Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Plein Air Convention, Monterey 2015

I am now in Monterey at the Annual Plein Air Convention and it is fabulous! I'm meeting so many wonderful artists here from all over the world and I highly recommend that every artist who wishes to learn and grow tries to attend next year.

I'm not just demonstrating. I'm learning from artists who are so far ahead of me in their art journeys. And I'm learning about social marketing. In fact, I'm learning about all aspects of life as an artist. You would imagine that I may already know how to improve but that's the point in life,the day we stop learning is the day we stand still. And I intend to keep moving!

I will share all I have learned on my blog when I return to UK but for now I'm heading out to the next seminar. I started today at 6.30 am with the first workshop and tonight I'll probably finish at 8.00pm.

See you on here soon !

Happy Painting!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Artist Magazine : Beating The Blues Competition Entries 2015

A feature I recently wrote for "The Artist" magazine included a watercolour competition called "Beating The Blues" .

Well now the competition deadline has closed and all the amazing entries are in. And they really are amazing!

To everyone who entered, thank you so much for taking part and well done on what has to be an incredible collection of talent.

Choosing five winners is going to be so difficult but that is my next task as judge!

Please look at all the wonderful competition entries via this link and remember the task was the use blue !


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Summer Glow : Roses in Watercolour

"Summer Glow"

Oh how I love Daniel Smith Cadmium Yellow! Even if the sun has disappeared in my garden I can instantly bring it back with a glowing yellow addition to my latest painting of summer roses.

Yes I am leaping ahead a season but it feels so good to do so!

Sometimes we just have to listen to our hearts and let colour guide us by cheerful mood and happiness. I am excited about my upcoming trip to USA and I think its' showing in my art this week!

Bouncing, vibrant and happy! Not bad qualities to possess or feel!

Happy painting!


Threes' Company : Moonbears

Yogi, Coco and Bern

How strange the way painting a subject you feel emotional about can play on your heart strings. I was already connected emotionally to the plight of three moonbears being rescued and their awaited arrival at the sanctuary in Vietnam yesterday. Moved so much that I began a painting of Yogi, one of the rescued bears. This is howYogi, below,  first started to appear in watercolour in a very raced quick study.

 Yogi, first brushstrokes and a very quick study.
Like life, a small glimpse into the whole picture.

The odd thing is. Once I had painted a lone moonbear I couldn't stop thinking of how these poor creatures  had spent a decade already in solitary confinement. How could I leave this bear alone in a painting too? And so I quickly added two other bears to my original painting. Coco and Bern are now appearing alongside Yogi ,but as you can see, their faces need adding. ( See below)  Maybe they are shy at seeing daylight for the first time. Or maybe they are inhibited in never having had the opportunity to interact socially with other bears. All these things they will learn in their new life.

 Adding two more bears to keep Yogi company in my initial watercolour

With so much to do before my trip to USA which starts this weekend why on earth am I worried about one lone bear in a watercolour that could easily wait as a painting until I return home? Maybe I think it will bring the bears good luck to be shared together in every way possible right from the start. Or maybe its because I have indeed a very soft heart!


I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has told me they are thinking of  donating to help these bears. We all can help in some way no matter how small it is. I just can't imagine seeing any creature treated as poorly as these poor bears have been. But now, these have a new life!

Information on moonbears, their care, rehabilitation and the charity helping them can be found via this link.


Please note. Thank you to every one who wants to buy this and my other moonbear painting. I am afraid they aren't for sale yet but will be sold at a later date in aid of moonbears and Animals Asia.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Moonbear Love

 Small beginnings
A moonbear in watercolour, tiny brushstrokes creating an early shape.
We may think we can't make a difference. But each small kind action can lead to beautiful outcomes.

There was great excitement today as the rescued moonbears I mentioned on my blog yesterday reached the sanctuary in Vietnam. I have followed their journey online. These bears have been confined to small cages for the extraction of  bile for Asian medicine. It is hard to understand centuries old  customs that inflict such pain on wildlife. You would imagine that in this Century the young of a country would be making changes. And they are are but it is taking time.

To know that someone had a vision to rescue moonbears from a hellish fate is such wonderful inspiration to all who love animals. Here I take a bow to Jill Robinson for all her heroic work and for founding Animals Asia . Taking a step at a time to making a difference in the world. Yesterday I shared the plight of Yogi the moonbear as he made his journey from a bear bile farm, to a place where he will live minus pain from here in. Accompanied by two other moonbears Coco and Bern who were also rescued.

This morning I raced to my computer to read the update on their rescue mission only to hear that the truck transporting these bears had broken down. The rescue team must have been exhausted yet now had to wait for a replacement truck to arrive, then move the bears from one truck to another before continuing on their journey. But the good news is the bears are now all safely at the sanctuary and begin the start of a wonderful new phase in their lives.

I had so much on today but still had to paint a moonbear. Even if it was an extremely quick study. So please forget this very quick rushed effort! But I wanted in my own way to celebrate and welcome Yogi, Coco and Bern to their new life.

 Stage 1.
A moonbear head and ear emerge in watercolour

 Stage 2
Hints of the moonbear muzzle in gold add to the first head shape

 Stage 3.
Adding the gorgeous body but with emotion because I am now feeling seriously sorry for these bears. 

I think you might feel for the moonbears that have been rescued too. Because some have lost paws or limbs. Its hard to take in.  But some will have been initially caught in cruel snares before their suffering even began on the bear bile farms. Imagine the painful existence they have led. 
My painting is inspired by one such bear. But they live happily minus one limb, and they are enjoying life to the full surprisingly after all they have been through.

Stage 4
Strengthening the detail, enjoying the moonbear  markings on the chest and hoping my real painting of a moonbear minus bars when next painted will be full of the joy of seeing these recently rescued bears  face freedom for the first time in a decade.


This is definitely NOT my best painting. It is a journey into a story. A story filled with love, determination and compassion. A story of making a difference to three bears when so many still need rescuing. But isn't that fantastic? 

Unless we take a leap of faith and make the effort nothing would ever change. We can all sit back and say " I can't make a difference" . But actually we can.

Jill did.

I want to too.

How about you?

You can find out more about the bears and their story via this link. Please take a minute to read about Yogi, Coco and Bern. It is a heart warming story.

And if you want to, you can even send them a gift!


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Tugging At Heart Strings : Moonbear Rescue

 "Behind the Bars"
Finished painting of Yogi on his way to the sanctuary in Vietnam.

I couldn't rest until I finished the painting of Yogi and as I worked today I realised this watercolour carried so much emotion in it that I just had to share my feelings. I know so many people who, like me, get so upset when they read about cruelty to wildlife. We sit behind computer screens and vent our anger at stories we hear of cruelty in other countries. Whilst quite often conveniently forgetting issues that are appalling in our own. Surely we have the right to fight against killer whales being confined to small spaces in sea theme parks? We are sickened by dog eating in far off places.  How the dogs are killed is far too painful to observe , especially when gruesome images are frequently shown on line. If I shared the horrors I have seen I am sure I would lose blog readers here and now, and I won't.

But when we see something unpleasant how easy is it for us to turn away and forget about it because it doesn't effect us?

My watercolour of Yogi today really pulled at my heart strings whilst I was working. Not just because of this bears plight but because humans can be so cruel. In some countries, due to outdated cultures, people still have no idea of the cruelty they are inflicting on living things. I can see that change in these countries will take time. It cannot , no matter how much we want it, be an overnight happening.

But back to the moonbears being rescued. Here for a wonderfully refreshing change is news of three bears who are being aided to live a life they have never known. My painting started as a confused first wash. The bars initially became more important than the subject. Lines restricting the animals movement in life also acted by restricting my freedom. I lost the ability to allow colour to simply flow as it usually does for me.

 Stage 1. Being Restricted 

When I paint in watercolour I hate rules or restrictions. I need to be free in my mind to create beautiful soft flowing compositions that depict the beauty that I see around me. But here I am faced with a beautiful animal that has been treated  so cruelly and the bars represent its' prison. In reality the bars of this cage were red. But that colour reminded me of blood and I couldn't use it. Happily, however, this bear is moving to freedom. So I left the bars white to depict the light of hope. Hope around the corner as I know this wonderful bear will now be freed.

 White bars represent hope and freedom to come for this moonbear
First Stage.

Stage 2. Feeling The Freedom

I left my first wash to dry and as always the colour paled during the drying stage. The watermarks of my tears magically created fur patterns in the coat of the moonbear so they worked for me rather than against me. I looked at the  first stage and realised I only a little detail was needed to complete my painting.  I added the nostril first. Moonbears have delightful big noses. I can just imagine the joy of Yogi being able to  take in the scents of fruit and the earth of his new sanctuary. He is going to be in heaven! So painting his nose became really enjoyable thinking about the  ecstatic experience he is to face next in his so far awfully painful life.

Adding detail for the moonbear nose.
Second Stage

Stage 3. Seeing Clearly

Now I have started to relax in my painting. I am almost visualising this bear without the bars blocking its' beauty from me. I can imagine its' furry body roaming freely around the sanctuary grounds. Its' eyes will be shining. It will be able to  lay on its back and roll, facing sunshine for the first time without being hindered by a cage.

I have the  "good" feeling I need to complete a painting and so a little more detail is added to complete my piece.

Stage 4. Looking Ahead

Yogi on my easel!
Finished painting.

My observation skills came into play at this stage. I could see the little whiskers on the muzzle of Yogi and they were outside the cage. I'm happier. My mood is changing. This bear will soon be free and I feel great knowing that when I hear news soon of his release into the sanctuary there may be images of his  very first movements.  And I can't wait to paint him without bars.


When we paint using preliminary sketches we restrict our freedom. When we work minus the pencil lines we can create allowing our emotions to step in or take over which is what I did today. This painting didn't take long. It leaves a lot to the imagination. But so does this bears' journey. Maybe we don't want to know all the gory details of his lifes' history. It isn't our fault he was captive or treated badly. So we can move on with our happier lives and not worry about it or animals like Yogi.

But unfortunately, or fortunately I can't.

 I am built in a way that I care so very much. And I never want to change or stop hurting when I hear about animal cruelty. What I would love to hear is that people all over the world are becoming more aware doing something to stop it. even if it is simply by raising awareness.

I have donated to Animals Asia today. You can even buy a bear honey on their web site! I would like to think that Yogi will have his own special supply waiting for him from the many fans who, like me, are so happy that he is now going to be free.

Buying honey for moonbears via this link or befriend a bear! 

So, if you have read this far. thank you as my blog has taken a different direction today. But if you love animals as much as I do I am sure you won't mind. And after all, this is who I am.

A lover of life.

Happy painting!


Moved To Tears : Moonbear Rescue

"Behind the Bars"
Moonbear on his way to freedom

I had no intention of painting today. I know when my batteries are flat and they really are. I am exhausted from a week of meetings, filming, writing and interviews. I knew today I needed to take a complete break, walk Bailey and simply chill in preparation for my USA tour which starts next weekend. However there is a team far more exhausted than I am right now and this blog post is a tribute to them. For rescuing three moonbears and taking them to a sanctuary.

Followers of my Twitter account will know my heart is often touched by the plight of wildlife and how it suffers due to mans' personal greed or need for fun via  hunting. A pastime I will never wish to understand. I don't  "get" cruelty and there are times when I feel the four legged species has more intelligence than the two legged we know as mankind.

But having decided to take a break today I continued following the rescue of three moonbears. I have lived in Asia. I have seen medicine shops and markets with all the cruelty they entail. And I appreciate it requires strong minded compassionate individuals to take on the plight of animals  who desperately need help there. Years ago when I lived in Hong Kong I came across a person called Jill Robinson. What this wonderful woman did then impressed me but what Jill is doing now touches my heart in a way that I cannot describe. She makes me want to give up everything I do in life to put my focus on helping wildlife. And maybe that is where I am heading because I have never wanted to paint for personal gain, which is why I give so much away when teaching watercolour workshops. I  don't want to be famous. I just want others to enjoy painting as much as I do. But how about when we reach a certain level in our art careers we give back rather than not?

Have you heard of the plight of moonbears? Heard how bile is extracted for medicine? Heard how these poor animals live in confined cages for the majority of their lives unless they are rescued?

I am following the live rescue of three gorgeous moonbears who will be in their new sanctuary in the next  24 hours. Watching them on their journey is humbling and we can all witness it, thanks to the Internet and Animals Asia for the rescue and sharing their release. How joyous that will be for the moonbears living outside of a cage for the first time, being in a bear community rather than solitary confinement. Being able to play, interact. Eat and drink fresh water. Sleep free from pain.

Now having read those last few lines perhaps please look again at this study below, that I have painted of "Yogi" bear on his journey to freedom. You see, although I paint in watercolour, these are not watermarks in my work. They are real genuine marks by tears that feel while I painted because  this animal deserved far better than the cruelty  endured previously. And thanks to good hearted people he now will live a far better life than when he was " Behind the Bars"

There will be tears for joy when this bear and his friends reach the sanctuary 

Join me in celebrating the release of these three bears  via this link. They are nearly home. At last. To a life without bars. 

I never ask for donations from my friends but all donations  via the above link will really help this  wonderful organisation.