Format Archives: Aside

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.

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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

News – from the artist’s Studio

It will soon be Exhibition time again and I have been busy ‘preparing’ new works for the various exhibitions I’ll be taking part in. See the list of exhibitions here.

exhibition display

some paintings from a previous exhibition

The first and hardest task is to select the works which would best be displayed in frames, and those which would suit being mounted and wrapped in cellophane for the browsers. Then there are all the mounts to be cut cleanly and bevelled, and I prefer to make double mounts, with a thin slip of a suitable coloured mount showing behind the top cream board. The framed works then have to be set in their frames and sealed, and those for the browsers are backed with board and wrapped in cellophane. Everything then needs to be labelled, and priced, ready for each exhibition, and finally, the hanging cords are fixed.

“I can’t draw” ! When I’m out painting and sketching in the countryside, or the town, I am frequently confronted with people who say, “I can’t draw” or “I wish I could Draw” or sometimes “I used to paint, but was’nt very good”. So this winter, I decided to do something about it, so the next time someone says this, I can do something useful to help them confront these issues.

Shoppers and visitors in Westgate Canterbury

Shoppers and visitors in Westgate Canterbury


So – I have compiled:  Sketching & Drawing – My 10 Top Tips.

If you have always wanted to paint and draw with confidence, and for those who say “I can’t Draw or sketch” this is for you. It is a FREE   pdf file giving my 10 top tips to help you get started, from the beginning, with step by step guidance. So If you think I’m talking to you, and you would like to have a go, go on! Put your name and e-mail address in the box below, and I’ll send you the link to get the file. It’s as easy as that!

I have often thought that sketching and drawing is the least expensive, yet the most worthwhile hobby to have. You can start for under £5 and its fun and enjoyable too.


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!

My Heroes in Art 2 – Claude Lorrain 1604/5 – 1682

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Shepherds 1644

Claude Lorrain – Landscape with Shepherds 1644

For many years I have admired the work of the old master, Claude Lorrain, or to give him his proper name, Claude Gellee. He was born in either 1604/5 no one is quite sure, in Champagne in the Duchy of Lorraine. (Isn’t that the best place to be born)? He was a French painter, engraver and draughtsman who spent all his adult life living in Rome  where he painted the most sublime landscapes. Foreign artists at that time, were excluded from painting religious works, reserved for the Italians, but that suited Claude’s love of landscape painting. His style was paralelled by his contemporary Nicholas Poussin, also French and living in Rome. Claude, as the English knew him, evolved an original and personal style of landscape painting which by the mid 1630’s had developed into an individual mastery of his art, unrivalled by any of his contemporaries. He liked to sketch outdoors, at dawn and dusk, and make small oil studies, on the spot. He was also one of the first to include the sun in his works. He painted an idyllic, pastoral landscape often contrasted with the bustling activity of a seaport, both united by the use of light and aerial perspective.

Claude Lorrain, Seaport and embarkation of the Queen of Sheba. 1648

Claude Lorrain – Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba 1648

By the 1640’s and 1650’s Claude’s broadening atistic journey became more classical and universal, reaching truly heroic proportions, resulting from his extensive studies of the landscape surrounding Rome. He was now in the mainstream of the high Roman Baroque. In 1635/8 Claude made four paintings for Pope Urban 4th and from this point on his reputation was secured. The English were early collectors of his work. and to date, the largest collections remain in the UK.

JMW Turner and John Constable were both strongly influenced by the paintings of Claude. Constable said “he was the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw”.

There is another reason Claude is an art hero of mine! He invented the ‘Claude Glass’. It was a small piece of glass which was stained by smoke from a fire. He took it out sketching and by looking through it at his proposed subject, he could see only the lightest lights and the darkest darks. All other details were lost. Many artists today squint their eyes, to try to see the tonal values as he did. A composition is much improved by use of correct tonal values.

For other exciting posts and photographs click here!

Suddenly – Its the Exhibition Season again!

Folkestone Spring Art Exhibition 2014

Folkestone Spring Art Exhibition 2014

Yes – It’s here again.

That means artists up and down the country are madly charging about trying to get a load of different tasks done in order to prepare themselves. So in my studio, that means taking stock of recent works and deciding which will be exhibited where, and when. What exhibitions or competitions should be entered, shall we have an ‘Open Studio’?

How many works will be needed at any one time? Then its on to mount cutting and framing the watercolours. For convenience, I buy in ready-made frames of specific sizes, so I know that my mounts only have to be those sizes, to fit the frames. I do like to double mount watercolours setting a coloured board between the painting and the top cream coloured board. All these have to be accurately marked up and bevel cut with neat corners. Presentation is so important, I have seen many excellent works, ruined by poor presentation. Consequently they have little hope of selling. Then I have to clean the glass, both sides, insert the painting and mount board assembly, securing and sealing the backs, fitting the hanging cords and lastly, printing labels for the backs and sales labels, as required, for the faces.

Walkers at Kingsgate Bay, Kent

This is very near to my studio, an inspirational place to visit!

Some works will be displayed unframed, in browsers or on table tops, these will be mounted as before, backed with a board and wrapped in cellophane, for a neat presentation. My Acrylic paintings are mostly painted onto stretched canvases, of various kinds. I usually paint the edges of these, so they don’t have to be framed, saving on cost to the buyer. I do varnish them however, to protect the paint surface from dirt etc, and they still need hanging cords and labels fitted. These tasks are In addition to the task of drawing and painting new works for future exhibitions etc. A busy time of the year, but the warmer weather means I can soon start to go outdoors and do some ‘plein air’ painting again! For me, a ‘warm weather plein air painter’ – that is my reward for the extra work!

To see an example of presentation, click on this photo, it will lead you to my online gallery, where it is shown, double mounted and framed and an example, already wrapped in cellophane. Enjoy!



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.