Friday, 25 September 2015


detailed and life-like drawing of a spaniel
This drawing was completed a while ago. It was the first really detailed piece in graphite that I completed. It was also very nearly the last. The thing about producing this style of work is that whilst the results are usually very pleasing - there is no possibility of botching it by rushing because rushing is impossible - the fact is it takes forever to complete a single piece. I have already thought up 15 more ideas to work on before I am even half way through.
I see some really beautiful pieces on the internet worked in graphite or coloured pencil and it takes the artists literally weeks. I am filled with admiration for their patience and fortitude, but it is not for me. 
This week I have been experimenting with liquid graphite, looking for a brush-y short-cut to similar effects as the ones achieved with this spaniel. I have concluded there are no short cuts. If you want a piece to look like this you have to put in the time.
So after this short interlude with drawings, I am back to paint.

Have great weekend and thank you for looking at my work.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Ol' Blue Eyes

pastel painting of husky blue eyes
Another dry media piece, this one is worked in pastel pencil on black paper.

For readers who have come here via my auction, this piece is double mounted on soft white, stiff card as follows:

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Little lemur

mixed media drawing of a little lemur
A few different things this week, because I sent away for a pot of Liquid Pencil to give it a try: my efforts to be more faithful to my sketch book are always faltering because I don't enjoy working with dry media and long for a brush. Liquid pencil seemed worth a shot. 
My impression is that it is fab for covering large areas in a light or mid tone. It looks just like pencil when it is dry. You can achieve darker tones by layering, just as you would with a dry pencil. Super-dark cannot easily be achieved, though. For this little lemur I used gouache to get the darkest darks.
His eyes are also gouache.
Having got a couple of different colours on the palette - eyes, background, highlights in eyes - I realised I might as well have used paint in the first place. 

Friday, 18 September 2015


oil painting Zzzz English Bull Dog Puppy
An English Bull Dog puppy, crashed out and doing the only reasonable thing on a Friday and also a day of pouring rain.
Have a great weekend everyone and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Diet Day

Diet Day, oil painting of a pug with his tongue out
When I saw the ridiculous photo of this pug, looking hungry and licking his nose with his tongue, I immediately had a pang of recognition. It is what can happen for 2 days out of 7 when you are on the 5:2 diet. I have even been known to feel a pang of hunger when throwing a handful of corn to my chickens. Sad.

The painting was done on a board painted with Pthalo Blue and turpentine and allowed to dry. I started with the eyes and then put in the tongue, on the basis that the tongue was the focal point - indeed, the whole point - and painted round it: 
work-in-progress pug oil painting
The thing about tongues is that they are quite easy to do if you use a cool red such as alizarin and a warm red such as cad red medium, not just one or the other. The warmest notes seem to sit towards the tip usually.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Little Clown

Oil painting of a Miniature Schnauzer
This was a cheer-myself-up painting, in the midst of a difficult week. Miniature Schnauzers - in my limited experience of the breed - are natural born comedians and rarely solemn.
I painted a blue background in weak acrylic just for speed, so that I could blast the board dry with a hairdryer and get started.
I put 3 colours on the palette: Burnt Sienna. Ultramarine and Titanium White. From these I was able to mix both warm and cool greys by adjusting the ratio of blue to burnt sienna. So, on the left the two colours straight from the tube. Then my darkest dark (a mixture of the two); warm (brownish) greys - for the beard, chiefly - and cool (blue-ish) greys for the fur:
palette of pre-mixed grey oil paints
I used a lovely, new No3 Ivory Filbert from Rosemary & Co for the whole painting. 
These brushes produce great, flick-y lines when used on their side - before I have messed them up, that is. The exception was the eyes, when I used a soft, sable. 
I also applied some black to nostrils and pupils of eyes with the sable brush by taking small blobs direct from the tube. I wanted to avoid putting black on to the palette because then I would be tempted to use it and it doesn't work for this sort of mixed grey fur - it just creates a muddy mess.  

Friday, 11 September 2015

Bee happy

oil painting of bees sipping nectar
After our bees arrived, it struck us as odd that we never seemed to see a honey bee actually in our garden. One day, walking by the lake - which is about one mile away as the bee flies - we saw 100s of honey bees sipping nectar from the mint flowers. We immediately talked about them as "our bees", although obviously we cannot be sure. Apparently, you can try dusting your bees with icing sugar as they leave the hive, then rush off down to where you think they go and see if you can spot them. We have not tried this.
The painting was made in two stages: first I painted the background, and let it dry overnight. Next day, I mixed up a  3 value string of violet made from Pthalo Blue and Permanent Rose - dark, mid and light. The flowers are only tiny, I thought 3 should be sufficient, reserving white as the lightest value. Violet is a hard colour to mix, I think. I don't like tube violet, if I use cadmium I get a nasty, muddy colour. Alizarin makes it too cold, like a bruise colour - yuck - but this combo seems about right.
Have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Bees At Work

oil painting of bees capping honey
Here is a scene from the inside of the hive. Ever since our bees properly arrived, I have wanted to have a go at painting this scene: I thought if ever there was a subject that would lead me to a muddy end, this was it. I thought for a long time how to best tackle it.
Firstly, I stained the board with some raw umber, pretty dark  Then I washed in some dark patches to indicate the areas that will be more in shadow and the approximate position of the bees and then (most unlike me) waited the necessary time for it to fully dry. After that, I more or less worked as I usually do: top left, across and down, completing as I went. 
One thing I did do differently was to re-visit the finished painting after it was dry to add some more 'wax' i.e. the light cream colour to indicate where the bees are capping brood or honey:
work-in-progress photos of bee painting
Also, I used a very, very soft brush: a Winsor & Newton 1/4 inch angled water colour brush. Apart from the initial block in, this was the only brush I used. It made a big difference to my ability to add extremely thin, light lines on top of wet paint with less risk of it mixing in and causing a muddle -  for example, the edges of some cells in the comb and the bees' wings. 
The palette was: Vandyke Brown, Black, Yellow Ochre Deep, Gamblin warm white and titanium white (for wings).

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Our hive

Oil painting of a bee hive in a summer garden
Here is our new bee hive in the clouds of seeding wild flowers and grasses along the edge of our garden. The bees moved into the garden by way of a swarm earlier in the summer. They started building honeycomb in the hedge. It seemed such an honour to be "chosen", so more permanent accommodation has been provided. 
I worked this from a couple of photos I had taken. But when it came to the bees, I was non-plussed how to paint them at this scale. So I walked my nearly-complete, wet painting, plus a palette and a brush, up the garden to see what could be done. 
I can now advise that bees from-a-distance are not simply black dots. They are more elongated than dotty. You can see the glint of their wings in the sunlight. And their tiny bodies cast a little, violet shadow on their front step.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Two ponies

oil painting of two ponies
I am still feeling my way towards an approach to painting horses. There is some beautiful work to learn from and find inspiration. The difficulty is not so much technical - although it isn't easy - as one of style and perhaps composition. 
If there is any animal subject more afflicted by artistic cliche than horses, it is hard to think of one: tigers, perhaps. 
How to find a fresh approach, how to find something new to say - that is the challenge.
I have been exploring the work of Lucy Kemp-Welch and this piece was very much inspired by her. A British painter, 1869-1958, she specialised in painting working horses and is perhaps best known for her illustrations to the 1915 edition of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
She has a painting, Colt-hunting in the New Forest, in the national collection, in the Tate
but I very much like and admire everything of hers. Worth checking out if you are interested in equine art.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Still life in red & green (with a cat)

oil painting of Garden scene with cat, pet portrait by karen
The original idea for this had been to paint some garden furniture and objects in a delightful, sunlit garden, with suitably dappled light, to represent the hazy days of summer we pretty much have not had due to all the rain. 

My cat Oscar said he fancied being part of a summer like that too, so here he is.

I chose a limited palette of cad yellow pale, transparent oxide red and black. It is possible to mix a nice olive-ish green from the yellow and black, but this lacks the punch I really wanted for my apples and for the colour echo in Oscar's eyes. 
So I wimped out and added a little Cadmium Green Pale from the W&N Artists range. This is one of my more expensive tubes of paint but so worth it. I haven't found a way of mixing such a yummy apple-green myself.
A bit non-plussed at first about the best order of work for this piece, in the end I started with the cat and painted him to completion. Then I worked the background in behind him. I did the same thing with the objects on the table: painted them in then put the background in around them.
As this is a 'daily painting' my goal is to complete wet-into-wet in a single sitting. I didn't work from the background forwards because of concern that the colours would mush up too much, especially as I used a lot more white than normal in this one.