Archive | Sketching & Drawing

Chasing The Light – It’s Exhibition time again at York Street, Ramsgate

Chasing the Light Exhibition Postcard

Every 2 years I have my own Exhibition at the prestigious York Street Gallery in Ramsgate.

This is my 3rd showing here and my work has really changed since the last time, so everything you see will be spanking new and fresh.  How exciting is that? So what’s changed I hear you ask?

Well – in previous exhibitions I was working in traditional Watercolour, sometimes with an Indian Ink drawing, and also using Acrylics, for a bright illustrative way of working. More recently I have been working mainly in Oils, and have really grown to love the way they work, when painting out in the field, ‘en plein air’ or Al Fresco as some prefer to call it.

Painting in my garden

Painting in my garden

I have always liked to work out of doors directly from nature, with the changing weather, clouds always on the move, bugs sticking in the paint, sudden showers of rain or wind to blow everything away, or cover it all with sand when working on the beach. I have painted in muddy fields, boatyards, river banks, industrial sites, mountainsides, when the mists descend and blank everything out, town centres, with their noise and traffic, on beaches with an incoming tide, in the cold of winter wearing my thermals, and the heat of summer beneath the sun cream and a broad brimmed hat. When working out of doors I am completely lost in another world, where time is unimportant, and the comments of passers by are shrugged off politely, until I am completely satisfied with my creation.

I am sure you will see all these elements in my work, and notice how different it is from the work of those who work indoors and rely on a photograph for their only reference.

Painting 'plein air' by Steven Alexander

Painting ‘plein air’ by Steven Alexander

Here is a painting of me working ‘en plein air’ by a friend, Steven Alexander, who is one of the Wapping Group of Artists, click on the photo for a biography.

So for an exhibition of mainly Oil Paintings created out of doors, plus a few watercolours and pen and watercolour drawings for those who like these best, remember: York Street Gallery, Ramsgate from 1pm 11th Oct to 12 noon on 18th Oct – For One Week Only! Miss it – and you have a 2 year wait!

If you really can’t get here – then second best is to look up my online shops either at Saatchi or at  Artfinder

They both have a good selection of my recent works.

Learning to Sketch?  – Don’t forget – If you would like to learn to sketch and draw you can get my FREE 10 Top Tips to get you started, by Clicking Here! 

Till the next time!

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!

To ensure you receive future FREE ‘Learn to Sketch’ posts please click on any photo and add your e-mail address.

 

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.

 

 

A Quick and Simple way to Unlock your Creativity

OK – You can start with a £1 sketch book and a 4b pencil.

Yes that’s it, starting on the path to learn a new and valuable skill, can be Quick and Simple!

Sketching with a pen

Sketching with a pen

Unlike other skills such as music, you don’t need to start with a one to one tutor, or even an art class. You can start like I did, with a cheap sketchbook and a pencil. You will need to get into the habit of carrying it with you always, so you can sketch anything you like, in all those brief moments between meetings, while waiting for a bus, waiting for people, just sitting at home in your lounge, there are a thousand items to sketch, without leaving your sofa. A small A6 sized sketchbook will fit in your pocket and will hardly be noticed in a cafe or on the train. Do you get what I’m saying.

Of course, once you do acquire the sketching habit, you will naturally want to learn more techniques and get some useful tips. You will also notice quite quickly that by really looking at things properly, like an artist does, your friends will start to admire your work, and wonder “where that skill came from”. No longer will you have to hide your sketchbooks for fear of ridicule. I’m deadly serious here – your life will improve through the unlocking of your own creativity. This is exactly how I learnt to Draw and went on to Sell my Paintings.  So what if I said you can have my Ten Top Tips – Learning to Draw for FREE – does that sound good! OK! Click Here  or in the box below to get the Pdf file link, so you can save or print it.

News from the Studio

I have become an art teacher!  Did I hear you gasp? Well I recently planned and delivered my first Six Session Course on How to Draw – from the beginning! I received thirty five applications for twelve places.

I was never a ‘teacher’ in my earlier ‘pre artist’ life, but of course I have always enjoyed helping and encouraging people to achieve what they thought impossible and so I suppose the planning and presentation were not new to me.

I am delighted that my students wanted to be shown where to start on the path of learning to draw, and that they listened carefully and responded well to my suggestions and tips, so that when the six sessions ended and we looked back through our sketchbooks, everyone had made real improvements and they could clearly see their own progress.

I think I learned as much as they did and I now know how to structure my next course which will be designed to take them to the next level. Watch this space.

Al Fresco – En Plein Air – Urban Sketching – What is this all about?

Regular readers will know that I am never happier than when sitting in the corner of a muddy field or boatyard and sketching or painting from nature, especially if the weather is warm and dry. Some call it Al Fresco, others En Plein Air, and Urban sketching is the newest and latest trend, with groups forming up in big cities and smaller towns all over the world. I recently joined in with the Urban Sketchers Canterbury having found them on Facebook, and even a bitterly cold wind didn’t stop about 40 people turning up and sketching in and around Dane John Park for 2 hours, ending in a local pub to exchange banter and sketchbooks with an occasional drink to keep out the cold. Most enjoyable, and a lovely way to improve your sketching skills. If you put ‘Urban Sketchers’ into Google, you’ll get the idea.

I'm happy when painting

I’m happy when painting

This leads me on to my next challenge. I have been asked to plan a series of Al Fresco painting days for our local Art Society. I decided to go one step further and open it up to anyone who would like to try painting or drawing out of doors on warm and dry days. It starts on 19th May and continues on most Thursday’s until early September.  I prefer to start about 9.30 – 10 am and to reward my ‘hard work’ with coffee or food afterwards, usually about lunchtime. I can’t attend all venues, but others will. Remember this is a self-help group, with no formal leadership or tuition, just a group of friendly people who prefer to work out doors from nature, in good company. You are also invited to visit and join in the conversation in our Facebook Group:  KENT PLEIN AIR PAINTERS.  where all the dates and venues are to be found.

If you live in East Kent and want to improve your sketching or painting – you know what to do!

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.

 

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.

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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