Tree in Watercolour: Old Man of the River

Tree in Watercolour. Old Man of the River (10 x 15 cm)
Old Man of the River (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

Inspiration for today’s tree in watercolour came from outside my window where a majestic old tree leaned gently over the little weir on the river.  I rather liked the seemingly protective angle of the old trunk over the water, and the knotty evidence of it’s longevity progressing upward towards the branches which gradually bent further and further towards the surface of the river.

This painting is Number 20 of the 30 Painting in 30 Days challenge, and is for sale on the Running With Brushes website.

More tree in watercolour paintings

Painting Trees With No Green

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Blooming Jacaranda

Snow Sport Painting: Snow Surfing

Snow Sport painting: Snow Surfing (watercolour  28 x 38cm)
Snow Surfing (watercolour 28 x 38cm)

In my ‘painting speed’ challenge, I’ve done a second snow sport painting – this time snowboarding.  I debated long and hard about the colours in this painting. Although my first instinct was to make the snow boarder stand out more by giving him garments in a contrasting colour to the snow and the sky. But in the end, I stuck with the blues and I’m pleased I have. It makes him seem more at one with his surroundings.

This painting is the Day 16 one for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge

What have I tried to capture in this Snow Sport Painting?

  • Speed
  • Liberation
  • Agility, and
  • Fun – possibly almost as much fun as I had painting it.

I’ll soon be putting together one of  my infrequent email newsletters to let my mailing list members know about all my exhibition plans for the year. If you want an early alert and invitations to  each of my private viewing evenings, please sign up for my email newsletter using the form on the right hand side of my website.

Day 14: Damsel Fly in Watercolour

Damsel Fly in watercolour (15 x 10cm)
Damsel Fly (watercolour 15 x 10cm)

Yesterday, I had no thoughts of painting a damsel fly in watercolour. There are times when I have no idea where the inspiration for the day’s painting will strike.

Why paint a damsel fly in watercolour?

I’ve been working through an 0nline course on watercolour glazing which was a offered in to early birds in return for a review. (I’ve not written my review yet because I’ve not gone through the whole course.)

I already know a lot of what’s been covered so far, but there are some great exercises on mark-making with different brushes. I watched the session on round brushes yesterday in which one little demo was of a damsel fly with wings spread. That’s when I thought I would try the exercise, but with the damsel fly in a different position. This is a common blue damsel fly, and the painting is going to Running With Brushes. It’s also my Day 14 painting for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge.

And strangely enough, my inspiration to paint a damsel fly led me on to an idea for a series I’ll start posting tomorrow.




Another tree painting: Blooming Jacaranda

Tree painting:  Blooming Jacaranda (watercolour 17 x 13 cm)
Blooming Jacaranda (watercolour 17 x 13 cm)

The latest in the series of tree painting is the 13th painting in the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge.

Growing up in Johannesburg meant seeing streets lined with Jacaranda trees which burst into a profusion of blooms every summer. The colour is unmistakeable – a beautiful mauve blue that makes the city look like one big blue  arboretum.

Tree Painting

I’m taking a break from my tree painting series for a while now, but I will be back to it some time in the future. Trees make such wonderful painting subjects, they are too good to ignore.

Tree Painting: Spring, Summer, Autumn

Spring, Summer, Autumn (watercolour tree painting 15 x 10 cm)
Spring, Summer, Autumn (watercolour painting 15 x 10 cm)

Day 12 of the 30 Paintings in 30 Day challenge is another tree study (I’m in tree painting mode these days so expect a few more before we’ve done).

This little watercolour painting is available to buy on the Running With Brushes website. The message in the image is about progress. Regular readers will notice (I hope) a change to my website. In my view, there is little point in repeating exactly the same activity over and over with no discernible change. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t repeat something – the key is in the ‘no discernible change’ part of that sentence.

So, when it comes to my website, I’m embarking on a programme of improving it’s efficiency. I already pre-write and auto-schedule posts on the weekend for the weekdays. Now I’m working on other time savers.

Tree painting

Having posted my tree painting using no green paint yesterday, I’ve decided to stick with trees for a while, but work on treating every one differently. This tree painting definitely had a few dollops of green paint, but they were painted entirely with one 2cm flat brush.

Tomorrow’s tree is shaping up quite nicely already.

What’s in my artists studio: Folders and aimless painting

When I published the first What’s In My Artists Studio post last Friday, Judy Barends mentioned in a comment that she was also putting her partly completed painting in folders. Great idea. So I’ve followed Judy’s advice and divided my paintings into five categories – all in folders – four of which you can see in this photograph. The fifth is a Work In Progress folder for paintings that are almost done, but need to rest while I think about their progress. These sometimes stick around for a long time before the inspiration strikes and I know exactly how I want to finish them.

Folders for organising incomplete paintings. Getting it all together in my artists studio
Folders for organising incomplete paintings

One of the things I do with my scrap paper when the spirit moves me, is just play with the paints. Laying down water and various intensities of colour, and then adding a second colour a bit further down the page. With a clean wet brush, just lightly join the two , leave the paper at a fairly steep angle and watch what the pigments do. There’s a lot to learn from these little aimless exercises, and the best part of it is that sometimes you get some glorious results which are beautiful  in their own right.

Paper offcuts. Perfect for experimenting with colour. Watercolour artist: Vandy Massey
Paper offcuts. Perfect for experimenting with colour.

Although this isn’t a completed painting, I think the wash on this little pigment play is so lovely, I’m nominating it to be my Day 10 painting for 30 paintings in 30 days.

Other posts in the What’s in my Artists Studio series:

– What’s in my Artists Studio: Incomplete paintings – now all neatly arranged in folders. Now when I need scrap for colour testing, or a wash to start a new painting, I know exactly where to look.

Next post in the series: What’s in my Artists Studio: Palettes

What’s in my Studio? – Incomplete Paintings

For some time I’ve been thinking it might be useful to create a series of posts about the things in my studio that I find useful, and include a few tips along the way. The beginning of a fresh year seems a good day to sort out my studio, clear out the items I no longer need, and re-use some of the rest.

One thing I learned during my 100 Wash Challenge days, which was reiterated in a workshop with Jean Haines, was to keep a collection of washes waiting to be worked on. Over the years I’ve built up a fair collection, some of which have been around for a while.

Inspiration or innovation
Inspiration or innovation

Having a collection like this can be useful. If I’m blocked or lacking inspiration, looking through the collection can be a great way of getting started again. In some cases, looking at a wash with fresh eyes after a while away from it reveals something in the paint that strongly suggests a subject and a painting will emerge. This method is the antithesis of the planned painting. Instead, I view it as a fantastic way of unlocking creativity. Looking at a wash and asking myself, “what could I do with this?” generates some fresh ideas for paintings.

And then there are times when its helpful just to do a wash without intending to paint a complete picture. This is a good way of keeping up your stock of first washes. On January 1st I spent a couple of hours in my studio sorting, tidying and getting my ideas in shape for the coming year. This was my collection of washes and as some of them have been around for a while, it was time to do a rigorous clear out so I could make space to refresh the collection.

Sorting through the possibilities
Sorting through the possibilities

Here are the methods I will use to deal with these. They have been divided into groups with the following chritreia

– Have potential and have been put aside to be worked on directly
– Washed back to see if a fainter image could provide an underwash – some are successful some are not
– Lend themselves to being worked on in new media to create a mixed media painting
– Can be cut into smaller paintings and completed for Running With Brushes
– Viewed with fresh eyes, this work can’t be redeemed. In this case, I use the back of the paper to test colour intensity or combinations while I’m working on another painting. Nothing is wasted.

And now I have space for more new washes.

I hope you found this useful. The next What’s in my Studio post will be published in a week’s time.

Day 2: 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Shanty Town Energy (Watercolour 25 x 25.5 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Shanty Town Energy (Watercolour 25 x 25.5 cm)

This is my Day 2 painting of Leslie Saeta’s 30 Paintings in 30 Days. I spent some of today looking through those old paintings which weren’t complete and putting the finishing touches to them. This painting reminds me of the shanty towns outside Johannesburg where electricity is a major issue.

The shanty towns are notorious for hijacking their power by illegally tapping into the grid. Obviously this is a cost to all the utility company’s paying customers, but aside from that, there’s a deeper social cost to shanty towns. Without proper infrastructure, the residents are at risk from bad wiring, pollution and crime.

Education is the solution to the world’s poverty. Until we create opportunities for the poorest communities to build businesses and progress, the shanty town problem isn’t going away.

The pylons standing tall above the home-made shacks dominate the landscape. Their untidy structures contrast with the sort of slick modern equipment found in the developed parts of the country, and the smoky air leaves an orange haze suspended in a thick blanket.

Shanty Town Energy is available on my website.

New Year, Fresh Ideas: 2014 Art Plan

New Year is a perfect opportunity to review the past year and think about how to make the most of 2014.

2013 Review

Wow – that was a busy year. It was a transformational year for my painting too. Firsts for me in 2013 were:

Out of the studio:
– First major joint exhibition. This took place in March when I shared an exhibition with Mark Judson and Denise Shearing. It was a great experience: the planning, the setup and the sales. It was a massive confidence builder as it resulted in commissions which have taken me all the way through to Christmas.
– Started Running With Brushes in July. 25 other artists have joined the project and we have now sold 142 paintings, raising over £2100 for Care for Casualties in the process. 312 paintings have been completed for the project to date.
– Held my first Open Studio event as part of the Saffron Walden Open Studios weekend.
– Made my first online sales this year.

– Tried my hand at mixed media and working in acrylics on a 2 day workshop with the marvellous Georgia Mansur (expertly organised by Mita Higton)
– 77 Running With Brushes paintings – great for brush mileage
– Explored new subjects and managed my first portrait and figure painting.
– Took part in Leslie Saeta’s 30 Paintings in 30 Days – more brush mileage and a great way to build up my Running With Brushes works.

Things that didn’t work so well:
– I spent a lot of time travelling to take paintings to exhibitions that just didn’t work for me. Some because they were too busy, and some because they were badly organised.
– Although I took my paints and paper with me while I was on work trips, I still find it difficult to get into painting mode when I’m away from my studio.

Here are some of my most popular paintings of 2013:

2014 – The Plan

Out of the Studio:
– I’m planning to be more selective about the exhibitions I take part in during 2014. The time I spend in preparing for an exhibition is painting time lost and I’ve decided it must be worthwhile to warrant that sacrifice. So for 2014, I will only take part in selection exhibitions if I can submit my work online, or it is a local exhibition. I’ll be cutting out those that I’ve tried in past years and that haven’t worked for me for 2 years.
– As other bloggers will know, writing a blog takes a huge amount of time. It’s been wonderful having new readers commenting this year, and I will continue to blog. I enjoy experimenting with paint and the posts about my experiments seem to be some of the most useful. I’m considering a new series on What’s in my Studio which will go through the tools, materials and references I use. I hope this will prove a useful subject for other artists.
– In addition to Saffron Walden Open Studios, I’ve signed up for Cambridge Open Studios this year. That will give people one weekend at the end of April/beginning of May, and two weekends in July to visit my studio. Last year, I loved meeting people who wanted to talk about painting and were interested in my work. More of that in this coming year.
– Lots of exhibition visits, particularly at the Mall Galleries where there are many exhibitions of works from artist I admire and who inspire me to keep on painting and stretching myself.
– Expand my online sales which got off to a good start in 2013.

– Continuing my pursuit of brush mileage to improve my painting skills, I am taking part in Leslie’s January 30 Paintings in 30 Days series. I pre-painted my first share which was actually posted online a couple of days ago. But as it’s a gift for someone whose birthday is today, it was done a couple of days ago so I’ve counted it as day 1.
– I’ve spent some of today organising my studio, and resolved to spend more time doing paint exercises and recording the results of my pigment studies.
– There is a pile of magazines and books in my studio which I have read superficially. 2014 will be the year to go through them in more detail and spend time making notes and working on ideas and tips I gather from them.
– More time spent on challenging subjects. Portraits, animals and figure work will be on the agenda.
– Texture, texture, texture – it’s thrilling and I love it when the texture transforms a painting.
– I have a fabulous week of Plein Air painting in France with Olivia Quintin and Fabio Cembranelli planned for September. I’m challenging myself to get comfortable painting outside the studio.
– Doing three open studio weekends means I must paint enough new work to make it an interesting and worthwhile experience for visitors. Setting deadlines for myself is a great way to make me paint, paint, paint.

Happy New Year everyone, and Happy Painting.