Portrait painting workshop……

Tomorrow I am giving a Portrait painting workshop.    My goals are to help the group to be playful, remove the fear that often arises when the words ‘portrait painting’ come up and to focus on capturing the essence of their subject.

I will begin the day with a watercolour demonstration using one of the participants as my model…and then encourage the group to make quick studies of one another.   As this will be part of the warming up process, newspaper or inexpensive wallpaper lining can be used….

Simplifying the subject as demonstrated in this quick study, helps the artist to begin to see what’s in front of them.      I often say that we can live with someone for thirty years but it’s not until you draw or paint a subject that you actually see them.

felt tip pen and a watercolour wash.20-11-15-1-750I highly recommend carrying a sketch book….This offers perfect opportunities to observe people and make quick studies.

During a lecture at an Adlarian Summer School, I made this quick sketch of Vincent.   I used a pen during the lecture and then applied wash afterwards.

pen and wash. 20-11-15-1-747In this study of an elderly lady in a nursing home in Wales – I wanted to capture the stern quality of her expression.

watercolour/gouache/felt tip pen study   20-11-15-1-754Silvern was one of the actors I painted last year when in Nantes France.      I have to say that working with the group as they rehearsed for a production was one of the year’s highlights.    As actors they were naturally very expressive and wonderful to capture.

Note in this watercolour all the whites are dry white paper.

When giving a portrait workshop, I often see people struggling with one aspect of a face, i.e. the nose.    More and more paint is added, causing confusion to the painter and the portrait –   Often all that is needed is a shadow next to the nose – and voila.

watercolour. 20-11-15 - 1 (371)This young woman was enjoying some spring sunshine….note all white areas are dry white paper.    By adding the dark background, the profile is revealed.    I have used the same tone in the background as in the shadow areas of the face….Remember everything is interconnected.

watercolour19853_341904480395_7803458_nIn this alla prima  (painted in one session) oil sketch of my son when he was 26 years old (he’s now 50), note that the strong shadow on his neck reveals his chin…..The top lip is in shadow revealing the bottom lip….The dark in his hair frames and reveals the face. til-august-10-187I painted this oil sketch of Megan about 32 years ago when I was working on  a large portrait of her Mother in my West Chester, Pennsylvania studio.    After a sitting, Megan asked if I would paint her, and so I used the paint left on my palette capturing her in about twenty minutes.

rapid alla prima oil on canvas sketch P1150316A rapid sketch of Eli.    I love drawing/painting children.   The proportions are completely different.      It’s a case of ‘less is more’.

from one of my travelling sketch books.  – pen20-11-15-1-752I painted this spontaneous watercolour portrait of Margarida as a demonstration in Portugal last year.    At the time, Margarida was pregnant (I get to meet the new baby in April. 🙂       I used an elephant sized  sheet of paper.      I didn’t worry about the outcome but simply enjoyed the moment…which is something I highly recommend that others do.

Large, spontaneous watercolour of Margarida. 20-11-15 - 1 (93)And then there is the self portrait.

When models are scarce we always have ourselves.  I have painted several self portraits over the years, and find them to be illuminating – always learning something new about  myself.        This alla prima oil sketch was painted on January 3rd 2000 when I was living in the Magical Town of Crickadoon.    I loved that hat, and somewhere along the way have lost it…..ah well, I still have it in the painting.

alla prima oil on canvas. – self portrait. P1140993Happy painting.

A Bientôt

Painting exercise – An Iris, symbolising love a wisdo

Even though we are still in February, I am feeling the onset of Spring.     Everywhere I look, I see the signs.    So many bulbs shooting up through the soil and that tell tale sign of the sap beginning to rise.     Such an exciting time of the year.    These feelings are begging me to use vibrant colour…..and so I am using an Iris as my jumping off point for a watercolour/gouache painting exercise.

rapid watercolour with a little gouache here and there…….20-11-15-1-731I have learned that the Iris symbolises love and wisdom  – two elements that we can never have enough of…..

This is a playful exercise….a good way to warm up.

Using a big brush, I apply bold colourful marks to the paper….You can do this exercise on newspaper, inexpensive wallpaper lining, anything at hand.   The key is to go for it and enjoy. 


I begin to establish the form of the Iris….important to note that all the whites you see thus far are dry white paper.     I am emphasising keeping dry white paper areas in this exercise, rather than wetting the whole sheet.    This will give more control and ultimately those dry white areas bring sparkle to a watercolour painting.

20-11-15-1-726I add paint to the background and pull out certain areas with a clean wet brush….all the white areas showing are dry white paper.

To avoid muddiness – a clean wet brush can do wonders in moving paint around.     20-11-15-1-727I then decide to give the image more drama and add a dark wash into the negative space surrounding the Iris.      I don’t use black…this dark is made up from  a Burnt sienna/ Prussian Blue mix plus some of the purple I have used in the Iris. 20-11-15-1-729While the surface is wet, I scrape out some areas with a knife.   I have also added a little Permanent White Gouache into the final frame….note how the gouache bleeds from the Irish into the surrounding paint.

Very important to move colour around the picture and to allow the paint to do its own thing….this is where watercolour mediums are quite magical20-11-15-1-731I have several short videos on YouTube which can be helpful.   They can be found by entering my name into the YouTube search engine.

Along with Podcasts I plan to do some longer videos during the coming year.

Remember love and wisdom are the words for today….two elements the Magical Hummingbirds understand well.


A Bientôt.

Peter Griffen and Denise Lithgow return to Art in the Algarve – http://www.artinthealgarve.com

I first met Australian artists Peter Griffen and Denise Lithgow two years ago when they made their debut at the School in Alhoa, Portugal – http://www.artinthealgarve.com

They are much fun to be with, interesting and above all superb artists, and as you will see from their work, multi faceted.    Together they offer a very exciting workshop opportunity.    Dates for Olhao Portugal workshop – 24th til 31st May.

Denise and Peter prior to their workshop two years ago in Olhao….it was such a beautiful day P1170677One of Peter’s dynamic paintings – acrylic on canvas.   You can read and see more about Peter’s work at –     http://www.petergriffen.com              16602280_10207804664946650_393120165238367697_oDenise’s medium is Felt.       When I first saw her work, I was amazed at what Denise is able to create with the medium.    See more at    http://www.deniselithgow.com

Some of Denise’s felt vessels…..10958098_10153556116493835_9102219834970811781_n

“I believe that to make discoveries, risks must be taken:  the traveller must get lost.  A well planned journey can only lead to an already known destination”.   Peter Griffen.     

An example of Peter’s plein air painting – acrylic on paper.


“My textile practice revolves around free flowing design and bright, vibrant colours.    This approach is dispersed into different areas including silk painting, dying fabrics, machine embroidery and felting”.

Denise modeling her art to wear.

543723_4537711129410_264464360_nWith years of teaching experience between them, along with numerous solo and group exhibitions plus awards and prizes….a workshop with Peter and Denise will be both illuminating, exciting and much fun…..

Peter and Denise in their Sydney, Australia studio. 

img_0144Again dates for the upcoming workshop are 24th til 31st May.     There are still places available, but I would book soon if you have an interest in joining  what I am quite sure will be a superb week.

For all information about booking and courses go to …http://www.artinthealgarve.com


Something very beautiful for the weekend……enjoy

Earlier this year, renowned Italian composer Ludovico Eindaudi performed his ‘Elegy for the Arctic’ on a small floating platform in Wahlenbergbreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway. Around him glaciers crumbled and collapsed into the pearlescent water and the pristine quiet was pierced with the deafening sound of a fragile environment on the verge of implosion. His…

via A piano reverberates over collapsing glaciers — Content Catnip

An Opportunity to Paint in Albania – Albo Fine Art.

I first came across Albo Fine Art  on twitter  I liked the ethos of the Gallery and  given that I have not visited Albania, it was an opportunity for me to learn something about the country and the artists who live and work there.

I developed a conversation with Thoma Blana – artist and founder of the Gallery, who told me of his plans to offer painting holidays.

I usually write about places that I have visited, however in this case, it has meant doing some research and what I have found has bowled me over.    I have learned that Albania is definitely a place I would like to visit and clearly a country that is coming into its own as a tourist destination – and a superb location for artists.

Albo Fine Arts – Tirana – Albania


The following is an overview of the seven day holiday: – The first one will be next month – March 2017.       If this is too short a notice, maybe now is the time to think about next year’s programme when I plan to be part of the group.

Map of Albania…

803329.aiCatering to both amateur and professional artists, participants will enjoy plein air painting guided by Sadik Kasa, Professor at the Academy of arts, Albania.    Basic art supplies will be supplied and a translator will be available.


During the seven day holiday a comfortable mini bus will be provided  to take the group to places of interest including Pogradec and Korca – (see map) 

Pogradec is on the Albania/Macedania border and is located on the shore of Lake Ohrid.

Lake Ohrid – straddling the mountainous border between southwestern Macedonia and eastern Albania, Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, preserving a unique aquatic ecosystem.????? - ?????After a comfortable nights sleep in air conditioned and well appointed hotels, the group will enjoy breakfast followed by a morning of plein air painting.      After enjoying lunch in local restaurants,  galleries and other places of interest will be visited for the remainder of the afternoon.

Albania has beaches to rival any elsewhere in the Mediterranean. the-view

campingpeshku_com-pogradecAs you can see from these photographs – the landscape and subject matter is diverse. 16105521_1206074346140866_9154712630087023518_n

Along with meals in local restaurants, evening entertainment will be on offer.

On one evening, the group will enjoy Albanian folk musicians and towards the end of the week there will be an art exhibition and gala evening at the Albo Gallery.   An excellent opportunity for the Group to show the work they have produced during the week, and at the same time learn more about their Albanian counterparts.


Albania has been recommended by Lonely Planet as a top level travel destination –

‘Albania has natural beauty in such abundance that you might wonder why it took 20 years for the country to take off as a tourist destination since the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991.     So backward was Albania when it emerged blinking into the bright  light of freedom that it needed two decades just to catch up with the rest of Eastern Europe.         Now that it has arguably done so, Albania offers a remarkable array of unique attractions, not least due to this very isolation:     ancient mountain codes of behaviour, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still are all on the menu.   With it’s stunning mountain scenery, a thriving capital in Tirana and beaches to rival any elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Albania has become the sleeper hit of the Balkans.   But hurry here, as word is well and truly out.’    Lonely Planet. 

And then there is the country’s rich history.     The group will see ancient mosaics and murals, along with icons from the Byzantine Orthodox tradition….and so much more.

Icons in Berat – UNESCO site. 


The more I learn the more interested I am to visit this country.

Apparently, traditional Albanian culture honours the role and person of the guest.   In return for this place of honour, respect is expected from the guest.  I like this very much.


For anyone interested in taking up this opportunity here are  contact details.     

Dates for first painting holiday are:  20th March 2017 til 27th March.   Dates for subsequent holidays have yet to be published.    For flights – Mother Teresa Airport, Tirana

All other information with regard to costs etc., can be obtained from Thoma Blana – Albo Fine Art or Thoma’s daughter, Ines Blana 

http://www.albo.artistwebsites.com   (where you can also see artists represented by the Gallery) – or email at albogallery@gmail.com – phone – 00355696191873 – 00355696554875

You can also find Albo Fine Art on FB and Twitter.

I will look forward to visiting Albania next year and hope others will join me.


















Creative Talent and Sweat

I always enjoy reading David’s blogs and gain so much from them. I highly recommend to anyone who is a creative. Janet.


cherries-and-peonies Cherries and Peonies by Georgiana Romanovna http://www.romanovna.com/

Whenever I look at the work of the creative people who follow my blog –and I do often–I marvel.  I think, “There are so many talented people—she there in Australia and she in England are talented and he in Ireland is talented. Just look at that French woman’s work; it’s beautiful. That Russian woman is so accomplished; everything about her work is just right; it was created by a tremendously talented human being.”

But I know that the finished products that I admire so are far from the whole story because no outstanding creative achievement has ever been produced without a lot of effort on the part of the creator, however much natural talent he or she possesses. Hesiod, a poet who lived several hundred years before Plato, showing great insight into the creative life, wrote, “Before the gates of excellence the gods…

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Spontaneous watercolour/gouache exercise.

spontaneous watercolour/gouache20-11-15-1-710

When we are very young, we have no problem at all in throwing paint around.   In fact, we quickly learn how enjoyable it is to put colour and marks on a surface  – any surface.  🙂

An exercise capturing energy and movement 

20-11-15-1-675By the time we come to the end of our formative years, at around the age of seven, the narrow definition our respective nurturing and culture have imposed upon us has begun to take hold.

We begin to be fearful of ‘making mistakes’ – of not fitting into our particular norm.

I began this exercise by working from a colour ground….you can pick any colour.   Make sure that a ground has had 24 hours or more to dry. 


By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have lost touch with, and confidence in, our inner creative energy.

Remember to move colour all around the image.    Changing one small fraction of an image changes the whole. 


This spontaneous exercise is all about letting go of expectations and allowing ourselves  to be expressive and  PLAY.    Playing on newspaper or inexpensive wallpaper lining helps to alleviate the fear of messing up a good piece of paper…..and is a wonderful way to warm up before a day’s painting.

Because I am working rapidly and parts of the image are very wet, I am painting on a flat surface.   It’s important to allow the wet paint to do its own thing….all sorts of lovely surprises occur. 


Be bold – make marks, enjoy colour and surprise yourself with the satisfaction and joy this brings.      

Regardless of where you wish to take your creativity….this form of exercise will help.

To complete, I scrape out areas with a knife which reveals the underlying colour ground of  cadmium orange. 20-11-15-1-710Remember that the ‘creative process in all its many forms is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing’. 

A Bientôt