Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Its' Cold Outside!

"Its' Cold Outside" 
Robin in Snow

Goodness, the weather reminds me of the song " Baby, It Cold Outside".

It is! 

I am in my studio working on so much at the moment. I will be sharing news of my 2017 workshops soon.  And catch up by sharing all that has been happening behind the scenes and there has been a lot! Which is why I have been so quiet.

 I feel like hibernating by snuggling up  near the fire watching movies. But as Christmas is around the corner there is plenty of time for that soon.

For now, I hope whatever you are painting or working on, you are feeling the spirit of the season. And I know some of my friends feel alone at this time of year. Can I remind you, if you are alone,  that I may only be behind a computer screen but I am very real in person and my heart is always open to you. 

Artist Tips?
Have a brilliant day, make every minute count and smile.
And if you can't smile personally aim to make someone else smile!
That wonderful happy feeling will then flow into your artwork.


Paint Yourself a Winner : Fabulous Competition!

Jackson's Art Supplies Watercolour Competition


 Recently I was invited by Jackson's Art Supplies to create a watercolour competition with an amazing collection of all of my books, personal brush range , DVDs and my personalised easel  as an incredible prize. How genreous are Jacksons Art Supplies in giving this amazing collection to the winner. Wow!

The competition deadline is 21st December so you are going to have to put your skates on if you wish to enter!

The thing is, when I was first asked to come up with a theme for the competition I thought about all the art competitions I have seen over the years that actually turned me away from entering. For this competition I wanted everyone to enter. Not only that. I want everyone to leap into the spirit of Christmas and do a good turn by encouraging someone they know to enter. Someone who is just starting out maybe. Or someone who lacks confidence. I thought about all the artists who already know how they want to paint but possibly want a change in style. Or maybe there are people out there who have all my books but would love to win the competition purely to do another act of kindness in the form of giving the prize away to someone they know who would love thsi collection as a gift.

Either way the rules are very simple. Using watercolour,  ( i.e any product that says the word watercolour on it!)  paint something you love and show me how you use this magical medium.


For full details on the competition read the Jackson's Art Supplies feature below.

Please enter and good luck! 


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

I can!

Blue Tit 
Study in Watercolour

Yesterdays blog post gave me the perfect excuse to sit and study blue tits today and I did. I observed how bright their tiny eyes are. I noticed what a stunning blue is on the top of their heads in morning sunlight. I loved their fluffy, yellow chest plumage which in some lights looks quite greenish. The white on the face isn't always snow white. Mostly it seems shadowed. Their beaks are really small! And when they do fluff up their feathers they look very different to when the don't. Size wise.

Last night before I closed my studio for the day I painted the above study of a Blue Tit. I felt calm and I knew these were the last brushstrokes of the day. Just like the last chocolates in a box, these are to be savoured not raced.

I took my time painting a beautiful small beady eye first. I carefully thought about the colour of the back of the head. I created part of the breast feathers but then stopped. I could already see the little fellow very clearly minus their wings, legs or a background. I loved creating this little bird. Now I can create a new painting taking the information from this study into my new work.

Oh how I love sitting watching the wildlife from my studio window, and as I type my model is posing outside again.

Its' time to paint!

Artists Tips of the Day?

Think about your brushstrokes as you would your favourite chocolates. Savour each one and take your time enjoying them. 
 Thats' it! 
Take your time.
Learn and enjoy!


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

I Can't !

Blue Tit in Willow Tree

I am still on bird feeding duties while my husband is recovering from surgery.  There is one bird feeder that I haven't been able to fill though and this morning my husband noticed it was empty. It is the one that holds the tiny black Niger seed for the chaffinches. I haven't filled it for a reason. It is  high on a branch, hidden in one of the willow trees in our garden. The Blue Tits usually line up on its' branches as they take it in turns to feed from the usual bird feeder nearby.

"I can't reach"

I told my husband why I hadn't filled thsi feeder and he smiled.  Over the years whenever I have said I can't do something he has encouraged me to try.  He mockingly says" I can't do it" to me, in a way that drives me nuts. But the strange thing is by him making me do things I have achieved so much.

For example. Years ago I hated driving long distances and my husband would always act as driver if we had to go anywhere. But then came an offer of my first book and I had a meeting with my publishers to attend. " Can you drive me there " I pleaded at the time. " No" was the response. He explained "This will be the first of many meetings so you either drive or don't write a book." Five books later I now drive anywhere and with confidence.

" I can't do it"

How many times have I heard that line in my workshops.

I constantly hear....

"You make it look so easy"
" I haven't been painting long, I can't do it"
"I would love to paint but I know I can't" 
"I'd like to paint portraits but I can't"
"I can't paint in a loose style" 
I can't paint flowers"

The list is endless.

But "I can't" is all that is stopping many of us. Those words.

"I can't"

I believe we can.

If we try and if we really want to.

And so while my husband was out walking I went and stood and looked at the Niger feeder in the tree in our garden. It was empty.  By the side of it sat a small blue tit , I imagined his expression  telling me " You can't". in fact to me it was clearly written on his tiny face. I went and found the Niger seed . With determination I stood on tip toe and reached for the feeder. After a while I got it down, filled it and put it back in the tree for the birds to enjoy.

I walked back into our cottage and smiled. I did it. It wasn't a case of " I can't" after all. It was a case of my not even trying. 

And then I thought " I have never painted a blue tit before" And it occurred to me that "I can't" !

I need to paint another as I am not happy with the above painting. But I tried.  And if I try harder I know I can paint one!

So now over to you. 

What are you saying " I can't" over?


Monday, 28 November 2016

Small Changes: Spot The Difference

Spot The Difference? 

I have decided to use the above painting as a Christmas card design. But the minute I shared the painting on my blog I realised something could be improved.

The painting I originally posted is below.

The tiny changes I have made improve the painting to me and now I am happy to put my brushes down.

Can you see the small changes to the above and below painting?


I wasn't happy with the legs and feet so just added small brush strokes to strengthen and correct them.

Now my robin isn't legless and looks as though he can balance better

Sometimes it is the tiniest of changes that can make all the difference to a painting!


Christmas Robin in Watercolour 2016

 Christmas Robin in Watercolour

How funny that my series of bird paintings this Christmas are leading me to so many almost forgotten memories. Like the painting above that I have just completed. I have been working on a few experiments recently using many different techniques that are new to me. In fact many I am simply making up. I teach workshops all over the world now and on each course I often state that not everything in art, or working in watercolour as a medium, has been discovered. So I am playing with many ideas right now and loving the results whether they work or not. In fact the ideas that don't work often lead me to better experiments and outcomes. We do learn far more from our mistakes than from things that go right and thats' the same in all walks of life. But back to my robin painting!

As I am the main bird feeder while my husband is recovering from surgery I am having to fill several bird feeders with all manner of goodies for the variety of birds that visit our garden. But we also have a special little visitor daily, in the form of a very tame robin. No ordinary bird food for this little fellow. Oh no. My husband buys special bags of meal worms for this tiny chap and he even has his own table and feeding station, which we can see from our living room window. Believe me, if I am late feeding this little bird he lets me know! And so does my husband by asking me if I have fed his robin yet. Two males against one female? I don't stand a chance!

But I have been enjoying watching our robin and after painting the sweet wren yesterday I couldn't resist painting our robin today in a similar background setting. As both of these birds seem to love the same hedge and wall with ivy covering it. 

While I was painting the foliage in my new composition my mind slipped back to a time when I was teaching watercolour workshops in Dubai. I was painting a beautiful composition of orchids one day while sat in a group of professional artists. I busily painted the negative spaces in my watercolour to form the background and leaves. One artist stopped to watch me paint, and then another from the group watched as my dark colour additions made my white orchid leap into life. " I wish I could do that" said one artist whom I greatly admired. I stopped painting and looked up, saying " You must be joking, you are a far better artist than I am". In turn she laughed and told me I had no idea how talented I am. I remember her telling me this years ago and my sitting there thinking she was being polite. I was flattered but of course didn't believe that this was anything but a truly  sweet compliment.

But now, years later, I am saying exactly the same thing to artists on my own workshops when I teach. This year I would love to have been given a new shade of colour for every time I have said it. I am constantly meeting people who haven't a clue how brilliantly talented they are. And many newer artists actually hold themselves back by not believing in their own ability. Yes.  I meet many new painters who are going to be far better artists than I am and I meet many who already are far more talented.

But isn't that the joy in painting? 

The journey not the destination?

I watched this little robin this morning and he watched me in return.  I thought about how small he is. I am small too, very small in this huge art world. But I like to think the robin and I both sing beautifully from our hearts. He sings the most gorgeous bird song. I sing via colour from my brushstrokes. To anyone, like the robin, who will listen!

My robin painting.

I painted the wash first for this new composition and in all honesty, this wash was just a wash. Not intended for any subject when I created it but it looked perfect to add a little robin in the lower corner and so I did. I made the leaves work by painting around the negative spaces.  Leaves are falling daily so only holly and ivy leaves are showing in this particular area of my garden. And twigs which are looking bare. I added these too and I also added the black berries of the ivy which  gave more interest to my scene.

This week I have painted many berries. Rose hips, mistletoe, holly and now ivy berries.

What next I wonder!

Below is the uncropped version of my painting but you can see more detail in the cropped version above.

"A Christmas Robin"


Artists Tip for the Day?

Believe in yourself.

1) Don't hold yourself back from painting by having a lack of confidence.

2) Remember that everyone was a beginner once.

3) If you have been painting the same thing in a similar way for a long time, try something new.

4) Most importantly, enjoy creating. Otherwise it becomes a chore and there are enough things we have to do in life, without making painting one of them! 


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Learning From Experience : Christmas Wren 2016

"A Christmas Wren" 

I am still learning from every single experience in my life. While my husband is recovering from surgery it has been my daily task to fill the many bird feeders around our garden. I was aware how often my wonderfully caring husband fed the wildlife and feathered visitors to our garden. But until now I hadn't realised how time consuming this task is. I must add. This is one task I thoroughly enjoy because each time I fill a feeder I get the joy of watching the birds flock to eat greedily.

Among the daily feathered visitors to our  cottage garden is a tiny brown wren. This little bird isn't as colourful admittedly as the other feathered guests we entertain. But it is so sweet. It hovers nearby, shyly, sitting on a post that has a mixture of hedgerow growing over it including holly, ivy and other pretty shaped foliage.  The little bird seems to wait patiently until all the other birds have had their fill and then it coyly hops around eating whatever is left.

I love this little bird. 

And as I had yet another green mixed wash ready to work leaves on, I placed this sweet little bird in the new composition. And I will confess, I got carried away painting the foliage because now as well as holly berries there are also mistletoe berries sneaking into this almost Christmas scene.

This composition works as a crop also. As seen in the cropped version of my painting below. Here the composition works very well.

 Cropped version of " A Christmas Wren "

I enjoyed creating this piece and have left it on my easel to enjoy seeing when I walk into my studio tomorrow morning. I always like to end each day on a happy thought. This is a very happy thought, that I may see this little bird outside my window again tomorrow.

"A Christmas Wren" coming to life on my easel


Artist tip of the day?

Find joy in doing a daily chore that could otherwise be boring!
There is always a positive if you look for one, with me it was seeing this little wren.
What treasure will you find to paint in your next daily " chore"? 

 Happy Painting!