How to get creative – for less than £5 – I can show you the way!

Every time I go out doors to draw or paint I meet passers by who take a quick furtive look at my work and say “I can’t Draw”  or “I wish I could Draw” or “I can’t draw but I do like Painting”,

my outdoor set up

my outdoor set up

and then they say “It must be so relaxing”! I wouldn’t mind a £1 for every time I’ve heard that. Drawing and Painting can indeed be very theraputic, and can relieve stress and be very relaxing.

What onlookers don’t see is the brain working rapidly to try to decide how to deal with the problems before me, especially when using watercolour, when I need to know how many washes I’ll use, where to place them and which colours I’ll choose, to give a pleasing result, and how I’ll capture the light which is so essential for a successful painting.

Many people don’t realise that being able to draw with confidence is such a useful and valuable skill.

After all, how can a craft that requires only a couple of pencils and a sketchbook or two, costing less than £5 be valuable?

It certainly doesn’t require expensive one to one tuition, or regular lessons, unlike learning to play the piano, or violin, and you don’t even need a piano. So it is hard to understand why more people don’t take up sketching and drawing.

Being able to draw will change your life in unimagined ways – It will teach you to ‘see like an artist’, which is very different from the way most people see things, it will also help you re-appraise the art all around you, and give you the ability to discuss and debate art in a clearer manner. You will be a better communicator, and perhaps more valuable to an employer, as you will notice things others miss. You may choose to go on and learn how to paint, and if you do, your paintings will be more successful than someone who doesn’t draw well.

If you’ve always wanted to draw, but don’t know where to start, let me offer some FREE help. Send for my

Ten Top Tips – Learning to Draw It’ll get you started and will help unlock your hidden creativity.

You can fill in the form on this page,  or read my story here.

Up the creek 1/2 Imp watercolour

Up the creek 1/2 Imp watercolour

I’ve hardly mentioned all the health benefits from improved creativity, such as:

enhanced brain development, being more observant, people with Alzheimers often notice improved memory and recall, benefits from being able to express ones inner thoughts and feelings, it also helps with shyness, autism and self-esteem.  For an excellent discussion of the many health benefits, click here.

News from the Studio

Since Christmas, I have been very busy with several projects which I wish to develop. The first is to paint watercolour landscapes in a more exciting way, on larger paper (1/2 Imperial size) 22″ x 15″ approx. I’m really enjoying this, having put it off for several years, but now I’m hooked. This started when I managed to buy an original Edward Wesson watercolour, and learned that he always worked at this size. Another benefit is that it helps you ‘loosen up’, and become less interested in minute detail, having to use larger brushes and more water.

Another project was to teach my first Drawing class – twelve students in six sessions, and I am really enjoying this, particularly the planning, and preparations, and finding out which ideas work well in class. Later this year I will make this course available on line, so anyone can have a go.

Another project for this summer is to switch from Acrylics to Oils when painting ‘en plein air’ I’ll let you know how this goes next time. Don’t miss it! Meanwhile here are some of my recent works:

Learn to Draw – In easy steps – To impress your friends!

Would you like to learn how to improve your drawing skills?

Shoppers and visitors in Westgate Canterbury

Shoppers and visitors in Westgate Canterbury

I taught myself how to draw, many years ago after realising that my paintings were not improving.

You see, – I had no real urge to draw but just wanted to paint and I was in a hurry!

Does this ring a bell with you?  So I got myself a sketchbook and some pencils and did a little each day, but no more than one and a half hours a week. and it cost me less than £5 to get started.

Looking back now and seeing how popular my paintings have become, I thought it was time to pass on my knowledge so I began to teach small groups at a time, and to help people struggling with various local art projects.

As a result, I produced a FREE document,  “MY 10 TOP TIPS – Learning to Draw”

Have you read it? It is designed to help get you started in the right direction and to get in the habit of drawing ‘little and often’. exactly how I learned. If you complete the box below or in the right column, I’ll send you the link to print off a copy. You will also receive future news about this subject and details of an on line course and You Tube Videos which are planned and coming shortly.

A page from my sketchbook

A page from my sketchbook

Regular readers will wonder where I’ve been, since I last wrote in mid October, Sorry! At least you know I won’t bombard you with too many updates, and I’m happy to hear your views about learning to draw and paint.

Items from the kitchen drawer make good subjects for quick 5 – 10 minute sketches, I drew these in pen and shaded them with a marker pen. Pro Tip: Put a date on your sketchbooks, so you can see your progress over a period of time.

 

Travels of a Kentish Artist – One Week Only! Why Artist’s Exhibit?

Travels of a Kentish Artist 14th – 20th October – York Street Gallery, Ramsgate CT11 9DS

An exhibition of a whole year’s work is such an exciting way to present the results of my working out in the fields, on the beaches, by the rivers, in the sunshine and the rain and also at home in the studio when it’s too cold or wet outside.

at the exhibition

Proudly displaying some watercolours

In the cold winter months I like to make the best use of all those impromptu sketches and notes I made during the year, in order to maximise the creative output, from all of those ‘al fresco‘ and ‘en plein air‘ opportunities.

This year, I have continued to specialise with my favourite medium, Watercolour, which never fails to intrigue me, watching it run down the page in a seemingly uncontrolled manner, under my watchful eye, and then seeing it blend and allowing it to merge with other washes. The process is often magical, sometimes almost out of control, and sometimes its a disaster. This is why so many people over the years, have told me they switched to other mediums like acrylics or pastels or oils. ‘easier’ mediums, they keep telling me. It’s also why I continue to persevere and to experiment, because I know there is so much more to learn with watercolours.

Another medium of choice for me this year was Acrylics. I have been using them in the studio for a few years now, but this year I took them outside, to use in the warmer weather, where they try to dry incredibly quickly, causing all sorts of problems, so that was another challenge to be overcome and visitors to this exhibition will see a selection of landscape and coastal scenes captured out of doors, all presented in hardwood frames, and ready to hang.

Why Artists Exhibit?

For me, holding an exhibition is a social occasion, as well as an economic one. Artists spend a great deal of their time working alone, out in the country or in the studio, it’s not a very sociable occupation, unless of course they are painting city scenes, or townscapes, when all sorts of people come along to chat. So it is a good opportunity to meet up with ‘real people’ and not just fellow artists, and to talk about the works on view and why and how they were created.

My 2013 Exhibition in Ramsgate

From City Bank to River Bank my 2013 Exhibition

As mentioned above, It is also an economic occasion, when we hope to sell a few works to enthusiastic viewers, but more importantly, it’s meeting those viewers that’s more exciting, and learning what appealed to them, why they chose one work over another, what was the ’emotional connection’? Did it remind them of a place or a time or event in their life? Painting – like all the Arts, is a medium of ‘Communication’ and like all communications, it works best when it is Two Way. So an exhibition perfectly sets the scene for meaningful communications. A final reason to plan an exhibition for the future, is to provide a fresh target to aim for, a new challenge if you like, in order to replenish and update the artist’s body of work.

2015 Exhibition Poster

2015 Exhibition Poster

 

Painting the Norfolk Broads – A forgotten National Park, or an Artist’s Paradise?

Mousehold Heath, Norwich - John Crome

Mousehold Heath, Norwich – John Crome

The Norfolk Broads are renowned for their early morning mists, beautiful lakes and rivers (known as broads), windmills, trees, wildlife, boats and sailing craft of many shapes and sizes, boathouses, low bridges, old stone ruins, and a few human ruins, sorry – I mean artists, setting up their easels all over the place to capture some of this magical atmosphere.

Of course we’re not the first to notice these natural beauties, The Norwich School of Art was the first in this country, founded in 1803 and made famous by John Crome, John Sell Cotman and Joseph Stannard, to name a few. Their works went on to influence the artists of the French Impressionist school.

Atmosphere is what we as artists are trying to capture in paint. To accurately record the scene before our eyes, isn’t inherently difficult, even a camera can do that quite well. But the artist seeks to capture the ‘atmosphere’ which attracted him or her to the scene. That might be the early morning mist, the sound of the ducks, the way the light is filtered through the tree branches, the smell of the woodland, and all the other senses that the artist is experiencing.

It’s not surprising then why I and so many other artists prefer to work out doors, directly from nature.  It is also no surprise to learn that paintings and sketches made on a rainy or misty day, perhaps in the snow, or beneath a magical evening sky or in the early morning light, very often manage to capture something special about that atmosphere in a way that studio work rarely does.  For the same reasons working from photographs is almost never successful.

View from How Hill, Norfolk

View from How Hill, Norfolk. This is the highest hill in Norfolk.

So you might think we have the best job in the world? Visiting interesting places, checking out stunning scenery, painting until the light fades away, well yes and no. That is the creative part of the role, and it has many excitements and disappointments, not least  when a few spots of unexpected rain can ruin an hour and a half’s work in watercolour, or a sudden gust of wind carries away the easel, complete with firmly affixed wet painting, requiring a scramble over the rocks or a dip in the cold algae covered lake to retrieve said masterpiece. Of course, this is all forgotten when the next attempt is a success.

The other part of the ‘job’ is less creative, and more ‘sales and marketing’, a subject which doesn’t come naturally to many creative people. So it’s, framing and mount cutting, cataloging and pricing, entering into competitions, talking to galleries, planning exhibitions, placing work in Internet shops, writing detailed descriptions, packing and sending paintings, web site maintenance and writing blog articles, such as this. All very interesting and it has to be done, but still it keeps us from getting out there and being creative as much as we’d like.

mount cutting

Cutting mounts and double mounts

To follow my continuing story, do make sure you put your e-mail address in the box on this page. It will keep you up to date and ensure you don’t miss my next posting.

To see earlier blog posts – click on this photo.

 

News from the Studio – Sun and Rain, Wexford Ireland, and Open Studios

What a Summer it’s been! Hot dry days and cold rainy days in equal measure!

But this isn’t a weather report, so here is some of my recent work, from my visit to Wexford, Ireland and then some ‘Open Studio’ news.

My visit to Wexford Ireland was to take part in “Art In The Open“. This is an annual event which attracts up to 200 artists from all over the world. Each day has it’s own chosen venue, a town or a harbour, and everyone arrives and sets up their easels, for a day’s ‘plein air painting’, as the title hints, Art in the Open. I like to get started early, to get ‘one in the bag’ so to speak, in case rain arrives later on. Here are some works in watercolour:

Stables, Wells House

Stables, Wells House

 

view from Hook Head

view from Hook Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

farm in wexford

farm in county wexford

You can see the variety of subjects chosen, I especially loved the farm buildings and the old homestead in this painting, which I did on the last day, which also brought warm dry weather.  It was most enjoyable to meet up with the other artists, in the evenings and to swap tales and experiences etc. Many are household names in their own countries.

What lovely friendly and sociable people and I even sold one work ‘off the easel’ to a cafe owner. The exhibition and dinner at the end of the week was brilliant and I found myself cementing long term friendships and promising to return.

 

My Open Studio was held over the three weekends ending on August Bank Holiday. I shared the studio of local artist, Andrea Chappell and we had the pleasure of welcoming over 80 guests, many of whom were unknown to us, and we both made sufficient sales to encourage us to consider holding open studios again next year.

some Open Studio works

some Open Studio works

Here is a view of some works on display, we had approx 40 framed works, and another 40 mounted unframed works, plus some prints and greetings cards, so something for everyone.

Open Studio

Open Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between visitors, I managed to paint this watercolour view of our ‘Cabin Studio’, as a gift to Andrea, for her hospitality.

Have you been to Wexford in Ireland? or even visited an Artists Open Studio? I’d like to hear your stories.

Meet the Artist – Open Studios and Art Trails – What’s it all about?

Would you love to meet up and chat with artists in their studios, but are too scared to do it?

Bow open studio sign

What will they be like?  Will I get halfway down their path and turn around in trepidation?

Can I think of anything to say and will we have ‘anything’ in common?  Will I be expected to buy something?

Do you recognise these thoughts? Have you been there? Would you prefer to visit the dentist?

I’ve been there, many times, – and I’m an outgoing sort of fellow. I love to visit Artists in their Studios and in practice, it never takes long to establish friendly conversations, and I rarely buy a work of art. So why all the scary thoughts?

I think it will take a psychiatrist to explain all these feelings, but suffice to say, do go along, with a friend if you like, and meet up with your local artists. You’ll be amazed at the variety and scope of their works, and wonder how they were made. If you’re very lucky, the artist may have an item on the easel, and be working on it as you arrive.

Artists at work

Artists at work

Needless to say, once past the front door, I’ve always had fascinating experiences at open studios and met some really wonderful friendly and creative people. So what are you waiting for. Almost every area in the country now has an annual Open studios event or an Art trail as they are sometimes called.  You first need to get hold of the booklet for all the details of times and addresses of venues etc. The booklet will usually have an example of each artist’s style of work, so first of all you need to choose two or three studios, not too far away, who seem to have works that you might like. Some studios show the works of several artists, so it’s almost like two for one. Choose a day and time when those studios are open, and take a friend along for the trip.

I guarantee you wont regret it, you’ll see lots of artworks, meet lots of creative people, perhaps consume lots of tea and biscuits, and maybe make some new friends. You may even acquire a permanent reminder of your day out and I bet you will want to do the same again soon.

In my area of Kent, there are three organisations who run open studios,

South East Open Studios  – more details here       held in June each year.

Thanet Open Studios    – more details here     held in August each year,

East Kent Open Houses     – more details here        held in October each year.

This year I’m sharing the studio of another local artist, Andrea Chappell whose work is really exciting. Here’s our leaflet, with all the details:

My Open Studio

My Open Studio

 

To check out some of the works in my studio click here

 

 

 

Why do artists like to paint in the open air – in all weathers?

OK So I’m off to ‘Art in the Open’.

art in the open

art in the open

Probably the largest plein air festival in Europe! It takes place in Wexford, in the Irish Republic for a mad week of even madder painting, in all weathers, and accompanied by approx. 200 other artists, from beginners to professionals, using all mediums in all sizes and all styles.

The people of Wexford know what to expect, as this is the 8th year of the festival. Activities will include, six ‘paintouts’ in places all over Wexford county, painting workshops, life drawing sessions, evening social activities, including a barbeque and a dinner, a charity ‘Quickdraw’ event in Wexford Town, a lecture, an exhibition at the end of the week and awards and prize givings, for those lucky enough to attract the judges attention.

So why do we do it?

Because we hope the weather will be dry and warm and the locations colourful and picturesque. However, this is southern Ireland, where it rains a lot, it’s not called ‘the emerald isle; for nothing. Very often, its those rainy, windswept and stormy paintings that convey the most exciting atmospherics, which buyers just fall in love with and it’s the same few ‘hardy’ artists who manage to capture those effects so splendidly. So I look forward to painting with some of these ‘hardy’ professionals, in ‘all’ or almost all weathers, and hoping some of those stormy atmospherics will be captured in my work. You can be the judge of my success or otherwise, when I post some of the results.

What kit will I take?

my 'plein air' studio

my ‘plein air’ studio

I’ll be working in watercolours and acrylics. So I’ll pack a metal sketching easel, a folding chair, which I can carry on my shoulder, (I know I should stand up to paint, but I can’t stand all day) and a small lightweight folding table.

For watercolours, I’ll include a small drawing board, water bottle, folding cup, a pallette, tubes of paints, lots of 1/4 imperial ‘rough’ finish paper, some bulldog clips, various pencils and pens including dip pens, Indian Ink, masking fluid, and last but not least, my four best watercolour brushes.

For acrylics, I’ll take lots of canvas boards, ready primed for use, tubes of acrylic paints, palette knives, a selection of brushes, I reserve only for acrylics, a stay-wet palette, spray bottle, texture gell and slow drying medium, varnish, kitchen rolls, and an apron.

I’ll also take for the exhibition, some frames, and pre-cut mount boards, point gun to secure works in the frames, tapes, hanging cord, labels, and a screwdriver. Then of course, I’ll need a sun hat, sun cream, warm weather clothes, wet weather clothes, cold weather clothes, what have I forgotten, oh yes, smart clothes for the exhibition and the dinner, and a pocket camera and sketchbook. to record material for future use, including writing my next blog post!

my outdoor set up

my outdoor set up

 

I’m glad I’m not flying, and having to carry all that gear.

Do you paint with a group or in a class? It would be nice to hear your thoughts.

 

 

What’s on my palette? What colour is that? The most frequently asked question.

It never ceases to amaze me what people ask  me sometimes while I’m painting out of doors, or with a local art group. People will come up and say “what colour is that?” and what did you mix it with?

As an artist, when I am choosing colours to mix or apply, I’m not thinking of their names at all. I’m thinking is it a warm colour or a cool colour, how strong shall I mix it, do I want it to recede into the distance or stand proudly in the foreground? So the last thing on my mind is the name of the colour. The only time I need the name, is when I run out and need to buy some more of it.

colour palette

my colour palette

If you really are interested though, here’s a description of the colours I use most:

Starting from light to dark, and cool to warm:

Lemon Yellow (cool) – Cadmium Yellow (warm)

Alizarin Crimson (cool) – Burnt Sienna – Cadmium Red (warm)

 

Cerulean Blue (cool) – Cobalt Blue  – French Ultramarine (warm)

By careful mixing, I can paint anything with only these EIGHT colours, and often do.

Of course, over the years I have been tempted by a few more colours, but only very rarely use them, they are:

Naples Yellow (warm), Transparent Yellow, Raw Sienna (warm), Paynes Grey (cool), Sap Green, (warm), Light Red (warm), Permanent Rose, Burnt Umber (warm), Viridian (cool), and Prussian Blue (cool).

It is important to get to know your colours really, really well, especially which are cool and which are warm in colour temperature. After a while it comes naturally, but If I try a new colour, I always make a chart with all the possible mixes, and carry it with me until I really understand it. If you have ever tried painting, you will know that mixing greens can give so much trouble to an artist, and a poor choice of greens can ruin a painting completely.

 

 

 

Why do I paint? – What inspires me?

Wow! What a Question!  Why do I Paint?

Life obliges me to do something, so I paint.” Rene Magritte

I'm happy when painting

I’m happy when I’m painting

Because I have to! – Because of the excitement if I succeed! – I think its the same thrill that drives an athlete, the feeling that they can always do a little better. That’s the same for me. Of course, I didn’t do myself any favours. I only began this personal journey about fifteen years ago, looking at works of the masters, who had drawn and painted every day of their lives, year after year, so I can never hope to reach their standards but I still try to improve, little by little and as long as I spend lots of time trying, I know that small improvements are possible.

If I’m not painting, it’s because my mind is on something else, I’m probably procrastinating. Why do we do that? Is it the fear of failing? The true masters of any art or craft skill, are usually those who have endured the most failures, but after each failure, they have got up again, to try again and again, doggedly determined to succeed in the end.

I think this is what keeps me painting, while I’m at the easel, time just disappears, I’m lost in another world just intensely concentrating on the task in hand, thinking about how my predecessors, or today’s top professionals, would approach the task. At that moment, along comes an onlooker to say “It’s so relaxing isn’t it” ! Agh!

If only they knew the truth.

What Inspires me?

Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see.” –Confucius

Certainly I am inspired by the impressionists and the world class English watercolourist’s since JMW Turner, but artists are also inspired by ‘ordinary’ things they see in everyday life, that others don’t seem to notice. Old industrial and derelect buildings, or boats etc, which others see as eyesores, waiting to be demolished or removed. Barren landscapes, windswept vistas, crashing seas, gentle valleys, mountain paths, I never know what will inspire me next, it may be a fleeting change in the weather, a dash of sunlight on the water that lasts only a minute, and is gone.

Stormy Day at Llanberis Pass

Stormy Day at Llanberis Pass

It’s very often to do with light, and the way it falls on objects, and changes their colours or their solidity and shape.

My studio here in Broadstairs, is right at the eastern tip of Kent, which used to be an island many years ago. Because of this we are surrounded by acres of sea with only a small land mass, where the sun’s light reflects back off the sea, like Canaletto’s Venice, or Ben Nicholson’s St Ives, all these places are blessed with a ‘special’ light, beloved of artists.

Click on the picture to see my updated website & Blog posts!

 

Q Do you paint or draw?  or are you more interested in reading about what artist’s get up to in their studios?

Q Would you like to learn to sketch and draw?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Happening right now! Exhibitions and studio activities!

Exhibitions and Events

2015 Exhibitions! – Leave your e-mail address in the box below, to be kept up to date, and to get your Free 10 Top Tips learn to sketch and Draw !

29th April – 6th May York Street Gallery Ramsgate Kent (Spring, Group Exhibition)

2nd – 31st May  3-7 Tontine Street Folkestone Kent (Group Exhibition)

York Street Gallery in Ramsgate, 100yds from the Harbour, is hosting it’s first Open Exhibition of 2015 from Wednesday 29th April at 2pm to Wednesday 6th May at noon.

There are expected to be many framed works on the walls by a variety of local artists, including me, so there should be quality and variety by the bucket load! Enjoy.

Folkestone Art Society are holding their Spring Exhibition at the Harbour Gallery in Tontine Street, near the car park and Folkestone harbour.

This is a prestigious exhibition by their members including me again, and I have up to 10 works included. This is a lovely gallery, in the best part of Folkestone and is well worth a visit.  It is on from 2nd to 31st May – see the poster below for details.

Folkestone Exhibition Poster Spring 2015

Folkestone Exhibition Poster