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Starting from scratch…..

There are many ways to SEE an apple….


Yesterday I received this message from a new follower: –

“I would like to learn to paint from you.   Where to start?     I am scared even to pick up a paint brush.”

The person who wrote this is not alone, and so I am prompted to write a post on the subject of starting from scratch and releasing fear.

I came up with the ‘apple exercise’ many years ago because in principle it is simple and effective.

Any materials can be used – most of them can be found in your home or local pound shop.  (you don’t need to go out and purchase expensive paints, brushes and paper)   


I believe that the reason so many people feel a sense of fear and trepidation when they begin to make marks on paper is because we are taught from an early age that what we draw or paint should be perfect and look exactly like our subject.       Striving for perfection can cripple….. 

The first lesson is to WARM UP and PLAY.      PLAYING  and Doodling on inexpensive paper can help us move from a place of fear to a more relaxed and receptive state of mind.       For more seasoned artists it’s an excellent way to move into the day’s work. 

I will demonstrate using this image.      After I sketched the apples,  I ate them:)


Learning  the many different techniques of painting takes years of practise and dedication.       I can’t teach this, but what I can do is encourage and share tools and techniques.   

Getting started is always the hardest part.     It’s like jumping off a cliff.   Once you have done it there is a sense of personal satisfaction and freedom.    The key is to jump off that cliff every day.          

Here are three warm up exercises…..

  1.       Pretty much anyone can find an apple and piece of newspaper.

20200428_112954After roughly sketching out the apple and its shadow,  I apply some juicy watercolour.    Remember this is simply to warm up and its only newspaper.   20200428_113127

 2.     Using white paper….I sketch out the shapes. with a felt tip pen.    I then add a little of the same colour to each segment.   I am thinking in shapes rather than apples and shadows – this is very important.    20200428_113911When we paint shadows they always reflect the colour of the object making the shadow.        I have allowed the paint to bleed (run from one colour into another)


3.   I  drew this apple on an orange background which I painted earlier.        I often draw or paint over old sketches to warm up.   20200428_114750I then applied some juicy red paint to the apple and shadow…leaving some of the dry orange background as a highlight on the apple and in the NEGATIVE SPACE –  (the area surrounding the apple and shadow).     Note the thin slither of orange between the apple and the shadow is key in separating the two areas.20200428_115052Using a wet brush I then added Permanent White Gouache  into the background allowing it to merge with the red….This is an exercise of ‘LETTING GO’ – not trying to control the paint but seeing where it takes you.       Watercolour is transparent – Gouache is opaque20200428_115558


  1. If you can write your signature – you can learn to draw.   You didn’t emerge from the womb knowing how to write…..
  2. IGNORE the Chattering Monkeys that clutter your mind with negative nonsense.
  4. Use photographs as a JUMPING OFF POINT – don’t become a slave to them.
  5. NEGATIVE SPACE – the space surrounding the subject
  6. Move colour around the picture to achieve balance and harmony.
  7. Everything reflects on everything else.    All of life is interconnected. 
  8. Fifteen minutes a day practise can do wonders.
  10. Painting with children helps us to free up.
  12. Stay away from negativity….

Observe everything in many different ways.

Go to  (Janet Weight Reed) where you will find some short videos including one of me painting an apple on newspaper.

Most importantly ENJOY the process….and don’t compare what you do to anyone else’s work.    Only compare yourself with your own progress.

Old paperback books are an excellent source of paper……..Think out of the box and be curious.



Growth in Isolation

I first wrote this blog in March right after the first lock down and thought it a good idea to post again.

Here we are nearly one year on and the virus continues to dominate our lives.   This says to me that we need to adapt ourself and lives so that we can stay well in body and mind. IMG-20191127-WA0010Be Prepared….

Having been a self employed artist since 1973, I know what it is to work and live in isolation.

In this post I  am offering some tried and true suggestions taken from my own experience.    (this photograph shows me when I was about 30 years old…at that time my son was nine and my daughter one)

At the moment a lot of people are talking about doing different things on line.   However, almost like New Years resolutions,  I have a feeling that if this goes on for weeks, months or longer the novelty of living this way might dwindle for many and so it is important to be prepared. 

My cottage garden in Wales with Christeve the Cat and friend on shed….This little garden taught me so much, not least of which was patience……til August 10 119A DAILY ROUTINE  

It is important to establish a daily routine that works for you.     Write it down.  

For single people this can be easier given that there are no interruptions.

However,  having raised a family I know what it is to live and work in a very busy household and at the same time stick to schedules. – not easy, therefore structure becomes even more important.

An added plus is that by establishing a good daily routine you could encourage others in your household to do the same.    A learning experience for everyone.

All of this takes a level of self discipline – a word that many people shy away from today.   In reality self discipline equals Freedom….

If I have a good structure in place, it gives me the freedom to do the things I enjoy most….painting, cooking, writing, sitting under a tree and meditating…..


Make sure there is a purpose to your day.

I knew when I went to bed last night that my purpose today would be to write this blog along with some watercolour painting,  reading a good book, and then catching up with my murder mysteries on I player this afternoon:)

However, someone else’s purpose might be to cook a lovely meal or do a jigsaw puzzle.   There are no rules, except to make sure you have a purpose.

Don’t wonder aimlessly through each day….this can only cause frustration and distress. 

Beautiful Brecon Beacons – Wales – watercolour/gouacheLandscape of trees, road and sky in blue, green and yellowEXERCISE

My daily exercise routine is fifteen minutes of stretching every morning.   I have been doing this for nearly 45 years, since my daughter was born.    It’s like brushing my teeth and makes a huge difference to my day and overall feelings of well being.

Throughout the day I take a walk and make sure to move around…i.e. going up and down the steps several times that lead to my studio.

Play music and dance…..guaranteed to lift the spirits.



Set up a space that works for you.    It can be as small as a card table.  (no one else in the house is allowed to use that space).

If you have work equipment, (for me my arts supplies) make sure everything is in order and easy to access.

Choose the best time of day for you to go to your work space.   Make it a ritual. 

Air circulation

Try to keep air circulation within your living space.    Always have a window open….and if possible have some plants to look after and benefit from. .

27164538_10156023231000396_5682597220846199362_oDAILY SIESTA

I will soon be 75 years old, and thankfully am in good physical and mental health, and part of that I believe has to do with my stretching routine and taking a daily siesta.    For me that’s around  3 p.m. and lasts for approx 30 mins.    It never fails to refresh.

My work day begins at 8 a.m. and pretty much finishes at 3 p.m.   After that I watch my favourite European box sets….and murder mysteries…Oh how I love them.      Then maybe in the evening read or write some personal e mails. or whatever else floats my boat………


Sleep is so important – and particularly today to boost the immune system.

To achieve a good sleeping pattern it is important to understand our own personal body clock.

I am naturally a morning person…and so wake with the larks, and go to bed at 10 p.m.    I like to read before going to sleep.


Keep it simple….which during the next few months shouldn’t be too difficult.

Although I have lived alone for a long time, I always cook for myself.    More than ever nutritional food and drinking lots of water will be key during this period.

Millie visiting the studio…:)P1110644

Back to the title of this blog….


I see this time as an opportunity for individual and collective change.   If we are able to turn this around into a positive and use this time to FOCUS on what it is we love and who we really are…..we might all come out of this a lot stronger and happier and find that we have produced some beautiful work……

I will be posting art tips and tutorials on a regular basis so that everyone (including me) can keep their creative juices flowing.      

More than every before it is vital to stay in the simplicity of the present moment.    ONE DAY AT A TIME…..

ACCEPTANCE will be key during this period.     Denial won’t work anymore….


May the magical hummingbirds be with everyone….spreading their unseen magic.

Oh and I couldn’t close without saying – continue to WASH your HANDS and to SOCIAL DISTANCE…….:)

A Bientôt

Over the years I had to accommodate

I had my first large solo exhibition at the Chester County Arts Association in 1976 – a year after my daughter was born.

Wishing one and all a Christmas filled with love and peace.

Sitting between mountains and watched by the moon, with hummingbirds weaving their love, sits the magical town of Crickadoon.

On Christmas Eve in 1996 during a terrible storm a little cat arrived at the door of Janet the Artist where she found her new home.

Janet named the little cat Christeve because she arrived on Christmas Eve.

Janet the Artist and Christeve the Cat wish everyone a loving and peaceful Christmas. May we all hold hope in our hearts that 2021 is a kinder year……and most importantly let it be a year when we come together and help one another.


A Traditional English Christmas Cake story – sustaining life and enhancing international relations…….

The following is a true story about my Mother’s traditional English Christmas Cake…and how it saved my life and helped to sustain others….:and at the same time enhanced international relations………:)

In 1960 when I was 16 years old, my parents sent me to Holland for the summer.    Travelling by ferry and train,  I was to stay with friends who lived in the countryside outside of Eindhoven.

Before leaving my Mother made sure to pack some of her traditional Christmas Cake into my suitcase.     No matter where I went this always happened.   It was my Mother’s theory that if I got lost, or ran out of food, her cake would sustain me.

A traditional English Christmas Cake xmas cakeFor those who are not familiar with traditional English Christmas Cake – a little more information.

My Mother made the cake months before Christmas every year.    All manner of fruits and spices were mixed and liberally doused with brandy in order to preserve the cake.

During the several month standing process the cake would be fed with more alcohol during two week intervals…..then wrapped in a cheese cloth and put into a north facing pantry to settle.    Christmas-Cake-easyAbout two weeks before Christmas the cake would be covered in marzipan along with a  thick white icing resembling snow….and then Christmas decorations added.

Given that the cake was very rich….there was always quite a lot left over….plus my Mother would make two cakes at a time….leaving one un-iced, filled with booze, waiting for any natural or man made disasters to occur!5245504474_028169b808_zAfter a wonderful summer in Holland…swimming in canals with local children, riding bicycles around the countryside – stopping at farms where we were given the most delicious fresh cheese and milk straight from the cow, and of course sketching…..even back then I carried a sketch book with me.        Alas, it was time to return home.

This was the sort of canal we swam in…boys-in-canalI was put on a train heading towards the Ferry port at Calais France.       

I am not sure when I realised that something was wrong…..I suppose when I arrived in Germany!!

In those days it was quite normal for trains to split – one end going to one country and the other to another, and this is what had happened.    I got on the wrong end of the train.

This meant getting back on the right train, and then arriving at the Calais Ferry Terminal far too late to catch the ferry that my parents would be meeting me from at the Dover Ferry Terminal – which in turn meant a long wait.

And this is where Mother’s Traditional English Christmas Cake came into its own.

Calais France Ferry Terminal – just 29.4 miles from Dover UK. car-ferry-terminal-at-calais-france-BM6WAKWhen I arrived at the Calais Terminal I joined many other young people from all around Europe sitting on the floor waiting for ferries.

Remember this was many years before fast food, mobile phones, and of course the Euro Star train – everything was simple and basic.

I was hungry as were many of my fellow travellers.      I removed the tin containing Mother’s English Christmas Cake from my suit case and shared it with young people from around Europe.      The Christmas cake brought us together. 

Ferry docking at Dover Ferry Terminal   2464338180_d3b492f903_b    After docking at the Dover Ferry Terminal, I found a policeman waiting for me.      Clearly alerts had been sent out…..

The policeman took me and a young German boy I had befriended to the Dover Police Station.     There we were given a slap up breakfast while we waited for my parents to arrive.      I had assured the German boy that my parents would give him a lift to Canterbury and then he could hitch hike on to London.       The German boy and I kept in touch for many years.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Be Prepared and always carry extra food – especially traditional English Christmas Cake. 

(I was reminded of my story when recently a 100 year old fruit cake was found in Antarctica – perfectly preserved.     I rest my case. )

In this watercolour image, Christie the Cat looks down onto the Magical Town of Crickadoon (AKA Crickhowell Wales) hoping to find a home of her own.  

I hope everyone enjoys a lovely holiday season and that we can all help one another during these difficult times.     Janet 🙂

Overview of my workshop at the HUB this week.

On Wednesday I gave a socially distanced live workshop at the HUB – a community centre based in Hampton.

The subject for the three hour session was SKIES. We looked at some of the different ways they can be painted.

I brought along one of my sketchbooks which had skies from the UK and France…demonstrating how our sketch books can become jumping off points for paintings.

In the next painting I am working on hot pressed paper. Beginning with the clouds I apply tiny amounts of pigment to the wet clouds while leaving dry white paper in some areas. I then introduce the blue/violet colour of the surrounding sky. Be playful and don’t worry about being perfect. I have also used very small amounts of permanent white gouache to soften some of the cloud edges. The dark trees ground the painting and mirror the same colours in the sky. Remember everything is interconnected.

Anyone who has come to my workshop will know how much emphasis I put on warming up.

I suggested to the group that they bring a watercolour that they don’t like so that I could use it for demonstration purposes. I don’t have any photographs of the images that I ‘changed’ during the workshop and so have used one of my old watercolour/gouache sketches for demonstration purposes.

I didn’t like this image and so no matter what I did to it…it didn’t matter. The whole point of the exercise is to WARM UP – and use this sketch as a JUMPING OFF POINT

After throwing some stronger colour at it, I still don’t like the painting but I am warmed up. I can always cut it into several pieces and see how many other paintings are revealed. BE PLAYFUL and don’t be precious it’s only paper…..

Using images from sketchbooks, I suggested to the group that they do a lot of what we call Thumb Nail Sketches. These are somewhat bigger than most thumb nails but they illustrate how beneficial it can be do do lots of little sketches/notes

When we think of painting skies, we tend to go with the obvious (white clouds in a blue sky) ….but perhaps because I lived and worked in the Brecon Beacons in Wales for twelve years, when I think sky, I see many different colours, drama and moods. These little sketches are a reminder of this.

Obvious way to get a cloud effect is to apply strong pigment into a wet wash…and then take a tissue, paper towel, etc. etc. to gently blot up paint. Also use a larger dry brush to lift the paint from the paper.….however, I prefer a more direct approach.

I will be giving one workshop a month at the HUB during 2021….and will post corresponding overview blogs each time.

This watercolour/gouache sketch was painted on a boat in Kinsale Harbour, County Cork.

One more from the Brecon Beacons…..watercolour/gouache

Happy painting everyone.

And remember to say loose…..:). Janet

PURE LOVE for the Bank Holiday Weekend….

Pure love is so often expressed between animal and human.

If you need to relax and dream beautiful thoughts – find an animal that needs lots of love and they will return it to you.


“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”. Anatole France.

Robby- watercolour

Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog or a cat can be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation.

Christeve – watercolour

“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet”. Colette


“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Mahatma Gandhi

Christeve with a magical hummingbird. watercolour

Little Maggie..- watercolour/gouache

Tiny as a puppy – (but not longer Tiny:). watercolour

One of my cats sitting in a sun spot…..waiting to be loved.

Enjoy the weekend and remember to communicate with the animals and of course birds of the world.

Janet 🙂

A Break From The Madness…..

I give you some gentle images for the weekend…hopefully something that will take your minds off all the madness.

Large oil on canvas. This painting takes me back to 1983 when my friend’s son Samuel was born. His brother who was two years older – took one look and said – ‘He can go back now…:).’

watercolour – of Olhao Portugal courtyard….a very peaceful place to sit, paint and think,

watercolour/gouache view in North Kent.. close to where I grew up. The sky and fields remind me of how insignificant we area….

watercolour/gouache The drama of the beautiful Brecon Beacons in Wales…a place of wonder.

watercolour of little French girl in the village of Caramany SW France

watercolour of Sheila the dog with her brood of farm yard animals…It’s lovely to see animals co-exist together so beautifully – we can learn so much from them.

watercolour of Wild Welsh ponies in the Brecon Beacons…..

As always time to surround ourselves with colour

watercolour – Dream of flying free like the birds.

watercolour/gouache – take a walk – the light is magnificent at this time of the year…

And remember the hummingbirds are weaving their unseen magic in ways that we can’t begin to imagine……

Have a good weekend – turn the new off and focus on beauty.

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We can choose to be stuck in negative energy or we can choose to take a walk in the great outdoors – where we can breath fresh air and enjoy nature’s bounty. Doing this is pretty much guaranteed to change our mood and attitude.

Summer tree – watercolour/gouache

watercolour/gouache – Brecon Monmouthshire canal – autumn

We can choose to turn off the constantly depressing and repetitive news or we can choose to put on some beautiful and uplifting music.


We can choose to be a couch potato or not!

We can choose to smile:) at those we encounter or not

We can choose to say thank you or not……..

Listening to water running over a weir can be soothing and mood changing.

No matter what our circumstances we can make choices. There is no question that it is easier for some than others, but even the smallest choice can change our day and the way we feel.

The Brecon Monmouthshire Canal…where I have walked many many times. watercolour/gouache

As we enter summer….it is time to hone our observational skills and choose to delight in Mother Nature’s bounty and ignite our creative energy.

watercolour/gouache – Brecon Beacons – Wales

On Wednesday I am giving a workshop at the HUB We will be focusing on painting trees using watercolour and gouache.

May your creative juices flow:)