Tag Archives: spontaneous watercolour portraits

My travelling portrait project…….

I painted watercolour portraits for many years as preliminary sketches for large oil paintings, however, it wasn’t until I returned to the UK/Europe in 1993 that I began to record people as I travelled.

It all started when I had an exhibition of portraits at the Centre Auguste Brizeux in France in 1995.   I had been asked to give a watercolour demonstration in the gallery each day and decided to paint portraits of the local people.      It was because of the response I received during this period that I realised this was something I needed to do much more of.

Cousin Lyn – watercolour  

I stayed with my cousin Lyn and her family for the first six months after moving to Crickhowell, Wales.     All the family became my models…..


I soon realised that this method of communication was like a mediation.      Although each session only lasted for a half an hour at most, and sometimes just a couple of minutes, during the process, a complete focus and connection was made with my subject.

Through these portraits, people opened up to me…..

Tom Comitta – American Poet – watercolour/gouache/felt tip pen

I have known Tom since he was born and yet it wasn’t until I painted this quick portrait that I really felt that I knew him….I was able to get beneath the surface…and experience his essence.


Lady in Akyaka, Turkey – watercolour

We had no common language, and yet during our time together there was a deep sense of communication.     Surrounded by natural beauty and bird song, we observed one another as if suspended in time.


Quintin – Brittany France – 1995

I spent an afternoon with this little boy in a beautiful garden in Brittany.     His parents had been recently divorced.     To  begin with he was very quiet….said nothing, and then as I made several quick sketches, he relaxed.        By the time he had to leave, we had connected at a level that is beyond words.    That was the only time I ever saw him.   To this day I wonder where his life has taken him.   He would be about 26 years old now.       I have kept this painting.


Christopher Seagrave-Dailey – American boy visiting Wales 

Christopher arrived in Crickhowell, Wales, in 1996.    He was travelling around Europe and it had been suggested that he come visit me.       He was glorious and so when he agreed to model for my weekly painting group everyone was delighted.    He brought extra magic into the Magical Town of Crickadoon.


Ken – The Welshman. 

I met Ken immediately after moving to Wales.    As I took Bumble, my cousin’s dog for her morning walk, I would meet up with Ken and his lovely sheep dog..(who also features in the church panels as shown in my last blog)     Ken told me much about the history of the area.     I painted this portrait of him about three years after moving to Wales.    It was part of a series of portraits featuring the older people of the community.    As I painted them I encouraged them to talk about their life experiences.       I have these stories on tape….


Throughout the years I have painted so many of these spontaneous watercolour portraits – I have honestly lost count….but every time I see one…sometimes many years after it was painted – I always remember the moment so clearly.

There are quite a few people who I painted when they were children who are now adults with their own children….This final portrait of Catherine in the States is an example of this.

Catherine the day before her wedding – Georgia, USA 2013

I had painted Catherine along with her brother and sisters many times when they were very young and and a few times in between, but this was the day before she was to be married….and I painted her again…what a special moment.       Catherine now has her own baby, who I hope to paint one of these days.


As I begin the process of writing the book about my life’s journey, it is clear to me that many of my paintings, especially the portraits, will help enormously in focusing my mind.      Behind each painting there is a story – sometimes a book….

A Bientôt

Seeing behind the surface.

In an age of mass communication where it seems that everyone is plugged into something…..are we seeing more or just skimming across the surface of life?

I took this photograph next to Trafalgar Square, London during one of the many Olympic events and celebrations.



As an artist and portrait painter, I have had the privilege to look into the eyes of many people.

Twenty years ago, when I returned home to the UK/Europe after spending 28 years in the States, I had an exhibition in Brittany, France.     The exhibition was made up of portraits from Wales, America and France, and although I had painted spontaneous watercolour portraits before, (mostly as sketches for large oils)…it wasn’t until this point that I realised it was a way for me to really understand and see people…beyond the surface.

Christopher Seagrave-Daley visited me in Wales, and agreed to model for a workshop I was giving.




More recently I attended a three day seminar in London.   On the final day, all 150 of the participants were asked to sit in rows….Over the course of one hour and twenty minutes, each row would walk to the front of the room and scan the faces of the group.    Then another row was asked to make a line in front of those already standing….and as the leader said…get closer to the person in front of you than you would normally feel comfortable, and then simply look into their eyes.

Initially, there were those who were clearly very uncomfortable with this….and others who were moved to tears….and there were others who got the giggles…..(part of being uncomfortable) – however, as the time evolved….a stillness came over the room and it became clear that this was a new and profound experience for everyone involved. 

Woman in Akyaka, Turkey.    During the hour that we spent together, not a word was spoken.   It was not necessary, because we spoke through our eyes.    We both saw beneath the surface of one another, and in doing so had a much deeper understanding.



I stopped driving 20 years ago when I returned to the UK.    Since then I have designed my life in such a way that I don’t need a car.

This has given me a greater freedom to observe others…especially as I take public transportation all over London and many other places.      I will often wear dark glasses so that I can observe without making others uncomfortable.

Jean Paul, Paris – Gardener, artist and gentle soul



What becomes clear the more we take the time to see beyond the surface,  is that we are all part of the same humanity and that we are all interconnected.

Young girl at Mission Hill School, Boston



We all have the same hopes and dreams…..It is only when we stop really seeing one another that we forget this.

Claudia Nottale, when she visited me in Wales




I decided sometime ago that I didn’t want to just skim across the surface of life.    I made the decision to keep looking and learning.

Jean Marie – Le Pecq, France.    A wonderful artist – one who always sees beyond the surface. 





A Bientôt