There’s some wonderful moorland in the Peak District.  One of my favourite local walks is up on Stanage Edge.  Gritstone and heather with a skyline that seems to stretch on forever.  This time of year, before the heather blooms, makes for an interesting landscape with some fabulous colours.  The deep russets and purple of the shrubs contrasted with the sienna and yellows of the grasses. And as the  weather improves we get those days with intense cerulean skies and bright, bright light.


Endless Skies

Here’s a day just like that.  This day and photograph inspired some experimentation. I often like to play around with different versions of the same scene, in part preparation for larger paintings and sometimes just for the process.  After working through some ideas on composition and colour in my sketch OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbook, I firstly tried a small watercolour and pastel sketch. I wanted to try out some colours on a larger scale and also see how they worked together on the paper.  These are current favourite combination, Perylene Maroon and Indigo.

Mixed Media Experiments. 

From this I developed another two versions, one a small acrylic and oil on canvas the other mixed media on paper.  The latter was great fun as I used tissue paper on watercolour paper first then primed it before painting to create a lot of texture.  So which one is your favourite?

Mixed media on paper
Mixed media on paper
Acrylic and oil on canvas.
Acrylic and oil on canvas.




What an amazing place Sicily is.  It’s about 6 months since our visit, we had 10 days in the Aeolian islands where we visited Stromboli, Lipari and Sicily, beautiful islands in a blue Mediterranean sea.  On Stromboli climbing the volcano to look down into the crater at sunset was an experience that has left me with a profound sense of the power of the planet.  To look down onto molten rock as the earth spews it out, to breath in the choking gas and steam, truly magical.

And time to sketch. I spent a lot of my time happily wandering the streets of the little towns where we stayed finding a spot to perch and set up my paints and sketch book and capturing a lovely view of a white church nestling in the trees, a distant island, a stunning view of hills and the sea.

Sometimes when I’ve been out sketching I’ve found myself wanting to capture everything I see and I’ve struggled with focussing on the key elements in front of me or simply missing bits out, because it’s just not possible or desirable to capture everything.  However in Sicily I found this happening, the process of leaving things out was much easier, I was able to concentrate on the key elements in the scene in front of me and capture these.  So here are a selection of my sketches from Sicily. With a few notes.

Competition Answer


I’d asked a question about this painting as my first “Win a Print” competition – here it is below.

What Colour?

I often like to use a single colour as an under-painting on a canvas or piece of board as a base.  The painting below is one of my earlier pieces of St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. The question is:

What specific colour did I use for the under-painting on this picture  of St Michael’s Mount?

In this case the colour was Alizarin Crimson, although I would have also accepted red. There are some clues in the painting, for example in the top left you can see the red from the under-painting where I have deliberately left it showing through and there are hints of red too in the foreground.  Thanks very much to everyone who entered and better luck next time.

Win a Print!

boats at beadnell
Boats at Beadnell

Would you like to win this print of my painting “Boats at Beadnell.”  Then here’s how. I’m going to be running regular competitions over the next year or so, some will simply be a prize draw for people on my mailing list, there may be treasure hunts or questions to answer about my work.  The best way of finding out about them is to sign up to my mailing list which you can do here.

This will also ensure you get to find out where I am exhibiting,  along with special offers, studio events and sales of my work.

What Colour?

I often like to use a single colour as an under-painting on a canvas or piece of board as a base.  The painting below is one of my earlier pieces of St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. The question is:

What specific colour did I use for the under-painting on this picture  of St Michael’s Mount?

Please answer using the form below the picture.  Closing date is midnight on Monday 13th May.  The three winners of a print of “Boats at Beadnell” will be drawn at random from the correct answers. 

moody day at st michaels mount

Evolution of a Painting

I’ve been experimenting with mixing media over the last few months. In this post I wanted to demonstrate the evolution of  a painting from start to finish.

I’ve been thinking about a scene from Curbar Edge, I’ve a photograph, taken quite some time ago of silver birch trees with rocks in the foreground. So long ago in fact,  that I only have a photograph, no digital image.  I’ve done a couple of small paintings, both watercolours from it but wanted to do something bigger.


This began with a full size piece of Arches watercolour paper,     I’m really enjoying the rough texture of this paper and how the paint behaves on it.  The wash was applied using a household paint brush, nothing sophisticated and kept very wet to keep the paint moving.  I used a cerulean blue,   magenta and cadmium orange leaving lots of white space for the light.



On the left you can see the range of  colours more clearly, I’ve added Windsor blue and purple here and I’ve also turned it upside down to allow the paint to run.  On the right a close up of the paint running.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the next steps I  begin to add some spatter to represent leaves and also to begin to draw in some of the trees. I started to use the same colour palette with acrylic paint, taking the opportunity to darken some areas and make the trees more distinct, add in the rocks and grasses in the foreground adding the ferns and bushes in the distance.

Final stages now, adding the dry pastels.


I used the pastels, again same palette to add strength to highlights and shadows and adding some distinctive marks.  For example the grass in the foreground shown left and the light in the trees shown right.

And finally after some more finishing touches,  adding some acrylic paint over the pastel to knock it back in couple of places and strengthen shadows around the rocks and the trees,  some additional paint applied with a toothbrush splatter in the foreground I’m done!


Time to Paint

The day job gets a bit frantic sometimes and then time to paint is at a premium. I find I don’t have time to do the bigger canvasses in oil or acrylic but use the time to develop my watercolours.

Not something that I find that easy, they are so much more delicate, almost impossible to rescue if I make a mistake or something doesn’t work out. In oils or acrylic I can either wipe it off or paint over it. Not so in watercolours.  Recently,  I’ve been concentrating on two things.

Firstly on colour – using a very limited palette, just three or four colours at the most.

Secondly on simplicity, taking the key elements in scene I am working on and leaving out everything else, something I find quite tricky.

However these latest paintings are going in a direction I like and I’m going to do more.

The sea – my first love?

I’ve been doing quite a bit of landscape painting recently. I live in the Peak District and there is lots to be inspired by here. Some truly wonderful sweeping moorland and dramatic gritstone. However……..

Cloudy Skies

I was in Blackpool this weekend (my other job) and the found the time to head on up to Fleetwood in the hope of some good views across Morecombe Bay and the Lake District. It was pretty windy and cool, but I was able to get a few photos and had time for a quick watercolour sketch in the car before heading back.

So, one of my painting afternoons this week has been devoted to an oil painting from my weekend, and as a result I have realised that the Peak District may be inspiring but the sea is first and foremost my first love.

Cloudy Skies


I put up a post a few days ago about working with triads of colour.  I said I was looking forward to trying out the principles with acrylic paint to see what that might be like and it’s been great fun.

Peak District

I have found painting the landscape in the Peak District to be an interesting challenge.  Moorland can be pretty bleak and uncompromising and although this is contrasted with some lovely rolling green  hills interspersed with rocks, trees, and dry stone walls, the composition and use of colour becomes more important,  otherwise I find I can end up with a just a very green painting.  I think this is one of those times when, because I’m not painting something that is particularly beautiful of itself, unlike the Isles of Scilly for example, it can become beautiful through the expression of the artist.  There is a wildness and bleakness that I do find appealing and compelling, but that doesn’t make it something that in my view works as a painting, so the challenge is how convey something of the bleakness and the wild openness in a way that is visually attractive.

Scotch Pines at Longshaw

Scotch Pine at Longshaw

The chance to play around with some colour seemed to fit well with this, and here are my first couple of attempts.  The first painting is of scotch pines in the grounds up at Longshaw.  This was from a walk on a lovely bright winter’s day.  I was particularly struck by the deep shadows in the foreground and the light in the distance.  The walk we did on this day took us through Grindleford and Padley Gorge where I took lots more snaps to work on back in the studio.  Longshaw is a National Trust property between Sheffield and Hathersage.

Snow on Stanage

Heather Hills

The next couple of paintings are both around Stanage, one of the many grit stone edges that can be found in this area.  From the tops the moors stretch out before you into the far distance and all there is to see is mile after mile of rolling heather, bracken and grass moving in the breeze. Here’s something from a day with the heather in bloom and another when there was snow on the ground.

Snow on Stanage

Derbyshire Open Arts.

I spent the weekend at Derbyshire Open Arts, actually most of it in a fellow artist’s living room.  It’s been an interesting few days, people coming round chatting about the work, quite a few who paint themselves and want to know about techniques.  I think Derbyshire Arts is a great initiative, opening up artist’s studios and houses to the public,  encouraging people to find out more about art through seeing artists at work.

However, we were a bit quieter than we’d hoped. Possibly because of the weather and also I do think that sometimes people find going into someone’s home a bit off putting.  I’m thinking that I might do it again next year and this time choose one of the bigger venues, where there are a few more artists and a coffee shop!

Here’s a link to the site if you’ve not heard about this event before.



Watercolour Explorations

I’m not a great fan of watercolour, always found them a bit wishy washy and I’ve never felt that confident using them either, too delicate I suppose. I’ve used them for rough sketching and playing about but nothing much else. However,  I recently discovered a great book, Art Escapes by Dory Kanter an American watercolorist and I’m inspired!  Here’s Dory’s website to have a look at her work.

Artistic Journals

The book is about keeping an artistic journal, and in it there are some lovely ideas and really great exercises to do as part of a process of doing something creative every day.  Which is my latest thing by the way, being creative every day – but more on that in my next post.

Derbyshire Open Arts 

What I’ve found most useful is her ideas on working with triads of colour.  Now,  I tend to work with a limited palette anyway, but her approach was new and I’ve been having great fun.  I’ve started with some little water colour paintings that I’ve made into cards, (they will be on sale at Derbyshire Open Arts this weekend) and I’m feeling like they will lead on to bigger things; maybe some larger watercolours.  I’m also really excited about how I might take this idea of working with triads and use the principle with oils and acrylic, now that could be really interesting.

And here’s a couple of examples. Great fun.

Greetings Card – Seascape
Greetings Card – Trees