Tag Archives: the apple exercise

Taking notes

Although I love to work on large oil paintings, over the years watercolour painting has become a constant companion for me.      Easy to carry when travelling and a superb medium for warming up and taking notes. 


I have been writing my blog for seven years.   Before e mail, I wrote letters almost every day, and I keep sketch books which are full of images and words, however it wasn’t until I decided to write a book, that I realised I needed to approach things in a different way.



I have been mulling this over for quite some time, and then I was reminded of a workshop I gave years ago in the beautiful Hereford countryside where one of the participants felt totally overwhelmed by the vastness of the landscape……Her question was – How to start?


I suggested that she observe a lovely old door which was part of a barn….and start there.     By the end of the weekend, she had put together about 20 sketches or vignettes within the landscape.      

These notes and gathering of information ultimately gave her a much greater understanding of the total landscape, and where she wanted to take her work.       



For a long time I was focusing on the idea of writing an autobiography and then more recently I realised that I want total freedom of expression in my writing as in my watercolour painting, and so decided that I would write a novel.      

Initially, much like the woman in my Herefordshire workshop….the big picture seemed overwhelming, and then I began to approach things as I would my painting…..

For me the process works better if I have a hard copy, and so each day as thoughts come, I jot them down and print out.   Thus far I have compiled a stack of notes, which are beginning to make sense.  



In short, I am learning a new habit….clearly I need to consult my Apple Exercise book:)


A Bientôt




Tutorial 10: – Seeing Differently

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an apple?

It could be the iconic Apple Mac symbol…or the shiny red apple that children take for their favourite teacher:)

What The Apple Exercise demonstrates is that the apple, along with everything else in life, can be seen in a myriad of different ways. 

Upside down and inside out…..


If we were able to time travel back to our earliest formative years, from 1 to 3, when our world was a kaleidoscope of colour and shapes and our young minds were full of wonder, we could regain our natural curiosity and love for colour and form. 

If we are able to see the apple in many different ways, we will begin to see everything else differently. 


A collage of apple exercise sketches. 



This week along with a couple of watercolour demonstrations and more information about brushes and paper,   I will talk about the imagination, and how we can encourage it to blossom. 

Think left and think right and think low and think high.   Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.’   Dr. Seuss. 

A Bientôt



The Flying goose.

I leave you this weekend with a flying goose.



From the book, ‘The Apple Exercise’

‘Given the fast pace of our lives today, and the fact that so many of us are plugged into technology of one kind or another, our collective sense are being deadened. 

Along with this comes a feeling of loss.    A loss that in many ways we are unable to identify. 

As we constantly try to fill the ever widening holes within us, with more and more frenetic activity and stuff, our frustration levels grow even more. 

Feeding our sense through the creative process, in all its many forms, can produce almost miraculous changes, which lead to a sense of well being and fulfilment.’


Next week, more tutorials and information about watercolour brushes and paper. 

Wishing everyone a beautiful and creative weekend.

A Bientôt 


Tutorial 9 – The tree

I am using all the same techniques I have demonstrated in the previous tutorials to paint this tree. Image

Frame 1.  

Having loaded my brush with a juicy mix of Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, I suggest the shadow side of the tree….and then with a clean, wet brush pull out the paint. 



Frame 2. 

Using a rigger brush and  the same mix of Burnt Sienna and Prussian blue I begin to suggest branches. 



Frame 3. 

I now begin to add foliage…and at the same time move the colour to the bottom of the image.



Frame 4.

For the finished tree, I add more darks and lights to the foliage and then scrape out with my knife.   Note that at all times, I am moving colour around the image.



Frame 5.

This is another example of a tree trunk, using all the same techniques as above.



Remember that fifteen minutes a day of regular practise is better than 5 hour binges once a month.

My book, The Apple Exercise, which talks about all these techniques is available through my website at http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

Happy painting.

A Bientôt


Tutorial 5. Warm up landscape.

In this short video, I am using the same techniques used in the Calla Lily tutorial.

This is a warm up exercise that I have used for many years. You end up with a little landscape painting, which again can be modified in many different ways, by changing the horizon line, adding some mountains, etc. The key is that it’s all about warming up and playing. By the way any colours can be used.

Before e mail, when I would send lots of snail mail around the world, I would paint these little landscapes on the envelopes. A great way to warm up, and the receivers always enjoyed.

For the sky area I am using – Winsor & Newton Cotman series, Turquoise and Dioxazine Violet.

Between the sky and land, Winsor & Newton Gold Green, and a mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna for the foreground.

I use a knife or credit card to scrape out grasses in the foreground.

It’s important to note that I don’t use black in my watercolours. Rather I mix Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna for my darks. I would suggest that you play with swatches of this combination.

Note that I bring colour from the top of the painting into the foreground….because the sky naturally reflects upon the land. Everything reflects and everything is interconnected. This also helps to balance and bring harmony to the image.

This little story points out how our minds are conditioned by what we are taught, rather than what we actually see or experience.

When giving a workshop in Wales one beautiful sunny January morning, one of the participants painted a landscape he had seen on the way to the workshop. He explained that the fields in the landscape was actually blue, and then went onto say that as there are no blue fields in winter, he painted them brown……..

The fact was, the man had seen blue fields. He had seen the reflection of the clear blue sky onto the white frost covering the fields. Rather than believe what he actually observed, he instinctively chose to go with what he had been taught.

When we first enter the world, we are naturally full of curiosity and wonder.

By the time we come to the end of our formative years, at around seven, the narrow definition that our culture has imposed upon us has taken hold.

Happy warming up and playing.

All these exercises can be found in my book The Apple Exercise. The book is available through the products page of my website at http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A Bientôt

Tutorial 4. Establishing consistency to work.

Throughout my years of painting and teaching, I have heard many times the frustration of those who would like to explore their creativity, but seem unable to establish consistency in their work.

Remember it’s better to do a quick warm up exercise for fifteen minutes a day than to have marathon painting sessions twice a year!

I would suggest three elements be put into place to do this exercise.

1) Pick the same 15 minutes every day – make sure it’s a time that works for you.
2) Set up a small table, such as a card table, which doesn’t have to be moved or cleared.
3) Turn off mobiles, or any other potential distractions.

It takes 28 days to form a new habit. If you follow this simple format three things will occur….
Consistency, technical skills, and most importantly observational skills will improve.

You can read more about this in my book ‘The Apple Exercise’ which can be found on the products page of my website at http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

In this one minute video, I am playing with paint….I am using white paper, however newspaper or anything else will be fine.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama.

I came up with the ‘Apple Exercise’ over 30 years ago because in principle it is very simple and effective.

A Bientôt

Tutorial 3. Warming up using newspaper

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

Often people find it daunting to mark good paper, and so I suggest that newspaper, wrapping paper or inexpensive wallpaper lining be used.

In this one minute video I use watercolour and designer gouache on newspaper. The key is to just doodle until you relax.

Better to do an exercise like this for fifteen minutes a day, than to have painting marathons once a month! Have fun.

A Bientôt

Tutorial 2. The power of negative space.

For this second tutorial, I am using a Calla Lily as my model.    I have always loved its exquisite form, and have used it for many years as both symbolic and decorative imagery in my paintings.      



It is key to train the eye to observe both the subject and the negative space, that which surrounds the subject.    Often we try so hard to make something happen…..to paint a perfect (in this case) calla lily, or solve an ongoing problem.     When what we need to do is observe and record the negative space, which surrounds the subject, and voila…the answer is revealed. 

In Frame 1.  Working on white paper, I have sketched the calla lilly using a neutral colour (yellow ochre) however, if you wish to use a pencil, brush, felt tip pen, that’s fine.    Note that after sketching the form, I immediately begin to add colour into the surrounding area – the negative space.   I am using a mix of burnt sienna and prussian blue. 


 Frame 2.   I continue to add the mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt sienna into the negative space, which automatically reveals the lily.  Note that I am working on a dry surface.      To manipulate the paint, I use one of the most important techniques in watercolour painting.     With a clean, wet brush I pull the paint out to the edge of the paper.    This gives an element of control, and helps to avoid muddiness….the enemy of all watercolour painters. 


Frame 3.   As I pull out the colour with my clean, wet brush….I am able to bleed more colour into the wet background.   I bleed in some violet and turquoise, and at the same time use a kitchen knife to scrape out some of the colour.    This gives a sense of movement and breaks up the density of the negative space. 


Frame 4.  In this image, using some of the same colour that is in the background, I begin to indicate the shadows.    Very little pigment is used for this.     The white paper, in this instance, becomes the whites in the image.     In other words I leave areas that I want to stay white, completely dry. 


Frame 5.   Now I begin to strengthen the shadows and build up the colour in the Lily.   Remember, any area I want to keep completely white, I keep as dry white paper.      It is important to note, that I take the same colours I have used in the background to make up the shadows…..this is because, everything reflects upon everything else, and all things are connected.    It will also help to give the image a sense of balance and harmony. 


Frame 6.   I like drama in my paintings, and so I am strengthening the shadows using pigments that are in the background.   By doing this, the white of the lily becomes more pronounced….again giving a sense of drama.     I


For this image, I have used Winsor & Newton, Cotman series – Burnt sienna, Prussian Blue, Dioxazine Violet, Turquoise blue, cadmium orange, and Winsor & Newton artist’s great Green Gold (a pigment I highly recommend) 

I  used an ordinary kitchen knife to scrape out the paint.    Cutting off the corner of a credit card works very well.    Probably the best use for any credit card:)

Next week, I hope to  show some one minute videos, which might help you with some of these techniques and also talk about my book The Apple Exercise which incorporates all the different elements which will be shown in these tutorials. 

The Apple Exercise, is available through the products page on my website at http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A Bientôt

For now wishing everyone a lovely weekend. 

A Bientôt