Wednesday 23 July 2014

Finding Time

Delphinium Blues

I am looking forward to my workshops in UK next week. But because I will be out of my studio for a period of time, I am fitting in this week the things I need to do to meet deadlines. I am often asked how I fit in so much. Well, for a start, at times like this I get up very early and start writing or painting when the world is still sleeping. I am not always able to work this way but I deliberately ensured I had free time this month to work on my book. I know the final photography session will take place in August and unless I have everything in place I will be behind in the lead up to its launch. This is something I cannot risk. 

I'm never sure that many non writers realise how much of your life you give up "time wise" to write. I tend to lose months of my life where I am locked into chapters in each book section. Then there are meetings and discussions plus photography sessions and they all take a great deal of time. Which I happily give because I love writing and shaing. But it is almost a full time job on its' own and often taking me away from my other commitments.

But at this time of day there is a quality of silence that is so magical. The phone will not ring. I will not be stopped to ask if I want lunch or coffee, which is quite nice really but at times it takes me away from my "flow".  I work peacefully, cut off from the world and always produce my best work.

And I love it.

I am very fortunate to have my own studio to create in. I know not everyone does. I hear so many artists saying they not only don't have time but they also don't have any one place to paint. If your art equipment is readily set up it is far easier and more tempting to use it. Putting brushes away is like having that kitchen gadget in a cupboard that is far too much effort to get out. Your own art space is a must.

So is inspiration!

I walk into my art studio each day armed with inspiration whether I am holding a flower to paint or have something in my mind that I want to write about. And it is this positive feeling that flows into my work. But I have had an unusual and welcome rest this Summer leaving me feeling rejuvenated and raring to go. Heaven help the artists on my sessions next week!  I have more energy than usual! I also have new ideas, colours and techniques to share and we are all going to have such a great time.

Which reminds me. I will be working on my 2015 UK Workshop Itinery next month and in September this information will be going out to everyone on my UK workshop email list. I am often asked why my workshops are fully booked. It is because artists book in advance so please, if you haven't added your name now is a great time to contact me on

There will be sessons especially for artists who have yet to attend a course with me. These are called " Opening Doors" and everyone in the room will be there for the first time. So please get in touch if you are not already on the email list!

Time to get back to writing and painting here!

Artist Tip for the Day? 
Have your own art space to paint and make time to use it!

Delphinium Shadows.


About Working " Loose" in Watercolour

 Kingfishers in progress at various stages.

What a wonderful week I am having enjoying sunshine , working on my new book and painting my favourite subjects for a new solo exhibition.  I now find myself on my morning walks with Bailey  searching for the elusive kingfisher. Sometimes I am rewarded with a blurred vision of passing turquoise  but when I am really lucky I manage to see one sat very still. 

In my studio this morning I began a new painting of a kingfisher and started, as always,with the eye. I never use a preliminary sketch so my starting point has to be accurate and beautiful enough for me to continue with the piece. I take my time here. No racing! You can see the start of my new painting in the above image, alongside yesterdays painting that is still a work in progress. I have used my rigger brush to  create this tiny section which the whole painting will revolve around. Every single application of colour at this point was made with almost a single hair at the point of my brush. While working in such intricate detail it dawned on me how many artists strive to work loose in watercolour. They may be surprised to see me working in such a detailed approach. 

I have read so many descriptions of a " working loose" technique and none really seem to aptly apply. Splashing on colour in the hope that it will turn into a great painting isn't how I work.  Although, I do love covering paper with colourful washes to be turned into serious compositions at a later stage. I also love experimenting with washes in my quest to continually discover new colour combinations or texture effects.  These improve my skill as an artist.  But when working from the very beginning on a definite subject I take my time. I consider where I want to place my subject and what will be happening around it as a background, if any at all.  I don't race to complete any one piece. I enjoy every single brushstroke and aim to master my skill by improving every single mark I make with my brushes.

There is so much to take in when painting but having said that, I don't allow " over thinking " to ruin the pleasure I gain in my work either. I absolutely adore painting as everyone knows. But there is a misconception that working loose is always  working fast and this is certainly not the case.

I also believe most paintings need some form of "backbone" as in detail or structure. Too loose and a painting can almost become an abstract. Too tight and of course we lean towards realism. So painting in a loose style possiby needs to sit in the middle of both genres.

I like detail in my work. So I often fall back on my time as a botanical artist which I enjoy immensely to bring a section of my compositions to life. This is before I "let go" with my loose and more free brushwork around it. And the combination of loose and detailed works very well for me. I get the pleasure of  applying both styles in one painting. So in many ways I suppose I need to be a master of both too!

Here is my starting point of my new kingfisher. Every mark was made with my soft rigger brush including the eye itself.

 Eye painted with just a rigger. I will move to a size 10 for the  surrounding feather work

So my Artists tips for the day?
Don't over think your work
Don't race a painting
But do consider what the most fascinating part of your subject is and bring that to life beautifully!


My personalised Jean Haines brushes can be purchased from my web site. Each has a beautiful point to help me control my brushwork and gain fabulous watercolour effects. The brush set of the size 10 and rigger are the  brushes I use whilst working from a starting point on subjects like my kingfishers.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers and Watercolour Sticks

 Winsor &Newton Watercolour Markers and Watercolour Sticks

This morning a package arrived containing some great products from Winsor & Newton. Now here I will put my hand up and explain I am a huge fan of watercolour tubes. Everyone knows I am. I prefer the joy of squeezing huge juicy amounts of colour into my palette from a tube rather than working with any other form of watercolour.  But do you ever get the feeling you are getting stuck in a rut with the products you use?  As a professional artist I have been offered so many products to try over the years but I often find myself in a difficult position of having to explain to the company why I don't want to promote them. This afteroon was quite the opposite. I have had so much fun! Now I am finding it very hard to stop experimenting which is maybe just what I needed on an extremely hot  summers afternoon when working has been really hard. The sun has beckoned all day.

I have been given samples of the W&N watercolour markers and watercolour sticks and they arrived this morning in the post. I tried really hard to wait until I had completed todays list of things I had to do but there they sat. Waiting for my attention and they got it. I have been fascinated with painting bees recently. Well, to be fair I have been painting flowers and became side tracked with painting the bees that surround them.

I loved the small box the watercolour sticks are held in and realised they could be extremely handy for travelling and quick sketches.The markers are a great idea too. My mind made up to " play",  I took a painting I had already started and decided to put these new products to the test. 

 I selected the watercolour marker shades that I felt would be most suitable for my painting.

  I added yellow to the body of each bee to start with.  By touching the initial "watercolour stick"  marks with a small amount of wtaer my little insects took on the fuzzy appearance I was looking for. Perfect!

Next I decided to work on a negative edge with the darker watercolour stick. Apart from being easy to handle I found it enjoyable creating shapes where I could later add water. These products are great if you like more control when it comes to adding definition. Bearing in mind I never use a pencil to  make preliminary sketches, these are a great product to follow my loose style but still have your guidelines in place in colour before you start working or adding to a composition.

 Adding a negative edge with the darker watercolour stick.

Once the defined negative edge had been added I could easily work away from it with a water laden brush. This is where I considered mixing shades on paper as I do with my usual tubes of watercolour. So I applied touches of yellow from my yellow watercolour stick to the new wet green section and loved the instant interaction.  I also loved the original  negative edge as it was, which I found I could blend with my finger to soften it. So there are quite a few options of ways to work with this new watercolour range. I am certain I will find many more!

Adding yellow to the already  softened negative edge by the dark watercolour stick.

Now I am already imagining so many other ways I could put these products to use, in my work. And sitting on my computer to talk about them isn't appealing as I want to keep working with them. But I really did want to share  the amount of  fun I have been having rather than keep it to myself!

Definitely a great watercolour idea.

You can read more about these products via this link


"There is something infinitely magical about being an artist"

 Kingfisher work in progress, on my easel

The summer weather is wonderful  and it certainly is adding to my colour and subject inspiration. I am walking Bailey, my bearded collie,  regularly along a canal path and yes, I am seeing a stunning kingfisher. I am fascinated by its' sudden flash of turquoise. Mainly I see a blur of action rather than a beautifully coloured bird sitting still. The heron, too, is busy fishing but unfortunately he seems to prefer the fish in our pond to the canal.

There is something infinitely magical about being an artist. It is almost as though you have a legitimate excuse to observe beauty. I have taken so much time to study nature, rural landscapes and the wildlife I am lucky enough to see daily.  I am now thinking of ways to incorporate what I see in each  new painting. 

This week, I have returned to a favourite pose of the kingfisher with its' treasured catch. And I will be working on a few ideas for paintings in my next solo exhibition will take place in September in Surrey , UK.

For now I couldn't resist sharing this  painting as it is so peaceful to work on. It started with the eye and I worked gradually away from this starting point by adding the feathers. The wings of the kingfisher are spread as the bird leaves the water, taking flight after the perfect dive. Sunshine is  bringing is effecting its' shimmering plummage. This is a gorgeous piece that has a fabulous sense of movement , energy and life in it.

There is a moment in many a painting where the artists' brush touches the paper, in this case so very softly, and the subject begins to emerge. My heart always sings at this point.

Here is the image of that moment. The creative stage when I could see a kingfisher coming alive via colour alone. No preliminary sketch.

"The Moment" on my easel. 
The kingfisher  appearing in the first stages of a new painting in watercolour

I feel so much joy when I am painting. Joy and peace at being in that  incredible " zone" where there is only me, my paper, colours and brushes on the planet. And I love it.

My artists tip for today? Paint something that you absolutely love as a subject, and aim to bring that feeling into your work. Try to allow the viewer of your finished painting to feel the connection between you as the artist and what you have painted. 


By the way, my new book which will be launched next year is so wonderful to work on that I will be very sad when it is completed. It is inspiring me in my own work  to improve my skills and making me race to paint each day. Heaven!


Wednesday 16 July 2014

Hanging Baskets of Petunias : Inspiration in Blue

 Hanging Basketof Petunias
"Inspiration in Blue"
Work in progress

I am a watercolour addict and I really don't want to be given a cure, or find one!
  As always its' been a very hectic day  but I have been thinking about the small study of petunias that I quickly painted in my garden yesterday evening, at the close of my painting day. I loved the  freedom in the piece. I also adored the colours which sang so beautifully to me this morning when I walked into my studio. I always leave something nice to walk into each day.  Something that I know will inspire me to  paint and oh boy, this did!

This afternoon I considered what I enjoyed most about yesterdays piece and started a new painting on a larger piece of paper. When we work "small" our  results can often be too tight because there isn't enough paper space to truly " let go".  Moving to a large white space gave me lots of room for full sweeping brushstrokes, vibrant flowing colour and my favourite, exciting watermarks.  I have had a fantastic time.

The sun shone on my shoulders as I sat  listening to birds singing  while I painted. I opted for strong, vibrant blues combined with bold Cadmium Yellow adding bursts of sunshine where needed. I had yesterdays painting to guide me as inspiration and, of course, the real flowers to look at and observe. I have started to add centres to some of the petunias in my new painting. I have also worked on my favourite " main " flower giving it hints of petal shapes, lines and shadows. All the surrounding petunias will  make this one stand out as they will not have so much detail.

 Yesterdays small study of my hanging basket flowers sat alongside my new larger painting, on my easel today.

I am definitely making use of  lost and found edges in this composition.  And I will be making the most of the "Seaweed Effect" I mention in my last book " Atmospheric Watercolours". A form of intricate layering that builds up a painting in sections to add interest.

What hit me so strongly today is the number of artists who only ever paint from photographs. Even worse, painting from other peoples photographs of things they have never seen. I know we can't all go to Africa to see elephants or  travel to see the landscapes we would dearly love to capture in our art. But only by painting from life can we catpture " life" in out paintings. And really stretch our skills as artists. I can paint from photographs in Winter when the weather is  awful. But for now painting outside as much as possible will aid my observation, improve my  colour combination techniques and help me see how light plays on my subjects casting  beautiful shadows in a variety of colours that will definitely be lost in a photograph!

Artist Tip for the Day? Stop painting from photographs!

Yesterdays petunia study , inspired by my hanging baskets of flowers.


Tuesday 15 July 2014

Simple Inspiration

Hanging Basket Inspiration
Petunia, Work in progress
 Saunders Waterford paper  which is ideal for my floral work.

I must confess that it is very hard typing my new book whilst the summer sun shines in through my studio window. It is far too tempting to leave my work and race outside to paint in my garden. But there are chapters that I need to complete and as each one finishes the next exciting idea comes into my head, so there is no break.

But as I  started to close my studio for the day I couldn't resist looking at the hanging baskets  that  adorn its' outer walls. Every year I make my own. I collect all my favourite hanging plants and arrange them in a hanging basket. Summer wouldn't be Summer or  a garden an English garden without hanging baskets. Its a tradition of mine. After carefully planned planting in my old baskets I  wait paitiently for them to bloom and gradually fill with stunning colour. By the end of Summer they always look brilliant but at the beginning they can look a little weak! 

On a now regular excursion to our local garden centre, I began to fill trolley with favourite hanging basket plants. My husband, being taller than me, looked up and noticed already planted baskets that were gorgeous.  For a fraction of the price.  I agreed to put  my carefully chosen plants back and we bought two. Tall husbands are very handy as mine placed my new treasures on the hanging brackets of my studio where I could see them, water them and admire them daily. As an artist I am fascinated by the varying flower shapes, colour interaction between the individual plants and beauty.

The white petunias ,especially against a  Cobalt Blue sky were just too hard to resist this evening. I had to paint them. And so I grabbed a piece of paper and quickly worked. I started by painting  around a green negative outline of the first petunia. I intended to just paint one flower to wind down after a full day. But the second petunia looked good above it. So I added another outline shape to my painting.  Next I fell in love with the pinkish violet shadow on the lower third petunia flower, hanging underneath my central starting point. By the time I had added the blue sky as an abstract background ,I could almost see a fourth and fifth flowers appearing.  All in my experimental " wind down" wash. In fact I can now see petunia buds in the composition, that just need detail  to bring them to life and make them more obvious in this piece.

Planning ahead is often wise. Planning to buy certain plants to make my own hanging baskets was my original goal. Being spontaneous and buying ready planted baskets saved my pocket but also gave me more painting time which today I used wisely. On my hanging basket inspired experimental painting. I am so looking forward to painting this seriously tomorrow!

My Artist Tip for the Day? Be flexible. Sometimes plans are best if they go astray!


Friday 11 July 2014

USA 2015 Workshop and Book Signing Tour

Just a quick update on my USA 2015 Workshop and book signing tour. California is now fully booked including the additional course. Places are currently available on the other locations
Sonoma, California 

  October  3rd/4th Workshop 3.  FULLY BOOKED
October 6th/7th,  2015  Workshop 1  FULLY BOOKED
October  9th/10th, 2015 Workshop 2 FULLY BOOKED
 Art Society Book Signing/ Demonstration 8th October. 1-0 - 4.0 p.m

  West Virginia

 October 15th/ 16th, 2015 Workshop 1
October 19th/ 20th,  2015  Workshop 2
Please Note: Bookings for this Art Society will be confirmed in January 2015.

St Louis

October 24th/ 25th, 2015 Workshop 1
October 27th/ 28th, 2015 Workshop 2
Art Society Book Signing/Demonstration October 27th , 7.0 p.m.

New York
October31st- November 1st   Workshop 1
November 2nd/3rd Workshop 2
Art Society Demonstration 30th October 
Please contact for Art Society contact details of each course.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

USA 2015 Watercolour Tour : New York Dates and Sonoma Update

The interest in my 2015  USA Watercolour workshop and book signing tour has been phenomenal. So much so that I have been asked to add a further workshop in California and I will also be holding two workshops in New York. Here is the latest information along with the dates for New York and the extra workshop in Sonoma.

Sonoma, California 

  October  3rd/4th Workshop 3. NEW
October 6th/7th,  2015  Workshop 1  FULLY BOOKED

October  9th/10th, 2015 Workshop 2 FULLY BOOKED
 Art Society Book Signing/ Demonstration 8th October. 1-0 - 4.0 p.m

West Virginia

 October 15th/ 16th, 2015 Workshop 1

   October 19th/ 20th,  2015  Workshop 2

Please Note: Bookings for this Art Society will be confirmed in January 2015.

St Louis

October 24th/ 25th, 2015 Workshop 1

October 27th/ 28th, 2015 Workshop 2

Art Society Book Signing/Demonstration October 27th , 7.0 p.m.

New York
October31st- November 1st   Workshop 1
November 2nd/3rd Workshop 2
Art Society Demonstration 30th October 


All artists who have already contacted me have been put in touch with the organisers. Any artists wishing to book a place on my USA Workshop courses please contact me as soon as possible  on

Each two day course is aimed at being highly motivational, inspirational and fascinating!

Thank you to everyone who has already been in touch, I am over the moon with such a warm welcome back to USA .


On another note I am already working on my 2016 tour and have recieved  wonderful invitations from USA Art Societies. More news at a later date.

Monday 7 July 2014

Landscapes in Watercolour

"Morning Mist"
Landscape inspired by the fields near our cottage

I woke this morning to gorgeous sunshine flooding into our cottage through the windows. As I walked to my studio I couldn't miss the stunning landscape of rural fields in morning sunlight . These are usually filled with horses or dog walkers.  But at this time of day the scene  seemed to belong to just me. I can fully understand why so many artists over time have been drawn to painting such gorgeous countryside. Influenced by nature.

Morning dew lay on the  surface of the field whilst a magical mist lay almost floating in mid air, under the canopy of the distant trees and hovering over the grass. Sunlight was touching the very tip of the top of the old tree at the top of the hill, now wearing its' glowing Summer foliage. Although I could hear birdsong not a bird was in sight. Or any of the many rabbits and hare that usually adorn the setting. The young fox that often looks back at me was missing, so maybe he was still fast asleep. In fact, it seemed the world was yet to awake. How calm, relaxing and so very beautiful.

It looked perfect and far too good to resist as an artist. So as soon as I reached my studio I painted the sight before my eyes. Peaceful morning mist.

The strange thing is, I was always known for painting landscapes. I loved sharing techniques and tips on how to paint beautiful skies and trees were a firm favourite subject too. I felt as though I was "going home" painting this piece and maybe I was.

Artist Tip For the Day
Paint what inspires you when it inspires you.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Recharging Batteries : Busy Bee

Busy Bees

This week I did something really unusual for me. I sat down! I wandered around my gorgeous garden to admire beautiful flowers for inspiration and passed a garden lounger that has hardly been used. I laughed at the memory of my begging my husband to buy me the comfortable sunbed. I had been filled with visions of relaxing on it in my garden but that time has never come. Like most gardeners its' impossible to not see weeds that need pulling out or plants that need dead heading or cutting back. And as an artist I constantly see things that I want to paint. 
On top of that I always have so much to do.

But this week the sunshine has been incredible and I couldn't ignore that sun lounger. I decided to sit still for half an hour which happily turned into an hour. All the time I was lying there, I was thinking about how much needed to be done. I mentally listed the work left to be covered in my new book, I thought of the list of emails with fabulous invitations for future USA tours in 2016/2017. I could  have been working on my new exhibition .  

But instead I did something very rare.
I sat still and recharged my batteries. 
And listened to bees!

It made a change to watch a tiny nsect working really hard and they reminded me of myself. I have been  so busy leaping from one project to the next , sharing my passion for watercolour, but somewhere along the line I had forgotten to take genuine time out to simply chill. 

And it was worth it.

I now feel energised and eager to face the week ahead. In fact,I  have just sent off the introduction to the next section of my new book to my publisher which I hope they love as much as I do.

Of course the bees had an influence as they appeared in my next painting. In glorious glowing yellow.

Artists Tip For the Day?

Take time out from painting to recharge your batteries. And enjoy it!


Saturday 5 July 2014

USA 2015 Watercolour Book Signing Tour. UPDATE

USA 2015 Workshops Update
Within hours the interest in my 2015 USA  "new book" workshop and  signing tour has been incredible. California Workshops are already fully booked but we are looking into the possibility of my holding one extra session. I will update my blog if this happens.
For now there are places available in St Louis and West Virginia. I will share news on New York once the dates are confirmed.
Thank you to all the excited artists who got in touch so quickly. For artists yet to contact me for details please do so  by email  in order to  be put in touch with the organisers of each event.
Sonoma, California 
October 6th/7th,  2015  Workshop 1  FULLY BOOKED
October  9th/10th, 2015 Workshop 2 FULLY BOOKED
Art Society Book Signing/ Demonstration 8th October. 1-0 - 4.0 p.m

West Virginia
 October 15th/ 16th, 2015 Workshop 1
   October 19th/ 20th,  2015  Workshop 2

St Louis
October 24th/ 25th, 2015 Workshop 1
October 27th/ 28th, 2015 Workshop 2
Art Society Book Signing/Demonstration October 27th , 7.0 p.m.

New York
Dates to be confirmed.

Choosing the Right Watercolour paper

 Sweet Pea in Watercolour
First Wash

Choosing the right paper in watercolour  makes all the difference to an artists work. I have experimented with many kinds of paper over the years . I have used  a number of brands, weights and surfaces to find just the right one to aid my watercolour effects, results and very importantly, my enjoyment whilst creating or experimenting.

I am completely smitten with Saunders Waterford paper.  


I love quality paper. You may think as a professional I can afford to be fussy. But if you had an insight into my experimental work you would see that I paint on both sides of pieces of paper when  I am trying out new ideas. Before I settle on the more serious compositions  specifically painted for a gallery. Cheap paper won't allow me to do this and isn't cost effective. My choice of paper has to allow my use of watercolour pigment to flow over its' surface beautifully. As pigments settle whilst drying I want them to fall beautifully into the tiny pockets of the paper surface. There should be a perfect drying time where my paper gives me enough scope to work  before the colour application is completely dry.

Some brands of watercolour paper take too long to dry while others allow pigments to dry far too quickly. Some papers are not white enough f or my floral work where I feel as though I am fighting against a dull background of the paper colour.

If you look at the image above of a sweet pea floral "first wash" you can see the difference in the paper colours. The real flowers are stood against one brand of watercolour paper. My painting is on Saunders Waterford watercolour paper and the  pigment colours are literally singing.

If I could give just one tip to new artists it would be to buy good quality paper and enjoy it.

Tip: For a fabulous alternative Bockingford 140lbs. is brilliant for floral work. Again the surface is stunning and a sheer joy to work on.

Time for me to get back to painting!


Thursday 3 July 2014

Silence Is Golden?

I am so sorry my blog  has fallen quiet. I have been inundated with emails from artists requesting places on my USA 2015  Watercolour and book signing tour.

I promise I will have replied to everyone  by tomorrow evening!


Tuesday 1 July 2014

USA Tour 2015 : Book Signing and Watercolor Workshop Events

USA 2015 Watercolor Workshop Tour

I am being asked by very enthusiastic artists about my 2015 USA tour.  My new book will be launched next year and to celebrate I will be heading to America as I have been invited by wonderful Art Societies to hold workshops and give demonstrations/talks with book signing events.

These are the dates and locations.

Sonoma, California 
October 6th/7th,  2015  Workshop 1
October  9th/10th, 2015 Workshop 2
Art Society Book Signing/ Demonstration 8th October. 1-0 - 4.0 p.m

West Virginia
 October 15th/ 16th, 2015 Workshop 1
   October 19th/ 20th,  2015  Workshop 2

St Louis
October 24th/ 25th, 2015 Workshop 1
October 27th/ 28th, 2015 Workshop 2
Art Society Book Signing/Demonstration October 27th , 7.0 p.m.

New York
Dates to be confirmed.

If you are interested please email me on so that I can put you in touch with the organisers.


Invitations for my 2016 USA Workshop Tour are already in hand and I'm thrilled to share the news that I will be in new and favourite locations.