Thursday, 31 December 2015

Same Palette different Painting

I chose theses two particular images as I want to do some snow scene workshop pieces. Both photos are from PMP the first by Villager Jim and the second Steve Gibbs.

Interestingly (well I think it is) I have used the same palette for both these paintings.

Turquoise, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna (my favourite), raw sienna and a touch of SAA Quin Gold. I emphasize SAA as it is a completely different colour to W&N but gorgeous!!

If I hit on a combination I like, I tend to use it for a variety of things and can create different atmospheres by using the paint in different proportions as I have in these two.

The first I wanted to create a cool crisp feel as the image gave me that impression and the second the complete opposite. Even though it is still a snow scene the photo was really warm and inviting with a lovely glow about it.

This is the "cool" evening scene

It was looking a bit twee as one of the members of my local group pointed out and I have since darkened the bg and hopefully created a bit more atmosphere but my aim was to create some highlights of snow around the piece. It's important to keep the intent at the forefront of your mind then you can be constantly working towards your aim.

Here is the second

I'm not sure this one is finished....I added a yellow glaze to the sky but am now wondering if it needs a touch of yellow in the snow and some work needed to the hedgerow on our always I will leave overnight and have a think about it!!

But I do think it illustrates really well how you can use exactly the same palette and create two completely unique pieces just by using different dominant colours.

Isn't colour just the icing on the cake?

Monday, 28 December 2015

The Old Shoes

I rather like painting shoes and when I saw this image taken by John Robinson I knew it was one to be painted.
The photo was from an old deserted cottage and the shoes just as John found them. I like this sort of image as there isn't too much detail, and it lends itself to my way of painting...lots of uneven edges. not too precise anywhere with scope for my wayward brush to make their haphazard unexpected marks!!  The only area which really needed attention was the shoes and even there I have left lots of white spaces which always makes watercolour sparkle.

Very limited palette with this, Cadmium red and yellow and UB. This is a palette often used by the lovely Joanne Boon Thomas and not one I often use at all but the whole image shouted those colours to me and I really like the effect. Cad red and yellow are opaque colours but because of how I mix them on the paper I rarely get mud.... check some of my earlier blogs for what gives you mud!!

I did draw the shoes on this as I wanted to get them looking right, just a quick sketch and the paint does the rest of the work.....

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Adventures in the Farnworth Household and a New Guest Writer!!

Okay everyone…Chester here!! Have hijacked my human’s arty blog, she’s been a bit remiss with it recently so though I would entertain you for a bit instead!!

I am a part working, part show cocker spaniel though rumour has it there may be some Labrador/Retriever in my heritage but I am keeping quiet about that despite steadily growing larger than my humans ever thought I would… a solid 14 kilos at my last weigh in at the vets (boy do I love that place… I ran my female human absolutely ragged the last time she took me…. soooo many delicious smells…..)

Anyway they aren’t the most experienced of owners and I have been having great fun testing their good humour, their physical stamina, their emotional well-being and their sleeplessness to the limits and they have now introduced me to another human who is altogether a different kettle of fish (sounds like that would be tasty) and he has me somewhat mesmerised into submission. They call him a dog trainer but I am just in love and so happy they brought him into my life. My trainer says we puppies need boundaries and rules (but all I can do is gaze lovingly into his eyes… sigh) and my humans weren’t too good at that, letting me on their knees, the sofas the bed you name it they allowed it… all I had to do was look at either one of them with my big amber spaniel eyes and they were putty in my paws!!! 

But my new human is teaching me (and them) my place and where I sit in the Farnworth household hierarchy and assures everyone I will be much happier once I know my place as a dog!!  I haven’t been out for my daily run since he came to see me for the first time, he says I need to learn some manners and pay more attention to what my owners are saying before I can be let loose again,  I mean I’m not a bad boy but I more or less do what I want and eventually go to them when they call but they’re so slow they can’t catch me when  I am running wild with gay abandon dodging them with my rugby dummies in the fields!!

Before he came, they decided to take me to a puppy training class, what fun that was!! Full of other puppies though none of them as excited about things as I was so of course it was my job, obligation and downright duty to wind them all up as much as possible, straining to get at them all at every opportunity and generally running riot during the whole session. My humans didn’t seem too pleased about how I behaved there and decided to cut my lessons short and introduce me to one to one training where I can be the complete centre of attention even though for some reason now they seem to be ignoring me a bit and our cosy intimate sessions on their bed and the sofa have been conspicuous by their absence since he came but don’t you all worry I spy my moments and every so often, when they think I’m not looking and they accidentally leave the door open I am up those stairs before you can say pedigree chum and up on that lovely squidgy bed!!

A new device has arrived at the house, seems it’s a new lead which my trainer has suggested the humans get… it is meant to be better for me and to stop me pulling and I am such a good boy when my trainer uses it on me…. I walk I turn, I go slow and I even walk to heel when he drops the lead (he thinks I haven’t noticed but I have!!) haha,  lets see what happens when my humans take me, am not too hopeful of them managing me and I am so excited at the thought of going out again I may not be able to restrain myself!! But I am just so lovely and cute I know they won’t stay mad at me for long even  if I don’t do quite as they say!!

I must say my trainer was right, this concentrating business is fair wearing me out, it requires a lot of my puppy brain power to sit, stay, wait, leave and all the other commands demanded of me, but I secretly quite enjoy the challenge and though I still get incredibly excited whenever anyone different comes to the house I know I will make my humans happier if I can contain myself and not jump up into people’s nether regions with the potential damage I may do there!! I am finding that one difficult, but I am being so good in other respects, it has been a couple of days since I jumped on the furniture, they really don’t like that any more and I am such a good boy on my new lead, and I trot along really nicely for them……and I do seem to be getting a lot of treats, bit like a slot machine, I do good.....ker-ching.....another treat! Not rocket science and sometimes I sit, stay, lie down and leave all at once, as I am bound to have got one of them right!!

So that’s all for now, will update you all on my progress soon!! BTW am really looking forward to Christmas… rumour has it there will be 14 humans here (including 5 young ones who have lots more energy and will be lots more playful)…..and there's even another dog, he’s my cousin, another spaniel boy…….my cup runneth over !!!! 

Sunshine House Xmas Fair

It is always quite a lot of work to get ready for an event like this but I do enjoy doing them and have a great affection for this particular centre and the volunteers who work there.I run 4 week blocks and all day workshops there and am always made to feel so welcome, wanted and appreciated... no wonder I like going!!

Anyway I prepared  lots of paintings, framing one or two more and mounting quite a few....I also prepared a portfolio of older work which I put in at rock bottom prices, then I had a mid priced portfolio and finally my cradle which I had the most up to date work and some of my favourites all mounted ready for framing. I have just done a small exhibition of 6 paintings in the Horwich Art Society annual event so had already got some newer pieces framed, so I set off with a car full on Friday afternoon ready to make my mark!!

Barbara Nettleton who runs the centre works tirelessly and had mine and all the other stall holders tables set up and after a little, shall we say "friendly negotiation" we both agreed my stall needed moving to the corner with an extra backboard to complete the set up. As those who are regular readers of my blog will know, decisions are not my strong point so to get this set up in just under 3 hours was a feat of considerable determination on my part leaving the dithering at the door and marching on with uncharacteristic fortitude!!

I was really pleased with how it looked and managed to get most things on display and at least a good selection of my work and cards. The footflow was rather slow, but the other stall holders very friendly so we had no problem passing the time of day and I had quite a bit of interest not only in my paintings but also in commissions, workshops and tuition. Sometimes it isn't the sales which are of paramount importance at these events but the seeds which are sown for the future and there was a lot of interest in me running another 4 week block at Sunshine House which I shall book for March/April time.

There was a very interesting sale of a painting I did with a view to a Christmas card but  I wasn't too keen on it and never had it printed, but brought it along to sell. It was really popular and attracted a lot of interest.....a snow leopard which you can see right in the middle of the stand, I haven't even got a separate photo of it, just goes to show... what do I know!!!

I also sold a small floral I did in the Fabio Cembranelli workshop.....

It was my favourite painting of the 2 days and I was really very pleased with it so delighted it has gone to Elise a fellow local artist and tutor (check out her page....very talented lady!!)

The final sale on the first day was to Barbara at the centre who already has about 4 of my paintings and is very supportive of my work

So 3 paintings sold on the first day and a few cards so not bad at all and left me quite optimistic for the following day.

I arrived bright and early (the bacon barms were calling!!) and had new stall holders next to me who really brightened my time there and made it a very enjoyable day. The biggest shock of my day was the centre wanting to buy 2 paintings, how cool was that?  They have funds available to support local artists, and want to leave a legacy of art work for future generations, marvellous idea!! Then a lady who has been to my workshops had seen some of the work in my cradle after I had left the day before and came over to ask about prices. These two paintings had never been mounted and as I was looking through the options and trying mounts on different pieces, I realised these two looked fabulous as a pair one landscape and one portrait, so I signed them in the appropriate spot and crossed my fingers!!

They were double mounted in off white with black inset and I was so pleased with how they looked and even more delighted they sold as a pair.

So a very successful event for me, even though the centre wasn't as busy as in previous years, the hard work before hand doesn't always pay dividends but happy to say in this case it did!!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Changing my Mind and more about Working from Photos

Switzerland is a beautiful place and we are lucky enough to be able to visit fairly often and during our first visit earlier this year, we had glorious weather.  I took masses of photos always with a view to painting them. Now I'm not sure if this happens to you but only a handful seem promising when I finally get to view them on here... why is that?

Anyway I do love painting poppies and there was a huge cornfield with clumps of wild poppies growing and I did think I would have a go, even though the images didn't look all that promising.

This is a selection of photos from the field to give you a feel for the view

The last image is the one I vaguely took the composition from and as you can see there is a sea of pale brown with odd bits of green. I thought I might do the painting like that but must have subconsciously changed my mind as it progressed as I found myself adding more blues, yellows and greens to the bg and moving away from the brown shades. Whether that is because I know green and red are complimentary and I am always looking for maximum contrast or whether on viewing I felt the combination a touch boring (am inclined to believe the latter is the case!!) I'm not sure but once again illustrates we don't need to stick to the colour scheme we see....the image is there as a starting point, and in terms of colour, shape, composition, tone etc, just there as a clue, a bit of guidance but not to be followed implicitly.

The composition took on more of a square feel and evolved as I painted it. Unusually for me I worked across the piece from right to left... normally I work across the whole painting at once, trying to make sure I work on dry areas around the piece but this happened differently (no idea why!!). So the darks were added as I moved across helping to build the composition as I went along. I then decided it needed a quin gold glaze across the whole of the top... I had kept the left quite warm and yellow and realised the right side needed a touch of warmth too. This is where I don't have to be a slave to my photo, I give myself permission to do whatever I like and whatever I think will improve my painting be it the colour, the composition, the light in fact anything at all. Because all those decisions are specific to me and my perception on the day, that is why painting like this creates a unique piece of art that not even I can copy!!

Next, I plan to do a close up of one or two heads and see where that takes me. Another benefit of painting like this is that I can use the same image and produce all sorts of different paintings and trying to think of different ways to do things certainly exercises the creative brain cells!!  I am always trying to challenge my students into using their own palette... sometimes I am very mean to them and don't tell them what colours I am using and they are sometimes quite frightened of making a mistake but often find it has been liberating too and they end up quite pleased with their results as their painting has their own stamp on it.

Monday, 12 October 2015

New Directions

Inspired by seeing Ann Blockley at Patchings 2 years ago I went mad and bought a rather large selection of acrylic inks.. having seen how Ann used them I just "had" to have some... some girls need shoes......I need art materials (as well as shoes!!)

However having had all good intentions in the world I have barely used them until now... but..... having seen Ann again at Patchings again this year, bought her book and seen snippets of the DVD I decided it might be a new direction for me especially for landscapes. I have been working on buildings and features inn the landscape recently and much happier with those but straight landscapes are still testing me!! I took quite a lot of photos on our trip to Basel during the Summer and have quite a few in my "pending file" and this was such a pretty scene I decided to have a go

I'm not sure I would have attempted this with pure watercolour but felt it was something I could use the acrylic inks with mixed with watercolour. I am quite pleased with this first attempt though I'm not sure it is finished as I feel it needs some more variety of line in it but I am going to sit on it and maybe get some feedback... would be interested to hear what any of you think.....

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Charcoal Workshop

I go to a lovely group near St Helens called Paint Pots (great name for a group!!) and they invited me recently to do a charcoal workshop. They really want to do a charcoal portrait class but thought the group could be introduced to the medium with a landscape lesson first.

I told Doris, the organiser, that I had never run a charcoal class before but that I would love to run one for them as I do enjoy charcoal and in the very early days of my art journey was the medium I had most success with as it suits my sketchy way of drawing. I do know Joanne does a lot of charcoal sketching en plein air as preparation for watercolour and Brusho paintings and then works from the sketch rather than the photo for her paintings and I need to take a leaf out of her book for the future.

So I went armed with a variety of papers, my blending tools (got lots of them but in the main use my fingers), putty rubber and some images for us to attempt and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the session.

The first drawing was of an image taken by my brother in law John Robinson and is a fantastic atmospheric image of a sunset at Glen Coe and the second from one of my own photos of the Pigeon Tower Rivington. I have painted both images but never drawn them so a challenge for us all!!

This was done on a thickish smooth cartridge paper and not one I generally use but wanted to show the group the differences made by different papers. Blending isn't as easy as the charcoal tends to make quite permanent unmovable marks. I showed them all the blending tools but as ever came back to my fingers!!

This isn't finished as we didn't quite have time to complete both in the session but you can see lots more texture which I like and done on Bockingford extra rough. For what it's worth a NOT watercolour paper (rough in Bockingford) would probably be best though I do use the extra rough for portraits, unless I am drawing a very smooth haired animal in which case I would probably use graphite rather than charcoal anyway.

As usual I forgot to take photos, but the group did so well (you'll have to take my word for that!!) and I have to say they were all really pleased with their efforts as I had been all those years ago when I first tried charcoal. It is a very forgiving medium and I would advise anyone to have a go. A charcoal sketch is a great tool for a later painting, but a lovely medium to use just for its own sake. Would love to hear and see the results if any of you decide to try it.....

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Sharing my Disasters?

Well maybe disaster might be too strong a word but from the minute I posted this painting on fb I could see it was wrong and it was really annoying me. I hadn't taken a word of my own advice and stupidly had drawn what I thought I saw and not what I actually saw and though it didn't look too bad on the painting as soon as I posted it and could see it properly on the computer the mistake shouted at me.

Maybe I shouldn't post this sort of thing... doesn't do my street cred much good I know, but I am working on the premise that we all make mistakes and have our disasters no matter what stage we're at, working or hobby artists and I know during the early stages of my own journey it was music to my ears to hear someone I perceived as a "good" artist still had off days and their fair share of disasters. At that stage maybe one out of ten paintings turned out for me and even then the ones which turned out weren't that good. Happily the percentage of successes is much higher now but I wanted to share this as a lesson to us all.

So a bit of background. I have done a series of paintings from photos I have taken of "The Street" in Rivington. I worked with the same three colours, Turquoise, Burnt Sienna and purple so unusual combination but I am able to get a rich variety of colours using just those three and produce quite a colourful piece at the same time. None of these paintings represent the true colours from the reference photos, however as long as I keep the tonal value correct the palette is secondary and all I need to do is to make sure the chosen colours look attractive when mixed together.  This was the first piece and one I was very pleased with (and is now with a new owner!!)

The second was one I had painted before keeping the colours fairly closely to the reference and I really didn't like it so this was using the new palette and I much preferred it.

This is the painting I messed up on...

I have no idea why I didn't see this as I was painting.. just shows you can be too close to something and also shows you really need to step back. The other thing it shows is that no matter how good the actual painting bit is, if the drawing stinks the painting doesn't work!! So no prizes for guessing the problem with this one, yes, the perspective on the gates, and here is the new version I did yesterday which I am happier with

Would love to hear what you all think about this. Is it good to share the disasters too, to admit that not everything works or should I keep them to myself?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

New all Day Workshop at Sunshine House, Scholes, Wigan

Taking place on Saturday the 3rd October it will have a Christmassy feel so that any of you who may want to start producing your own cards or even paint each one individually this is the workshop for you. And even if you don't want to do that you will still learn lots of tips and hints to help you in your every day painting!!

Here are a few of the cards I've done in the past....

For anyone wondering what the format is for my one day sessions, here is is quick overview of how this one will run......

I always start by giving a quick talk with examples about how I paint, mixing the paint on the paper or my brush and how that impacts on my work and usually people have a quick go at mixing their colour on the paper and trying all sorts of different combinations.

Next we will look at washes and how to do backgrounds like these, using the water and paint to create a vibrant, lively effect which is an important part of these paintings and often looks a lot easier than it is.

We will be using masking fluid too so a few tips and hints about how best to use it.

After lunch we will do a full painting, I always bring a variety of images for people to chose from and I demonstrate one which people can then interpret with the images they choose so that everyone will have a different painting to mine. A bit of a bug bear with me, rather than trying to simply copy my work, I love it when people use what they learn to incorporate into their own work so I often suggest students use completely different colours to mine and then they at least inject a bit of their own creativity into the session.

Cost is £20 a head, 10.00-3.00, e-mail me on if you are interested or please pass to anyone else you know who may want to have a go. The last few workshops have been booked pretty quickly so if you are interested please get in touch sooner rather than later!!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Taylor's Bar Mitzvah

We met David and Lisa on holiday 11 years ago and unlike many holiday friendships, this one has flourished over the years (despite the fact we are considerably older......we love having younger friends and thankfully they don't seem to mind having older ones!!). We met the following year when Lisa invited us to the Bar Mitzvah celebrations of her son to take place 10 years later!! They certainly like to have things organised!! As we are Christian we have never had the opportunity to attend a Bar Mitzvah so you can imagine our excitement at the prospect of attending such an event.

2 years ago we received a more formal invitation when the date was booked and we have been looking forward to it ever since.

We had to be at a Synagogue in Essex at around 9.15 on Saturday morning so travelled down the day before, dropping puppy Chester off with my sister in law on the way. I got a posh frock out and hat (for those who are unaware, the Jewish religion states woman must have their heads covered at Synagogue) and hubby collected a Kippah (a Jewish skull cap) which the Jewish men wear during prayer, study and eating (it is a custom rather than a commandment but a respectful gesture). 

The men and woman sit separately at the Synagogue and the men also wear capes over their shoulders. Whether this particular synagogue was more relaxed than normal I'm not sure but the whole service though steeped in Hebrew singing from the Rabbi, male congregation and Bar Mitzvah boy there was also a relaxed atmosphere where people could come and go. I find the Jewish religion very interesting as it crosses and combines the boundaries of religion and ethnicity and by definition to be Jewish by birth, one has to born of Jewish mother (not father) though conversion is also possible and recognised. 

A Bar Mitzvah is a huge event in the Jewish faith and signals a boy's transition to manhood whereupon he becomes respnsible for his own actions and his father is no longer punishable for his son's misdemeanours. He is also able to participate in Jewish prayers, can read from the Torah and can contribute to a Minyan which is a sort of religious quorum and requires 10 members of the community. 

More recently in Jewish history, girls can also have their own ceremony a Bat Mitzvah which happens at the age of 12 and though does not involve quite the same religious content is nevertheless perceived in a similar way to the boys ceremony. Interestingly at this particular ceremony, Grandfather of the Bar Mitzvah boy celebrated a second Bar Mitzvah... only possible at the age of 83, 70 years after the first. 

Having done a bit of reading around the subject I have also learned there is such a thing called a "Bark Mitzvah!!" Yes you heard it here... a doggy ceremony to celebrate the dog's coming of age either at 13 months or 13 years and many of these ceremonies have taken pace in the States!! 

We stayed for two nights at the beautiful Sopwell House nr St Albans and on the Sunday had a lovely walk around the lake packed with birdlife and then on to the Cathedral. The huge Gala dinner took place at 5.00pm and started with a Pimms/Champagne reception with a Sushi Bar and the most delicious canapes I have ever tasted!! 

The Bar Mitzvah celebrations began with some traditional Jewish dancing followed by the first of quite a few speeches during the evening. The band were brilliant and helped create a superb atmosphere. The highlight was a ventriloquist who had special dummies of Taylor and his sister. Mum and Dad had sent photos of them both to a puppet maker in Poland who had made caricature dummies of them..... amazing!! They had also recorded the children interacting during the previous 6 months which the ventriloquist incorporated into his act... very very funny!! This had to be the Bar Mitzvah to end all Bar Mitzvahs (not that we are experts, but we were told by many guests that it was the best that any of them had ever attended). 

As I mentioned Taylor's Grandfather also took part in the ceremony and though it wasn't his actual birthday (the Bar mitzvah celebrates the boy's thirteeth birthday), I wanted to recognise the event for him too and decided to paint a portrait of his two children, David and his sister. The family had already commissioned me to paint a portrait of their parents earlier this year to mark their Diamond Wedding celebration so I thought it might be appropriate to complete their family collection. Here are both portraits

We truly had a wonderful time and feel honoured and privileged to have been asked to such a special event. The weekend will stay in our hearts as one of the most memorable times in our lives and our thanks go to David and Lisa for inviting us and for their warmth, love and generosity shown to us during the weekend.

Saturday, 15 August 2015


What an adorable little dog. Owned by my son and partner's landlady he is a long haired dachshund and has the most expressive face which I really wanted to try and paint. And they felt it would be a good way to say thank you for all the help Sylvia and Theo have given them.

I took some photos while we were there in June and this was taken while he was hiding under the table, so I realised when we saw him last week, that the photo was a touch greyer than him but they seemed nevertheless very pleased with the final result.

And this is the painting

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Please Help find Archie

I write this blog with a very heavy heart. What should have been a happy post has sadly turned into a living nightmare but I am posting in the hope that it will be further publicity for our plight.

You may or may not know that my son, partner and granddog Archie moved to Basel in Switzerland in the Spring an we were fortunate enough to visit in June where I celebrated my birthday and we made the acquaintance of their landlord, landlady and lovely dog Carlo, a long haired dachshund.

I took photos of Carlo with a view to painting him as a gift for my son to give their landlords as a small thank you for how good, helpful and welcoming they have been. Their properties are all within a courtyard and they have involved Mark and Steph in many social gatherings and have helped them integrate into life in Switzerland. I will post the painting of Carlo another time but for now there is another reason for this post

Mark and Steph came home last weekend for two weddings. We attended the first on Saturday which was a beautiful occasion in the Trough of Bowland and they were due to travel South for the second wedding on Thursday when they received a phone call on Monday to say Archie had gone missing from the doggy minders (friends of Mark and Steph's) in Basel last Friday evening (31st July), one minute he was on the sofa, the next minute he was gone and having contacted all the relevant people (agencies, police, vets etc etc) and produced posters and advertised on the internet they phoned to let my son and partner know. Obviously we were all distraught and the only plan was for them to catch the first flight back to Switzerland yesterday and continue with the search.

This is Archie

As you can imagine we are all worried sick as he has now been missing for 4 days and though we know he can survive without food for that long and we know he will have access to water as there are many rivers and streams around the area he will be very frightened and will be frantically trying to find them. We are hoping and praying he is still alive and will eventually be found and reunited with them.

Obviously we cannot rule out the possibility that someone has stolen him and I am posting this blog in the hope that everyone who reads may somehow share with anyone and everyone in the hope that someone has seen him and will call Mark or Steph on +41(0)762973605 or +41(0)795014583.  

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Preparing for the "All About Art Event" on the 25th July

Have started doing my prep over the last few days for the above brief is to run 3 x 45 minute Brusho workshops each for 30 people and the SAA usually like their workshop participants to leave with a completed painting.... have warned them that may not be the case with yours truly!!

There are so many tips and  hints to share with Brusho and the main thing is to get people to have a go with it, see what a fantastic medium it is and share a few way of using it. Having said that I have been working on a few fast and easy to complete pieces though not sure yet if they will be achievable in the timescale, still a few more days to work on things yet's quick enough to get the initial impact of the first layers, it's the building up to a finished piece which takes the time.

Here are a few of the things I've been working on

I've had to choose the colours we will be working with which is why there isn't much variety of colour with these and I will have to decide what I'm going to do and as you will all know by now decisions aren't my strong point!! Anyway will be spending a bit more time on this before I decide and it may not be any of the above I will be doing!!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Fabio Cembranelli Workshop

I booked this with my arty friend Gill Fox over 12 months ago and had been eagerly awaiting the event, 2 days of painting with a master.. bliss!!

We set off bright and early as there was no way we were missing a single minute of this!!

The venue was Sandpipers Studio on the Wirral, a lovely venue, looks like a purpose built studio set on a farm and absolutely perfect. Julie who hosts courses throughout the year was very warm and welcoming and I have to say the lunch she provided was fabulous!!

Fabio was charming and friendly and his wife Flavia a lawyer in Brazil was his assistant religiously supplying him with clean water at every opportunity. We started at 10.00am with a full floral painting demonstrated by Fabio where we were asked not to take photos or ask any questions as there would be time for him to answer any queries etc after, when he would demonstrate a smaller study and talk us through. His English isn't brilliant but certainly good enough to get his message across enough for us all to fully understand what he was talking about.

It really was mesmerising to see him work on a painting, he moves around the piece very quickly completing a half imperial size in about an hour... his colour choices seem haphazard (I know they aren't) but he seems to flit from one colour to another and that is where in all honesty I have to say I would like to have heard more about his thought processes.....he paints very quickly and I understand he may not necessarily be able to verbalise his thoughts as he is so fast and moves around the piece so rapidly but as a student I would have found that helpful. Possibly the language is a problem but I doubt he talks through his paintings even in his mother tongue.

After the first painting of a still life he had set up with roses, daisies etc, he then did a smaller piece of a single rose and talked us through more of what he was doing and was very willing to answer any questions we had both from the first piece and as he was painting the second. There we gained a little more insight as to his methods. We then chose flowers of our own to have a go at and before lunch Fabio did a critique in front of the class of each person's painting with ideas of possibly what we had done wrong and where to go next. He keeps the white of the paper and is constantly lifting paint from the paper.

So this was our first example and don't ask me why but I don't have a photo of the second study of a rose... anyway here are my efforts

He uses a lot of straight strokes with his flat brush (and his rigger) but places them very carefully to support the composition and am not sure I grasped that. Kept doing too many and not washing enough away. I also didn't save enough white of the paper on all these, the roses I think are better then the other two.

This was his second painting in the afternoon where he demonstrated a full wet in wet technique lifting all the whites. He works all around the painting creating detail, then more detail then stands back adds a bit more then suddenly signs the piece....I kept trying to guess the moment when he would as I had no idea when he had finished!!

This was my piece in the afternoon which I think I was most pleased with...

At the end of the first day he chose a few paintings to work on.. I have never seen this done before. He used the students palette and started scrubbing away removing colour, restoring whites, adding darks, adding his characteristic lines, softening edges and altering the compositions adding more flowers, buds stems where he felt necessary to improve things... again he didn't say much while he was doing this but he certainly improved every one!! 

The second day Fabio worked on sunflowers

This ended up quite a complicated composition and took a little while longer than the first demo of the day before. Once again he had a still life set up in front of him but it is clear he understands flowers and their forms so well and "knows" just how to paint them, to create the best effect. So he uses the display only as a clue to create his overall composition and for the odd reference. He does a basic sketch and vaguely sticks to it but even though every painting of his will be unique, it is clear that he has a lot of basic shapes he calls on for his compositions and as the piece progresses he knows where to extend or draw the composition in. As I have mentioned in my blogs time and time again, the more skilled the artist the better able they are to add those all so important finishing touches, and he is no exception which is why it was fascinating to watch him work on the students' paintings.

As I had only done studies the previous day I decided to do a full painting so I selected some flowers from the large selection we had at the studio and set off!!

This was my first piece and though it was a bit busy I don't mind it though it is unfinished and needs more attention around the focal point and possibly a bit more definition around the foxglove and definitely some more darks.

I wanted to do a different composition to the landscape orientation he had used as I always try and challenge myself to put into practice what the tutor is doing without following to the letter.

In the afternoon, Fabio showed us how he might work from a photo and this was both my least favorite demonstration and least favorite of my own efforts. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of his piece which yet again was superb and mine bore little or no resemblance.  My first washes went really well and I was loving what I was seeing then I lost the plot as I tried to build the composition up. This was the piece Fabio worked on for me and though it looked better it didn't really rescue it!! I think what I learned from this is that I am not good yet at painting flowers with lots of small detail, am not sure what these flowers were but lots of little flower heads on their stems and then it is difficult to paint without losing your place and of course knowing how much to add and where to add.

I had too many hard edges and he washed quite a lot of it away, redefining the flower heads and adding depth to the composition but as you can see it is a bit muddy top left where he has tried to wash away and as I had used Arches for this piece the lifting wasn't too easy. He works so quickly and I really would have  loved to know what his thought process was and why he was doing what he was doing.

Not that I am trying to compare myself in any way with him ( my painting simply isn't in his league..... yet lol) but talking as I was painting was a skill I worked really hard to develop. I had always been very silent when I painted and recognised that I would need to speak a little as I was teaching so I spent hours practicing speaking out loud and trying to explain what I was doing and why. I am always concerned that people get an understanding of how watercolour works and admit that I may not produce my best work at a workshop or demonstration because I am distracted from the actual painting but I would like to think people go home with a much better understanding of firstly how I work and secondly how watercolour works.

There may come a point when it is more important for me to produce a good painting rather than describe the process (sincerely hope not) if as an artist I have a reputation to maintain, and producing an under par painting would be damaging, but I like to think that wouldn't be as important to me as making sure everyone got as much out of my workshops as possible and Fabio constantly reassured us that he would answer any questions at all once he had finished painting which he did. The problem with leaving it until he finished, was that questions I might have asked as he was going along were of the moment and no longer relevant and difficult to refer back to once he had finished the piece. A workshop like this wouldn't be for beginners in fact is probably for more advanced painters so obviously the basics don't need going over but the subtleties of how he uses colour throughout the painting, how he builds up the composition and how he adds the finishing touches would have been absolutely amazing to hear.

Having said all that I would attend another of his sessions and hope he might do a building or was a lovely experience as I always enjoy seeing artists paint especially ones as skilled as him!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Our First Visit to Basel

As some of you may know, my son and family move to Switzerland in April for a new job and we had a wonderful time visiting them in the middle of June.

Their new home is superb and they are settling well into their new lives helped considerably by the fabulous weather. For some reason I hadn't realised Switzerland was as far South as it is so neither had I realised the weather would be so fantastic.

We arrived late Thursday evening having had a delay with our flight and were greeted by our son, his partner and little puppy who recognised us both immediately and was so excited on the journey home much to the consternation of a rather grumpy taxi driver!

We had a tour of their new home, a wonderful house with parts of it dating back to the 14th century but very sympathetically modernised and perfect for all their needs. Set in the small town of Riehen it is a short tram ride from the centre of Basel where my son now works but very rural, surrounded by such pretty countryside and very close to the German border.

We woke early on Friday morning and after my son had disappeared to work we took a lovely walk in brilliant sunshine and already very warm.

Beautiful wild poppies in the fields by their home

Wild life ponds full of lilies and frogs... hoping there may be some material here to paint!!

The Swiss way of life is very different from here and what is really noticeable is how incredibly clean everywhere is... people respect their environment and their neighbours, there is no litter, few places are open on Sundays and people can be fined for making noise either late in the evening or on Sundays. It is considered a privilege to live there and of course the tax system holds a lot of appeal!!

We went into Basel on Friday evening and had a delicious Indian meal with pre dinner drinks at the Trois Rois hotel, a lovely place on the river. The following day we had tour of the city, saw where my son works and made our way back to their home for beer o'clock and Gin and Tonic in the sunshine after which they made us a delicious meal of Beef Wellington. Both my son and his partner Steph are fabulous cooks so a treat to share their food!!

 The Rhein flows through Switzerland from Germany then into France.

Basel Munster in the centre of the city. We hadn't realised when we booked this visit that it may have been better to go a week later as the city has a huge art event, "Art Basel" which apparently is one of the biggest art events in the world and anyone who is anyone in the art world is there together with many celebs!!

We walked by the river on Sunday morning and then visited the city once more to attend an expat event which they thought may be useful. They have only been there about 3 months so they want to network as much as they can.

Archie enjoying a dip in the stream... one wet puppy!!

Basel is a very interesting city partly because of it's location, as it sits on the border of France (there is a French exit from the airport) and Germany and the language they speak is Swiss German which though based on German is splattered with French and even Italian (which Switzerland borders to the South) so although they are learning German, and the locals will be able to understand them, they can't understand much Swiss German!! The language of Business is English so they are both ok at work but will need to gain more language skills if they are to interact with the locals.

Switzerland is very expensive so the citizens tend to shop in Germany, where everything is so much cheaper but where they are bound by import regulations as Switzerland isn't in the EU. They have Aldi and Lidl supermarkets together with their own hypermarkets but can only bring in for example a kilo of meat each per visit and the border control sit in their town stopping passing motorists to check their shopping for excess duty. A lot of people don't have cars as the public transport system is so superior and convenient so apart from the shopping being heavy at times at the moment they don't need their own transport.

We returned to the Uk on Monday afternoon both sad and delighted at the same time.. sad that it will be a  little while before we see them but delighted to see them happy and settled...