Constable country, Sandpiper and Competition.

Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Dedham Hall

Perhaps long overdue, but I had the pleasure a few weeks ago of attending my first ever painting holiday as a paying guest.  This was with Steve Hall, at Dedham Hall in ‘Constable Country’ on the Suffolk/Essex border.  It was a great experience, and having been a fan of Steve’s painting for a long time this was a valuable treat to myself.  It’s sheer entertainment to see a painting appear so quickly and as apparently effortlessly as they did in Steve’s demonstrations.  Each one illustrated so effectively the most critical elements that make a watercolour work, using the best attributes of the medium, and with added ‘wow factor’.

Dedham Hall itself is a perfect venue/location, as some readers may already have discovered for themselves.   Everything about the set up and hospitality is wonderful, and its location just a field away from the river Stour is perfect for finding an abundance of beautiful landscape and very picturesque nearby village scenes to paint – oh, and great coastal locations too.  Here are some photos from my visit, including a few of my plein air paintings.  (Click a photo to enlarge, then PAGE BACK to return here.)


Just before adding the final shadows – the light gone! So I made them up.

At Heybridge Basin. A great morning for sky painting.




The river Stour, early morning.

Sandpiper Studio

I’ve also been up for the first time to teach a workshop at Sandpiper Studio on the Wirral peninsula.  This went very well, thanks to Julie’s perfect hosting, again providing a lovely location to paint in and a fantastic lunch too.   I forgot (as usual) to take any photos during the workshop itself, but it was a pleasure as always to meet one or two Facebook Friends in real life, and all participants produced some great work.  I’m very pleased to have been invited back for 2018, and it is definitely worth the 4 and a half hour drive!  (2018 date to be announced soon.  The subject is going to be ‘Light and shadow in watercolour landscape’ and aimed at an intermediate/improver level.)
I had the afternoon before to explore the village where my hotel was, and this was really special.  Parkgate, just 10 minutes from the studio, is a unique place, right on the front of a vast open saltmarsh nature reserve complete with evocative bird calls, awesome skies, and very nice fish and chips.  My kind of place.  Here’s a couple of photos to give you an idea.

View from directly outside my hotel! Wake to the sound of Curlews. Parkgate, Wirral.



Competition time !

Summer Hay Field, based on a scene near Publow.

I hope I can tempt you to enter my first ever competition.
The prize is the above original watercolour, which featured recently as a painting project in Leisure Painter magazine.  It is my usual half-imperial size.

Your task is the following:-
Paint a watercolour based on the photograph below of a scene near Buttermere in the Lake District (that’s ‘Haystacks’ fell in the background).
The light at the time was quite flat.  The photo was very dark and in fact I’ve already lightened it here, but the general composition has potential.  Your challenge is to try to change the light and counterchange in the image to improve atmosphere and make more of the depth in the scene.  You can crop or use your artistic licence to alter other aspects of the composition too if you wish.  Perhaps add elements such as a figure, tree, maybe even a building if you think it helps. But improving on
the light and counterchange should be the priority.
I’ll display the entries here on my blog where I’ll announce the winner in a couple of months’ time.  I’ll choose the winning entry and explain why I think it wins!  Roll up now, don’t be shy…
Cut off date for entries: 10th November.
To enter simply email me a photo of your finished painting, to my usual email address:   

The photo:

Competition reference photo. Haystacks fell, Buttermere valley.

(You should be able to save a copy of the photo if you right-click on it.)
I really look forward to seeing what you come up with, so please give it a go!

Flatform Mill course

The following are a few photos I took around Flatford Mill (close to Dedham) which John Constable grew up near, and where he also painted some of his most well-known works.  I’m tutoring a painting break here next April (details coming soon).  It’s a beautiful place with many paintable scenes, as you can see, and we’ll be heading out to paint en plein air each day, weather permitting.

Willy Lott’s House. As in The Hay Wain by John Constable.


Day workshop:

I still have a few places left for my November ‘Better Landscapes’ workshop.  Details are available here:
Please contact me if you’d like further details, or to book a place.

Finally (for social media users) I now have an Instagram account, here:
I often post snaps from when I’m out plein air painting.

Happy painting til next time,

Comments On This Post

Gary Crosby 3 years ago. Reply

Hi, Jem your landscapes painting or mindblowing as I am a self-taught disabled artist. I learn a lot from artist like you. Thank you

    Jem Bowden 3 years ago. Reply

    Hi Gary,
    Thank you for your very generous comment!
    I’m pleased that my blog may be of interest to you – you are very welcome.
    All the best, Jem

alan conner 3 years ago. Reply

Jem I have commented on your use of Blacks before but just look at the blacks in this Pinmill painting. Brown blacks, blue blacks, green blacks, red blacks. Just so inspiring. Most get the kit out and doodle!

    Jem Bowden 3 years ago. Reply

    Thanks again, Alan. So nice to hear this inspires you. There can be no nicer compliment to receive. Hope you are able to get the kit out and go for it.
    All the best, Jem

Britt 3 years ago. Reply

Please add me to your mailing list. I’m interested in hearing about upcoming courses.
Thank you.

    Jem Bowden 3 years ago. Reply

    Thank you Britt. I have added you to my mailing list for course information.
    All the best, Jem

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