‘LIFE DRAWING LIVE’ on BBC4 TV prompted me to post this…..

In light of the new BBC4 TV show entitled ‘LIFE DRAWING LIVE’  which I viewed last night, I am re-posting a blog on the subject.

In early December, I was invited by my good friend and fellow artist, Maria Do Rosario Tavares (Miza to me) to give a painting demonstration for a group she is working with in Chester.    The subject, ‘life painting’  – one of my favourites.      It was only a two hour session, but a very good one.    The group and the model were lovely.

To warm  up I painted this rapid watercolour/gouache portrait of David, the model.   I like to get to know my models a little this way before beginning the days work. 20161207_142829There have been periods during my career when I began each day with a two hour life session in my studio.       I hope to have that opportunity again one of these days.

Twenty minute – full sheet watercolour and felt tip pen study – 


I love short poses – preferably five to 20 minutes max.     This enables me to capture the energy, movement and gesture of my subject….

five minute watercolour study – male dancerp1160967I was fortunate to go to art school in the early sixties when the first year was dedicated to  life drawing.      Observation, observation, observation……

Twenty minute watercolour study on full sheet…(all the white is dry white paper).  the negative space shapes are vital in the overall composition.  20-11-15-1-432I believe that a strong foundation block frees an artist to explore their work with more confidence.    

Regular life drawing sessions help to build self confidence and most importantly hone observation skills. 

Ten minute full sheet study of Scarlett, one of my favourite models  p1160922Along with nude models we also worked with ‘costume models’ learning how to capture the human form beneath the drapes of fabric  – again honing observational skills.

This man modelled for me in Paris….a beautiful dancer.   I often do quick portraits of my subjects in a life painting session. 


It’s exciting to see that ‘life drawing’ is back in vogue.    I  believe that people who attend sessions regularly recognise that along with honing observation skills it is a wonderful form of meditation.

In this instance one of my favourite models arrived with her new born baby….It was a magical session.     In the warmth of the quiet studio both mother and baby completely relaxed…..20-11-15 - 1 (780)Focusing on the loving and gentle hands of the mother.      Quite a few years ago I gave a weekend residential workshop in Herefordshire where we painted the hands and feet of models.   Excellent exercise. P1160912Capturing the gesture and seeking out the abstraction of the shapes produced. 20-11-15 - 1 (50)

Beginning in 1982 I began a series of works integrating the human form with the rock formations of Isle au Haut, Maine where I spent much time painting.     Thirty eight years later I am still working on this series.           

‘The moment people turn their backs on one another’. 6ft x 4ft oil on canvas. (1982)Painting of human figures in shades of brownFor those who would like to try life drawing – I suggest tuning into ‘LIFE DRAWING LIVE’  BBC 4 TV—–a good way to get started. 

Happy painting






A Welsh Cat in a French landscape – the story behind the painting.

5ft x 4ft (1.5 x 1.2 meters) oil on canvas.   A Welsh Cat in a French Landscape.96214822_10158339963345396_6930736945429479424_oPainted during lock down, this symbolic image of Christeve the Cat overlooking the village of Mas Cabardes – SW France  demonstrates why sketch books are so vital in the life of an artist.

I used two of the many rapid sketches I produced in Mas Cabardes eleven years ago as the foundation block for this image. 20200518_101650Sketches are thoughts on paper…in this case very quick responses to what I was seeing.         They can become excellent reference material.    


Given that Christeve the Cat lived with me in Wales for several years, I have a zillion sketches of her:)37741212_10156512625865396_5819395929748275200_o

In many ways Christeve the Cat is my alter ego.    In the little children’s book,  ‘Christeve the Cat finds her Home’.  –  she is lost and alone and looking for a home of her own.

The book is about homelessness,  courage and trust in the unseen and is directed to children of all ages from different belief systems.     Yes, the magical hummingbirds play an important part in the story. 

65184284_10157321058520396_8159511051407196160_oUltimately, Christeve the Cat finds that her home is right there in front of her.

‘As Little Cat came closer to the only light she could see, she realised that it was shining from the cottage across from HER tree’20200521_101859

So why a French village given that the book is set in Crickhowell Wales (the Magical Town of Crickadoon?).         

I have always loved the French landscape and particularly the villages of  SW and Southern France with their orange roofs.    I have many dear friends in France and have painted and exhibited there a great deal.       For many years I have wanted to live there…and maybe one day I will,    but not wishing to sound like a cliche – the lock down has reminded me that home is ‘within’.

Plus as we now must surely understand.   ‘everything is interconnected’

Wishing one and all a beautiful and creative weekend.

Janet 🙂







A special Cat day…..I LOVE cats:)

There is a story behind each one of these cats…..Some lived with me and others belong to dear friends.   wherever I travel I adopt the resident cats…..

Christeve the Cat – A Welsh Cat – with hummingbird37741212_10156512625865396_5819395929748275200_o

A sun spot cat…from England


A French cat….15110842_10154633606525396_8505028180039884441_o

Iccle – from Brussels – now resident in SW France68457757_10157462546565396_2909676004706353152_n

Fiona from West Chester Pennsylvania USA83968967_10157981236010396_315480655154642944_o

Coco lives in California. 15288531_10154661805525396_4147593072811180097_o

The twins from the Farm – Pennsylvania USA20200309_160358

From Colorado USA81880440_10157889709575396_1003395070054891520_o

Christeve the Cat with Theodore the Tiger and hummingbird – illustration for children’s book and posters. 45713832_10156787139300396_2534145006604648448_o

The International Cat Association sponsored this poster which raised a lot of money for a new tiger’s area at the Philadelphia Zoo…78108030_10157758157435396_2967704508978692096_oThere are so many more cats in my life, but I thought it would be fun to share a few with you today.   

In my next life I would like to be a cat:)


Sketches from people who joined me on my visit to Amish Country.

The lock down has given millions the opportunity to explore their creativity.     It has shown that even when we are stripped of great chunks of our lives our creative spirit is what ultimately shines through.  

Several joined me on my visit to the farm in Amish Country and produced some beautiful sketches.        It was not a formal workshop, but rather a group of people enjoying the creative process together. 

Here they are in no particular order:-

MOIRA – Three Amish boys – watercolourIMG-20200517-WA0000

MOIRA – portrait of Amish boy.   watercolour on newspaper. 


DORA – Amish family working – watercolourIMG-20200515-WA0004

NAN – Amish boys playing – watercolourIMG-20200514-WA0006

JILL – apples – watercolourIMG-20200513-WA0004

JILL – watercolour – flower


NAN – AMISH PLOUGHING –  pen and watercolourIMG-20200513-WA0005

CORYN – still life – watercolourIMG-20200514-WA0008-2

DORA – buggy ride – watercolourIMG-20200512-WA0001

JILL – watercolourIMG-20200516-WA0001

BOB – still life watercolourIMG-20200514-WA0002

MOIRA – Amish boy – watercolourIMG-20200518-WA0000

DORA – Amish boys – watercolour

IMG-20200515-WA0006DORA – line drawing 


MOIRA – pen sketch 


DORA – Jacaranda trees, Olhao – watercolour


MOIRA – watercolour IMG-20200515-WA0008

Thank you everyone for joining in the fun… It is my hope that your sketches will inspire others to pick up brush or pen.

I have had so many messages from people during the lock down saying that the one thing that has helped them to move through it with sanity intact is the creative process🙂

‘The creative process in all its many forms is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual well being”

My next VIRTUAL trip will be to the Brecon Beacons Wales.  probably in July – watch this space.




Final day of my virtual trip to Amish Country.

Horse and mule power…Amish Country Pennsylvania.   received_2767525950142896If I had been staying on the farm for two weeks as planned I would have filled a couple of sketch books.

Instead what I have done to wrap up this VIRTUAL week is a Montage which I think would work well for a children’s book illustration…hint hint to Jarrod who has written a couple of lovely children’s books….I think a children’s book. about life on the farm and living along side The Amish would be lovely……

I sketched this rapidly with my water soluble Tombow pen and then added watercolour washes.    Sheila the dog likes to mother all the other animals and so it’s only right that she should be front and centre.20200515_073020

I am enjoying VIRTUAL travel.     It’s gentle and quiet and free from stress.     It allows me to think and focus and although I am not physically with Jarrod and Kendle – I am with them in spirit.

Jarrod took this lovely photograph yesterday of a young cardinal in the hay barn…..IMG-20200513-WA0006Here are more timeless images showing horse, mule and man power on the farm.    

Jarrod baling with the Amish. received_335522404081185

received_2931003953619650Bringing in the hay…..received_3172043156180411Man and beast take a rest after a long days work. 



…..Once again the little magical hummingbird flew into the house this morning….a very good sign indeed.       She will join us for a big breakfast….


20200114_135504With so much hard work on the farm good hearty food is necessary.    For breakfast we enjoy more fresh farm eggs and English sausage rolls straight from the oven.FB_IMG_1589293642853-2

Plus a  PUDDING PRESENT from the Amish, given to Kendle for driving one of the women to a school meeting yesterday.      It is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Scrapple cake.


The stable yard and farm are now wide awake.received_674081663375358The Amish laundry is hanging out to dry….20200512_134055-2Visitors have arrived across the road…..20180521_112545-2-1Kendle takes a gentle ride on Baby, one of her favourite horses  before helping with the hay harvest.


Along with showing and dressage Kendle also teaches at the farm.   Here are just a few of her rosettes….FB_IMG_1589290411587

It’s now time to think about the evening festivities for everyone involved during this week, including those from my workshops who have been filling their sketch books.  

Jarrod will be cooking for us this evening…..

He is preparing chicken cooked in a white wine reduction sauce, diced tomatoes, spinach, portabella mushrooms, with melted cheese and Jamine rice.    

IMG-20200514-WA0000Although He suggests a nice rose to go with it, Jarrod will be having his Captain Morgan Spiced Rum with cream soda.….which might be worth trying..

And now the recipe for Sangaritas….and a couple of other exotic cocktails……..


Sangritas recipe

Blend one pound of strawberries with a splash of lime until smooth. 

Pour strawberry puree and lime juice, plus one cup of tequila, a quarter cup of triple sec into a large pitcher.    Stir and pour into the mix one bottle of rose wine. 

Add a quarter cup agave nectar…….

Optional) Margarita salt around the rim of glasses making sure that there is no salt inside the rim. 

and then ENJOY…:)



What a way to finish the day and week. received_536372750581083

Thank you Kendle and Jarrod for hosting a fantastic week and here’s to many more fun times with you on the Farm. 

[I will be asking those who have been sketching with me on this trip if they are happy for me to post a special blog on Monday showing their work….watch this space}









MY VIRTUAL TRIP TO Amish Country….Day 3

I mentioned in my first post that during the twenty three years that I lived in Chester County, Pa,  I lived in two houses built by The Amish.

This is the interior of one of them.    For those who have enjoyed  the film ‘Witness’ you will remember the ‘barn raising’ scene.     This house was raised in that fashion.       It is a post and beam structure made from solid oak.     The fireplace is built from field stone.

I used the upstairs area with the sky lights for my studio.

During the winter the stone chimney heated the whole house.

The house is a one and half hour drive from the farm where I am staying. with Jarrod and Kendle.

The large oil painting hanging over the fire place is one of a series of work I completed in the late eighties/early nineties.        It shows the interior of my favourite studio on Prescott Alley in West Chester with Amish quilts and apples.    Everything in the painting is symbolic of my life at that time. 20200512_153850In the breezeway which connected two areas of the house, I painted a colourful mural and installed ‘sugar feeders ‘(which hummingbirds love) and a small fountain all of which served to attract hummingbirds.      A beautiful place to sit and ponder.    The Brandywine River flowed below the house…20200512_153903


When I was visiting the farm two years ago I walked across to the Amish neighbours to purchase some flowers.    Behind the house I found a group of children playing and although I know its not really the thing to do, I managed to take a couple of pictures.        The Amish children. don’t speak any English until they go to Amish School at around six years old.    Their natural language is Pennsylvania Dutch which is similar to German, however the universe language of smiles works very well.

They are beautiful children and as Jarrod and Kendle were saying,  mature beyond their years.

Amish children are used to being part of a large family that does everything together – and the family is part of a larger community.   I would imagine that they feel very secure.

There is always washing on the line and bread baking in the oven….


The Amish believe that happiness is a byproduct of their Godly life not a goal in itself.  

Assigned responsibilities by the time they are five years old…Amish children  become proficient at wood working, cooking, quilt making and farm work all done within the community structure.

Watercolour/Gouache sketch20200511_100149

In warm weather the children go bare foot…33362844_10156349758240396_5951106779826880512_o

Amish girls going about their daily chores. – pen and wash.


One of the pastures on the farm. received_550006645891325More new life….a dear little rabbit….received_239714503767752Jarrod fence building with two of the Amish neighbours.      The Amish help a great deal with the farm and as Jarrod and Kendle said they are some of the best neighbours you could ever wish for.

FB_IMG_1589290388394Fresh baked bread a gift from The Amish neighbours.received_233417374775920

On that note, it’s time for coffee and something sweet…


And an opportunity to watch Kendle ride.

Dressage is Kendle’s speciality. FB_IMG_1589298737599

After a full day of working on the farm – tending the crops and feeding all the animals it is now time to relax and get ready for the evening’s festivities.


Kendle as I remember her as a little girl….always on a pony…..10485530_10152303152607875_921033080895123590_n

And so for this evening, we have pulled pork tacos with wine (Maryland Merlot:) and Quarantinis….

received_265478547925820For anyone following on this trip concerned that Amish Country was a DRY area…Kendle sent this picture of the local booze shop


Something else Kendle does in her spare time….I really like this.


Along with playing the guitar, singing and writing music, this is one of things that Jarrod does in his spare time.


Meanwhile, I spied Sheila and one of the twins going for a late afternoon walk….


Tomorrow I will be visiting lots of friends in West Chester, and so my next post will be on Friday.

It will be a summary with cocktail recipes and more sketches.






Waking up in Amish Country.

What can be better after a good nights sleep than fresh farm eggs and the smell of rich coffee?     I’ll tell you what….being with the animals on the farm and of course Jarrod and Kendle:)

IMG-20200326-WA0007And  the magical hummingbirds who greet me on the deck…..a very good sign indeed. FB_IMG_1589107344628

After breakfast I like to take a walk around the farm, with sketch book in hand.

The quietness of the stable yard has a timeless quality and for me is filled with childhood memories.      Up until the age of 16 when I entered art college, I lived for horses.     Not just riding them but also. mucking out stables and cleaning tack.     To this day the smell of a stable delights me.     received_839996043172121

First an aerial view of the farm.     You can see the house nestled into the trees. 


As I walk past the stable towards the end of the driveway I see an Amish family taking their morning walk.       They seem so content and in tune with nature and one another….their lives appear to flow like the river that runs through the property. – pen and wash.20200511_092824Sheila and I visit the river and listen to the sounds of  water flowing over rocks.    Such a peaceful and tranquil place to be.    This is what ‘going with the flow’ is all about.received_173797777258558

There is new life everywhere….

received_546041862967246quick sketches of chickens – the same chickens that gave us our breakfast eggs.


All my senses are being entertained.     Not just visual delights but the sounds and smells of nature…..the peep peep peep of the chicks…..received_477996242928291As we walk by one of the paddocks…the horses come running.    Maybe it’s because they think I have food…but I like to believe that they are as happy to see me as I am to see them.    There are twenty horses on the farm. received_238558007242208

The Amish way of life demonstrates that when we live along side nature, rather than try to dominate it,  everyone and everything benefits. 

Often referred to as ‘simple’ people,  the Amish can teach us all we need to know about what it is to live a sustainable lifestyle.       The pastoral image of Amish communities living simply and in touch with the land strikes a deep cord with many of us today.   

We can learn so much from these people. 

watercolour/gouache sketch of Amish neighbours at work. 20190125_123816The Amish neighbours getting ready for a special community celebration.     The Amish have preserved a strong sense of community.33106782_10156349758430396_3473055776979812352_o

In this next picture four little Amish boys playing in local woods see something on a tree – something they don’t recognise.    You can see their intense curiosity as they try and work out what it is.    It is a camera put there to monitor wildlife – something totally alien to them.    At this moment they have no idea that they are being photographed. 

The Amish believe that technology can lead to evil and subsequently weaken or destroy family, church and community.   This is why the Amish carefully weigh the potential effects of adopting a given technology.    


Time to sit on the deck and enjoy more conversation, sketching and wonderful food.

A quick sketch of Kendle….Pen on a blue ground. received_568336350484235Kendle on horse having a chat with Jarrod. 10272577_1135966406414152_3071548085480252645_o

Time for cocktails and feasting….accompanied by Jarrod on the guitar.

First the Sangritas.… (a mix of sangria and margarita).  new for me but so delicious.


Followed by Herb garlic crusted roast with veggies….

received_271150604062634followed by something sweet….received_1011925965888428Followed by some beautiful music gratis Jarrod….17192433_1465790773431712_4651931315478540850_o-2

Tomorrow I plan to focus on more Amish history, including the wonderful washing lines that hang in the garden of every Amish house.    They tell an interesting story.


After a lovely day – time to say good night.






My VIRTUAL trip to Amish Country Pennsylvania via Memory Lane.

Normal comings and goings in front of the farm….33243551_10156349361520396_4071160561704894464_oThis VIRTUAL trip replaces what would have been a scheduled holiday with my son Jarrod and his partner Kendle on the farm they manage in Pennsylvania Amish Country.

Much of it for me is a walk down memory lane.     On my way I will be filling sketch books and hope that those who choose to join me will do the same.

Jarrod and Kendle have known one another since they were six years old.  Kendle’s Mother is an artist friend…and Kendle’s grandmother made my daughter’s banky boo:).    A fine equestrian, Kendle grew up in the saddle. 70800894_10157531101340396_7379809878266609664_oFirst a little history.

As I board my flight at London Heathrow – destination Philadelphia, Pa.  I think about all that has happened during the 54 years since I first visited the States in January 1966.

Fresh out of art school and recently married, I agreed to go to the States for a two year visit.    My first husband had family living there and wanted to experience it for himself.   I was twenty years old.

We sailed on the SS United States liner from Southampton to New York….where we took a Greyhound bus to Miami.    There we were met by my husband’s uncle who drove us to Key West Florida where we stayed for three months.

It had been an exceptionally rough Atlantic crossing causing most passengers, including myself, to be sick.     However my sickness didn’t go away.    Two months after arriving in Key West it was confirmed that I was pregnant.

Jarrod was born on 10th September 1966 in Ft. Lauderdale’s brand new Holy Cross Hospital.     His birth, (for which I will be forever grateful,)  changed the direction of my life. 

Jarrod 54 years later with chicken 🙂69863982_10157531101090396_7659675350342828032_o

My first marriage was dissolved and in 1968 I was a single mother living on Staten Island New York with a young child to support.      A friend got me an interview at White Weld & Co. on Wall Street as a Gal Friday.    (I had no idea what that meant).         I was young and my mind quick…and so it wasn’t too long before it was suggested that I take the examination to become a registered representative with the New York Stock Exchange.      I passed and became one of the first female registered representatives  to work on a block stock trading desk.

I commuted to Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry and watched the twin towers being built.

(much more about this and other chapters of my life in a book I am writing)

This would eventually lead me to White, Weld’s Philadelphia office where I met my second husband, Bill Reed.     We were married in 1972 at the historical ‘Beehive’ on South Concord Road Birmingham township, very close to the Amish Country we will visit on this trip.

I lived and worked in the West Chester Pa area for 23 years.   Both children grew up and went to school there.    West Chester is where my career as a professional artist began and it was at the Chester County Arts Association that I had my first solo exhibition in 1976.    So many happy memories and life long friends come from that time.

Two of the houses I lived in during those twenty three years were built by the Amish. They are fabulous builders.      (Photographs will follow….)

All of these thoughts and many more are moving through my mind as we cross the Atlantic.

Upon arrival Jarrod is waiting for me and ready to drive the 50 miles back to the farm.   Such a happy moment and as you can imagine non stop talking all the way.

Arriving at the farm….

received_574648123163311Amish life across the road from the farm. 20180524_161748_resized_kindlephoto-302450113And waiting for us are the Twins – like little sentinels.received_559715284951806A quick watercolour of the Twins…..20200309_160358Although born in London, I grew up in Kent and so am a country girl at heart.    Being surrounded by landscape and many animals is what I love.

And then there is Sheila the dog – loads of chickens and of course Kendle and Jarrod...27073119_1797380796939373_6812206861815963387_nTime to relax on the deck and listen to Jarrod the musician serenade me while I make a quick sketch.  These are the special moments in life. received_2601736246598918After more conversation Kendle (who is a fantastic cook) brought our quiche  and salad for a lovely supper. received_286213369060388

And then to bed.

Tomorrow…fresh farm eggs for breakfast, a tour of the farm and sketching.   Plus more about the Amish neighbours.

My plan is to share what I am doing in my sketch book each day.   For those who wish to join me on my VIRTUAL holiday please feel free to use any of the images on this blog as JUMPING OFF POINTS for your own sketches. 

After I return to London I will do some tutorials from some of the sketches. 

As far as subject matter is concerned….we have landscape, portraiture, animals, hummingbirds and the Amish..…See you tomorrow.













Warming up with Peter Paul Rubens

The Tiger Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens…..(1615)20200409_171312The Tiger Hunt is one of those paintings that permeates all the senses.     It stirs me deeply.     I can hear the noise of the hunt coming off the canvas.    I can smell the sweat of the warriors and animals.        It is alive.

As in any great masterpiece the rhythm and harmony within this painting can only be achieved when all elements of the artwork come together in a unified way.

I thought it would be a good exercise to work from a photograph of this painting to help us to see and understand it better and at the same time warm up and get the creative juices flowing.

I used the image of The Tiger Hunt only as a JUMPING OFF POINT. to warm up.  

I was not trying to copy it exactly…this is very important.     Working very quickly using watercolours,  I wanted to explore and discover the rhythmic values in the painting…..


I copied it down to black and white – which helps us to understand and see a painting better.


Using a Prussian. blue and burnt Sienna mix I sketched out a very fast watercolour detail which again helped me to see and understand the image.

Choose an image that you would like to explore – and have some fun.    It’s a good way to begin the day.    At the same time we can learn a great deal about the way an artist thinks.

Think jigsaw puzzle…abstraction…don’t get caught up in the detail. 20200505_133141


Next week I was supposed to be with my son and his partner on the horse farm in Amish country Pennsylvnia, USA that they manage.    Obviously I won’t be travelling there.

However, for the fun of it I am planning another VIRTUAL TRIP starting Monday 11th May. 

A watercolour/gouache sketch I made from my last trip there two years ago. 


This will be different from the VIRTUAL WORKSHOP IN PORTUGAL – we enjoyed from 15th April til 22nd.

It will be more of a diary based on all the animals, landscape and the lovely Amish people who are close neighbours to Jarrod and Kendle.

Hope you join me.






The Earth is quiet – with a lowering of seismic activity – Where are our minds?

Scientists can now demonstrate how the earth is a much quieter gentler place since lock down.       We can now see that the cumulative vibrations from cars, trains, planes, factories and much more have be quietened – the Earth is still.    Mother Nature is celebrating.


So what about our minds?      Have our minds quietened in the same way that the earth has?

If we are fortunate enough to live in a quiet environment – and are able to put aside all the technological distractions that society has become addicted to…then yes….this lock down is an opportunity for us to be quiet, to think and make quality life changes.

20-11-15 - 1 (1154)

All we need to do is observe the beauty and quietness of Mother Nature after human beings have been removed from the equation.

I chose watercolour sketches of river birds for this blog…because they exemplify for me Mother Nature’s grace, beauty and peacefulness.

20-11-15 - 1 (923)

So what about families who are living in crowded accommodation – maybe in high rises, unable to open a door and walk outside?     The lock down must be a very difficult time for them and probably not very peaceful.

Hopefully this will open all our eyes to the disparities of life and maybe help us all to think of ways to change this.


Given that all of life is interconnected…the more we help one another and work toward the greater good…everyone benefits.

Our wonderful NHS is a fantastic example of this….people working together for the greater good.    As someone who was born in 1946, I have been fortunate enough to grow up with this wonderful institution…and again hopefully the lock down and virus will bring this home to one and all.

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