‘Lockdown challenge’, live youtube demo and other (video) things

Farmland tree near Carew, Wales. 31 x 51cm – a recent studio painting.


Lockdown challenge update (May 11th)

DEMO VIDEO HERE:  https://youtu.be/DL7B9Kjo3zg


Hello folks.

I hope you’re still well and not cracking up, too much.

Today I’m setting a new challenge, or rather, a bit of fun for you to have a go at if you like.  There’s no pressure here, and no prize either, but hopefully people might find it a useful exercise and something relatively peaceful to set your mind to.  Also, I will post up your work on a future blog, as I have with my competitions, if you’d like to email them in to me.

Below are a few photos as references.  Below those are some starting suggestions in terms of an approach to painting, and then it’s over to you.

In about a month or two (I will set a firm date and let you know here) I will do a Youtube live-streamed demo, just for you (though its possible anyone might watch via youtube I’ll only be alerting my subscribers about the date and time).  Probably this will be at about 7 – 8.30pm, UK time (2 – 3.30pm EST).  I should be able to take questions at the end.  It’ll be the first time I’ve done such a thing, so will be a bit of an adventure.
I will paint a full half-imperial demo of one of the following scenes, with explanation as I go.
Please let me know which you’d like me to do, either by comment here or by email. 


Your challenge, should you choose to accept it


Reference 1  (Note, you can right-click all photos to ‘save image as’ and download them to your PC)

Boats at West Mersea

Reference 2

A footpath near Bath and Bristol


And here are a few alternative skies, should you like to use one in combination with the above…




The painting process

Do one thing different to normal – eg, use a different colour (or whole palette of colours, though it could just be three), a different brush to normal, a different size or alternative paper surface, a different angle of board… or other things you might be meaning to try out for a first time.

Set a time limit and divide it in two – Maybe shorter overall than your normal time for a painting, then using a timer stop yourself two-thirds through it and walk away for at least half an hour before returning to complete the painting with refreshed eyes and better objectivity about what still remains to be done.

Before you start the painting decide on the following:

One bit of the subject that you will leave out entirely or simplify greatly.

One area at least that you will paint as soft-edged.

One corner that you will leave very ‘quiet’ in the painting.

And make sure you plan for one bit (at least) of negative painting somewhere.

Then stick to these things!

Other than that do as you like – change composition, atmosphere and anything else.  Do it as an ink & wash, turn it into a cartoon, paint a rhinoceros into it, and so on.  Maybe you’ll start with a small sketch to test some ideas out, maybe not.  I hope you’ll have a go and enjoy it.


Lockdown challenge update (May 11th)

DEMO VIDEO HERE:  https://youtu.be/DL7B9Kjo3zg


Other Matters

I’m pleased that I’ve been able to re-schedule my courses at Dedham Hall and Big Sky Art for next year.  The Dedham Hall date is set, 3rd – 10th April 2021.  Big Sky Art dates will be confirmed soon, but should be around June as per this year’s very sadly cancelled course.

I’ve nearly completed my new Plein Air video.  I’d have had it done, but for the inevitable technical setbacks – owing to my stretched production facilities/capabilities! 
It will feature 3 plein air demonstrations and a few other bits, coming to about 2.5 hours long. Because of the coronavirus scuppering my plans to record more plein air demos for the video it will be a lower price than my Studio Painting one, though it’s just as long. 


E-tuition & Portfolio Appraisal Service

I’m now ready to provide details about my correspondence learning to anyone seriously interested.  Please email me for this.  I anticipate a detailed web page will follow, at some point down the line.

To describe briefly, depending on needs this could take the form of an in-depth critique of a portfolio of work, or a 3-tutorial package in a ‘critique & suggestion’ format.  Feedback available in either audio recording (eg MP3 files), written email, or even live video chat formats.


One-to-one Video Tuition, via Zoom

Okay, I’m  about ready to show my face live through the twenty-first century’s latest format of choice/necessity.  Well, not too much of my face will be necessary.  Having read just about enough to do with webcams (which seem to have completely sold out in the UK) and other hardware, and watched too many youtube videos about youtube videos (about youtube videos), I am at the point where this can be done.  And I’m just as sane as before. 

I think I can effectively teach one-to-one sessions in this way.  It will need students to also have the free Zoom programme downloaded onto their PC (available HERE) so they can join a ‘meeting’ with me from a link in an email I will be sending them.
It is a very simple process and programme (in terms of the very limited way that the student needs to engage with it) and I will be able to guide you with that. 
Alternatively, if you’re interested and want to have a look now, you can also learn by watching many youtube videos about it!!


Art groups & societies – Video demonstrations

In essentially the same way as described above I can now also give demonstrations to whole Art groups/societies/clubs via Zoom. 
This is beginning to take off around the country and world, and could become more popular since we might be unable to safely meet up in physical groups for some time. Obviously it won’t be quite the same, but I think it could work well.  Please contact me to discuss it if you think this might work for your group.


Some of my articles in Leisure Painter have been put back a bit.  I have written a series of three articles on plein air painting but (owing to the fact that we are not allowed outdoors!) these will now be published next year.  This month sees the second part of my two-parter about Composition, and later in the year there will be at least one Painting Project, probably two.  I hope people find these helpful – please let me know.


The future…

feels more uncertain than ever, but longer term I intend to make a video-based course, which will be a major undertaking.  Some people will be aware that I created the current Watercolour Diploma course for London Art College in 2016.  I finished tutoring the course earlier this year, though it continues there now with a different tutor.  I will be glad to be back myself with a new, updated and video-based (pandemic-proof!?) comprehensive programme of learning, and better than ever at that. 
Unlike most such courses I fully intend mine to include live, in-person feedback sessions, too.  As with everything I do, I’m not after quantity of students, but a quality experience for those that choose to work with me on their painting.  Just give me a year or so of ‘normal’ time and I’ll create this as a priority (as well as doing much plein air painting!).  I’ve also recently been writing the odd paragraph of the book that I’d better stop mentioning…


Finally, here’s another of my recent studio paintings, with a few notes.


Knepp ‘wildland’ after rain. 31 x 51cm

This is a painting of Knepp Rewilding Project in West Sussex (UK).  I visited here in 2019 to paint and camp, though it rained and I only managed a couple of paintings en plein air. 
As my reference for this I used the photos below and a couple of others.
Knepp is all about wildlife and ecology/biodiversity, fauna and flora, but I’ve on this occasion resisted putting in any birds, of which there are many!  I’m not convinced about the decision, but I suppose I could always add some one day if I want to.  Meantime, I hope it stands up as a painting without them and perhaps means the eye will wander around the whole scene more for lack of eye-catching tiny marks in the sky to direct it.  There is that small, distant tree, which I hope people find their way to (see photo below).  More small marks might compete with this.   With this painting I was pleased to have judged the tone of the ground as I wanted it first time so that no area needed any overpainting.  That’s very helpful, on Bockingford, if things are to look fresh.



All for now then.  Take care and remember to let me know your thoughts about the challenge live demo subject.  

Best wishes,


Comments On This Post

Julian Jones 1 year ago. Reply

Hello Jem,
Love the “live demo”, I vote for the boats, too me this would be more enlightening in terms of how you handle the composition overall.

Best of luck with the e-tuition and online courses.

Take care,

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Julian, Okay, thanks then, and I’m glad you enjoyed the demo. Didn’t really make great changes to the composition on this occasion, did I? I thought it worked out okay re composition in the end. Got it to move the eye around, I thought, and not be symmetrical despite boat in centre. The sky (clouds, or the light and position of resulting shadows) can always help with things like that. All the best, Jem

Anthony Faris 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem. Thanks for laying down the gauntlet again. The timing is great as I have been running out of ideas for subject matter. I may have a go at both but would really like to see your version of the boats if that were possible. Regards Tony Faris

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Tony,
    Glad this comes as well timed for you. Apologies again re. Big Sky this year… Great, yes do have a go at both photos. And you could zoom in/change mood etc in loads of ways if you wanted. If people go for the footpath photo I will still do a painting from the boat one, perhaps even as a demo in some form. Have fun and take care, Jem

John Haywood 1 year ago. Reply

Hi Jem and thanks for this post – lots of great news, information and a great challenge too! It’s especially timely as I’ve hit a slight lull in inspiration and the image of the boats has quite lifted my spirits – so I only hope I can do it some justice!

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi John, lovely to hear from you! Well, I’ve seen you do some great paintings with boats in, so this should be no problem for you. Plenty of potential to make changes from the ref, I think, to make a painting from it. Sorry to hear about the inspiration downturn, but of course I know you know it is par for the course and won’t last forever. Very pleased to be of some service in the meantime! Please send in whatever you produce, John, whatever you think of it. Would love to see it, plus put it up on the blog unless you’d prefer not. Take care, Jem

Kit Pearson 1 year ago. Reply

I love the idea of this challenge and especially of the live demo. I vote for the footpath!

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Kit! Thank you for your vote – noted – and pleased you like the idea of this. Most people seem to be going for the second photo so far. Best wishes, Jem

Joe Griffin 1 year ago. Reply

Great ideas . I love the challenge idea, I need something to focus and motivate me at the moment. I think the live streamed demo would be really helpful too (just hope my internet connection holds up!). My first preferences would be the footpath image mainly because I love doing trees and country paintings. Boats I find more difficult but maybe that would be a better challenge for me? I assume you’ll end up doing the one with the most votes so that’s fine. And I’ll be emailing you about the e-tuition which I really hope I can join with. Also looking forward to the new video. Some many things all at the same time, thanks.

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Joe, and thanks very much.
    I’m hoping my internet holds up, too! That might be an issue, but we’ll have to see. It’s really variable here.
    Yes I’ll see how the votes come in for the demo. I thought the boats would have it, since I’ve not painted so much of the subject before, but so far it seems most people prefer the idea of the path. Look forward to hearing from you re. the etuition, then. All the best, Jem

Mike Davies 1 year ago. Reply

good to hear from you ! Will certainly have a go at one of your photos (probably the footpath
near Bristol). Glad to hear that the Video is progressing. Really look forward to the Blog as
your style of picture is just what I’m looking for. Many thanks..

Mike Davies

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Thanks, Mike. Enjoy yourself with the painting. If the path one doesn’t go too well, you could have a go at the other! It has a lot of potential, just needs a few tweaks, I think. Video hopefully not long now. All the best, Jem

Olga 1 year ago. Reply

This all sounds great. I’ll be taking on the challenge. I feel my painting has taken on a backward step so it may be the prod I need to get going again. I was so sorry the Big Sky Art holiday was cancelled but I’m booked again for next June. See you there. Hope there is a new wedding date and move to Scotland!

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Olga. Thank you for re-booking the holiday and I’m very sorry that it was cancelled.
    Hold in there with the painting, definitely, as the feeling of backward steps are par for the course for us all.
    Just enjoy the ‘challenge’ and use the ‘change one thing’ as a get-out clause (no pressure/expectation of a good result)!
    I look forward to seeing what you come up with. All the best, Jem

Maria Ross 1 year ago. Reply

I’d love to give it a go! Looking forward to live demo!

Thank you for your enthusiasm and time.

Stay safe and best wishes

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Maria and thank you. I hope you enjoy the challenge; just have fun with it. I look forward to seeing the results! All the best, Jem

Prue Furse-Roberts 1 year ago. Reply

Thanks Jem
Will look corward to having a go at one of the photos.
Sounds as though you have good plans for the future.
Keep well and best wishes

    Jem Bowden 1 year ago. Reply

    Hi Prue.
    I hope you’re well and pleased to hear you are still painting. Hope you enjoy the ‘challenge’. Just another bit of fun, I hope.
    Please let me see what you come up with! Best wishes, Jem

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