Friday, December 9, 2016

Gregarious Friends - The Traveling Chicken visits NYC

'Gregarious Friends '
11 x 14 inches
Oil on Gessobord

 Well what a week it has been! Last week some VIP's (Very Important Poultry) turned up at my door.

'The Traveling Chicken' is a project started in April 2012 by an artist called Azra Iqbal in the UK. She bought this tiny little yellow ceramic chicken and painted it in a still life. She then posted the chicken to her friend Karla Uphoff in the USA, who painted it and sent it to her friend Nan Johnson, who... (well you get the idea) and 'The Traveling Chicken' (or TC) was born! The little chick has travelled all around the world and her whole journey has been recorded on the Traveling Chicken blog. She met and gathered new friends along the way including Senor Gallo Azul the rooster, her regular companion.

Click here to read about her visit with us:
'The Traveling Chicken Visits NYC Part 1'
'The Traveling Chicken Visits NYC Part 2'

Her entire journey can be found here:

I put my name on the list to paint the chick back at the beginning of the year and it was my turn to paint her sooner than expected.

I'll be honest and say from the minute I signed up a year ago, I knew that my blue Jersey cow was going to have to feature. My kids insisted that the Friesian cow had to play a role too.

My husband, when he saw the finished painting thought I was going through my 'surreal phase'. Now that he's read the blog, I think he gets it.

The other amazing thing is that Nan Johnson, one of the original painters of the chick and the artist who kept the blog going for 2 years decided to sell her painting this week, so I bought it! We got in contact and talked about all things art and traveling chickens. So cool!

I also got to chat a bit with Pandalana Williams, another artist and current admin of the blog. Since TC is looking a bit world weary (a bit of a crack is appearing), we both are trying to come up with a way to keep her going. In the meantime, she's still good and up for adventure.

All the paintings of the chickens:

This painting is not currently for sale

Monday, November 28, 2016

Persimmon trio

I picked up these persimmons yesterday. They are unusual for a supermarket batch in that they vary a lot in size, colour and shape. Some of them were yellow-ish and some almost close to red.
I never came across a persimmon until I moved to the US. They don't have persimmons back in the UK but they seem to be quite commonly available in the US in the fall. Autumn seems to be the season of orange, not just because of the leaves changing but for the abundance of orange fruit and squashes.

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

For this post I thought I'd include a couple of progress shots to show the original colour of the fruit. Hopefully I captured it.

Here's the fruit and the sketch on my easel. When sketching small paintings, I use yellow ochre. Some people use burnt umber but I find that too dark and I don't like that it can tint lighter colours. I don't tint my canvas either as a lot of artists do, for the same reason - I like to keep my colours un-tinted.

Here's the painting almost completed. I meant to photograph it half painted but forgot! Oh well, next time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tea Two Ways

 This painting was a total labour of love. It has been through a number of incarnations. 

When arranging the composition for this I couldn't decide on a background. I tried stripes, spots and coloured napkins. In the end I decided on a plain white tablecloth.
But then after I painted it, I decided that had been the wrong decision. The cups looked too much like they were sitting in space. So I reset the whole thing up again, with the cups on this delicate flower print cloth. I did make the cloth quite impressionistic as I didn't want the print to fight with the painted cups.

Painting lemons.
One thing I learned about lemons is that the colour of the inside of the fruit is not lemon! It actually leans slightly towards grey which was quite the revelation.  It took me many (many) attempts at mixing the colours before I was happy with them. In fact I could have gone much darker grey as they are in reality, but I didn't have the nerve to darken them up, and I wanted the lemons to still look 'fruity'.

(11 x 14 inches)
28 x 35.5cm
Oil on gessobord panel

Here's one of the earlier incarnations of this painting:

This painting is no longer available

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Strawberries and checkered cloth

This is my new favourite painting. I'm super happy with it even though I say so myself.
I started it yesterday and finished it this morning but I was very distracted painting it since today is election day in the US and I kept getting distracted by updates popping up on my phone, so I really lost track of the number of hours I actually spent on it.
Anyway, strawberries are my new favourite thing to paint and checkered cloth is my least favourite thing to paint.
I may continue with the strawberry theme for a while, since I have some other ideas for them.

(12 x 12 inches)
30 x 30cm
Oil on Gessobord

No longer for sale

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Strawberry love II

Another strawberry study - these two are both studies for a larger painting.
I painted this late last night - I think I started it about 11pm. I paint best first thing in the morning or late at night when the rest of the house has gone to bed.

I took a slightly different approach with painting the seeds in the shadows with this one. In the first painting I painted the seeds darker than the main shadow colour, then removed a little of the paint with a colour shaper - a colour shaper is a little tool shaped like a brush but with a rubber tip. It's good for removing tiny amounts of paint.
With this painting I just highlighted the seeds in shadow with a red mixed lighter than the dark shadow. Not sure which method works best? I kinda like both.

 (6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord panel.

This painting is no longer available

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Strawberry love.

This was an exercise in finding the right shades of red to paint strawberries.
The seeds were a bit of challenge too. The trick I think is not to try to paint all of the seeds.

My eldest daughter loves strawberries. I've been wanting to paint some strawberry studies for a long time, but every time I bring home a box full, they are instantly eaten. You have to be quick off the mark.

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

This painting is now SOLD

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Paint and a brew

I've been meaning to paint a header for my blog for months.

I've had this 6x12" cradled board sitting around my studio - I ordered it by mistake so I used it up to paint my header. It's a different brand of gessobord than I usually buy and it was much more absorbent. I had to thin my paint with a lot of medium.

My inspiration for this one was my usual cup of brew (tea or coffee) that I have in more or less constant supply while painting, and a few of my paints. Sums me up I think. Plus I got some great compliments about this painting so I thought I'd continue the theme.

Here's a detail shot. You can see the full header at the top of the blog (unfortunately the header does not show on the mobile version, just the full web version).

You may notice the image of the brush reflected in the cup. I'd love to say that this was a deliberate ploy but I have to admit that it was more of a happy accident.

Anyway, glad I finally got this done so that I can move onto some new stuff.
I've got a million ideas swimming around in my head at the moment.

Having painted the header and having lived with it for a few days, I have decided to remove it. I think it is too distracting from the paintings in the posts.
I do like the painting however, so I've decided instead to just hang it in my studio.

Here's the full version:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Orange Rose Study

This rose is painted on an 8 x 8 inch (20cm x 20cm) panel which is a little larger than I have been using for a single subject, but I like to use a slightly larger brush and find it difficult to get into all the little crevices on roses if I go smaller. I think in future I will do all my rose studies this size. The rose is part of a bunch of beautiful vivid blooms I picked up at my supermarket a few days ago.

I have been making an effort to stay away from white where possible, because I want to keep my colours really saturated and in fact I didn't use any white at all for this painting, as you can see from this picture of the palette I used.

 A while ago I invested in some of the Gamblin radiant colours, after hearing Robert Gamblin himself talk about them on Leslie Saetas podcast, but I haven't been sure what to use them for.
I decided to have a go at using my radiant yellow in this painting and found that it is a great mixer and eliminates the need to use white. Now I know what to use the radiants for!
I mixed so many variations of orange for this painting, that I had to start another clean palette for the stems, leaves and background!

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

A bit about value...
I read about and listen to a lot of artists always talking about value. Value in painting terms basically means how much light and how much shade is being cast onto or cast by an object. Artists often say how important it is to learn about value and even that some artists do not understand value. What I'm puzzled by is that to me value is obvious. All objects hit by light are part in light and part in shade. I think everybody knows and understands this, but the trick is finding out how to represent that shade without resorting to just adding black or some dark colour that approximates the body colour of the object you are painting.

Now last night I happened to be reading the book 'Fill your oil paintings with light and colour' by Kevin Macpherson. In it he says this;
"Nature describes itself in full spectrum. Color has three qualities; hue, value and chroma. I will use the term color or color note interchangeably to mean the sum of these quantities. Analyse everything as a particular color note.
If you can learn to see color notes, you do not have to worry about value, because that comes automatically."

Exactly! The trick to representing something three dimensionally in painting is seeing shapes, and the shade as a colour in its own right.

Not that I think that really getting to grips with value makes you a great artist, it just depends on what your intention is. Van Gogh cared little about value in his best work but produced some of the most beautiful paintings. I think finding how to represent value is a good starting point though...

 This painting is available

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stripes, spots, spoons and spatulas.

A bit about brushes...

I have tried a variety of brands of brushes. I started out painting with Silver Briston and Princeton brushes, but I found both brands a little too stiff - I found I was removing almost as much paint as I was putting on. I stopped using these brands when I discovered Robert Simmons Titanium brushes which are much softer and I preferred the strokes I was getting with the paint when using them. Also they are great quality; they don't lose hairs and are great for clean-up.
However, while the Titanium brushes are great for loose strokes, they are not so great for lines or fine detail.
To paint the lines in this painting I reverted back to one of my Princeton brushes. I realised they are fantastic for painting hard edges! Now I don't like too many hard edges in my paintings, but this one required it. Don't ask me how to paint in straight lines because I haven't found a perfect answer. I'm sure there is a secret to it but all I can say is it takes practice and a bit of confidence with your brush.
I also recently purchased some angled Rosemary and Co brushes from the UK - which are great for getting into the little corners.

The painting...'stripes, spots, spoons and spatulas!'... it was only after I finished the painting that I realised it could have this rhythmic title.
I'm not sure how long this painting took, since I had to keep leaving it in stages to go to drop my son off at various soccer matches, but I think it was about 6 or 7 hours painting time and maybe an hour or so settling on the composition first. The still life is set up on my old vintage kitchen dresser.
I found that by dragging the edge of my brush through the paint I could create a few hints of the grain in the old painted wooden boards at the back of the dresser.

(10 x 10 inches)
25.4 x 25.4 cm
Oil on Gessobord

Not for sale

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sunlit Brunch

Following on from my earlier small painting Marmalade in the Sun, I wanted to try to capture the sunlight hitting this jar of marmalade again, so I decided to try it as part of a larger still life.
Full sunlight doesn't actually start making it's way through this window until around midday, so I didn't feel I could call this 'breakfast'. Although I like the cool simple labelling on the French Bonne Maman jars, I played around around a lot with the composition and finally settled on this one, so the label can only just be seen. As I was fiddling with the composition I noticed the light shining through the jar and casting this red/orange glow onto the knife, so I thought I'd see if I could capture that.
Half way through painting this, I decided to change some of the details; the objects were originally sitting on a white and blue striped teatowel but I soon realised that the pattern was fighting with the shadows cast from the window so I decided to scrape the painting back and re-paint it without the teatowel. I'm happy I did that. The painting works so much better. Very often, less is more.

When I'm painting I nearly always listen to some podcast or other. One of the shows I listen to regularly is 'The Savvy Painter' and I have listened to Duane Keiser's interview maybe 6 or 7 times to date.
I like to listen to these podcasts a number of times, because I find I nearly pick up some new nugget of information each time. In this case I was interested to hear Duane talk about how he 'aggresses' through a painting. In other words he attacks a problem full-on until he solves it. This might mean scraping a painting back a number of times until he has solved the problem. I loved that and thought it was very inspirational. It's easy to get too precious about a painting you are working on and not want to make changes, but if you can improve on some aspect of it, you should.
I like alla prima oil painting for this reason. I've learned that I really do prefer to pretty much complete a painting in one session, save maybe a few details I might notice with fresh eyes the next day. I like the paint to stay really wet and creamy so that if you need to make changes, you can without having to paint over a texture that has already dried.

(10 x 10 inches)
25.4 x 25.4 cm
Oil on Gessobord

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ready, Steady, Bake.

If you already haven't encountered the TV baking phenomenon 'The Great British Bake Off' then you have almost missed it, since they have just announced that this will be the last official series, since the makers of the series are moving channels.
Since I'm a big fan of the series then I guess subconsciously this was my inspiration, although I didn't think of it at the time.  'Ready, Steady, Bake' seemed like an appropriate title though.
I kinda like the eggs reflected in the yellow and blue bowls, but I most proud of the metal fastener on the jar. It took me AGES but I really wanted to take my time with it and get it right.

This took about 6 hours to paint and quite a bit longer to come up with the initial composition. Square panels are not always an easy fit for a composition, so sometimes it takes a while to decide what works. I have decided to slow things right down and take my time over some compositions for larger panels. The little 6x6 inch panels are great for studies but I do prefer painting larger.

This one is 10 x 10 inches.
I'm working on more ideas for paintings this size.

(10 x 10 inches)
25.4 x 25.4 cm
Oil on Gessobord

This painting is now SOLD

UPDATE: This painting has been accepted for 'The Rye Arts Center' juried show and will be on display there between November 2nd - December 3rd 2016.

Here's a link:
The Rye Arts Center Small Works Exhibition

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Marmalade in the Sun

One of my favorite things to eat for breakfast is marmalade on toast, so we absolutely always have it in the house. The other day the sun shone in through the window and hit the back of my marmalade jar giving the whole jar this sunny glow. I immediately wanted to see if I could capture that glow. So the next sunny day I got to work.

I spent a really long time mixing the colours for this. I wanted to get them exactly right.
You may have noticed from my other paintings that my colours end up being quite vibrant. This is not necessarily a deliberate thing; I'm not looking to produce a really bright, colourful painting but I have a bit of an obsession with not producing 'mud', so I guess that's the way they turn out.
My brush strokes are not as loose as I'd like them to be but I'm working on it.

I'm very proud of this painting. Definitely my favourite so far. I'm not putting this one up for sale just yet as I'm thinking about entering it for a local show, or using it as reference for another painting.
I may sell it at a later date.

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

UPDATE: I will be selling this painting on 'Daily Paintworks' soon. Stay posted.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Magenta Rose

Painting a close up of this rose gave me no end of trouble.

I painted at least 3 versions before wiping them. In the end I decided to sleep on it and start afresh the next day. The next morning I realised I had been approaching the deep shadows wrong.
I decided to get a little more scientific about it and try mixing my tubes of permanent rose, quinacridone magenta and alizarin crimson in various combinations with other colours to see what worked best and tested them on paper first. I'm going to do this more often. Sometimes it's best to test things out BEFORE the paint hits the canvas.
Another point - with magenta I think you have to be particularly careful with the amount of white you add. You can very quickly dull what started out as a vivid saturated colour (it's a very fine line).

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

This painting is available

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Today I don't have a painting to write about, but I felt I needed to mark the day with a post.

I mentioned a little while back that I set up an account with Daily Paintworks...
and today I sold three paintings! So happy!
The Daily Paintworks site took me a while to navigate and set up but I think I have the hang of it now, and so happy to have sold some of my paintings from there.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to paint this week as I've had other obligations to deal with, but that hasn't stopped me thinking about things I want to paint.

I have a passion for all things vintage from the 30's, 40's and 50's and I was browsing Etsy (never a good idea) and came across these vintage french tea towels (what the heck? crazy right?) but stick with me, I just thought they'd make a great backdrop for paintings. They arrived today. They are about a meter in length each and I can't wait to use them.

Don't you love it when you get a pretty package in the mail? And they came all the way from France.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cape Cod workshop day 2

This is from Day 2 of Leslie Saeta's workshop on palette painting. I didn't quite give myself enough time to finish it, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.
Painting with a palette knife is an entirely different technique than I'm used to. I don't think that I will switch entirely over to a knife but I will definitely use one again to some extent.
I love the fine, straight lines you get with the knife and the way you can apply great swathes of colour quickly and effectively and get all these interesting effects. Some of those blues I practically threw on in a way I'd never do with a brush.

Apart from use of a palette knife, the other thing I learned from Leslie is use of her very limited palette. Leslie uses just white, cad yellow, ultramarine, pthalo green, sap green and alizarin crimson. Not that I haven't used a limited palette before, but the interesting thing is the use of almost all transparent colours, so you end up with a very lively and bright painting... no muddying of colours!
Hmm definitely taking something away from that.
The great thing about taking workshops with different artists is that you take some new nuggets of information away from each one that you can apply to your own work. Love it.

It's been such a fun 2 days in Cape Cod and I wish I could stay the whole 3 days but tomorrow I can only stay for the morning as I'm heading back to New see...ADELE at Madison Square Garden!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cape Cod workshop day 1

Today was the first day of a three day workshop in Cape Cod with artist Leslie Saeta, and these paintings are what I produced. They are all painted entirely with just a palette knife and oil paints.
The apple was my first painting. It was a real learning curve. I thought my painting was awful at first, but when I looked at it again at the end of the day I thought... actually that's quite good for a first attempt!

After the apple I painted the flower and got into my stride a bit as I understood what you were supposed to do with the knife.
Painting the lid of the starbucks cup was the most difficult. Straight knives don't lend themselves easily to curves!

All in all I'm quite pleased. Using a palette knife is entirely different from using a brush. It's good to have another string to your bow. Also using the knife helps you loosen up - you definitely cannot fiddle the same way you can with a brush.

I'm not posting these to the 30 day challenge, mainly because I'm on my laptop and have no idea how to do it!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Avocado Fiesta

I thought I would try something a little more dramatic by pairing up these complimentary colours; green and red (it's an orangey sort of red). I admit I wasn't sure about the combination at first until it occurred to me that the colours reminded me of driving through Mexico last Spring; hence the title 'Avocado Fiesta', since the word is Latin meaning 'feast'.
I think the painting turned out quite graphic in style. Almost like a textile.

This might be my last entry for a while as I am going on a plein air painting course tomorrow with Leslie Saeta in Cape Cod! I'm very excited about the course, but I think I may have to concede defeat with the 30 in 30 challenge.
Although I will definitely be painting every day, I'm not sure I will have time to post to the 30 in 30 blog. Also I have a ton to do today to pack and get ready, so I will have to see how I go.

This is my contribution to day 15 of the September '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'.
The next challenge is in January I think.

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Avocado blues

For this painting I decided to try out this unconventional composition: plate positioned dead center. It was a bit of an experiment and it works better than I expected. Sometimes you don't really know how something is going to look until you have painted it. I kinda like it! I might do some more of these.
One thing I'm focusing hard with in these paintings is getting my darks- dark enough. I'm always a bit cautious adding really dark shadows as I don't want to muddy my paintings or get the shadow colour wrong. I'm learning to be more confident with that.
I also discovered that avocados are also great subject matter. You have to paint them fast though. They go brown very quickly.

This is day 14 in the September '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'.
(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

This painting is available.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Avocado in green.

Hmm...30 in 30 challenge.
I've had a really busy two days. Yesterday I went out plein air painting in Rye - I didn't complete the painting but aim to work on it at home to see if I can finish it... so I'm not posting that one here (yet).

Today I had meetings and other things to deal with.
So I actually started this painting at 10.00pm and finished it at 11.45pm! Talk about cutting it close!
That's probably one of the fastest times I have completed a painting. Just shows what you can do under pressure.

It is proving a real challenge to get something painted every day.
However, while painting one picture, I'm constantly coming up with ideas for new pictures. After the challenge is over I'm probably going to attempt a series of larger paintings.

Today's painting: I'm pretty happy with this. I wanted to capture that creamy avocado texture which it turns out is easy with oil paint since the paint also has a creamy texture!
I tried out various cloths for the background. Usually I think something contrasting is better but I liked pale green in this instance.

This is day 13 in the September '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'.
(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

This painting is available.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Figs in blue

I'm really super happy with this painting. I love that it ended up having this sort of graphic quality about it.
Figs are this strange color that somehow is a combination of black, purple, blue, red and green all at the same time. Also, even though they have a matt surface, they seem to absorb the colors that surround them, and here - they picked up some of the color of this turquoise bowl (or maybe it's just me imagining that!)
I don't think I'm done with this subject matter yet, these things are so cool to paint! However today I will be taking a break from still life. I'm off plein air painting with some friends!
I don't expect to come back with anything post-worthy, so we shall see what today brings.

This is day 12 in the September 2016 '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'.
While on the subject... here are my highs and lows in taking part on this challenge:
Lows: It is exhausting! Trying to fit in a painting a day around everything else that needs to be done every day is the biggest challenge. Also I have put myself under this pressure to post everything I do, whether I like it or not, but I guess that is the whole point of this blog: to record my progress.
Highs: I am learning so much. I can feel myself improving every day and moving towards a point as an artist where I feel I want to be.
After this challenge is over I think I will attempt some larger paintings.

This painting is sold.

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fig bowl

Another painting of these lovely figs. Not sure I will manage another painting of this batch as my husband keeps passing by and eating them! I almost called this 'disappearing figs'. They are rather yummy.

Yesterday I decided to start posting my paintings on the 'Daily Paintworks' website as well as here.
My err... 'gallery' looks rather strange at the moment with just one painting. I will post new ones each day, not necessarily in the order I painted them. Might be good to mix it up a bit.

This is my day 11 contribution in the September 2016 '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'.

This painting is SOLD.

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Luscious Figs

The Figs are back! I knew I had to return to painting these to get it out of my system and saw these in the fruit aisle this morning.

I'm fortunate to have this collection of Fiesta ware bowls that I have in practically every colour. I picked them up a few months ago in an estate sale for a very reasonable price. After trying a couple of colours I decided the figs looked great against this bright red colour which works great with the lovely orangey / red / brown inside.

This is my day 10 contribution in the September 2016 '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'.
I'm one third of the way there!

 This painting is available.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Me time, tea time

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

I think this will be the last time I paint this set up, with this teapot for now.
I fiddled endlessly with the composition. This teapot is not all that big and in fact most of my mugs and cups are taller than it, so everything I put with it looked a bit odd.
Finally I selected this red mug so that we have a whole red and green theme going on, which I think works.
Next mission... to find some smaller teacups for props.
Not today though. At about 2pm I realised I had to get this painted quickly as the 30 in 30 challenge entry closes in a few hours. So I painted this in about 2 hours which is probably a bit of a record for me!

(Day 9 contribution in the September 2016 '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'. )

This painting is SOLD.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Rosy Teatime

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

Hmm. Do you see a theme emerging? Yes I like tea. And I have lots of teapots. And teacups.
Expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing.

Encouraged by my last painting I decided to give 1930's style Art Deco teapot another go around, but spruced him up by accompanying him with a red rose. Plus I included one of my nightmare-to-paint ridged teacups. Must be a glutton for punishment.

Anyway I really love painting this teapot.

(Day 8 contribution in the September 2016 '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'. )

This painting is available.

Deco Tea

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

This was an attempt to 'loosen up' a little. Usually when painting larger objects I'd choose a larger canvas size, but I decided to stay small and paint with as big a brush as I could muster.

I'm REALLY happy with it as exercise for me to paint a bit looser. I have a tendency to fuss over the small stuff but when you paint with a larger brush, you can't do that.

I have had this Art Deco style teapot for years. It's modern, not truly Art Deco. I almost threw it out once or twice. Glad I didn't. I knew one day it would come in handy.

(Day 7 contribution in the September 2016 '30 paintings in 30 days challenge'. )

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Little Blue Creamer

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

I wanted something I could paint quickly so chose this little blue creamer from my shelf of props. I picked it up for about 50 cents I think during the summer from a bric-a-brac shop.
Well I thought I could paint it quickly at least. But then I decided to place it on this gorgeous polka dot fabric, so then had to paint in all the dots... Doh!

This was my Day 6 contribution to the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Aqua and blue stacked cups

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

Not to be beaten by the cups I painted yesterday I decided to give this one another go but changed the lighting... with more success today I feel.
They were still tricky to paint though. Those indented sides are not easy.

This was my day 5 contribution to the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.

This painting is available.

Monday, September 5, 2016


(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

Let's just say not my finest hour.
Were it not for the 30 in 30 challenge I wouldn't be posting this one. I almost wiped it and started again but today I don't have time for that so I'm posting it anyway and writing up what I learned from painting it.

I took what I thought was short cut by mixing the colours from mid- value paints - Cerulean blue and permanent light green.
Usually when there are a lot of lights and darks I would use darker colours as a starting point and lighten them. When you start with mid value colours you then have to introduce a third color to darken - in this case I used ultramarine and burnt umber, thus making purer colours greyer than they should be.

Also I think the lighting was wrong to begin with. I lit the cups from behind / left. I think they should have been lit from the front.
This one was a learning curve definitely.

(Day 4 of the 30 painting in 30 days Challenge)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Last Days of Summer Figs

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

This will be my final painting of this particular batch of figs as I am going away for a couple of days.
I may return to this subject matter at some point. Figs have such a lovely shape.

This is my third contribution to the '30 paintings in 30 days' challenge.

Have a great weekend everybody!

This painting is available.

Friday, September 2, 2016


(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

My second contribution to my 30 in 30 Challenge.

I used the same format 6x6" board but with a lot more going on this was trickier. I find it tricky to  paint small! I'm going to keep going with the 'fig' theme for a while.
These figs are in season and they don't last long!

Couldn't think of a name so just called this one 'figgy' which according to Merriam-Webster means 'contains figs'. So there we are.

Three Figs...

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm
Oil on Gessobord

30 Paintings in 30 days Challenge.

First of all I can't believe it has been over four months since I last painted. Long story short, the builders moved in to renovate 2 bathrooms and a bedroom, so the house was in considerable disarray for a while. Then the summer holidays arrived and we have had multitude (very welcome) house guests, so it has been impossible to get back into a groove with painting.

SO. To get my mojo back I have decided to give Leslie Saeta's '30 Paintings in 30 Days' challenge a go which runs September 1st to the end of September.
I'm a little apprehensive since the kids aren't even back at school yet, AND I'm going away this weekend which means I have to paint at least 3 paintings in one day. Hey ho.

Even yesterday I had no idea what I was going to paint - I started this painting at around 9.30 last night! (September 1st). When I set up my equipment I thought I'd forgotten how to paint! But I soon got back into the swing of it.

I have decided not to limit myself to a theme, I'm going to just paint whatever I feel inspired by each day. The idea is not to produce 30 complicated masterpieces, or even really to produce a painting each day, but to just get you into the studio painting every day. So that's what I'm doing.

All my paintings will be posted on my blog and here each day:
30 in 30 challenge

This painting is available.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A dozen 'Happy' eggs.

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

These are literally branded 'happy eggs' - "from chickens free to roam outdoors on 5 acres of land", apparently!
They were ridiculously difficult to paint- so much subtle variation in hue and value. I resorted to using a filbert brush (a soft, flat rounded brush) for the majority of this painting as these eggs needed a soft edge. The checkered tablecloth was a lot trickier than I thought it would be too, especially when it came to painting the shadows. I will definitely use the tablecloth again though. I very much like this muted, soft pastel colour scheme. I have a million ideas for similar still life paintings using a similar scheme. I'm very happy with it, so the title is appropriate!

Before I started the painting I did a bit of research to see how other artists have handled the same subject matter. There are many artists who have painted this subject - but I was particularly struck by a painting by an artist called Henk Helmantel, a current, working Dutch artist. I don't know if he's all that well known internationally as I couldn't find an English website that featured his work, but wow, I love his stuff.

Heres one of his treatments of this subject which is called 'Witte kom met eieren' (White bowl with eggs): 
'Witte kom met eieren'
Henk Helmantel

Absolutely lovely, super-talented and very skilled.  It's a hyper-realist style which I love when other artists do it, but I don't aspire to be be able to paint like that myself. I prefer to be able to see some of the brushstrokes and I already fiddle with my paintings way too much.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cheerful Spray

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

I wasn't sure what to call this painting, as honestly I'm not sure whether these flowers are Daisies or a form of Chrysanthemum. And the shop I bought them from was not helpful in having them labelled simply as 'fresh flowers'. I think they are a form of Chrysanthemum since I think daisies have individual stems rather than lots of flower heads all attached to the same stem? Or maybe they are something else entirely. Anyway, if I get to paint them again while they are still perky, I will try to find out what they are! If anybody knows, please let me know.

I'm still on a quest to work out what the colours are in white shadows. In the end I mixed a ton of colours which varied from a sort of violet to a sage green. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

4 Sunflower Studies

It's been about a week since I did any oil painting, however I have had a different sort of brush in my hand, since I was decorating my daughters bedroom all week!

The shops seem to be full of sunflowers at the moment so I thought I'd do some studies of these I picked up.

This variety are a particularly vivid - almost orangey hue. I have daylight bulbs in the ceiling of my basement studio (I will post something about that at some point) - the sunflowers look great in there.

I really wanted to try to capture the light and the 'glow' these sunflowers have.
I've been reading up a lot about the difference between opaque and transparent pigments in oil paints.
Greens and blues - particularly ones that I use a lot such as ultramarine and phthalo are transparent, and if you use them in the background without mixing white into them, it gives your painting the illusion of depth.  Most yellows, apart from a rare few, tend to be opaque.
Adding white tends to remove some of the saturation so I decided to use no white at all in these paintings, to keep the pigments as pure and as saturated as possible,

I think it worked to an extent. I used yellow ochre mixed with cadmium yellow deep for the shadows on the petals.
One way to darken yellow is to mix it with it's complimentary colour, which in this case is violet.
I discovered that if you mix violet with lemon yellow you get yellow ochre! A new discovery.

Each painting is:
(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

Something else I learned from painting these 4 times: It's always a dilemma whether to paint the background or the main subject first. The first couple of paintings I decided to paint the background first because I wanted to be able to sweep the points of yellow petals into the green background with my brush. However this means that you inevitably get green paint on the end of your brush and have to wipe the brush in between every stroke!
So for the third attempt, I painted the flower first, but then I had to carefully paint around each petal for the background, losing that spontaneity you get from the sweeping brushstrokes.
By the fourth attempt I did a sort of combination of both, blocking in the basic colour for the flowers and background, then finishing with sweeping strokes and petals. In the end the results were all similar but the last one required less work.

I read that Whistler often scraped back his painting multiple times and overpainted with loose strokes, leaving the impression that his paintings were painted with spontaneity, when in truth a lot more work had gone into them.

I was inspired to read up about Van Gogh's sunflowers (see pic below). He did at least 7 versions of his stylised sunflowers over a very short period of time ( I think he did 4 paintings in a week!), as well as a number of small studies.

I like this one of his best. I think it is brighter and fresher than the other versions.
It is part of a private collection though, sadly.

File:Vincent Van Gogh - Three Sunflowers F453.jpg

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tea things on a linen tablecloth

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on linen panel

This still life was set up on a natural linen tablecloth.
Painting white objects is really quite tricky. White objects with a glossy smooth surface such as these cups, pick up and reflect all the colour in their surroundings, so there's a lot more going on than first meets the eye.
I started this painting with a view to trying for looser brush strokes, but it didn't end up that way and took me a lot longer than I expected.
This painting was lit using a daylight bulb from just one side to help accentuate the shadows.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Purple, meet Aqua

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on linen panel

I'm really happy with this painting - I like the combination of purple and aqua. The plums in reality were darker and blacker but I decided to ramp up the colour a bit and I'm pleased with the result.
It's a colour combination that seems to work here.

The colander is made from terracotta stoneware, with the edge left unglazed, showing off its natural earthy tone.

I've been trying out different surfaces to paint on. I definitely prefer a smoother surface. This is painted on linen which is mounted onto a hard (masonite) panel. It's somewhere between the textured surface you get with canvas and the smooth surface you get with gessobord. I like it.

Something else I learned in the last few days is that it really is better to photograph paintings outdoors in the shade. I have good lighting in my house and have been using daylight bulbs but the result still isn't anywhere near as good as natural light.

Here's the same picture using artificial light.
The quality is okay but not nearly as good as the picture above.

Lemon Tea Time

(12 x 12 inches)
30 x 30cm
Oil on gessobord panel

Back to a larger painting.
I'm very pleased with this one. I could probably work on simplifying the reflections I paint in glass, but the reflections were actually a lot more complex than I have represented here! So I still have some work to do on that. I'm very happy with how the teapot and cup turned out.

Three studies in sepia

I recently took a series of workshops with Karen O 'Neil at the Art Students League of New York. She is a superb teacher and gave me some great insights in how to use colour.

Karen uses around 16 colours and a lot of Titanium white. She focuses most of her painting on colour value 7 and doesn't diverge too much from that. She's an amazing colourist. Her paintings have this luminous quality.

One of the things I also learned from my workshops with Karen is that I need to work on my representation of 'values' (light and dark) in my paintings.
So I set myself this task of painting 3 white objects -  keeping the colour restricted to sepia tones - I also chose a neutral background.

Looking at these, I definitely could still go darker with my shadows.

These are all small 6 x 6 inch paintings
(15 x 15cm)
Oil on gessobord panels.