Tag Archives: weight reed artist

Colourful landscape exercise

This colourful landscape is inspired from when I lived in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales where the light is so dramatic.


The following landscape exercise is excellent for warming up and uses the same techniques.

Working on white paper, I add lots of water to the top half of the paper and then add juicy red and orange watercolour paint into the wet area….allowing it to bleed.      Feel free to use any colour combination you like.

Note that the bottom part of the paper is still dry.


In this frame, I use a clean wet brush to  gently pull down some of the paint from the horizon line, making sure to leave some dry white areas between the foreground and the horizon.


I now add some of the same intense dark shown on the horizon line to the bottom of the image to give the image a sense of balance.   I have also indicated the boundaries of fields…leaving dry white areas.


Given that the sky reflects directly onto the land, I brought the same colours from the sky into the foreground.   Note that there are still dry white areas showing…..

Also I have allowed the paint to settle and do its own thing which is one of the exciting elements of watercolour painting.    

Using a knife I scraped out some paint in the foreground.



Floating free of time like the Magical Hummingbird





A Bientôt

When the answer is revealed….


Another tutorial and reminder of the importance of observational skills.   I

This exercise is all about observing the whole picture, –  the subject and the area surrounding it, which is referred to as the negative space.

I sometimes see people struggling with one area of a painting that they keep going back to time and time again….adding and removing paint,  when quite often all that is needed is a shadow or some colour thrown into the negative space. 

Using  yellow ochre, I have sketched out the rough form of a Calla Lily


It’s much like life when we are trying to solve an ongoing problem.  We tend to keep going back with the same solution, which doesn’t work!


It’s not until we look in another direction, in this case into the negative space surrounding the Cala Lily, that the answer is revealed. 


As we approach paintings and life from a different point of view….new solutions and answers are revealed.


For this image I used a mix of colours that happened to be on my palette….and then scraped out some colour with a knife, which gives energy and breaks up the background space.

Note that all the white you see is dry white paper. 

I used the same dark tone/value in the back ground colour as I did for the dark shadows on the lily, and just a touch of Winsor & Newton Green Gold and cadmium orange to pull the image together

I never use black when watercolour painting….it deadens the picture.    Instead, I mix Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue….or other combinations of browns and blues….which produce a beautiful rich dark.

A Colourful Magical Hummingbirds for the day.




A Bientôt

All of life is interconnected….

This watercolour is all about the interconnectedness of life.

In the first frame, working on white watercolour paper and using a mix of burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and sepia watercolour I indicate the strength of an olive tree trunk which I found in the courtyard at the school in Olhao, Portugal, where I gave a workshop in April.


Like so much in life, we tend to see a tree….and think only of the tree!     Whereas everything surrounding the tree is connected to it.

In this frame I add the dark shadow at the bottom of the painting.  This shadow mirrors the darkest shadows on the tree.

Note that using a mix of yellow ochre and burnt sienna, I have made the shadow lighter on either side of the tree….this is to separate the trunk from the dark shadow areas.


Observing the whole image, I now add the dark shadow to the right of the painting.   Note how the shadow gets lighter as it reaches the top of the courtyard wall, where I have graduated the dark to a light blue.     This is caused by the reflection of the sky.

I have used the same light blue to indicate the trunk shadow thrown onto the white courtyard wall.

We now begin to see that the tree and the shadows that it produces are of equal importanceone doesn’t exist without the other.    


Again using a mix of the lighter blue and some of the stronger darks, I indicate the shadow play of leaves and branches onto the wall.

You can’t see the actual branches with leaves that are casting these shadows.     The shadow play is telling the story. 


I now add some Winsor & Newton Green Gold into the blue shadow to the left of the trunk, and at the same time add some of the same Green Gold to the top of the wall.

It’s important to always be aware of the total painting and to move colour around….which brings harmony and rhythm to the image.

All the white areas, are dry, white paper.


In the final frame, using cobalt turquoise light, I add the intense blue of the sky.    This is the same blue that I have used in the shadows.       This is because the sky reflects directly onto the wall – everything is interconnected. 

Using Green Gold, and a much darker green, I have suggested leaves.


Following on from yesterday’s blog, Time to Wake UP –

If we were to fully understood how interconnected our world is….there would be a greater understanding that the only boundaries made on this earth are made by humankind, and that when we destroy one element we destroy so much more!

The same applies in reverse…..when we bring beauty to one area of our lives, this also affects many other areas.

The Magical Hummingbird always brings beauty to it’s surroundings.


The school in Olhao, Portugal is superb.   I cannot recommend it highly enough.   I will be giving a workshop there again in April 2015….For details and further information go to http://www.artinthealgarve.com


A Bientôt



Poem for a nurse – Haslar Royal Navy Hospital – WWII

Today we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D Day Landings.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Mother was a young VAD/Red Cross nurse working at the Haslar Royal Navy Hospital in Gosport, Portsmouth. 

She remember the 24 hours preceding the actual D Day invasion….All the nurses were told that everything had to  be ready….but they weren’t told at the time for what.  What’s amazing is that no one leaked information….everyone was working together!

When the many casualties were brought in to the hospital, they were ready.

Here is a photograph of my Mother taken at that time…. 21 years old.

Scan 27


My Mother’s VAD card…..

Scan 20Scan 21


Three years ago, after my Mother had been moved to a nursing home,   I spent several months clearing her house.     I found many treasures, and amongst those was this poem, written to my Mother by a young patient in the Haslar Hospital.

The paper is very flimsy but the message lives on….I wonder what ever happened to Eric R. Gurney?

Scan 22

Scan 23Scan 24

Scan 25Scan 26

We tend to forget that those on the front line were beautiful, oh so very young people…fighting for the common cause, of peace and freedom.

I will be visiting my Mother this morning at the nursing home, and will take print outs of the poem to see if it jogs any memories.

A Bientôt


Tweets from the Past…….

Yesterday I became a Tweeter…..I swore I wouldn’t do it…but having signed up, I can see this could be fun:)

When I cleared my Mother’s house three years ago after she went into a nursing home, I found lots of very interesting papers, including numerous old telegrams…..the tweets of the past.   I have put all the documents and papers into large photograph albums so that when i die my children will be able to find everything very easily.     I might add it took me months to go through my Mother’s home…however, I am so glad that I did go through every drawer, etc. otherwise some real treasures could have been lost.

This first telegram is dated 1943, the year before my parents married.    They met at a chaperoned dance at the Royal Hasler Navel Hospital.     My father was a young officer in the Royal Navy and my Mother a nurse in the VAD – Voluntary Aid Detachment/Red Cross. 

My Father asks to meet my Mother at Platform one – Waterloo Station.    The train I catch from Waterloo to Hampton always leaves from Platforms one to four….the circles of life.

Scan 19


The second telegram, is dated 1944 – 70 years ago – the year of D Day.    It is congratulating my parents on their marriage.    Given that my Grandparent’s house was in Wandsworth, my parents were married at St. Anne’s Church, hence the Wandsworth address.

Scan 18


Tomorrow, when we commemorate the 70th anniversary of D Day…I will post a poem written to my Mother by a young patient in the Hasler Hospital….it’s beautiful, and a reminder that all those people who fought in the war were so young.

A Bientôt

Olive tree in Olhao Courtyard


This is one of the series of watercolours I am painting based on the shadow play and the olive tree in the courtyard at the school in Alhao, Portugal.  http://www.artinthealgarve.com

I worked quickly with this painting…and because I had to allow some drying time during the process, I also worked on two other paintings at the same time.     The is the way I choose to work and recommend others to do the same.      This method alleviates over working an image.

Using yellow ochre I sketch out the basis of the composition and add some loose colour in the background  to suggest shadow play,.



I then begin to add strong colour to the olive tree trunk….I am using a mix of Winsor & Newton  Sepia, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, naples yellow and  Daniel Smith Raw Umber Violet.     

The blue in the painting is Winsor & Newton gouache Cobalt turquoise Light. 


It is important to note that I always have the whole painting in my mind’s eye as I work.    Remember everything is interconnected, and so the shadows are of equal importance as the actual olive tree.    One can’t exist without the other.



I have added some of the same blue and some Winsor & Newton Gold Green into the background as well as the trunk of the tree.     This creates harmony, rhythm and balance into a composition.



All the whites are dry, white paper….indicating in this case the white walls of the courtyard….a perfect place to observe shadows.





A Bientôt

When the mind leaves…….

Yesterday, I spent several hours with my 95 year old Aunt.     Up until thee years ago, she was enjoying excellent physical and mental well being….and then everything changed.

Aunt Peggy still looks physically very well for someone of 95, however what has changed is her complete memory loss.



Two years ago, I went with her to a specialist, and after brain scans it was determined that disease had set in…..what is incredible to observe is how rapidly the memory has disappeared.

I found this quote, which so beautifully expresses what I sensed yesterday.

“Grandpa’s mind had left us, gone wild and wary.   When I walked with him I could feel how strange it was.   His thoughts swam between us, hidden under rocks, disappearing in weeds, and I was fishing for them, dangling my words like baits and lures.”   Louise Erdich 

I dangled my words like baits and lures.    I talked about when  my Aunt and my Mother were part of the Voluntary Aid Detachment VAD/Red Cross in World War II…..and how they were both present at Haslar Royal Naval Hospital, in Gosport  Portsmouth, on D Day.   I told her that the 70th anniversary of D Day is coming up.    However, my Aunt couldn’t  remember any of it and no longer understood what D Day even was…..

I am pleased that I have been able to spend a lot of time with my Aunt while her mind and memory were still alive and also to observe the full and active life she was able to enjoy for so long.

I was reminded once again of the importance of living each and every day to the full…

A Bientôt





Special Moments.

Some special moments during the month of May.

First meeting with Ratka Bodgen, poet writer and fellow member of Axlepin Publishing.     Ratka and her husband flew in from the States…on their way to Macedonia….which allows us to meet and have coffee.


Claudia Notalle, a highly regarded actress and director from France…someone I have known for 36 years spent a a week with me.    Always wonderful.


Another friend and fellow artist of long standing, Bonnie Halsey Dutton, spent five days with me  on her way to Orvieto, Italy for a summer school.


Then a big surprise when one of my favourite nephews from California e mailed to say that he and the family would be in London for 48 hours on their way to Scotland…..I have know Dunham since he was six years old…..Our time together was fantastic, and filled with Harry Potter questions and stories:)



Time spent with good friends and family is so very precious.


A Bientôt


Watercolour/gouache of alley in Olhao Portugal

I have been working on several paintings inspired by my time spent in Olhao, Portugal in April.     http://www.artinthealgarve.com

Given time restraints, I used my digital camera for reference material, as in this image of an alley way in Olhao. The camera allows me to capture a fleeting moment.    I don’t stop and wait for the perfect light, etc., rather I just shoot as soon as something grabs my eye.

Photograph of alley way in Olhao, Portugal


I prefer to work from life, however, if I do work from photographs, I make sure that they are my own, and only use the photograph as a jumping off point. 

It’s all too easy to copy something….but that’s not enough…..I like to bring an intangible element to a painting.   It is the intangible that stirs me from within.

I began this by using an old sketch painted on an orange ground…..those who know my work will also know that I love the use of cadmium orange as a grounding colour.   It brings a sense of vitality and energy to an image. 


Given that I am working on a ground colour, I am using a mix of watercolour and gouache.    Both mediums are water based….the difference is that watercolour is transparent and Gouache an opaque medium, which allows for good coverage. 

I love dramatic lighting, which was what grabbed me about this moment.     Using a mix of umber, burnt sienna, winsor violet and permanent white gouache, I quickly indicate the strong shadow areas. 

After adding the darker shadow areas, I then use a mix of Cobalt Turquoise Light and Permanent White gouache for the sky and extreme lights in the image. 

Note, that I am not going for detail….rather an impression of what I saw.    I like to allow the colour to flow. 


Final frame.

Note how the cadmium orange ground becomes a vital part of the image.




A Bientôt