Thursday, January 29, 2015

My annual review 2014 - October to December

City fish

Finally here I am with part four of my annual review so you might want to make yourself a cup of tea before you settle down to read it, it's a long one. Pleased to say I'm feeling well again, hurrah!

After 'A brush with the broads' I was quite soon back down to Norfolk to take part in Paint Out Norwich, a selected plein air event involving around 30 artists chosen from an open entry. Again this was another brand new UK plein air event so I was very excited to be taking part. I also had a role to play helping my injured artist friend Mo Teeuw to get around as she was unable to drive at the time and painting from a wheelchair! Luckily the event organisers were fantastic - helpful, enthusiastic and fun. 
I hadn't been to Norwich since I was a child and I didn't remember anything, so I was happy to go to any spot allocated to me. We had four three hour painting sessions in different parts of Norwich over two intensive days. In between times we framed the wet paintings and grabbed a bite to eat, and enjoyed jolly get-togethers in the evening.

Pulls ferry, Norwich
The painting 'City fish' was painted in Norwich market on a very cold morning, and I had lots of interest and chat with passers-by. As soon as I saw the old man with the flat cap I had to draw him in quickly (with the brush). I think he makes the painting really!

Pulls ferry is a much painted local landmark and when I was on my way there somebody told me 'there's a choice of only two views (to paint) there'. Really? There are millions of views everywhere in my opinion, so I set off determined to choose a personal viewpoint for the painting. In the end I settled on this reflection, as I loved the glowing brightness of the distant trees through the archway, and all the leaves littered all over the water and pathway like confetti.

Work to be done,  Elm Hill
First prize winner, Paint Out Norwich
Private collection

Another picturesque corner of Norwich is Elm Hill. I had seen a photo beforehand and was really looking forward to painting there. When I arrived I was surprised and initially disappointed to see the scaffolding covering the left hand side building and crossing the narrow street in front of me. At times the sun broke through the clouds and the plane tree cast wonderful shadows on the yellow building, which I liked very much. Then I decided to paint the scene scaffolding and all, as I do enjoy a chance to show the signs of modern life and plus, can't resist the red (road signs).
The lady in the cafe opposite loved it. She said she'd seen many pretty paintings of it, but that mine captured Elm Hill as it really is - her everyday view. So that was encouraging!

Apparently the judges (the artists Trevor Chamberlain ROI RSMA and Colin Self, and curator Amanda Geitner) loved it too, as my painting of Elm Hill won the £1000 first prize in the first ever Paint Out Norwich!
No I really couldn't believe I was winning another prize - absolutely amazing. 
And I was so happy for my friend Roy Connelly too - see picture below!

With prizewinners Roy Connelly and Chris Daynes ROI
Paint Out Norwich
I drove home in the middle of the night on a complete high and in a bit of a daze! I got home and crawled into bed at 3am. When I got up that morning I had to empty the car and unpack, and then pack for France and reload the car, as we were leaving for a week in France just a few hours later. There are sometimes drawbacks to fitting it all in the way I do!

Another fantastic trip was my time in Venice with artist friends Penny German, Felicity House and Wyllis Heaton. We also met with Ann Justin, Kelly Medford and Louisa Calder. So much fun to have company to paint with and spend the evening with. The extra good news is I don't have to wait too long for my next Venice trip, as I've decided to go again this year. 

The weather was absolutely ideal for painting, no fog or cold for me this time! We did have one day of rain, but there are plenty of places to shelter and continue painting in Venice.

Shadows in Campo S Giovanni e Paolo

The artist Felicity House

I love this one of Felicity working on the steps to a bridge. You can feel the heat in the sunshine, just look at that clear blue sky! People were most amused to see that I was painting the artist painting. I love the wonky shopping trolley too. This could translate well into a studio painting couldn't it?

Painting in Venice

Rising shadows at the Ospedale
Private collection

Some of my paintings from Venice are available to buy direct from my studio. If you'd like to take a look you can find them here.

Washing day, Venice

In usual style I arrived home from Venice in the early hours of the morning for a few hours of sleep before attending my own exhibition preview!
While I'd been away the brilliant folk at Patchings Art Centre had hung the exhibition and it all looked beautiful. I liked to see the title of my exhibition here at the bottom of the stairs, doesn't that look nice?

Opening day of my exhibition

A breath of fresh air exhibition
Patchings art centre
During the exhibition I went in to the gallery for some painting days, a couple of which were portraits from life. Here I am painting my mum for one of the demos. She has her feet raised on a box because she's only little, like me!

Painting my mum in the middle of my exhibition at Patchings

Portrait of my mum

In December I had several trips to London to see the Royal Institute of Oil painters exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. I was exhibiting this painting there, which was painted en plein air in August on the island of Bréhat. 

Evening at the beach, Bréhat
Private collection

Another event in December was the ROI painting event evening at the gallery. My friend the artist Adebanji Alade was one of the sitters. I had a couple of hours on this and am very pleased with it. It was a really fun evening too.

Portrait of the artist
Adebanji Alade

Lastly in December I got really excited about a local subject, the Christmas market in Lincoln. I painted only one piece while there, but I've been working on a series of paintings in the studio. I'm really enjoying making painterly marks and as always, striving to say more with less.

Mulled wine, hot chocolate

Christmas market, mulled wine stall
Private collection

Christmas market at dusk

Christmas market, snow

I hope you've enjoyed the recap of my year. And now it's almost February, amazing! I have got an absolutely packed year happening, and so much to tell you about! Did you have any new year's resolutions? And how's that going? Mine was to draw every day and so far so good! I've kept that up for the whole of January and am feeling very good about it. I can already see how that regular sketch work is impacting on my painting and providing painting inspiration. I'm focussing on figure and portrait drawing because I want to include more people in my paintings, and possibly also because it's a challenge and a good practice, and endlessly fascinating. I will show you some more on the blog soon, but if you're on Twitter or Instagram check out my account as you can see nearly all the January sketches there. All the best ones anyway, there are a few I won't be sharing! ;-)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Musical Interlude

I've kept you 'on hold' for a long time now in the middle of bringing you my annual review! Just popped back to say I'm very sorry about that, I haven't been very well for the last few weeks. Nothing serious, just a nuisance cold with coughing and headaches. I have got lots of sketching done and my tax return and quite a lot of painting so it's not been all bad, but I've needed quite a lot of rest too. All being well I can get back to blogging next week. In the meantime, here's a sketch of my gorgeous daughter looking at her phone and wearing a big furry black hat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My 2014 review July to September

Inham Nook allotments
12" x 16" £795

Welcome to the third instalment of my busy year - the weather continued to be pretty fantastic the whole summer long. It's lovely to see these sunny paintings at this time of year and remember that we have all that sunshine and those long light evenings to look forward to again soon.
The painting above was a demo piece at a plein air workshop in Nottingham which we based at a fantastic allotments. That was a great day, and I could find a subject at an allotments any time of the year. Definitely one of my recurring subjects these last twenty years.

In July I took part in Pintar Rapido, a two day plein air painting event in London. If I remember rightly there were around 300 artists taking part, painting on the streets of Kensington and Chelsea all day Saturday, and then framing the painting before the one day exhibition which took place on Sunday. Manic really, but good fun, especially as I knew so many of the other artists there. Always fun chatting to passers-by too when painting a busy street scene like this. 

Duke of York square, Chelsea
Private collection

This painting of the market in Chelsea is another example of where I've been stretching and challenging myself this year. At 22" x 24" it was the largest plein air piece I had tackled until then, all in one day. I was happy that it found a buyer at the exhibition the next day.

The long stretch of summer
Private collection

For this one my inspiration was beautiful St Mawes again in Cornwall. I painted it in early summer and then entered it into the annual RSMA (Royal Society of Marine Artists) exhibition and happily it was accepted, together with one of my Staithes paintings from June.

A summer stroll £850

In August we were extremely fortunate to be able to spend three weeks on the island of Bréhat in France. It was three glorious relaxing weeks of sunshine and sketching and painting. I only wished I had a friend to paint with me, as I'd loved spending time painting with Lori Putnam the previous summer. I missed her, but of course I had the family to spend time with when I wasn't painting.

Tout ce qui flotte
8" x 16" £695

Mogador boys bathing
36" x 38" £2500

I would say this was my most ambitious studio painting of the year, an enormous (to me) 36" x 38" canvas that I stretched myself. The framed size of this piece is 43" x 45", and it made a nice big statement in my autumn exhibition at Patchings. It is of course based on reference from my trip to Essaouira in March, where I watched and painted the local boys diving into the harbour.

Regatta at Falmouth
Private collection

We got back from France just in time to travel down to Cornwall to see the tall ships in dock at Falmouth before setting sail for London.
It was a terrific experience to paint there and I got a lot of work done in three days. However, it was probably the busiest place I have ever attempted to paint! (the Queen's pageant was of course a sea of people, but we were separated from the throng being up on the bridge) This brings it's own set of problems, especially finding a viewpoint.
It was also a wildly busy and exciting subject!

Painting at Falmouth in August

Tall ships at falmouth
Private collection

Tall ships
12" x 16" £850

September issue The Artist magazine

In August I was thrilled to see my painting on the cover of The Artist magazine. It certainly has had it's fair share of exposure, that painting! 

Now another big project that I'd been working on throughout the summer months was my two competition entries for the Buxton Spa prize. This was a brand new UK plein air competition that I'd heard about on twitter back in April. I was in France at the time and I remember reading the information on the website and thinking 'oh I'm really busy and I'll be away all of August but I've got to do this. I'll make sure I fit the necessary days into my diary, I'll make it happen'. That's the way my mind works actually 'I'd love to do this - is it really possible to do this? - I don't know how or when I can do this - never mind that, I'll find out as I go along - I'm going to do this'!

The key to actually doing it of course is being organised and putting all the necessary dates in the diary to ensure that I'd had time to prepare equipment and stretch my canvasses, register and have my canvasses stamped, paint on site for three separate days, finish the two painting entries in the studio for however long necessary, produce an entire book of sketches which I also entered into the competition, arrange to have the frames made, paint and wax the frames in my studio, fit the paintings and fill in the entry forms, and make sure I'd done all of the above before leaving for France in early August!

Walking through buttercups
Winner of the Buxton Spa prize
Private collection

Back home in September it was time for the preview evening of the Buxton Spa prize exhibition, an event which I was really looking forward to. Buxton is several hours drive away and I didn't fancy driving back late at night so I'd booked a lovely room for myself above the tearooms at No 6 The Square, which was quite a treat I was excited about!
I never could have imagined that I was about to win the £5000 first prize for my painting 'Walking through buttercups, Harpur Hill'!

Prizegiving and exhibition preview evening
with Keith Wilkinson and Rob Wilson

Painting 'Walking through buttercups'

Wow, that was a really special night! After the prize giving the winning artists and judges (including the artists Ken Howard RA and Harold Riley) and organisers all went for a fantastic meal. One of the judges had bought my painting too. I was on cloud nine as you might imagine! Yes, a very special time indeed.

Buxton Opera House
24" x 30" £1800
My other painting for the competition was of the majestic opera house. Again, pretty enormous for plein air at 24" x 30". I painted this two separate days on location and then another couple of days in the studio. I was really happy with the resulting painting, I think it's very fresh and painterly and it's so easy to become tight when painting subjects where the drawing really matters like architecture and figures. Another painting which I think was breaking new ground for me.

A few weeks later I was painting on the Norfolk broads for a couple of days, as part of another new plein air event 'A brush with the broads'. The weather was gorgeous again, I was so lucky for the whole summer. I always thought I wouldn't paint a windmill (bit chocolate boxy) but fell in love with the solidity of this strong brick red structure, and it's reflection in the water. Passers by told me it was a shame (for my painting) that they'd removed the sails for essential repairs, but I disagree. I loved it exactly as it was.

Horsey Mill
Private collection

I couldn't stay for the whole event as I was flying off to Venice but I framed and left two paintings for the exhibition. I was delighted to learn that the painting of Horsey Mill had sold and that the painting of the boat house had won me a prize!
It was a gorgeous £200 brush bouquet from Rosemary brushes, how exciting was that?! 

I was certain that after such an amazingly successful year that would be the last prize I would win in 2014 for sure... I could hardly keep up with myself, goodness knows how you felt reading about the whirlwind events!

Boat house at Hickling Staithe

I love the boat house painting and subject, and I'm determined I will continue this theme with a studio painting. Sometimes when you're painting plein air you just know 'yes, this has got all the ingredients I need, and a dash of magic'. This was one of those days.

Now as if all of the above didn't make for enough activity for one summer, I was also busy preparing and framing around sixty paintings for my next solo exhibition. This was my newest, a gorgeous subject with a thrilling light effect. I painted this large oil on canvas in the studio, from a watercolour sketch in my sketchbook and some photos I'd taken earlier in the summer when I'd gone into Lincoln for a radio interview and was driving past this scene. Always be on the lookout because you never know where your next painting subject may be!

Gathered in the shade
Private collection 

If you are thinking that you'd like to take part in any of the events I've mentioned this year, take a look at my website. I've put links to all these events on the links page, and also I've listed all my forthcoming workshops and demos, and exhibitions that I've got coming up in 2015 so there may be something there of interest to you :-)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My 2014 review April to June

Early summer at Porthcurnick beach
Oils 14" x 18" £995

Welcome to the second part of my 2014 annual review. This blog post begins with lots of colour and sunshine, and ends in a flurry of prizes and exclamation marks! I'm going to be showing you some of my favourite paintings from this second quarter of the year. Now the weather was by and large spectacular throughout this whole time.
In April it was back to Cornwall and this time the weather was like summer, so plenty of plein air painting was achieved, and galleries re-stocked! Then it was a week in France with the family for Easter, where the sun continued to shine.

Here I am painting at St Mawes - what a place and what dazzling light on the water.

Sparkling light at St Mawes
Private Collection

On the slipway, Sennen
Oils 12" x 16" £850

St Michael's Mount
Private Collection

In May I discovered the gorgeous gardens at National Trust property Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire, and fell in love with the pond there. I must get back there this year in May, and perhaps take a model or two with me. (Would a parasol or a bonnet be out of order?)
This favourite below made it to the cover of my 2014 calendar. It was a new enterprise for me and I'm very pleased that the calendars have been so popular. I had 100 printed and I've sold every one apart from the one I kept for myself! So I'll be keeping my eye open for new images for my 2016 calendar next.

Carp pond at Gunby Hall
Oils 12" x 16" £850

Private Collection

Crabbing at Brancaster Staithe

St Clements Studio
Private Collection

In June things became even busier because June always starts with the big Patchings Festival. Including the setting up day it's a pretty tiring but busy and fun five days! It's always great to see so many friends there, from all over the country. This year as well as exhibiting in the painters marquee where I painted a portrait demo and painting plein air demos in the courtyard I also did a still life demo in the big St Cuthbert's marquee. 
I went down to London for a day to see the Society of Women Artists exhibition in June, where I had two paintings selected and exhibited.

Flaming June
Private Collection

Demo at Patchings
At the end of June it was up to North Yorkshire to teach a long weekend at the Staithes art school, staying in beautiful cottages by the sea, painting in the day and feasting in the evening with fantastic like minded company. 
By the way we're back on for next year too so if you might like to join us have a look at Staithes Art Gallery and better be quick to book as it's a very popular weekend!

View from Cowbar
Private Collection
And now for a painting you will definitely recognise if you've been following my blog for a while or read The Artist magazine...

Sails up in harbour
24" x 30"
Collection of The Artist Publishing Company

ONE painting with a generously sized red sail and a dash of magic...
FOUR prizes in a matter of days!!!!

First this painting won the Pro Arte Award at The Artist magazine's annual selected exhibition, which was a generous £250 worth of Pro Arte brushes.

Secondly it was selected for The Artist exhibition award which means I am one of ten winning artists to take part in a group exhibition at Patchings art centre in 2015.

Thirdly... drum roll... Ken Howard RA OBE selected it as his favourite piece in the whole exhibition therefore I won The Artist Purchase Prize of £1800 and my painting now goes to hang in the offices at The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines alongside previous winners of this prestigious prize.

Fourthly it then won the 'best water' category in the summer Plein Air Salon, an online painting competition run by the brilliant US Plein Air magazine. Another big surprise!

Think I need to go and lie down in a darkened room after reliving all that excitement again... be back soon with the third instalment, July to September...

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