Saturday, 27 December 2014

Would I manage it?

I've had a couple of commission for Christmas which have been a bit tricky especially the cat!! The first was an English Springer Spaniel......two attempts at this one... the first didn't quite "get" him and I also added a bg which I decided not to include the second time round. I know I mention in every portrait blog that it is a tricky balance in getting a likeness and adding a bit of artistic licence and thankfully it would seem like I got this one right as Henry's owners love it!!

Here is the reference... isn't he just lovely?

And here is the painting
As you can see I have used a selection of colours especially in his ears.....I always find a touch of blue will lift a "brown dog" and the dark browns are a mix of blue and brown....mixed on the brush so you still keep a bit of interest in the washes.

The next commission was more difficult as I had trouble finding just how to depict all the fur. Millie is a Norwegian Blue show cat and so very pretty. My first problem was what colours to use and I settled o cerulean for my blue... it isn't a colour I use a lot of but gives more of a silver grey when mixed with burnt sienna (rather than Ub or cobalt) . It is quite opaque which is one reason I tend not to use it but in this case I felt it would give me the best option. I did have a few goes at this one, practicing the soft fur mainly with wet in wet washes, building up the tones in the fur  and then deciding how to go about the bg... here is the reference and my efforts

As you can see I have exaggerated the fluffiness as I wanted to convey that above anything else... the owners were delighted and she now sits over their bed....

Saturday, 13 December 2014

By the Canal

I've had another busy few weeks though I'm not complaining!! Running the workshops and doing the demos are so much fun and such a privilege to be able to do. I meet such lovely people and sometimes am lucky enough to get feedback like this

"Everyone loved your pictures and teaching style ..we are all at the age
now that we need things to be 'not too complicated'!
We all know that we need to sit down and practise more
Anyway everyone was inspired, wanted to stay all day and wanted to know
when you are coming back.. so I will be in touch again when we have sorted
out dates."
I do often get lots of good feedback but am very grateful to the secretary of Art in Adlington for taking the time to e-mail this to me. I visited the group last Tuesday and there were both familiar and new faces there... they were a captive audience and I did run over as I got a bit carried away!! 

I have also been working on a couple of commissions... one has caused me a few problems but today I have completed and mounted and framed them ready for collection. 

I was also practicing some new workshop pieces not ready for showing yet....when I work on these pieces I not only have to be able to produce the painting but able to translate it into a language that the students will understand and be able to have a good go at. There is no point in me being able to paint something if I can't explain what I'm doing and why..... the groups and classes I run are very mixed ability and I have to pitch it so that the majority get something out of it... not always easy!! 

As I usually have more than one piece on the go at any one time in between the workshop pieces, i also slotted the next image in!!! During the Summer my cousin and family visited from the Far East and there was a barge festival in Burnley where my sister lives. We took the family to see it as we knew they would enjoy seeing the colourful narrow boats with their distinctive art. My brother in law John Robinson is a photographer and enjoys capturing a host of unusual shots and so the festival was a heaven sent opportunity for him. This is one of the images he took and have had it in my "to do " file since the Summer

I didn't want to spend too long on the drawing (I never do!!) and so although I did predraw this it was a very quick sketch and may not be a terrific likeness but I wasn't particularly after that. I wanted to capture the light and as you can see I haven't changed much at all and even kept very close to the original colours as I saw them... not as much green in mine but I only added the bg at the end as my initial intent was just to capture the gentleman nothing more, and of course I couldn't leave it alone and kept adding more and more!!!

Will hopefully get more of my own painting done over the xmas break so hope to update my blog a little more often than I have been doing lately .....

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The 2 J's....... on the road!!

Well we did it!! The first of our joint workshops, held in St Helens to a merry band of artists.. 31 in total and a great time had by all!!

Both Joanne Boon Thomas and myself had been invited by Paint Pots art group to run a Brusho workshop... they had been awarded a grant and one of the conditions was that a new medium was introduced... so of course, Brusho was perfect!!

I must admit to having been a teeny bit nervous sharing the workshop with our very own "Brusho Queen" but once I started and realised they hadn't all gone to Joanne's table and I actually did have some people watching me I relaxed and concentrated on what I needed to be telling them which to be fair is everything Joanne has shared with me... so I showed some techniques and methods and then we did a painting of some fur trees which tied in nicely with the trees Joanne was demonstrating.

The club provided a fabulous lunch and when we resumed fully fed and watered, we swapped groups and I did a holly and berry painting which seemed to go down well. Joanne did a poppy (as only she can) and I have to say the whole thing went down a storm, thank goodness, with lots of positive feedback and comments ... here are a few pics of the event...

One of Joannes' demos

One of my demos
 A selection from the group

A really good day with lots of Brusho converts... Joanne sold all the Brusho sets she had brought and still needed more!! Anyone who is interested in learning more about Brusho, here is a link to

Brusho Secrets

where you can buy Joanne's DVD and e-book

and here is a link to the review I did when I was lucky enough to get my hands on both!!

Brusho DVD and Book Review

Friday, 31 October 2014

New Work... at last!!

I have been busy with workshops and commissions and haven't had a lot of time to do any of my own work and I also need to prepare for 2 all day workshops I am running.... one with the lovely Joanne Boon all day Brusho session and the other on the 30th November, a watercolour day.

So this week, being the first week I have had completely free for I don't know how long, has been a treat and I have managed to paint each day. I love the workshops but do need to prep for them and even though that is getting easier as I am slowly building a repertoire of subjects and topics, it still takes time to prepare and make sure I am able to deliver the subjects not only physically but in a way that it can be understood by the groups.

I have had an image stored for a while by Chrissy M from PMP (it is her image I took the xmas Robin from) and as I have been doing Autumn leaves at some of the workshops felt I wanted to do a more complete Autumn study.. still don't know if I will do some more Autumn leaf paintings and even though love the colours am tempted to do an entirely different palette next time.

Colours used in this

Raw Sienna
Burnt Sienna
Permanent Rose

Next I decided to work on a painting for the workshop I am running at the end of November...  I have tried several paintings of white poinsettias but I don't think they will be suitable for the workshop

Neither of these are finished but they have taken me too long to complete even to this stage and therefore will be difficult to deliver at the workshop. During my all day sessions I normally do some work beforehand with the group so they have a bit more idea as to how to go about things rather than going straight in to an image....painting in a loose way isn't easy as you will all know so I like to sort of prepare them a bit first!!

So today I have worked on this one... I have used the image (by Barbara Tester) before.... it isn't too complicated (not too many leaves) and can be simplified a bit further and allows me to demonstrate the principles of painting in a loose way quite well


Opera Rose
Permanent Rose
May Green
Cad Yellow

I am really pleased with this one the colour really stands out in the "real life" painting and I like the colour combination.

The final painting has been done to commemorate Remembrance day. I love painting poppies but it is always more poignant at this time of year... photo by Sharon Robinson

So this is what I've been working on this week... a good, productive week I think.. now need to get my Brusho out!!!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Another Doggy Portrait Step by Step

I met a lovely lady during one of my workshops and she asked me to do a bit of tuition with her, and even though she is a very good painter without my help,  she wants to learn watercolour and loosen up a bit.

I went to her house where I had the privilege of meeting Jenny, her lovely little dog..... a dog in waiting (to be painted that is!!) I asked Linda to send me some images and loved this one which has a quirky tilt to her head and shows her personality perfectly. 

So here is another step by step... seem to remember to do the doggy ones and another white dog too!

A loose drawing just to get the nose eyes and mouth in the right place and a little paint applied and bled out to the surrounding areas... colours used

Burnt Sienna
Permanent Rose
Raw Sienna

As many of you will know I don't always draw but with commissions I do generally do a sketch to get the features in the right place.....if I am painting for myself, and I don't get a good enough likeness, there is no-one to check it but obviously when the owner will see the painting of her pet, it has to look like her pet!!

While the face is drying I add some background, here you can see the colours used and mixed on the paper, this will be darkened as the portrait progresses but also helps me get some shape into the composition at this early stage. I can see on here that the nostrils aren't quite right but that can be lifted at a later stage.

A bit more detail added to the right eye and nose and under her chin. I am keeping as much of her white as possible at this stage and will add shaded areas as it progresses. I work on areas as they dry so I am often working on another painting at the same time. Too often a painting is spoiled because we don't wait for the paint to dry... a sure recipe for mud (see  my blog about mixing mud here)

More work on the eyes and nose, background darkened and collar added in. Also added a bit more of her body but washed most of that away as I don't want the eye to be led there.

Can see the edge of the background at the top is too defined so will look at that....

So softened the diagonal edge and started to add more tone to the face, adding areas of paint where I see tone on the photo, softening edges as I go. I have worked more around the eyes and added a few highlights with white gouache both in the eyes and for some fur around the nose and mouth. I have added a touch of detail to the left ear but washed away so it is just a hint. Can see an area, left of her chin which doesn't look right and when I check the image can see I need to bring the shape round a bit.. the wonders of technology, seeing on screen makes these things stand out so much more.

Also added a bit more around her collar... hope she likes!!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Am I up for it?

I wrote some time ago about commissions here and how they are a worry, a restriction, and an interpretive challenge and generally the difference between painting for ourselves or for someone else.

My blog has been so quiet recently and there are a number reasons for that...the odd commission, quite a few workshops and I have also been away for a few days to Copenhagen.  The workshops, though I love them need preparation and of course that stops me concentrating on my own work which is generally what I post about resulting in me not having much new to share.

So, I have been commissioned to paint some Christian Art to hang in the newly built entrance hall of a church and the first idea was to paint a cross and some roses.....practices here. The brief has now changed to one large painting, not of roses but of grapes and wheat... symbolic in the Christian church and one smaller painting of a rustic cross. I visited the church and checked the dimensions and we have decided that the final paintings will be prints of the originals and blown up onto canvas as they don't want frames and of course watercolour needs framing. The other issue is that I don't have big enough paper as the large painting will be 40x30 inches so almost a third as big again as full imperial.

This is the piece which is going for approval

This is 20x15 so half the original size and actually the colours are slightly more harmonious than it appears on here... the cross will be done in a similar palette so the paintings look like they belong together.

I had done a smaller painting of this, 15x11 and sent that for approval and to be quite honest am not sure what I would have done had that not been liked... the composition sort of evolved. I started with an all over wash adding the colours very approximately as I thought I would have them in the finished piece. As I was doing the practice piece I felt I wanted to keep the centre light and actually washed that area back to recapture some of the light I had lost in the washes...the areas of leaves also evolved and a lot of trial and error to see what worked around the perimeter of the piece.  I am still working on the cross but compositionally that is an easier piece so have been less anxious about that and am happy that will be approved to go forward too.

Thankfully my client loves the piece and will be putting it forward to the "committee" next week. Although an individual has commissioned the work, it still has to meet with the approval of the Church management committee and will be offered as a gift to the church from my client if they like......if not, am not sure what they will do!!

Commissions are tricky and though I have been given a brief the reliance on my "artistic" capabilities to transform from a brief into a finished painting is quite stressful especially when there is a deadline. If the committee don't approve this I won't be horribly disappointed as I have followed the brief and my client is happy with what I've done... as we all know art is in the eye of and it may not suit everyone who has to approve it.. who knows whether they will all like the concept and my style?So remains to be seen if I am up to it!!!!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Xmas cards 2014 FOR SALE!!

Had all my cards printed for this year and they're looking good!! So here they are......................

Taken from an image by Petra Moll on Paint my Photo

Image by Petra Moll

Image by Gary Jones

Image by Paul Sherman

From my own image

Photo by Lynton Bolton

These last two are the same image different colour choices... the one below was a commission after the customer received the one above!!

Reprint from last year, Steve Gibbs

Another reprint Chrissy M

I create a Christmassy feel around the images by choosing the colours and bgs all with limited palettes then splattering some masking fluid over the paper before I start and I like the way they create a series, all different but still maintaining a theme.

All cards are A5 size printed on 300gsm silk and am selling them for

£1.50 each or set of 4 (you choice of design) for £5.00 plus p&p... paypal accepted.

Please e-mail me or visit my fb page  and leave a message if you wish to purchase... thank you

Friday, 5 September 2014

STEP by STEP.....Archie... our little Grandpup!!

Am hoping this is a new resolution... to make more step by steps!! So here is the first.

We have a lot of lovely photos of Archie (he is a very photogenic golden cocker spaniel and of course we aren't at all biased!!) but his "mum" Steph took this one... she takes the best photos of him and I really loved this one!!!

I had an attempt at painting him nearly 12 months ago but wasn't at all satisfied with the colour as I hadn't been able to inject anything different which is why I am a lot happier with this one.

I sketched the outline, positioning the eyes nose and mouth and though I don't normally use masking fluid preferring to reserve the whites I did pick out the highlights on this... his fur has blond highlights and I didn't want to leave to the end and pick out with white paint as there is too much.

First step of painting was to pick out the eyes and nose and add paint wet in wet to areas of the face. Little tip for both eyes and nose from Jean Haines is to let the colour bleed sightly into the face which helps to make them part of the face.
Next was to add the backround. the colours I have used are all W&N artists quality, the paper is Arches rough 140lb.

Pthalo Turq (this is a good rich colour which will give a good range of tonal value)                                        
Burnt Sienna                                                                                                                                               
Alizarin Crimson                                                                                                                                          
Raw Sienna
I tested the colours with a planet and decided the turquoise was a good addition to lift the colours to       create something a bit more unusual. The first painting I did was unimaginative as I stuck to the colours as I saw them so am happier with this palette.

The background was a mix of all 4 colours, added wet on dry and allowed to mingle on the paper. As I didn't want any green in this I tried not to place the blue next to the yellow. I also added a bit more detail under his chin and on his chest introducing some of the turquoise here and there. Where I wanted good darks I used the turq, aliz crimson and burnt sienna picking up almost neat paint mixed together on the brush.  There isn't really any magical formula as to where I add which colour other than I am always looking to add variety while keeping things in harmony.

Here I have started to build up the ears...... the paint has been applied with a drier brush so that I start to get the texture there rather than a smooth velvety look as on his face were his fur is much shorter.  I also work a little around his face trying to keep the edges soft where I can building up some depth of colour.

Next I added the collar, a little more detail to the eyes and a bit more building up on the face. Again there is nothing too scientific about how I move around the painting other than I make sure the paint is dry before I work in that area again.
Here I decided to add a bit more background to the left.... might decide that doesn't look right but I have now committed to it!! I worked on his muzzle with some raw sienna and soften the areas below his nose.

As his face was now wet I darkened the background above his head which brings his head more forward and when dry I worked around his face. I also removed the masking fluid at this stage so I could work more around his mouth, nose and eyes.

I didn't like the mouth so worked on it a bit more here..I built up by looking at the tone on the image and adding the darks where I see them. I also lifted colour out above his left eye and between his eyes. A bit of work on his nose here too...I had used some masking fluid on his nose but it needed blending... often a problem with masking fluid as it leaves harsh lines and needs softening.

More work now on his ears and around his face.... at this stage it is the finishing touches which need adding and  I spend a lot of time just looking and often take photos as things often become clearer when viewed on screen. I worked more on the eyes and nose and it is often only a very tiny touch of paint here and there as I am trying to improve the likeness and fine tune the shapes. I have added a touch more to the bg to the right, again not sure about this area and feel it may need something else but I think I am going to leave it for the time being.

I left it overnight and after a bit more tweaking around the mouth  think I will be calling it a day!!

Hope you have enjoyed this... please feel free to ask any questions you have about techniques I've used, or anything you feel may not be clear, am always happy to help!!