31 December 2011

2011 top ten

It's that time of the year again! Here are ten of my favourite paintings from my blog this year, in no particular order.

James's Jungle

Making a difference

Dunnock study

Year of Painting 1

March daffodils

Humboldt penguin
Promise of Spring

Nice weather for ducks

I've had great fun with my painting and drawing over the past 12 months, and have a couple of arty goals for the year to come. Thank you all for reading and leaving comments: it's lovely to be part of the cyber art community!

Happy New Year dear blog readers - here's to a peaceful, healthy and productive 2012!

27 December 2011



Here's a special painting, a Christmas gift for a great pal of mine who is always there encouraging me with my art. This is her daughter, Isabel - what a great subject! I've painted Isabel before, when she was much younger, and it's lovely to paint her again and have a record of her growing up.

Painting pictures (especially portraits) for other people can be rather a fraught process - you want it to be as good as you can possibly manage. Most of the stuff I paint is destined for storage in a box under the bed or on a shelf, or will hang in my own home because it's painted for me; having the added impetus of painting for someone else (or for an exhibition) certainly focuses the mind (no bad thing!).

Watercolour, 8 by 10" on 140lb Arches NOT.

22 December 2011

Hello baby

Here's yet another quick painting from my current obsession with watercolour sketches...

This a very cute baby orangutan, based on a photo I took at Twycross Zoo in the UK earlier on this year. Such a beautiful animal, and endangered in the wild mainly due to loss of habitat.

4" by 6", Watercolour

20 December 2011


This one was painted for the YOP challenge over on the Painting Friends forum, where the reference for this month was a beautiful white rose (madmum on wetcanvas, thank you!)

Serendipity means a 'happy accident' or 'pleasant surprise'; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. That's what happened here...

I wanted to have a go at doing something delicate, but that kind of went out of the window rather quickly, as I managed to paint a big beige mess. Then I decided to add in some shadows, which made things much, much worse. It was awful. It was heading for the bin, then I decided to see just how bad it could get if I got the pens out, and... well, I actually really like the end result! It is not subtle or delicate, which was my original goal, but I love the structural feel, and the ink coss-hatching reminds me a bit of copperplate etchings. 

So, unexpectedly, I'm actually quite pleased with it, and as a bonus I've discovered an approach to floral paintings that I would never have otherwise thought of.

4" by 6", watercolour and ink.

17 December 2011

Nice weather for ducks

Hello again!

Here's another little 'un, painted for a birthday card (happy birthday Dad!).

Watercolour, around 4" by 6" (ish), based on a photo I snapped a while back of a friendly mallard. I'm having such fun painting these little watercolour sketches - and I have a huge amount of photos to go through and discover potential subjects :-)

14 December 2011

Humboldt penguin

Hello all :-)

Here's another small watercolour study, again from one of the photos I took at Twycross Zoo - a Humboldt penguin.

Watercolour, 4" by 6" (ish). He's looking pretty pleased with himself!

09 December 2011

Christmassy robin

Hello again!

I've been painting another card for a Christmas card exchange on the Painting Friends forum - this little European Robin has found his way to much warmer climes, to a painting friend in Florida.

4" by 6", watercolour, mounted on cardstock.

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas....

07 December 2011

A happy birthday elephant

Hello again!

Here's a little 4" by 6" painting I did for a friend's birthday card - happy birthday Sarah!

It's based on a photo I took when we visited Twycross Zoo back in the summer.

Watercolour, 4" by 6"

25 November 2011

Tough little cookie


Well, the challenge ref for an online portrait painting group I belong to was a toughie this time round - cute kid, but very even, soft light and not too many shadows, which always makes it harder to convincingly model the shapes of the face. I decided to give it a go in pastels.

So, I went a bit mad with the colours... But I do kind of like it...

Pastel on pastelmat, approx 7 by 10". Reference by babasteve on flickr, thank you once again!

21 November 2011

Making a Difference

As promised, here's my contribution to the 'World of Difference' fund-raising exhibition that happened at the weekend.

Ref: babasteve on flickr, thank you.

I'm pleased to say that this sold, which was the objective! I really enjoyed painting her, so I hope she's found a happy home.

Acrylic on canvas 12" by 12"

14 November 2011

Anyone in Cambridge, UK...

...might want to pop along this weekend to Chesterton Community College, Gilbert Rd, for this exhibition. All artwork priced at £45 (bargain!), and all hung anonymously. All proceeds to SOS Children's Villages, in particular to a project in Zambia. Fingers crossed for a successful fund-raiser -  I'll share my contribution after the weekend!

10 November 2011

Our mad moorhen

Some sketching from life:

This is a page from my sketchbook, drawings of a moorhen - this is a bird you'd normally find on a pond or river, but this one had decided to climb up the conifer at the front of the house. I looked out of a window in an upstairs room and found myself at eye level with it...

Biro, A4 sketchbook.

29 October 2011


Hello again!

Here's another acrylic portrait, painted from a reference photo by the talented babasteve on flickr with the online group of portrait painters I belong to. I was experimenting with colours here - purples and oranges. The photo here is a bit on the dark side, it's a little zingier in real life.

I'm fairly pleased with the way this has turned out. I definitely wasn't looking for cute or realism, was going for something painterly and with a bit of texture, and I had fun with the colours. I'm enjoy painting with acrylics, and I feel there are some nice things going on here. Will be exploring further!

Acrylic on Galeria acrylic paper, 14" by 10"

25 October 2011

Birthday bullfinch

I painted this one for a friend's birthday card. I'm lucky enough to have a group of these birds as regular garden visitors at the moment, helping themselves to the berries on the shrubs and trees.

Watercolour, 5" by 7"

23 October 2011

Autumn arrives

Over at the Painting Friends forum we have had a Fall Card Exchange (that's Autumn to us here in the UK!). I chose to paint some rose hips which I photographed a couple of years ago at one of my local nature reserves here in Cambridgeshire. I've painted this before, but this time I thought I'd go all out on the autumn colours.

This went to my Painting Friend Cindi, in California.

Watercolour and ink, 5 by 7" on HP watercolour paper.

20 October 2011

Life drawing

We're breaking for a week for half term in the life drawing class, so here's a couple of drawings from this week and last week. The coloured ones were 30-min poses (using pastel pencils), and are in preparation for getting some paint out after the break (how exciting!). Obviously our model wasn't really this colour! It was an exercise in dark, mid and light tones in colour.

I've been working away on a painting for a charity fundraising exhibition (more on that at a later date), and on a commission as well. I'll share both here at some point. And I'm trying to get into better sketchbook habits too...

05 October 2011

Life drawing

A couple from last night. I always enjoy these drawings on dark paper, I seem to find it easier to get the shapes down.

01 October 2011

portrait sketch

Well, here we are, back to the portraits. This is a 'getting acquainted' sketch, from a ref from babasteve on flickr, under Creative Commons (thanks!). I'm part of a small online group of artists aiming to improve our portraiture skills, and this is our current ref. I'm intending to paint this in acrylic, and have a fairly good idea of what I want to do.

There are issues with this sketch which I'll bear in mind for the painting, but really I'm hoping to end up with a pleasing painting rather than an exact likeness with this one. We shall see...

Pencil in an A4 sketchbook, a quick sketch, about 15 minutes.

26 September 2011

James's jungle

I've had fun over the last few weeks painting a big picture for the nursery of my new nephew. Finally delivered it at the weekend, so now I can share it here my blog.

And some details:

Acrylic on canvas, 20" by 30". This was so much fun to do, loads of initial sketches of the animals and plants, then putting it all together. Took longer than I thought it would though - it's all a learning curve!

20 September 2011

Year of Painting - cardinal

Here's what I did for this month's Year of Painting challenge, over on the Painting Friends forum, a study and a sketch (maybe I'll do a painting one day!). I'm not familiar with this bird other than from photographs (it's North American) but it looks fairly similar to the waxwings we sometimes see here in the UK in the coldest of our winters. Ref photo courtesey of mensatic at Art Morgue, thank you!

Both are around the same size, 8" by 6" (ish). I did the ink and wash sketch first; I went in with the paint first, putting down general areas of colour where I saw them, then refined with the pen, then back in with more paint. For the wc study I did a quick freehand pencil sketch first, followed by several fairly thin washes.

The ink and wc sketch was done very quickly, the wc study I took more time over. Having done the sketch definitely helped when I started the study (I did them side by side, on the same piece of paper).

Watercolour/watercolour and ink. 8" by 6".

05 September 2011

Red kite, ongoing

At the moment I'm painting a picture for the nursery of my impending nephew or niece, so in the meantime here's another piece I've been working on, off and on...

This is based on a photo by Tom Melton on Birdforum, with permission. This is the biggest watercolour painting I've attempted - a full sheet. I started it over a year ago when, full of enthusiasm, I got it drawn out. I then found that it was almost impossible to actually work on it without having to clear absolutely everything away first, so it lurked, propped against the wall... One house move later and I find myself with more room, so it's seen the light of day once more and I've been painting it, slowly....

Image is clickable for a closer look as always.

Watercolour, 22" by 30"

21 August 2011


Here's a study of a couple of roses, deadheaded from the rose plant in the front garden. I enjoyed the observational exercise; drawing and painting these small life studies is good fun.

Watercolour from life, on Daler Rowney Langton NOT paper, 12" by 9".

Year of Painting no 5

The ref pic for the Painting Friends forum Year of Painting this month was a seascape. Never having painted the sea before, this was a bit of a challenge for me!

I like the long letterbox format, which I think works well here. I like the overall colour scheme, with that greeny aqua feel. Not keen on the land mass in the top corner; it looks a bit like a big storm cloud. I’m not pleased with the figures, which I think look rubbish! I debated whether to include them or not, but they act as a good point of scale for the scene.

I would love to spend some time at the coast, watching and painting the water. Hmm, maybe a few days away are beckoning!

Acrylic on canvas, 8” by 20”

10 August 2011

Another sad tale, another pm study

We've had another window-related casualty, which is a bit upsetting. This time it was a dunnock, which flew into a different window. I'm hoping that it's just coincidence that we've had two birds hitting windows within a couple of days - we haven't had any in the previous 6 months that we've been here...

So, another post-mortem study. These little birds can look quite drab and unassuming from a distance, but they have beautiful hues and subtle colours in their plumage close up.

Watercolour (on HP paper), quarter sheet.

08 August 2011

Blackcap, a sad tale

Here's a study I painted on Sunday afternoon, of an unfortunate juvenile blackcap (a kind of warbler). We found it dead on the path in front of the lawn - I think it probably flew into the window.

In the spirit of one of my favourite artists, Tim Wootton, I thought I'd do a post mortem study. So, two studies of the same unfortunate bird. It was an excellent exercise in observation. 

I'd been watching this youngster only the previous day, being fed by one of its parents. I was pondering the long, long journey it was going to be making - blackcaps migrate to Africa - sadly, this one didn't make it any further than my little Cambridgeshire village. Such is the natural world, but what an amazingly fragile little creature to make that journey...

Watercolour, quarter sheet. As always, you can click the images for a closer look.
Related Posts with Thumbnails