Packing my virtual suitcase for my virtual trip to Portugal on 15th April….plus thumb nail sketches….plus a pink super moon….

It’s time to pack my virtual suit case for my virtual trip to the School in Olhao Portugal on Wednesday 15th April. 

The 150 year old olive tree that grows from the central courtyards…..always a welcome sight. 


Along with a few clothes the most important things to remember are art materials, sun glasses, sun hat…..and always comfortable shoes/sandals.

The School is located in the middle of the old quarter of Olhao which means that you can walk everywhere and purchase anything that you may have forgotten.

Most people will bring a lovely clean palette and possibly smaller brushes, however these are some of the items I will bring.


The School is like a living organism…..embodying all the properties for life and is perfect for those who wish to create or simply be.        I am so looking forward to being there with you, even though on this occasion it will be a virtual meeting:)20191003_152334Anyone who has taken my courses knows that I emphasise the use of sketch books and the importance of carrying one at all times.

They are good for making ‘thumb nail sketches’ which are quick, abbreviated drawings – almost doodles and scribbles.    (Perfect during our time of isolation).    Any medium can be used and for that matter along with sketch books these can be made on envelopes, newspaper, or any other surface.

These little doodles hep us with composition for larger finished watercolours.     They are not about ‘getting it right’ they are about jotting down thoughts and ideas. 

Thumb nail sketches. 20200409_094950

A watercolour sketch of the beautiful Pink Super Moon that we enjoyed this week.    With London skies very clear it was indeed a sight to behold. 20200408_114556

Only six days to go before we all catch our virtual flights to Faro….See you there.


JWR tips and sayings – Some of them tongue in cheek:)

My VIRTUAL course begins here on Wednesday 15th April – finishing on Wednesday 22nd April       I will be mimicking my course at the School….should be fun.

Meanwhile, have a lovely Easter.

Janet 🙂









Rapid watercolour of chicken……Something playful for the weekend.

Something PLAYFUL for the weekend…..

The word ‘mud’ comes up quite a lot when talking about watercolour painting.    This rapid watercolour sketch of a chicken is all about avoiding mud…..


For those who are nervous of using good paper…allow yourself to play on newspaper, inexpensive wall paper lining, or anything else that might be at hand and I always suggest working on at least two pieces at once….four is better:)

Just begin – You will note that all the whites in this image are  dry white paper.     


If you are using a photograph – remember it is simply your ‘jumping off point’  


View the colours and shapes of your subject – as if it were a jigsaw puzzle and remember there are no lines around Mother Nature…    Everything is fluid…which is why watercolour is the perfect medium.

20-11-15-1-486One very important technique I have used in this little demo is to take a clean wet brush – using it to tease paint out which is already on the paper.      This gives an element of control and helps to keep the dry white paper areas.

Remember there are no mistakes in this fluid painting….allow the watercolour to perform its magic – and most importantly allow yourself to Play. 



A Bientôt.




watercolour portrait on white paper….demonstration

Following my previous post where I mixed watercolour and gouache and was working from an old sketch –

In this post I am using pure watercolour and any white you see is dry white paper.   

Margarida who runs the School in Portugal.   20200331_122139I always begin a portrait with the eye placement.    From there I indicate the map of the face which initially appears like a jigsaw puzzle.    Again it’s important to note that all white is Dry White Paper.20200331_114311


I am using a mix of burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue (excellent idea to play with these two pigments) with them you can achieve many different tones.


Please feel free to post any questions.

A magical hummingbird to bring some love into the equation…..mix of watercolour and gouache:)



Playing and Doodling using old paintings



I needed to play and doodle yesterday, and so I pulled out a piece of watercolour paper which I had already thrown some paint on.    Not sure what I originally intended, but that’s not important.

If you look closely you can see that I have sketched the profile of Claudia, with a blue water colour pencil.   I used a photograph of Claudia as my jumping off point.


Anyone who has taken one of my workshops will know how important I consider the warming up process to be.    Like dancers, musicians and athletes, painters need to warm up at the beginning of the day.    Playful exercises using newspaper, wall paper lining or painting over old sketches is freeing. 

In this frame, it’s all about the negative space.applying colour into the area surrounding the profile, which immediately reveals the face.   Even though I am working over a colour ground, I have applied juicy watercolour next to the face, and then with a clean, wet brush, I have pulled the paint out.


Remember when working from a photograph, it’s not about copying – rather using it as a jumping off point.

I decided to add some Indian Red water colour to the hair and into the negative space.   If asked why….my answer would be because the colour was on my palette and I felt like it:)

Given that I am working off a colour ground, I have applied some Winsor & Newton gouache, permanent white…Had I been working  on white paper….I would have left dry white paper for my highlights. 


I have added some Cadmium Orange water colour which brings a vibrancy to the image.


In the final frame I decided to use the Permanent White, along with some Naples Yellow gouache around the image to bring a sense of interesting light and movement.


An artist who was recently visiting, talked about the problem of feeling that everything she did had to be a finished painting, even in her sketch book.       In our discussion she realised how this attitude prevented her from playing, doodling and freeing up.  

This post will be followed by a watercolour portrait on white paper…..

A Bientôt



Atelier Brussels – where I spent two blissful summers. Demonstration.

After speaking with a good friend this weekend, I was reminded of two blissful summers I experienced painting in the countryside close to Brussels.      I have decided to use a sketch from one of the sketchbooks made during that period for today’s demo.

From one of my many sketchbooks during that period.    From the atelier at Chemin du Gros.20200329_104802Which reminds me to remind you of the importance of always carrying a sketchbook….including now. 

For the most part (not always) my sketchbooks are small, especially when doing a lot of travelling.   I filled about eight sketchbooks during this period and completed many large oils and watercolours.

20200330_102930In this instance, I am working off a colour ground (using some cadmium orange and Naples yellow). You can use the left over paint on your palette each day to ground new pieces of paper.      Preparation was one of my recent tips to survive the isolation:)     

I am using a mix of watercolour and gouache.    I have roughly sketched out the trees using aTombow pen.20200329_104809I am now adding some strong colour into the negative space (between the trees) using a mix of burnt Sienna and Prussian blue watercolour.   (I don’t use black when using watercolour)

With a knife I am scraping out some colour to express branches…this must be done while the paint is still wet. 20200329_105714More negative space work – using a leaf green for the lighter areas…and continuing to scrape out with a knife. 20200329_110227Here I begin to indicate the colour in the cushions which are on the sofa in the atelier. 20200329_110935Making sure to bring colour from the cushions up into the trees.   Remember everything is interconnected…..Understanding this principle brings a sense of harmony to a painting and life in general…..20200329_111730Added to the bliss of being in a wonderful studio surrounded by nature…was the fact that I was looking after three beautiful Jack Russells and one lovely cat called Iccle.    When I was on the phone this weekend with my friend, who is now in France, I heard Iccle (now very old) meowing in the background…..:)

I decided to add one of the Jacks…Spuggy to this little sketch. 20200330_101552My suggestion is to look at your sketchbooks and find images that you might want to use as a ‘jumping off point’ during this period.

If you don’t have any sketchbooks – then now is the time to start.   Look around your home.   Look out of the windows.   If you are living with someone or animals, you have built in models.     When it gets warm again…sit in the garden if you are fortunate enough to have one. —–-So may opportunities to fill sketchbooks. 

See this period as an opportunity to explore.    As my dear childhood friend Gail said to me recently …let’s think of this situation as an adventure……..


A reminder that on the 15th April I will begin replicating a week’s course at the School in Olhao Portugal.

Have fun.    A bientot






Thinking out of the box…….

‘It isn’t enough to think outside the box.    Thinking is passive.   Get used to acting outside the box’    Tim Ferris

watercolour in paperback book…..


For those who are scared to mark a new piece of paper, or for that matter don’t have any watercolour paper – I suggest using newspaper, wrapping paper, envelopes or inexpensive rolls of wallpaper lining, – or maybe as shown above, playing with a well read paperback book….Why Not?

For everyone, I recommend warming up and playing a little every day.      This will keep the creative juices flowing.

You don’t have to produce a finished painting…far from it.   We often produce our best work through our warm up exercises…..

Hummingbirds on newspaper. – watercolour/gouache



Newspaper is great for doodling….Keep doodling until you begin to relax….

Like athletes and dancers, artists need to stretch and warm up every day…

20200326_102630Given that we are all housebound maybe it’s time to look around our living space for ‘still life’ opportunities.    As soon as I put that thought in my head, bingo…all sorts of new ideas came to the forefront.    (More about that in future blogs)

watercolour in paperback book20200326_101001Also please ignore any Chattering Monkeys that might be filling your head with reasons why you should not, and cannot do something.    IGNORE THEM…..

I based the newspaper exercise on a watercolour/felt tip pen sketch from one of my many sketchbooks.


Special thoughts to those parents with young children who are trying to work and entertain at the same time, often in small spaces.

Although my children are adults, I remember very well what it was to work and look after children..and it’s not easy under the best of circumstances.

Maybe some newspaper, newsprint, wall paper lining, and felt tip pens could get those little ones doodling for sanity:)

Wishing one and all a creative day…














Painting over old sketches. Time to PLAY and WARM UP….

I am often asked the question – When is a painting finished?   

This quote from Jidda Krishnamurti is my jumping off point for thoughts on this subject.

‘There is no end to education.   It is not that you read a book,  pass an examination and finish education.    The whole of life,  from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.’

The piano – rapid watercolour/gouacheOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach painting we work on (including preliminary sketches and warm up exercises) is connected to all the work we have produced in the past and any work we will produce in the future…….Everything is interconnected.

Unlike many jobs where there is a clear beginning, middle and finish – a painting can take minutes, hours or years to complete…….and even when the painting is not being worked on – the seed of it’s idea is still sprouting information, even if at a subliminal level.

I painted a ground over an old watercolour to make this image…A great way to recycle old paintings that haven’t worked.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomething to consider is that striving for perfection can sometimes cripple the creative process.

As artists we seek to attain technical prowess, however it’s important to remember that warming up,  playfulness and risk taking are all part of the exploration and creative processOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways try to work on more than one image at a time.     This can prevent overworking the painting and producing mud, particularly when working with watercolour!

When the question is asked – ‘where do I go next with this painting?’  It is time to stop.   Move onto the next painting and  invariably at a later date the answer will be revealed to your initial question.     Paintings communicate with us if we allow enough space and time…….            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  When working on canvases….it is customary to turn paintings to the wall – sometimes for long periods.     This helps an artist to see the painting in a fresh light at a later date.    Any work produced in the interim feeds the artist with new information, which is often relevant to the original piece.          OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARegardless of the end goal…rapid sketches in any medium, along with honing observational skills help an artist to focus the mind.

Many years ago, I gave a workshop in Wales where a group of us walked the Brecon/ Monmouthshire Canal for one day.      Every fifteen minutes we stopped and sketched for fifteen minutes.….Initially, this was daunting to some of the participants….however, by the end of the day…people were producing quick sketches, filled with information.

The point of this story is that sketches had to be finished within fifteen minutes – which again was an excellent way of focusing the mind and also removing the desire to achieve the ‘perfect’ sketch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we focus on the journey and not the destination – we are freed from restraints which might otherwise interfere with the creative flow.   The joy and learning will be  found in the doing, and answers will be revealed in their own good time.