Paintings old and new, musings a few and upcoming painting ‘experiences’

Near Warleigh Weir in November – en plein air




About time I put together a blog post.  Hopefully this sprawling post will make up a bit for a considerable period of withdrawal.  It’s been a time of reflection, and there’s a bit of that in here.

I have done a couple of posts in recent months, but not sent them out by email.  It doesn’t feel right to be bothering people from my irrelevant corner when there have been such goings-on in the world.  Looking out at it I’ve not exactly been exuding useful positivity.  I have also had to undertake some home DIY refurbishment, which is another reason I’ve not painted enough.  Perhaps you’ve been encountering similar things.?

Forgive me if this one rambles a bit.  I feel a bit of weight off my mind today, which has not been a common feeling in recent times so I’m trying not to worry much, while it lasts…

I was going through my pile of paintings the other day, as I try to do once a year, but have not wanted to for longer than that.  It has not been a vintage painting year!  But actually, for me nor was the previous year, or two.  I don’t think I’ve developed enough, though I think I can see just a little bit.  The main point that really strikes me is this: Most of my paintings are rubbish!  At least that’s how they genuinely look to me.  BUT.  There were a few in the pile that I thought worked out well, and you could say I am pleased with.  But with so few that seem to be winners, it does seem  like it must be fluke involved in those!

Being trapped indoors over winter (even more than usual) is never the best of times. I find it hard to enjoy painting in the studio.   It is true that making a start is the hardest bit, and that inspiration can often (to a degree) follow, so we absolutely should not always wait for inspiration.  I know it to be true, but it’s still against my grain…


Brislington Cemetery in Snow, January 2021

We had some snow in Bristol last week, hence this painting. 
We went out for a walk early, before the sun was really up, to make sure we caught the snow before melting and here in the local cemetery there were only the footprints of squirrel and one dog-accompanied human (at times let off the lead) before our arrival. 

In reality. snow-covered landscape can often look very black and white.  Snow and use of colour is part of the subject in my current (part two in next issue) Leisure Painter article, where incidentally you can win my finished painting of ‘Glastonbury Tor In The Snow’ (scroll down for this, though like with every single one of my magazine articles, I don’t like the painting).  

If there happens to be a blue sky, bringing sunshine and shadow, then there is more colour apparent, but it seems rare in my experience of snow in Bristol that it is accompanied by anything other than blanket cloud.  If sun does appear then the snow soon melts.

My painting here has a bit more colour (though I don’t shy away from ‘black’ – in this case a mix of Thalo and Indian Red), and I changed the sky to make it more interesting.  As a consequence of the latter I think I lost the real atmosphere that there was, of that silent stillness, and in fact this all has a real beauty to it, so next time I’ll not make such a change.  I did resist putting in any birds. There weren’t many moving around at this early point in the morning, though by the end of our walk an hour later there were some about.

I painted with my three colours of Indian Red, Raw Umber and Phthalo (Red Shade), but used the Rembrandt Indian Red, which gives a slightly more transparent dark, though I don’t like the hue so much as the Winsor & Newton one.  Should have made that front headstone soft edged, I think, but I didn’t plan this very much before enjoying it.  And I did enjoy it.  First time I’d wanted to paint for a couple of weeks or more.    

Other studio efforts in the last couple of months, working from photos, have been very mediocre, despite sometimes feeling I was rising to the occasion at the time. You just never can tell; everything is relative.  Poor studio work is very normal for me, and in part I feel sure it is the limitations of observation that you get with photos, rather than when working from reality.  

Such talk brings to mind the fact that I did some concerted work on my book fairly recently.  Then DIY interrupted and I lost the flow.  Each time I go back to it with the intention of continuing and/or editing I just want to completely re-write the whole thing, which is one reason I’ve made pitiful progress with it over years now.  


Glastonbury Tor – fictionalised snow scene based on a summer photo.  The finished painting from my current Leisure Painter two-parter.  THIS PAINTING IS AVAILABLE TO WIN (should that be desirable).  I’m giving it away to whoever wins the competition which you’ll find details of here:


By the way, if you ARE tempted to enter the competition, don’t go thinking you won’t win!  Everyone thinks that, so often competitions like this don’t get that many entries.  Currently it looks like there are four entries uploaded to their website.  Also, you are allowed to paint the scene in any medium, not just watercolour.


Near Warleigh Weir

At the top of this post is one of my favourite paintings of the year – that I’ve done, that is.  There were parts of it that didn’t go well (well, OBVIOUSLY), including bits of the main tree that could certainly have been fresher, but then it seems to me, always, that just a few redeeming bits can make a painting despite the bad bits.  There’s just a few more good bits and few less bad bits in a good one than most of the others!  It’s all relative…..  ‘Course that’s just my view of it.

This was the ‘product’ (along with enjoying my day) of my last plein air trip of 2020, in November, and I’d gone to a weir on the river Avon between Bath and Bradford-On-Avon, where I’ve been previously but not in Autumn.
It was wet underfoot and I slipped up, landing on my back in the mud pretty quickly.  So this was painted with muddy palms.  I will try that again.
The weir is at the far end of the field in this scene.  It’s an impressive feature, but as when visiting before, I failed to see how I could get a composition I liked out of it, so was pleased to find this view  instead.  It is my kind of painting, just trees, bushes, sky, rough grasses and herbage, etc.  It still has foreground, middle ground and distance, a helpful range of shapes and to me, plenty of atmosphere.  The latter is always the main thing to aim for, and never easy.  In this case the difficulty was partly that the light kept changing so I needed to use my memory of the light effect and shadows at many points.  Thankfully things did come back every so often.
As usual, at the time I couldn’t at all tell that I’d captured anything with the painting.  I definitely enjoyed being there, despite it not being warm.  So I enjoyed the being there, I enjoyed the painting process, and then… I was irritated by some cack-handed bits of mark-making!  Later, some weeks and now months later, despite said marks I discover that I am not disliking the painting. In fact I like it, and there aren’t very many of those.  That’s how these things are.

Painting holidays / courses / ‘experiences’

The two MARVELLOUS places I am LUCKY and GRATEFUL to have been given the chance to teach at. JOIN ME! (If you SAFELY can, and we’re allowed, obviously)


Dedham Hall course/painting holiday


(Details of course CLICK HERE, and Dedham’s website HERE)

Keeping fingers crossed, as they say, that we might be able to do something ‘previously normal’ by April, and gang up for some plein air painting!  Dedham Hall are taking bookings, and would obviously refund them should it be bad news, but they are as raring to go as I am.  Hopefully many people will have had a vaccine by then, and we’ll not be in a lock down.
I’ll not have had the vaccine by then, and am planning to self-isolate in a tent in our garden on my return.  Be assured that I am continuing to be extremely vigilant about the virus, since my partner is in the clinically top-risk category.  

Some of you will know, Dedham Hall is a great base for a painting course and we have brilliant hosts in Jim and Wendy.  It will be my first course there, so I’m excited about it and have lots of ideas about locations for us to paint at.  I don’t know many of these very well exactly, but I will have visited and considered each one carefully, before our week. I visited in late summer/Autumn 2019 and investigated many locations of the area on foot (always checking we won’t trip over, etc!), combining with toilet, parking space, subject options, lunch provision, etc.  I suppose it’s possible we’ll need packed lunches.  There are some unknowns, with how things are currently.   One definite (classic) location of the area that we will surely go to is Pin Mill.  You can look up Pin Mill online and find no end of paintings of it, including by Seago and other well-known painters.
I’d also like to maybe take in this beautiful church (below), though there’s no toilet so that’ll be a morning or afternoon only affair (good light in the morning!).  I would probably pair that up with some useful time in the studio, before of after the visit.  It’s only a 5 minute drive or so from our base, and easy parking!.. 

Lawford Church. What a beauty!

And of course there are many other locations I’m trying to narrow it down from.
I’m never sure whether to call these things ‘courses’ or ‘painting holidays’.  I think there is always the freedom for a ‘student’/participant to take it either way, and I am very happy if people want to paint hard, or would rather eat, drink, sightsee and maybe paint just a bit.  It is an opportunity for an immersive painting experience, if you like.
In general at least, my residential courses are designed to be the following:

Good for people at all levels of painting, from virtual beginner upwards, but best for those with at least some experience of watercolour, and who are pretty serious about their painting – and who like being outdoors.

This is because I am quite serious about painting, serious about helping others improve their painting, and love being outdoors, taking inspiration from the surroundings.  There’s a lot I want to pass on – hopefully usefully – but possibly talk too much and too fast.  Well, I think I’m better than I was and you can always ask me to pipe down a bit.  

Experience of plein air painting is not essential, but the thing is, we WILL be going outdoors for at least half of most or all days, and not just in lovely weather.  Don’t worry, I’m not hardcore to the extent of painting in the rain (unless there’s a good shelter) or freezing parts of myself off, but returning from a plein air journey should involve that feeling of having earned the indoors and earned that meal.  It’s part of the whole very rewarding deal!  Of course I wouldn’t mind if you chose to stay back in the studio on any day.  It is your choice, although it wouldn’t be much of a course in my view if missing a chunk didn’t imply… missing something potentially important!  No, seriously though, stay back the whole time if you like; it’s rare I say anything important.

Please put walking boots/shoes on your Materials List if joining me for a plein air course. Or wellies I suppose, if you find those comfortable.  Locations will very likely include some wet grass, perhaps damp sand and probably a bit of  uneven footing by a river, etc.
Please also be prepared to do a little bit of driving.  I’m not sure if it’ll be possible to car-share much .. ?
We’ll have the lovely river Stour and the village of Dedham itself all walkable from base, which I intend we’ll utilise at least a few times, but some of the coastal areas and inland villages within 45 mins (at the longest) drive have great subjects, and herein lies the sightseeing.

And finally, there will be some studio-based sessions, either morning or afternoon, where we can address some technical things, chat, debrief, look at the work of some great artists, and I can demonstrate some things more easily than when as a group outdoors.

Actually there is one more, final, important thing that I ask of anyone who comes painting with me: Please, don’t expect too much from yourself.  Watercolour is difficult, doing it outdoors is difficult, and if you are quite new to it as well, well….  You WILL be learning. There will be improvement over time, but you might not see it clearly in just a few paintings.  Focus on enjoying the process.  Being fully involved in and committed to the process is always the most enjoyable way of being a painter, and also your best chance of a good result.  I will say this.

You see, as a painter, out there in that landscape, that ‘location’ if you like, you are just being.  Well, okay, we’re kind of ‘doing’ as well, but as you get better it can become more intuitive and spontaneous, if you want to be those.  To me, it makes us extremely lucky, having opportunity.  But to do this ‘enjoying the process’ is not easy for many people.  We naturally wonder/wander forward too far in our minds at times (or right from the beginning, and all the time) , to the imagined ideal of that feeling of *liking the finished painting*.   You have to not worry about that if you want to make good progress (and if you want to enjoy your life!).  Most good watercolours involve ‘risk-taking’ from beginning to end.  Embrace that.  AND they need a little bit of magic (you see, you’ve got tto be happy in the process, rather than waiting for all this to fall into place!…).   But I won’t go into this now….


If you are considering joining me for a course but are unsure or unconfident about it for any reason, please don’t hesitate to just give me a call or email and we can discuss it.  

(I’ll talk about my Big Sky Art course in Norfolk later in the Spring.) 



Some B-Sides

Here are a few outtake selections, which I don’t think I’ve shown before.  I think I just might salvage these from the big pile and put them in the medium pile.  Let me know if you might be tempted to possess one of these. I am open to offers.


A sunlit woodland clearing.  From photos taken on a walk to discover a local woodland I’d been told was nice.  It was alright, but the fabled pond was so overgrown it was inaccessible and not visible.


Brancaster golf course clubhouse from the dunes (one of my Big Sky Art course locations).  Really want to do this en plein air some day, as I’m sure I can make a much better job of it that way. Could perhaps do it as a demo.


Burrow Mump in Snow (This one was cobbled together from photos of my own in summer and some snowy shots found online, but from different vantage points. Now this is me being ‘loose’, as I understand the term. Don’t tell me, you prefer this to my usual less-loose! well, sure. This one seems to have come out alright (maybe), but normally they don’t.


Near Lulworth Cove, Dorset.  When I visited here it was pretty heaving with people, and we just walked and explored the cliffs between Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, taking lots of photos.  Again, would love to paint this plein air.


Some Oldies

These are all plein air paintings, the first a very early one.

Near Norton Malreward, North Somerset.  This is a very early plein air painting for me. But when I got back into painting I was doing most of it outdoors straight away.  A lot of detail!  I’ve always wanted to bite off more than I can chew with a composition/subject.  It’s the whole vastness of landscape and sky that really that gives the atmosphere and sense of being that I wish to capture.  I remember looking at that tree on its own thinking ‘how the hell am I gonna paint that!”  Well, you just have a go.  I’d still find it very difficult now.   It was a beauty though (Note to self, I ought to go back here).  At least I can see progression since those days.


View from Trooper’s Hill, Bristol. I think I quite like this one. Has a bit of atmosphere.  Was keen on putting buzzards in my pictures at this time!


Farm at Stanton Drew, North Somerset. I phoned ahead to get permission from the farmer to sit amidst a field full of really old farming paraphernalia to do this. I used to cycle to locations like this from Bristol with my rucksack and bike bag containing everything.  Not so young/fit now  …. Here I had a narrow escape with cows coming in for milking at one point.


Some trees… Not a good composition, but there weren’t many options. This was done at a clearing in a pretty dull woodland where we’d gone to ‘hunt’ (find) a rare butterfly. With trees like this, it’s a matter partly of looking for the differences, and enhancing them a bit.


Above Elterwater, Lake District. That’s Windermere in the background. I love the Lake District and visited for several years in a row; would love to get back there again soon, as it’s been a while now.  This was quite a hike up.  After this I did a second one on top between here (Langdale) and the Grasmere Valley. That was a half-imperial job and I was using an easel by now (though this one – above – was seated), which got blown into me more than once with water going everywhere.  There was some mild frustration and words were spoken.  But not a bad picture I tell thee, considering the wind speed.


Upper Eskdale In Early Spring.  Lake District again, and this one was a fair hike up into the wildness of the upper Esk. I think that might be the back of Scafell (or Slight Side?) on the right, but I can’t remember for sure. I do remember it was pretty nippy when weather changed pretty drastically and I felt quite vulnerable up there.  An awe-inspiring place.  I love being somewhere like this that puts us in our rightfully humble, insignificant place.  I stayed on my own for a few days down at a farm house in Eskdale, one of the quieter parts of the Lake District.  An early solo painting trip treat and a nice memory.


Kestrel Over The Maize Field. From 7 years ago. One of my better early efforts at half-imperial, which I’ve painted in ever since. Was getting to grips with using a mop brush for the large sky area – not as large a brush as I use now. I quite like this and see it occasionally because it was bought by a friend.

Apart from ‘Kestrel’ these are all from pretty early in my return to watercolour, I think between 13 and 9 years ago.  I don’t know if it’s interesting to see these, but I thought it might be some encouragement that we DO develop if we work at it.
I first painted watercolour landscape at around 9 – 13 years old, then only sporadically until my early 30s as life presented other distractions.  I previously had no concept (regrettably) of the potential to earn a living/subsistence in the way I now just about do.  Until about 10 years ago (at which point I was a member of The Bristol Savages art society and gained an insight), and a few years after that I started working towards it by doing demos for art groups, as if I was good enough!  Believe me, I wasn’t, but I was so desperate to get out of the day job.
I gradually reduced the hours in said job, over a few years, before finally going for it full time in mid 2016.  I thank Trevor Waugh for persuading me to finally take that leap of faith/recklessness.  No regrets so far, and luckily I’m still here, so far.
These old paintings are smaller than I paint now, mostly done on ‘blocks’ at about quarter imperial size.  I used to sit on the ground on a plastic sheet with the block in my lap and materials surrounding me.  Travelling lighter I’d often walk for miles and do 3 – 5 paintings in a day, then either cycle or get a bus or train home.  Man, I feel old now, thinking about it!

Finally, back to a bit closer to now (maybe 5 or 6 years ago) and back at half-imperial size, this one was painted in the rain:

Above Porth Mear Cove, Cornwall – in the rain

We’d just arrived on holiday at our little hired cottage, ‘Skipper’s Cabin’, and I was absolutely raring to get out and paint this view, which is almost literally on the doorstep.  We arrived in heavy rain and after a couple of hours of it continuing – very annoyingly – I got fed up of waiting and just went out there and painted in it.  Actually, soon after I started it eased to drizzle and as you can tell from some bits, it stopped before I finished.   You see, get out there in the rain and it stops!
The only other time I’ve painted in the rain (except under shelter or someone’s umbrella) was doing a demo at Thornham, north Norfolk – at Big Sky Art –  in 2018.  That one started in drizzle and ended in persistent rain!  The painting didn’t exist by the end as it all dripped off the paper onto the salt marsh as I carried everything back to the car.  Then we were into the pub for lunch, after which it was dry for everyone else to paint.  All carefully planned, I promise you.

Here is that view above Porth Mear Cove (I went into the field in front, with the cows).

And that’s my special helper, who I’m lucky to be sharing my life with.

Have the best late-winter possible and take care.

Blackbird might sing any moment!  (not happened here yet)

Comments On This Post

Jim Roth 8 months ago. Reply

Hello Jem,
I enjoyed the “stream of consciousness” nature of this post.
I purchased the plein air painting video some time ago and bought the studio video yesterday.
I find both to be informative and inspiring.
I definitely use too much water when painting and intend to remind myself to use the Dry into Wet
technique as well as using “neat” paint.
I made a support using corrugated plastic with old poster frame pieces to hold the paper edges. This works great vs tape!
I like the palette you designed, with the colors on one side and large mixing areas (and no space wasted for a thumb-hole!) I wish I could get one.
Thank you for your informative blog!
Pennsylvania, USA

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks very much for your comment.
    A stream of consciousness is all we have!
    Really please you enjoyed the videos, and thanks very much for your support.
    There are many variations on the board idea out there. They all depend, like other materials issues, on how you work.
    I got the idea of this board/mount system from Steve Hall, who got the idea from Edward Wesson. I wonder who Wesson got the idea from.
    I then got the idea of lightweight plastic (rather than plywood, etc) off Tim Wilmot, who I paint out with plein air sometimes.
    The palette – yeah, I love it. Maybe you could search for someone local to you with a 3D printer. It’ll definitely be becoming a more common thing and hopefully cheaper for one-off jobs like that. I have to admit, I thought the same about a thumb hole, but out in the wind I sometimes think one would be handy!
    Thanks again and all the best, Jem

Mike Porter 8 months ago. Reply

thank you for being introspective and sharing that with us. I’m sure that everyone reading this blog can relate at least to parts of what you are saying. I know I can. I’m trying to improve my painting of flowers with the help of Trevor Waugh and the roses are a real struggle for me and he is such a master at it! Still, I press on.
The Glastonbury Tor is a wonder piece. Love the warm tones. Will have to try that combination. Having been there and gazed up at it, I can visualize standing there. So well done.
Keep at it.

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Mike.
    Thanks for your comment. Trevor is brilliant with roses.
    It takes time to get to grips with a new subject. I don’t know if they’re new to you, but I’ve had a couple of goes at flowers in the past and they were terrible. Takes time to observe what’s important about a subject. Then more time to figure out how to interpret that through hard and soft, tone, colour etc. Timing (for the edges) and speed generally is normally pretty helpful, as with most watercolour. Keep at it, too! All the best, Jem

Ian Barnes 8 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem
What is it about us ‘artists’ that make us put ourselves down all the time?!! I do it all the time with my art and my music, and my wife is always pulling me up about it. I guess we all strive for ‘perfection but we can never entirely reach it because, as you say, we are always raising the bar on our own expectations. I’ve been painting quite a lot recently and have seen some improvement. I know I’ve got a long way to go to reach your standard, and we all tend to compare ourselves to our ‘betters’, but I recently joined an online art group, which is made up of mainly beginners, and when I see some of the stuff being produced, I realise that I’ve actually come a long way!!! The improvement in your painting from your early stuff is really noticeable, so take great heart from that, even if you still feel that you have a long way to go (which you really haven’t!!)

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Ian.
    Hope you’re well and nice to hear from you.
    Good to hear you’ve got an online thing going on. Definitely better than nothing, isn’t it?
    Yes… I think the fact is that without self-criticism we wouldn’t actually GET better, so it’s absolutely intrinsic to it.
    I do take heart from the gradual improvement, and with the experience I now have (although it is only MY experience, which may be quite different for each of us) I am actually quite comfortable with the fact that I go through ‘phases’ of better or worse, artistically.
    Motivation sometimes needs a change of perspective in order to be refreshed, and it all goes on in the context of life more broadly.
    Glad you’re painting a lot; nice to hear, and that you feel some improvement. That’s great. Take care, Jem

Brian Le Masurier 8 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem,
Like you I find it difficult to pick up the brushes from where I left them when our little art group was forced to close down due to the current situation. For people like me, and I’m sure, those above who have written to you, it is an inspiration when we can open up our P.C.’s and see such wonderful paintings, such loose flowing strokes and careful compo’s which you have been able to produce. Thank you for sharing them and providing the get go we need to get back to painting.
Thank you also for sharing your thoughts on where we all are at this time. The time is coming when things will improve and we can again enjoy the company of friends and pick up where we left off.
Cheers, stay safe,

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Brian and thanks very much for your kind message.
    I hope you might be able to get back to some painting soon. Has your group investigated the idea of having demos by artists via Zoom?
    I know it’s not a good solution to everyone, not everyone being an active user of such ‘technology’. I always have to force myself to ‘get with it’, come to that, but I am now doing demos this way now, and I reckon from now on there may well be continuing demand for it even when we can go back to in-person events. Those are far preferable to me, though! Cheers and stay safe, Jem

Paul T. 8 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem – hope you are well.
I always enjoy your bogs – so well written and heartfelt. As usual some beautiful paintings – Near Warleigh Weir is a cracker – I really don’t know how you turn out such fabulous work en plein air – it’s so difficult! Prior to the last lockdown I gave it another go – being outside with all the gear I felt like a real artist – then I looked at the finished painting and realised I wasn’t – went home and did another Seago copy – yeah, I know! The cemetery painting is also lovely -some of your work is so beautiful it brings a tear to my eye -you have real talent and an idiosyncratic style that really captures the beauty of our country. The B -side summary was also really enjoyable – for me, Lulworth Cove and Upper Eskdale really demonstrate your mastery of the medium and Kestrel is just ‘wow’. BTW I loved your Pin Mill painting from the last blog – right up there with the best – was the sail in Winsor red Jem – like a jewel!
Paul T.

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Paul.
    Thanks very much for your message.
    I might be wrong, but I don’t think that many of the Seago watercolours we see were done plein air.
    Seago would re-work (i.e. paint again and again) several times, often, to arrive at what we see.
    Takes discipline, but the process allows refinement, obviously, and simplification. Nothing wrong at all with copying another artist, so long as you’re usefully figuring out how and why they’ve done it that way. Seago’s method is in fact pretty easy to teach, so long as you have a cotton paper. I’m not saying its easy to be Seago, though! The Pin Mill commission (I guess that’s what you must be referring to) was my usual palette, and the sail was Light Red, just used in a pretty saturated (i.e. unmixed) way, in its brightest parts.
    And as for plein air painting – it takes time, and then more time. It isn’t easy. You take your losses and go to great lengths and trouble sometimes. But you try again and again. It can feel like madness at times, but Nature has always kept me coming back for more.
    Thanks again for your generosity. I do appreciate it. All the best. Jem

Nicholas Cross 8 months ago. Reply

You are too hard on yourself Jem. About 1 in 10 of my paintings are worth having! I came across this personal meditation and find it very useful in these days:
Every day is a fresh beginning. Listen my soul to a glad refrain. And, in spite of old sorrows, and older sinning, troubles forecasted and possible pain, TAKE HEART WITH THE DAY AND BEGIN AGAIN. Nothing is worth more than this day.
Keep up your good work!
Best wishes,

Nick Cross

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Thanks for your comment, Nick.
    And for sharing the wisdom, which I appreciate fully as it isn’t a new philosophy to me. Have a regular meditation ‘practice’ for the last 4 – 5 years, which really needs to become every moment of life, though our culture doesn’t make that easy (short of becoming a monk, maybe one day). Just another gradual learning/developmental path I’m grateful to be on! Cheers.

Joe Griffin 8 months ago. Reply

Great to hear from you. Gosh I know exactly what you mean about the times we are in and our own small preoccupations. And my word I certainly know what you mean about being dissatisified with your art. Though in your case I think most of your self-criticism is unfounded. You do produce wonderful art as I and many others know but our own self-criticism is the worst type to overcome. And watching your plein air video yesterday I just marvel at what you achieve and how you do it.
So here’s looking forward to better times and enjoying our painting.

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Joe.
    Thanks very much for that.
    Self-criticism will probably remain forever, justifiably I think, since we all know the best we’ve achieved before, and as you get better you simply raise your ‘standards’ with it. So I don’t think it is unfounded, but I appreciate what you mean by it. Pleased you enjoyed the video and hopefully found it useful. Here’s hoping for those better times soon.

David Jones 8 months ago. Reply

Wow, Jem, you put the American confessional poetry school to shame! Still, good to know that some people on social media are presenting themselves ‘warts and all’. Would love to think I could come over to Dedham and participate in your workshop. Will have to work on it! Trouble is, I find in the few workshops I have attended (two – and one was ink!) I find I do my worst work. So your reminder to take it easy on yourself really chimed with me.
Lovely post, and hope this finds you and yours staying safe and well!
P.S. Thanks for the Like on Instagram (:

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Haha! – I had to look up the confessional poetry; hope this isn’t a bad comparison!
    I don’t know, I do wish that just being honest wasn’t such a noticeable thing in human society.
    Anyway, my hope is that this is something that I’m bringing to the ‘watercolour world’ party, since there are plenty doing it very differently. I hope it helps people feel that they’re not alone in their watercolour woes, plus to be prepared that this may always be the case! Long as people don’t just think I’m a miserable, moaning so and so, though I’m quite certain that some will.
    Re. the course, David, would be great to have you along on one, when you can. Maybe the issue is that they get you out of a comfort zone and working in different ways. Or maybe it is just your own perception that do your worst work.? Anyway, I’ve only been on one painting holiday ever myself (a Steve Hall one) and I felt the same thing about my week! It’s easy to make the mistake of comparing yourself to other people (on the course; like perhaps the tutor!) which is a problem. Hope other things are okay for you. Cheers, Jem

Tricia Spink 8 months ago. Reply

I enjoyed the post, too. You are hard on yourself, Jem: I think we are all struggling a bit! Even where you say the composition is poor, the brush strokes are lovely, just three colours, and loosely applied – all well worth seeing and offering us inspiration in these mean times. All the best, Jem, for a better year, success with the book, painting and good home life.

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Tricia. I hope you’re doing okay. Yes, I’m sure most of us are struggling and things can always be worse! Thanks for your positive comments and all the same best wishes to you for the year ahead, too.

Harjinder Gurnham 8 months ago. Reply

Really good to hear from you, Jem, and read your Blog. Really a very strange time and you express the unsettled state of mind well – I relate to it absolutely. There is so much in this piece of writing; you really have poured out your thoughts and I’ve really enjoyed you talking about your paintings. I do love your style. Using almost black does work. And you are right that starting a painting is a difficult stage. I’m truly going through a ‘dry’ period as I haven’t painted anything for months although, I’m doing other creative things like knitting and embroidery. However, I’m taking out my oils just to get fired up by something totally different. I’m going to come back to this Blog. Do like the idea of the competition, too. Oh and, no snow here! Keep well. Harjinder

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Harjinder,
    Thank you for your comment and I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying some creative pursuits despite the situation.
    I don’t think it matters at all what they are. Yeah, give the competition a go! Maybe do it in oils if it gets you going.
    Or don’t. Just do whatever you want to! Stay safe. Jem

Steve 8 months ago. Reply

Great post. I was reading the other week, Ed Wesson only consider about one in every five of his works a keeper. Made me feel much better!

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Steve and glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your comment.
    Yes, that’s a well-known Wesson comment! Well, his again was an approach that embraced chance/risk-taking absolutely for those incidences of magic that can be a big part of watercolour. And when it all came together along with his immense skill, there’s never been anyone better than Wesson, for me.

ANDRE 8 months ago. Reply

I enjoy your studies very much Jem. They illustrate intent – convey query and depict a choice of aesthetic resolve. All in all a great bag of goodies and a time to celibrate a fellows creations.
Many thanks for all your efforts & best wishes for a happy and glorious new year.

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Thank you, Andre. I appreciate this very much. All the best for a good year to you, too.

Julian Jones 8 months ago. Reply

Hello Jim,
Enjoyed the post, you do have some very nice paintings there, although artists rarely see they’re own work in the best light. Just human nature I suppose. Depressing times now for sure, but this to shall pass. Just have to keep on keeping on as they say, being grateful for the blessings we do have. I’m just getting back to painting after a long gap, just working on value/composition studies with one color. Seems a useful exercise I must say.
Cheers, Julian

    Jem Bowden 8 months ago. Reply

    Hi Julian
    Thanks for that and glad you enjoyed the post.
    I agree that value compositional studies can be of great value.
    Painting with three colours also of great value in many ways, and even just a warm and a cool (blue and a brown perfect for landscape).
    Partly it is what you learn about colour and how it can be used, but just as important is how limiting colour complication frees up the ability to concentrate on all the other aspects of painting which can be neglected so much! Including composition, for one.
    All the best, Jem

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