In the Studio with the Royal Watercolour Society

This is a retrospective post about my visit to In The Studio, the exhibition by members of the Royal Watercolour Society at Bankside Gallery.  If you didn’t get to see it, many of the works that were in the exhibition are still available on the RWS website.

I am always interested in the processes that go into creating works of art. Every artist has their own particular way of working so the possibilities are infinite. In this exhibition, the paintings on the walls are interspersed with photographs of the artist in their studio and snippets of information about the way they work in the studio. A series of videos showing RWS members working in their studios to give visitors more of the ‘behind the scenes’ view of the show.

Paintings by John Crossley VPRWS, Janet Golphin RWS, Anne Marlow RWS and Jill Leman PRWS
Paintings by John Crossley VPRWS, Janet Golphin RWS, Anne Marlow RWS and Jill Leman PRWS

Including the information about the artist in their studio is a format that gives the viewer more insight into the artist as a person.

I took a few picture of works that appealed to me (having first gained permission to take photographs).

In the Studio – some of my favourites

Its always difficult to get a good photograph  without reflections when paintings are behind glass. I apologise for the quality of some of these.

Kitten Heels with Fairy Lights by Gertie Young RWS
Kitten Heels with Fairy Lights by Gertie Young RWS

There’s no surprise in my loving this one at first sight: playful, colourful and…. shoes!


Red Facade No 2 by Rika Newcombe ARWS. In the Studio exhibition
Red Facade No 2 by Rika Newcombe ARWS

I had already seen this on social media. When I was standing in front of it, I was struck by the detail and delicacy of the marks on the paper. There’s a wonderful elegance about each little abstract section. No wonder it was a gallery staff pick.


Dried Grasses with Delphiniums in the Studio with Violet Shadows by Sophie Knight RWS
Dried Grasses with Delphiniums in the Studio with Violet Shadows by
Sophie Knight RWS

This is one of three large works by Sophie Knight. Her work is always atmospheric and dynamic.


Somewhere over Siberia by Liz Butler RWS
Somewhere over Siberia by Liz Butler RWS

Three aerial views by Liz Butler appealed to the traveller in me. They are views that you might see when flying over a dramatic landscape.


Links to other works I didn’t get good enough photographs of, and some that are pictured above:

Liz Butler RWS – Somewhere over Siberia (pictured above)

Liz Butler RWS – Cloncurry District, Australia

Sue Howells RWS – Glow of Day Fading Away

Richard Pikesley RWS – Axe, Summer Evening

Neil Pittaway RWS – Dusk Evening Light on the Glacier du Bonibassey, France

Gertie Young RWS – Kitten Heels with Fairy Lights

This exhibition felt different to some of the others I’ve seen at Bankside. It was lighter and made the artists seem more approachable. I’m going to be visiting Bankside Gallery more often.

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Exhibition – some highlights

The opening day of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 207th Exhibition took place on 3rd April 2019. The exhibition is on at The Mall Galleries until 18th April 2019. This is my must-see exhibition every year. It is a showcase of the breadth and depth of this medium; a display of many styles of work, all in watercolour or water-soluble mediums.  I managed another visit this week on my way to some meetings in London and found it just as inspiring the second time around.

If you can’t get to the exhibition, the RI’s 207th Exhibition catalogue is online on their website.

Some Highlights

Some of the paintings I was drawn to were the simplest ones. It’s a real challenge to do simplicity this well. It takes exceptional expertise.

The outstanding works by Lillias August RI were all worth mentioning and one in particular was acknowledged with two awards: Empty Nests was the recipient of The Escoda Barcelona Award as well as The Megan Fitzoliver Brush Award.  I didn’t manage to get photographs of Lillias’ paintings, although they can be seen here on her Facebook page.


Harbour Church, LIttle Kitty and All Girls Together. Paintings by Rosa Sepple PRI.
Harbour Church, LIttle Kitty and All Girls Together. Paintings by Rosa Sepple PRI.

RI President, Rosa Sepple’s collection were a particular highlight. Her painting, Harbour Choice was the centre piece of the main gallery. It is a large painting with a real presence that draws the viewer in. I saw one visitor standing alone in front of it for ages gesturing at various features in the painting with his catalogue, while he ran a very personal commentary to himself.  He was completely absorbed in the painting.

Some collections

Chris Forsey RI exhibited a collection of works showing rugged coastal views of North West Cornwall.


Shirley Trevena never fails to captivate with her vibrant colours and shifted perspective of the world. Always different, always beautifully individual.


Guillemots, Sea Beet and Tree Mallow (Top), Wild Swimmers, Liquid Gold I, and Liquid Gold II by Deborah Walker RI RSMA
Guillemots, Sea Beet and Tree Mallow (Top), Wild Swimmers, Liquid Gold I, and Liquid Gold II by Deborah Walker RI RSMA

I had to wonder whether the magnificent monolith in Deborah Walker’s painting was the one of the stacks at the Green Bridge on the Pembrokeshire coast. It reminded me so much of standing there in the wind sketching the birds last June.


David Poxon RI incorporates texture and light to give old equipment a new lease of life.


Although I didn’t get photographs of his work, another artist whose work never disappoints is David Parfitt RI. His collection in the main gallery show his mastery of light in the landscape.

And two slightly quirky ones

Run by Louise Rowe
Run by Louise Rowe

Dynamic and different, and with a real sense of a love of running.

And finally the smallest painting in the exhibition: only the size of a postcard – including the frame.

Self-Portrait by Desk Light by Suzon Lagarde
Self-Portrait by Desk Light by Suzon Lagarde

It is difficult to get good photographs of the works on the walls – my photographs don’t do many of them justice. And this is just a small selection of the exceptional work on the walls in this exhibition. If you can get to London before next Wednesday, I highly recommend a visit to The Mall Galleries

The 207th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours is on daily from 10am to 5pm.

Spring exhibition in Long Melford

The Society of East Anglian Watercolourists’ Spring exhibition in Long Melford is my second exhibition of this year. This is stacking up to be a busy year for my art.  The exhibition will be open to the public from 18th to 28th April. It’s a 10 day window of opportunity to go and immerse yourself in some of the best watercolours in East Anglia.

The poster for this exhibition is a beautiful work of art in itself. It was designed by Lori Bentley and the background image was painted by SEAW member, Gilly Marklew.  Scroll down to see which paintings I’ll be showing.SEAW spring exhibition in Long Melford

My submissions for the spring exhibition in Long Melford:

My changing style is reflected in the variation of these paintings. Normally, I would curate a more cohesive collection. But for this time, it’s just an honest reflection of pieces that speak to me now.   None of these have been on exhibition before so its a first outing for them all.

Open Studio: Rainforest and Reef

Open Studio Rainforest Reef! Its all about to happen. I’m heading home with a collection of watercolours and a few experimental abstract acrylics in my suitcase.

Open Studio Rainforest Reef

I’ve had the most amazing two months of new places, new experiences and new paintings. We’ve travelled through Bangkok, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Sydney, Queensland (Mission Beach and Airlie Beach), Melbourne and finally Singapore. I am sitting beside the swimming pool in the heat on the 6th floor of our hotel in Singapore as I write. This evening we board our flight back home and I am simultaneously sad that my trip is at an end, and pleased to be going home. I can’t wait to see my sons and sleep in my own bed. I am itching to get back into my studio and get started preparing for next weekend’s open studio.

Open Studio Rainforest Reef: What will be on the walls

One of the best aspects of watercolour is their portability. Paintings dry fast and you don’t need a lot of kit (although I must admit I brought along far more than I needed).

Before I left, I planned to paint a series of 20 x 20 watercolours for an open studio. Paper was cut to size, frames were sourced and set up ready to be ordered for my return. I wasn’t sure how many paintings I would manage to do so I couldn’t pre-order.

Once I got to Queensland, I was entranced by the rainforest most of all. I’ve always loved trees. Ever since I was able to climb my first tree I have enjoyed their sheer scale, their majesty and their individuality. So, right now, there are more rainforest paintings than reef paintings – although I do have a lot more ideas for reef paintings that will no doubt emerge in time.

My surprise discover on this trip was the fabulous art centre at Mission Beach. Where I was able to join a workshop on Abstracting the Landscape with Australian artist, Glenda Charles. The weekend was inspiring, terrifying and energising.  I will have the two works I completed on that weekend available for Open Studio visitors to see. If you can’t make it to the Open Studio, I will be posting more about each of those two paintings when I have had time to scan all my work.

Thank you for following my creative journey. I really appreciate the fact that you’re still reading after all this time. If you know anyone else who might enjoy my ramblings, please feel free to share this blog.  I would be very grateful.

More back in the UK.

Watercolour Sketchbook in Digital Form for my ArtAusTrailasia Project

There’s an emerging digital watercolour sketchbook of my current trip. I love travelling and try to go somewhere every year – it inspires my painting. Right now I’m a long way from home, travelling in Queensland, Australia exploring Rainforests and Reefs.

Watercolour - Rainforest in the Rain
Rainforest in the Rain. Watercolour 20 x 20cm

We came via Bangkok and Siem Reap in Cambodia because there were things to be seen along the way. Travel is such a cornerstone of my painting, I decided to make the most of it on this trip and create a digital journal along the way. Rather than keeping a daily sketchbook, I’ve painted an A5 sketch each day. Each one is then photographed it so I have a record and finally, left it in a public place for someone to find and keep.

So far I’ve painted 43 and I hope to make it a total of 60 before I get home. Each image gets put on Instagram and in a Facebook album with the tag #ArtAustTrailAsia.

Digital Watercolour SketchbookThis is my digital sketchbook.

So far the watercolour sketches have been well received. I mainly leave the paintings without telling anyone, and let them be discovered later. Often I’ve been on a walk, leaving the painting on a table at the beginning of the trail. Its always gone by the time I get back. A few people have left messages on Facebook or Instagram to say they’ve got a painting and to let me know where the painting landed up.

The last few days I’ve been painting on a sailing boat with 22 other passengers. By the last day people were watching the emerging watercolour and asking if they could have the next painting. This was very good for my plein air painting. I’m normally too self conscious to paint in public and hate being watched as I work. But this trip has helped enormously and I’ve become much more relaxed about painting when other people are around me. What’s helped you paint in public? It can be a daunting prospect.

And a Watercolour Sketchbook to take home

They haven’t all been  given away. There will be paintings coming home with me too.  I have put down a few pieces in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, and have started a series of 20 x 20 watercolours which will be available for sale when I get back home. There will be some bigger works too. I am loving painting the rainforests and the reefs of Australia so much that I’ll be holding an Open Studio weekend in July when I get back home. If you’re in the Cambridge area and would like to come along, sign up for my newsletter in the box on the right hand side of my blog for information about dates and times. News of my Rainforest and Reef Open Studio will be coming soon. Watch this space (or my newsletter)

And now for some non watercolour sketchbook news:

I’m thrilled to have had two paintings accepted for the Babylon Arts Summer Open Exhibition. Rhododendrons in the Garden and Alliums in the Garden will be on show at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. The exhibition runs from July 29th to August 28th and will feature the work of 40 artists. The gallery is a lovely venue right on the river bank and its well worth a day out of boat watching, art viewing and some good places to eat lunch.

 

Just over a year ago I was honoured to be offered (and accept) the role of Chair of the Society of East Anglian Watercolourists. The society has for many years benefitted in various ways from links with the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.  It’s been an exciting year of working with a committee of extremely talented artists to bring in some new initiatives for the society’s 70 members. In the context of my art life this is what has been keeping me busy. I have two years left of my term so expect blogging to be sporadic.

Watercolour painting exhibition www.SEAW.co.uk Call for Entries 2017

One other piece of Society of East Anglian Watercolourists news: The annual Selected Exhibition which is due to take place from 30 August to 17 September this year is now open for submissions from non-members. If you’re an East Anglian Watercolourists – consider submitting some work for our exhibition. More information on this at www.seaw.co.uk

Open Studio Give Away

This is my third year of holding an Open Studio. Joining over 300 other Cambridge Open Studios artists is a highlight of my year.  I love all of it – the planning, the build up and most of all, meeting interesting people who come for a browse.

This year, to celebrate my 2016 Open Studio I’ve decided to do a giveaway

The winner of the draw will receive this limited edition signed and numbered giclee print of Poppies in the Sunlight.  This print comes mounted and ready to put into a 12 x 16 inch frame.

There are plenty of opportunities to get your name in the draw (see below):

Win Poppies in the Sunlight at my 2016 Open Studio

The draw will take place at 6pm on Sunday 24th July.

Your name goes in the draw every time you do one of the following:

  • Visit my Open Studio and put your name in the box. I will be open from 11am to 6pm on the 16th, 17th, 23rd and 24th July.
  • Sign up for my email newsletter. (I only do 3 or 4 newsletters a year).
  • Like my Facebook page
  • Share the Facebook post at the top of my page (you will need make sure the privacy setting on the post is ‘public’ so that I can see the share and add your name to the draw)
  • Sign up to receive my blog by email
  • Follow me on Instagram and pop a comment into the post with about this draw on my feed.

That’s 6 opportunities to get your name in the draw. You could have 6 chances of winning this print.

(About this painting: Every year a few of my works seem to be the zeitgeist pieces of the year. This is one for 2016. It was painted last summer and was then used as the poster image for the Spring Exhibition of the Society of East Anglian Watercolourists Spring Exhibition. The original painting was the first painting to sell at the exhibition. For me this painting represent exuberence and zest for life: a joyful painting)

What’s on show at my Open Studio 2016

This year I have

  • 90 of my Running With Brushes paintings on display.
  • A number of  new watercolours, some of which stem from my South African travels, and some from a recent trip to the island of Paxos.
  • I’ve invested in a top quality scanner and giclee printer so this year will also be showing a range of signed limited edition prints mounted and ready to be framed for the wall.
  • Seven new greeting cards designs join the collection of evergreen favourites.

I am aware that time is precious and I so value the effort people make to come and see my open studio. My working studio, untidy as it is when I paint, will be open for visitors to look around and I’ll be there to answer any questions and chat about my inspiration and my approach to painting.

And if the weather is kind to us, we’ll even be able to have our tea and cake in the garden. The next two weekends are looking to be fabulous!

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.

SEAW Selected Exhibition 2015

SEAW Selected Exhibition 2015

The annual SEAW selected exhibition started on Monday 5th October with a preview and prize giving event. 182 paintings were delivered to the Wymondham Art Centre on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning by 38 hopeful artists. By Monday afternoon,  judges Olwen Jones RWS, Julia Sorrell RI and Ann Roberts of WAC had selected 82 paintings for the exhibition and the hanging committee was hard at work putting them on display.

SEAW Selected Exhibition – 2015 Prize winners

SEAW Selected Exhibition 2015 - winning paintings
The winning paintings – Photography by Janet Hathiramani

The judges awarded six prizes from these paintings:

Mary, by John Glover was awarded the RWS Presidents Award and cup, and will be hung at the RWS Open Exhibition at the Bankside Gallery in 2016.

Other prizes were awarded to Tony White, Ruth McCabe, Alan Noyes, Gilly Marklew (who was one of my first watercolour tutors) and finally, to my painting, The Amphitheatre. I was over the moon to have received this endorsement. Its a first for me and I’m deeply honoured to have my painting hung on the same wall as such a talented and experienced group of watercolourists.

The Exhibition is on until October 18th.

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.