Archive | Watercolours

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


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 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.




Four Days – Painting ‘en plein air’ In Norfolk!

Four Days to paint Norfolk! What a challenge! Q) How would you like some adventure?

Early morning mist at Rollesby

A Norfolk Early Morning Mist over Rollesby Broad

Well I was up for it, so I signed up to join in the first ‘A Brush with the Broads Plein Air Festival’ –  A week long event in the Norfolk Broads National Park organised and hosted by professional artist and teacher Linda H Matthews. We arrived late afternoon on the Thursday, at Clippesby Hall where we met everyone in the welcome marquee and after some food, we were treated to a watercolour demonstration.

Friday morning brought lovely weather and all the artists went off in different directions to paint in their chosen localities, scenes varied from rural agricultural land and buildings to rivers and wider waterways, known as the broads, to boats of all shapes and sizes, old bridges, wind pumps, churches, boathouses, the variety was endless. I particularly liked the early morning mists hanging over the waterways – very atmospheric and not easy to paint such sensitivity in watercolour.

View from How Hill, Norfolk

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

Saturday also brought warm and dry weather and everywhere we went, fellow artists were set up under the trees, by the boathouses etc, making art each in their own way. In the evening the organisers had laid on a social function, with a live band, but I regret I was too tired to enjoy this, and took an early night, missing another excellent workshop.

Sunday dawned, again misty but beautiful and we set off to the City of Norwich, for a timed ‘Quick Draw! Charity event. We each had two hours, to complete our vision of Norwich, a city I don’t know very well, but I found a corner behind the Art School, made famous by the Norwich School of artists, lead by John Crome, JS Cotman, and Stannard. among others. Here is my dip pen Indian Ink and Wash sketch.  On the Monday we again found more subjects to paint, this time, I chose a view from the  top of How Hill – one of the few hills in norfolk, a county which is known for its flat open, low-lying landscapes and big skies.

Pen and Wash Norwich Art School

This was the home of the Norwich School of Artists

Monday evening was the exhibition of the best works, and many sales were made. I’ll be participating again in 2015 so watch this space for the write-up.

Pintar Rapido – or – A Painting in a Day!

Pintar Rapido is a Spanish idea – brought to London by Roger Beckett.

My watercolour of Sloane Square, London on the easel.

My watercolour of Sloane Square, London on the easel.

Can you imagine coming across over 500 artists on the streets of Kensington and Chelsea, London all being madly creative and painting on every street corner, from every vantage point. It’s an unbelievable sight for an artist, but can you imagine the impact on the general public? Wouldn’t everyone, given the chance, like to watch an artist at work and be intrigued at how he or she makes the painting ‘their own’ by adding feelings and thoughts about the subject. I have taken part in this activity for two years now, and been lucky enough to sell my work, on both occasions. We arrive at Chelsea Old Town Hall on Saturday morning and our canvas or board or paper is stamped on the back. We then disperse to all corners of the Borough and set up our easels, our drawing boards, our chairs and everything else we need, and start to plan our day’s work.

The first thing to notice is that everyone works differently, uses different materials, some use studio easels, some work on the floor, some in oils and others in pastels, I work in watercolours and others use acrylics. We all hope for one thing, and that is dry weather. Carting a portable art studio, around with you is no joke on a rainy day, its hard enough on a hot one. If you’ve never seen artists at work – it’s worth going to visit for that alone. Artists usually do their ‘creating’ behind closed doors alone in their studios, so it’s a real treat to watch their process.

My watercolour of Sloane Square, London

My watercolour of Sloane Square, London

The subjects chosen are as diverse as the artists themselves, from riverside boats, barges and bridges, to historic buildings, to parks and gardens, to busy street scenes or quiet mews houses, tree-filled squares, rooftop views from high vantage points, market stalls, passers by, statues and even a graveyard. There is plenty of variety in this part of London. I chose Sloane Square and painted my first subject before a well earned lunch at Côte of Sloane Square. I went back to paint another watercolour as my first one was sold ‘off the easel’ or so I thought, and anyway its better to have a choice at the end of the day. By about 6pm I had three paintings in the bag and had to choose one for the exhibition on the Sunday, and mount and frame it. As usual I asked others to choose the best, as I find it so difficult to judge my own work.

Pintar Rapido - the Exhibition at Chelsea Old Town Hall, London

Pintar Rapido – the Exhibition at Chelsea Old Town Hall, London

After a good night’s rest the preview opened at 11am where all the paintings, approx. 400 in number were exhibited in the big hall. The judges awarded the prizes we were all thanked and the public were let in. They had been invited by the artists and organisers and paintings began to sell. I went off down to the riverside at the Chelsea Embankment and  made a dip pen and Ink drawing of the Albert Bridge, an old and ornate iron suspension bridge, painted pink! (Only in Chelsea)!

Pintar Rapido - the Exhibition at Chelsea Old Town Hall, London

Pintar Rapido – the Exhibition at Chelsea Old Town Hall, London

Luckily I received a phone call to say my painting had sold, so I could head for home, after lunch at the Chelsea Potter, pub in Kings Road. What a fabulous weekend, every bit as good as the previous year, and an opportunity to sell my work at London prices.

Needless to say, I’ll soon be booking my place at Pintar Rapido 2015.

How I Plan a Painting Pt 2 – the finished work!

Marshside East Kent

Marshside – East Kent My view as I arrived

In Pt 1 click here I explained how I go about the planning of a painting and the importance of deciding about the composition and placing of tonal values, ie: where the darkest darks and the lightest lights will be positioned. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve seen someone take out a photo from a magazine place it in front of them and go to work copying it as neatly as possible! Is that art? The result might be exceptional, but it will always be someone else’s composition and someone else’s colour scheme. When I decide to paint a subject I wouldn’t be happy with another person’s photo. I prefer to work from real life, or sketches, and to play around with composition first, to test the possibilities. The photo above shows Marshside and here are my initial tonal sketches.

Tonal Sketches

Tonal Sketches – I chose the one on the left.

Even if I’m working on a portrait of someone famous, where I don’t have personal access, I would still try to find say, ten photos of the person, then lay them out and design my own composition using the photos and my own sketches as reference material.

Here is my set up for a plein air watercolour painting of the stream at Marshside in East Kent. The stream is important because it used to separate the Isle of Thanet from the mainland, many years ago.

My plein air set up.

My plein air set up – simple and easy to carry.

By squinting I could see that the water was nearly as light as the sky and as the eye naturally seeks out the lightest sections, I chose to darken the sky and some of the nearby water, but leave the lightest patches in the water and through underneath the bridge, to lead the viewers eye underneath the arch. I also thought about removing the signpost. but positioned on the right edge, and pointing inwards it would draw the eye back across to the meadows at the left.

So the eye travels in from the bottom along the stream, under the arch, to the farm buildings, it then meets the signpost and goes left back towards the meadow. I have kept the darkest darks as in the first photo, under the arch, the reflection in the water and the foreground foliage.

Marshside East Kent

Marshside – Watercolour by Julian Lovegrove

From my work in progress photo above, you will see that I don’t always follow the ‘rules of watercolour’ which say you should always paint from ‘light to dark’.  I often like to establish the darks first, and add the lighter colours later, it can lead to a more powerful painting. A favourite watercolourist of mine Jake Winkle, also works this way, and very effectively. Here is my finished work, I hope you like it. By clicking on it, you will be taken to see further photos and details. Enjoy!


Sieze the Day! (Carpe Diem) OK so now I’m a latin scholar!

Pegwell Bay by William Dyce

Pegwell Bay Kent recollection of 5/10/1858 by William Dyce

In a month when I have lost two good friends, who were also fine artists, this is a very apt phrase, for the moment. My friends were certainly very active, trying to learn all they could and to create fresh work, living life to the full, as long as they were able. The alternative to Carpe Diem is Mañana (or Procrastination for short,) meaning, why do something today that could be put off till tomorrow. I hate Procrastination! it is the enemy of creativity. It was Henri Matisse who famously said “Creativity takes courage”. Most artists writers and composers, will understand this. So let’s not waste another moment, lets pluck up some courage and get creating!

May is traditionally the month when us ‘warm weather plein air painters’ wake up from hibernation to discover sunshine and the joys of carrying our equipment, easels, palettes, paints, papers, boards, etc through the woods and along streams or coastal paths to a spot that begs to be painted. The spot that chose me this time was Pegwell Bay. William Dyce who painted the above work, was a geologist, hence his interest in the details of the chalk cliff formations. I chose to paint from the other side of the bay, with these cliffs in the distance. I’ve painted there many times, and many times I’ve returned with nothing except experience, having ruined a perfectly good painting in the final stages.

Pegwell Bay by Julian Lovegrove

Pegwell Bay by Julian Lovegrove

One thing I’ve learned is never to reach those final stages. I aim to get to the point when it is nearly finished and then to leave it alone and take a look a day or two later. I then study it and look for any areas that are not clear or may be confusing to the viewer. Also tonal values, are the darkest darks, dark enough, etc? I then just attend to those issues. When It is complete, I then have to decide if it Is good enough to display or offer for sale? If not, it goes on the ‘also ran’ pile. If yes, it gets mounted and perhaps eventually, framed.

The sun is out again today, hooray! I want to go out painting again, but the lawn needs cutting and how will that get done from Ramsgate I am reminded. A Ha! The life of an Artist is brought back down to earth again!  To visit my on line shop and gallery, click on my painting above. Till the next time!

How long did you take to paint that?

Broadstairs Sunrise

Sunrise over Broadstairs, Kent in Watercolour

The people who usually ask this question, often have little or no concept of studying in order to learn a craft skill or a profession. It’s a discipline they have never endured or understood. They think that artists are born with magical powers, a gift of God! Of course in reality, we’ve had to learn our craft over many many hours. I used to know a musician who told me it takes approx 4000 hours of learning and practice, to reach a standard, sufficient to play with a local orchestra. Likewise an athlete will spend years, training for an event that could take as little as 10 seconds, in the case of a 100 metre sprint. Who would wish to visit a Doctor who hadn’t spent much of his life learning about medicine? So why are artists assumed to be born with their gifts already in place? Even the masters like JMW Turner, or John Constable, spent many years studying the works of their predecessors, and learning their craft.

Chichester Canal by JMW Turner

Chichester Canal 1828 by JMW Turner, Oil on Canvas

There is unfortunately no quick fix, no way of speeding up the learning process. Just hard graft. At the end of each year, I go through my work and assess if I’m making progress, usually it seems miniscule, but when viewed over a number of years, then real progress can be seen more clearly. I learned early on that it’s no good painting only once a week, to make real progress, I have to sketch or paint as often as possible. Luckily, I enjoy creating art so it’s a real pleasure for me.

Shown here is my interpretation of a spectacular sunrise over the jetty and harbour at Broadstairs. If you click on the photo, It will give you full details and more photos. Then we have Chichester Canal by JMW Turner, painted in oils on canvas in 1828 and currently at the Tate Modern, London. A master work of light and reflection, I think you’ll agree.

So when people ask me “How long did you take to paint that” I usually reply, “about thirty years of practice and one hour of painting”. It’s a shame we can’t charge for the 30 years of practice, like some other professions, but I suppose that’s another story.


How I plan a Painting – from the Start – (Part 1)

Here is an explanation of how I approach a painting – Part 1.

1) Planning or Preparation – 5 Minutes Max

Steam train on the Ffestiniog Railway Snowdonia.

Steam on the Ffestiniog Railway, Snowdonia.

Choose a subject – If I’m in my ‘great big studio under the sun’ ie it’s a ‘plein air’ day I’ll spend a minute or two thinking what it is I like about this view, if I’m indoors, I’ll choose a subject for which I already have some quick sketches and perhaps some photographs, from an earlier visit. So I’m thinking about what drew me to this view, was it the way the light ‘caught’ the subject, was it just a ‘pretty picture’ or a view I’ve seen in another painting, or photograph? Once I know why I want to paint this subject, I have to consider other factors that may change the subject’s appearance as I work. So the time of day is important, How will the sun’s movement affect what I’m doing for the next hour or two, which direction is it travelling, what will happen to the colour and intensity of the light and the position of the cast shadows. What about clouds, are there any and how might they develop, its harder to predict this in advance, but I need to think where my lightest lights will be and my darkest darks, and I need to pick a point in time when I decide to fix these in my work. It’s a big mistake to try and follow the sun and the shadows as they move on their way. Am I next to a tidal river or the sea? Is the tide coming in or out? On more than one occasion I’ve found the water lapping at my feet and had to move fast, or the river has turned to mud or vice versa. If I’m in the studio I need to be sure not to just copy the photographs, because the tonal values will lead to a dull uninteresting painting and the colours likewise will be unexciting.

2)  Decide on composition  – 5 minutes max

Tonal or Value Sketches

Tonal or Value Sketches

I sit down, make myself comfortable, and look for the strong shapes – these are important. The bow of a boat, the shape of a building the curve of a road or pathway. What will be the focal point and what can I leave out? Many a good painting has been ruined by having too much ‘clutter’. I know its there, but that is no reason for me to include it in my work. This is where I pull out my artists licence, metaphorically speaking, My most interesting shape, may be a curved footpath, which leads my eye in towards my chosen focal point. Looking around, I also notice an ugly old building, dominating another part of the scene, which is in conflict with my focal point. If it doesn’t add interest to my subject, then I can decide to leave it out. There may be a tree right in the centre of my view, so what’s stopping me moving it to one side, where it could be used to good effect to frame the painting and to prevent the viewers eye from wandering off, out of the picture. My aim is to create a route along which the viewers eye will travel, across and up and down the painting, until they rest at the focal point. The longer I can hold their interest, the more successful it will be.

3)  Tonal and initial sketches  – 5 Minutes Max.

In my sketchbook, I draw a rectangle about 3″ x 2″ and quickly put in the big dark shapes, then the mid tones, and leave the highlights blank, (see above). For the most powerful effect, brightest lights go against darkest darks and vice versa, by squinting, I can determine what goes where. If my plan doesn’t work, I can do another, and darken a highlight or lighten a dark, remember that artistic licence! This is the time to make changes, before water meets the paper. When happy with this sketch, I’ll lightly draw the big shapes in position on my watercolour paper. I’m now ready to paint and its only taken me 15 minutes Max.

Reading in Battersea Park, London

Reading in Battersea Park, London

Because of this preparation, I know exactly how and what I’m going to do, and furthermore, when the finished painting is eventually exhibited, the viewer will see the full range of tonal values, and their eye will be led unknowingly but deliberately, into the painting, and around it on a journey, until it settles on the focal point. They may or may not understand why, but my hope is that they will know that this painting works, it has some attraction, even better if it has made an ’emotional connection’.

That is important to an artist.