Painting Fresh Flowers with Olivia Quintin

We ended summer with a celebration – painting fresh flowers with Olivia Quintin for two days.

A full house of 14 artists came to spend the weekend painting fresh flowers. They came from the local area, from 2 hours drive away south of London, and some even flew in from Holland. From my experience of painting in Belle Île with Olivia, I’d say she attracts wonderfully diverse groups of artist – all of whom have one common factor: the desire to paint with Olivia.

Feedback from the workshop was overwhelmingly good with most of the artists wanting to come back and paint with Olivia again next year.
(Yes – we are planning another workshop for 2016)

Olivia’s preparation for the workshop was impressive. She came ready with exercises designed to allow artists to paint the same subject at each stage, but at a level that suited their own experience.

The day before the workshop we loaded up with flowers. The weather was cool so they were kept fresh outside in the shade until they were ready. Our garden was even more blossom-filled than usual for a couple of days.

ready for Painting Fresh Flowers
Fresh flowers ready for painting

At each stage, Olivia demonstrated the particular watercolour technique she wanted her students to master.

Olivia demonstrates
Olivia demonstrates

It didn’t take long before everyone was completely enthralled and happily practicing new skills.

totally absorbed in painting fresh flowers
Hard at work – totally absorbed in painting fresh flowers

Painting Fresh Flowers – A few demonstrations and results

Olivia's Roses
Olivia’s Roses
painting fresh flowers in a glass
Olivia Quintin’s demonstration flowers in a glass

And a couple of my little exercises:

Freshly Picked by Vandy Massey
Freshly Picked
Cosmos in a Glass by Vandy Massey
Cosmos in a Glass

Olivia brought her glorious watercolour earrings along with her, much to the delight of those with pierced ears, and some who got in a bit of early Christmas shopping. Olivia’s earrings and other watercolour jewellery are sold in her Etsy shop and it was brilliant to be able to see them in the flesh, succumb to the temptation and buy a few pairs.

Olivia's Earrings
Olivia’s Earrings

Our two days of painting fresh flowers went past in a flash. My Facebook feed is showing images of flower paintings being done by some of the attendees – so the flower painting continues beyond the workshop. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see some more of my workshop paintings posted there, and more to come.

Valentines Day painting – for friends

Valentines Day painting

This little Valentines Day painting was done on Saturday – but didn’t get around to posting it.  In Finland and Estonia Valentines Day is celebrated as a friendship day, rather than one of romantic love.  So despite living in England, I’m posting this in the spirit of Finland and Estonia’s Valentines Day tradition.

If you want to know a bit more about how this Valentines Day painting was done, I’ll be posting it to the Wash a Week Challenge blog.

Another Valentines Day painting:

And as its traditional to give flowers, I’m also sharing one that makes me smile. Sun Worshipers evokes hot summers days – just around the corner for us now that we’ve passed winter’s midpoint.

These are my Valentines Day paintings for you, dear blog readers. Hope this year brings much love into your life.


Sunflower watercolour


Watercolour Plans and Explorations

This week has been one of watercolour plans and some explorations.

Watercolour plan 1 : Open Studios

Watercolour plan 1: The start of the week brought paperwork for Open Studios – and the requirement to make some commitments to painting fresh work and exhibiting. I’ve decided to do both Saffron Walden Open studios at the end of April and beginning of May, and Cambridge Open Studios in July. More on these closer to the time.

Watercolour plan 2 :  Artfinder

Watercolour plan 2: I took a decision to do a blitz sale on Artfinder to make space for new works in preparation for these exhibitions. This has proved quite successful so far and 5 paintings went over the past few days. It’s often quite difficult to see a painting go – we become attached to them somehow. But I’m excited about developing new lines of work this year and this will spur me on to get my brushes going.

Watercolour Exploration 1: Wash a Week Challenge

This week’s post explores Daniel Smith’s Lunar Blue. Here’s a little abstract treescape painting I did using only this colour. This will go up on the Running With Brushes site when I have time to post it there. (Life is overtaking me a bit at the moment.)

Watercolour exploration - wash a week entry
Wash a week – Week 4 – Lunar Blue

Following Last weeks Wash a Week post on Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Violet, I was asked how similar the gold is to Indian Yellow. I happen to have a tube of Indian Yellow I hadn’t yet tried. Perfect excuse to have a go so here’s the little colour swatch I did to see the difference. Separately, they do look quite similar because they are both strong colours. Put them together and you can see the difference.
Watercolour week yellow and gold comparison

Watercolour Exploration 2: Abstracts

On Friday evening I went to the monthly meeting of the Saffron Walden Art Society to see a demonstration of Abstract painting by local artist Joyce Crabb. I’m increasingly interested in Abstract art, and I think probably lean towards semi-abstract myself in some of my looser work. I’m not sure I’ll get comfortable with pure abstract work – at least not for some while, if ever. But I will be experimenting a bit more on the fringes I suspect.

Watercolour Plans 3: Tidying up the studio

I’m a book junkie (and a colour junkie as I’ve said before). I have a fair collection of art books and magazines in my studio. When I set up the space for my painting I insisted on having a corner with a sofa and table, as well as a bookshelf, so that I could sit quietly and enjoy dipping into this exciting reference material and inspiration.

Watercolour plan - tidy the studio


A year or so ago, I did a workshop in oil painting with Stephen Higton and decided to start doing a bit of work in other mediums, so I bought a large easel, amongst other things. Its fabulous to have it, but in a small studio, it was always a bit in the way. No matter which way I positioned it, the bookshelf was obscured and it became a mission to reach it.  Result: books not read, or books and magazines stacked all over the sofa and any other free surface so I could get to them.

This weekend I had a brainwave about repositioning things and got stuck in to moving furniture before I got started on painting. The result:

Watercolour plan - after the tidy
Space to read!

Watercolour Journal & 2015 Wash Challenge

I’ve fallen in love with my watercolour journal and I’d like to introduce you to it.

Two years ago I was given a wonderful bound book of heavy weight Arches watercolour paper. It was so beautiful that it took a month before I could pluck up the courage to put brush to paper. And even after I had made my virgin mark on page one, I was still so worried about messing it up, that I was afraid to paint in it.

Now the Wash a Week Challenge is well and truly up and running (I’ve just published my second post) and I think I’ve found its purpose in life. My beautifully bound book as become my watercolour journal.

Inside my watercolour journal:

Watercolour journal red page
Reds and pinks – transparent and opaque

In no particular order, each week in the Wash a Week Challenge, I will be exploring colours I find useful or exciting, or those I want to learn about.  And from time to time, I will share the journal’s progress. If you want to see snippets of the journal’s contents, you’ll see how it’s being used in my week by week posts.

Watercolour journal blue page
Phtalo Blue – two manufacturers

Pages combine specific colour studies and references, with little sketches.

Watercolour journal yellow page
Exploring daffodils on a yellow page

And in some instances, just an opportunity to observe and record shapes, colours and tonal values.

QuinacridonesIn other news this week – I found watercolour treasure in my local art supply shop this week. I’ll be covering the Quinacridone family of colours. I’ve always loved Quinacridone Gold and when I discovered the Daniel Smith range of watercolours in the shop, the opportunity to fill up my palette with most of the rest of the range was just too much to resist.  Exploring them all is bound to be good fun.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading down to London for my first work meetings of the year. Perfect opportunity for a meeting with Doug Shaw at The Mall Galleries where the Artists and Illustrators Artist of the Year show is on starting tomorrow.


Garden sketching in France

Garden sketching - hollyhock flowerWhat do garden sketching in France and Facebook have in common? I’ll tell you.

I’m ambivalent about Facebook for the most part. I know many people are annoyed by the adverts, but I kinda accept that as part of getting a free service. The thing that does wind me up is when the gnomes who build the Facebook engine take it upon themselves to decide what I should or should not see of my friends’ news, and indeed which of the people who have signed up to see my page actually get any of the feeds.

However, overall I think it’s a pretty amazing resource if used well. I find it invaluable for keeping track of my family and friends across the world. It’s also a powerful collaboration platform for artists. I’ve met so many wonderfully talented people who share their knowledge and insights online with great generosity.

It was a photograph of a beautiful stoneware pot that became the catalyst for our trip which led to some garden sketching in France.

Mark Judson posted a photograph of this stunning stoneware pot just out of the kiln. I’m a sucker for gorgeous ceramics.  Just a tiny bit impulsively, I bought it there and then – and then had to work out how to collect it from the centre of France.
Stoneware pot by Mark Judson

We love rural France. We really don’t need much of an excuse to hop across the channel, so with a bit of a nudge from Facebook, off we went to collect my newly acquired treasure. Since Chenevaux was where I first started painting in earnest, I can never visit without getting out my brushes.

Caroline’s garden is in glorious bloom and there was plenty of sketching inspiration all around us.  The 86 rose plants make the garden a wonderfully fragrant place to relax. This is not a formal manicured collection of flowerbeds. Rather, it’s a celebration of nature with mixed borders that combine self-sown and carefully placed plants that complement each other perfectly.

Garden sketching - hollyhock flower
Garden sketching – hollyhock flowerAnd a little more delicate

Garden Sketching subjects:

A single red Hollyhock flower caught my eye. I love the depth of the colour and the fat blousy shape of the petals as they cluster up the tall stem.

And scrambling over the gravel in the driveway, and under the rosebushes, delicate blue Nigella flowers echo the blue of the sky.

Garden sketching - Nigella Flower
Garden sketching – Nigella Flower

Sometimes there’s as much satisfaction in sketching tiny elements as there is in painting a complex composition. It all helps to hone observation skills and master shape and tone.

Watercolour Flower Painting: Anemone Pair

watercolour flower painting: Anemone Pair (watercolour 10 x 15 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Anemone Pair (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

Another watercolour flower painting with a slightly different treatment in the finishing off. I love the lush greenness of the background. I have anemones in my garden which is packed full of plants. This has the same sort of feeling as those flowerbeds which are just jammed with blossoms and leaves as my Japanese anemones come into bloom.

This painting is Day 9 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days, and it’s also available on the Running with Brushes website.

Another post about Watercolour Flower Painting:

Day 7: Qualifying Time

Qualifying time. (watercolour 51 x 35 cm) Artist: Vandy massey
Qualifying time. (watercolour 51 x 35 cm)

One of the challenges I have set myself for this year is to experiment (and hopefully have some successes) with painting more dynamic images. Paintings have the ability to create wonderful atmosphere. I started on this path by painting landscapes which had a sense of great scale and stillness.

Now it’s time to work on capturing a sense of speed. I started this theme by painting a skier in motion which I finished just before the end of the year. Race cars are my second speed subject and I have a few other paintings in the queue which will have a similar energy.

This is the 7th painting in the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge.

Day 6: Budding

Budding (watercolour 10 x 15 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Budding (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

I took the opportunity in the last 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge, to paint a load of small paintings for Running With Brushes. This time I’m doing a mix of small paintings for the project, and some larger ones. I need to be sure that I have fresh work available for my Open Studios sessions in April and July so I’m getting a head start on that now, and the challenge is a great way to get started.

This week I have three small paintings for Running With Brushes. I’ve pre-painted a couple because I’m back to doing my midweek London trips again as from Tuesday which means no painting for at least 3 days a week. So here’s one of the small ones. It’s called Budding and it will be available to buy in support of Care for Casualties.

Day 5: Sunshine on the Field

In the past month I’ve come across two professional artists who unrepentantly paint a wide variety of subjects, mediums and styles. This discovery was music to my ears. I love the exploration of the new: new ideas, new materials, new subject matter, new styles of painting.

Sunshine on the Field (watercolour 16 x 35 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Sunshine on the Field (watercolour 16 x 35 cm)

Recently I’ve noticed some of my paintings have more than one style of painting within the same work. This one is an example of that. The background of this painting is quite tightly painted with hard edges on the sunlit trees on the horizon across the field, and the lines of their shadows on the field clearly marked. As we get closer to the foreground, the paint gets looser and looser, ending in the loose red poppies in the foreground.  There was a danger that this painting would end up with two conflicting focal points.  But the splashes of red poppies that progress across the field solve that potential problem. They lead the viewer’s on a journey through the field to the dark shadows under the trees, and then back down to the foreground to revel in the luscious paint of the red poppy blooms.

This is painting 5 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days.

Day 3: 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Love Tokens (watercolour and acrylic ink 9 x 13 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Love Tokens (watercolour and acrylic ink 9 x 13 cm)

Day 3 of 30: Love Tokens.

An under-wash of watercolour, washed back to bring out the texture of the paper, and followed up with a applications of acrylic ink. The ink has a glorious way of diffusing in little fractal shapes when sprayed with water while still wet. You do have to be careful not to apply too much water or you just end up with a flood. You also have to apply each ink colour separately where you don’t want the colours to merge. In this instance, a layer of red was applied to the blossoms first. Then when that was dry, the blue ink was added. Finally, when the blue was dry, a wash of yellow ink was added, and while that was wet, the red was intensified in some areas, allowing the two colours to meld.