Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2013 year review January to March

Chicken huts in the snow
It's that time of year again for my end of year review, so I'll be taking a few days to look back over all of my artistic events of this year before starting to focus on what's coming next. If you only joined me part way through the year I hope you'll find something of interest here and if you've been with me all the way through I hope you won't mind taking a recap with me. It's been another busy year of fun and travels and opportunity, and being able to spend time with lots of great people who share this passion of mine.

The year began with generous amounts of snowfall in January which meant I was able to get outside a lot to paint one of my favourite subjects - snow! The painting above is definitely one of my top favourites of the year, and was painted in challenging conditions with quite a blizzard at times! The chickens and ducks disappeared and hid whenever the snowfall was heavy.

Painting at Galley Hill allotments

Belton House formal gardens

North Heath lane in snow
I even tackled something I never had before, painting moving figures sledging and playing in the snow, and I loved it! I wanted the snow to stay for longer but I didn't get a chance to paint those sledgers again this year. There is a little video on YouTube of me painting there that you might enjoy.

In February I was a guest artist giving workshops at the SAA 'Its All About Art' event in Manchester and took part in a group exhibition in London on the subject of Venice. I ran a workshop on painting cats in acrylics, and gave demos to local art societies.

In this period I had a couple of articles published in The Artist magazine including one about 'finding your own style' which also became the theme for a couple of workshops.

I was proud of these two self portraits that I painted in early spring, and both were pre-selected for the Royal Society of Portrait painters exhibition in February. I need to paint more portraits, it's something I love to do.

Self portrait with warm backlighting

Self portrait with iPhone 

In March came the trip of a lifetime - painting in Essaouira, Morocco, with Ken Howard RA. In my opinion Ken is the top of the tops here in the UK, and it was such a privilege to be able to get to know him. I didn't spend very much painting time with him because I was so excited by the new surroundings and wanted to choose my own subjects, particularly in the harbour area. We had wonderful group get-togethers in the evening though, and Ken was happy to look over our work while we had the pleasure of viewing all of his work. I only hope I have his energy and stamina when I am in my eighties. 

The fort at Essaouira

Cinnabar green light

Tides at Essaouira

Le médina, Essaouira

Walls of the médina, Essaouira

There was another exciting trip to a new place just around the corner in the next quarter of the year...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Making a mark awards

Leek pickers in Lincolnshire
In between all the festive feasting and socialising I got out with the paints for a couple of hours. This was exactly the subject I was looking for and the weather was kind plus I had permission to paint here. All favourable conditions but I could have done with more time. Maybe I'll get another chance but not today, the weather has turned pretty wild again.

I'm honoured to have been nominated again in the Making a Mark awards 2013, for best landscape picture on an art blog during 2013. There are four categories for best artwork - landscape, nature, portrait/figure and still life. The deadline for voting is tonight at 11.00pm GMT and you can vote for your favourites quite simply by clicking here. Katherine Tyrrell explains the annual awards and the reasons behind her choices plus shares her thoughts on art blogs and as always it makes for interesting reading.

Galley hill allotments in snow
the painting nominated for the award

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you are having a wonderful time whether busy and chaotic or peaceful and calm! Our day has been action packed so far but just now every adult in the house except me is sleeping, which leaves me free to send some seasons greetings to you. I must have been on Santa's 'nice' list and as you can see I just can't wait to use this swish New Wave palette and extra long brushes from Rosemary & Co.

Have a very very happy day my friends xx

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's Kit again!

Kit 2
12" x 16"
I had a fabulous evening down at the Mall Galleries once more for the ROI (Royal Institute of Oil painters) portrait painting evening. I don't know how many artists were painting but it was a large number and we were tightly squeezed in around three models. The painting starts at 6.00pm and the model arrives just before then so you actually set up your easels around an empty chair and don't know who you are going to paint until they come and sit down.

I found my model was Kit again, which I was pleased about as he has an interesting face and hair. Luckily I had a spot very close and his chair was raised up on a plinth which was helpful. The only drawback was that I had a wall behind me so I couldn't step back from the easel at all, not even a couple of feet. Being 'up close' like that made it difficult to see how everything was working together and I really struggled at first with the 'drawing in' stage.

As usual the gallery was packed with painters and spectators and it was good to see old and new friends alike, although there's not much chance to chat once painting is underway!

Kit felt tired under the lights and for about twenty minutes didn't open his eyes at all... and I desperately wanted to paint his eyes! I don't know why I didn't call out to him, just that old ingrained politeness I expect! At one point Peter Barker clapped his hands to wake him which made me chuckle.
I expected that after his next break Kit would come back with open eyes and to my delight he did. By the close of the evening I was really pleased with how my portrait had turned out. Pleased that I'd achieved a likeness, pleased with the colours and freshness and lively brush marks.

I completely forgot to take photos of the event (caught up in all the excitement!) but I've noticed on my friend Peter Barker's blog there are some good ones, so click this link to see those.
I think that fellow bloggers Katherine Tyrell and Adebanji Alade will have a report on the night's events too so I'll keep an eye out for those for you.

While in London I managed a quick visit to the brilliant Peter Brown's exhibition at Messums. Have a look at the online catalogue here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ROI Portrait Masterclass

Portrait of Kit, limited palette
I had a great day in the new learning centre at the Mall Galleries in a portrait masterclass led by Ian Cryer PROI and Tim Benson VPROI. This painting of Kit was using Tim Benson's recommended simple portrait palette of titanium white, lemon yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine, raw umber and alizarin crimson although I hardly used any crimson. I enjoyed the challenge of Kit's silver and grey hair, I found it very colourful. It was quite difficult  to take photos in the room but it gives you the idea. In this one you can see the model and also that's artist Julie Cross working to the left of me.

In this photo you can see artist and blogger Penny German at work -

A very quick one, about 15 minutes

About 45 minutes for this one

I'm looking for volunteers who are coming to my exhibition in Nottingham in January (8th to 18th) to sit for me to paint their portrait, in oils or watercolour. I'm hoping to book one person in each day for a sitting, so please contact me via email if you'd like to be involved. You can email me at thedrawingroomgallery@gmail.com

Monday, December 16, 2013

Royal Institute of Oil portrait preview

I had a really fun few days in London last week visiting the much anticipated Royal Institute of Oil painters exhibition at the Mall Galleries. I was able to catch up with lots of painter friends and meet a few new ones too, lots and lots of chatting. I will get a better chance to look at the actual paintings when I go back this week for the annual portrait painting evening, which feels a bit like a 'works Christmas do' as I'll know so many of the other artists. I can't think of a more fun event than painting a portrait under time pressure in a jam-packed gallery with spectators milling around drinking wine and eating mince pies! Strange to say but I do like a bit of pressure!

Here's a photo of me with my painting 'Galley hill allotments in snow' which I'm thrilled to say sold before the exhibition even opened.

If you can't make it to see the show in person, do have a look here where you can see most of exhibition online.

My friend Adebanji Alade artist has written a really great review based on his experience of the preview day and kindly given mention of my painting 'Sails up in harbour, Paimpol' as seen below (top painting). To see Adebanji's blog post about the exhibition click here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lively still life article

The January issue of The Artist magazine should be out and about in shops in the UK anytime now. In it I have this article about painting vibrant still lifes using acrylics as an underpainting and oils to finish off. Both of these paintings will be framed up for my exhibition in Nottingham in January. 

It's going to be a busy and fun week this week, I have two days in London at the Mall Galleries for the Royal Institute of Oil painters exhibition. Tuesday is the private view and on Wednesday I'm taking part in a figure painting workshop there which will be fun!

I can't wait to see my three paintings hanging, I wonder if they will be next to each other. It's especially exciting that one of them has already sold so I shall see a red dot there! I will also meet up with so many artist friends and it will be great to see everyone. I'll have a better chance to see the paintings in the exhibition when I go back again next week, because on private view day the gallery will be packed.

Peonies and hen

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back of Millfield Terrace in winter

Back of Millfield Terrace in winter
Watercolour and acrylic ink
Another recent snowy watercolour based on one of my favourite local painting spots, the allotments in Sleaford. 

I started this one with a fairly careful pencil drawing and some blue masking fluid to reserve the highlights. I knew that getting this structure in place early on would enable me to apply the paint and ink freely in later stages.

Firstly the warm sky and reflections in greenhouse glass plus some warmth for the snow in the foreground.

Next I used a mix of ultramarine blue watercolour and sepia acrylic ink diluted with water for the snow in shadow areas and the shadowy backs of the terraced houses, sheds, fences etc.

When that was all dry I went back in with neat ink and a wet brush to confirm all the darkest passages. All that was left to do then was the peeling off of the masking fluid when the paint was dry.

COUNTDOWN!! Only 32 days until my big exhibition begins in Nottingham UK...
8th to 18th January 2014 10.30am - 4.00pm at 71 Friar Lane Nottingham NG1 6DH

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Orchard in the snow

Orchard in the snow
Watercolour and gouache

The days are too short and too dark at the moment, and now we have 70mph gales! On Tuesday our heating stopped working but luckily it was fixed yesterday. Then today we've had a power cut lasting most of the afternoon, but fortunately it's back on just in time for darkness falling. Amazing what you miss without electricity ... heating, wifi, phone and coffee to name just a few!

Anyway here's a cheery scene, a glowing watercolour that I painted recently. There's no actual snow here yet but they're saying blizzards are on their way so watch this space...

I started with wet into wet watercolour for the yellow and orange glow, and while this wash was still damp I used a darker warm colour to start to describe the background tree shapes.

Closer trees and a little bit of fence went in next...

Establishing the darkest darks is tricky to get right in watercolour, remember it dries a lot lighter than it looks when you put it on. It's a good idea to have a little test sheet nearby to try out your colours on.

Some purple shadow washes and the addition of a few chickens in watercolour, and then I finished off in gouache putting some warm whites back into the sunlit snow.

If you're in Scotland, Wales, the north of England or East Anglia, especially by the coast, I hope you manage ok tonight with the storms. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wet sand at Mousehole

Wet sand at Mousehole
Oils 24 x 30cms
Another plein air piece from my October trip to Cornwall. The addition of a couple of figures really helps to inform us about the scale of the subject. Again a complicated scene that needed simplifying down to the bare essentials. With the benefit of a couple of photos I could tackle this again as a slightly more refined studio piece but unfortunately I haven't worked out how to successfully take photos looking towards the light yet. Yes that's right, had new posh camera more than four months now and still haven't learnt anything outside of the 'auto' setting!

Here's some news that may be of interest to any of you living in the south of England. I'm going to be teaching a day workshop on 'painting seascapes in acrylics' at the Old Bank Studios in Harwich Essex on Saturday 26th April 2014. I would love to see you there if you can make it :-)
Click here for the website and booking information.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Razzle dazzle

Razzle dazzle at Mousehole harbour
Oils 24 x 30 cms

They say no news is good news and the reason I haven't been in touch for a few days is that I've been so busy planning great events for 2014 which I will look forward very much to sharing with you. I've also been painting away in the studio and although I haven't got anything finished to show you yet I will be able to share step by step photos when I do. Plus I'm working on two articles currently for The Artist magazine and reading a couple of my latest Amazon purchases - one is a David Curtis book from 1994 and the other is 'Catching the light, the art and life of Henry Scott Tuke'. I've finally got around to watching the film 'Summer in February' about Alfred Munnings' time in Cornwall with Laura and Harold Knight, and I've eaten through most of my large supply of birthday chocolate. I have no more day workshops in 2013 but I'm looking forward to visiting Horncastle art club and York art society for demos this side of Christmas.

This is a painting from last month's trip to Cornwall. It was quite a challenge to simplify all that but so thrilling to try. This subject would definitely be worth revisiting in the studio. I have pushed the sky completely out of the composition to focus on that intense area of light on the water and the lead-in lines of the ropes in the foreground.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Thames at Teddington

Teddington Lock

This is a painting from a few months ago that I haven't shown you yet. It's the river Thames at Teddington Lock.

Here's a bit of historical interest for you - in May 1940 Teddington Lock was the assembly point for an enormous flotilla of small ships from the length of the River Thames to be used in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and lifeboats were called into service to rescue the stranded British and French troops from the beach at Dunkirk. More than 300,000 were brought back across the channel in this curious collection of crafts. Churchill described it as a 'miracle of deliverance' in his famous "We shall fight them on the beaches" speech.

Back to the present day I'm able to enjoy some restful studio time this week, working on developing ideas from plein air studies to new studio pieces. It's getting very chilly and I'm keeping an eye out for snow... any snowfall and me and my paints will be out like a shot!

Advance notice that I'm having a large solo exhibition in Nottingham from January 8th to 13th 2014. I will be there every day from 10.00am to 3.30pm so if you think you might possibly be able to make it pop it in your diary now and I shall be very happy to see you there!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mud and wind in Norfolk

Reflections at low tide, Brancaster Staithe
At low tide at Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk the colours and reflections in the wet mud are stunning. We were blessed again with a bright but cold day, it was extremely windy though! To counteract the effects of the wind I positioned myself in front of a wall, had my tripod legs spread wide and my bag of paints hanging from the tripod as a weight. Still, it was very tricky to attempt straight lines!
I deliberately pushed the boat up and out of the top of the painting because I wanted to focus attention on the reflections beneath and the weight and bulk of the boat. The buoys provided a nice couple of bright spots amongst all the gorgeous greys.
Work in progress at Brancaster Staithe

Friday, November 8, 2013

Excellent news!

Galley hill allotments in the snow

Sails up in harbour, Paimpol

Fresh fried fish, Essaouira

Enormous good news to share with you today! The nervous wait of the year is over and I am absolutely over the moon to have had these three paintings all selected for the Royal Institute of Oil painters exhibition! I was thinking when I sent my six down to London that the results would feel like an appraisal of my year's work, rightly or wrongly. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic to you and probably isn't the best thought to carry when entering a selected exhibition but I do take this society very seriously. It's been a sort of spiritual home to me since 1997 when the ROI first awarded me a 'Young artists award'. 
Anyway, the results do feel like a sign that I am travelling in the right direction! I'm especially pleased that two of the selected paintings and the big one that was chosen for the Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition are studio works. This gives me great courage to pursue my current path of taking my favourite plein air themes into the studio for further development. 

The 'Fresh fried fish' one was the first studio produced painting that I have ever been pleased with! It marked a turning point!
The 'Sails up' one is my most recent completed studio painting, as you know it was finished just a few weeks ago.
The allotments painting in the snow was completed entirely in one session en plein air. I was thrilled with it at the time, back in January, and I've saved it all year with this exhibition in mind. I'm thrilled and proud now!

The exhibition will take place at the Mall Galleries London from 11th to the 21st December.

Getting out there and finding inspiration!

And here's another thing... for a trial period I'm adding easy 'buy it now' buttons to some of my current paintings in my Daily Paintworks gallery. I get lots of emails from people asking 'how much is...?' and I know there are lots of others who don't like to ask! So here's the thing, now you can take a peek at the price and availability of a painting without asking me directly. Easy! And there's a currency converter button there so UK friends please don't be panicking if you see the price in dollars... 

At the moment I'm trying this with about half a dozen paintings just to test the water, including these two...

Click here to view!

Click here to view!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Backlighting at Brancaster Staithe

Boat sheds at Brancaster Staithe

Here's a better look at the two paintings from my day in Norfolk last week. I could have done with a little bit more time on the oil sketch above, but I spent long enough absorbed in it and have a pretty good memory of the scene. This is my new 'red sail', meaning that this subject got me hugely excited and gave me goose bumps just like the moment in Paimpol harbour in August when the red sail went up on the boat.

These days I take that as a sure sign that I can develop the motif further with a studio painting.
It's amazing how our art practice evolves and develops. A year ago I would have told you I had no interest in studio painting whatsoever. That in my eyes all of the excitement and vitality was to be found outdoors. Now I realise what I was missing then. I can get that excitement in the studio but here's the secret - I have to have been immersed in the subject first. I have to have been there, experienced the sights and sounds, and painted there on location. I have to absorb, study, capture the subject from life first.

As I've always said to my students I'm not big on imagination. Working directly from the subject feeds my ideas.

The bonus of my new method of working is that I have the plein air study with me to work from in the studio as an aide-memoire.

This is definitely my new 'red sail' so watch this space, as they say.

My afternoon painting from the day was this quiet one, painted on watercolour paper with a limited palette of gouache colours - burnt sienna, ultramarine, cerulean blue, yellow ochre and white.

Reflections at Brancaster Staithe

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