Thursday 22 December 2016

The Gift of Giving 2016

"Joyeux Noel"

Christmas Day is almost here and as a child I would believe that Santa was preparing his sleigh, filling it with lots of toys. I look back at my own years of parenthood where my husband would carefully make footprints in the garden outside so it would look as though reindeer had been. He would have the task of eating the mince pie and drinking the sherry neatly left out for Santa. I would have the rather less pleasant task of nibbling a carrot to look as though a reindeer had eaten it. Not that I had a clue what that looked like!

But the joy for me then was in going to bed waiting eagerly to see our children's faces on Christmas morning. Their innocent joy was so beautiful to behold.

As adults we lose that magic. Or do we?

My husband has been asking me for ages,  what I would like as a gift this year. I said " All I want for Christmas is you" and he replied that sounded like a song. But seriously. What do we need ? Many of us have far too much already. Whilst many do not have even a roof over their heads. Or food for their families.

I don't want to bring my blog post down but to me Christmas is a time for giving. Not receiving. And I genuinely don't want anything that money could buy this year. I want love, peace and understanding. Maybe a simple hug. And hope for a fabulous new year ahead with so much to enjoy. That's all.

And what can I give?

Friendship, love, my art and lots of teaching to help others enjoy painting as much as I do. But mainly I can give my time, a few smiles and hopefully some laughter along the way.

However you are feeling about Christmas, it is a  magical time of year because it reminds us that the true gift in life is giving. And that's quite a huge lesson for all of us to remember!

Happy Painting and a very Happy Christmas!


Wednesday 21 December 2016

Bark: The Herald Angels Sing

 "Bark: The Herald Angels Sing"
Bearded Collie Choir revisited

Some time ago I painted a choir of Bearded Collies one Christmas. Actually the paintingreally  never started out as a choir or group of dogs. Altought it ended up as one. It was going to be a painting of just one Bearded Collie. Then two others appeared either side of the first dog and before I knew it I had gotten carried away and lots of dogs joined the choir. As I still have it, I looked at the original painting recently. Because it has been used as a design for raising funds for rescue Beardies this Christmas. In honour of Bailey, my own Bearded Collie who I lost recently.

I knew I could improve the painting by adding detail to it. And I have. I have made some of the nose sizes smaller which looks better and I added shadows under the Santa hats.  I improved the beardie fur too around some of the faces. 

Who knows, maybe these new images will be charity Christmas cards next year to help dogs in need.

But the crops of my painting seem suitable for more Christmas Carol titles. And they made me smile. I hope they make you smile too.

So below we have

"We Three Kings"

 And below next we have

"O Come All Ye Faithful"

You can see how I improved my painting by looking at the original "three king" painting below. I like the softer effect achieved above. We all grow as artists and I am on a very exciting journey. Who knows what tomorrow might bring! 

Original three king painting.


The Holly King : Winter Solstice 2016

"The Holly King"

Today is the Winter Solstice, a special day where the Oak King and Holly King do battle, and the Oak King wins at this time of year. It really is fascinating taking time out to read ancient traditions and beliefs. I have grown up on tales such as these and love the celebrations.
Today in honour of the losing King, I have painted him wearing his holly crown.

Here is a link to information on the two kings.

There are many beliefs connected with the Winter Solstice but for me I love the idea that it is a time of hope, for letting go of the past and looking into the future as being bright and light.

Ancient Celts would bring holly into their homes as they were  considered a symbol of good luck. As a child I would gather holly to decorate our home. Years later, in our cottage garden we have huge holly trees but the birds have long since eaten all their colourful red berries. The holly tree is said to protect your home from evil so in days gone by they would be planted for this reason. 

Who knew?

So when we look at Christmas cards with holly on them we can think about how they play a part at this time of year and their importance.

For now I'm thinking of the Oak King who won his battle.

And I will close this post wishing you a very Happy Winters Solstice.


Friday 16 December 2016

Building Up a Portrait in Watercolour

 Two child's hands, in my new portrait in watercolour.
No preliminary sketch.

  I have thoroughly enjoyed painting the hands in my new portrait painting. As seen in my previous blog post. I aimed to make the colour of each hand, seen in the image above,  vary as they are in different lighting in my resource photograph. And I must admit I am pleased with the result.

The face is  evolving as a work in progress. Working this way takes time as I allow the colour to dry naturally in between each layer of colour. Gentle brushwork is necessary to keep the skin looking fresh in colour. I am keeping the light as white paper on part of the face also.

 Portrait building up gradually, minus the use of a preliminary sketch.

I added white gouache, just a touch to bring a shine to the eyes. As seen in the image below. Next I will work on the nose and mouth facial features but these will wait until tomorrow as today's painting session is coming to a close. But what an amazing day I have had.

I so love working in watercolour. In fact I love it so much that it doesn't seem like work at all!

Work in Progress
No preliminary sketch.


A Helping Hand: Portrait in Watercolour

 "Child's hand in Watercolour"
No preliminary sketch

 Following on from my recent portrait posts on my blog I remembered how many times I have been asked on my workshops for good colour combinations to use for achieving skin tones in watercolour.

The above child's hand has been painted minus the use of a preliminary sketch and I feel it has far more life in it than the painting I previously shared that had been sketched before hand. Here the colour alone had to bring my subject to life and there were no pencil lines guiding me. I painted what I felt. Which was the soft skin of a child, minus wrinkles of old age. Also the skin hasn't been in the sun recently so it is pale in tone.

The colours I used are Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre, in a heavily diluted wash.

Below is the first wash stage of my portrait minus a preliminary sketch. It is now easier for me to work as I have no strict lines to paint within. But of course it takes longer as I have to think at each stage of adding new brushwork. I need to focus my mind and concentrate on where the facial features need to be placed but it is also far easier to consider what details can be left out. 

I am loving this! And loving sharing with you.

Portrait of a child, first wash stage.
No sketch.


A Christmas Miracle

Angels or Fairies?

 Sometimes things happen while you are painting that are completely unexpected. I took several pieces of paper this morning and created colour washes on them. As my theme for today was painting in cool colours to represent the cold wintry weather outside I opted for one purple and one blue shade and allowed these to flow across my paper fusing, merging and  making patterns as they evolved during the drying process.

I left my studio and headed for a coffee break in our cottage. When I returned to my studio over an hour later I was amazed to see how one wash, seen below, had dried.

Can you see what I see?

 Figures appearing in my wash.

 I see figures flying in the sky. To me they seem like angels on the wing. But they could also be taken for fairies. Both are Christmas symbols.

Either way, I loved what happened  so I added a few hints around  some of the figure edges and loved the painting as it is.

 So here is my "Angels on The Wing " painting.

"Angels on the Wing"


Actually I know a few of  my friends and contacts could really do with a huge hug or an angel on their shoulder right now. 
So from me to you, a Christmas Angel is now on your Shoulder and may she watch over you!


Artist Tips for the Day?

1) Keep practising those washes.
2) Don't be in a rush when you work on a first wash, take your time and see what might be appearing in it.
3) Believe in the magic that can happen with watercolour!

Through a Childs Eyes

"Christmas Wonder"

Last weekend I enjoyed watching my Great Grand daughter Cali pass baubles for the Christmas tree from her Auntie to her Mum, my daughter ,to put on the huge tree in their wonderful home. The laughter and giggling was infectious. But while the adults carefully took out the new, shiny baubles from their boxes the sweetness of a child emerged as Cali gleefully picked up wrapping paper and the boxes the baubles had been in. Each piece was obviously a new exciting treasure to be explored.

Cali was so very cute. Moving as fast as her little legs would carry her. The sounds of giggles erupting each time something caught her eye was fantastic and the evening was a memory I will share forever.

Children have a wonderful innocence that in itself is a form of magic. They see the beauty in the simplest of things as every day brings new incredible adventures from touch, sense, sound and of course sight.

I loved my time with my family last weekend and of course can't wait to return.

Now all we need for Christmas is snow and via my paintbrush I can create that around little Cali too.

This is definitely not my best portrait painting. I am a little rusty in this area  and this watercolour is painted from the sketch I drew previously. And it is well known that I don't enjoy painting from previously drawn sketches. I prefer to capture the magic and movement of a subject without the restrictions of lines. My next watercolour portrait will be without a preliminary sketch and I will enjoy creating it far more.

But for now, below is Cali minus the snow. Her eyes are shining with the joy and curiosity of a child. She looks full of wonder. And she should be because she is absolutely wonderful. 

But then I may be a wee bit biased, but seriously, she is adorable in every way!

"Christmas Wonder"


Wednesday 14 December 2016

I Wish !

Portrait Sketch and Wash Study

I knew it.  Painting the Christmas Angel Doll earlier did set me thinking about how I used to paint so many portraits and now seldom do. The doll having no nose bothered me.  If you missed it please see my last blog post! The features on the doll, literally looking as though they had just been thrown on casually, bothered me.

And so I found myself  sketching. Yes sketching! Using a pencil! Something I rarely do.

I sketched a profile of a face. I tried to stay just with sketching the eyes, then nose and mouth but little hands came into my sketch too. Before I got too carried away adding every detail, I stopped sketching and painted my profile sketch using shades that were already on my palette.

I found Opera Pink heavily diluted to be a fabulous base skin tone shade. To create the fleshy tone I needed I added touches of Cadmium Yellow and  Cadmium Orange. My challenge was to create a flesh shade minus adding new pigments to my already full palette. This made me work harder to create the shadows and highlighted skin areas.

Of course now I want to add more colour around the face. And work on more portraits. But perhaps without using so much of a sketch next time, as the drawing in this piece really tempted me to stay painting within the lines rather than leaping " out of the box" as is my usual style.

Isn't it strange. I bought one little Christmas Angel ornament and that angel has effected my brushes in so many ways, adding her magic and tempting me to paint subjects that aren't seen on my blog very often.

Where will this angel lead me?

Tomorrow is another day, so we will see!


The Christmas Angel

Christmas Angel Doll

As I walked through a Christmas market this week, I fell in love with a little Christmas Angel doll. The Christmas ornament made me smile as I picked her up so I immediately bought her to give to a friend of mine on my way home. As I handed the little Christmas Angel over to my friend I realised how cute the doll was and so I returned to the stall later on to buy a few more. These extra angels are now adorning Christmas gifts, wrapped ready to be given. At the moment they decorate my cottage and kitchen Christmas table making our home look really festive.

Each time I look at one of these little Christmas angels I smile. They have that effect on me. Perhaps  "angels" in any form have a knack of making us feel better. I love the saying that "Friends Are Angels Without Wings". I have a few "angel" friends who have been so wonderful to lean on and who have been there for me when I have needed them. In return I love that my friends know they too can lean on me, at any time.

I couldn't resist painting the little Christmas Angel doll. I often paint Christmas decorations each year and as this one was so adorable I couldn't put it to one side without trying to capture it in watercolour first. I will confess I find it very hard to paint dolls. My artists brain will always want to see facial features in exactly the right places and proportions. I also find myself desperately trying to choose good skin tones when actually for a doll this really isn't a huge issue! This doll has no nose. It has two beady black eyes and a line for a small shy smile. Painting the doll's face as it is was a huge test to my being strict with myself not to add a nose. An the doll actually looks cute without it.

I loved painting this little angel. I hope it makes others smile,  as much as it did while I was creating this watercolour angel.

Perhaps my painting will make you smile, tempt you to paint one of your own Christmas ornaments or encourage you to buy a Christmas ornament to give to a friend too. Its' a tradition I have. Each year I give  new Christmas ornaments to friends I feel would like one for their tree. It passes smiles around and what else could be better at this time of year?

Who will you pass a smile to?

Happy painting.


Monday 12 December 2016

Puppy Love 2016 : Spoodle in Watercolour

 "Puppy Love"
Spoodle in Watercolour

I have just returned from a magical weekend at my daughters home in Wales. There. apart from spending quality family time I met "Dexter" the newest addition to the family.

Dexter is the sweetest little thing. A ten week old spoodle that belongs to my beautiful Grand Daughter, Tegan. Needless to say I was happily cuddling the fluffy pup at every opportunity. Dexter also gave me a great opportunity to share tips on painting black animals on my blog. So here he is.

I took a photo of Dexter , held in my grand daughters arms because at his young age sitting still to pose for a camera is not an option.  His tiny body is covered with stunning curly fur that appears to be in shades of blue, grey and black. So what shades did I use to paint him?

I started my base with French Ultramarine Blue, added touches of Amethyst Genuine and in places on my paper I used tiny touches of Cobalt Turquoise to add softness. To darken my mix I added Cascade Green believe it or not and the result was a terrific "dark".

Being an all black puppy, Dexter's eyes are almost missing in that you can hardly see them. In my photo I can see a hint of a sparkle in one of his eyes so I have added this.His little head was tilted to one side so I have opted to paint the leaning side in more detail, leaving the other side of the head more blurred.

It didn't really need it but I have added a tiny touch of white designer gouache to the nose, just to make this pup look younger, and for the nose to appear to be more shiny. As seen in the finished painting above. Below you can see my painting prior to the addition of the white gouache. The change in the result is so subtle.

The sweetness of an innocent pup!

My daughters home is always full of love so this little puppy is going to fit right in with everyone there. And be very loved. How lucky is he!

I feel today as though I was capturing the emotion of love in a watercolour and it is such a wonderful feeling. 

Puppy Love.



Friday 9 December 2016

Feliz Navidad : Poinsettia in Watercolour

"Feliz Navidad"
 Poinsettia in Watercolour 

Every year, at Christmas, I always have at least one poinsettia plant in our home. Here in UK they are house plants but when we lived in Hong Kong I would buy giant potted plants of poinsettia to decorate the entrance to our home there. Once Christmas was over these massive plants would  be planted in our garden and they grew to form a hedge along one wall. Each year the display of massive red blooms used to give us such wonderful cheer and they were a reminder of our Christmas celebrations at home in England. At times I will admit, I would be homesick but I threw myself into my new life there. It was a fantastic adventure, one I am glad not to have missed.

I think we often have new adventures facing us in our lives but we may not realise it. It could be something huge as in a move, a new journey or something simple. Even trying a new way of painting is an adventure and I am yet again experimenting, preparing for a year ahead full of wonderful paintings.

I am also thinking of all my terrific friends across the world who will be celebrating Christmas in so many countries and in so many languages. Hence the title of my painting today.

"Feliz Navidad" 

Today I took three tubes of red shades. I let them mingle on wet paper and finally picked out the petal shapes in the patterns forming for the burst of energetic red colour creating my poinsettia flower. As seen above.

Where ever you are, whatever you are doing I hope the spirit of the season is with you, giving you reason to smile at times. And that your memories of Christmas's gone by are happy ones.

Happy painting!


Wednesday 7 December 2016

Elephants in Watercolour 2016

"The Journey"
Elephants in Watercolour 2016

The above painting came to being as I was enjoying using the shades for my seed head paintings this afternoon. As an example you can see the painting shown in my previous blog post. At the end of each day I always choose a completely different subject to the one I have been working on. This not only " cleanses" my mind to help me unwind but also cleanses my palette. As at this time of day I use whatever colours have watery puddles left in them on my palette. This daily routine makes me think about what subjects would work with what shades I have readily available to paint with.

I looked at the variety of golds on my palette and in my today's paintings, then chose an elephant as my closing subject for todays painting session. I used to paint these majestic creatures far more often than I do at the moment, and it was heaven to return to them.  However , as soon as the one elephant appeared, as always I imagined a youngster nearby. In this composition, seen above, the young elephant is heading off the paper. Leading its' parent in direction.  The mother follows carefully watching over her young. There is almost a story visible in what isn't in my painting. Where are they coming from and even more importantly, where are they heading to?

Below you can see the single elephant and this looked beautiful as a study. But I wasn't ready to put my brushes down for the day so continued adding to the piece.


 Elephant Study , the original version before the young elephant was added.
As seen in the  opening painting to this blog post.

I am still very much concerned about these incredible giants. How their numbers are declining and how man seems to be effecting this planet in such a selfish way that the beauty of nature  can be so badly effected. Who on earth would buy ivory in this century when we all should know better. 

I now, of course, want to paint more elephants. And that may be my goal tomorrow morning.




Seedheads 2016

"Past Their Best"
Seedheads from my cottage garden 

Today the weather is milder and so I have taken time to wander around our cottage garden. My attention has been caught by all the stunning seedheads that now stand out significantly amongst the barren flower beds. 

The colour and hue of the hydrangea, in my painting above, are to me now as pleasing as when they were first in flower this summer. One particular variety is showing violet, turquoise and golden dried flower heads which look wonderful when the ground is snowy, frost covered below and beyond in the distance behind them.

It has been heaven working on these today and I am about to start a new larger wash. 

Artists Tip for the day?

Don't just paint all the time.
Get out and find new inspiration .
Go for a walk to clear your head and come back energised and refreshed.
It works for me!


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!