First Signs

Grape vine Amelanchier

The first signs of autumn are here. Leaves starting to turn, end of the blackberries, a cool crisp chill in the air first thing in the  morning, misty days like today.  I love the autumn colour, although its also tinged with a touch of wistfulness  for me as well.  The close of the summer, no more endlessly hot, bright days for a few months.   I always think that the glorious colours of autumn are natures last gasp of majesty before everything goes to sleep for the winter months. So, I’ve been capturing some of the early signs on my morning walks. The hawthorn, the rose hips, teasels, grasses and flowers going to seed and I’m beginning to think about autumn colour – burnt sienna, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, indigo and purple.

Hawthorn Rosehip 2 Teasel Blueberries

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

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.