Watercolour sketch cards

I’m playing catch up with my little watercolour sketch cards this week. I ran out of time to write a post last week for a number of reasons, but mainly because I am organising an exciting Running With Brushes exhibition.

I have the support of nine other fabulous artists in Cambridge who will be exhibiting with me – not to mention the 30 other artists who have so generously donated works to Running With Brushes. The website is up, the artists are ready and now we start with spreading the word. So if you’re in the Cambridge area and you fancy a grand night out with live music, a fantastic art exhibition, the chance to meet some exceptional artists, and to take home one of the gorgeous little Running With Brushes watercolours – please consider buying a ticket and spreading the word.  (Early warning – you may hear a bit more about this event from me as the event unfolds)

So now you know why I didn’t post last week, here’s a selection of the watercolour sketch collection that came off my brushes.

Watercolour Sketch list
2016.02.23 - Nightingale Song

Nightingale song inspired this sketch. On one of my London work days I heard my first nightingale. Sound waves in the dusk came to mind.

2016.02.21 - Order from Chaos

Creating order from chaos. I’m going through an exercise of organising my palettes. I’ll blog about this some time in the future – I’ve started working through my paints to find the single pigment transparent colours. More on this later.

2016.02.20 - Crane Flower

The strelizia in the office produced a single flower/. I loved the dramatic shapes of the spikey petals. They called for a layered abstract.

2016.02.19 Switzerland 2

Sitting in the Zurich airport I thought about what defines Switzerland. The essence of the Switzerland I saw last week was many shades of grey, blue skies, mountain peaks and a splash of red.

2016.02.18 - Take Off 2

Taking off – I challenged myself to paint one of these on the plane. This was painted at 38000 feet above the earth.

2016.02.17 - Curves and shadows 2

Energy pods. Shiny gold cones of wake-up boost. They’re not very politically correct these days.

Back to the studio now for a bigger piece.

Cambridge Open Studios and the Art Safari

There’s a bit of a buzz in the house at the moment. We’re getting ready for Cambridge Open Studios in a fortnight.

I had the pleasure of going to see the studios of two other artists yesterday, both are experienced artists and have strong styles. They have very different styles of Open Studios and I was impressed by them both for different reasons. Jo Tunmer and Claire Marie Wood inspired me in different ways which was fabulous when faced with a weekend of framing, and organising to get ready.  And it was lovely to have a chance to visit a couple of other studios. So often its not possible if your studio is open on the same weekends.

After a couple of days of working on the preparations, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re making progress. The framing is done:

Cambridge Open Studios preparation
All framed up and waiting for hanging

My Running With Brushes will be on display providing some exposure for the project. I wish I could display the whole collection, but even without being able to show the works of other artists, it should raise awareness.

Cambridge Open Studios display
My Running With Brushes paintings on display

Cambridge Open Studios in Whittlesford

We’re having an Art Safari in the village to make Whittlesford a good destination for Cambridge Open Studios visitors. With 4 artists works on display within a 5 minute walk, visitors will have plenty to see.  It’s taken a bit of organising – firstly to make sure we could all be open on the same days, then to arrange our preview evening for the same time and date. Finally, we got the marvellous Lori Bentley to design our map which will be available at all studios and has gone out in 400 guidebooks around the area.

Between the four artists taking part, many mediums will be on display: watercolour, pastel, oil, acrylic and collage. The range is rich and the colours vibrant.

Art safari social media

If you’re in the area, pop in for a coffee and say hello.

Painted Paper for Painted Wolves

African Wild Dogs, otherwise known as Painted Wolves are endangered.  They are small sociable canines, native to Sub-Saharan Africa.  Their habitat is being destroyed and there are now fewer than 6000 Painted Wolves living in the wild.

Jeremy Borg, CEO of South African wine brand, Painted Wolf Wines is on a mission. Today he started an epic journey on two wheels from Cornwall to Scotland. Along the way there will be wine tasting events and an art auction. Jeremy’s progress can be followed on the Painted Wolf Facebook page.

The Amphitheatre - printed donated for Painted Wolves

Jeremy’s Top Dog Trek will raise finds for the conservation charity, Tusk in three ways: Donations, Jeremy’s ride sponsorship, and an amazing online Art Auction which opened at noon today and will continue for the duration of Jeremy’s ride. Bidding will close on 30th June. I’m very proud to be one of a group of artists who have donated works to this Art Auction.

The two artworks I have donated were painted this year in the Drakensberg. Each one is a hand-detailed giclée print. The original painting in watercolour is reproduced as a limited edition of 25 prints. Then each one has additional watercolour and ink detail, making it a unique piece of art.

How the Painted Wolves Art Auction Works

Bidding for a piece of artwork is easy. A simple online form must be completed to register. Thereafter, simply place your bid in a comment on the artwork page. Come back from time to time and check the current bid because the highest bidder on 30th June will be the owner of the piece of art.

The AmphitheDrakenberg Dusk donated for Painted WolvesThe Painted Wolves auction art works include original watercolours, acrylics, hand detailed giclee prints, photographs and sculptures. The first 3 bids were received within 5 minutes of the auction opening and artworks will be on display at a number of events along the route.

If you’d like to have a look at all the artwork, you could look at the auction website (where bids can be made), or download the full catalogue pdf.

Painting Autumn Apples in watercolour

I was painting autumn apples on day 2 of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.

Following the discipline of practicing active observation in a form of listening with my eyes,  my attention kept coming back to a basket of autumn apples in the garden. They were originally put there waiting to be eaten, but to my mind that were really waiting for me to start painting autumn apples.

The rich reds and crisp yellows were a dream colour combination and I set myself the challenge of capturing the diverse range of reds (in particular) that I could see in the fruit.

Painting Autumn apples  (watercolour 14 x 9 cm)
Autumn apple basket (watercolour 14 x 9 cm)

Painting Autumn apples

This painting is as much about tonal values as it is about colour. Given the dominance of reds in the subject, its critical to get the tonal values right. Without that, the painting is flat and lifeless. My initial focus was on the bright yellow of the apple furthest to the back of the basket.

By luck (although I would love to say that I had the foresight to arrange them that way) the darkest piece of fruit was in right next to it which gave me a natural focal point. But, the yellow apple is too close to the centre of the page for my liking. Lightening the green around the stalk of the darker piece of fruit in the process of painting autumn apples shifted that point of interest enough to the left to give me comfort in the composition.

I started this with water soluble pencils to mark out the basket and the basic positions of the apples. A few of the marks are still visible from the pencils. I find it less easy to get the intensity of colour with them, so I went on to painting autumn apples with pure watercolour once I had got my basic positions right.

Here’s a photograph of the actual basket of apples where you can see the colours that inspired this little exercise in painting autumn apples.
Painting Autumn apples

Painting colour – listening with your eyes

It may seem completely obvious to talk about painting colour. After all how could you painting without painting colour? But bear with me. Hopefully this will make sense by the end of this post.

Monday marked Day 1 of the current 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge.  I’ve done a couple of these in the past and found them to be both demanding, and hugely valuable at the same time. They create a structure and a focus for painting time, and in the past have also provided a boost to the Running With Brushes collection.

I had actually decided that I wasn’t going to take part again this time, mainly because I’m pushed for time (as always). But I signed up nevertheless thinking that I could just dip in from time to time during the month and post what I could.

But then last weekend we spent time with some very warm and wise friends. It was a grounding couple of days in which we walked, talked, ate, wandered through beautiful gardens and along windswept beaches. We talked about family, history, books and life in general. We talked about the value of slowing down the pace of life and paying really focussing on the here and the now.

Listening – and I mean really listening, with full attention – is something we know is a huge gift. Not many of us are very good at it. We’re distracted by the noise of daily life.

So I got thinking about 30 Paintings in 30 Days and I will take part. Rather than post a fully formed painting every day, I am using this challenge as an opportunity to ‘listen with my eyes’. This is a marvellous opportunity to practice active looking and recording what I see. I’ll write more about my thinking on this theme as the challenge progresses, and as patterns in my perceptions emerge.

Painting Colours – Day 1:

Painting colour - Silver birch bark sketch
Silver birch bark sketch

On a walk through the woods I came across three fully grown Silver Birch trees that have been downed – probably by some huge storm: the roots are exposed and at least one of them is now growing horizontally.  Tree shrapnel is scattered across the meadow and I found this wonderful strip of bark with it’s lovely textures and colours. It made me want to spend some time focused on painting colour as I see it in the bark.

Painting colour of this foraged Silver birch bark strip
Foraged – Silver birch bark strip

Here’s the beautiful piece of bark with all is delicate colour variations. tree bark clearly isn’t just brown or grey. There are shades of green, blue and reds in this piece of nature’s art  – inviting you to have a go at painting colour.

Advent 1 – On Holly and Christmas Fairs

This is the first day of the Advent Challenge. I invite you all to introduce us all to a new artist every day. You can do this in three ways:

– Add their details to your blog post for the day and put a link to your post in the Inlinkz collection at the bottom of this post
– Add their Website or FB directly to the Inlinkz collection (in which case, please add a comment and say who you’ve recommended so we know who recommended them)
– Share their page on your FB page and add a link to that post on your FB page to the Inlinkz collection below. (To do this, click on the date in the post on your FB page. A long URL will appear in your address bar. Copy that use that as the link to share).

Christmas Light by Sabine De Rode
Christmas Light by Sabine De Rode

This is not one of my paintings – this lovely Christmas image is one of the Running With Brushes paintings done by Sabine De Rode. I will be painting my littl holly picture when I get home after the Christmas Fair and I’ll add it to the website later.

Got to it – Here’s the Holly picture. It’s going to be given away to someone at the end of next weekend. Find out more here.

Advent 1 - Holly. (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)
Advent 1 – Holly. (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)

Today I am posting from the Old School Studio where I am manning the stall on the second day of their Christmas Fair. I’ve had the opportunity to have a good look at the offerings of the other artists here and I’ll be sharing their pages. I’m always impressed with the enterprise of the people who hand-make gorgeous things and I’m keen to support them. I think it’s noticeable that people who practice a craft are often the most staunch supporters of others – I’m sure, in large part, because they know how much love and dedication goes into each item.

So to kick off my Advent Challenge with a bang I’m going to share the pages of the other exhibitors (the ones in the same room as me rather than the ones I shared yesterday who are in the same complex).

Pru van der Hoorn has done a roaring trade in her beautiful flower pots. I earmarked one to buy for a family member but it sold yesterday so Prue is going to make me another one (thank you, Prue).

Tricia Taylor designs and makes wonderful elegant silver jewellery. I nudged certain members of my family in her direction and I’m hoping to have a little parcel from her stock under the tree in a couple of weeks.

CosyMama ‘s felted slippers for tots have been charming everyone as they walk in the door. It’s almost worth finding a small relative, no matter how distant so you can see them toddling around in their little warm slippers.

Verdilla Flowers has a collection of their Christmas table decorations and wreaths on display today. Many a table and door will be adorned with these beauties this year.

– Upstairs, photographs, decorative bowls can be acquired from Val.

– and if you have a little fairy in your life, Dinah has wings and alice bands that will evoke squeels of delight on Christmas morning.

Unfortunately, Val and Dinah don’t have websites so if you’re not luck enough to be here, you can’t see their creations today.

So, now for the linking to begin. I’ve seen two posts go out today already – I’m looking forward to meeting some great new artists and creators of hand-made glories.

Each day’s link will be open for a week in case anyone (like me) is running around like a mad thing pre-Christmas and needs to play catch up.

All set for Advent

At Anchor (watercolour 12 x 17cm)
At Anchor (watercolour 12 x 17cm)

Tomorrow is the first day of December – where did the year go? This weekend I’m showing the Running With Brushes collection and some of my own larger paintings at the Christmas Fair at The Old School Studio which is in our village.  Val and Dave have done a brilliant of making it a warm and welcoming space where artists can drop in for a painting session, browse Val’s extensive library of art books, or do a workshop to explore a new creative material or method.  After being empty for ages, the Old School has become a real arts centre with the Studio, Framers and gift shop and the marvellous Oxbow and Peach (a real treasure trove of gorgeousness)

While it’s great to be part of the Christmas fair, this does mean that it’s going to be a bit tough starting my Advent Challenge tomorrow – but even if it’s late, I will post my first artist share. I’m feeling the need to get back to my brushes having missed out on studio time this weekend – so I will somehow find time to do a little sketch tomorrow.

Checking out my list of subjects, I thought I would have a slow start and paint holly to start with. The studio has been decked with wreaths, candles and Christmas table decorations so I’ve been surrounded by sprigs of holly today. If you’re feeling inclined to paint some holly and are looking for reference material, here’s a link to a collection of creative commons photographs of holly leaves on Flickr to inspire you.

Tomorrow I will post my holly painting and if you’ve painted one as well (not necessarily tomorrow), you’ll be welcome to share the link on tomorrow’s blog post as well.

In the meantime, it’s the end of October and I must do the Running With Brushes recon so I can put the month’s proceeds into our JustGiving account.


Team Lenk

Abstracting the Landscape (watercolour 28 x 38 cm)
Purple Hills (watercolour 28 x 38 cm)

Earlier this year, I met Suzie Rice. She mentioned a family in her area who were having a really tough time. Their 14 year son had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Since February, Tristan has received 7 courses of chemotherapy, 18 blood transfusions and more. Needless to say, his family are all pulling together and supporting him so, as in many cases, Tristan’s illness has an impact on others around him.

Suzie told me that despite all this hardship, Tristan has spent his spare time raising funds for cancer research and has managed to raise over £3000 so far. Go Tristan!

If that’s not inspiring enough, the local community has come together to fundraise for Tristan and his family. They think that after 109 days in hospital, and the incredible energy Tristan has put into fund raising, he and the family deserve a treat. Team Lenk has been formed with the purpose of raising enough money to send the family on a holiday. They’re holding an auction of promises evening on Saturday 9th November as their first event. Bidding is open on their website for the auction and the list of auction lots can be viewed here

Although I won’t be able to be at the auction, I’ve donated a painting to their raffle. I offered Suzie a choice of three paintings and she selected Purple Hills. I’m very pleased to be able to support Team Lenk in this small way.  It’s wonderful when a community comes together to support a cause that’s close to their hearts. And even more so, when the focus of their fundraising are so inspiring.

I’m sure the Lenk holiday initiative will be successful and that the family will be able to enjoy a wonderful much-deserved time together as a result of Team Lenk’s efforts.

Beefsteak Tomato. (Day 30 – Made it!)

RWB0064 Beefsteak Tomato
Beefsteak Tomato (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)

This year we planted three different varieties of tomatoes in grow bags in the garden. I typically have very little success growing tomatoes. In most years I watch every other gardener harvesting enough tomatoes to make a freezer full of soup, ragu and tomato concentrate. And at the same time, we manage to pick a very small handful of undersizes, overripe, pea-sized specimens – over the entire summer.

For a change, this time our beefsteak tomatoes thrived. In celebration of reaching day 30 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days (even if in fits and starts), I painted our magnificent first picked, beefsteak tomato.

30 Paintings in 30 Days has been a fabulous experience. It’s been a great motivation to paint regularly, and has helped stock up Running With Brushes beautifully, just in time for Christmas.

Beefsteak Tomato is my 30th in the challenge and my 64th painting for Running With Brushes.

And I’ve got a whole 7 minutes to got for #PaintSeptember.

Fractals and Fissures (29 of 30)

RWB0063 Fractals and Fissures

My experimental journey continued into painting 29 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days. It started with a trial of acrylic inks which created wonderful fractals when water was applied. Once that was properly dried, I added a layer of phtalo turquoise watercolour and let it emphasise the textures in the painting.  The orange ink had a sort of molten lava look about it, which inspired the theme of fissures running down through layers of rock.

Only one more to go. Here’s the second last one on RWB.