Category Archives: My students

About my student groups and their work

Art Therapy for Stroke Survivors

One of the things that has kept me busy over the summer is my involvement in an exhibition organised by the local branch of The Stroke Association. A couple of years ago I was asked to run a watercolour workshop for a group of stroke survivors who meet in Hunstanton, Norfolk and I’ve been working with the group off and on ¬†ever since.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that art, painting and drawing, can be hugely beneficial in accelerating the recovery process for a victim of a stroke. Making art builds cognitive and motor skills and it gives the stroke survivor a sense of purpose and achievement when they are able to create a work of art, no matter how simple.

The Stroke Association wanted to stage an exhibition that would showcase the abilities of those who had participated in art therapy, but they also wanted to involve other local artists to support the cause. I’m glad to say that those local artists were very generous in their support and over the weekend of August 18th and 19th we staged a very successful exhibition.

You can see a few photos from the show here and I’ll show you some more, particularly of paintings from the stroke survivors in a later post. My thanks to Rik Thornton for the photos.

photo of stroke association exhibition 1the mayor looks round the exhibitionvisitors study the artworks

The Stages of a Pen and Wash

Pen drawing of Cley windmill
The initial pen drawing
The first stage of watercolour painting
A few simple washes go on, with a big brush
pen and wash painting of Cley-next-the-sea windmill, norfolk
The finished painting of Cley mill, Norfolk
I’ve been working on pen and wash as a medium with one of my students. It’s a lovely way of using watercolour and is ideal for outdoor sketching.

The first stage is to get out a waterproof ink pen, such as an Edding 1800, and sketch out the subject. You can put in as much or as little detail as you wish, but the drawing must be tolerably accurate, in other words nothing must actually look wrong! With a subject like this one, the iconic Norfolk landmark of Cley-next-the-sea Windmill, that takes a bit of care and patient working.

Once you are happy with the sketch it’s time to put some simple watercolour washes on. I use a limited palette of colours and try and apply them freely with quite big brushes. For this painting I used a 3/4 inch flat brush, a Daler-Rowney Sapphire (a sable and synthetic mix) and a number 8 round brush from the same Sapphire series. I’ve always found these to be excellent brushes at a reasonable price, but there are plenty of other good ones from the major manufacturers, such as Pro Arte series 101.

Using a biggish flat brush as much as possible stops most of the dreaded fiddling, and it’s surprising how accurate you can be using just the corner of the brush. The colours I used were French Ultramarine Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Light Red. Oh, and a tiny touch of Scarlet Lake for the tail-sail which has distinctive red flashes on its sails.

I try to leave bits of white paper here and there to give some life and sparkle to the painting and work everything very simply, relying on the pen drawing to hold it all together. Why not have a go, you will find it a quick and easy way of capturing quite detailed scenes.

My watercolour demonstration at Brandon

I haven’t posted much on the blog lately because I seem to have been busy with other, non-arty, things. But earlier this week I was back in harness at Brandon Art Society, where I gave them an afternoon watercolour demonstration.

watercolour demonstration painting cley windmill 1
Don’t use a small brush like this . . .
watercolour demonstration cley windmill 2
. . . use a big one like this!

Thanks to Terry Kimpton for taking these photographs of me at the easel. The group were really nice people, with plenty of feedback, questions and comments, a pleasure to paint for. As you may be able to see from the photos, this was a ‘big brush’ painting of Cley Windmill, using just four colours. Ultramarine Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Yellow Pale.

Most of the painting was done with a 1 inch flat brush, a Pro Arte sable-synthetic mix, although I did drop down to a number 8 round for a few details near the end of the painting. Using a big brush like this is a great way of freeing up your work and keeping it nice and loose looking. The 1 inch flat is capable of quite detailed work if you use the corner of it or the sharp chisel edge. Why not get one and have a go, a cheap synthetic brush will be perfectly okay to start with and you may well find that you like it!

Fill your Sketchbook

A week or two has rolled by since I last posted, so you may wonder what I’ve been doing. Painting yes, but mostly decorating, I’m afraid. We have had some building work done here and then, in the middle of it all, we had a leaking water pipe and half the house was flooded!

However, despite all adversity, I did tutor a very pleasant weekend workshop at West Norfolk Arts Centre at Castle Rising. Near King’s Lynn and just a short drive from my Dersingham studio. A nice bunch of artists and, despite a few showers, we did some good outdoor working, particularly on the Sunday.

Participants on my sketching workshop
What are they all looking at? Some of the group on my Fill Your Sketchbook weekend at Castle Rising.
Castle Rising demonstration sketch
A pen and wash sketch in Castle Rising churchyard. 12ins x 9ins on Langton rough paper.

Here you can see the eager group, staring a some mysterious subject in the far distance, and also one of my demonstration sketches. I’ll show you the mysterious subject another time, but this demo was done in the churchyard near the Arts Centre, and features the Lych Gate, framed by a big tree. It took about half an hour to do, maybe a little less, which I feel is what sketching should be all about. A quick snapshot of the scene.

One of the participants on the workshop was our old friend Jane Ford from Lincolnshire, an excellent artist and cartoonist. I remembered another sketching workshop back in 2008, where the weather was also an issue, and from which Jane produced this fine cartoon which says it all!

Cartoon by Jane Ford
And now for some relaxing sketching in the fresh air! A cartoon by Jane Ford, based on my Bircham sketching workshop in 2008.

A study of Seago

From time to time I have a group of painters who visit my studio, several of whom come over from the Dereham area of Norfolk. On their last visit, a few weeks ago, we decided to have a look at an architectural subject as a change from the big skies of Norfolk. Searching round for reference material I thought, where better to look for architecture than Venice, and who better to portray it in watercolour than Edward Seago.

A study of Seago
Joan’s study of Edward Seago’s Venetian palazzo. Watercolour 15ins x 11ins.

So, I found an image of one of Seago’s delightful Venice palazzo scenes. Just a simple building on a canal with a boat and a couple of figures to add interest, but to successfully capture that in paint is not quite as simple as it might look. Drawing is the key to it, as any error of perspective will be glaring in a subject like this. As for those pointy-top windows, they must all be the right size, with the sides vertical and the points all nice and symmetrical – it goes on. We spent a lot of time with a pencil getting everything looking right before any paint hit the paper.

It just goes to show that there is never a bad drawing underneath a good painting. Keep working at your drawing, thinking carefully about every line, and your painting will improve my leaps and bounds.

One of the group, Joan, kindly sent me a photo of her finished piece and I am very happy to share it with everyone. Well done Joan, you’ve succeeded in keeping the painting loose and fresh while maintaining accuracy of drawing, a trick that requires plenty of practice. Keep up the good work!

January paintings

The year is already twenty days old, where does the time go? I have been busy here at the studio, working on a commission for a client which I’ll show you in another post. In between times, I’ve had visits from several artists who like to come here for tuition from time to time, so I thought I’d show you what we have been doing.

So, here are a couple of watercolours which I did as demonstrations for some students earlier this week.

Tree landscape in the style of Edward Seago
A sky and a tree, what more does the landscape artist need! This is in the style of the East Anglian master Edward Seago.
Buttermere painting
A view of Buttermere, in the style of William Heaton-Cooper, a well known Lake District artist of the 20th Century
You will see that they both use a very limited palette of colours, which I hope gives them a nice feeling of harmony and atmosphere. Never worry about making your colours too true to life, try and keep things simple because it makes for a more effective painting.

Both these works are based on paintings by well known artists of the 20th Century. You can learn a great deal from studying the masters, but you must never copy their work and pass it off as your own. Make sure that you add “after Edward Seago” or whoever to the title, so that everyone knows where the original composition came from.

A New Year a new painting

Happy New Year everybody! I thought I’d kick off 2014 by showing you a scene of Ely Cathedral which I painted recently with my two students who come to the studio on occasional Saturdays, Chris and Pat. We spend a few hours sploshing in watercolour about once a month and they are both doing really well.

Ely Cathedral in Springtime
Ely Cathedral in Springtime. Watercolour 14 x 10 ins.
If you would like to come to my Dersingham studio and have some tuition with me, then do get in touch. I have a small group on occasional Tuesdays, which is a “drop in and out of” group, and I also have groups of friends who come, as well as one-to-one students. There’s more information about both group and one-to-one tuition on my website There’s a link to the relevant page here.

It’s worth mentioning that I can also travel to you for art tuition, if that’s more convenient. Again I can tutor one-to-one, small or large groups, or give demonstrations and workshops for art societies. Do get in touch to talk about your requirements. My details are all on the Contact page of this blog.

Heritage paintings

Following on from the painting of King’s Lynn Customs House that I recently did with my Thursday afternoon group, I asked the group members to choose a view of another Heritage building of King’s Lynn and have a go at it using the techniques that we had just explored.

Here are a few of their paintings, which show the variety of subjects chosen and the skill with which they were rendered in watercolour. I’m sure that some of these will find their way into a local art club exhibition in due course. Well done everybody!

Red Mount Chapel
Red Mount Chapel painted by Adie
Trues Yard
Trues Yard painted by Gill
Lattice House
Lattice House, Chapel Street, King’s Lynn painted by Jenny
Marriotts Warehouse
Marriott’s Warehouse, King’s Lynn painted by Jo
Dukes Head Hotel
The Duke’s Head Hotel painted by Paul
View of Pilot Street
Pilot Street, King’s Lynn painted by Liz
Another view of Pilot Street
Pilot Street, King’s Lynn painted by Tim
Hampton Court King's Lynn
The Entrance to Hampton Court, King’s Lynn painted by Pat
St Margarets Church King's Lynn
St Margaret’s Church painted by Mike

The Customs of King’s Lynn

My weekly watercolour group has been tackling one of the iconic landmark buildings of King’s Lynn just recently. The Customs House was built in the 17th Century, when Lynn was a much busier port than it is now. The Excise men have long gone, but the tourist Information Centre puts the building to good use these days.

King's Lynn Customs House painting
A view of the Customs House at King’s Lynn. Watercolour 14ins. x 10ins.

Often painted by local artists, I realised that I had never undertaken this view until now, so here is my own effort at it. It’s quite a challenge to draw accurately, but my students did well with it and used the resulting skills to paint their own choice of heritage building of King’s Lynn. I will be reviewing their efforts in the group tomorrow and will post some photos of them a little later.

You never know what’s round the corner

Very wintery conditions here in Norfolk, with quite a bit of snow on the ground. I should have been starting my weekly group at West Norfolk Arts Centre this afternoon, but it has had to be delayed. No not snow, but the health of the unfortunate tutor. I am having to undergo emergency eye surgery to repair a detached retina in my right eye, so I’m going to be out of action for a week or two, maybe more.

painting of heron
The heron waits for his supper. Watercolour on 140lb Arches NOT paper

My apologies to everyone booked on the course, but I promise to back with paintbrush in hand as soon as possible! Meanwhile, here is a small taster of one of the subjects coming up this term – the heron patiently waiting for his supper. I love simple paintings of an interesting shape silhouetted against a sunset. I first painted this scene many years ago and recently found a version of it among some old works in the bottom of a drawer. We’ll put in some trees and more reflections when the group comes to paint it but in the meantime you might find some inspiration here for a composition of your own. Keep practicing!