Not thinking too much and letting go of self doubt……

“Chattering Monkeys are the little demons that fill our heads with reasons why we should not, and cannot do something.    Igore them”   Janet Weight Reed -The Apple Exercise. 

rapid warm up exercises.  

I used the the same brush on all four sections.    The left two sections are on white paper, the right two are painted on a colour ground.


Adding cadmium orange to all four sections – (the same colour used for the ground) connects the images.


Prior to giving a workshop last week for SOFAP – Fulham/Hammersmith Arts Society, I read some wise words from fellow blogger and writer  David Rogers…whose book  ‘Fighting to Win’ – Samurai Techniques For Your Work and Life,  talks about moving through the things that prevent us from being all that we can be.

I used the following two points from David’s book as the base line for the workshop.

1) Don’t think too much.          2) Let go of self doubt.

Rapid watercolour demonstration – Light on trees – one of the views from my window – Saorge. 


I always encourage a group to warm up and play at the beginning of a session….This is the foundation block for a day’s work and as vital to the artist as stretching is to the athlete and dancer.      In doing this we practise not thinking too much……and letting go of self doubt. 

Using photographs from my recent visit to  Saorge as  ‘jumping off points’- we begin to explore the rhythm and shapes of the landscape and Village.

Rapid watercolour of Saorge – on white paper.  


When we let go of self doubt and stop thinking too much, – when we allow our sixth sense and intuition to prevail, self imposed expectations disappear, freeing us up to explore the creative process.

Medieval village of Saorge – rapid watercolour  on white paper


In the following demonstration, I worked from a colour ground – which means any whites are added using Winsor & Newton Permanent White designer gouache.         ( When grounding paper its important to let the paint dry for a minimum of twenty-four hours before adding more paint.)

I am often asked what is the difference between watercolour and designer gouache?

Watercolour is transparent.     Designer gouache is opaque.       I often mix the two elements.    I began to do this about fifteen years ago when playing in my studio in Wales….

watercolour/gouache/felt tip pen are used to explore the alleyways of Saorge.


As we warm up..we are reminded that everything reflects upon everything else – all of life is interconnected.       By moving colour around a painting we bring harmony to the image.

By observing the harmonious flow of nature we learn so much.    Observation, observation, observation….one can never get enough of it.

In this rapid sketch – I am looking down onto  trees and roof tops.   Note the roof tiles are a natural purple colour which integrates into the surrounding landscape where the roof slate comes from. 


A little humour to finish this post.

As I was watercolour painting on the deck of the house where I was staying in Saorge…one of the sketches blew onto another roof below….and for all I know it is still there.    An example of ‘letting go’🙂

watercolour sketch on Saorge roof. 


Next week, I am off to Chester and Liverpool.    My friend the artist Miza Tavares has invited me to demonstrate at a workshop she is giving.    We will be painting the human form…one of my favourite subjects.    I will write about this in my next blog.

Today I finish with magical hummingbirds…

This image is on the front of my new calendar…which is available through


A Bientôt








Sustainable living in the community of Saorge France and what we can learn.

“Never doubt that a  small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world:  indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”   Margaret Atwood. 

The place where villagers used to do their laundry – now a perfect little plunge pool for local children on hot summer days….. 20-11-15-1-596My recent visit to Saorge got me thinking about what sustainability really means.     Only a one hour forty minute flight from the madness of London Gatwick Aiport, and then a drive or train ride up into the mountains from Nice, it feels like a very different world.

It’s a little like leaving a room where the tv is on full blast, the washing machine and dryer are buzzing away, phones are ringing, and then all of a sudden it’s all turned off!     Instead, natural sounds…the river, birds, trees and so on……..

Cars are parked at both ends of the Village – allowing for quiet, fume free living in the Village. 

20-11-15-1-639In 1946, the year I was born, there were approximately 2 billion people on the planet.  Today there are approx 7 1/2 billion…with estimated figures for 2050 of between 8.3 and 10.9 billion!

Given that a large percentage of the human population has moved to urban centres, is it any wonder that it all feels so crowded and out of control.       Then there are the cars, buses, trains, planes and so on……

Anyway, we can talk about the statistics until we are blue in the face, the question is – what can we do as individuals and communities to make real change.

Hanging out the laundry in Saorge….20-11-15-1-590For many hanging out the laundry is something that was done in the dark ages…and in fact there are places where it is banned!   I suppose it spoils the view……

I realise we need appropriate weather, but why not do this when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.   There’s nothing quite so lovely as sleeping on air dried sheets.

Abandoned olive terraces grow throughout the valley. 20-11-15-1-600Here are two examples of how this community works together for the good of all.    

Each year, some of the locals pick and press olives from abandoned olive terraces.   After keeping the pulp to make tapenade and other products, they distribute the oil free to many of the older residents.

Each day the children from the primary school walk to the old people’s home and join them for lunch and the singing of songs.       A simple formula that can benefit and change lives.

The yellow building standing on its own is the Primary School…..

348sWe need to wake up – There are 65 million displaced persons roaming our planet today.

Of course there are many complex reasons why this is happening, one of which is climate change.       Some parts of the world are devoid of water and no longer able to grow life sustaining crops.

Looking down onto the Le Monistaire – a place that hosts writers and other creatives – a place that has been self sustainable for several centuries. . phbd01-0808Saorge, like all French communities has The Mairie – which is responsible for all civic amenities.    This includes sewage treatment, water supply and the general upkeep of the Village.

The water comes from a source high in the mountains above Saorge and after treatment is piped into individual properties.     The Mairie charges each household a fixed amount per annum for these services.


Having grown up in the English countryside during a time when we knew how to conserve water, grow our own fruit and vegetables, hang the laundry out, not build on flood plains, take natural exercise in the normal course of a day – it seems to me that we have forgotten so much.

Creative thinking needs to come into play…

I will be giving a workshop in London next Wednesday for SOFAP – Fulham/Hammersmith Art Society, where we will explore the shapes and rhythms of Saorge and the surrounding landscape.     I will share these images at a later date. 

Meanwhile, I leave you with colour and magical hummingbirds – a glimpse into the ‘unseen world’ – watercolour/gouache


A Bientôt.



‘The creative process is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing’ Janet Weight Reed

‘The creative process is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing‘  Janet Weight Reed.

Dancing with Mother Nature…..watercolour


A Bientôt

A mystical Place – Notre Dame des Fontaines


Although my friends had spoken about the enchanting and mystical Notre Dame des Fontaines, nothing could  have quite prepared me for this extraordinary little 12th century church tucked away in a small and intimate valley.    It is situated above sacred springs that have been a place of pilgrimage long before Christianity – it invites visitors to enter.

The exterior gives no indication of what is to be found inside.


I was aware that the Church housed frescoes painted during the 15th century by artist/priest Giovani Canavesio, but nothing could have quite prepared me for what I was about to see.

Covering all walls the frescoes depict scenes from the The Passion of Christ.     No words can  describe the depth of feeling that comes from seeing these works.

Since visiting Notre Dame des Fontaines, I have tried to imagine the intensity of passion and dedication  of a man like Giovani Canavesio.

In this quiet beautiful place, far removed from the madding crowds, he has given humanity an example of what it is to be truly committed to a lifetime of service and devotion.

I would love to see a beautifully crafted film based on the life of Giovani Canavesio.

Frescoes inside Notre Dame des Fontaines. 


Sitting on the Italian/French borders in the magnificent Alpes-Maritimes region, it is remarkable that the Church has survived the centuries, including – the two world wars.      Given that we are being reminded today of the propensity for volcanic activity in that part of the world, amazing that it has survived natural disasters.

Looking up at one of the windows outside the church.


It was also a place to reveal a new clue.       The lovely woman giving help and information to visitors, was named Myriam.     Just before we left, I mentioned that I thought she would be a very good subject for a portrait.


When I gave her a hummingbird card, she immediately told me about a man called Pier Rabhi – who runs the Association le Calibre – (Hummingbird Association).    Given that the hummingbird symbolises for me all that is unseen in our world, it seemed only fitting that I would meet this woman in such a mystical place.

Gareth and Myriam looking down onto the springs.


It would take a lifetime of study to learn about the history of the Church and the remarkable frescoes it houses.      There is a book, ‘Painter and Priest’ – by Veronique Piesch – published by the University of Chicago Press – one that I hope to read.

When visiting a museum or place of great interest I can only take in and digest one exhibition at a time….and so after leaving the Church, and stopping briefly in the town of La Brigue, (another very interesting place) we returned to Saorge where we had a lovely lunch.

Outside of La Petite Epicure – on a beautiful autumn day.      One of those lovely relaxing lunches with good company,  food and conversation.      


Meeting cats and dogs is as important to me as meeting human beings, and so I was delighted that this little feline angel joined us at La Petite Epicure:)


Following on from meeting Myriam ….I leave you with these rather ethereal hummingbirds/Colibri.


More about Saorge along with sketches in my next post.

A Bientôt




A Room With a View…….

Sometimes we visit a new place and feel as if we have known it all our lives….That’s what happened to me when I first visited Crickhowell, Wales in 1993, (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon), and once again this experience occurred when I visited Saorge, a commune located in the Alpes-Maritimes Department of south eastern France.

A sketch from the view to the right of my bedroom window……watercolour/gouache sketch20-11-15-1-558

20-11-15-1-656As I mentioned in my last post – ‘Following Life’s Clues’  – good friends from Wales have been renting a house in Saorge for the past year and suggested that I visit.    They felt that Saorge encompassed many elements of Marmite Heaven..……my place in the sun:)

The view from my window looking to the left…… Oh the glorious light….. 

20-11-15-1-667After being met at Nice airport by my friend Gareth, we drove up into the mountains along the Italian/French border into what is the magnificent landscape of the Roya Valley.   Being mindful that this was a very short trip, I had to gulp in the dramatic scenery.

As we approached Saorge – one of the ‘Perched Villages’ – it was clear to see how this place has survived the centuries.    Perfectly place to fend off enemies and also part of the ancient Salt Route – which fuelled one of the great economies of Europe.

The view looking down the Roya Valley from my room.   ( Note the train coming through the Valley.)     The roar of the Roya River beneath  is constantly present.     This is a place where all the senses are nourished.

20-11-15-1-580We arrived around  4 p.m. and immediately took a walk through the Village where no cars are allowed.   Parking is available at both ends of the Village.

One of the fascinating elements of Saorge is that on the one side of the Village the views are vast and majestic and then on the other side of the houses – you enter the medieval cobbled lanes which lend a sense of intimacy and protection.

The lane outside of the house where I was staying. 

20-11-15-1-542In the Marmite Heaven of my dreams, I will be removed from the madness of our 21st century world.    I will write every day and  paint a series of portraits recording the people living within the community.    Saorge certainly has a lot of wonderful characters to draw upon.

After a delicious Italian meal at Restaurant Lou Pountin just a minutes stroll away, Gareth and I were joined by his friend Simon.    As we sat on our high perch on the second floor of the house, listening to the Roya River way beneath us and looking out onto a seemingly vast open expanse, I observed how ‘detached’ I felt from everything,  and I was.       Wonderful

One of the views of the approach to Saorge.saorge

I will be writing more about my first visit to Saorge in the next couple of weeks, along with impressions of  the very lovely and interesting people I met, plus cats and dogs……       Also I will be making mention of Monastere de Soarge  which looks over the Village and Roya Valley.    Along with its fascinating history and intrinsic beauty, it is here writers and other creatives gather.

One of the many ancient arches, nooks and crannies in Saorge….watercolour/gouache


Meanwhile, let it suffice to say that the magical hummingbirds were definitely with me….and just how much they were with me will be revealed in my next blog focusing on our visit to Notre Dame des Fontaines where we met beautiful Miriam, a direct connection to the world of hummingbirds, or in French – Colibris.…..

Soaring above all the madness like the magical hummingbird…..

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A bientôt




Following life’s Clues…..

I am off to Saorge, France for a few days….


When I was with friends in Wales this past summer, we talked about my wish to find Marmite Heaven – (will write more about MH in a later post).     My friends have been renting a house in Saorge, France for the past year and suggested that I visit before their rental finished, as it might be a place where I would enjoy sketching/painting and possibly more….we will see.   As the title of this post indicates….I am following life’s clues…..


I will fly to Nice, where I will be met by my friend Gareth.    We will then drive up into the mountains to Saorge, which sits on the border off Italy and France – two of my favourite countries.


I have already scheduled a workshop in London this November, where I will be using images of Saorge as the ‘jumping off point’ for paintings…..and so am hoping to return next week with lots of information and images – both sketches and photographs – to share here.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a double dose of magic with this new ‘painted elephant plus magical hummingbirds’       It is already adorning products at


A Bientôt.