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! 🙂



Mersea Sparkles.

The Isle of Mersea is near my mother’s house, which is in Colchester, UK. My mother’s siblings have owned a beach hut on Mersea for many years. When we are visiting, we are fond of going down to Mersea and spending time at the beach – hanging out at “The Hut”, drinking tea, eating biscuits and visiting with whatever family members showed up that day. “The hut” is a kind of time capsule of the various beach equipment needed to comfortably spend a day at the beach.

It rains a lot in the UK and a rainy afternoon at the hut can easily end with a complete turn about of weather. The clouds part and the sun comes out and when it does, at that time of day, when the tide is in…..the sea just SPARKLES  as if a billion tiny jewels were floating on the waves!

This picture is of just such a moment.

NuPastel and Sennelier Soft pastels on Strathmore Pastel Paper. This is the first Pastel painting I have done of Mersea, I think and it has me wondering what this would look like in Acrylics?! I used a photographic reference because, well, pastels and beaches don’t mix very well and I have previously tried this kind of picture in water-colour and it just does not work, for me.  The right medium for the subject makes all the difference.

I bet you’re now wondering what a Mersea Beach Hut looks like???

Rain ~ At Grandma’s House.

Does this count as painting en plein aire?! It was raining – a really rather frequent occurrence during this particular trip – So, I sat in my mother’s conservatory and painted this one of the garden outside. I am not really a water colorist, but, when I am away from home I take with me my little Windsor and Newton field box, which has 12 half pans, and a water brush or two. I just got a whole new set of water brushes, made by Molotow (The original Molotow Aqua Squeeze Pen). It contains 6 brushes, ranging from 1 mm through to 10mm) I have never had such big brushes in a water brush, so I really enjoyed their ability to cover large areas of paper! In case any of my readers don’t know, a water brush is kind of like a pen in appearance, but with a barrel you fill with water and a brush for the tip, you squeeze it to make the water run through the tip – A must have for travelling water colorists the world over!

That was a fun afternoon – drinking tea, eating custard tarts and talking with my Mum and daughter as the rain pitter pattered busily on the conservatory roof. I’m English, I love rain – I don’t understand why others don’t, but maybe it’s because I never let it get in the way of what I’m doing! The earth would be a brown place indeed without regular sprinklings of rain.

So this little painting was an homage to rain and a memory of a particular afternoon. After some scratching of my head, I decided to depict the actual raindrops by getting a needle from my Mum’s needlework box and scratching intermittent parallel lines across the paper at even intervals…something I have never done before – I’m not sure if you can see it very well from this photo, but, it seemed to be the best way to go.

Hope you like it ~ How about you, do you love the rain or do you prefer non-stop sunshine? Or snow? or something else???

Even Bloggers Need a Vacation!

I know I have been AWOL for a while ~ But, I’m back now! I was visiting family in the UK for almost 3 weeks and whilst I thought in my head, before I set off, that I would post on my blog whilst away, it just DIDN’T happen!

I did manage to do some art, however….mostly live sketching whilst chatting and visiting with various family members (The one above is of my daughter, doing the same thing, she and I both find art is good therapy when you’ve got jet-lag!)

I also managed to do a couple of plein aire water colour paintings – OK, so one of them was in my Mum’s conservatory, on a rainy day, looking out at her garden…that counts doesn’t it??

Lovely trip – nice to unwind and escape routine and just enjoy being in the moment.  I will be posting some more SOON, I promise! As much as I loved my vacation, it IS really good to be home, too…..Home is where the art is!!! (well, most of it, anyway! The Acrylic painting I did of the rain in Tyler State Park – previous post – I shoved that in my suitcase and I gave it to my Mum! She really loved it and was so pleased it gave me rather a lump in my jet-lagged throat!)

Hope you are all well – I am looking forward to having a wander around blogland and seeing what you have all been up to lately!





“Rain Circles”

This is one of those paintings that got started a while ago, got put down for other things …..and….then sat for quite a while. Finally, I picked it up again and found I’d forgotten what I did… what colours I used….what I thought it needed….where my references were. The one benefit of all this was that I DID have fresh eyes and those eyes saw that the water turned out a whole lot better than I imagined it had when I last put it down. Eyes do that….don’t trust them!

This one is Acrylic on cotton duck canvas and the reference is from the nature trail at Tyler State Park. The water, in real life, was a sort of murky, mud-brown with only a slight hint of green, the circles on the water from the rain, barely visible and the crouching figure with the umbrella…well, she’s from grandma’s house in the UK and much younger than the Tyler reference! That’s what I like best in my art, making things ‘real’ that never actually happened, bending reality…. but….. just a little!

Hope you enjoyed the result!

And now back to work on this ones entirely different, but also rather the same, alternate reality!

The Girl With The Lantern ~ From The Cloud…….

A couple of days ago my trusty little laptop up and died….no warning, just went to turn it on and…stone…cold…dead. 😦 So, here I am, on a borrowed laptop, using some pictures I had, thankfully, previously saved to our ‘cloud’. I am just hoping that I did not lose anything important and that my lovely hubby can rescue the contents of my hard drive over the weekend….that’s what holiday weekends are for, right?!

“The girl with the lantern” is part of an ongoing theme of mine.  I have always been rather fascinated with the concept of fantasy art that leans towards the real world. The work of  Artists such as;Ted Nasmith, Alan Lee and John Howe around that inspiring work “The Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien are a source of ongoing fascination and admiration, to me.

So when my youngest expressed a wish to pose for me in a long, flowing, elven type dress, complete with lantern – well – let’s just say I jumped at the chance, with bells on! Using my husbands fancy camera, we shot a whole lot of reference pictures that warm summers evening and I have been using them, off and on, ever since.  I just love this blurring of the lines between fiction and reality. I started out doing a few cameo type pictures, in conte pencil and then I moved on to something more adventurous, putting her on the beach as the sun set and with a rainbow up above….maybe a bit TOO adventurous and the result was not quite how I anticipated, but, it did wet my appetite to do more and it has made me look around for other suitable reference providing venues!

Having stumbled on this old file in my quest for reassurance that as much of my art memories are intact, I feel quite an urge to revisit this subject, perhaps in acrylics?! It may have to wait for a bit as my vacation is looming….let’s hope that inspiration monkey doesn’t die or run away!

A good reference is worth its weight in gold….so, just be sure to save them all to a safe place. Especially if you are like me and get a lot of inspiration from going back through reams of old photos!


Give Them a Nice Dress And a Cup of Tea….

I am quite pleased with myself that I have managed to get in about six sessions with  ‘live’ models in the last two weeks (since I decided that this was going to be one of my arty missions for the summer). After some initial reluctance I have managed to achieve a level of cooperation and participation that I have to say I did not really think was possible from my lovely but oh so self-critical dear teenage daughters!

The trick is to offer them the choice of every dress in your closet – and perhaps a cup of tea! They both love to act and with these props and the promise that ‘it won’t look anything like YOU’ they were suddenly quite willing to give me half an hour here and twenty minutes there in the name of artistic learning. So far the props of choice are my 20+ year old wedding dress and a reddish, silk, number which has faint gold threads running through it and Mum is too fat to fit any more 😦  (I knew I must be keeping both of those for a reason!)

I don’t know what I would do without these two girls. Probably make hundreds of sketches of my husband’s head whilst he stares into a computer screen/his phone! Or the blurred back of my son as he rushes away with a yucked out expression on his face! One of the major reasons so many artists do very little drawing from life is the lack of willing and available models, so I am ultra grateful for this opportunity that I have and I must keep making hay whilst the sun shines – because, come September, they will be back at their schoolwork and there will be no more modelling time to be found!

Thank you to two Awesome Young Women!!! Is anyone else out there using their kids shamelessly as models for their art??



Mind Over Matter ~ How About Some SNOW?!!

I know, I know! Some of you just LOVE the heat! For the rest and for myself, with all my English blood and having lived here in Pennsylvania, USA for over 20 years now, I have to have my official moan about the intense heat and humidity we are having right now!

When my brain has been functioning ever so slightly and not fantasizing about swimming pools, the ocean and the top of Mt Everest, I have been trying to do some art. But seriously – unless I get on with it first thing in the morning, it’s just been so hard to get going with it lately. With me, heat creates something that ranges between mild grumpiness and lethargy all the way through to downright evil bad temper and insanity and it is not at all conducive towards artistic productivity. I have learned to live with it, somewhat, and I am blessed to live in a house that has air conditioning and I will say I have come a long way from the first couple of summers when I would just dissolve into a puddle of homesick tears as soon as the thermometer touched 80 degrees (f). But still……Summer is not my forte!

I have managed to do a couple of ‘live’ sessions with my daughter, this week and I did finish something I started in charcoal that is a minor sort of maybe something that someone I sort of know might like to put into their publication….and I dabbled around with my NuPastels and tried out a couple of other things….OK, maybe that does sound a bit productive after all.

But, honestly! The heat is dragging me down! How about you? Does the heat get to you? Do you work well when you feel too hot, or cold? Can you override it for a while or do you rearrange your working habits to accommodate? Do you just put down your brush and go to the beach?!

Here’s an older work of mine – Tyler State Park, in the snow! Please feel free to stare at it all you like and try to imagine that crisp, cold, air, and silent, muffled snow…..can you see your breath? Is the tip of your nose a bit red? …. I hope so!! Perhaps now would be a good time to get out some of my snowy references and see if those will help to get me going?!

I have been keeping this blog for SIX whole months now and I would like to just thank all who have supported it in every way ~ I have been having a lot of fun with it and I cannot even express the benefits I have had from having regular, arty, contact with all you lovely people ~ Thanks SO MUCH!! I really appreciate you ALL! 🙂

Afraid of Life?

(This made a really good, attention grabbing title, I think!) Of course, what I mean is, are you afraid of drawing from life? Many artists do find it an experience that ranges from  intimidating to frustrating to really overwhelming.  The practice of taking a three-dimensional object and converting it into a flat image on paper is indeed an exercise that engages many different skills and parts of our brain. Aside from carefully posed still life, buildings and landscapes, many subjects will not hold still and allow themselves to be drawn!   Many students of the human form have the additional issue of how to go about  obtaining a willing model and consequently spend a great deal of their practice time using photographic resources or else have to deal with the prospect of studying themselves in the mirror.

What are we all to do? Well, many modern-day artists resort to photographic references, something that has never been so available as a resource to us as it is today. Even 20 years ago we would not have the ability to take our own photos and upload them to enlarge on a computer screen, to instantaneously have the reference of our choosing. Nor would we have the option of going to a copywrite free website, such as Pixabay and picking through hundreds and thousands of images for the one that fits our idea, inspiration or whim.

Since the advent of the readily available photographic reference, the art world seems to have become somewhat divided about whether the reality of this is actually a good thing. Some argue that a slavish reproduction of a photograph in the style known as photorealism barely qualifies as art and is rather, a mechanical skill. Others argue that it is an available tool that everyone should use as they like. The term “Art” means so many different things to so many, so, why shouldn’t what constitutes the doing of art be whatever they want it to mean also?  Still others are deeply concerned with the aspect of copywrite and stealing of ideas or a composition without permission. We live in a complicated world and personally, I think every artist who deals with photographic references must make their own decisions and choices, based on what they personally believe to be the truth of the issue and what they are ultimately comfortable with in their practice of art.

For myself, I have lately begun to feel that I have been spending too much time using photographic references for people and that it was making me a little afraid of life drawing. I don’t know about you, but when a tool starts to feel too much like a crutch it makes me kind of uneasy. Photographic distortion and the misrepresentation of color are two real issues that life study will help raise awareness of.  I have drawn from life, rather spasmodically, for most of my adult life and I would love to become more confident about it!  So, with this thought in mind and a little encouragement from a fellow blogger (Thanks Flora Doehler!) I have decided to embark on some life drawing practice. My youngest daughter and fellow artist has volunteered to be my on call model and I have (sort of) made a committment to attempt a shortish life drawing session about 3 times a week for as much of the summer as I can manage. (It’s the summer, I have to allow myself room to be a bit flexible or else I will miss a session and just give up -probably!)

Above are a couple of my attempts from this week ~ It felt really good to be doing this and getting back to basics with a charcoal pencil and some white paper. I shall be reporting back on how this is going throughout the summer! I am hopeful that I will be up for some plein aire modeling sessions by the time my vacation rolls around – but, we shall have to wait and see!

How about YOU? – do you have any thoughts and comments on this topic? Have YOU set yourself any specific challenges for the summer? 🙂


Everyone Should Play!

This is something I firmly believe applies to art and the doing thereof.  “They” say that kids should be allowed to play because that is how they learn….well, so should adults, but we don’t necessarily like to call it ‘play’, do we? And, so to do adults learn whilst they play.  The term ‘play’ could be used synonymously with the term, ‘experiencing enjoyment’. We all need to experience enjoyment doing the things we love, we all need to play!

This week, after a short spell of non-art doing (which often follows a period of rather intense challenge, for me) I cleaned up my art room and then I set about playing with some of the new art supplies I ordered from the Dick Blick catalog.

The picture above is the result of me playing with Panpastels – These rather unique pressed powder pastels are made in Kutztown, Pennsylvania – just 1 1/2 hours drive from my house just North of Philly. I got myself a basic starter set of 5 colors, which comes with a couple of ‘tools’ one of which is a finger shaped piece of rubbery stuff and the other is like an eye shadow applicator. That’s what it is like – painting with eye shadow! The colors are highly saturated and there is very little dust AND the other thing that is very interesting to me is that you can erase them, completely and entirely, with a vinyl eraser. Very fun indeed and it looks like they could be very useful for clouds and anything really that requires no huge amount of detail and some very soft blending….I shall continue to explore and have FUN and report back later!

Don’t forget to play and have fun with your art!