Learn to Sketch 1 – Getting started – Acquiring the sketchbook habit

” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”  (Laozi c 604 bc).

egg cup on a white plate pencil sketch

egg cup on a white plate pencil sketch

What an inspired thought. It still applies for all journeys, especially for those people starting out on a journey to acquire valuable skills.

Getting Started : Easy things first, you will need two pencils, (a 2b and 4b preferably) and a cheap sketchbook, I pay £1 at our local garden centre. Aren’t you glad you didn’t choose to learn the violin!

Now you need to start filling up that sketchbook, to get rid of those horrid blank white pages! My motto is

“Little and Often” ie: sketching for 15 minutes a day each day, is much more useful than say one two hour session at the end of the week. You’ll quickly start to enjoy it, even if your sketches are rubbish, it’s very theraputic. Several quick sketches are better than one detailed drawing. – Remember – you don’t need to show anyone else, at this stage, your sketch book is your own personal space. Sketch anything, I mean anything, look at the main shapes and angles, sketch them out, then look at them some more, can you see errors in your first attempt? Good, now have another go! If it is a little better, well done, you are learning to look, look again, and really look again, and check your shapes and angles, again, and have another go. Your neighbours are so glad you didn’t choose that violin!

Sketching with a pen

Sketching with a pen

Remember sketch anything, open your kitchen drawer of cooking utensils, large spoons, nutcrackers, cheese graters, corkscrews, table napkins, mats, trays, napkin rings, and when they are all sketched, try the odds and ends drawer, elastic bands, paper clips, sellotape rolls, scissors, penknife, old phone chargers, electric plugs, then on to saucepans, toasters, staplers, ok, I think you’ve got the message. The worst drawing – is NO drawing! 

How are you doing? Is that first sketchbook full yet. Write the start and finish dates on the covers, and when it is complete, glance back to the beginning, can you see a glimmer of improvement? Don’t fret if you cant yet, it may take a couple more sketchbooks to see real improvements. OK, keep going, by now you know exactly what to do, I never said it would be quick or easy! and don’t believe anyone who does! I know from my own experience, that with application and the will to succeed, everyone is capable of learning to draw well in good time.

sketch of old boots

sketch of old boots

Next time – when you have filled up your first sketchbook, you’ll be ready for some tips and suggestions to help you improve still further.

So for now – Happy Sketching!

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Is this the long hot Summer? – Learn to Paint a Sunset!

Summer:  As a keen ‘plein air artist’ working out of doors in ‘almost’ all weathers, I dream about the possibility of a long hot summer, when I can go out painting as often as possible.

My first Sunset in oils

My first Sunset in oils.  

So when it does arrive, I do my utmost to get out there and paint, most days, and re-schedule other things, for the evenings or for overcast days, when the colours of nature are muted and subdued.

So, is this the long hot summer? Will it continue into September?  I’m on a roll this year, having completed 90 paintings so far in 2017. A record for me, and what’s best of all, I’m pleased with my progress, and can see some signs of improvement in my work.

Sunsets: This year I discovered that summer sunsets are great to paint. They are not for the faint-hearted, after all, you are trying to capture rapidly changing light conditions. But you know me, I thrive on difficulties, so trying to learn how to capture a sunset as it happens is well worth the effort. Certainly they are all different and unique. Their ‘characters’ are changed by the clouds, the breeze, the time of the sunset, currently about 8.45pm where I live.  It is impossible to predict what might happen, but that is exactly what you need to do in order to prepare the board or canvas.

Sunset at Margate in Oils

Sunset at Margate in Oils

Having prepared by putting in the cloud formations and guessing how light or dark it will be at the optimum point, when it starts to happen things change very quickly, and there’s no time to mix colours, so several brushes need to be used, one for light colours, one for darks, one for the orange and reds, etc, and even then as it happens, you realise how wrong you were at the beginning, but you can’t start to chase it, you’ll ruin it all, so you then have to commit what you have just witnessed to memory, and try to finish off from memory, in the darkening light conditions.

Needless to say, if there are three artists all painting the same sunset, they will all look different in the morning, in the fresh light of a new day. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go, take a jumper, and a flask of  hot coffee.

sunset and vapour trails

Sunset and vapour trails

I am still an early learner with sunsets, so here are three of them!

If you enjoy these ‘Studio Stories’ please tell your friends and share on social media. By clicking on the last two sunset photos, you will be taken to larger images and full details plus lots of other recent work in my online galleries.

Till the next time!

 

How to brighten up your life or home – Visit an Artist in their Studio?

Yes I mean it, a simple visit to see an artist in their studio, may just change your life in a good way!

thanet open studios 2017

Think about it, most artists spend their life creating original one off pieces which rarely see the light of day in a public place or gallery. So unless you are a keen Art Buyer, Collector or Gallery Proprietor, you will never see probably 95% of all the work created.

So how to get to see it? and will it be to your taste anyway? – Well you’ll never know unless you go looking for it.

A really interesting way to see some of these creations is to meet up with the artists in their own studios. There you can see what they do, how they work, they may have works in progress on the easel, if you wish, you may have a chat with the artist, and find out ‘what makes them tick’ – You can bet that their lifestyle is quite different from yours! So what inspires them? how do they get ideas? In how many other walks of life can this happen?

I’ve never seen an opportunity to meet one on one, with professional actors, or singers, or musicians, or even accountants for that matter, in their own environment. So for a unique experience – You know what to do, – go and visit an artist on Open Studio day.

a corner of my studio

a corner of my studio

It just so happens, I am opening my studio along with 30+ other local artists on the last three weekends in August, from 10am to 4pm each day ie: 12th, 13th, 19th, 20th, 26th, 27th and 28th Bank Holiday Monday.

Here is a sneak preview of works on the easel!

In addition I have invited my artist friends to come and paint in the garden on Saturday 26th August, so do come and say hi, we don’t bite! We’d love to see you.

The Address: 21 Seafield Road, Broadstairs, CT10 2DD

So what was that I said at the beginning about brightening up your life or home? Ah yes – well you may just see a little gem that reminds you of something good, or someone special – and studio prices are usually less than gallery prices – as there is no commission to pay. A win win situation in my books!

 

Painting in my garden

Painting in my garden

How to sell your art online? 10 things you need to get right!

How to sell your art online?

Mountcutting

Mountcutting

Several years ago I decided not to try and get my works accepted by traditional galleries, but instead to try and sell them myself, directly, via online shops. This means I retain full control over each sale, including customer communications, the standard of mounting and framing, if applicable, the careful wrapping and safety of each consignment, and the settlement of any issues or problems which may arise.

Over the years, I have spoken to many artists, who have experienced problems with galleries who let them down, failing to sell their works or failing to return them, after the agreed term.  Galleries which closed and shut up shop, without notice, or who damaged re-painted or removed the frames. Not passing on the buyers details, and discouraging any direct communication  between artist and buyer. For reasons like these, many artists choose not to approach galleries.  That’s when they ask me “Q How should I sell my art online?”

There are at least 10 things you need to get right!

Chasing the Light Exhibition Postcard

Chasing the Light Exhibition Postcard

It is going to be a steep learning curve, so here goes:

  1. Choose an online shop gallery with care, compare charging structures etc,
  2. Learn to take high definition photos including, close ups, in frames, in home settings etc, and edit and correct the colour balance saturation etc.
  3. Learn how to present the works, thank you letters, certificates of authenticity, cellophane wrapping, cutting single and double mounts
  4. Wrapping and protecting the works, choosing delivery options, couriers, postal services, Insurance etc
  5. Creating a table of post, packing and insurance charges for each size or type of work.
  6. Deciding on standards of after sales service, how to respond if a customer wishes to return their work
  7. How to present yourself, your artist statement, your story, within the confines of your chosen shop.
  8. Decide on a pricing structure, who is your target customer?
  9. How will you market your online presence? Using Social Media? Create your own website & Blog?
  10. Choosing a mailing service for Newsletters, RSS feeds for your Blog, Build a mailing list.

OK so you’re thinking – Do I really have to do all that?

Well now you are starting to understand why many artists struggle to earn a decent living. By the time the sales and marketing is sorted, there’s little time left for creating original art.

I once read that the American artist Mark Rothko spent 5 days a week on marketing, and only 2 days in the studio? 

So now you know what to do – Take the time to learn how to sell your art yourself, or find a gallery who are willing to do it for you ! Not an easy choice to make!

Where to find my best Paintings? My best kept secret Uncovered!

Receeding Tide, Margate

Receding Tide, Margate Oil Painting

Hello again, Yes I’m often asked this question and I hand out my card so people can look up my web site and see my latest work. But there’s a catch!

When the weather is good I spend as much time as possible out doors in my ‘plein air’ studio – painting for all I’m worth! Why? Because like any crafts person I’m on a journey, of discovery, of learning, of improvement.

Updating my web site and writing blog posts, has to be done on rainy or cold days, or at night when it’s too dark to paint. But when I finish a painting the first thing I do is take high resolution photographs of it and put it in one of my online shops. So here is the Secret: To see my latest and best works – visit my shops online – You have a choice of two: Artfinder   click here  or Saatchi  click here

Now – about that journey of discovery, – The best way to learn is to practice, a lot, because the more practice you do the better you’ll get, bit by bit, little by little.

Sunset at Margate in Oils

Sunset at Margate in Oils

Think of the musician learning to play the piano or the violin, the same rules apply. Some used to say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient in music, to play with an ensemble or an orchestra for example. So if you are only practicing for say 2 hours a week, it’s going to take you 96 years, to get there, providing you don’t have a holiday, or illness etc, or you don’t waste time by not having a good teacher or mentor.

Don’t let me deter you from your chosen challenge, but if you intend to succeed at it, you need to put in the hours. There are no short cuts, but there are rewards, even if they are internal, ie inner satisfaction, the pleasure of achieving a valuable skill, etc. etc. So do keep at it – Remember that three years at art college, plus many hours of homework etc is an excellent start to a career, but if you didn’t go to college, like me, we have to work even more, to get to where we would like to be. Q Do you know where you would like to be on this journey?

– The subject of a future post!  Thanks for reading.

Roald Dahl said: Lukewarm is no good! – Go at it Full Speed, with both arms, become passionate about it!

 

OK So It’s exhibition season again! What are you hoping to see?

Three Points of View Exhibition in Margate

Three Points of View Exhibition in Margate

It’s exhibition time again! When we like to get out and about mixing it up at Exhibition Previews, meeting the artists and seeing what’s new!

My first exhibition this year starts on Monday 3rd April for one week only. I am sharing with a couple of exciting local artists, Gesina Triggs and Vivien Barr. We all work in completely different ways and are each inspired by different things, so the result is an excitingly varied exhibition with surprises round every corner.

It’s our first time together at The King Street Gallery in the heart of Margate’s Old Town. We chose them for their friendly welcoming nature and their cafe which provides homemade cakes and light lunches. The Gallery works hard to support and give training for disadvantaged people, so please do call in and meet everyone. Open 10 – 4pm daily except Sunday. Postcode: CT9 1DD

Do you have a favourite Gallery? One which changes exhibitions weekly, are you drawn by the Artworks, or the people who visit, or the proprietors? or the wine and cake? I always like a gallery where I can meet and chat to everyone there, especially if the Artists are present. Previews or as they are sometimes called, Private Views, are especially good places to meet and chat. They are of course usually, anything but Private – so turn up and enjoy a glass of plonk an interesting conversation, oh yes, and especially the art on show. You never know who you will meet!

Receeding Tide, Margate

Receding Tide, Margate Oil Painting

Here is a recent Oil Painting of the Receding Tide at Margate Harbour. This will be on show at our King Street Gallery exhibition mentioned above.  To see more recent works here is my gallery at Saatchi Art

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I wish I could Draw or Paint! How many times have I heard this?

How to learn to Draw and Paint

How to learn to Draw and Paint

Yes – I probably hear this more than anything else. The correct reply should be – If you really wanted to, you could learn to do it.  I mean that – I sincerely believe everyone can do it If they really want to.

Forget the books and the Dvd’s, of the ‘Get Drawing and Sketching like a Pro in 15 Minutes’  variety, or the ‘Six Easy Steps to Paint like an Old Master’. They are not going to help you. If you really want to learn, give all those books and Dvd’s away and get yourself a cheap sketchbook and a couple of pencils. That’s it, they shouldn’t cost more than £2 and you are on your way. Teach yourself, by regular practice, I mean it, It’s a numbers game! The more you do, the better you’ll get, repeat after me, The more you do, the better you’ll get.

The person who can’t learn like this hasn’t been born yet. Artists are not ‘born with a gift’and none of them achieved success, without plenty of failures. Chris Eubank, the professional boxer, said recently “I lost more matches than I won” – meaning that his failures were more frequent than his successes. Now I know we couldn’t all become professional boxers, I certainly don’t have the physique or the courage, but I do know that ‘fear of failure’ is the most common impediment to learning a skill like drawing or painting.

Sketching with a pen

Sketching with a pen

So we need to Celebrate Failures, after all, the more failures we have, the closer we are to being successful. We need to learn to ‘Fail to Succeed!’ One way to learn any creative skill, is to Experiment, try a new method, a new medium, try a subject you’ve not sketched before, if you are no good at buildings, sketch buildings, more buildings, and more buildings, until one day you will notice that they no longer seem to be impossibly difficult. I did this with my Trees, I could not draw trees, so I gave myself a year to draw and paint trees, trees and yet more trees. By learning this way, you will acquire ‘a habit of sketching’, call it an addiction if you prefer. This is vital for your future success rate, because like a BOGOF deal, the better your drawing and sketching, the more successful your paintings will become.  I speak from experience here – you won’t find this advice in any book or Dvd.

So let’s summarize:-

1) Get a sketchbook and pencils,

2) Use it daily – the more you do the better you’ll get,

3)  Celebrate failure, it’s your journey to future success,

4) Experiment and try difficult mediums and subjects, come out of your comfort zone,

5) Get the BOGOF (buy one get one free) deal – as your drawing improves, so does your painting,

6) Contact me in a year’s time with your experiences, failures and successes and tell me if I was right

7) You may find my 10 Top Tips Learning to Draw helpful, luckily they are FREE if you put your e-mail address in the box nearby or click here.

Who thought Still Life was dead? I thought it was “So Last Century”

Oil Painting Still life with Blue Fabric

Oil Painting Still life with Blue Fabric

For a long time, I did!

I just thought it was old fashioned and not for me. How wrong could I have been?

Ask yourself, What does a warm weather ‘plein air painter’ do in winter? When it is too cold to work out of doors, of course I retreat to the studio and work from my imagination, or from old paintings, watercolours and sketches.

There is always plenty to do. This year, for a change, I thought it about time I tackled the Still Life genre.

And what a result, so far I have completed eight traditional still life paintings in oils, using antique mirrors, jugs, vases, silverware, brass, all placed on different cloths and fabrics, which can be a challenge in their own right. I’ve also loved painting them, each object has it’s own difficulties, like the shiny surfaces of

oil painting - still life with antiques

oil painting – still life with antiques

silver, and mirrors, the textural surfaces of fabrics, and gilded mirror frames etc, the play of light on folded cloth, all are challenges requiring thought and attention.

I’ve included a few here, to show what I mean. none of the objects need be valuable, it is amazing what can be found at second hand stalls.

oil painting still life with blue bottle

oil painting still life with blue bottle

 

 

 

oil painting chocolate teapot still life

oil painting chocolate teapot still life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you like what I have done here, and if you enjoy painting or drawing, don’t forget the humble still life, this genre has plenty of life left in it still, and you will find it both challenging and rewarding.

still life of oranges before a mirror

still life of oranges before a mirror

What do Artists do all day?

painting a still life

painting a still life

Hello again,

While it’s cold and windy outside, it is a good time to review my activity last year and to make plans for the year ahead. In 2016 I painted just over 100 works mainly in oils, ‘en plein air’ but a few large (1/2 imperial sheet size) watercolours, just to keep my hand in.

I travelled to Wexford, Ireland again in late July for Art in The Open which is 150 approx. artists, amateur and professional, working together in picturesque locations, with prizes awarded for the best work, and demonstrations and workshops available if required. Best of all, the Irish know how to enjoy their evenings, and a BBQ and several impromptu social gatherings were also enjoyed.

In August I opened my studio, and welcomed many visitors to see where I work, when at home, and displayed over 100 paintings framed and unframed, so plenty of variety and choice. I enjoy the chance to meet up with fellow artists and enthusiasts, and to chat about everything art related and otherwise.

In September I travelled to the Norfolk Broads, for four days of painting in the glorious lakeside scenery they have to offer. This was about 80 artists, and it’s now the 3rd time I have attended this most enjoyable event.

painting of boats at Broadstairs

painting of boats at Broadstairs

Now for 2017 I am considering a week long trip to Cornwall as it is many years since I have painted in Cornwall, and I just love their small quaint seaside harbours and villages, and rocky headlands. I like to paint where the Newlyn and St Ives school artists used to paint, at the Lizard, Kynance Cove, Sennen, Lamorna, Newlyn harbour, etc.  I’d also like to paint somewhere warmer this year, if finances allow. In between these visits are day trips to London, and west Kent and Sussex for changes of scenery, urban views, or an abundance of trees and Oast Houses, and rolling downs.

 

 

painting of boats at Queenborough, Sheppey

painting of boats at Queenborough, Sheppey

I also plan on painting more frequently in 2017 and hope to achieve 200 approx. fresh works.

In between painting trips, there are Exhibitions in Margate in April Three Points of View, with two artist friends, in Whitstable in June with Locus Arts, in Margate in July with Broadstairs Arts Group, at home in Broadstairs in August with my Open Studio and in Ramsgate in October for my 3rd Solo Exhibition at York Street Gallery

I also help with a Sketch Group, in Ramsgate encouraging people to sketch regularly, and I also help create a programme of plein air paint outs in and around Thanet, and East Kent in the Summer. In the Autumn I’ll present another six session sketching course for begginers in Ramsgate. I’ve forgotten to mention framing, mount cutting, cellophane wrapping, certificates to be produced etc, and posting off sold works. Last but not least – writing occasional blog posts.

Busy? Yes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

Meet up with your favourite artist in 2017

This is my New Year’s resolution! It could be yours as well?

using watercolour last summer

using watercolour last summer

What do we gain from meeting Artists? –

  1. Some insight into the way they work,
  2. We can learn what motivates artists to keep creating,
  3. We can discover what it is we especially like about their works,
  4. We can get a glimpse of their lifestyle and how far they have to travel, to gather ideas for future works,
  5. We can establish a rapport with the artist,
  6. We may decide to start a collection of their work,
  7. We can learn about some of their techniques,
  8. We can perhaps improve our own creativity as a result.

I hope to do all these things over the coming months with my favourite artists.

I will meet them at their Exhibition Previews, where they are happy to discuss their work, I will visit them in their studios, during an Open Studio Event, I will see their work on Facebook, Instagram and other social media, and LIKE and SHARE their work to my friends. More importantly when I see work I really like, I will leave positive comments, and perhaps visit their web sites and online shops. I also watch their You Tube videos, I have learnt so much from these, especially online demonstrations.

As a result, wherever I go people come up to me and say “Oh I know you, we’re Facebook friends”.

So in 2017 – Go and Meet your favourite artists! Enjoy!