Saturday, 31 January 2015


First of all what a great name for a dog!! He is the sweetest little Alsation puppy and his grandma wanted a portrait of him!!

German shepherds are in their family and a few years ago I did a portrait of their dog was a tricky commission as Zach had died and the photo was a poor quality phone image. It was a father's day gift but in the end I managed  to get a reasonable likeness and the family were happy.... and so a new commission!!

Here is Chewbacca!!

How seriously cute is he? Kathleen wanted a portrait doing before he got much bigger so I needed to get on with it....

I  have just bought some SAA masking fluid with a ruling pen (and 3 brushes) to apply it so thought this might be the very subject to try it on. I did a sketch then masked a few areas and was drawn to using

Burnt Sienna
Raw Sienna
Alizarin Crimson

I did this on 15x11 but as it was only meant to be a preliminary sketch I didn't do it very big and was just intending to work it out. As he has such soft, fluffy, puppy fur I used more wet in wet than I might normally as I wanted to get the diffused feel of his coat...

The way I work makes life easier for me..... as I decide on my palette from the start, I can then concentrate on the lights and darks and don't need to consider colour, only what will give me the tonal value I need.  Anyway I worked my way around the painting allowing it to dry between layers...
I was also working on a cat commission at the same so it didn't stop me painting!! I realised I left the eyes until last... not something I normally do ....strange as I did the same with the cat too (not yet finished).

As I have described before, commissions are tricky as we are not painting just to please ourselves but another important audience and I often show the client a sample of the direction I am going in to make sure we are on the same wavelength. But I was actually very happy with this preliminary painting and decided to show it to them.  My main hesitation was would it be big enough as it is quite small but apparently the previous commission of Zach isn't too big either so they were happy with the size!! Another phew!!

Just needs mounting and framing and will be off to it's new home next week....

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Another landscape... well sort of!!

I am trying hard to develop a formula for buildings in the landscape which I am hoping will help me en plein colour ideas, ways of painting trees, paths, stone walls, fields etc etc...

This is the second time I have tried this painting, I did it portrait last time but decided landscape might work better. This is a painting of Rivington Church a couple of miles away from where I live, a beautiful old church at the heart of the tiny village.

Nestled on the edge of the Pennines, Rivington Country Park is home to 7 reservoirs which historically supplied water to Liverpool (still does) as it was deemed such good water and suitable to go on board ship for the long journeys across the Atlantic. The area was owned by Liverpool Water (now taken over by United Utilities) and strangely in Rivington, there is a ruin of a castle which was built on the edge of  one of the reservoirs as a replica of the ruin of Liverpool castle!!

We often walk around the area with little Grandpup and I am sure you could walk a different walk 365 days of the year with the paths and areas to explore. I suppose we are a little complacent living so close to this area of natural beauty (with a few reservoirs and castles thrown in) having grown up with it, but every so often I take a step back and think how amazing this area is!! Lord Lever certainly thought so as, having travelled all over the world, decided to build his bungalow and grounds in the theme of a Japanese residence and garden overlooking the whole area... sadly now a ruin too!!!

Anyway here is the painting, colours used

Lemon yellow
Windsor Violet
Rose Madder
Quin Gold

Looking at this on here I think perhaps it isn't finished but as I tend to overwork landscapes with too many darks I will leave it for a few days......I don't think this is the last time I will do this as although it is better than the first attempt I think I can still improve it!! In the meantime I have a few other photos of the area waiting to be painted so will move on to those and come back to this in the next few months.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Archie on his hoildays!!

My son took this photo of our little grandpup, Archie the cocker spaniel, when they were away in Cornwall in October... I loved it and decided to have a go... 15x22, half imperial

I moved the rock to the left and put him to the right and looking at this now think maybe I should have created a bit more light in the sky... images really hit you online whereas the printed version which I've been working from didn't have the same impact... anyway I decided to create a bit of a moody sky but not pay it too much attention

Limited palette again

Alizarin Crimson
Raw Sienna
Burnt Sienna

When I saw this on screen I felt the rocks were competing for attention with Archie... the white spots and texture needed toning down so I went back to it and also added  bit more tone to Archie. I cropped it slightly too and I think I will do this again and try to make Archie a bigger focus in the composition (someone suggested I raise him in the composition and paint him more against the sky rather then the rocks which I think would work)

I do think this has improved the composition and Archie's place within it.... I have learned a lot from this painting and feel keen to try it again knowing what I know now....

Friday, 16 January 2015

Losing my Way?

I have done a bit of painting recently and been really unhappy with it... for some reason the colours haven't been right and I think it is because I have lost my way with colour and have been veering towards more realistic idea why and so this afternoon I have gone back to my colour planets and guess what, am much happier with the result.

So what has been going on? Frankly I have no idea... maybe I have been getting lazy or complacent thinking each painting is just going to happen, well it hasn't been happening and I think it is because I have stopped playing with colour so for this piece I went back to basics, did a bit of colour mixing before I started and as I said I am happier.

Some of you will know from way back that trees and all those masses of foliage were my nemesis so I am constantly challenging myself to somehow get them right and I am nowhere near as "scared" of them as I once was and  no longer feel the need to avoid them. This is a painting I did in Brusho not long ago but wanted to try in watercolour. It is a property opposite Rivington Church and very close to the village which just pokes out of the foliage...I often take photos while we are walking the dog of possible images to paint and as they are generally landscapes ( my current nemesis), I have been avoiding them like the plague... but buildings and streetscapes (another nemesis... how many more do I need!!)... well I have been working on them and making a bit of progress... I prefer the watercolour to my Brusho version, here...

So I will be interested to hear what you think..I think the watercolour is more subtle and a better painting but I did take more time over it and gave it a lot more thought!!

A very limited palette

Alizarin Crimson
Cad Yellow
Burnt Sienna
May Green

Saturday, 10 January 2015

New Year, new workshops, new paintings....

I have been working on a few things this week both for my next set of workshops and for myself too and I have painted this bluebell wood several times, trying to work our first how to paint it and second how to teach it... not sure I am quite there with it yet but one thing you cannot accuse my work of is subtle! Me and subtle just can't seem to make an acquaintance... I look longingly at other watercolourists who produce such gentle and yes subtle work and then I go and do one like this!!!

I do like the colours but always feel compelled to punch things up with some rich darks and maybe that is my style and for me this painting is about light so I hope I have captured that... anyway not sure if this is the piece I will go with or if I will decide to have another stab at it....I do know that really working on a subject can help iron out all the problems but I think this is my fourth go (I did it about a year ago as well and wasn't very happy with it then either so decide to leave it) so am feeling a bit painted out with it....

Have also been working on a couple of snow scenes, again as exercises to work out ways of teaching it and am thinking this particular scene (just a sletch) has too  many trees to be an easy subject...needs a bit more yellow dotted around too.....but I have lots of snow images which don't need to be as busy so will rethink this one....

Lots more practice to do this time of year I always like to have a go at snowdrops... I already have a wash waiting for me and we have some lovely rich deep purple Christmas roses in the garden which I intend to try this year and I also have an amaryllis sprouting as I write and as you can almost see them grow am hoping it won't be too long before I have something to paint there. I love snow scenes too and often do the same scene several times but with different palettes, so not short of subjects at the moment,... time maybe!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

My Son's wedding and the Trauma of the Wedding Card

Well we have had a major event in our family, yes a wedding, been in the planning for over 18 months and finally happened New Year's Eve.. more about it later...

So one of the things I wanted to do was to create a "different" wedding card and I was going to make one loosely based on the wedding invites... however... my younger son unbeknown to me had already had the same idea and as he designed all the wedding stationery it seemed only right that he should bag that one!! The trouble is I had left it a bit late to rethink....I had asked someone much earlier in the year to make one for me, had left her my e-mail address to get in touch and never heard from her again. Anyway, sequence of events forced me to think outside the box and after one long sleepless night(does anyone else get their best ideas in the middle of the night and then end up even more awake because they are excited about it?) an idea started forming.....

First I decided to use certain elements of the wedding and incorporate them into the card and then I started to wonder if instead of a card I might do a painting?

A while ago, an internet/blogging friend Lorraine Brown introduced me to an artist called Karlyn Holman and as a result I bought her book and though I read it cover to cover,  never used it for anything until now. However I saw some of the things Lorraine was creating and always felt that I would have a use for it someday!!(Click on the link for Lorraine's blog and if you look through the archives you will see some of the super creative work Lorraine has done)

I used the colours and theme of the wedding... winter reds and deep blue and then chose to depict symbols and objects which I hoped would be meaningful to the newlyweds.

Her gift to him..a fob watch... something he had wanted for his wedding attire but decided not to get and for her, some Jimmy Choo shoes...then the rings, his dickie bow, the winter florals and their wedding cheesecake which formed part of the evening buffet, a little reference to the wedding stationery which was a zigzag design which I felt really added to the composition and finally our words of wishes to them for the future added as collage around the painting.

Here was the trial piece where I was just playing round with the ideas

I thought the colours needed warming up but I liked the basic composition and the white corners so  worked on a new piece neatening it up a bit and mounted and framed in a white box frame ready for the big day..

I gave it to my son and his new wife (my daughter in law... wow it feels fab to say that!!!) as we had finished the meal and people had started to move into the sitting areas... I never intended for them to have to hang or display in their home but for them to always have it as a memento of their special day and for it to be meaningful for them alone.

Here are some of the moments as I gave it to them

I do think they liked it.... my daughter in law had put so much effort, thought and creativity into the day I felt it needed recognising and recording in an alternative way..

I don't often create without any reference so this sort of thing is testing to the limit but once I got started I was excited and keen to play around and let it evolve... the practice piece was not only really useful but vital and I would certainly spend a lot of time in that stage again were I to do anything similar in the future.

Now to the wedding... I'm not sure I have the words to describe it...we were all overwhelmed with the love and warmth which exuded from every single person there and the whole thing just hit the most perfect balance of emotion, humour, laughter, tears, joy but most precious of all was the love between our son and his new wife....they are a wonderful couple and we are all very lucky to have his wife become part of our family (our other son also has a wonderful partner so we feel very blessed!!). Here is a snapshot from the day

Our transport for the day... the bridal party stayed at the reception the night before and any guests from the area travelled to the ceremony via the bus.

My 2 sons... proud moment!!!

Just married....

This was a beautiful touch... the table was filled with wedding photos from 2 generations, parents and grandparents... this table set the mood for the whole event as it was in the entrance hall for everyone to see as they arrived. It was almost dark as we reached the reception where the atmosphere was so warm and cosy and I can honestly say, never having been to a Winter Wedding it seemed to have an added dimension to a Summer affair..

Love this one, beautiful girl!!

Yours Truly....

Proud parents!!

My other son Mark and his partner Steph

So there you have a little taste of the event, I hope you got a feel for it though I'm not sure I could really do it justice.