Latest paintings, Cancellations and ‘lock down’

Dear friends,

I sincerely hope this finds you well.
Currently, more than anything I am looking forward to seeing exactly how my Hawthorns will grow this year, and watching the birds find benefit from them.

Below are a few recent paintings, with a few thoughts on each.  None of which are remarkable at all, and I’m afraid this is how I am seeing the vast majority of my work these days.  A change is needed, something big.  Something was coming, too.


The lane into Puxton, North Somerset, en plein air.

This one was going quite well, until rain began to hit, just as I was beginning the tree.  I sped up and the tree got off to a bad start.  It then quickly poured so I still had to pack it up unfinished.  I don’t understand how the painting has no rain drops visible, except that it must all have been dry enough by that time, and I got it into the folder pretty sharpish.   Anyway,  I ended up completing the tree back home, using photos from the scene.  I’ve not completed a plein air painting away from the scene for a long time (except occasionally literally to add a bird or two) and the result is unsurprisingly disappointing.  The tree was a good one, and I haven’t captured how special it was.  Never mind.  The painting uses my 3-colour palette of Indian Red, Thalo (or Winsor) blue (Red Shade) and Raw Umber.  It’s very grey, I know, but then it was a grey day.  I like grey.




Brislington cemetery, en plein air

This is my local cemetery, and I regularly take a walk here (or did until recently – more on that below) to sit and enjoy the birds and other life, of which there is often more in cemeteries than most other urban areas.  There are some great trees here, and I’ve meant to paint them for a long time.  Well, I’ve given it a go, but I need to try again.  This was a rare sunny day in February.  Had to get out to make the most of it, though it was cold.



Arnos Vale cemetery in the rain (en plein air)

Another cemetery, still walkable from where I live, and this one a very large Victorian one, very overgrown, which has become an excellent nature reserve, unofficially.  I went out when forecast was for rain.  Often I find this’ll mean it doesn’t rain, but on this occasion it certainly did and I had to pack away the painting a few times.  This one you can see a few drops on the paper, where I wasn’t quick enough.  Quite nice marks though, I always think.




A lane near Claverton, North Somerset

Again using the 3-colour palette, and this one was my first go with an alternative Indian Red, which I’ve used since, and that’s Rembrandt’s version.  It uses a diffenerent pigment to the W & N one, and consequently is more transparent and even better for darks.  I don’t like the hue as much as the W & N one, but that’s just a personal preference I might as well get over.  There’s no accounting for colour preference in that way.
Thalo and I Red can make a strong dark, and this version does it more easily with pretty good transparency, so I’m still sticking with it.


A bit of weather at Budleigh Salterton.

Done from photos taken a morning when I visited the town to do a demo in January.  The composition is half made up, a composite of bits, so you’d not find the exact same view if you tried.  Kind of thrown together and the sky started off too dark, but although I didn’t like it (and really, wasn’t in the right mood) all through the painting process I kind of quite like it now, overall.


Newton St Cyres church, Devon

Another painting done from photos taken during a visit to an art group, for a workshop this time.  Not much to say about it really, as I feel its just me-by-numbers.  I really am boring myself with my paintings a lot of the time these days – when done indoors especially.


Cancellations, bad things and some new, hopefully good things

I haven’t posted for a long time.  I hope my output is not too trivial to be bothering other people with, especially at a time like this.
I’ve got to get this done now though, or maybe I never will.

Firstly, I am very sorry that I have needed to cancel or postpone all workshops, demos and courses.  Obviously, there was no option. [Exception: Big Sky Art/Norfolk – June – has not yet been cancelled at this point]
Thank you so much for booking with me, those who did.  I was looking forward to spending time helping with your painting and sharing the experience of spring with you.  I hope the cancellations have not inconvenienced you too much.

Secondly, I have plans to get a few things up and running.  These include:

E-tuition – which some may remember I used to do.  That is tutoring by correspondence.

One-to-one tuition by video link, (using Zoom or Skype, or something – ANY USEFUL KNOWLEDGE OR EXPERIENCE GRATEFULLY RECEIVED at this point, as I’ve yet to figure out the best way of doing this).

A new video for sale on Vimeo.  I was waiting to film a few more plein air demos this spring and summer, but the video will sadly need to be shorter now, since I won’t have the opportunity to do that.

I might get back to working on a book later in the year, too.
These things will all take me some time, especially making the video from the raw footage I’ve got.  I haven’t checked through it all, so am  hoping it’s usable.  I’ll put information on my website and blog about them once ready.


I have been self-isolating for over a fortnight already, as my partner is in the most at-risk group from Covid19, having Cystic Fibrosis.
Thank god we used our own common sense, rather than waiting for the appalling government ‘advice’.

It’s a scary time.  We take nothing for granted about the future, try to be grateful each day and live in the present.  We have just had to cancel our wedding and pull out of a house sale because of the coronavirus. We were all set to move to Scotland in May.  Hopefully the future will allow these things.  I was looking forward to an enormously revitalised painting life, with much wonderful coastal scenery as inspiration.  I felt sure I would have been doing the best paintings of my life within a few months.  It was a good feeling.
But now, like no doubt many of you, we are stuck at home for months during the best time of the year, and for who knows how long in the end.  We are at least lucky and super grateful to have our little garden area, and the visiting birds.  Here it is now; not much to look at:



But in a month it should look a bit more like this….



In some ways.  Hopefully Hannah won’t see that one!   In a few months it looks more like this:



I haven’t been painting enough recently.  I find that I’m not inclined to paint for myself unless my mind is in a particular state, which has been lacking.  I hope you are fairing better.  Also, I suppose to be fair it has been winter, so plein air opportunities are obviously slimmer.

I’ve had many ideas of things to write about on the blog, but sometimes there’s too much, and then I tend to say nothing because just a bit will not do.  Other times I have just been too full of negativity, given the state of life on Earth.
Anyway, I know you’ll agree there are more important things than a blog post.
I hope your own art will give you some uplift through these times.  I’ll be back soon, provided I find something positive to say/show.

Meantime, I think this gives an insight into where I am these days.  Joe Solo.  I recommend buying his entire back catalogue from bandcamp, which he allows at an absurdly low price, but that’s Joe.  Listening to Joe’s output has almost single handedly kept me going since a friend sent me a link to a song of his, last Autumn.  For me, the find of the decade.  If you are of a different political persuasion, you will want to stay away.  If you investigate a little, you’ll discover there’s a lot more than this to Joe Solo.

Very best wishes,




Comments On This Post

Andre Lloyd 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem.
I find your landscapes stimulating and I remain intrigued at your process of execution and intent which yields variety within your genre and excellent compositional content.
The interpretation and expression of Landscape in watercolour has facinated me all my life and nothing moves me more than being captivated by a new artistic statement that exhibits ingenuity and competence within the medium.
I enjoy your work very much and I am greatly pleased when one of your new paintings is made available for viewing.
Best wishes and happy painting for many more years to come Jem.
Kind Regards.
Andre Lloyd

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Andre,
    Thank you so much for your encouraging words and interest.
    Given what you’ve said I’d be very interested if you would let me know which other contemporary watercolour painters you enjoy the work of, as I’d like to check them out. Hoping you return to get this message! Kind regards, Jem

Frank Scrivener 1 year ago. Reply

Dear Jem, Another very absorbing and interesting blog on your thoughts alongside your fine paintings. Always a good day when the blog arrives.
Let us all hope that Hannah and yourself can soon proceed with your exciting plans for the future.
Kind regards Frank

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Frank. Thank you for your comment. I hope that you are well and can stay safe in the situation we are all facing.
    Take no chances! Best wishes, Jem

Alison Murden 1 year ago. Reply

Sorry about your difficulties Jem. I’m sure you will be back to a more usual routine in a few months but meanwhile just do what you can do and look after yourself and your lovely partner. By the way that picture at the top is wonderful! I myself am using some old photos and tutorials from Leisure Painter and the Artist magazines (including some of yours!) to give myself some new challenges.
Keep well,

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Alison. Thank you for your comment. Pleased that you’ve got some useful resources to hopefully inspire some art. We all need some distractions through this difficult time, don’t we. Take care, Jem

Mike Davies 1 year ago. Reply

Thanks for your E-Mail Jem. Also, my apologies – I think my technology belongs in the Steam
Age !

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Mike. Love that – I tend to wish technology was still in the steam age! All the best, Jem

joanne hendsbee 1 year ago. Reply

hi jem, sending good wishes from across the atlantic to you and hannah, things are certainly different right now…stay safe and keep on painting as they are lovely!

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Joanne. Thanks for your message. Take care over there – crazy times might be the new norm! All the best, Jem

Stephen Slater 1 year ago. Reply

Sorry to hear of your recent difficulties. Life often brings difficulties but we come through them a little wiser. I do trust Hanah and yourself will avoid the dreaded virus and that your intended dreams will come about. As others have mentioned, it is a little surprising that you are so critical of your work but I Suppose that is how we all improve, no matter what our standard. I especially look forward to getting a copy of your intended book. Perhaps you will have more time for that in your seclusion.
With good wishes for the future.

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Stephen. Thank you very much for your thoughts. I’ll get the book done one day, I’m sure! Take care in the meantime. Very best wishes, Jem

mike gorham 1 year ago. Reply

hello jem
well each of us views our own work in difference to others , for me your painting “lane into puxton” is one of your best and that painting has exited me to get into my studio {garage!!} with greater vigor than of late.
some years ago I travelled down from st neots cambs. to receive two days of instruction from you, which was most helpful in my aspiration to paint with much looser effect . {am still trying to stop “fiddling”!! just cant help myself !!} . For me improvement seems to be a “long time” process , but that’s watercolour for you !!
best wishes mike gorham

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Mike. Thank you very much for your comment. Yes, improvement tends to take quite a long time once you reach a certain level. Dedication’s what you need!
    Take care during these testing times. All the best, Jem

Mike Davies 1 year ago. Reply

Hello Jem,
sorry that things are not going so well for you. As ever though your pictures are all inspiring
and of a quality that I can only dream about. I shall eagerly await any E-Tuition and any more
Videos. Having arranged to do some plein air painting with a friend this was quickly squashed
by Covid 19. I am far from alone I’m sure ! All the very best to you and as Churchill said KBO,
keep bu**ering on !
Mike Davies

Olga 1 year ago. Reply

Thanks for all of this, Jem. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Big Sky in June though I fear it may be cancelled too, unless there’s a miracle. I love all the paintings – as always, so much nicer than the photos – and the one of Budleigh Salterton is stunning. I’m so sorry your wedding and your move were cancelled but hopefully only for a short time and I’d delighted that you are moving to Scotland. I hope that still happens.

I am very interested in the new film and will be one of the first to buy the book! Keep this blog coming – it’s what we need in times like this ( though no times are like this!),

All the very best,

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Olga. Thank you for your kind thoughts and comment. I really appreciate your support. Take care through these testing times. All the best and hope to see you again before too long. Jem

Chris Alves 1 year ago. Reply

That poor woman in Budleigh Salterton, pulled dogs one way and the wind the other. Great! We in NZ are thoroughly locked away for the next month. My brushes are getting plenty of mileage and my Jacksons order is in the air to me. Sorry about your gloom, I’m sure things will improve for us all. Stay safe and well and look forward to your next post, they’re always very welcome.
Cheers. Chris

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Chris. Thanks for your kind comment, which made me smile. Yes, the figure really helped with the atmosphere of the painting. I find figures can be great to have, when there’s a good reason. Take care during these testing times. All the best, Jem

Nick Cross 1 year ago. Reply

Your paintings are excellent Jem as always. I like the sound of e-tuition also so will definitely be keeping and eye open for news.
best wishes,

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Nick. Thanks for your kind message. I’ll probably have the etuition up and running soon. Take care during these difficult times, Jem

Karl Pitwon 1 year ago. Reply

The Lane into Puxton is an absolute beauty Jem

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Karl, and thanks very much for your uplifting comment. Take care and all the best, Jem

Kevin O’Neill 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem
Thank you for your posts. I came across you (I think) through the SAA a while ago and signed up to receive your emails.
I have taken up painting mostly after we took early retirement nearly six years ago. We moved from the UK to Brittany which was a bit of a disaster for me especially. However, after some time living part time on a narrow boat we now live in the Highlands.
These are difficult times and motivation in particular can be a challenge as others on this post have also said.
I do hope that you and Hannah are able to manage to move as soon as times improve and I wish well to everyone on your links.
And your work is great!
Best wishes Kevin

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Kevin, thanks for your message. Sounds like you’ve been in a few different directions in recent years! Hope you’re happily settled now. Take care and I wish you some motivation. I think I might set blog readers a challenge… All the best, Jem

James Tipping 1 year ago. Reply

The older you get you realise nothing lasts forever.
This virus and awful times will go eventually and we can get on with our lives
Take care

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi James, Thanks for your positive comment, and I certainly hope you’re right. I well understand your point in general. Nothing lasts forever. Let’s hope something good comes out of this. Take care yourself too. All the best, Jem

Joe Griffin 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem
Once again I was only thinking of you the other day and wondering how your moving plans were going and then up pops the blog post. Well thanks for the post and so sorry to hear about your aborted plans.I do hope that the summer is good to you and Hannah and that your wedding will happen before too long. Also what a lovely garden you have, it is obvious that there is love as well as work gone into it.
We are also self isolating having returned from our two month sojourn in Portugal, Spain and France. We go back just before everything kicked off and I have several hundred photos for inspiration. But like you getting the impetus to paint is difficult in the current circumstances. Keep us posted about e-tuition, a good tutor is inspiring and will encourage more of us to paint more often.
All the best

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Joe. Hope you are staying well. Good to hear you have some inspiriation to be going on with from your photos. Will have the etuition up and available before long I think.
    The garden is much loved, as you can see. I don’t think I could live without it at any time, in fact, but of course especially now! Thanks for getting in touch, and take care, Jem

Jane 1 year ago. Reply

Hello Jem,
I love your paintings. And your honesty is very touching. It is a difficult time in which to be creative anyway, and with all your setbacks I can totally understand that not much has been happening. However, your future plans sound good, especially your E-tuition. I am more or less stuck at home for caring reasons, so I could not possibly come to your classes, but I would definitely be interested in any correspondence tuition.
Self isolation is difficult to come to terms with. Keep safe!

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Jane. Thank you for your kind message. Also for your interest in the etuition – I’ll have that available soon. Take care and best wishes throughout the self isolation. It is quite a challenge in many ways, isn’t it. All the best, Jem

Judith Hextall 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem, thanks for taking the trouble to write your blog. You may feel it is unimportant at this time, but I’m sure your many readers are glad of the distraction, I know that I am! Hope you and Hannah keep well and manage to complete your plans later this year.

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Judith. Thank you for your kind message. I’m really pleased you find the blog to be a good thing. Take care through these testing times. All the best, Jem

Fran Cunningham 1 year ago. Reply

It was good to read your post. Please don’t be so self-critical. Your work is great ! I lived in the Mangotsfield area as a child, so some of the place names are familiar. I love the Budleigh Salterton painting in particular, with the figures. My parents spent their honeymoon there in October a few years after the war, I have photo of them well wrapped in raincoats. I look forward to following your online ventures. Take care

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Fran. Thank you for your comment. It’s reassuring to know some things don’t change – like the weather on a British sea front!
    Wishing you all the best throught these testing times. Take care, Jem

alan conner 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem,
Good to read your latest blog and if you set up an online course out will do well. I can thoroughly recommend your online tuition as you will remember me being an early student via the London Art College. You may use me as a recommendation for your expert and helpful crits. ?even publish online as an example one of my submissions and your comments. I am no longer painting and have no copyright objections.

Keep well

Alan Conner

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Alan. thanks for your kind comment and offer. I will see how it goes with demand for the etuition but bear in mind your idea.
    Take care through all this that’s happening. It’s a big test for all of us isn’t it. All the very best, Jem

Melvyn Randall 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem
Pleased to see some of your recent watercolours.
They are very good and I don’t know why you are so self critical of them.
I do hope you are keeping well?
Recent events have also not inspired me to
paint even from photos. I thought self isolation would get me going – how wrong I was.
Anyway keep safe.
Best regards

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Mel. Nice to hear from you, and I hope you are staying safe and well.
    Very testing times for us all. Painting seems unimportant, but it’s a distraction at least, if we can get into it.
    If things get back to normal I hope I might be able to meet up with you and the others again. Take care, Jem

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