Time flying, Cornwall 2020, Recent paintings…

Towards Chew Lake, End of Winter. Studio painting


Sorry it’s been a while since my last post, but time has been disappearing fast.
We had some fun on my Flatford Mill course, and as usual were spoiled there by the subjects surrounding us.  The weather was cold which was a bit unfortunate, but wasn’t going to stop any of us from getting outdoors.  It’s surprising how much an inspiring view can make you forget a bit of numbness.
Here’s my first demo painting, and a few other snaps.  I won’t go into the cows/tent incident (not illustrated)!

The Granary building at Flatford. A cold, 40 minute demo.


A few of the group working on reflections and foliage. Willy Lott’s House in the background. Water pots being kicked over in the foreground!


A piece of the Flatford idyll; ancient willow trees and the river Stour.


Bit of a classic moment these painters had to endure: As a child walked past with parent, asking “Mummy, are those people trying to paint?”


At Kilve Beach, Somerset, en plein air.

I got close to Exmoor recently (where I’m teaching on a painting holiday, imminently), for a plein air visit to Kilve beach on the Somerset coast.  This was en route for a demo in Exeter in the evening.  Kilve is a bit out of the way from where I live, but it’s been  on my list for the right opportunity to visit, and as a painting location it far exceeded my expectations. A well-kept secret, I think.  It took me a while to settle on this view because the one in the opposite direction – towards the light – was every bit as appealing.  The coastline here is very distinctive and the inland countryside has rolling hills, thatched buildings and high moorland in view. Always great to discover a place you know you’ll be going back to.  I spent a good hour taking many photos after finishing the painting, exploring and to remind me where to head for next time I visit.


Bath Showers. Ink and wash, en plein air

Showing the ink before painting over.


I had interesting weather on a visit to Bath.  This was my first outing of the year with The Exiles (the group of plein air painting friends I meet up with when possible) but in the end I think I was the only one who painted!  Weather was determined to be tricky, with strong gusts, regular showers and bright sunlight, over and over.  Always makes it feel easier to be experimental in this kind of situation, so I got out the brush pen for my first go with it outdoors.  One thing’s for certain with using black ink; the painting always has a full tonal range.  As for the rest, I haven’t got much of a strategy yet with my ink and wash, just trying things out freely.


Tree near Kelston Round Hill, en plein air.

More luck with the weather on this occasion and although there was thin cloud all over, it was quite warm when I went for walk to a location I discovered and painted a few years ago (previous, studio version below).  I plan to do it again too, in other seasons.  The kind of simple composition that rests finely on not very much in terms of whether it works, or not.  I was testing out a method of filming outdoor demonstrations, so this was done very quickly at just over 30 minutes including the drawing.  Unfortunately the camera misted up, but the footage isn’t too terrible so I’m thinking of perhaps putting it out as a youtube video.

Studio painting of same tree from a few years ago. For the plein air one I had my easel in that gap in the hedge on the left.

And this tree was waving to me as I passed, which was nice.


Another evening and a lovely old church on the edge of the Cotswolds. Painting done VERY hastily for its level of complexity – again as a filmed demo. Result perhaps best viewed from this sort of distance.


‘Pilgrimage’ to Knepp.

Knepp Scrubland, Evening, en plein air


This painting was done on a recent brief camping visit to Knepp Rewilding Project.  I’ve been wanting to visit this place for ages and it lived up to hopes. Unfortunately the weather was terrible apart from my arrival afternoon, meaning that having walked around for a couple of hours I really couldn’t paint more that this one piece in the end, so instead I located subjects for my next visit, and quietly swore a bit.
Surrounded by nature at its happiest and ecologically healthiest.  Listening to Nightingales, cuckoos and way too much more to mention. A wonderful place and experience.  This one a picture of not very much perhaps, but I love being in this kind of scrubland landscape and felt inspired by all my surroundings.  Maybe I’ll add one of the storks I saw flying over…
You can read all about the wonder (and cause for optimism) that is Knepp here: https://knepp.co.uk/home


Saxtead Green Post Mill. Studio painting.


I have a couple of developments I’m hoping to mention soon. Meantime I’m really pleased to have organised a 2-day workshop in Cornwall for next year, May 17th & 18th at Truro Arts Company: https://www.truroartscompany.co.uk/events/

If you’re down that end of the country it’d be nice to meet you there, where over the two days we’ll touch on quite a lot of the underlying theory and techniques of my painting approach.

Cheers, Jem


A couple of video reviews for  “Studio Painting….”

“I find two things particularly valuable about this video. First, the focus on tone is so well done. It is such a hard thing to master, and your description of making really dark darks is so helpful. That has always been hard for me. I especially like how you put darks right next to lights, rather than making the shift in tone more gradual. It’s very dramatic and effective.  The second thing is the focus on paint thickness and paper dampness. That’s another thing that is always a bit difficult to gauge. It’s very helpful, therefore, to see how you manage it. I was painting a bit yesterday and practiced what you taught; it works!  All the rest, composition, color, whatever, is as good as usual. I like to watch you paint trees. How you got that tree on the far right side of one painting to become a tree is amazing. I’ve watched that several times, but it still seems like magic.
The one thing I like best about your videos is that they are so genuine. You are so honest and spontaneous–you can’t beat that, and it puts the [brand name removed] and even [ditto] videos to shame.”

“I have now watched your new video twice and I can’t praise it enough! I can’t think of another video with so much information about various techniques plus five excellent demos that really teach one how to apply the brush to the paper. I love all your choices of demos. It is quite amazing to watch your brush that dances on the paper. All the brush marks are carefully chosen and nothing is superfluous.  I think I can now go back to demos that you did for Leisure Painter because I understand your way of painting much better. When I watched the video, I felt that I was invited into your studio to share watercolour painting with you. It felt very pleasant and instructive.”

Comments On This Post

Stephen Slater 1 year ago. Reply

Good to see you posting again, likely the inclusion of a line and wash for a change. Hope your demos / workshop ego well.

    Jem 1 year ago. Reply

    Thank you, Stephen.
    Glad you think the ink & wash is worth persevering with. I quite enjoy it.
    All the best, Jem

Mike Porter 1 year ago. Reply

Most excellent posting, Jem. I really appreciate the detail descriptions. Also fun to read your impressions of the places and your discoveries. Makes for compelling reading. I am following your journey with interest and only wish you the best. You have a lot of opportunity out there ahead of you. Keep the faith and keep painting. PS: I especially like the coast painting at Exmoor. Lovely treatment of the cliffs.

    Jem 1 year ago. Reply

    Thank you for your very kind comment, Mike.
    I am sure I will continue to paint – whatever might happen to faith or opportunity! I appreciate your optimism, good wishes and interest. Wishing you all the best, too, Mike, cheers.

Anne De Sutter 1 year ago. Reply

Excellent post! I think “At Kilve Beach” is one of your very best, but I like the others very much as well. I always enjoy reading your blog and seeing the paintings.

Congratulations on the rave reviews of your video. It is very satisfying that you get the recognition you deserve.

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Thank you very much, Anne!
    Very kind comment, much appreciated.

Ian Barnes 1 year ago. Reply

Great to see some new paintings from you Jem. I’m booked onto your one day course at Windrush in Oct so look forward to meeting up with you again.


    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Thanks for your commment, Ian. That’s great, will look forward to seeing you at Windrush then.
    Hope you’re well. All the best, Jem

Pete 1 year ago. Reply

Wow. Truro arts would be great for me Jem. I’m doing 2 workshops with Steve Hall and David Bellamy this year at Sidmouth so I was undecided as to enrolling on your workshop there too. I think 3 workshops in the same location, bearing in mind I’ve done 2 before, is overkill on the place. Truro would be great as I don’t get much opportunity to paint when I’m there. My Wife is usually in tow!

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Pete, hope you’re well.
    I’m looking forward to Cornwall (in fact going on hols there soon to paint the coast…) and thank you for your interest in the workshop.
    As I don’t know Truro at all yet my first workshop there is going to be all indoors. I mention this because in fact some of the content is likely to be very similar to the indoor bits of the 2 day workshop you attended last time. Wouldn’t want that to bother you, but would be nice to see you if it didn’t.

      Pete 1 year ago. Reply

      Hi Jem. It wouldn’t bother me at all, in fact a refresher is always welcome. Workshops are more of an opportunity for me to escape the distractions at home and make time to paint with people of a like mind. There is a wonderful Cathedral just a stones throw from Truro arts that I’ve sketched on occasion. You are always welcome to stay at my place if you’re unsure about accomodation for the workshop. I live about 35 miles away, but that’s a mere stretch of the legs down here. It takes about 45 minutes to get there. Love your new pictures by the way. I forgot to comment on them with my last message. Best regards. Pete.

        Jem 1 year ago. Reply

        That’s great then, Pete, would be good to have you along!
        Love it – stretch of the legs!… And that’s very kind of you re the offer of accommodation. In fact that’s already sorted out. I often think I’d like to live somewhere down there. Are you a regular surfer then?
        I did see the cathedral in google photos, which I didn’t realise Truro had at all and is impressive – definitely can see myself painting it at some point, from a bit of a distance. Cheers

          Pete 1 year ago.

          Surfer?… me?… Nah! The only surfing I do is on the net 🙂

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