Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas 2011

Happy Christmas 2011
Watercolour on Paper
13.5cm x 9cm (5.5" x 3.5")

Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year.

All the best,


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Snowy Lane

Snowy Lane
Watercolour on Paper
38cm x 27cm (15" x 10.5")

No - we haven’t had a dump of snow, but it feels like it might be on the way. I painted this scene at Tony Slater’s December workshop for the Shelford Group of Artists - the subject for the day was winter trees.

As with all of Tony’s workshops - I enjoyed working with a larger brush and at faster pace than normal. These workshops are definitely improving my brush control.

I’ve been travelling a lot recently and as a result I am a few days behind with my exercises for the Natural Way to Draw. I am going to make a determined effort to be back on schedule before Christmas and to be ahead of the plan for the start of the New Year.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Beach Huts

Beach Huts
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I wanted to spend more time working on composition (see Ye Old Dog & Partridge).

The next day John Lovett posted a description of his recent workshop, which focused on selecting subjects to paint and composing pictures (see It is an excellent post with a number of paintings to demonstrate the concepts he taught - it is a perfect study plan.

This picture uses the first technique from John’s post – it has a large simple foreground leading the eye in to the centre of interest.

Before starting the picture, I drew a number of thumbnails to explore the subject and decide on the composition. On the first page, I experimented with portrait and landscape formats and decided where to position the huts. This is the second page on which I refined the sizing and positioning of the huts.

Beach Huts - Thumbnails
This is the first time I've used thumbnails and the process was very helpful. I was working away from home during the week and drawing thumbnails was a useful and relaxing way to spend an evening in the hotel.

John is at least partly responsible for the existence of this blog. I nearly gave up on the idea of learning to paint until I found his book (Starting Watercolour) and DVD (Splashing Paint), (see

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Return of Modelled Drawing in Water Color

The Comfy Chair Again
Modelled Drawing - 2 December 2011
Watercolour on Paper
35.5cm x 38cm (14" x 15")

Section 10 of The Natural Way to Draw features the return of the modelled drawing in water color. The basic instructions are the same (see Modelled Drawing in Water Color), but some of the drawings are completed over two sessions.  At the start of the second session, you use a damp brush to lighten some parts of the drawing and to prepare them to receive more paint.

This is a challenging exercise - Kimon Nicolaides suggests most people find the exercise difficult and experience with watercolour is more of a hindrance than a benefit. He stresses the objective is not to produce a painting, but to draw with the brush as though it were a crayon – easier said than done.

The chair at the top of the post appeared as a sketch in my first post (The Natural Way To Draw). I drew the original sketch just over a year ago. It provides a good opportunity to reflect on my progress and ask whether I am getting any benefit from the time I am spending on the course.

A quick comparison of the pictures suggests I am not seeing much improvement. The original sketch is more pleasing and in certain aspects more accurate and more detailed, but there are other things to consider.

When I drew the original sketch, I was thinking about the chair as though it were a 2 dimensional image trapped on a TV screen, which I was trying to reproduce on paper. It was all about relative angles and dimensions.

When I drew the modelled drawing I was thinking about the chair as though it were a soft comfortable 3 dimensional object that would be nice to sit on. This may sound a bit fanciful and the benefit may not be immediately obvious in this drawing, but it is important because you can’t draw comfy just by getting the dimensions right.

When I started the Natural Way to Draw, I wanted to be able to draw more accurately, with greater confidence and more speed. I am getting something different. I am looking at the world in a different way. The title of the blog is more appropriate than I ever imagined it would be.

The photo at the bottom of the post is a Joanne Cooke sculpture that Elaine bought with her birthday fund from the Rostra Gallery. Elaine says thank you to everyone that contributed to her present.

Sculpture by Joanne Cooke

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Ye Old Dog & Partridge

Ye Old Dog & Partridge
Watercolour on Paper
38cm x 28cm (15" x 11")

Elaine and I have a soft spot for Ye Old Dog & Partridge at Tutbury. Most of the wedding party stayed at this historic inn on the nights before and after our wedding. The half-timbered building dates from the 16th and 17th centuries (thank you

I painted this yesterday at one of Tony Slater's painting days for the Shelford Group of Artists. The theme for the day was Ink and Wash.

Tony was keen we start with a loose drawing in ink without going into too much detail and without doing any preliminary drawing in pencil. This is exactly the opposite of how I normally work so it was a good exercise for me.

I’ve mentioned before that I always seem to rush when I am painting in company (see Through a Window Through a Window) and this happened again.

I did a light sketch positioning the major shapes and then attacked it with the paint. My initial strokes were a bit ill considered and sloppy so I decided to embrace this and paint the whole thing with quite a large brush (a number 12).

When I was close to finishing the picture, I realised it lacked interest. I added the flowers and at Tony’s suggestion altered the door so it was open, but the painting really could do with someone walking up the path to the pub.

I’ve vowed to spend more time planning my paintings. I am going to draw thumbnail sketches to explore the subject before I start a picture. This will give me a stronger sense of what the finished piece will look like and help me to spot and correct design flaws earlier in the process.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


Watercolour on Paper
25.5cm x 35.5cm (10" x 14")

This picture has been on my to do list since I started painting. It is based on some photos I took on my birthday in 2005 while Elaine and I were on holiday with Paul and Wendy in Cornwall.

I worked hard during the week to have this painting ready for today because I’ve spent the weekend with David in the Peak District.

We did some walking, but probably not enough to offset the eating and drinking we did in Ashbourne.

I spent Saturday looking for a particular type of river view. This must have blinded me to other ideas because now I realise I want to paint the cliffs in Dovedale. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photographs so I am planning a return visit with Elaine.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Another Modelled Drawing in Ink

Buddha Head
Modelled Drawing - 11 November 2011
Ink on Paper
35.5cm x 43cm (14" x 17")

I have posted quite a few modelled drawings in ink because I am enjoying the exercise.

Before starting the Natural Way to Draw, I would have approached this drawing in a completely different way. I would have spent ages measuring relative dimensions and angles. Starting with a scribble of about the right shape and size and gradually building up the surfaces is a much more enjoyable experience.

I cheated a bit by marking out the approximate positions of nose and eyes before I spent too much time scribbling. I don’t feel too guilty because who wants to spend 3 hours on a drawing that looks like something from the Chamber of Horrors?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Black Horse

The Black Horse
Watercolour on Paper
52cm x 34m (20.5" x 13.5")

Elaine commissioned this view of the Black Horse for her birthday and it is probably the most demanding picture I have painted.

The initial drawing was tricky. It is an old building on a slight slope. Lines I expected to be straight - weren’t. Objects I expected to line up – didn’t. On top of this, there are so many windowpanes.

The large areas of flat colour posed another difficulty because they aren’t very interesting to look at. I’ve tried to spice up the roof and the large yellow wall, but the picture could still do with more variety of colour and shape.

Then there are the horses. I decided not to try for accuracy and painted them with a large brush. Now I wish I had been a bit more careful.

It is not the best picture I have painted, but it invokes happy memories and was a labour of love.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Modelled Drawing in Ink (Continued)

Another Right Hand
Modelled Drawing - 21 October 2011
Ink on Paper
35.5cm x 38cm (14" x 15")

I am two lessons into Section 9 of the Natural Way to Draw, which means I have completed a third of the course.

Section 9 features the return of the modelled drawing in ink. I am really enjoying it and I seem to have picked up where I left off with the original exercise (see Modelled Drawing in Ink).

The instructions in Section 9 are slightly different from the original exercise. You don’t have to use a rotating scribble. The instructions encourage you to use whichever strokes best help to describe the surfaces of the subject.

This seems like an invitation to cheat because the basic premise of the exercise remains the same - describe the weight of the object and the shape of its surfaces. You are not supposed to think about edges and outlines, but sometimes my directional strokes just happen to fall along the edge of the shape. What am I supposed to do?

I ask this question a lot. Some of the book seems ambiguous and even contradictory, but this is not a bad thing. It forces you to think about the meaning and purpose of the exercises rather than blindly following instructions.

Fish Sculpture
Modelled Drawing - 17 October 2011
Ink on Paper
40.5cm x 30.5cm (16" x 12")

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Autumn Sun on Berry Head

Autumn Sun on Berry Head
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 52cm (13.5" x 20.5")

Elaine and I visited Berry Head last week while on holiday in Dartmouth to celebrate her birthday.

I painted the picture at one of Tony Slater’s (see Tony Slater) painting days. The theme for the day was painting large.

I like the idea of the picture, but am disappointed with the execution. I made the mistake of starting the painting without deciding how to represent the dazzling reflections on the sea. I realised I didn't have a plan when I was faced with a rapidly drying wash and no idea of what I was going to do next. Some timely advice from Tony saved the day.

The experience has helped me to recognise that I need to build a bigger repertoire of techniques. I’ve been focusing on producing paintings with my current skills and now I need to spend some time experimenting and just messing around with watercolour.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Angel Cat Thing

Angel Cat Thing
Watercolour on Paper
15cm x 16.5cm (6" x 6.5")

This strange little creature lives at Hartworks house in Dartmouth (Dartmouth Self Catering). It is a sculpture created by Marie Prett (Marie Prett). Elaine wants a similar piece for her birthday, but I cannot find anything like it. I will keep on looking and hope she will accept this picture as a temporary alternative.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Old Brass Jug

Old Brass Jug
Watercolour on Paper
13cm x 18cm (5" x 7")

This is an old brass jug from one of my favourite pubs - the Black Horse at Caythorpe.

The picture started as an experiment in painting a photo realistic image, but I quickly realised that I don’t have the technique, eyesight or patience for photo realism. Some of the very detailed photo realistic painters must be using huge magnifying classes and very small brushes or have super human eyesight and coordination.

The picture at the bottom of the post is my anatomical modelled drawing for the week. This is the most complicated modelled drawing I’ve tried. The thumb is a bit weird because I ran out of time before I finished it. Halfway through the drawing I had a moment of confusion and couldn’t decide what should be lighter and what should be darker. I had to take a couple of minutes to reread and contemplate the instructions for the exercise.

My Right Hand
Modelled Drawing - 6 October 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
34cm x 46cm (13.5" x 18")

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Ten-Minute Form Studies

Sporty Elaine
Ten-Minute Form Study - 25 September 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
34cm x 37cm (13.5" x 14.5")

This is a ten-minute form study from the Natural Way to Draw. It is a cross between a gesture drawing (see Gesture Drawing) and a modelled drawing (see Modelled Drawing) and surprisingly takes 10 minutes - which is not a lot of time.

The book describes it as a cross between gesture drawing and weight drawing (see Weight Drawing), but I think it has more in common with modelled drawing because you use pressure on the crayon to show how the form moves towards you and away.

Elaine says that I’ve given her a pole dancer’s pony tail, but I think it has more of the look of Sporty Spice.

I am trying to get more practice doing modelled drawings of anatomy. The picture at the bottom of the post is of my left foot. Somehow I’ve made it look more unpleasant than it really is, but I am pleased that it has a solid three-dimensional feel like the shoe in the previous post (see The Return of Modelled Drawing).

I’ve been doing a lot of travelling recently and have not had much chance to paint. I have three paintings on the go and should have at least one ready to post before next weekend.

My Left Foot
Modelled Drawing - 1 October 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
28cm x 48.5cm (11" x 19")

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Return of Modelled Drawing

My Right Shoulder
Modelled Drawing - 22 September 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
30.5cm x 51cm (12" x 20")

Section 8 of the Natural Way to Draw features the return of modelled drawing in lithograph crayon. I have been looking forward to its reprise because I struggled with the original exercise (see Modelled Drawing).

In the pictures on this post, there is no emphasis on drawing proportions or perspective correctly and there is no attempt to represent light and shade. The surfaces get darker as they move away from the observer, but not necessarily in a rigorous or scientific way. The instruction for the exercise is to imagine you are a sculptor feeling and modelling the contours of the subject in clay. This has worked unexpectedly well on the shoe at the bottom of the post, which has a solid three-dimensional appearance.

Another Shoe
Modelled Drawing - 19 September 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
38cm x 28cm (15" x 11")

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Lopsided Room

The Lopsided Room
Contour Drawing - 10 September 2011
Graphite Pencil and Watercolour on Paper
52cm x 42cm (20.5" x 16.5")

The Lopsided Room sounds like a Sherlock Holmes adventure, but there is no mystery here – it is another contour drawing.

This is the second half of my 5 hour contour drawing (see The Return of Contour Drawing).

I’ve enjoyed and benefited from the exercise, but its been a struggle - I’ve done 2 drawings instead of 1 and in the first drawing, I drew too quickly and in this second drawing, I drew unnecessarily slowly.

Last Saturday I completed Section 7 of the Natural Way to Draw. It finishes with what I suspect is one of the key lessons in the whole course. This is my interpretation - Draw each line as though you were creating a contour drawing. Focus on the subject. Imagine the pencil is touching it and the subject causes the line. Sounds like the sort of thing Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon. So it must be right.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


Watercolour on Paper
25cm x 35cm (9.75" x 13.75")

Elaine and I spent the August Bank holiday at Eagle Tor in the peak district.

We had a pleasant weekend walking and visiting the local pubs. On Saturday, we had lunch at The Flying Childers Inn - an excellent little pub in Stanton in Peak.

One of our walks took us past Robin Hood’s Stride and the Arbor Low stone circle. I was looking for a view of the circle to paint and this windblown tree caught my eye.

Arbor Low isn’t that far from civilisation, but when the wind howls and the rain comes down, it feels isolated and remote.

This picture was an experiment in painting atmosphere and trying some new techniques. It was also a bit of an antidote to my previous two paintings, which were based on detailed drawings and contained some fiddly details. It doesn't look as windswept and weather blasted as I intended, but it is an interesting first try.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

On The East and West Line

On The East and West Line
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

Elaine and I have enjoyed a number of cycle tours around the Niagara-on-the Lake wineries. The roads in the region are long, straight and form a grid. The roads that run east to west are called Lines and the roads that run north to south are Concessions. The Lines and Concessions are nearly free of traffic and are perfect for cycling. The East and West Line is slightly busier than most, but (as the painting shows) it has a wide and well-maintained shoulder. To the east of the region, the Niagara Parkway follows the course of the Niagara River. Winston Churchill described it as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world”. Over the years, it has probably lost some of its charm, but it is still pleasant enough and has an excellent cycle path along its side.

I painted the picture as an exercise in creating a sense of depth. It makes use of linear and aerial perspective.

Linear perspective is the classic technique of drawing parallel lines as though they meet at a vanishing point on the horizon. The sides of the road are a good example of one-point perspective.

Aerial perspective is the effect of light passing through the atmosphere. Objects in the distance appear less detailed, their colours are less saturated and bluer - they fade into the background. I’ve attempted to do this with the trees and the furthest car, but the car is probably slightly overdone.

There are a couple of other techniques that increase the sensation of depth.

The picture includes multiple objects that are about the same size (the cars) at different distances from the viewer. The cars in the distance appear to be smaller than the ones closer to the viewer. This is a direct result of linear perspective, but it increases the impact of the technique.

There are a lot of overlapping objects. If two objects overlap, it is clear that one is in front of the other.

Almost everything that could have gone wrong with this painting went wrong. I nearly gave up on it three or four times. I am continuing to learn that if the initial drawing is good, everything else will fall into place as long as you keep working at it.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Return of Contour Drawing

Me Again
Contour Drawing - 20 August 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
35.5cm x 53.5cm (14" x 21")

Contour Drawing is back with a vengeance in Section 7 of the Natural Way to Draw. This is the exercise in which you imagine the pencil is touching the subject and draw without looking at the paper (see the previous posts Contour Drawing, Sunday Papers and Farewell Contour Drawing). Section 7 has a number of variations of the exercise: Cross Contours, Quick Contours, The Head, Right Angle Contours and The Five-Hour Contour.

The drawing at the top of the post is my attempt at the five-hour contour exercise. In the five-hour contour, the pencil is supposed to crawl across the paper at a snail’s pace. My speed was too fast and I finished in 2 hours.  The text suggests that I should persevere and add more details, but I’ve decided to start again on a three-hour contour (with a different subject) because I misjudged the speed so badly.

One of the main goals of the exercise is to study a subject for 5 hours. I have failed to achieve this, but I have understood the point of the exercise and there are other opportunities to gain this experience later in the course. I know that I was studying my face intently because at one point I was confused by a slight pulse in my neck.

I struggled to get back into contour drawing. When it is going well it is a meditative state – there isn’t anything apart from the contour I am following. Unfortunately, there are parts of my consciousness that don’t want to have a meditative state imposed on them. They protest, distract, and try to make the whole experience unpleasant. It took a few sessions for me to address the protests and to get back into the groove.

The drawing at the bottom is a 30 minute contour drawing of my head. Neither of the pictures really looks like me, but they both capture different parts of my face quite well.

And Again
Contour Drawing - 24 August 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 46cm (11" x 18")

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 52cm (13.5" x 20.5")

I must have broken some law that prohibits you from painting pubs you haven’t drunk in.

This is Murhpy’s Law - an Irish pub close to where Lori and Peter live in the Beaches area of Toronto.

Its prominent location, the colours of the signs and the Guinness clock really make it stand out.

It looked very inviting on a summer’s evening. The roof top area looked particularly appealing, but instead of popping in for a pint, we went to the Ribfest in Woodbine Park. I know we should have made the effort, but there is always next time.

It may not be obvious, but I tried a different approach with this painting. I wanted to test the theory that if the initial drawing and design is good, the painting does not have to be that  detailed. I used bigger brushes than I normally use and tried hard not to correct or fiddle.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Across the Bay

Across the Bay
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 35.5cm (9.5" x 14")

Do you know where this is? I took the photo on a day when Elaine and I visited Tate St Ives. It must be somewhere around there, but I cannot place it exactly. It might be Cardis Bay.

It is scene I’ve tried to paint before because of the incredible colours in the sea. A few years ago, I spent weeks working on a painting in acrylics and gave up because I couldn’t do it justice.

This was a much less pressured attempt. I painted it as a warm up over the last couple of mornings. It was an opportunity to try a few things out and to practice painting in a more carefree style. I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Modelled Drawing in Water Color

Back to Jack
Modelled Drawing - 3 August 2011
Watercolour on Paper
20.5cm x 38cm (8" x 15")

The modelled drawing in water color is a continuation of the previous modelled drawing exercises (see Modelled Drawing and Modelled Drawing in Ink). It uses yellow, brown and black watercolour paints instead of crayon or ink.

You start by building up the basic shape in yellow and then add the darker colours to model the form of the object.

It is quite a challenge to keep the paint wet enough so that the darker colours soften into the yellow but not so wet that you end up with a meaningless brown mess. (The two pictures on this post are amongst the best that I produced – you can imagine what the bad ones looked like.)

The change in medium is intended to shake you up and force you to really experience the objects you are drawing. At times, it seemed to have exactly the opposite effect. I spent too much time looking at the paper making sure the paint was behaving, but then there were times when I suddenly realised I was observing subtle changes in the surface of an object in far greater detail than before.

The two paintings on this post are our enamel teapot and a rear view of the Sailor Jack model from the original modelled drawing post. I seem to have brought him up to date by giving him a pair of low slung trousers – perhaps I should try this again after I have completed the exercises on body proportions.

Yesterday, I finished Section 6 of the Natural Way to Draw. That is 24% of the course and I am still on schedule. My sisters Sarah and Rachael posed for some gesture drawings over the weekend for which I am grateful (and so is Elaine). 

Tea Stains
Modelled Drawing - 23 July 2011
Watercolour on Paper
33cm x 30cm (13" x 12")

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Storm Over Fort George

Storm Over Fort George
Watercolour on Paper
26cm x 35.5cm (10.25" x 14")

Fort George is a relic of the British Empire in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was the site of some battles in the Anglo American war of 1812.

During our recent visit, Elaine and I had a mixture of brilliant sunshine and storms. One afternoon, we cycled passed the fort as a storm rumbled towards us. The mood seemed symbolic of the stronghold's violent history; the wind wrestled with the Union Jack and the dark blue of the flag almost merged with the colour of the threatening clouds.

I paused to gawp and take some photos, which may be why we lost our race with the storm and were soaked before we got back to Britaly (see – our home away from home in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The painting contains a compositional gaffe, which is highlighted by the work in progress I posted a couple of weeks ago (Works In Progress). It has a bottom section and a top section separated by a horizontal line with nothing linking the two sections together. I should have done something about it, but I liked the impression of the buildings crouching behind the barricades and the horizontal line accentuated it.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Ned Hanlan II

Ned Hanlan II
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

During our holiday in Canada, Elaine and I spent a sunny afternoon cycling on the Toronto Islands with Lori and Peter. The Ned Hanlan II was moored in front of the bike hire shop.  It is a Toronto Works Department tug and is named after a famous 19th century Toronto resident and world champion rower (thank you Wikipedia).

I set out to paint a stormy scene instead of the wonderfully sunny reality because I wanted to simplify the background and experiment with an inclement sky for some paintings I have planned for the winter.

Last week, I posted a work in progress (see Works In Progress). At the time, I thought it was going to be reasonably easy to finish, but it took more effort than I anticipated.

I wanted to darken the sky around the boats, but leave the top of the painting light and cloud like. Unfortunately, I ended up with an ugly dark halo around the boats (I’ve had this problem before - see Short Tempered Swan). I kept adding more and more indigo and eventually, I managed to get rid of the halo, but I had lost all the light from the top of the painting. Fortunately, I was able to restore this by adding washes of gouache and feathering them out with a hake brush – a technique I learnt from the books and DVDs of John Lovett (see

It has ended up more of a nighttime picture than a stormy picture, but it is not too far away from what I intended.

One of the most important skills I am learning is not to give up on a painting - there is usually something you can do to salvage them. The discipline of blogging every Sunday is a major incentive to stick with a painting because I always need something to post.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Works in Progress

Ned Hanlan II
(Work in Progress)
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

I haven't finished a painting to post today. So, I am using this as an opportunity to try something new and to post some works in progress.

The pictures have a lot in common. They both feature moody weather, they both went through a stage when I thought they were irretrievably ruined and they are both at a point where I can see what I need to do to finish them.

The sky is a key element in both paintings and neither of them has turned out exactly as I wanted, but I am sure I can fix them.

There are stories to go with both pictures, but I will save them until they are finished.

At least one of them should be ready for next weekend.

Storm Over Fort George
(Work in Progress)
Watercolour on Paper
26cm x 35.5cm (10" x 14")

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Daily Composition

Reading on the Balcony
Daily Composition - 27 June 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
22cm x 14cm (8.5" x 5.5")

The daily composition is another exercise from the Natural Way to Draw. It is drawn from memory in the scribbled style of a gesture drawing (see Gesture Drawing).

The aim is to draw a person or people and their environment. The instruction is to do a daily composition every day for a year and if you are serious, to do one a day for the rest of your life. These drawings should initially be gesture drawings, but eventually we should develop our own approach. You are allowed up to 15 minutes for a drawing. Most of mine take about 7 or 8 minutes.

Initially, the biggest challenge was to draw a scene without being able to see it. It is strange because as a child I think most of my drawings were taken from memory or imagination.

My memory for scenes is improving and I am gradually including more details into each drawing. The other benefit of which I am aware is that at least once a day I pause and think, “How would I draw this scene?”

The picture at the top of the post is Elaine reading on our balcony at the Queen and Albert B&B. I drew this a little while after I drew the modelled drawing on the previous post (see Modelled Drawing in Ink).

The pictures at the bottom are a group of us drinking wine after dinner at John and Petra’s and the bar at the Bracknell Hilton.

Dinner at John and Petra's
Daily Composition - 29 June 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
24cm x 18cm (9.5" x 7")

Hilton Bar
Daily Composition - 3 July 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
20.5cm x 16.5cm (8" x 6.5")

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Modelled Drawing in Ink

Sunbathing Frog
Modelled Drawing - 29 June 2011
Ink on Paper
29.5cm x 39cm (11.5" x 15.5")

The modelled drawing in ink is a continuation of the modelled drawing exercise from the Natural Way to Draw (see Modelled Drawing).

The instructions are the same. The only difference is this exercise uses a pen instead of a lithograph crayon.

Now, I can see what a pleasure it was to use the crayon. It is the perfect tool for the exercise. It lends itself to the sculpting metaphor. It is easy to imagine that as I rub with the side of the crayon I am adding clay to a sculpture or altering the surface.

In comparison, the narrow nib of the pen is a nightmare. All you can do is scribble. Even the choice of pen is difficult. The instructions say not to use a fountain pen, but don’t specify the right pen. I tried a variety (including a fountain pen) and eventually settled on a Staedtler pigment liner.

I shouldn’t complain too much because I have benefited from the exercise. It has helped me to learn more about observing the subtle changes in direction on the surface of an object.

Both of the drawings are from Elaine and my recent holiday in Canada - we got back yesterday. We started and finished the holiday with friends. We spent the first few days with Lori and Peter in Toronto and the last few days with John, Petra and Jane in Guelph. We enjoyed our visits and are grateful to them for their generous hospitality.

The sunbathing frog is an ornament in John, Petra and Jane’s garden.

The second drawing is Elaine reading on our balcony at the Queen and Albert B&B in Stratford, Ontario. We spent a couple of nights in Stratford. The Queen and Albert has comfortably spacious rooms, excellent breakfasts and a friendly host (William Broad).

On the Balcony
Modelled Drawing - 27 June 2011
Ink on Paper
35.5cm x 23cm (14" x 9")

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Waiting for the Tide

Waiting for the Tide
Watercolour on Paper
55cm x 35.5cm (21.5" x 14")

I’ve been meaning to paint this collection of boats for some time. They are in the harbour at Wells-Next-The-Sea. The distinctive Granary building is directly above them.

I kept putting this picture off because of the painting of Brixham Trawlers that I included on my first post (The Natural Way To Draw).

The Brixham painting is one of my favourites. It was the first time one of my paintings exceeded my expectations.

I was reluctant to paint another harbour view in the same style because it is time consuming and I was worried I might not be able to repeat the experience.

I’m not sure this is a better painting, but it demonstrates some improvement in technique.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Saint Peter's

Saint Peter's
Watercolour on Paper
25.5cm x 35.5cm (10" x 14")

This porch was built between 1320 and 1340 and the site has been a place of worship for 1300 years.

Our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand parents might have prayed here (assuming an average gap between birth of parent to birth of child of 25 years and knocking off a couple of generations because we weren’t born yesterday).

I’ve been meaning to paint this view for some time because of the interesting shadows on the statue of Saint Peter.

Unfortunately, the statue hasn’t worked particularly well and there are a few other bits that didn’t come out exactly as I planned.

One thing I particularly need to think about is the composition with the large dark shadows in the middle. I’ve painted a number of pictures that have shadowy doorways towards the middle of the piece. Elaine doesn’t like them and I am beginning to see her point of view. I hope there isn’t some repressed shadowy part of my psyche trying to reveal itself.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")
Jack (aka Salty the Sea Dog) is Paul and Wendy’s dog. He earned his nickname for his antics on a number of boating holidays. On his first voyage, Paul threw a twig the size of a blade of grass over the side of the boat. Jack launched himself into the water, swam to the bank and dragged half a tree out of the undergrowth. That was a few years ago. He is older and a little bit wiser. He doesn't fall in the water so much but he is still a puppy at heart.

This is my first attempt at a portrait. It was daunting to try to produce a likeness of Jack rather than a picture of a dog. I agree with John Singer Sargent’s definition of a portrait as a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth.

I based the painting on some photos of a walk through a bluebell wood. My original intention was to include some bluebells in the picture, but as it neared completion, I decided the simple background was more effective. The texture is the result of placing cling film over the paint while it is wet and leaving it to dry.

One of the biggest challenges in the painting was Jack’s dark coat. It is notoriously difficult to paint large interesting dark areas with watercolours. In this picture, I built Jack’s coat up with multiple layers of browns and blues.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Watercolour on Paper
25.5cm x 35.5cm (10" x 14")

It is typical. You spend the whole day looking for a cow and when you give up looking, you bump into a herd of them. I met this one on a recent walk through the Cheshire countryside with David, Jane and Lydia.

This is my second painting using the style and techniques taught by Jean Haines ( The first one was the picture of Whitby Abbey that I posted a few weeks ago.

Since then I have bought and studied Jean’s Amazing Ways with Watercolour DVD.

In some art DVDs, I have the impression the artists are trying not to give too many secrets away, but Jean is very open about her style and provides a clear explanation of the techniques she uses.

Her style provides an excellent means for learning about the mysteries of watercolour. She works with a lot of pigment and a lot of water - for the uninitiated, this can be an unpredicatable combination.

Her key message is that watercolour is controllable. I suspect she means controllable in the same way as a surfer controls the sea. It is a case of learning to work with it and anticipate its behaviour.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Modelled Drawing

The Red and the Green
Modelled Drawing - 6 May 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
38cm x 33cm (15" x 13")

Hooray! On Friday, I finished Section 4 of the Natural Way to Draw - a day ahead of schedule.

Section 4 has included a lot of Modelled Drawing. This is a continuation of the Weight Drawing exercise (see the previous post Weight Drawing).

The instructions continue the sculpting metaphor. You start with 10 minutes of weight drawing to build up the basic bulk of the object and then spend 15 minutes adding extra crayon (as though it were clay) to model the surface in more detail. Initially, you imagine your hand following the contours of the surface. You apply more pressure when the surface moves away from you and less pressure when it moves towards you. You then imagine the crayon is a modelling tool that you can use to move the clay and poke it into the deepest fissures.

There is no attempt to describe light and shadow. In theory, the lightest parts should be the surfaces that are closest to you and the darkest should be those that are furthest away.

I have really struggled with this exercise. Initially, I misunderstood the instructions and even now, I find the exercise difficult. I finally thought I was getting the hang of it with the picture of Sailor Jack, but too late. Section 5 replaces the modelled drawing in crayon with the modelled drawing in ink. Curses!

Sailor Jack
(The Mansfield Matelot)
Modelled Drawing - 26 May 2011
Lithograph Crayon on Paper
30.5cm x 53cm (12" x 21")

Sailor Jack was Elaine's first toy. Her dad, Pete, made plaster casts from it, which he would paint. The Mansfield Royal Naval Association presented these little statues to visiting clubs and dignitaries as "The Mansfield Matelot".  We have the last one he made in one of our guest bedrooms.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

By The Lighthouse

By The Lighthouse
Watercolour on Paper
28cm x 38cm (11" x 15")

Watchet is a little town on the North Somerset coast. This painting is based on a photo of the harbour I took on my “sketching” trip from Dunster (see the previous post Left Luggage). I wanted to draw the lighthouse, but I was too self-conscious so we went to the pub instead.

I thought I was observant to notice the reflected light on the base of the tower - until I discovered Watchet Marina use the same reflection in their logo (

The couple are the largest figures I have included in a painting. I added them to balance the picture and to create a bit more interest. I have been hesitant to include figures and faces in paintings because if you mess them up, the mistakes tend to stand out. The solution for this style of painting is to treat them with the same amount of respect as the rest of the painting and not to get drawn into adding extra details because they are people. As long as they are about the right shape and fit in with the rest of the painting, they will be fine. Having said that, I think the figures are evidence that the exercises from the Natural Way to Draw are having an impact - I think there is gesture in their postures.

Oh yes ... the N on the weather vane should be reversed. This was one little detail I intended to include, but I had a slight lapse of concentration at the critical moment.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Moving Action

Standing Up
Moving Action Drawing - 5 May 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
20.5cm x 25.5cm (8" x 10")

These are Moving Action drawings from the Natural Way to Draw.

The model performs an action in which part of the body (usually one or both of the legs) remains static, for example, in:

  • Standing Up – Elaine is standing up from a chair
  • Turn the Radio On – She is bending forward at the waist
  • Kneeling to All Fours – She is sat on her heels and moves forward on to all fours
The model repeats the movement for three minutes at different speeds.

The objective is to draw the starting position and the end position and hopefully some of the movement in between. The drawings are made in the scribbling style of the gesture drawings from earlier posts.

The results are quite effective and repeating 8 poses for 3 minutes each provided Elaine with an aerobic workout. I think she is relieved it is another 5 weeks until the next set of Moving Action poses and that set is made up of 5 poses not 8.

Turn the Radio On
Moving Action Drawing - 5 May 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
18cm x 25.5cm (7" x 10")

Kneeling to All Fours
Moving Action Drawing - 5 May 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
33cm x 23cm (13" x 9")

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Through a Window (Through a Window)

Through a Window (Through a Window)
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

This is a view looking through two windows of an old building in Gunthorpe. If you cannot work out what you are looking at, you are in good company. I had to show Elaine the photograph I used as a source before she understood the painting.

I took the photo after we had been to the Black Horse at Caythorpe (A perfect English country pub). So maybe I was working on a higher intellectual plane.

I know it’s a strange choice of subjects, but I’ve got it out of my system.

I painted the picture at one of Tony Slater’s ( painting days with the Shelford group. The subject of this workshop was Doors and Windows. He provided his customary excellent advice and good humour. This time he even lent me his brushes, which was beyond the call of duty.

One of the things that I enjoy about painting with the group is that I feel pressurised to get some paint on the paper before everyone else is on to their second painting. It forces me to make spontaneous decisions about a painting instead of having another cup of tea and thinking about it.

I really rushed into this painting and I learnt a lot from my mistakes. If I ever feel the need to paint another view through two windows, I will use a completely different approach.