Let the pictures tell the story (mostly): Miss, miss, hit? Miss, mist, rain….


Towards Lizard Lighthouse, Cornwall.   A studio painting.
I did a plein air at the time I was here which was not a great success, being almost blown over by wind.  This one I felt came out okay overall, despite sections which could definitely have gone much better.  For an age I’ve been meaning to try using a hog hair brush to add neat paint, as ‘dry into wet’, which I did in painting and it worked well.  Used for the darks of the gorse in the foreground.  This might become a new part of my approach.


Portishead ‘beach’, or rocks and silt and cliff anyway.  I came last year and liked it, so made a return visit and chose a similar composition.  There aren’t many good ones to find, but there is this area with a view down the coast to bits of headland and the island of flat holm in the Bristol Channel.  As I was arriving I was loving the sky.  So, hurriedly unpacking…

As you can see, the sky was a beauty.  The clouds were drifting by, forming some great compositions in my eye….  Hastily draw out a few lines, then happily plunged in, fully inspired by everything….

Hmmm.  Didn’t nail it all exactly, but it was a fairly clean strike and something tells me to flow with this one, so without further pencil I continued, again really inspired by all around me.   It’s an unusual place in some respects, and a different challenge for me, whilst being entirely natural landscape.  These things – and a great sky – are all I could wish for.

After about an hour (with a lot of stopping, squinting and thinking), painting finished.  The sky here now was still pretty good, but actually very different, sun gone for some time and now fully overcast – soon to rain, but I got away with it. That’s what you’ve got to do, folks, get away with it!  Big part of this game.



Portishead rocks at low tide, plein air, finished painting.  I quite like this one, not least because of the experience of painting it.  You see, this is what really matters, and I don’t know how good the painting is.  How could I?  Also, this came after several plein air trips that hadn’t been great experiences or featured good painting, so it was a good feeling.


Spring willows at Congresbury, plein air.  This was to coincide with a visit I sometimes make to a somerset cider farm, when I feel I’ve deserved it.  A lovely subject, but really tricky – foliage just coming into leaf.  I’ve done this scene before; will probably try again one day.




Brislington meadows, spring evening, Studio painting.  Just having a bash at a sky I’d just seen on one of my local walking routes.


Avonmouth, bright morning view.  Studio painting.  A bit different for me.  I really wanted to do a plein air at Avonmouth and went prepared but could not find a single spot to get a good a view of the iconic buildings and structures it has, from any public area in this totally industrial zone.  So this was done from photos taken from the railway station footbridge.  Couldn’t set up the easel there.


Starlings. And trees.  I enjoyed experimenting a bit with this one and used a lot of artistic licence with a tree photo reference I had, combined with a sky photo reference (and googling starlings images).


Bradford on Avon, en plein air. Cropped down to an okay bit.  That’s something I could do with a lot of paintings, but for whatever reason I’m not interested in ‘salvaging’ something from a painting if it hasn’t come off.  Just look forward to the next one.  One of those many plein airs that I didn’t get right – the full painting had more of the bridge in it, particularly, when I should have made my intended composition more close in like this.  It was very dull and even a bit misty early in the morning, not to mention cold.  The sun came out later, but didn’t strike the faces of the buildings as these are pretty much north facing, so that’s something I made up here.  My first trip out for over a year with ‘the exiles’ – my plein air group of friends.


A couple of the others finishing off.  I had been down by that white railing beyond them.


Another miss.  Fantastic tree (I painted it last year from the other direction), but this time definitely not a worthy portrait.

And another miss….. One from a very local nature reserve.  Very difficult sloped, boggy footing and a difficult subject, being all foliage.  The light also was changing constantly and contrastingly, with the board glaringly bright in the sun one minute and darkly shaded the next (that’s dense cumulous clouds for you on a day where you’re lucky to avoid showers).  Didn’t stand a chance and didn’t even bother to finish this one.
However long you do this thing, you can end up feeling a rank amateur some days.  I reckon that’s mostly a good thing (on reflection!).



Exiles again, and exiled to a barn with rain pouring impressively the whole time we were there.  It was forecast, to be fair, but we’re a game bunch so everyone turned up.  One of our number had got permission to paint around an old farmyard in Wiltshire, and fortunately there was this open barn for us to take refuge in.  However, the rain blew right in where I was, no matter how far I moved things backwards…

My finished all wet-in-wet effort.  Not that it was really ‘finished’ except for the fact that I stopped.  At no point did the paper dry out, or stop getting rained on, so it was an opportunity for a very different way of working.  I was basically trying to paint without water on my brush, since there was plenty on the paper and in the air.  I had been looking forward to tackling that huge pile of old pallets and rubbish, but in the end it was a bit of a joke in the circumstances.


Zoom demos

Some recent ‘Zoom’ demos (including the very first sheep I’ve painted since I was about 11 years old):-

Bit of a different subject this one – done for a student in Israel, so a scene local to him and from his photo.


Coming up this month I’m doing a ‘plein air demo’ for an art group (in the studio) via Zoom.
An interesting request, this will involve me showing a lot of photos initially, to take the group en plein air ‘virtually’, explaining the whole process of exploring a location, homing in on a subject and composition, etc, before then painting the demo (and I thought I might put on a bird sounds CD in the background.)

I’ve recently arranged a new workshop, with two or one day options at Sandpiper Studio for March 2022.   Details to follow soon-ish on my Tuiton/Workshops page, and the Sandpiper Studio website. Big Sky Art 2022 (June) now confirmed also.  Looking forward very soon now to my course there this year.


Possibly next time anyway, I thought I might hope to incite some footpath blocking, cow daring, rain stopping adventures of your own.  I’m not sure what the prize will be.  Does there need to be one?  After all, it’s the taking part that counts, isn’t it?

Hope you’ll have a good month ahead.

All the best,



Comments On This Post

Volker Engelhardt 4 months ago. Reply

Hello Jem, of course it is not easy to say what I would be willing to pay. It all depends on whether the session lasts 1, 2 or more days. Or a few hours and then , what the topic is (landscape, seascape, sky, etc.). To name a number for a session would be dubious, but I would be interested in a session. Volker.

    Jem Bowden 4 months ago. Reply

    I understand, Volker. I was thinking aloud, really. Demos in the UK are most commonly 2 hours long, including a break of about 10 minutes in the middle.
    I was referring to these. Thanks for expressing your interest. If I do organise something I will of course publicise it on my website and blog. All the best, Jem

Roger Jenkins 5 months ago. Reply

Great to see you work as usual Jem – and nice that you share the “downsides” as well as the successes. Encourages us all. Keep blogging in this way, it as very interesting – and I love the added touch of the groceries…! ha ha
By the way, I love the cropped “bridge” painting – it took me a while to realise that cute bridges are a trap set for many an artist…

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Hi Roger, and thanks for your comment, much appreciated.
    Lockdown groceries!… Bridges – yes, in fact I’m not a fan of bridges in paintings very often. Most often they’re tricky to compose well, being so long (and to me, boring in most cases). So I virtually always aim for a foreshortened view at least, and if not possible normally choose not to paint the bridge!

Mike Davies 5 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem,
I think that you are one of the few Professional Artists who get down to ‘brass tacks’ and try to
share the mindset of absolute amateurs like me. Don’t (please) alter this approach – it is
priceless !

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Mike; much appreciated. We’re all human, arent we? Or at least most of us…

David Jones 5 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem, nice to see the demo you did for me! Hopefully it will still be there for me to paint when the current ‘war’ is over. David

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Hi David. I’ve been thinking about you – hope you’re able to stay safe where you are. Then it causes me to think (as always) about how immoral to the very foundations our society is in the UK (not that we’re alone, but that’s irrelevant), i.e. the manufacture and sale of weapons for profit. Indeed just about everything else done in the name of profit, too… (stopping myself here!)

Volker Engelhardt 5 months ago. Reply

Dear Jem,
a Zoom online plain air. ! Sounds great for me. Is there a possibility to learn more about it .? Is it open to book and to join the session.

All the best and regards, Volker

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Hi Volker. Unfortunately the demo is just private, for an art group in England. Mind you, I have been thinking about organising an open Zoom demo. But it requires that I discover an easy way to sell ‘tickets’ etc, which is not something I’ve had time to look into. (Any advice gratefully received.) Since we’re on the subject, How much would you be prepared to pay for that? Thanks

Tony and Ann Faris 5 months ago. Reply

Good luck with the course in Norfolk. Sorry we won’t be there on this occasion but with all the uncertainty we have already booked a week in Burnham Norton next week and, weather permitting, will be visiting old and new spots to try some “plein air”.

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Hi Tony/Ann. Please see my reply to your comment below/above. (You posted this twice, so have replied to the other one.) All the best, Jem

Xavier 5 months ago. Reply

Thanks for sharing your plein-air adventures, Jim!

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Of course you are very welcome, Xavier, and thank you.

Olga 5 months ago. Reply

Really enjoyed seeing these. My favourites are the one towards the Lizard lighthouse and the one at Congresbury. Hope you have a great week painting at Big Sky in June and sorry I won’t be there – this time.

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Olga. Hope you’re managing to get some enjoyable painting in. Would be nice to see you hopefully on another occasion.

Tony and Ann Faris 5 months ago. Reply

Good luck with the course in Norfolk. Sorry we won’t be there on this occasion but with all the uncertainty we have already booked a week in Burnham Norton next week and, weather permitting, will be visiting old and new spots to try some “plain air”.

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Tony/Ann. I’m sorry you’ll not be there, but totally understand. Hope you have a great time on your holiday. Good luck with the weather. (Worth checking tide times, too.)

Caroline Greene 5 months ago. Reply

I’m so cheered by all your “And this one was another miss” comments! I think watercolour painting is a lot about mindset, and if I can look at each painting as a lesson and ask myself “What did I learn today?” that’s a big help and there’s ALWAYS something I learned.

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    I’m cheered to hear that you’re cheered by that, Caroline. It’s why I’ve always included my own struggles as a part of my blogging (despite being advised against it more than once by fellow ‘pros’). You are absolutely right that it’s so much about mindset. This is a main thread through the book I am currently writing. Each painting is almost always a useful lesson, if looked at in a helpful way. And an enjoyable lesson at the time, too, if we can keep control over our mind. (Unfortunately, they don’t teach this in ‘how to paint watercolour’ books!)

Vincent Neave 5 months ago. Reply

Keep up the good work jem, some lovely skies there.

    Jem Bowden 5 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Vince. Hope you’re doing well and managing to do some painting or drawing.

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