Monday, 27 March 2017

New 'Old Dutch Masters' : Tulips

Over the past two weeks we have been asked at Avon Valley Art Group to use something 'Old/Vintage/ Retro as our starting point.
From time to time we have these two week sessions to enable us to paint more complex images, or to indulge in subjects we specifically like.

I am not sure how I came up with the idea, but I think it was from some images that I saw in a Gardening magazine, advertising some new strains of Tulips.
I decided to have a go at painting a pot of tulips in the style of the old Dutch Masters from around the time when tulip bulbs were very rare  and the flowers were often found in these old paintings.
I realised that what we see today when looking at these paintings, is not what was actually painted, as I am sure that they would have been brighter in colour, but I wanted to try to replicate the darkness of the oils, but using watercolours.

I am really pleased, just for once, with the outcome. It was quite difficult to decide on background colours but I kept the furniture dark and the lower background equally dark to swallow up the detail
and the upper background just dark enough to throw the flowers forward. I used lots of Daniel Smiths 'Bordeaux' and 'Indigo' with some 'Burnt Umber' and black ink at the base of the background.
It did take ages to paint all the flowers as they could not be done too loosely in this instance, and so it took the two full sessions and some time in the studio at home to finish the painting.
It is so unlike anything I have done before, that I am not sure that I want to put it up for sale in the exhibition in August, but I ma not sure where it would fit on my walls at home. Something to think about!

Sunday, 26 February 2017


This past two weeks, it is the first time at Avon Valley Artist's group that we have given over two weeks to the same subject. The thinking behind this was that members might like to tackle something more complex and work at it over the two sessions. The subject was 'Interiors'
I find this quite difficult as I need continuity with my painting. Once I am started I tend to work at least daily on the piece. That way I seem better able to keep in my mind the thinking behind what I am doing. That sounds a bit strange, but I work better that way. At AVA I am also used to doing the prep at home and more or less finishing the piece during the single session.
This was not a problem for the group, as we agreed that once a member had painted an interior, they could either chose to do a second one. or they could have a free choice of subject.
I chose to paint two separate images.

The first of these is the corner of my guest bedroom. I love the chest of drawers and wanted to see if I could render the wood interestingly. The still life objects on top were bits I collected around the house.
The second week I painted the still life with enough background.....the tablecloth and painting on the wall fulfil the 'Interiors' bit .
I am much more pleased with the second one. The weak areas of the Bedroom painting are numerous and I am not sure that compositionally, the painting is very interesting.
The still life pleases me more. The doiley works well, and was done by simply stencilling a doiley onto the background. The only problem was getting the shape correct where it went over the top of the table. Where the paint seeped under the paper doiley, I left it as it seemed to make it looser and less contrived.
Painting the flowers and fruit was much more within my comfort zone and I enjoyed the process.

The thing that really puzzles me, and sometimes frustrates me, is the way in which these sorts of subject lead me to paint in a much more realistic and less fluid way. I cannot work out why I cannot paint these subjects in the same loose way that I paint my flower paintings.

A recent example is these lovely foxgloves that I did in the studio recently.

Despite all these frustrations with certain subjects on the group calendar, I would not change the system, as the compulsory topics push us all to attempt subjects well outside all our comfort zones and the results are often unexpected and sometimes stunning. It is a real pleasure to paint with a group of enthusiastic and talented painters!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Wildflower Meadow

This week at Avon Valley Artists Group, the subject was 'Wild Aspects'
There were lots of wild animals depicted by members and a few attempts at wild weather.
From the title of this post, you can see that, true to my leanings, I chose to attempt to paint a wildflower meadow. It is not something that I have attempted often in the past but as I do try to be a bit experimental at AVA I thought I would give it a go.
It took quite a bit of preparation, which meant work on the evening before the group met, and I was sure it would not be finished by the end of the session.
This meant that when I got home with the half finished painting, I remembered to take a photo, so am able to share a bit of the process with you.

I started the painting by opting for a high skyline, above which I lightly pencilled in a few trees.
Using masking fluid and a drawing pen, and a rubber marker, I covered the whole of the lower area with lots of stem, grass and flower shapes. I did this the night before to give the fluid chance to dry properly. By using the drawing pen I could get lots of variety in the thickness of the lines and I used the rubber marker for the more rounded fatter shapes of the flowers.
The following morning, I started by putting a pale blue wash over the tree area and well into the meadow, and a wash of variegated greens in the lower half of the painting. When it was dry, I painted in the trees. When this was dry, I carefully removed the masking fluid
It was then just a case of gradually working across the picture from left to right, I was able to work continuously as I did little bits from top, middle and bottom, allowing small sections to dry as I worked elsewhere.

When all the flowers and stems and grasses where finished, I over-painted some darker stems etc especially in the base of the painting. I added a few daisies into these dark grasses

I tried to make the meadow recede by painting the flowers in a bit more detail and obviously bigger at the front with only a series od dots right at the back with a few tall straggly stems growing into the sky area.
It was quite a repetitive process, and did take some time to complete, but I had lots of fun, and am glad I gave it a go!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

AVA Catch up: Fungus, Winter, Experimental work

The days get busier and busier, and although I am still painting regularly, I do not seem to find that extra time to keep the blog active. Sadly, I think it will get worse as Christmas approaches!
Anyway, just a very brief catch-up on what has been happening at Avon Valley Artists Group.
Three recent weeks subjects for you to look at.............not all successful, but hopefully interesting.

This is my response to the subject of 'Fungus' I found this interesting purple specimen in a book on the subject and really enjoyed playing with the texture of both the pods and the undergrowth. I especially enjoyed the latter, sticking all sorts of paper, threads and gesso to the paper before starting to paint.

This painting is my response to the subject  'Limited Palette'. We were allowed two tubes, pans or sticks of colour and I used Indigo and Quinachridone gold. There was a lot of masking fluid to start with, as I knew I would not be able to add hightlights with white.
 I did add more white when I got home and a bit of splatter to give a more wintery feel to the painting.

This is my take on our experimental week. We had to include newspaper in the work and there was some confusion about whether we had to cover all the ground with newspaper first, or just parts of it.
I went for a complete sheet which was possibly a mistake, and we could only use black and white and one other colour. I selected Brown Madder, but when starting the painting, I wished I had chosen a more yellow gold pigment. However, the Brown Madder does seem to take it into the surreal which is perhaps no bad thing for experimental work.
I am also disappointed that I covered nearly all the news print. I would have liked to have seen more of it in the finished piece, not just the texture that it created.

Hope you enjoy looking.

Saturday, 8 October 2016


Back to some old favourites this week for my solution to my art group subject of  'Harvest'

The work is done on Hahnamuehle 'Cornwall' matt 450gm paper. I like this density as it avoids buckling whilst painting, especially if I am going to start with a fairly wet wash.

I started by wetting the top corner of the painting, and dropping in some Indigo and Bordeaux and allowing them to mix freely together. Whilst still very wet, I blew the paint with a straw to send 'twiggy' shapes diagonally across the paper.

When the background was dry, I did a light drawing of the composition, very vague just so that I knew where I might want the fruit. I could alter it as I went along if required. I did the drawing on top of the wash to enable me to erase it as I worked the painting.

The dark berries were painted with Indigo and Bordeaux, the green ones with a mixture of Serpentine Green and Yellow Ochre, with a hint of Quinachridone Coral in places, and the red ones with a mixture of Quinachridone Coral and Pyrrol Red.

The leaves were painted with Serpentine Green, Cadmium Yellow and Yellow Ochre.

The initial background wash gave me vague shapes in the background which I slightly enhanced and the twiggy bits were made into stems using various browns.

When the painting was displayed at the end of the session, I was encouraged to leave it totally alone as it seemed to have reached the point of completion. However, propping it up in the studio for a few hours made me realise that all the lower fruits were art the same level so I added 3 more blackberries and a leaf to the spray second from the left to take it slightly lower. I think this works better.

Hope you enjoy looking.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

L'Age Baston Holiday

After all the hard work with the exhibition in Wells Cathedral, I went on a much deserved painting holiday in La Charante region in France, at a chateau called L'Age Baston.
We all had a wonderful time in lovely surroundings, with great food and Jenny Johnson as our lovely tutor.
My aim was to just enjoy the pleasure of drawing and painting each day, and perhaps try to paint a landscape or two.....with Jenny's help, as this is totally unusual for me.

I managed some quite good sketch work and produced two proper paintings during the week. Strangely, they both ended up as square images, which again is so unlike me.

They were both painted on Arches paper, which was the only paper on offer, so another new experience.

By the end of the week, I was back painting flower subjects!!

Hope you enjoy looking.

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