Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My first video!!

I have been toying with the idea of making videos for years now but never felt confident enough to take the plunge plus I have never know how to set the equipment up. Anyway with the purchase of an ipad, a small stand to fit said ipad I made a commitment on a fb group I belong to so that I could no longer keep procrastinating and had to "do" something.

I asked for some feedback as to subjects for me to video and I decided to concentrate to start with on materials....I get asked a lot about paper, paint and the brushes I use as I visit groups around the country and anyone who regularly reads my blog will know I am particularly passionate about people using paper which is fit for purpose so that was my first subject, the sound is a bit low, and Chester wasn't supposed to make a guest appearance no matter how cute he is...here's the link


Would love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Workshops with Beverley Wells...experiences to remember

Not sure where to start really.....

At the beginning is best I expect so it is true to say that I have wanted to do a Bev Wells workshop for a good few years now...probably as long as I have known of her existence but as the journey is close to 31/2 hours from "up North"  to those posh sunnier climes of Spalding in Lincolnshire I have never taken the plunge and booked one.

Those who read my blog regularly will know that Bev has been mentoring me for a few months now and the desire to attend a session has been growing stronger until I could no longer resist and I booked to go this last weekend. Bev kindly invited me to attend her Friday class with the "Friday Girls" and I decided to set off at an unearthly hour on the Friday morning to make sure I arrived in time... I wasn't going to miss a single second of the wisdom I knew Bev had to share.

The icing on the cake then unexpectedly came my way when Bev posted on fb that she had a couple of places come available and I had a brainwave... why not ask the lovely Polly Birchall... she of Annie Arkwright fame!! Her response was favourable and after staying overnight with us and bellies full of spag bol ( from dinner the night before) we set off at 6.00am for our adventure to Lincolnshire.

Now, we had a list of materials and instructions which was a completely different experience for us both, we needed Arches Cold pressed paper (I don't use it), home made tracedown (what!! with instructions of how to do it), stretched paper (with staples) and my trusty unstretched rough paper was relegated to the boot for the duration of the workshops!!

We also had slight concerns as to the speed of things, as we are both very fast painters so we both went armed with other images in case we needed other things to paint. How wrong we were... about everything!!

I think I had Bev rather worried before we went...fast painter, never stretches, uses rough paper, and a firm graduate of the "slap it on and see" School of Painting. However she asked me to allow her to entertain me and learn from her.....as she pointed out, I know how to paint my way and of course I do bow to her knowledge and wisdom anyway, so I would have been a fool not to do as she said.

Bev runs a regular class on Fridays where she hates being described as a teacher. However when I looked up one definition of the word teacher...the description (which fits Bev to a tee) is

"teaching is imparting knowledge or skill"

which describes what Bev does in her workshops in bucket loads. They are sessions full of discussion, debate and banter which Polly and I absolutely loved.

The other thing which made a huge impression on me is the professionalism and extent of Bev's preparation. Her workshop piece was framed ready for us all to view and she had drawings, tonal plans a laminated step by step card and her own very precious book of value plans where she has tried out different options and then on the opposite page a full tonal painting in beautiful black watercolour. 

Both the Friday class and the workshop followed a similar format (though there are some who paint alternative subjects in the classes where Bev will advise and help where needed)... in essence everyone discusses the plan for the painting, the planning part for Bev is by far the most important and she has spent the days and weeks before planning her subject, planning the composition and then creating her value plans, her sketch and finally her painting. 

Once the theory behind the plan and then the colour choices have been thoroughly dissected and analysed, Bev starts the painting and the group follow as a step by step. The Friday class was slightly different to the workshop as they could if they wanted create their own value plan (which I did before I went to the class as Bev has e-mailed through the image) whereas in the workshop we all followed Bev's plan.

Bev is very specific about her own colour choices and is exceedingly knowledgeable about colour mixing and understanding the properties of paint. My own method is much less informed (mixing my colour planets) but I do think my colour choices are a strength and so that is one area of my work I am happy to stick with, though my journey with colour continues and I am constantly learning more about which combinations work or don't work.

Though I love painting flowers which was the workshop topic, I was delighted at the subject choice for the Friday class and using my new ipad and pencil set about my own value plan. I have finally learned how to create different tones using the tools and I was really pleased with this digital painting..

 Bev had produced a line drawing for the class to use and again this is very specific as it has been drawn to proportions which create the composition within the specific size of paper. Those who read my blog may remember I did make mention of this in terms of creating my value plan on the ipad and then having to approximate in the scaling up process. I'm sure I will be able to solve this technical problem but I do see the point of creating your drawing the actual size, then doing an accurate transfer onto the paper.

My colour choices were slightly different to Bevs as I do like to inject a bit of self. Bev had liked my value plan which I used as well so although I did adopt Bev's way of painting... very wet in wet which I love anyway, I felt more that the painting was mine, not just a copy of Bev's.

Here is the painting.... not exactly as the tonal as the drawing is slightly different, but the idea is there of following the pattern of darks and lights as I had already prepared in my plan.

The workshop was actually about mark making but initially the painting process was similar to the previous day and Bev has a lovely wet in wet technique which I really must start to use a lot more for my own work. I tend to paint wet on dry for a variety of reasons but each day all who attended had wonderful results although all very different.

Once we were nearing the end of the painting the time had come to do some mark making both with watercolour paper and the end of a computer stylus, very effective and the whole process of working like that reminded me of how good it is to play and experiment....something I should do a lot more of!

I haven't shared the value plan for this as that belongs to Bev and so not appropriate for me to share. I probably won't share many of my plans in the future either.....

In this I have to say that the drawing, composition, colour choices, value plans are all Bev's and while I don't normally do this when I attend workshops there were good reason for all those things as I mentioned earlier and not much point attending to simply do your own thing. The main difference in this and other step by steps is that we were given so much information to use and take away to incorporate into our own work.....this doesn't always happen when you do a step by step but in this workshop we were given many tips and tools to apply to our own work.

As an aside, I would have thought that this workshop was definitely not for beginners and for the best part I would have said that everyone was a pretty experienced painter... with one exception, Jan with whom I have corresponded on fb. When she saw that Bev had places available she also booked to come and as a beginner with not much extra help at all, she did a fabulous painting......more testimony to the exceptional "teaching" and guidance Bev gave us throughout the day.

Bev's mantra is "Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail" and this is not only evident in her planning for her own work but also for these classes and workshops. I have never ever attended a workshop with so much attention to detail, these workshops are meticulously planned and the results of her efforts are there to see in her own paintings and the paintings we all achieved.

In conclusion I cannot recommend this workshop highly enough....Bev is honest, forthright and very generous with her praise where due, but more importantly very generous in her sharing of her wealth of knowledge and that is definitely not always the case!!!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

My New Greetings Card Range

Well have I been busy or what???

I have a demonstration at Lytham Art Society on Saturday, I am preparing for a craft fair I am doing next Wednesday, my own group starts up again on Thursday and in between I came across this lovely company who create greetings cards for artists called

"Love from the Artist"

I heard about it from Alison Board's facebook page or blog, can't remember which,  and decided to check them out.

I have needed new cards for a little while now and been putting it off as it meant I also needed to get technical.....my son has always set the artwork for my cards as he has all the relevant software like photoshop (and more importantly the relevant know how) which I don't have but it was time I became a big girl and started sorting things out for myself........

So I got a new ipad for my birthday and thought that might be the way forward and my son found a programme which he thought would be suitable (although I have to admit he did say the ipad is not really for creating cards!!) and I had a go....I was only on the first card when I had a problem which I couldn't get round...all to do with the orientation of the text on the back and in the end I nearly threw my brand new ipad through the window and just as that was happening........I stumbled upon this little gem......hmmm interesting I thought, very interesting!!

I set up an account with them before we went away and when I got home last week I got into the brains of it and loaded some cards. The site really is user friendly- something I had checked with the owners before I even signed up with them and they have DVD's with easy to follow instructions showing you just how to do things... I was still a little challenged but then I am not the most technically minded and I think in the end I have done rather well and feel immensely pleased with myself as today I received my first small sample batch of cards which have all turned out rather well.

I wanted to wait until I had got those before I placed my big order of xmas cards and others so I have spent most of today creating and uploading cards to my site where they are now all available to view and in fact purchase.

Here are some of the benefits of this site from an Artist's perpective

1. You can order as few as 10 cards all of different designs at the same cost as 1000 cards or even more. You will of course pay a higher relative cost for P&P for the smaller number but it is an ideal way to check out the quality and settings before you order a larger number and now I have set things up, whenever I add a new card I can simple add it to a larger order to check it.

2. The ability to order just a small number of cards to test the sales potential is such an advantage compared to having to do a large run of cards with a printer to get a decent price.

3. The cards come with envelopes and cellophane bags. I have historically bought these separately but here they are included in the price.

4. It is easy to set the artwork on the cards and now I have the hang of it I can do a new one in less than a minute.

5. The owners are extremely responsive and have come back to me re queries very quickly and at any time of day.

6. Cards are available for not only the artist to order in whatever quantities they want and but lso for the general public, as well as card retailers so a real win win for we artists. It means we have an online presence with a good selection of our work available as cards to a good cross section of potential buyers.

7. There are lots of ways to search to find what you are looking for, be it the type of card, the artist the medium etc....as mine are some of the latest to have been loaded they appear at the end of the searches as they must load in order of addition to the site... just something for you all to remember lol!! If you search on the artist their selection of cards is then available to view.

8. Now it is all set up I will always have access to greetings cards for my workshops/demos and odd little outlets who sell my cards and I can replace the best sellers quickly. Also whenever I want to create another card it will be easy not only to set up but I will be able to add to another run so that I can get new cards into circulation very quickly.

9.The service has been very good and I am told the order I have placed today should be with me in 3 days.

10. The quality of cards I have received today is excellent, the paper is a good weight and the surface shiny but not too shiny... very pleased with them.

11. The cost of the cards is more than I have paid at my printers in the past and they are smaller in size but I have had to order considerably more to get that price historically and therefore lay out a lot more money which takes a lot longer to recoup. This way I have ordered a lot less at a still very good price and will get my money back much quicker.

12. Very easy to edit the cards if the images or text needs tweaking.

Here are a few of the cards that came today

So I am really excited about this new little venture....and here is my site...ta da!!!


Monday, 18 September 2017

Sorrento, Amalfi, Capri with a bit of Plein Air thrown in!!

We have just returned home from a great trip to a small village called Massa Lubrense about 7km from Sorrento. We have visited Amalfi in the past, been to Umbria, Tuscany, Venice and Lake Garda and we have both come to the conclusion that we love Italy so decided to visit the area of Sorrento this year.

We arrived at our hotel to these views!

The hotel had a stunning location and this was meant to be one of the best views of Capri in the whole area which you can see here in the background and the island was on our list of places to visit. On our first morning I sat on our balcony and painted the glorious view of Capri.

The weather was beautiful on our first day which we spent lazing around by the pool.

These were a couple of sketches done with  my elegant writer... what a fantastic pen, a must have for anyone wanting to sketch!! Also done with paper I have added to my Midori Travellers notebook...as an aside, a little book I had been lusting after for quite a while which  my son and partner bought me last xmas. It comes with it's own inserts but you can add your own paper and as I prefer to sketch with proper watercolour paper it's ideal for me to use. The only drawback is it is small and I really prefer  to sketch bigger but good to use with the pens.

Even though they hadn't had rain since May.... guess what happened our second day? Yep.. thunderstorms so we decided to go to Ravello a small town which sits on a hill above Amalfi.

Now Amalfi is only 25 miles away so when the tour rep said it would take about 2 hours I scoffed and thought..."what does she know?"So we set off on a courtesy bus from the hotel to Sorrento to catch the regular coach to Amalfi which takes the scenic route along the wonderful coast of the Bay of Salerno. We have seen the coastline from a boat and stopped at Amalfi which was why we decided to go straight to the village of Ravello with a plan to maybe stop off at Positano if we had time, on our way back to Sorrento.

Nearly 2 and a half hours later we finally arrived in Amalfi...the traffic was horrendous on the journey and of course the road is so narrow there are hardly any passing points so when you have a large coach things can get very tricky!!

We managed to catch the coach to Ravello and that journey, no more than 5 miles took another 45 minutes and we arrived at just after 1.00pm and as the bus back to Amalfi was just after 2.00pm a quick coffee and lunch was just about all we managed!! And forget the idea of stopping off at Positano on the way back as in order to catch the shuttle bus back to our hotel we needed to be back in Sorrento at shortly after 5.00pm!

The following day was forecast to be good so we thought it would be a plan to catch the ferry across to Capri...good weather wasn't forecast for the rest of our stay and the previous day some of the ferries had been cancelled so we wanted to  make sure we not only got there and got back as well!!

We had read about the funicular which takes you to the town of Capri from the harbour but being hardy Northerners decided to walk!! BIG mistake....over 20 minutes of either steps or steep pathways in the heat of the day did not make me a happy bunny. Even hubby who is extremely fit was puffing by the end!

Quenched by a couple of beers at the top we set off in search of a restaurant a friend had told us about which had fantastic views and luckily enough as we made our way down the other side of the island I spotted a sign for this beautiful place...Il Geranio. For those of you who have visited Capri it is on the side of the island which faces away from the mainland.

We had the most delicious meal and this was the spectacular view from our table..... I would certainly visit this place again if we were ever to go back to Capri

Saturday was a glorious day which we spent leisurely by the pool and Sunday we spent the day in Sorrento which though we had passed through several times had not stopped at. Though it is a very large town, the centre is really quite compact, quite commercial but some lovely little shops on pedestrianised cobbled streets. We had the obligatory pizza for lunch with the odd beer and the weather was surprisingly kind and didn't  drench us completely as it had the previous bad day.

Our final day did not look good from the minute we woke up....it was cold, blustery, thundering, lightening with torrential rain in fits and starts. We decided to stay in the hotel and that is where I finally did some more painting. I had done one or two sketches previously using the elegant writer but only one painting.

The hotel had an open air lounge with a roof but open sides where we sat with jumpers on keeping warm with the odd Cappuccino and this was my painting. Even though we had a roof we were braving the elements so I am calling this one en plein air!!!

We got colder and colder and finally gave in and went in to the warmer lounge inside where all the other wussy guests were seated.

I got an ipad for my birthday in June and it was great to use for all my photos on this trip as I found it easier to carry around than my big camera and it was also very useful to use for my reference for the next painting which was an old dilapidated dwelling by the side of the road on the way to Amalfi. So I have to confess, this wasn't en plein air as even though the coach wasn't moving that fast, I couldn't manage a whole painting as we passed it either!!

 As I finished this painting one of the guests asked would I show them a bit about how I paint so as there was nothing else to do and I can't resist an audience I did a little painting lesson for 4 of them which everyone seemed to enjoy...just a pity I didn't have enough materials with me for them all to have a go.

So in true British style a post a bit obsessed by weather... in Malaysia in the same way as we in the Uk talk about the weather they talk about food and the restaurants they have visited.. after all the weather is so consistent and predictable there, there isn't much to discuss.

On a final note we were actually in Italy in June and the weather was also a bit freakish then....that time with a heatwave!! We had spent 3 days by the coast where it wasn't too hot but as we drove inland to the Chianti region of Tuscany there were temperatures pushing 40 degrees which is very unusual in June...never satisfied are we?!?!?!?