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. http://www.artworldtours.com/

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

Signs of Spring

Well, today was meant to be a studio day. But you know how it is, at 8.30 this morning I thought I would just check my emails before getting started, the next thing it’s nearly lunchtime and I haven’t managed to  pick up a paint brush. However this afternoon I got myself focussed and did a small acrylic painting of a pussy willow from along the canal towpath near where I live.

Signs of Spring

And here it is, one of the first signs of spring.

Bluebells at Linacre

Path through the Bluebells.

Following some pretty wet weather the bluebells are out at Linacre. This time of year is one of my favourites for the stunning beauty of the beech woods and the carpet of bluebells that seem to hover a few inches above the earth, below glorious bright green canopy of the trees.


Each year, as soon as we reach the middle of April I start looking out for those telltale spots of blue that give hints of the glory yet to come. This year has been no different. The wild garlic is showing with those wonderful white stars, the anemones with their delicate petals and leaves and the bluebells with a heady scent that fills the air on a warm day.  My inspiration for painting is from moments of peacefulness and connection, bluebells are a favourite of mine, something I love to paint and I never fail to be stirred by them.

Painting Techniques

I’ve completed a few paintings of bluebell woods, using various techniques.  Its been fun experimenting, finding different ways of expressing the experience and communicating what I see.

Spring at Linacre.

This is an early painting. I was interested in contrast between the dark in the foreground under the trees and the light in distance between the trees and the remains of last year’s leaves still on the ground, the orange complementing the blue of the flowers.

Bluebells at Linacre

Experimenting with a palette knife, enjoying the texture of the paint and building up the paint layering it on thickly.

And my most recent work this year, acrylic on board.


There are more paintings to view on my website.


Do you have a favourite time of year, place or a type of scene that never fails to inspire you? Something that you can look at repeatedly and see something new and different every time?


The beach at Trinidad with distant mountains.

What an amazing place, of contrasts, drama, inspiration, frustration, people and of course heat and rum.

We had 10 days and travelled from Havana, to Trinidad on the coast and then back across the island to Vinales in the north, a place of absolute stunning natural beauty. I have written before in this blog about how my inspiration for painting comes mainly from the landscape,  in Cuba I found myself wanting to paint buildings and people as well as landscapes. I think it’s impossible to experience the place without having a connection to these things.  The mixture of crumbling, elegant facades with the newly renovated. The old cars.  The people who are warm,  friendly and welcoming. These things are so very much a part of what the island is about, along with the politics.  This was our second visit, we were there about 6 years ago, and things have changed. There is yet more renovation and a different energy, a positive, vibrant buzz about the place.

So will I paint Cuba?  Well so far, I’ve mostly been painting scenes where I feel a deep connection, or a sense of peace and they have been places from here in the UK.   I have felt that peace on my travels, but what I hadn’t quite realised until I went so far afield is the very deep connection to the land in I feel here at home in the UK. So although


I had my sketch books with me, and in between walking and sight seeing found some time to sit and do some painting, in some ways they feel like my holiday scrapbook.  Here’s a selection and whether in the end I use this material for a new collection I don’t know.  But Cuba was inspiring, stimulating and incredibly interesting, perhaps not that peaceful but maybe this will take me in a different direction.

The interior of our hotel in Havana. Lovely balcony open to the sky, filled with plants and a great place to sit and sip a cocktail after a long day seeing the sights.

A couple of sketches from the beach near Trinidad. The Old Pier (l) and a hammock slung in the shade of the trees.

Distant mountains and boats on the shore. And a couple of much needed shady umbrellas for sitting under watching the world go by. 

Below, two sketches from Vinales, possibly the best view in Cuba. Stunning.

Midnight Ocean

Midnight Ocean.

Love this, I may knit it to sit by the sea while I am painting. Great to see how other people working in very different areas are also so inspired by the sea.

I was with Louise whilst she was working out this pattern – lovely to see the finished garment. I really like the wave motif and the fit looks really good, particularly around the collar.



Artists for the Red Cross

I’ve been invited to donate a painting to this exhibition and auction this year. Made my decision today, as the show will be in Sheffield it seemed appropriate to choose a local landscape scene. I settled on Trees on the Horizon. An acrylic on box canvass painted using a knife. I have used strong colours to represent the shifting tones and hues in the way the grass and hills stretched in front of me to the trees on the horizon. And here it is.

Trees on the Horizon.
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