictures of the process, but it is quite simple

I painted a wash onto a piece of Fabriano 300g paper and added a bit of sea salt to start off the texture thing!.
I then diluted some PVA glue and gently covered the paper being careful not to disturb the wash.
I took a piece of good quality tissue paper, crumpled it as tight as possible and then opened it up and gently pulled it to cover the pasted wash.
I then lightly rollered it with a bottle to remove too much air and to create small, shallow but crisp creases.
 I then simply painted my bluebell wood on top, keeping each layer of paint reasonably wet to allow it to run across the creases, but I dried it well before adding another wash on top. It was finally finished with a good splattering of white acrylic gouache as usual.

Apologies to any long-standing readers for repeating the process, but I wanted to quickly add something to the blog to keep it active. Hope you like the result.

                                   Mixed Media, Fabriano Artistico, Extra White 24 x 36cm
                                                                     Bluebell Wood

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Rhododendrons in Sunlight

Continuing on the theme of trying to capture sunlight on petals, I thought I might have a go at this beautiful white Rhododendron that has just finished flowering in the garden. Needless to say, it was beautiful until we had a storm and very heavy rain and I am afraid it did not recover well. Thank goodness I did the photos before that happened!

I am not going to say a lot about the process, as I think the photos speak for themselves. I did the drawing on rough Fabriano Artistico extra white paper and used mainly Cobalt Blue and Alizarine Crimson for the flowers.
I started with a detailed drawing, but have to admit to losing my way with all the trumpet shapes, so quite a bit was 'made up'!

My apologies for the quality of the next 3 photos, but they were taken during the art session at AVA and I cannot work out what was reflecting so badly across the paper. I have tried to remove some of the violet haze, but I am not very computer savvy, so they are not brilliant. At this stage the background was all white. I did not do any preliminary washes before starting the flowers.
 I spent a lot of time thinking about the actual colour of the flowers. So little was really white, but I needed lots of white paper to give the bleached out areas where the sun caught them.

At this stage I started to add some leaves as this gave me the negative shapes of the flowers and helped me to keep track of where I was going. Even at this stage I was not sure if the shadow areas were strong and dark enough for the effect that I wanted. But it is really difficult to add overdark washes which you hope will dry paler, especially with very staining pigments. I can over paint more darks if I decide it need it.

I then stared filling in the background washes. Dark in the middle but much lighter around the edges as I did not want the painting to become too heavy (Remembering what happened with the Fatsia leaves!) For these areas I used pale washes of blues, yellows and blue/greys with a little QuinachridoneGold. I also used this colour with Burnt Umber for the stems.

I finished by adding more leaves around the painting, leaving small patches of sunlight.

The painting looks quite bright on the screen, but by comparison to the previous Clematis painting, it does lack a bit of contrast, so as usual, I will live with it in the studio for a few days to see if I need to darken some of the shadows.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sunlit Clematis

In my search for the best way to paint strong sunlight and shadows, I searched my stock of photos and found this lovely photo of some lilac /pink clematis from my garden last summer.
I thought it an ideal subject to have another go.

I have painted Clematis lots of times and been pleased with the results, but this time I wanted to capture the burnt out effect of the strong sunlight and the dark shadows created by this sunlight,

I did a very careful drawing and added a 3rd flower bottom centre behind the other main flowers to hopefully give a more interesting composition'
I painted the flowers first using only two pigments....quinachridone magenta and ultramarine violet.

I was quite careful to follow the darks and lights from the original photo as I wanted it to 'read' correctly when it was finished.

I will admit to finding it difficult to add the dark shadows, so afraid of spoiling it at this stage, as the flowers had taken some time to paint.  I also dreaded doing the background as the source photo was too dark and I did not want to make the same mistake that I had made with the Fatsia leaves (previous post ).
I am not sure if the leaves are dark enough even now, but I will live with it in the studio for a while and then darken any areas if I think it will help'

I am not sure either, if the shadows on the flowers are 'blue' enough but I think it is a step forward and I will keep on returning to this subject for now and see if I can really master it. There are some lovely roses out in the garden now so maybe they will be next.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Sunlight Again : Fatsia and Lilies

Since I painted the 'Blue Cactus' which I thought was quite successful ( See post 22nd March), I have been very taken with trying to capture sunlight on plant surfaces......with more and less success.
However, as usual, it has been fun trying, and I will certainly keep having a go from time to time.

I started with a couple of photos I took in the garden of a splendid Fatsia bush. As the leaves are very glossy, the strong sun gives lovely lights and darks which I thought might be good to try. It also nicely fitted that week's topic at Avon Valley Artists Group which was 'Mostly Greens'


I started with a reasonably accurate drawing as the subject was quite complex and it is important that the finished painting 'reads' right. I started in the centre of the painting so that I could work on both leaves and backgrounds at the same time. I tried to keep in mind the idea that strong sunlight always creates strong shadows. I left parts of the leaves unpainted to give the bleached out areas and tried to set them against darks in the background.

At this stage, I thought it was going quite well, and continued in this way until the leaves were complete.

Now all that was required were the background shadows. This proved much more difficult. I used lots of Indigo, Apatite Green and Quinachridone Gold and added scratched in twiggy bits to give some sense of where the plant was growing.

I am disappointed that the finished painting looks heavy and somewhat uninteresting. In hindsight, I think I should have introduced some colour, maybe like the open tulips in the corner of the original photo. Trying new things is always a challenge, so I looked for something else.
I came across the photo below of some startlingly pink Lilies that I had been given as having some painting potential! I have avoided it until now as an impossible task!

I approached the subject in exactly the same way as the Fatsia leaves; reasonably complex drawing and petals first. The only difference was that the paper was treated with a wash and cling film prior to the drawing as I thought this might help guide the background when I came to that part.

The flowers seemed to be going ok and I tried to remember that I had thought the same with the leaves at this stage, so I was extra careful about attempting the background as I had put quite a lot of time into the flowers and did not want to mess it up. I left the half finished painting up in the studio for a while and gave the background some thought.

I decided that I needed to keep the background lighter, even though there needed to be some really dark areas in it. As I was painting, I kept lots of small sunlit areas between the dark leaves and twiggy bits and I think it worked much better. In fact I am really pleased with the result and am looking forward to finding something else to try.
My thanks to Pete Weekes for the photo and for believing that I could paint such a beautiful clump of flowers. I hope he is not disappointed.

Both paintings were done on 'Andalucia'  500 gm rough paper from Hahnemuhle with my usual palette of paints

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Burgandy poppies

As we move into May, it is becoming increasingly important that I accumulate some new paintings for the exhibition in Wells Cathedral. I owe it to them to try to produce my best possible work to create an interesting and varied display.
I dug out a resource photo of some stately 'Patty's Plum' poppies and a piece of 'Andalucia' paper from Hahnemuhle. It is a 500g rough paper, which does not readily buckle with lots of washes, and hopefully, once the painting is mounted and framed, it should not buckle within the frame. This will hopefully prevent last years problems when it was so damp and cold in the Cathedral. Several of the paintings buckled badly over the course of the 10 days

As usual with this sort of painting, I started with a reasonably detailed drawing of the flowers and leaves.

I painted each flowers with combinations of Quinachridone Magenta, Moonglow, Bordeaux and Anthraquinachridone Blue.

I have been trying to improve the contrasts of light within my paintings, so have been very careful about leaving white paper showing and creating darks as a contrast. As usual, I painted up to the pencil line and then erased it when dry. White top edges would be created by the background colour later in the painting if necessary.
As I went along, I included stems and a few leaves as this helped to see if the composition was going to be ok.
The flowers did seem a bit tightly painted, so I deliberately only half painted the tallest and the far right heads, to try to loosen up the picture.

Once all the flowers were complete, I painted in the leaves, using a variety of pale green washes, again leaving white tips to hopefully suggest sunlight, and darkened the undergrowth with Apatite Green Genuine

      When all the background was complete, I darkened one side of the stems and put in a few shadows and deepened the darks at the base of the poppy petals.
The photos look a bit pink, but the actual painting is a tad more burgundy than appears.
When all was complete, I made sure there were no pencil lines remaining, and it is now ready for mounting and framing.