Coastal inspiration, recent plein airs, workshops …and gdpr…

On the rocks, at Booby’s Bay, en plein air.


Hope you’ve had a good month, out there in the world.
It included holiday time for me, and I got down to Cornwall, to a most favourite spot for a bit of relaxation and of course plein air painting.  The above was done on a fantastic day at Booby’s Bay, which is the best place I know for this kind of subject; i.e. waves rolling in roughly and splashing off rocks.  There are so many vantage points, on the rocks and on the grass at the back, I could happily paint here endlessly.
The photo shows the scene at the end of the painting, and the tide had receded quite a lot by this time, as it was on the way out.

South from Park Head cliffs, Cornwall, en plein air.

This one was looking towards Bedruthan Steps (on the left, into the scene).  Again there were countless alternative places I could have plonked my easel for compositions just as inspiring.  Wonderful base for painting.
It was windy, but warm too, and I decided to paint with my sunglasses on (first time I’ve tried that in many years) and with just 3 colours – Winsor Blue, Indian Red and Raw Umber.  I had intended the most distant headland to be more soft-edged but it dried so quickly in the sun and wind that I lost that rather.
I’d like to totally recommend a visit to Park Head, a National Trust piece of headland between Porthcothan and Bedruthan Steps.  We were so happy to be there, owing to a healthy diversity and abundance (at least, for this day and age) of bird, insect and plant life, including rarities, not to mention sightings of a hare and fox too.  And May being a perfect time for it all, and for plein air painting without crowds.  Utterly wonderful.

Kelston Round Hill from Swineford, en plein air.


This one was done on a day out with painting friends, locally.
In this one – amongst other changes – I moved the background hill into the scene.  It was actually further to the left behind a building, but a 15 yard walk down that track gave me a view of it.  That’s Kelston Round Hill, which is a bit odd in reality, but an interesting feature between Bristol and Bath, with it’s round shape and copse of trees on top.


Bitton Church, Spring morning, en plein air.


A while ago I showed a step-by-step studio painting of this scene on my blog, which I always intended to return to to paint en plein air.
This was done on the same day as the previous painting.  I wasn’t happy with it, but on later reflection I think at least I got the sunlight reasonably, which disappeared after a time so needed to be remembered.  Headstone placement is basically made up to aid the composition, with many left out or moved.  All such decisions are made very quickly of course.  Fair bit of (relatively!) careful negative painting needed for those.

Perspective lesson!

I had a lovely group of painters join me for my course in Wells & Somerset villages, with Alpha Painting Holidays, (see, who always organise excellent painting holidays.  A beautiful range of inspiring painting locations, and they somehow managed to organise almost entirely great weather, too!
I took this shot of the group undertaking a ‘perspective lesson’.  Well, Vicar’s Close is perfect for this, so we did a plein air step-by-step with the cathedral in the background, as you can see.  Beginning with marking out perspective guide lines to a vanishing point in the bottom-left third of the composition, and then focussing on capturing the light and shade in the painting.  Everyone produced a successful result, despite the sun disappearing half-way through (naturally).
Vicars’ Close, by the way, ‘is claimed to be the oldest purely residential street with original buildings surviving intact in Europe’ (according to Wikipedia!)

Down by the river

We were also lucky with weather on my Windrush workshop. See for details of Windrush Gallery courses
(I’m trying not to worry about all this ‘good luck’ with weather recently…)
It’s always a real pleasure to visit this inspiring place to teach outdoors.  Famous as the home of James Fletcher-Watson and now base of The Pure Watercolour Society, we set up at points along a stretch of the tranquil River Windrush, which (as per my Cornish location) is quite idyllic in its beauty.  Above, some of the group are seen painting with the old mill buildings in the background, a scene that J F-W himself enjoyed painting.

Discussing brushes and colours

By the way, BBC Springwatch is being filmed just a few fields away from here, so good is the Nature in this part of the Cotswolds.  I even had a chat with a chap rigging up a power line for them as he came through a field we were in. (Photos courtesy of Jo Neil – thanks Jo.)

Sandpiper Studio & East Devon Art Academy workshops
My upcoming Workshop ‘Light and shadow in watercolour landscape’ at Sandpiper Studio on the Wirral has now filled up (see: for their workshop programme), and in a week I’ll be in Sidmouth, another lovely coastal location, for my 2-day ‘Plein air & Studio’ workshop at the East Devon Art Academy.
There may be one or two places left on this, if you fancied it.  Great views of the beach front and headland await us.  It’s my first visit to the EDAA and I’m really looking forward to it. (For more information please visit:

Patchings & The Artist/Leisure Painter Open Competition 2018

I’m really pleased to have got a painting into this year’s Exhibition.  This is my entry all framed up and ready to send off soon.  I hope it’s not over-dressed but, well, it’s a special occasion and it’s not often I get out like this:

Evening Sky at Ham Wall RSPB reserve, Somerset levels.


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Has anyone heard about this at all?
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My first Video-on-demand:

Finally, thank you again to those who’ve purchased this, and have sent me valuable feedback including ideas of what you’d like to see covered in a future video.  I hope to make my next video this Autumn.

Wishing you a great summer, until next time.



Comments On This Post

Vincent Neave 2 years ago. Reply

It’s great keeping up with your news and seeing your new work!

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Cheers, Vince. Hope you’re managing to get some done, too – will be good to see it when we meet next.

Nicole Guenin 2 years ago. Reply

Cher Jem Dowden, je suis toujours “fan” de votre travail. Je trouve que c’est particulièrement intéressant que vous ayez mis les photos en regard de l’oeuvre terminée, ainsi on peut apprécier encore mieux votre interprétation du sujet. C’est très enrichissant alors continuez!
Dear JemDowden, I am always “fan” for your work. It is particulary intéresting to have photos in front of your painting, because I have better your interpretation of the subject. It is very precious. Continue like that please

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Hi Nicole,
    Thank you very much for your comment.
    I will aim to do this more. I think I have quite often done this with my plein air work, but sometimes I do forget to take the photos!
    I’m pleased it is of interest to you.
    All the best, Jem
    PS, I wondered if you might have me partly mixed up with Joe Dowden? – A fine painter.

Pete Batho 2 years ago. Reply

A beautiful selection Jem, especially since you’ve pointed me in the direction of a few new places in Cornwall I wasn’t aware of. Looking forward to finally meeting you at East Devon Art. Hope you haven’t used up all the good weather. I was there the same time last year with David Bellamy and the weather was less than kind. Best regards. Pete.

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Hi Pete,
    Really look forward to meeting you next week, and to meeting Sidmouth, too.
    Sorry to hear of your bad luck last year. Currently the ‘forecast’ is looking pretty good for our dates, so hopefully we’ll be able to spend plenty of time outside. Not counting any chickens though… Cheers, Jem

Sally Simpson 2 years ago. Reply

Hi Jem,
I paint watercolours in Australia and have been inspired by your approach to skies and whatever is underneath them. I will be in the UK this year (Sept/October 2018) . Do you have any workshops etc with available spaces during this time? If not, please let me know if I can book ahead for 2019.
Sally Simpson

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Hi Sally,
    Thank you for getting in touch, and for your comment. I will reply to you (ASAP) directly by email regarding the upcoming workshops.
    Cheers, Jem

Prue Furse-Roberts 2 years ago. Reply

Great paintings Jem!

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks very much, Prue. Hope you’re enjoying your painting too!

Leslie 2 years ago. Reply

Wonderful to see watercolor done so well. Light, breezy and full of movement. I’m inspired!

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks very much for your comment, Leslie. Very kind of you.

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