Archive | Acrylics

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


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.




Someone’s whole life in a box! How sad can it be?

A corner of my former gallery, showing some original watercolours.

A corner of my previous gallery, showing original watercolours and drawings.

Many years ago, almost in a different life it seems, I used to buy and sell English paintings of the late Victorian and Edwardian era, including many watercolours. I used to buy at auctions, up and down the country and sell them in my shop in West Malling High Street, at Art and Antique fairs at country house venues and the NEC Birmingham, where there were 600 + exhibitors and also later, on the internet.

Viewing auctions often meant rummaging in ramshackle barns and cold warehouses, looking for a gem amongst the dross and detritus on view. Often, I would look underneath the heavily laden tables and find a cardboard box, from someone’s attic and spot a collection of drawings or watercolours, many of them badly marked by damp or foxed, (rust marks from acidic papers). I used to go through these wondering whose they were and if they had passed away, and was this indeed the sum total of their life’s drawing and painting efforts.

That seemed so sad to me, but I kept looking, because I knew someone who had found a folio of Augustus John drawings in a box at the very same auction room, for less than £5 some years earlier. (they now sell for about £2,000 each). So I was being hopeful, but at the same time I was determined that my own scribblings and attempts at painting shouldn’t end up the same way, when I’m gone.

Sir William Orpen - portrait of Augustus John c 1899

Augustus John, RA Artist by Sir William Orpen c 1899

Some useful lessons were learned! If you want your art works to end up on peoples walls, and not languish in those old dusty boxes, or attics, you have to get a little commercial, and create paintings people want to keep, enjoy and cherish for many years to come.

Many of those old drawings and watercolours were created in a ‘black and white age’ when tastes were very different, but by the end of the millennium, they were looking rather tired and dated. I did manage to find a few gems which sold rather well in London and Paris, but that’s another story.

While we are talking colour, here’s a recent painting of mine, showing some London Traffic trying to get about, the busy streets, with typical red London double decker buses, black cabs, vans etc, all very colourful, and in a modern manner. It is an Original Acrylic Painting on stretched canvas and is now in my online gallery. See my website or click the picture for full details.

London Traffic - an original acrylic painting on canvas

London Traffic – an original acrylic painting on stretched canvas.


Leave a Painting face to the wall and it will paint itself! – What ?

Titian - Self Portrait painted abt 1550 - 1562

Titian – Self Portrait c 1550 – 1562

Yes! You did read it correctly. It was Titian who is supposed to have said that if you leave a painting, face to the wall for long enough, it will paint itself!  Now I know what he meant and I’m happy to let you into the secret. The most difficult part of any painting is knowing exactly when it’s finished.

The danger is that if you carry on working it until you think it is finished, then look at it a week later, you start to notice all the faults. Very often, it has been ‘over worked’ and has lost much of its initial vitality and excitement. The act of leaving it for a while, won’t prevent the overworking, but will tell you what areas need attention and how to resolve the issues.

This is what Titian had noticed, so he would leave works to stand, while he gathered more thoughts on how to proceed to their conclusion. In a similar way, I have in the past, been tempted to take photos too soon, publish them on my Facebook Page and a few days later, all the faults and problems begin to emerge. How annoying can that be? So here’s the moral of the story:

When a painting is nearing its conclusion – leave it for a few days or longer – When you return to it you ‘should’ know exactly how to finish it.

Portrait of Oscar Peterson, the renowned Jazz pianist.

Oscar Peterson, the renowned american jazz pianist.

Not quite up to Titian’s standard, here is one of my own acrylic paintings, a portrait of the american Jazz Pianist, Oscar Peterson.

I painted this in my studio using old black and white photographs as reference material. I hope you like it.

Click photo for more details!


If you could choose a portrait of an interesting or well known person, Q who would you choose?

I’d like to know your thoughts.


Anatomy of a painting

Have you ever wondered how a painting is constructed over several sessions in the studio?

I usually begin with a first coat of a colour, that I think will help visually, pull it all together. In acrylics, the first coat is often a bit rubbish, being painted directly onto the white canvas, which I can’t wait to get covered up.

Here is the first coat

Here is the first coat

In this case, I plan for the background to be dark – probably a dark blue, to represent the ‘smoke filled rooms’ of my youth, in Jazz clubs. So orange is opposite (complementary) to blue in the colour spectrum. The next step is to draw in the main outlines thus and check and double check everything.

draw in outlines

draw in outlines

Then I begin with the details, this is what takes the time, here it is, this is the magical bit, where three dimensional shapes begin to emerge from the canvas!


putting in some details

putting in some details

Now I continue as before, and when the details are finished, I have to decide on the background colours and textures. Don’t forget how important the shadows are! Here is what I did with this one:

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker

Hope you like it! More details at Charlie Parker

This reminds me of my youth spent in jazz and folk clubs, with 20 Woodbines and half a pint of beer!  Q Can life get any better?