Girl With a Black Hat

I’m calling this one done! It has been my labor of love, off and on, for much of the last month and now it has reached the stage that they all do where I am fiddling about with this and that and nothing is being gained by it – so – time of being done 11.59…am, October 14th 2017, brushes down, clean the palette, take it down off the easel, go for lunch! Feels good! I probably won’t look at it now for a couple of days and then I will look at it with fresh eyes and start to nit-pick again! Or else, once in a while that just serves to confirm that yes, I am done and there is nothing more to do to it 🙂

This one was actually supposed to be an experiment – my first attempt at a green tonal under painting. The technical term for this is a “verdaccio”. It’s not even on a real canvas, just a piece of canva paper.

Other technical details: The whole thing was painted on a mid-tone of Raw Umber. The palette was one that I am still favoring, that of Anders Zorn (Cad Red Medium, Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black and Titanium White….amazing how many skin tones you can get from various combinations of these colours!) Many thanks to Will Kemp (Will Kemp Art School) for teaching me that limiting your palette will go a long way to simplifying the process of mixing skin tones! I did add in a touch of Raw Umber for the hair. The tonal underpainting was in a nice, green called Terra Verde, straight out of the tube and mixed with Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid.

I have wanted to paint someone in a hat like this ever since I was blown away by a very awesome pastel rendition of a young girl in a hat – so when the opportunity and an appropriate reference photo presented themselves (think – warm, sunny, winter walk and rather reluctant, “teenage model”, in an unusually sunny and compliant mood, also!) –  Well:I got my wish! The only slight niggle with this particular photograph is that the sunlit skin was a bit washed out and I had to invent more colour and gradient for it….but… I think it works!

Hope you like it! 🙂


My Little~”Book of Faces”.

Today I am going to show you guys something a little different from my usual subject matter – Fan Art! Something that I have not thought about for a couple of years, but just popped back into my mind in a conversation I had recently with fellow blogger, Jon Amdall – Thanks Jon!  I have a small, 5″ x 7″ spiral bound sketch book that I originally got with the intention that I was going to draw 100 faces in it.

Back somewhere in my early days of doing faces I came across some advice, somewhere on the internet on how to improve your technical skills in this difficult and exacting subject area. It basically informed me that the best way to do this was just simply to draw lots and lots of faces.

So, I started out with my little sketch book….and….after about 2 pages of random faces, I just started to feel that it was…too boring! How could I really be sure that I was getting a good likeness? Unless I actually knew them, random people just weren’t going to cut it! It was just too hard to notice if the eyebrows were curved; just so, or the tip of the nose; just right, or the set of the mouth; in character.  So, instead, I started searching around on the internet for pictures of celebrities. I picked photos that I felt were true to themselves and had reasonably good lighting and took it from there. This was a MUCH more interesting way to go about it!

I will say that I have no idea who the original photographer is for the references I used – so I cannot thank them or give them credit for their composition. Instead I will have to make do with a general ‘Thank you”, to all who take these kind of pictures as their job and I hope you were all adequately compensated for these often iconic, depictions of these human beings. Let it also be said that I will NOT be selling any of these works or entering them in art competitions or anything like that, either. “Thank You” for each and every one of these practice pieces, photographers – you have really helped me to grow my technical skills and given me enough fun that I have continued to do this for about 2 years, in spite of my habit of putting things down and not calling them ‘finished’ and in my continually being distracted by my desires to take artistic detours into other media and subject matter.

I am at 82 faces in my little book ~ and I seem to have given up on it, rather, or maybe it has something to do with my recent exploits into acrylic portraiture? or life drawing? or colour theory? I just don’t know. Maybe it’s this blog that broke the camels back? (maybe blogging about it will inspire me to get back into it and finish?!) I just don’t know!

ANYWAY – I hereby present faces 64, 65 and 66, from my little book, for your viewing enjoyment. Who is it? Well, if you do not recognize Tom Baker (the 4th Dr – Dr Who) you must be not of my generation, not English and not at all interested in Sci-fi!! Being rather fascinated by the influence of the passage of time on the human face, I chose to draw him aged 20, 40 and 80 years old. (He still walks this earth at the ripe old age of 84, I believe). Perhaps I will post some more favourites from this book another day?

How about YOU? what inspires YOU to keep showing up and practicing YOUR ART?? 🙂





This month, the art community on WordPress assures me, is INKTOBER. One should produce a picture, in ink, every day, for the entire month….. That’s the gist of it, I think? “Phooey” I thought to myself, “I’m busy with other things and I don’t particularly like Ink, anyway!” And I pushed it from my mind.

Four days into October, having read a number of blog postings by other arty friends inky endeavours, I stumbled upon a bottle of dried up very ancient Parker Quink water-soluble ink, in the cupboard, in my art room.

I don’t know why, but suddenly an overwhelming urge came over me to grab a brush, add some water to that dried up goo in the bottom of the bottle and just have a bash at it – and you know what? It was FUN!!!

I doubt if I’ll be doing one of these a day, but, perhaps I’ll find some other uses for that bottle of ink, now it is liquid again?! 🙂


Sometimes you’ve just got to relax in front of a blank piece of paper and see what comes out of your brain! Usually it begins with some tentative swirling about, a dab here and there and then you loosen up and let the colours flow and mingle, layer and smudge. Pan Pastels are good for this – it’s almost as if they are ASKING to make soft, indistinct clouds and flamey sunsets…and sometimes….just sometimes….amidst all that swirling and insubstantial substance….a deeply introspective face will appear…lost in thought and unaware. Well – THAT was FUN!!!! 🙂

Hope you guys have been having some artistic fun, lately?!

One Last Visit To The Beach…….

I am calling this one done – This is the last one of my series on Mersea and its beach huts. In a mad moment, near the end of August, liking the way my panorama photos of the beach huts came out, I decided to buy a really Looong canvas – 12″ x 36″ – and see how something panoramic would look in Acrylic paint.

I hope you like it! It’s actually the combination of several panorama shots that I took, plus a couple of good close-ups on some of the huts, PLUS a good shot of some ‘sparkly water’ that I added in, since the tide was out in all my other references and I thought some sea would be more attractive.

I used a palette that was really very limited and used it mixed in various combinations to get enough variety of colours for the huts…I wanted them to be individual, but cohesive, different, but also alike. The repetition of the pointed roofs holds them all together as a group, I think. I tried to make the blue hut in the middle the focal point and I hope it draws your eye, which then has a little wander around the rest of the painting. I sort of leaned on the idea of a panorama by giving this one a slight bit of distortion that allows the middle huts to be the largest and most focussed and the end ones vaguer and small. The sky was interesting and fun, too, with a lot of glazing and scumbling for the clouds.

The colours I used were, Windsor and Newton Pro Titanium White, Golden Cad Yellow Medium, Golden Ultramarine and Windsor and Newton Pro Burnt Umber. I finished with a couple of coats of Gloss Acrylic Varnish and my glazing and scumbling was aided by a fair amount of Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid…. I love that stuff!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend – I’m off to the BEACH!! – not Mersea, however – Cape May 😉

They All Leave a Paw Print…..

Cats and Dogs, pets: they all leave a paw print on their owners’ hearts. I did not post last Friday because earlier that week we had to say goodbye to one of our cats ~ Bubba. His passing was, in many ways, a relief, for me, as the human in charge and main supplier of nursing support to an animal that deteriorated in the subtle, un-attention seeking way that cats are known for, to the point where hiding it was no longer possible and followed by a rapid, straight downhill, pitiful, all systems failing spell over a holiday weekend where nothing could be done and ending in a tangle of vet consulting and preparing for the worst, hoping for the best and finally accepting the inevitable. I have 3 teenagers – dealing with all this is really BIG, for them, big and painful, so, not too much art time for me – instead, grief counseling and support, on demand, for them – and hence, no posting in my blog.

This week, things are more or less back to normal – apart from the sense that his large, furry presence is missing from our house in a number of special places and so, here I am!

Today I decided to show a collage of some of the cat art that I have drawn and painted over the years.  Cats are definitely a recurring subject for me. I draw my own cats, from life, because I like the challenge of getting the gist of them down on paper before they move, stretch and roll over. But any more serious work has to have a good reference photo, or two, to assist me, because, you know what they say, ‘Never work with small children or animals’, they just never stay still!

Bubba is the pencil sketch in the middle of this collage, and also the top right sketch. I expect, in time, he will become the subject of a full out, colour portrait – just like “Lucy” (top middle – Conte Pencil on Sennelier LaCarte) who was my first cat I ever owned and “Frodo” (bottom middle – “Memory of Frodo” – large (24″ x 36″) charcoal on white drawing paper ) the cat my kids grew up with that passed away just 3 years ago.

As an artist I find it very comforting and a way to honor my pets by producing a likeness of them, line by line and brush stroke by brush stroke. It’s almost as if I am trying to remember them in a more intense way than the feeling you get from looking at a faded photograph.

Do any of you guys feel this way about your pets?

Ocean Sunset

I’ve had this painting sitting on the side in my studio for a while now. Sometimes I like to finish, or almost finish, something and then I leave it and look at it, off and on, over a lengthy period. This one is true to that habit. I’m not sure my camera has really done it justice – just as the reference it is based on was borne out of a low light situation, this painting seems to be best viewed in fairly low, slightly warm, light conditions.

This one is something I made shortly after getting my full set of Prismacolor NuPastels. An experimentation and general enjoyment of all those intense blues, oranges and yellows. An attempt to portray dusk and evoke a feeling of the suck and swell of the ocean.

The subject is Cape May beach, near Sunset Point, as the sun dips below the horizon far right and about 1/4 turn clockwise from this view. The thing that attracted me was the way the sun caught the tops of the waves as they peaked and started to fall. The beach at sunset is indeed a beautiful, almost other-worldly, place to be. The dark water, the fading light and the glinting remnants of the fading sun….that’s what it’s all about! If I had sighted a girl in a long, trailing, dark coloured dress, walking barefoot on the beach – holding aloft a lantern, well, I wouldn’t have been surprised….Maybe she’ll show up before too long?!



Royal Visitor

This last couple of weeks my yard has been host to a solitary Monarch Butterfly. She spends most of her time on my Purple Buddleia, flying away briefly only to return to sip a little more nectar, along with the Swallowtails and one or two really tiny Hummingbirds. Monarchs are known in this part of the world for their ability to migrate all the way down through North America as the summer fades away to overwinter in a very specific mountainous region of Mexico. (If you are interested in this, I highly recomend the NOVA Documentary, The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies –

This particular butterfly, preparing for her long journey, reminded me of a couple of paintings I made a few years ago – Back when we were annually raising these beautiful creatures and releasing them into the wild – a small contribution of maybe 10 or 12 additions to the overall dwindling population of these migratory marvels. Both paintings are based on photographic references, one of my Mother’s hand and one of my youngest daughters’ hand. Both are in Conte Pencil on Strathmore Pastel Paper.

I call these, “Transitions 1” and “Transitions 2”, a little weird, I know, but I intended them to go together and represent, by juxtaposition, the transitions that humans go through from birth, through to old age and then beyond, and compare that to the metamorphosis of a butterfly.  There is also a certain element of wonderment at the beauty of nature and if you ever get the chance to hold one of these in your hand or let them alight on your hair and then hold them up to fly, far away, and free, into the wild – I highly recommend you do it and savor the moment.  Of course, this is just my, wrapping up what they mean to ME, in a parcel of words and presenting it to you – for you, the viewer of this work, they might mean something else entirely ~ what do they mean to you?!



Beach Huts.

Last week, some of my readers enthusiastically supported the idea that I pursue the subject of these brightly coloured huts that are found on the Island of Mersea, which is located on the east coast of England, near Ipswich and Colchester.

So, this week I am happy to oblige! I am calling this picture, “22 Beach Huts on Mersea”. It is 12″x 16″, on Tan Strathmore Pastel paper and I ended up exploring quite a bit of the colour spectrum my 96 stick Prismacolor NuPastel set provides, plus a touch of CarbOthello pencils for detail and a some work on the trees in Sennelier Pastels. It sort of reminded of drawing houses, as a child, when I would set out to use every colour I had and repeat the same, basic, little house shape, over and over.

That’s what these are, tiny little, daytime only, houses on the beach. People fill them with ‘essential’ beach equipment that they like to use when they are at the beach. They often have gas stoves, changing areas, tables and benches, board games, hats and water shoes. When the weather is dodgy (this is the UK, after all, the weather is often a bit dodgy!), people can sit inside their hut, looking out, when it is warmer, they can spread out of the door into the area in front.  One that is for sale is very hard to come by and they are often passed down through generations. I think I mentioned before that my Mother’s family has one of these huts…not in this picture, theirs is near the end of the front row of this particular clump of huts and is brown, between several shades of green….it didn’t make the reference cut for this particular picture because I don’t really have a good reference of it…only a couple of panorama’s where it is just a brown spot with a roof, among a hundred others.

Anyway, this one was a fun exercise and an interesting subject, for me and makes a great memento of all those trips our family has made to this much-loved beach. It has also served to inspire me to start a canvas, in Acrylic and have a go at attempting to find some kind of colour harmony and a more limited palette.

I’ll let you know how that turns out! 🙂

Best wishes in all your creative endeavours! ~ Thanks for reading 🙂


Still at the beach……

This week, I am STILL at that beach, in my head! The sparkly water picture from yesterday is almost a heavenly dream of Mersea. In contrast the picture I am posting today is about as real as it gets – sitting in coats, behind a wind break on a rather blustery day (in August!) drinking tea and holding down the page to sketch! Both these situations are a part of the whole and could even have occurred on the same day, because English summer is exactly this temperamental!

Today I have been working on a painting about beach huts, to early to talk about, really, but I am quite excited about it and just mulling over ideas and reference photos. Planning how to make it all work….hopefully!  Sometimes that’s the most exciting (and scary) part – when the idea has formed and there you sit, with the blank canvas in front of you and you can just….see….it…. that inspired idea, in your mind’s eye where it is so perfect, so full of promise and  just waiting to come out into reality!

This is my idea of a ‘great weekend’!…….I hope you are having a great weekend too! 🙂