Category Archives: Art Events

My art activities, exhibitions, workshops, courses etc.

Watercolour at March, in March

Yes, the title of the post sounds confusing doesn’t it? But by a strange coincidence, on the 2nd March 2017 I gave a watercolour demonstration to the a group of artists who meet in the library at the town of March in Cambridgeshire. So, March in March!

watercolour painting of barns in kent
Barns in Kent, after Rowland Hilder. 22ins x 15ins on Saunders Waterford 140lb rough paper.

You can see my demonstration painting here. I based the composition on a scene of old barns in Kent, which I found in one of my books about the artist Rowland Hilder. Rowland’s work is really well worth studying for any watercolour landscape artist, as he was a true master of the genre, particularly the landscape in winter. Here, I’ve made the trees a little more summery than Hilder would probably have done, but the palette of colours is fairly typical of his work.

I used MaimeriBlu watercolours for this demonstration, the exact colours being Ultramarine Blue Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, and Primary Yellow. The Raw Sienna is only used for some warmth in the lower part of the sky, and Primary Yellow was used for the greens, mixed with Ultramarine and a little touch of Burnt Sienna.  All the browns, blacks and greys are mixed from Ultramarine with either Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber. Rowland Hilder often used Lamp Black in his paintings, but I didn’t do that here, preferring to reflect the colour of the sky in all my mixes. Most of the painting was done with a 1 inch flat brush (ProArte sable-synthetic), but the barns and trees were done with a number 8 round brush.

The artists at March were a lovely group and I had a really enjoyable afternoon. See you all again at some point in the future!

Ely and York Demonstration Watercolours

I’ve been on the road lately, visiting two art clubs in the last week or so to do demonstrations for them. And no, I haven’t been to either Ely or York, as the title of this post might imply, these cities have been the subject of my demonstration paintings!

watercolour painting of st mary's coppergate york
St Mary’s Coppergate, York. Watercolour on Waterford rough 140lb paper, half imperial size.

My first painting was for Deepings Art Club, in the charming little town of Market Deeping just a few miles from Peterborough. My brief here was to demonstrate the painting of a bustling street scene, with buildings, people and vehicles. I chose this view of York, which I’d sketched on a visit to the city a couple of years ago. The church in the painting is St Mary’s, Coppergate.

It was quite a challenge to draw the subject, paint the buildings and pepper it with people, cars and even a bicycle, but I managed it in the two hours of the session. With a bit more time I might have added even more people to the scene, but the main objective was to demonstrate the drawing technique, the use of a limited palette of colours, and how to suggest people and vehicles without putting in too much detail and making the painting too tight. I hope I succeeded and it was lovely to work with quite a small and very interested group. Thank you Deepings, Margaret and I really enjoyed the afternoon!

watercolour of ely across the fields
A Big Sky over Ely. The Cathedral Across the Fields. Watercolour on Waterford rough 140lb paper, half imperial size.

The next stop on my tour was Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, with a demonstration for the Wisbech Art Group on a Friday evening. Actually, although they’re the Wisbech group they meet in nearby Elm, in a very warm and cosy hall called the Elm Centre. I was in a “sky” mood for this demonstration, and this is the resulting painting, with a view across the fields to Ely Cathedral, under a lively sky. I used some Raw Sienna near the horizon to give a glow to the sky and a bit of a feeling of being against the light. The other colours used, all MaimeriBlu watercolour tubes, were Ultramarine Light, Burnt Sienna and Primary Yellow.

I painted the sky in three stages. Firstly a wet-into-wet graduated wash of Ultramarine with a little Burnt Sienna added, blending into the band of Raw Sienna. Then, while it was still damp, I lifted out some clouds with a scrunched up piece of kitchen roll. Finally, once it was dry, I added more clouds with some warm browns and greys as a contrast to the cooler colours of the first wash. Apart from the band of Raw sienna I mentioned earlier, everything else in the sky is a mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I worked quickly, using a large (25mm or 1 inch) flat brush of a mixture of sable and synthetic hair.

After a welcome coffee break, I added the cathedral and the foreground, still using the large flat brush. The greens in the foreground are mixed from Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Primary Yellow. finally I refined the shape and structure of the cathedral with a No. 8 round brush and a fairly strong mix of, yes you guessed it, Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.

A lovely group of around thirty artists, all very friendly and interested. Thank you Wisbech, we had a great evening!

For those who are curious, I used the excellent MaimeriBlu watercolour paints for both these demonstrations, and my surface was a half imperial size (15 ins x 22ins) piece of Saunders Waterford rough paper at 140lb or 300gsm weight. My brushes are Daler-Rowney Sapphire sable-synthetic mix, or squirrel hair mops. All these materials can be obtained from the SAA, at

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

Small is Beautiful, Hopefully

I haven’t been very active on my Blog for a while, but I have been busy with various projects, some arty and some not.  You know the sort of thing, holidays, cutting the hedge, plus a bit of watercolour tutoring. But now it’s September and the brushes have had to do some work, because it’s exhibition time again!
Watercolour painting of cooking on a stove
Cooking with Gas! Watercolour, 8ins square

This one is another mixed show from the members of the West Norfolk Artists Association. The WNAA usually have a Small Works exhibition at this time of the year, but there’s a double theme this year – Small Works and Still Life. So my paintings will be small and still, but hopefully still exciting!

The venue is Greyfriars Art Space, St James St King’s Lynn, and the exhibition opens this Saturday 24th until the following Saturday 1st October. 10.30am – 4pm every day. Hope you can make the show some time during the week – Margaret and I will be ‘in residence’ on the afternoon of the first Saturday, the 24th.
Watercolour painting of collection of bottles
Seven Bottles. Watercolour, 8ins square

The two works that I’m showing can be seen here, both of them about 8 inches square, plus the frame. I rarely tackle still life subjects, although I have done a few over the years, but I really enjoyed the challenge. As the size restriction was quite tight, the whole picture including frame must be no more than 12 inches on the largest dimension, I tried to make my watercolours quite colourful, to make an impact even on a small scale. I used MaimeriBlu paints, which have some vibrant colours in the range, including a nice bright Cadmium Red Light which I put to use in the Cooking with Gas work. Other colours used include Berlin Blue and Lemon Yellow.

The framed works are about 9.5 inches square, and you can see them here. Each work is priced at £125. I’ll be back with more blog posts soon, as the painting season is upon us!

Two framed still-life paintings
The two still life paintings in their frames, about 9.5ins square

Thinking Ink at Downham Market

watercolour and ink painting of morston creek
The End of the Day, Morston Creek. Ink and watercolour on Arches 140lb rough paper. 15ins x 11ins.

Ink is a very useful weapon in the watercolourist’s armoury, and I really enjoy using it. Not in every painting certainly, but it can add a dramatic note to an atmospheric work.

On Tuesday evening I was at Downham Market Art Circle, where I met many old friends, some of whom have been coming to my classes and demonstrations for more years than I, or they, might care to remember!

winter tree and field painting
Lots of Showers Likely. Ink and watercolour on Arches 140lb rough paper. 15ins x 11ins.

This was my fifth visit to the Art Circle so I wanted to show them something different from the usual run-of-the-mill traditional watercolour. I decided to use Indian ink applied directly to the paper with a small brush, and when that was dry I painted over it with some simple watercolour washes. Although it may sound daunting, I don’t do any preliminary pencil drawing with this technique and just go straight in with the brush loaded with ink. I find that once a few brush marks are made the drawing usually proceeds okay and it looks and feels fresher than working to a pencil guide.

The watercolour washes are applied with a large brush and I keep to a very limited palette, so as not to compete with the ink. In the Morston Creek boat painting I used Maimeri Berlin Blue, Burnt Sienna and Dragon’s Blood. For my second painting of the winter tree I changed to Raw Sienna, Carbon Black and a little Ultramarine Blue Light. Carbon Black (or Lamp Black) may seem a strange choice, but it harmonises very well with Raw Sienna and makes lovely grey clouds when well diluted with water.

These techniques are great fun to try and lift you out of the normal rut of traditional watercolour. Why not give them a go!

Pen and Wash at Skegness

pen and wash painting of a boat at thornham
Barn and Boat, Thornham. 15ins x 11ins on Waterford 140lb NOT paper.

It seems to be art club demonstration season this week. Skegness yesterday evening, Downham Market this evening and Norwich on Thursday.  No rest for the wicked artist!

My brief at Skegness was pen and wash, which is a very enjoyable medium to work in. Do a drawing using a waterproof ink pen, and then apply some simple watercolour washes. You can see the result here, where I used an 0.7 Edding 1800 pen and a few Maimeri colours, mainly Ultramarine Blue Light, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna, although I couldn’t resist using the dramatically named Dragon’s Blood for the roof tiles on the barn.

ink and watercolour painting of a windmill
Burnham Overy mill. Indian ink and watercolour. 15ins x 11ins on Arches 300lb rough paper.

Pen and wash is a quick medium, the great thing is to not do too much, particularly with the paint. I had it finished in an hour which just allowed me time to do another painting, this time using Indian ink applied with a brush. For this technique you really need a subject that makes a strong statement, such as this windmill against a sunset sky. I applied the ink with a number 4 round brush, a sable-synthetic mix, with no preliminary drawing. Just two colours of paint were used, Maimeri Prussian Blue and Dragon’s Blood.

For both of these paintings I used a large 1 inch flat brush to apply the watercolour, to discourage any fiddling. It’s amazing how much you can do with a big brush like that, it is a very versatile implement and keeps your work nice and free. Paintings like these are quick and fun to do, why not have a go!

Exhibition coming up

watercolour painting of misty day at thornham norfolk
Misty Day at Thornham 2. Watercolour 15 x 11ins.

I suddenly realised this morning that it’s the end of last year since I posted something on my blog, so time to remedy that straight away. The reason that I’ve been a bit quiet lately is that I’ve just had other things to do and have been away from the studio, although I’ve been doing quite a bit of teaching which I’ll tell you about in another post.

The West Norfolk Artists Association, of which I’ve been a member for many years, is having a Spring exhibition. It’s at Thornham village hall and the theme is Coast. So, here’s a coast painting that I intend to enter for the show. It’s one of a pair that use a technique that I like very much – a monochrome painting straight on to the white paper. The monochrome uses a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna  and a little crimson, but it could easily be done in just one pigment such as Prussian Blue or Payne’s Grey. Leaving a large area unpainted seems to be quite effective and gives a misty feel to the composition, hence the title, Misty Day at Thornham.

The WNAA exhibition opens on Wednesday 30th March and runs until Sunday 3rd April. Open 10am – 4pm every day. Thornham village hall is on the A149 main coast road at Thornham, Norfolk, PE36 6LX.

The Bigger the Better – sometimes

Large watercolour painting of Stiffkey marshes
Stewkey Blue – the saltmarshes at Stiffkey, Norfolk. Watercolour 22ins x 30ins.
Large watercolour painting of view from Massingham
Distant View – Sandringham from Massingham, Norfolk. Watercolour 22ins x 30ins.

Today I thought I’d show you a couple of my larger watercolour paintings. These are both full imperial size, 22ins x 30ins, which is the largest piece of normally available watercolour paper. Yes, there is the delightfully named ‘double elephant’ at 27ins x 40ins, but you probably won’t find that in your local art shop!

Both these paintings show that, despite their size, less is more.  A huge sky and a landscape with the most minimal of features is often a great way to show the real beauty of a watercolour wash. And if it doesn’t work well you can always crop it down to a smaller size. I once cropped a full imperial painting down to  six inches square, but it worked!

Both these watercolours are from my personal collection, so they’re not seen very often. But you can buy prints of them, and these will be on sale at my Open Studio event on the 28th and 29th November. Ten artists around the village of Dersingham will be taking part in the Dersingham Christmas Art Trail. you can find out about all the studio in the Trail by visiting

Demonstrations at Bury St Edmunds

Here are two paintings that I recently did as demonstration pieces during a visit to Bury St Edmunds Art Society. It’s always a pleasure to visit this enthusiastic group and I think this might be the fourth time that I’ve made the journey down to deepest Suffolk.

My brief was ‘line and wash’, which can encompass many different ways of working. As it’s a speedy medium to work in, or at least it is the way I do it, I managed to fit two paintings into the two hour evening session, although I had to gallop on a little bit towards the end!

pen and wash painting of Burnham Overy windmill
A traditional pen and wash painting of Burnham Overy windmill. Arches 140lb rough, A3 size.

The first is an example of what I would call traditional pen and wash, where the initial drawing is done with a pen and then some simple watercolour washes are applied once the penwork has dried. I used a black Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen for the drawing, with a medium nib. This corresponds to an 0.7 in most other brands of pen.

The drawing is everything in this type of working (actually it probably is in any type of working) so I was careful to observe the line of the windmill and its proportions. It’s not that difficult, but it takes care and thinking about each mark on the paper before making it. I frequently  ask myself questions about each line or point on a line, as in”where is point B in relation to point A, where point A is a mark that I consider to be in the right place”. Always take time to step back from your drawing and have a good look at it. Does anything actually look wrong? If so, it’s never going to be right, so correct it while you can. Particularly in the early stages of a drawing this sort of ‘checking’ needs to happen almost constantly.

Once I was happy with the drawing, I applied some quick and simple watercolour washes. For this I used a large flat brush, not the traditional round. As this had to be quite a large painting for a pen and wash, on an A3 piece of Arches 140lb rough paper, I used a 1 inch flat brush, a Rowney Sapphire sable and synthetic mixture. I find the flat brush excellent for quick working because I can cover so much ground with it, to swiftly render skies and foregrounds. But, using the corner and edge of the brush it’s surprising how accurate you can be too.

I kept to a very limited palette of colours, just using French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and a little Cadmium Yellow Pale. I find that these four pigments will do for almost any landscape subject, although I sometimes change Ultramarine for Prussian Blue which gives a much cooler look to the painting.

Although the painting was a bit larger than the usual pen and wash works that I would do on location, the working method was exactly the same. Do a drawing, hope it hasn’t started raining, and get some paint on it quick!

ink and watercolour painting of Burnham Overy windmill
Indian ink and watercolour painting of Burnham Overy windmill. Arches 140lb rough, A3 size.

Having a bit of time in hand, I decided to use the same subject again and so a different style of painting, although still beginning with ink and ending with watercolour. I drew the mill using Indian ink from a bottle, applied this time with a small round brush not a pen. The brush was another Rowney Sapphire number 4 round and I went straight in with it without any pencil or pen work. You have to have confidence to do that, and that comes from lots of practice, but I like the immediacy of the strong dark mark. I left a strip of white paper on the tower of the mill, because there was a lot of sunlight reflecting off it in my reference photograph.

By the time I’d drawn in the mill the time was getting on. I rapidly inked in the hedgerow in front of the windmill, using the brush on its side to work it against the rough texture of the paper. A quick dry off with the hairdryer, and I just had time to wash over the paper with some Prussian Blue with a little Permanent Rose here and there to give a feeling of winter light. The whole painting didn’t take much more than half an hour, but I think it’s quite effective and atmospheric. Why not have a go at these techniques, you may well like them!

Finally, my thanks to Olive Smart and all the members of the Bury Art Society who made Margaret and me so welcome. See you again another day!

What makes the perfect tube of paint?

MaimeriBlu watercolours
A selection of MaimeriBlu watercolour paints, showing the Italian pigment name and, underneath it, the English one in, unfortunately, very small type.

Yes, what indeed does make the perfect tube of watercolour paint? Is it the consistency, with lots of juicy pigment? Is it the ease with which the colours mix and flow? Or, is it the colours themselves, that ‘must have’ shade of red, for example?

Well, all these things are important of course. Lately, I’ve been testing a range of Italian watercolour paints – MaimeriBlu. Some of you may know the name, they’ve been around for a long time, but lately they have not had much presence in the UK. Now the SAA (Society for all Artists) are going to distribute them and several of the Society’s PAs (Professional Associates) have been asked to take a look at the Maimeri range, myself included.

So, how did I find them and have they got that perfect tube of watercolour paint?  They certainly have plenty of pigment, and the colours flow out nicely. Some of the colours in the range may not be particularly familiar to UK painters, but that is no disadvantage as all the ‘staple diet’ colours are here, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and so forth. Without a doubt these MaimeriBlu watercolours are every bit as good in quality as any other range I’ve tried and I’ve tried quite a few.

But, they have only one little problem. I can’t read the name of the colour on the tube! And actually, Maimeri are not the only ones guilty of this sin, the colours in the latest range of Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolours are equally as difficult to identify quickly. Don’t they know that all watercolour artists are old codgers like me who can’t read tiny print on a tube of paint! So I’m on the look out for a range of paints with nice clear marking on the tube, so that I know straight away whether I’m going to use Ultramarine Blue or Cobalt Blue, or whatever. At the moment, Daler Rowney are in the lead, but I was actually very happy with Winsor & Newton – before they decided to ‘update’ their packaging. I don’t know, grumpy old man!