Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Hawthorn Berries in Watercolour : 2016

 Hawthorn berry demonstration from today's workshop in UK

I am teaching workshops all week in UK and each evening taking my lovely dog Bailey for a walk to unwind. On one walk, I came across a stunning sight of a tree laden with hawthorn berries in sunlight and as I had my camera with me took a few photographs. I also carried a sprig home which I took in to today's workshop.

I used the sprig of berries to create a colourful first wash, as seen below. In my mind I wanted sunshine so my background was changed to yellow rather than the blue of the sky that I had seen on the evening of my walk. I allowed the yellow to filter though my wash just as sunshine would through the branches of the real tree.

  Hawthorn berry first wash demonstration

If this first wash is full of life and energy I can add detail to complete the painting. As seen in the image at the top of this blog post. On my workshops I emphasise that washes are the best way to grow as an artist . Practise of these washes takes time but is so worthwhile.

  Hawthorn berry first wash demonstration. 
Close up of a section

Below is the photo I took and used as inspiration for my class today

Hawthorn berries
My own photograph 


Thats' all for now as I just wanted to share my teaching day with you.

Please go out as often as possible to find inspiration from nature. 
There really is no better art teacher!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Butterfly in Watercolour 2016

 "On Angels Wings"
Butterfly in Watercolour

Yesterday was one of those days when the weather was perfect. I couldn't resist taking a walk in the early evening sunshine and decided to take my camera with me in case I saw any wildlife or flowers worth painting, and how lucky I was. 

There is a field near our cottage that at the moment is full of ragwort. I know this plant can be seen as a nuisance to some but it does attract so much wildlife. As I wandered through the field I felt a soft touch on my bare arm and was delighted to see it was a white butterfly that had brushed my skin. I followed it with my camera so that I could take photographs as it settled on many of the bright yellow ragwort flowers. I knew I would want to paint it straight away but time was passing and when I did finally return home it was already getting late. But I couldn't get the image of that butterfly out of my mind. I often believe if an image is so strong in your mind it is best to capture it immediately and so I did.

I took an oblong piece of paper that was already covered in green shades and began to paint around the negative shape of the wings of my "treasured sight". Next I added yellow to the top of the existing green section to make the ragwort come alive. By the time I added Cobalt Turquoise behind the butterfly wings and a few extra yellow flowers in the distance the subject was already there.

I love the saying that if you are touched by a butterfly you have been graced by an angel. Hence the title of this painting.

You can see the photograph I took that inspired this painting below. I do believe painting from your own resource photos of things that you have personally seen makes you a far better artist. In this case the inspiration was very high!

The butterfly I saw on my walk. 
My own photograph, captured in beautiful early evening light


Artists Tips

1) Paint from your own photographs.
2) Go Out! Go somewhere you where will see subjects that appeal to you. Study what they look like in real life.
3) Paint something when the mood takes you. That special moment of enthusiasm is worth capturing while its' fresh and very much alive.


Monday, 29 August 2016

Countless Blessings : Rolling With an Idea

"Countless Blessings"
Butterflies in flight

There is so much I want to say in this blog post. It all started with a simple butterfly demonstration this week on one of my workshops in UK. I kept the demonstration simple so that the artist who was new to my sessions could easily follow my brushwork. But then I returned to my studio and added two butterflies to a simple sky wash, a new butterfly painting which made three this week. I worked on a sky painting from my workshops which I had painted as a one on one demonstration. I shared that simple painting on my blog yesterday. It is my previous blog post.

From there I had another wash from last week that I felt could make a great foundation for an autumn scene. But by now I had started thinking of all the wonderful butterflies I have seen in my life and a beautiful memory flooded back. I had moved to Hong Kong years ago. Shortly after our arrival there we rescued two dogs. Actually we went to the rescue centre to rescue one dog but he had a sibling pup in his cage and as she wasn't very pretty we rescued her too. I had made the mistake of asking what would happen to her and was told she would be put to sleep as she wasn't a pretty dog. The centre felt no one would want her. Years later my beautiful rescue turned into a really pretty animal and everyone loved her. Love and patience can achieve so much.  In art and in life. But back to my memory of butterflies.

I began each day in Hong Kong walking in a remote country park with my very much loved rescue dogs. Named Buddy and Holly. I would walk for an hour into the park and one hour out of the park on my return home. Often ignoring the beaten tracks and going on my own routes. On one such adventure I came across a huge tree with many golden , rust coloured leaves at its' base. Their colour in sunshine was glorious. Not exciting as such but interesting against the greens every where in sight at that time. I touched the leaves with my foot, as a child would, to enjoy the sensation of freedom. My dogs were close by watching my every move. I had expected the leaves to rise and fall. But they didn't. They rose high into the sky , twisting and turning as they reached higher and higher above my head. They weren't leaves. They were butterflies. Not pretty by any means. Not colourful but in flight they were gorgeous. I watched entranced as I had never seen anything like it before.

One butterfly landed on the huge nose of my massive rescue male dog and he stood still, going cross -eyed looking at what had landed right on the very tip of his nose. The gentle giant didn't move as if he knew this was a very special occurrence. I laughed! Eventually the butterflies drifted away. Possibly to a new spot where they could rest undisturbed.

I can't help thinking how lucky I was to see that sight. If I hadn't rescued these two dogs I may not have been walking so often or into areas of the park that I hadn't seen before. Our act of kindness in rescuing these two dogs gave us many years of love, laughter and an unconditional bond which I will never forget. 

And so I found myself yesterday looking at this piece of paper with golden colours on it, and from my imagination I painted my memory. I find in workshops far too often artists will bring in an image or real flower and they will paint exactly what they see. When in fact its' when you lose that visual image that your inner creative artist can take flight. Maybe we don't trust our inner artist enough. We try to control it. We try to master our techniques and restrict our creative spirit by doing what we think we should to be good artist, rather than simply allowing ourselves to express our feelings just from out thoughts, memories and life experiences.

I actually love this painting. It is like nothing I have ever painted before and yet it speaks volumes to me. I count my blessings every single day. Perhaps we all should. Taking nothing including our sight for granted.

Have a great day

Artist Tips

1) Don't always paint from photographs.
2) Express your inner feelings and moods in simple colourful washes.
3) Be you. Everyone can be inspired by other artists but how do you know you aren't better than whose work you are enjoying?
4) Let your inner artist out!


Sunday, 28 August 2016

On Angels Wings

"On Angels Wings"
Butterflies in Watercolour
 This painting is dedicated to Lynne. 

I always aim to make my workshop and watercolour courses as full of information as possible with the goal of inspiring every person who attends. But often the end result of each course is that I too am 100% inspired. I should be taking a break in between the two weeks courses I have running in UK at the moment but I can't. There is a positive inner energy inside me that has been untapped and it has to be freed. And so today I am painting.
During the courses this week I had many artists asking me specific questions on how I would approach painting certain subjects that they are experiencing difficulty with. This week sea and sky topics arose quite a few times. I gave my now very popular " one on one" demonstrations for one particular artist. Lynne, who has been coming to my courses since I first started teaching them. In fact Lynne was at my very first book signing at the Mall Galleries in London. Lynne hadn't seen me for a while and returned to a course this year for an injection of my enthusiasm. In her own right she is an excellent artist with so much talent. Lynne asked me to show her how I would approach painting a sea scene but the resource photograph, her own, that she was showing me had a fabulous sky. I demonstrated two sky approaches first, in watercolour, then showed how I would paint the sea. When the close of day arrived I loved one particular sky demonstration that I had painted on a thin long piece of paper.

I showed it to the class. I told the group of artists present that it was a special piece of paper and that it would be turned into a painting. I am keeping my promise by sharing what it has become. This morning when I looked at this gorgeous blue piece I knew exactly what it would be. And so two butterflies dancing have now appeared. There is a saying that if a butterfly lands on you, you have been touched by an angel. Hence my title " On Angels Wings" for this small painting.

The strange thing is. I see so many artists who over complicate painting. They worry about their results. They spend hours labouring over subject or creation they simply are not enjoying. Which is such a shame.

For me, each new day is an exciting challenge to paint something new and maybe something so simple that its' beauty lies in that. Its' simplicity.

Life doesn't have to be complicated.

Art doesn't have to be complicated.

And I think this piece demonstrates why so perfectly.


Artists Tip:

 "Paint Yourself Calm" is a wonderful book for wash exercises that can be turned into beautiful simple paintings like this.

Read it and

1) Practise washes every day
2) Simplify!
3) Try something new in subject or colour techniques as often as possible
4) Stop long before you think you have finished your painting.

I'm currently working form my latest book and loving the relaxed feeling I'm achieving when creating which is flowing into my art.

Peacock in Watercolour 2016

"Peacock Study in Watercolour"
Demonstration from this weeks UK workshops

Its' amazing how many artists come to my workshops wishing to loosen up in technique and yet are reluctant to put down their pencil. I do understand. If you are used to using a preliminary sketch before painting coming on one of my courses can be daunting.  I never use a pencil to make marks on my watercolour paper before I create. For one reason, I find the actual lead of the pencil can effect my colours no matter how lightly I use the pencil and this can damage my fresh results. But I also find pencil marks definitely restrict my creativity. Once in place my brain won't allow me to place colour where I want it to be. I find I have to add colour exactly where the pencil marks are telling me to and this limits my journey in exploration of a subject. I learn about each new subject by placing colour shapes where I see them, from by observing the real thing. Or from a resource photograph if needed in a workshop.

This weeks workshops saw a fabulous group of artists each day arriving to set up eagerly to paint. One of the returning artists is now a person I regard as a friend rather than someone who turns up at my courses. They have the most wonderful personality and they always without fail bring with them not only resource photos that they use but they are so generous in spirit that if anyone in the room is lost at any time on what to paint, or if they prefer what she has,  she will offer to share her images which is really kind. This happened this week with an image of a peacock.

( Thank you Penny! )

After my morning demonstrations I wandered around offering "one on one" tuition and help to each artist in the room.  As I approached one table at the back of the room I noticed a preliminary pencil sketch of a peacock on their easel. It was lovely. beautifully drawn.  The artist explained to me that as much as they wanted to they couldn't paint without initial pencil lines to guide them. There is absolutely no problem with this at all. Its a beautiful style that suits many well known and famous artists. It just isn't the way I work. As the artist wanted to paint without sketching I brought them to my own painting area and gave the above "one on one" demonstration as tution to help them overcome their personal obstacle of their having to use pre sketching techniques.

I advised they just painted the head of the subject at first. In this case it was a peacock. I showed how simple painting without skettch can be. Starting with the eye at first but taking time to get this starting point right. I loved how the artist explained to me how surprised they were at the length of time and care I took over this one starting point. They had imagined all " loose" work was painted quite quickly. Actually it isn't. For example. If the eye isn't right at the start of my bird or animal paintings there is no point in my working further. So at the starting stages of a subject painting like this I seriously take my time. I think carefully on where to place the starting marks on my paper.  I imagine where the surrounding body or head will go too. I do take my time and I enjoy thinking about how the painting will grow.

I explained that if you are an artist who likes using a pencil, think of your rigger brush as your painting tool to replace it. Make fine watercolour lines to begin. Or even paint with water alone to see if the shape or placement you are making is correct before adding colour to the water marks first made.

Paint little sections of subjects rather than a whole animal or bird until you train your eye and hand to paint what you see minus a preliminary sketch. In time you won't need that pencil and you will learn to observe colour and shape really well.

But until you try you will never get to a point where letting go of your penicl will happen.
Practise make sperfect.

So practise. And don't be afraid to let that pencil go!


Artists Tips

1) Paint small sections of a subject to train your eye and hand, to improve your painting skills
2) Paint new subjects so that you have to think about what goes where when creating.
3) Lose the pencil. You will only learn to work without it by not having it around!
4) If you want to paint in a new style, practise and practise some more. Regular practise does make you a much better artist!
5) Don't be hard on yourself ! If something goes wrong learn from each mistake and grow from it.


Happy painting!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Hello! Parrot in Watercolour 2016

Parrot in Watercolour

What a week I have had.  I have been offline teaching my UK Summer watercolour workshops and it has been fantastic. This was not a time for anyone on my workshops to be scared of using vibrant colour.

I started the week with a two day course called "Watercolour Heaven" which was more of an art retreat including an evening in my cottage to relax after the first days session. This was followed by an evening meal in a nearby inn. The group of artists on this course and the following two days were wonderful. I am so lucky as the atmosphere in my workshops is always full of enthusiasm and eagerness to absorb new information and techniques.

I am changing as an artist. I seem to have hit a magical time where I am leaping from one new discovery to the next which adds to the excitement on each new workshop as I always have so much that is new to share. This week the focus was on using colours that are new to you rather than sticking to those you know where you can often fall into the trap of repeating the same painting over and over again. Even if you choose a different subject but still paint it in the same colours, after a while you can become very bored. Rather like a parrot learning to talk. After listening to it for a while saying exactly the same thing in exactly the same way does wear a little thin for entertainment value!

Change is good for the soul, especially for the artist who wants to grow in style, technique and skill.

I have had such a great time teaching this week. And I have a full week ahead to look forward to, as I have another group of workshops taking place here in UK next week too.

Everyone attending my workshops is eagerly asking when my 2017 courses will take place. As yet I havent quite decided whether I want to take a year off from teaching so that I can focus on my own art or not. But there will be an announcement on my blog in September or October of this year with full information on what is happening. I haven't had time to even look at my UK  schedule for 2017 as my life has been so hectic recently. But after the opening of my September solo exhibitin in Oxford I hope to rectify that!

For now, "Hello" is a parrot painting that I started as a wash in my last workshop to show how I approach painting subjects minus using a preliminary sketch, being guided by the colour that I see. My courses are all about colour. And there is no better time to celebrate it!

Whatever you are doing whether its' painting or not, enjoy the colour in everything around you and allow that to flow into your art.

Have fun and happy painting!


Artists Tips:

1) Treat yourself to a new watercolour shade once a month.
2) Take time searching for new exciting shades that will be appealing to work with, these will make you want to paint even more.
3) Avoid the trap of painting the same thing with the same colours. This can lead to feeling bored while you are creating, rather than alive and enthusiastic about painting


Monday, 22 August 2016

A Challenge : Landscape Washes 2016

"Autumn Haze"
Watercolour wash landscape

When I am teaching my workshops I know followers of my blog posts miss me. My blog falls quiet while I am offline. And I recieve many email messages asking where  I am and when I will be back online, which is lovely as it is nice to be missed.

But I thought it might be fun to set a challenge for followers of my blog and readers of my books while I am away from my computer.

How about painting a few daily wash exercises from  my latest book " Paint Yourself Calm".

Paint three each day just for fun with no subjects intended by them.

But then paint a few landscape washes this week. Paint seasonal ones. Try a cool winter landscape with cool blues and violets. Next paint a glowing autumn landscape with trees of gold. Summer could be the fabulous sunflower fields under bright blue skies and vibrant greens would be perfect of course for Spring.
Use your imagination with techniques like using salt patterns as seen in my Autumn landscape above.

Have fun. And by Friday of this week see how many landscapes you painted that worked well.

Use these tips.

1) Choose colour that is perfect for each season
2) Use salt or clingfilm for texture effects
3) Keep it simple! 
4) Try to avoid too much detail that detracts from the beauty of your wash.
 5) Stop when you see something beautiful

Most importantly.


Let me know how you get on. 
 I'd love to see your best landscapes so you can link to your work in a reply to this blog post.

Happy painting and good luck!