Friday, 30 May 2014

Plein Air in Rhodes

I came back from a weeks holiday in Rhodes last week, lovely hotel ( the Atrium Prestige), food and beds but rather isolated location.....a bit like an oasis with nowhere to go and very little to do outside the hotel grounds which might seem ideal for someone wanting to do some plein air but actually nothing much to paint either!! Now I do think someone with a little more "en plein air " experience might have been inspired and found more to paint but it wasn't happening for me as I was a bit stumped for subjects apart from the plant life round the pool and an odd rock or two!!

So I read 4 books, we ate, drank and slept, we lazed in the sun and managed one walk along the top of the beach (am using the term very loosely here as it was more of a dirt track which actually led nowhere) and in between times I managed a few painting sessions.

I had taken my newly acquired sketch books... I am so delighted with these I can barely contain my excitement and I had backed 2 with mount card to take away with me... I show them to everyone at my workshops, they are so easy and economical and solve all my sketch book problems!!

For my kit I just took a couple of brushes and some tube paints which I could use as I needed them... note to self, took the wrong colours as I wanted to stay minimal (doesn't work for me in any capacity, be it food, clothes etc) and I got bored of the colours I had and should have thought more carefully about which ones to take, ie cool and warm options of the 3 primaries whereas I took some tubes I've had for a while and really wanted to get rid of....not even my usual make either. So have learned from that, and for when I go to Anglesey in July, will make sure I choose my colours better.

Here is a selection of what I did

Flowers all over the place, little pink heads, dark green spiky foliage
 One of the many palm trees scattered around

 More palm trees!!
 And more!! Quite like this one, nice loose feel....
 Scattered amongst the pink flowers, pretty heads on rigid green stalks
 The proverbial parasol... used them quite a bit as the weather was glorious and quite warm for the time of year
A view of the type of accommodation, very nice, balcony, sea view, have I mentioned the very comfy beds and squishy feather pillows? Sofa, easy chair, desk, dressing table and jacuzzi bath with double sink, no complaints there then. Our main problem was that we had forgotten driving licences and a car it seemed was essential at this resort... taxis were extremely expensive and buses very infrequent only running to the nearest resort of Lindos (45 minutes away) once a day.... so we put our feet up and and accepted our destiny!!!

So still haven't really had a proper go at plein air but will keep trying!!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


I have just spent a lovely week in Rhodes, lovely hotel, weather, food, beds and pillows (they get so important as you get older) so this post is a little late. I was featured in a blog by Carmen. is her very entertaining blog, one I always take time out to read and she has asked me would I agree to be featured in her blog as one of the three artists she was choosing who had inspired her. This felt different to the "blog awards" I have been involved in previously and feeling very honoured to have been in her chosen 3, I was delighted to say yes.

First there are some questions we are invited to answer

  • What am I working on?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Now that's a tricky one.... I seem to be working on a variety of things which are for different areas of my arty life. First I am working on improving my plein air painting. It is something I have played with for a few years but have never quite mastered. Although it isn't an absolute requirement I would like it as another string to my bow for when I may run painting holidays. The next thing I am working on is an all day workshop which I am running at the Boonric Gallery in August. The workshop is about Loosening Up and I am working on a few pieces which I feel will help the class understand some of the ways we have of keeping our work fresh, unexpected and exciting without telling the whole story. And finally I am always working on perfecting some area of my work and have just started working very wet in wet. I love the effects and have written a couple of blogs about my progress.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  • How does my work differ from others of its genre?                                                                                                                                                                                                                Phew this is a tricky one too!!! Mainly because I'm not really sure what my genre is? If I am in the category of loose watercolourists (where I would like to be) then I guess my work differs by the very nature of my brush strokes and possibly the colour palettes to which I am drawn. I was compared not long ago to Jean Haines and though I more than admire her work... our brush stroke, like our handwriting is unique and my brush stroke is quite different from Jean's who has a very delicate touch with her brush, having been taught by a Chinese mentor. My work though tonal depends very much on brushstroke especially with my animals and while I work on being more subtle there is a raw naivety to it which I'm not sure whether I need to encourage or rein in!! 

  • Why do I create what I do?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             This is a little less tricky... as most of us who are driven to create it is not so much a choice but a need? I am always thinking about painting and most of what I do is about me learning, improving and enjoying the process and that is actually what drives me... not sales, not teaching, not seeking approval just a simple need to have the brush in my hand and be painting. Obviously if I have a commission or a workshop to prepare for I will be driven to paint but it is watching the paint and water mixing and doing it's magic that is the start for me and everything else follows. I am always looking to create something unique and attractive at least to me and even if it is only a small part of the painting it will be something I can take to something else.  If what I do then leads on to a painting worth framing and even selling then all the better but if I never sold another painting it wouldn't stop me painting and I guess that is the point.. it is the painting first, anything else after...... 

  • How does your creating process work?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An interesting one!! I find I am drawn to certain subjects or images but have yet to learn why!!! Sometimes I will just see what colours I can use, what edges I can keep or lose (this also become more evident as the painting progresses), where I need to keep the darkest tones and lights..... these are brilliant paintings where they just seem to work and my brush seems to know where it needs to go and it happens mostly with animals.  Other times it all needs working out and I will need several attempts at something to get what I am looking for. I am also learning that often I can leave something overnight and it will be clear the following day what is needed... that little extra touch here or there which will finish the piece.  All these things however have become much easier now I have the skills and "feel" for the medium.  From a practical perspective especially with watercolour, I believe the skills and techniques need to be learned and grasped and then the creating process is much easier.... once we have mastered the paint and water we are in a much better position to concentrate on other elements of creation. Finally, the more creative we are, the more creative we become!! 
Now for my inspiration.......

I had been painting for a good few years (about 10) and had made little or no progress when I went on a painting holiday to Umbria, led by a tutor named Robert Newcombe. Until that point although I had attended years of local adult education art classes, I had never seen anyone demonstrate, quite a crucial issue when I am a visual learner!!! I loved the holiday and though the standard of my work was poor at best, Robert was very encouraging and voted me the most improved on the holiday!! Here is his  website

Once I had started to get somewhere I was introduced to Jean Haines and like many of you fell in love with her work. On a whim I travelled to the Mall galleries where I heard she was demonstrating... it was a memorable visit in more ways than one as my introduction to her involved me knocking her easel over and having her running around looking for a man while I held the collapsing easel up in front of an audience of dozens of people... quite unintentionally she wasn't going to forget me in a hurry!! I then attended one of her workshops which in hindsight was a touch too advanced for me but she taught me such a lot in that session and, what a lot of you won't realise, gave me encouragement and help behind the scenes. She taught me that a lot of my work wasn't finished, she pushed me on, she challenged me and made me think hard about what more I should do and how a piece needed working on. Jean continues to inspire me and has offered lots of advice, to get offline ( I was very involved in running an online painting group), start mixing with real life artists, join a local art group, and go to see other artists either by seeing them demonstrate or attend their workshops. I have a lot to be grateful to her for and I know I am not the only one who she encourages either.... no mean feat when you know how busy she is!!

This is where my third inspiration comes from... the lovely Joanne Boon Thomas. I saw a couple of years ago that she was running her first ever series of Brusho workshops which I was lucky enough to attend. Joanne has a very easy  style, she is very generous in her teaching and wants to "spread the love" of watercolour to whoever wants to listen. She is very encouraging and is herself a superb artist. She has that uncanny knack of adding those superb finishing touches... maybe only a slight mark, but she just stands back, takes a view and then adds an odd stroke here and there and hey presto... a transformation!! But Joanne like Jean has been much more to me than just a painting teacher she has helped me in all sorts of other ways not least of which is giving me the opportunity to run workshops at her gallery and has also recommended me to numerous groups in our area who have been looking for tutors. She has been such a good friend when I have needed someone to chat to about arty things (and others too) and I am very lucky to know her!!

So there you have the 3 people who have inspired me the most.  I am so grateful for the part they have all played and feel privileged to have them in my life.

If you have stayed the course with this epic.... never fear I will be adding another blog soon with a few of my plein air efforts from my holiday and a few other bits and pieces which have been going on over the last few days!!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

En Plein Air Trail

My lovely Dad has taken our family away for the last 4 years and this year we booked a lovely cottage in Anglesey for the bank holiday weekend. We had a bit of a disastrous start as we found we needed two new tyres as we were leaving on Friday morning. They had to be specially ordered and delayed us setting off and as they were being fitted I decided to take our little Grandpup, Archie for a walk. It was a lovely morning and there were a few fields close by where he had a wonderful time running and jumping  but as we returned, he started coughing and seemed to be having breathing difficulties, either like hayfever or an asthma attack.... obviously we were concerned and I felt as we were taking him with us we needed to get him checked out so instead of setting off to North Wales we ended up at the vets!! Thankfully they saw us very quickly and the vet suggested he had something maybe like a grass seed stuck in the back of his throat which was causing an irritation... we finally got on our way a couple of hours later than planned with some doggy anti inflammatories and painkillers. The weather had deteriorated by then so the picnic we had planned at Colwyn Bay with our smoked salmon quiche made by my own fair hands the night before had to be eaten in the car.

Still buoyed by the weekend ahead we made our way across the Brittania Bridge, onto the Island and on to the lovely cottage in Dulas Bay. My sons and partners were due to arrive later that evening so once we had dropped off our luggage we had a little recce round, hubby and Dad looking for suitable hostelries and me for painting opportunities. We returned for supper and to the rest of the family arriving at about 10.00.

The following morning I woke early and was greeted as I went downstairs by my father, dressed, holding his arm and saying he thought he had broken his wrist!! Apparently he had fallen as he went to bed trying to find the light in his room and hadn't wanted to disturb us until morning. So by 7.15 we were back on the road, back over the bridge and off to Bangor Hospital! I had stopped him having anything to eat or drink in case he needed any surgery or had to be anaesthetised to have it manipulated but thank goodness it was a compress fracture and didn't need any intervention. We were back in our accommodation with a half plaster by about 10.00 having breakfast and wondering how he was going to manage every day living!!

So.... an eventful start to the short break to say the least!! We went for a walk on one of the many beaches in Anglesey but to tell the truth it was pretty chilly and, back to the point of this blog, I only really had one opportunity to we returned from our day out I sat at the front of the cottage with a gin and tonic and painted my worst two nightmares..a plein air landscape!! This was the view.....

cropped to represent what I had in mind to paint. I had taken one of my home made sketch books and this was across the first two pages

Looks like I could add a bit more foliage in the foreground and far too much water showing, but I suppose if I hadn't shown the view none of you would be any the wiser!! I have to admit I am not too displeased with this as a sketch, and though it isn't what I would have chosen to paint, I think I would have preferred to have a building around somewhere, it really was Hobson's choice!!
We visited Beaumaris and then took a road trip around the top of the Island which, being Sunday was closed and a bit bleak and unfortunately the weather was rather dull, the best part of the day being late afternoon when we went for a walk. We got pretty lost,  nearly got caught on the rocks by the tide and ended up sneaking through some private estate and what was meant to be a short walk turned into a 2 hour trek!! Little puppy was absolutely shattered!!

We left Monday morning and back to Bangor Hospital for completion of the plaster and I have to say we had super attention from all the staff there!! As for my Dad... well, he's managing ok... it would of course have to be his right hand.... he is resourceful and finding ways of adapting but at 88 it isn't easy!!
I have been very busy with workshops this week too, 3 in the last 3 days and a fourth all day session about 2 hours away on Saturday. We go to the fracture clinic at our local hospital tomorrow then am hoping to get a bit of practice done in the afternoon in preparation for Saturday...finally out for dinner at a friend's house Saturday evening... and that's been my week!! Phew.... and still only one plein air painting!!

I'm returning to Anglesey in the summer for a 3 day painting break with Joanne Boon Thomas and some of her friends where I will be able to get a bit more painting done, will be able to watch Joanne at work... her plein air painting is fabulous and where I hope I will be able to progress a bit more!!