Black is back. New videos. Wells painting holiday, The colours of twilight and more

Evening sky, Ham Wall RSPB reserve, Somerset levels. For sale

Black is back:  I refer to the songster, out there singing in the rain. There’s no more uplifting thing in the world to me than the blackbird’s return each year.  Though I probably look a pretty mad figure if the neighbours saw me, sat out there in the rain literally soaking it up.  Never mind.  This is the best time of year, as the plein air season arrives. Also, cannot wait to see how my young hawthorns respond to the annual pruning.  Buds about to open, very exciting indeed!

Speaking of exciting, I’ve done some demos at art groups over winter, and this is one of the most enjoyable things I do.  Okay, it is partly *completely terrifying* too, but the pleasure is in meeting people and talking about the watercolour experience, and trying to explain why I can’t stand still whilst painting.  
I’m looking forward a lot to my painting holidays this year in the same way, the first of which is based in Wells and nearby Somerset villages.  This is 6th – 9th of May, so not far off now.  Below is a painting from when I visited Wells in May last year, painted in the attractive Vicar’s Close.  We’ve got great locations to take inspiration from over the 4 days, out there in peak birdsong time too.  There are a few spaces left if you’d like to join me for this.

Wells cathedral from Vicar’s close, en plein air. For sale.

(Right-click this link for another tempter, Nunney castle which we might go to:

For bookings and full details please see Alpha Painting Holidays’ website:

Or contact Matt and Gill at Alpha:
Tel. +44 (0) 1934 733877

Of course don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like further information too.

New demo video on Youtube:

Marsh harrier over the starling roost. (Demo video on Youtube)

I recently took inspiration from a visit to see the starlings murmurating on the Somerset levels, to produce the painting at the top of this page, and also this one.  I filmed the latter and it is now available on Youtube, here:


[Inserted update –
Please see also new Videos page on my website.
Exciting news for me, I’ve now got my first ‘proper’ instructional video available to buy, or hire, right now!]….


Another church

I’ve not been lucky enough with weather yet to get out painting.  I nearly did though, and visited Yatton church.  Following a morning demo at a village nearby I managed to get there, having long planned to, but sadly it rained continuously as I arrived.  I will return soon hopefully, as I love the interesting spire which I first saw from a train. So many great locations are visible from trains, which you can’t always get to.  This church is visible rising up out of the ‘North Somerset levels’ as it is on a small area of raised ground.  I did this one quite quickly from a photo:

Yatton church, in the rain! (from a photo).

Having a clear out of old paintings I came across the one below, of a scene in the Valencia region of Spain.  I did my first painting holiday out there a few years ago, and this painting was actually for an article which never happened.  It was to be in the SAA’s Paint magazine, and was done using a ‘limited edition’ range of Winsor & Newton colours, called the Twilight range.  But having written the article, Winsor & Newton pulled the release of the colours. Then they changed their mind again and said they’d go ahead. Then they pulled them again.  Then my article was finally cancelled. Then, they finally released the paints!  I kid not. (Although there may have been yet another pulling/releasing – I lost count of the times but I remember it was pretty unbelievable.)

A Valencian landscape at dusk. For sale


‘Sale item of the month’

I’m not sure if I’ll make this a regular feature, but I may do.
This month, and only for the month, the following painting ‘Sparrow gang’ is available to buy for a reduced price of £150 including postage (to UK – please enquire for postage cost to EU or rest of the world).

Sparrow gang. For sale £150.


Another French field

Le Limousin cattle, winter. For sale

This painting was from photos taken during my time in France over winter.  I do like a bit of dreary weather as you know, and a good bit of rough pasture.  Spot the cows if you can.

And finally,
I wanted to end on an uplifting note, and this month I have been lifted up by the following things, which I can recommend checking out, if you’re so inclined:

  1. The wonderful 1973 documentary film, (available to buy on DVD – but a dodgy but watchable version is on youtube…) ‘Too long a winter’, and it’s companion ‘A winter too many’ (from 1989), featuring the inspiring Hannah Hauxwell.  Movingly filmed and set to perhaps my all time favourite piece of music. I’ll let you discover the rest.
    (None of this is about painting, by the way!)
  2. The music and fun of Fred Wedlock.  A Bristolian, Fred sadly died several years ago.  Funny folk music, I suppose is what it is, or ‘scrumpy & western’ as he was sometimes known (along with Adge Cutler & The Wurzels).  There is a website where all his music can be bought in various old-school formats.  No doubt you could find him, including his ‘hit’ ‘The oldest swinger in town’ on youtube.  (Please don’t judge me entirely by his sense of humour!):
  3. The book, ‘Happy’ by Derren Brown.  Brilliant.  I only wish I had a memory for what I read in books!


Have a good month.

Comments On This Post

Patricia Wafer 1 year ago. Reply

Thanks so much for sharing the up lifting stuff!! Here in the US we can really use that right now. Love the painting with the harrier in it. I am a birdwatcher and raptors are my favorites. We have Red-Wing Blackbirds that are early arrivals. The males perch conspicuously and constantly sing something like conk-er-REEEEE – which gets a bit annoying but still is the sound of spring and very welcome now. I read once that most people when they paint birds in the sky make them too large. Your harrier looks about right to me. It is not so easy to make a tiny mark that is a believable bird but I think it adds life to a landscape. Cindy House is a pastel painter in the eastern US who is a master of this. You don’t always even see her birds immediately just as when you are outdoors looking for them. Your paintings look great esp the way you capture the light conditions!! Nice sparrows, too. Because someone thought it was a good idea to bring them across the ocean we have lots of those guys here. They are at my feeder right now. The males are really cute when they are courting.

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Patricia.
    Thanks for your comment. I’ve just googled those red-wing blackbirds, never seen one before. It’s almost like they’ve got some military insignia on their shoulders. From the sound of it they may not be closely related to the blackbird we have here, which has a beautiful song.
    Re. painting birds in a sky, this could be a whole workshop in itself. Scale is always an issue, as is level of detail, and as with anything else, tone, colour and sharpness/blurriness are all relevant and need thinking about, as each contributes to effects of distance, light reflection, movement and so on. Also placement in composition is always crucial. For size itself, well, we don’t easily know how far or close a bird is, but all those factors play into the effect we create and whether it all works together, or not. It’s certainly easy to totally wreck a painting with a bird in a second. One small dot cannot be taken lightly! Cheers.

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Oh, yes, and sparrows. I love them. I tend to prefer the modest brown jobs to the more garish birds, as per my approach to colour generally! Love virtually all of them though…

Julian 1 year ago. Reply

Enjoying the blog and your latest YouTube demo. Thanks for taking the time to do that. Perhaps you could host demo videos on your site and charge a modest fee for viewing. You need to make some money on these (PIGS, as you say).

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Thank you Julian. I’m pleased you like the blog and video, and appreciate your comment a lot.
    I am looking into a viable way of hosting my videos for a fee, be it on a hire, purchase or subscription basis. Youtube is a social media platform, and encourages the sharing of things for free. As such it is limited in its scope to help people earn a living who are essentially providing instructional material, however informally this is conveyed. Youtube has led some people to expect (and demand!) things for free. It’s good of you to see it from the professional artist’s point of view. Thanks again.

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