‘Coastal Scenes & Scottish Skies’, Sunny Lacock, Sidmouth mist…

A housemartin outside The George Inn, Lacock, early morning. For sale

In a moderately successful attempt to avoid Bristol rush hour traffic I departed the city early, or so I thought (7am) and began drawing out this view by 8.30am.  

On a grass verge of the main road into Lacock – a very picturesque, very medieval village in Wiltshire, for a ‘day off’ with painting friends.  
This picture came with a most excellent comment from a passer-by.  She looked at my palette and said ‘What medium are you using?’ I replied ‘watercolour’.  ‘Oh, I’m learning watercolour. It’s very relaxing, isn’t it?’ (I hold my silence, thinking)….. (She now peering closely at my painting)  ‘…But very unforgiving’.

Love it!  A good one to share over lunch.

In the afternoon, I must admit, more buildings and the necessary drawing out can feel too laborious for a ‘day off’ and I’d rather just paint a hedgerow and sky.  Still, my second painting was of one of the only other streets in Lacock where there aren’t parked cars in front of all the great buildings.  The village fills with tourists, who passed by and chatted to me. The scene started off with light from the right only, but by the end it really got complicated as it had moved to shine more down the street, and my board also moved into half light/half shade mid-way, so I had to drag it all back a couple of yards.  I had predicted this wrongly; note to self: carry compass next time!  As it is, I’ve simplified the timber-framed building in the centre quite a lot (The Sign of The Angel pub), but by the end I wished I’d simplified it into the twenty-first century!

Lacock, Sign of The Angel pub. For sale

Perhaps the painting looks a bit empty.  A figure would have been useful, but I simply didn’t think to add any.  Wish I’d put just a leg of someone disappearing through that green door on the left.


Photo courtesy of Chris Smith, Copyright. Sunset near FSC Millport.


‘Coastal scenes & Scottish Skies’ – New course for 2019

Now then, forgive me if I sound a LOT excited as I tell you about this.  I’m so pleased to announce this totally new location – and a brilliant one – for 2019; on the little Isle of Cumbrae, off the West coast of Scotland.

I’ve been wanting to teach and paint in Scotland for ages, so I’m absolutely delighted to have found the perfect spot, and organise this with one of my favourite nature organisations, The Field Studies Council (FSC).  Please see my new website page ‘2019 Courses’ for very full details, but here is what you need to know first of all!

Wonderful location with inspiring painting opportunities. 
(You know I put this above all else when I have any say in the matter.)
It’s right outside our door.  Within a very short walk we have archetypal Scottish craggy coastal rocks, sandy beaches, views towards the mountains on the Isle of Arran, slipways, boats, a harbour with interesting buildings (either a 25 minute walk or 5 minute drive, in the island’s only town, Millport). And of course a lot of Scottish sky and sea.  

Scotland’s ‘easiest to get to’ island.
Very regular car ferry takes only 8 minutes from Largs (rail connection from Glasgow – or a 45 minute drive), and close to Glasgow’s 2 airports.
All our painting locations are also much closer than on most painting holidays and we may not even need to drive at all.  The Isle of Cumbrae is very small. You can cycle around it in 1 hour!

Excellent hospitality and modern facilities.
I’ve provided links for all information on my 2019 Courses page.

4 days of tuition, all at an extremely competitive price
(£510 for sole, £482 for shared room), and student numbers kept low at 12 painters max. 

This is surely unmatched!  But it’s not too good to be true.  It is true.  As always, I will work hard to help you develop your painting throughout the course, which begins with an evening session (course introduction) after your first evening meal on the day of arrival.  The course then runs each day from 9.30am – 4.30pm, with an additional session in the evening, which might be a demonstration or a ‘paintalong’ (optional, if you’re tired out by then!).  The course finishes at 4pm on the final day.

I could go on, about the notable wildlife on the island, and the beautiful sights but before anything else, please watch this short video showing our base, and location on Cumbrae.  The video, filmed by drone, gives an excellent overview of the whole landscape and our base location of FSC Millport:


Also (particularly for the beaches and harbour shots) take a look at the Gallery page of the island’s tourism website, here:


I’d love for you to join me here.  The course will appear on the FSC’s own website once their full 2019 course brochure is released later in the year, but if you contact FSC Millport directly you will be able to secure a place today (all details on 2019 Courses page).


East Devon Art Academy, Sidmouth.

Sidmouth, morning mist at East Devon Art Academy workshop

Well, I needn’t have worried about the great weather I had last month.  Sure enough it was absent for my 2 day workshop in Sidmouth at the East Devon Art Academy.  Still, the group and I had a really enjoyable time there nonetheless.  In fact this kind of weather is easier to paint watercolour in than blazing sunshine, and the mist gradually lifted to reveal a warm, pleasant day.  Sidmouth and the studio of the EDAA are together a superb base for a coastal landscape course.  I’m returning next year and looking forward to it already. Here’s a photo of the group at work on the beach. The morning mist provided great opportunity to practise the ‘soft edges to convey distance’ we’d looked at in the studio.

Actually the evening before the workshop, when I arrived in Sidmouth, was glorious.  Here’s a view of the headland in the other direction.

Sidmouth beach, end of a sunny day



Suspension Bridge (slight return)

Early morning light on Clifton suspension bridge, June 2018.


Every couple of years I test myself against this local subject.  Last time I did it in late afternoon.  This time is the first time it didn’t rain on me, and in fact I started at about 7.15 am, mostly to avoid the worst of the day’s heat which was forecast to be late 20s C by noon.  It’s almost impossible to park nearby too, even at 7am, it turns out.  But it’s a very long walk otherwise.    Anyway, a bit of a ‘messterpiece’, to be honest.  Too rushed – my heart never entirely in it.  Plus, well, it’s difficult!  That’s my two main excuses.  I know what to do differently next time; just a shame I will have forgotten by then…


Blog news
My thanks to ‘Feedspot Blog Reader’ (https://blog.feedspot.com/)  for placing my blog in a ‘Top Ten UK Watercolour Blogs’ listing recently.  Hard to believe, to be honest, but apparently so.

And finally, I will be painting in Gloucester all day on Sat 14th July, located around the cathedral, to encourage others to paint plein air as part of ‘Art in the City’.  Have a look at the following link if you live near enough to Gloucester to consider this. There are very substantial prizes up for grabs.  I’m not eligible for these (sadly!) but I’ll be enjoying just painting and chatting to people about the experience of painting outdoors.  And I must remember to make a note of any ‘classic’ comments I might receive!

All the best for a nice, summery month out there.

Comments On This Post

Mike Porter 2 years ago. Reply

A terrific offering, Jem!

    jem 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks, Mike.

Pete Batho 2 years ago. Reply

Hi Jem. Love the Lacock views and the Clifton bridge. You really are too hard on yourself! I’ll look forward to another session at Sidmouth next year. Thanks again for this year. Regards. Pete.

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks very much, Pete. Hopefully next year the tide will be right out, then. And we’ll have a whole different set of equally inspiring options for our compositions. Was a pleasure to have you on the workshop.

Stephen Slater 2 years ago. Reply

Like the two Lacock paintings and the Clifton Bridge one. Hope your courses go well, must make the effort to get out sketching myself!

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks very much, Stephen. Yes, go on, it may be an effort to get going but that gets easier, and if you focus on enjoying it when you’re there, that’s the key! I think it’s a common mistake to expect to get the ‘reward’ from the painting outcome, especially if/when you’re new to it. But forever, really.

Theofanis 2 years ago. Reply

The street scenes in Lacock are wonderful ! Love then ! Great work Jem.

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks a lot, Theofanis! Appreciate your comment.

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