Category Archives: Art Events

My art activities, exhibitions, workshops, courses etc.

Another Track to the Farm

Charcoal sketch of Norfolk barns
A charcoal planning sketch, to establish composition and tone before painting
Barns, Fields and Sky. A two colour palette using Ultramarine Blue and Brown Madder. Watercolour 15ins x 22ins.
Barns, Fields and Sky. A two colour palette using Ultramarine Blue and Brown Madder. Watercolour 15ins x 22ins.
If you find a good composition it can often serve well in many different ways. In my last post I showed a demonstration painting that I did at a watercolour workshop in Northwold. The composition was loosely based on a painting I found in one of my books about Rowland Hilder, and was called The Track to the Farm.

A few days later I was nearer home in the village of West Winch just outside King’s Lynn. I was demonstrating for the West Winch Art Group, known as the Wednesday Afternooners, as they meet on a Wednesday! I decided to reuse the Track to the Farm, but this time I gave it an entirely different treatment by changing the palette of colour from the cool Prussian Blue based hues at Northwold to a warmer French Ultramarine Blue based colour scheme. I also reduced the number of colours even more to give a very atmospheric feel. I used just one blue, French Ultramarine, and one red, Winsor & Newton’s Brown Madder. Brown Madder is one of the lesser know pigments, formulated these days from quinacridone. It is a warm, slightly purple red and only appears brown when used very strongly with little water. Diluted it is a soft pink which combines well with Ultramarine to give warm purple-greys.

Keeping to just two colours can give great atmosphere to a painting and it also makes you concentrate on tone, the light and dark values that are so important.

My thanks to all the Wednesday Afternooners for being a great group. Very attentive and asking lots of good questions. The only difficulty with demonstrating at West Winch is that the church hall, where the group meet, in on an incredibly busy main road, the A10, and getting out of the car park unscathed was a major job. But we made it!

Northwold watercolour workshop

Watercolour painting of Norfolk barns
The Track to the Farm – after Rowland Hilder. Watercolour 15ins x 22ins.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the village of Northwold, near the Norfolk and Suffolk border. I was running a workshop for Northwold Art Group and we had a theme of barns, fields and sky. You can see my painting here, which is loosely based on a composition from that master of 20th Century watercolour, Rowland Hilder.

A very limited palette of colours keeps a harmonious feel throughout the work. Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna, and Raw Sienna were the main ones used.

The Northwold group were all lovely people and good painters so I really enjoyed the afternoon session. My thanks to group leader Patsy Hood for inviting me. See you again another time!

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!

Two gone at Thornham

Over the past weekend I’ve just taken part in an excellent mixed exhibition with the West Norfolk Artists Association. The venue was the new Thornham village hall, on the North Norfolk coast. Forty artists submitted work, all on a ‘Coast’ theme and the show really did look good.

I’m very pleased to say that two of of my watercolours were sold at the event, both to the same buyer, a matching pair! I’ve shown one of them before on this blog, a few months ago, but here’s the chance to see both of them together. For the watercolour artists among you, most of the painting is just the white of the paper (Waterford 140lb rough), with the image simply painted using a large sable hair brush. The paintings are really monochromes, but the colours used are mixed from French Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, and a tiny touch of Scarlet Lake. Hopefully a good example of ‘less is more’.

Painting in watercolour of boats at Burnham Overy
Misty Days – Burnham Overy Staithe 2. Watercolour 15ins x 11ins
Watercolour painting of mist at Burnham Overy Staithe
Misty Days at Burnham Overy Staithe 1. Watercolour 15ins x 11ins

An Evening at Horncastle

On Friday 6th March We drove up to Horncastle in Lincolnshire, where I was booked to do a watercolour demonstration for the Horncastle Art Group. And what a nice evening we had, with around thirty group members gathered around me at the easel while I painted and talked about the working methods of well known East Anglian artist Edward Seago.

Fishing Village Norfolk in the style of Edward Seago
Fishing Village Norfolk after Edward Seago. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins. on Arches 140lb rough.

There’s so much that can be learnt from studying the work of the masters, and Seago was certainly one of those. Although probably best known as an oil painter, he was a highly skilled in watercolour, with an amazing freshness and deceptive simplicity to his paintings. Somehow I managed to fit in two demonstration paintings during the evening and you can see them here. I obviously felt encouraged by my audience and by the subject, so I went at a fairly rapid pace!

The first painting of a Norfolk Fishing Village is very typical of many such scenes that Seago painted. A very limited palette of just two colours, French Ultramarine and Light Red, help the atmosphere, and the composition carries the eye effortlessly through the work.

Tree study in the style of Edward Seago
A Seago style tree painting. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins. Waterford 140lb rough.

The second painting, a simple study of a sky, some fields and a tree, is again very typical of many Seago Norfolk landscapes. It’s all about atmosphere and the use of tone to draw the eye to the focal point of the work, the large tree. Again the palette of colours was confined to Ultramarine and Light Red, with the addition of a little Cadmium Yellow Pale to make the greens.

Thanks to Peter Smith and all at Horncastle Art Group for making Margaret and me so welcome. We hope to see you again at some time in the future!

I Painted Out – in Norwich

My last post was about the upcoming Paint Out Norwich painting competition in which I was taking part. So it was that on a very wild and windy day last Tuesday, Margaret and I travelled to Norwich where I was to paint against the clock and against twenty-seven other artists.

The event was organised by the Hostry at Norwich Cathedral, as part of the autumn Hostry Festival. We met the other artists there and saw this superb building where the exhibition of completed works was to be staged. The Paint Out Norwich team were very welcoming and, considering that this was the first running of the event, pretty efficient most of the time. Our base during the event was the Maddermarket Theatre where we had room to store some of our gear and get a bit of lunch at their cafe between the morning and afternoon sessions. Mercifully this was only a few hundred yards from our hotel, because my efforts to slim down my en plein air painting kit were only partially successful!

Painting at Norwich Forum
Wednesday afternoon with me outside the library at Norwich Forum. You can see my Winsor & Newton easel – a bit heavy but very sturdy.

As for the painting, on Wednesday and Thursday, it was actually great fun to be out in this beautiful city and have three hours to ‘do a view’. Yes, it was cold but at least it didn’t rain! There were four sessions, one morning 9 – 12 and one afternoon 1.30 – 4.30 and we were sent to a different location for each one. Once at the location you were free to paint any view, which meant that there was never any difficulty finding a good composition.

I resisted the temptation just to do pen and wash sketching, and set up an easel with a half-imperial sheet of 140lb weight Arches rough paper for each session. It meant carrying the easel and quite a bit of other stuff, but I enjoyed tackling a full scale watercolour painting. Of the four I completed, I enjoyed doing them all, but there are always things that you can see when you look at a painting that you might have done better, or at least differently. But at the end of the three hours, that’s it, the paintings are taken from you and no more fiddling is allowed!

Here are the two that I consider the most successful. One where I was looking down on the city from the ramparts of Norwich Castle, and one where I set up my easel by the library which is inside The Forum, a fantastic building buzzing with people, cafes, lots going on. It was also a bit warmer than the street outside.

I didn’t win any prizes, but I enjoyed the experience and will be doing more plein air painting in the future. It’s very different to working in the comfort of the studio and cityscapes are different to my usual landscapes. But I like ’em!

Interior of Norwich Forum
Figures in the Forum. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins on Arches Rough paper
Painting from Norwich Castle
Looking Down – from Norwich Castle. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins on Arches Rough paper

You can see all the paintings done by the twenty-eight artists at the Paint Out Norwich exhibition, on now until the 2nd November, at the Hostry, Norwich Cathedral, Tombland, Norwich.

Paint Out Norwich

It’s always nice to have an excuse to get out with the painting gear and actually do some work on location. So often, pressures of time or weather mean that I end up working from photographs not actually in front of the subject. Not that I mind working from photos, there’s a lot to be said for starting with one and then creating an artwork out of it that bears only a passing resemblance to the original photograph. The photo just becomes the kickstarter of your inspiration. However, I digress.

Painting of Indian market street
Early Morning, Agra, India. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins.

On the 22nd and 23rd October I shall be in Norwich, a fine city, to take part in Paint Out Norwich. An open air painting competition which is part of the autumn Hostry Festival at Norwich Cathedral. Sixty artists applied to take part, and thirty were selected. We shall step up to our easels at 9am on the morning of Wednesday 22nd and there will be four three hour sessions over the two days. Each session will see the artist working at a different location, so I will get round four of the seven that are on offer. The sessions will be 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm each day. At the end of the competition all work will be judged and there are some nice cash prizes up for grabs. Following on from that there will be an exhibition of the work for the remainder of the Hostry Festival, until the 2nd November I think.

Having recklessly accepted this challenge, I thought that I’d better brush up, so to speak, on my cityscapes. Here is one that I did recently. No, not Norwich, Agra in India. And no, I didn’t paint en plein air, that would risk being mobbed. But if you saw my photo you would find it very different in mood and lighting to the painting. Wish me luck and do come to Norwich to cheer all the artists on. The public, and the media, are encouraged to look over all the artists’ shoulders. No pressure then!

You can find out all about the event, the artists, and the locations at the website

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.

In a Different Light

It’s back to the Arts Centre for me, as having just finished my run there with my solo exhibition Stephen Martyn at 21, I am now participating in a mixed exhibition showcasing the work of the West Norfolk Artists Association. It’s a good show too, with around 130 works by the members filling three of the galleries at King’s Lynn Arts Centre.

large watercolour painting of King's Lynn
In a Different Light – King’s Lynn 3. After the Rain. Watercolour 29ins x 21 ins.

My own work in this show can be seen here. It’s a large watercolour of the view of King’s Lynn from a bridge over the River Ouse. In a Different Light 3 is one of a series of three paintings of the same composition but with different light and weather conditions. These three large works formed the centre piece of my recent solo show.

Do try and get along to the Arts Centre to see the current WNAA exhibition. You will see some great work by some of the areas’s leading artists, in a huge variety of media and styles. Paintings, prints, photographs, tapestry, sculpture, and much more. Open every day 10am – 5pm until Saturday 26th July, although note that the galleries will be closed on Sunday 13th, and open from 2 – 6pm only on Sunday 20th. You can even have a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake in the pop-up cafe! See you there.

A couple of Golden Oldies

Well, my exhibition has had its two week run and it seems to have been a success. There were plenty of visitors who made some good comments about my work. And yes, a few paintings were sold too!

Something that surprised me was the amount of interest that my early paintings stirred. In particular, this work from around 1995 entitled The Wildfowler was so popular that I had to start making prints of it. If you would like one, just contact me. They are £25 unframed or £45 framed, but unless you can collect the framed version from the studio here in Dersingham it would be better to order the unframed one, which is much easier to mail. Postage within the UK costs £3.

Another early work, which I did at the same sort of time as The Wildfowler is this view of Appleton Water Tower, near Sandringham. At this early point in my career I had already developed a love of simple subjects with a very limited palette of colours. Both these works are painted using Cobalt Blue, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna.

The Wildfowler painting in watercolour
The Wildfowler. Watercolour c. 1995. 15ins x 11ins.
Appleton Water Tower
Mist at Appleton. Watercolour c.1995. 15ins x 11ins.