Dedham Hall course (spontaneity!) local scenes and demos

View of the River Parret and Somerset levels from Burrow mump. (Commission)

Hi all

Hope you’re well, warm and have time for a few pics to scroll through.
This is going to be a fast run-down, with fewer words than normal.

This first painting was a commission for a lady who provided a lot of help to the farmers of the area depicted, during the 2014 flooding.  I think it was a retirement present, so I hope she likes it.

The Castle rock and Isle of May, nr Crail, plein air.


At the end


The dark cloud as it was

This was during the afternoon.  I’d gone in the morning to paint at Pittenweem harbour, where there are some great buildings.  Unfortunately it was pretty cold in a constant wind, so after doing the quite laborious but necessary drawing my hands felt too cold to paint well.  So I’ll have to return to that one another time, when hopefully all the cars will be parked in exactly the same places!  (It was a Sunday, so maybe I’ll be lucky if I go on a Sunday again.)

At Pittenweem harbour, in a cold breeze

Drawn out, ready for next time


A scene near Yatton, Studio painting from photos. One of those days where I mostly just felt like painting a sky, and the rest followed.


Dedham Hall plein air painting course – please BOOK NOW! Live life!


The approach to Dedham Hall. Late winter’s day, slightly misty air.


Visitors who’ve been to Dedham Hall before may recognise this scene.  My week-long course here begins next Saturday, 16th April.  There have been a few unfortunate late cancellations, so why not act spontaneously and make the decision to join me there.  If you can be tempted, please contact Dedham Hall directly.  We’ll be visiting some great coastal and landscape locations (more info also on my Courses/Painting holidays page). If you’d like to have a chat about it please just give me a call or email.

Here are a few other scenes from around Dedham:

St Mary’s church, Wissington, nr Dedham


Tree in a field behind Dedham Hall


Willows on the river Stour, Dedham vale.


Plein air one to one tuition

Demo painting for one-to-one plein air student. St Monan’s old kirk from the beach, tide out. A fair bit of careful drawing with the church – only to then be a bit too loose with the brush! (don’t look too hard).   I’ll be returning one day to do this again in my own time.  But a great pleasure to be here in great company, including of the Eider ducks doing their Frankie Howerd impression (thanks, Ailsa!).


Our location, packing up just after finishing.


Walking up after the session, the light was by now fantastic. What a scene it is….


And just one more shot of this icon. Another composition I’d like to have a go at one day. I can set up the easel here thankfully, on a bit of road verge. The church is apparently the closest church to the sea in Scotland (when the tide is in, obviously!)


A couple of other recent demos – Zoom demos for art societies

Recent Zoom demo for an art society, with a lot of artistic licence, but based on photos of West Mersea (which we might also visit on my Dedham Hall course.  I’m really not very used to painting scenes like this, so I’m not very happy doing it from photos, from which it is much less easy to observe important things than when working from life.  But at the same time I do like a challenge.)


Another Zoom demo for an art society. Based on photos from the sea defences/bank at Burnham Norton on the north Norfolk coast. But again, showing ways to use artistic licence. Here the tree was invented (or rather, I worked from a different reference photo, of a tree) in place of much smaller shrubs, and I invented the light effect of cloud and other cast shadows over the land. The main reference photo of the scene had totally flat light and the sky was quite boring. So, an example of the sort of thing I sometimes do in the studio with references. The result though is not easy to make convincing and may sometimes end up somewhat ‘illustrative’ as a consequence. At the end of the day, I discuss many aspects of the visual world during demos, which we need to be aware of, and can sometimes tweak to use them to our advantage. For me, demos are mostly about making learning points and providing things to discuss and consider, as well as actually showing how the paint goes on the paper, etc.


All the best til next time.


Comments On This Post

Brian Le Masurier 2 years ago. Reply

Hi Jem,
Once again a fabulous collection of inspiring paintings. I do try to soften my painting but seem to drift back to more detailed efforts, I suppose this is because I used to be a designer draughtsman and detail was a requirement. I do have my mad afternoons, and it is fun, but my efforts do not make the wall hanging. Must try harder.
Your work always sets me off once more to loosen my style so please keep posting your blog.

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Hi Brian and thanks for your comment.
    It sounds like you enjoy your painting, which has got to be the main thing.
    I think to squint your eyes at a subject is one of the easiest and best ways to help you identify a lot of important things: soft edges, where shapes merge together and where detail can be allowed to disappear. All of which helps us simplify from what is visible if we focus our eyes everywhere.
    People often talk of ‘looseness’ in a way that equates to *less detail*. But I’d say this is mostly a matter of simplication, which you could describe as ‘tight’ as much as loose. i.e. it is very carefully and precisely done by the artist. It’s one of the greatest skills to develop. Then there may be opportunity to allow some brushwork that appears to others to be very free (or ‘loose’), but that’s once the simplification plan has been mentally interpreted already, and if it looks representative of reality, then again, those marks were probably very controlled on the part of the artist, rather than loose. It’s always an interesting thing to discuss with painters who want to ‘loosen up’, in their words. Anyway, not sure if you needed to hear this at all! All the best, Jem

Joe Griffin 2 years ago. Reply

Great paintings and glad you’re finding inspiration in Scotland. As for Dedham hall, I’d love to but I’m just recovering from covid and my wife is still poorly so will have to miss it. Damn. I’ve been a bit immersed in your videos for the past few days, still learning from them and trying to apply to my own work. I should have the final assignment for you in the next couple of weeks.

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Thanks, Joe. Sorry to hear you’ve both not been well. I hope you can recover fully soon.
    Thanks for the thought, re. Dedham. Would have been good to have you along. Glad to hear you’re finding value in the videos. Look forward to seeing your work before long then. All the best, Jem

David 2 years ago. Reply

Hi Jem, always enjoy getting your posts. Scotland is really bringing you some lovely opportunities for some great paintings. BTW, please tell me what you used to get that lovely hue on the far hills in the Zoom demo for the art society, off to the left of the invented tree. Is it a phthalo?

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Hi David
    THanks for your comment. Yes, liking the opportunities here, many of which are quite novel to me.
    The colour is just Phthalo blue red shade, as you guessed. Mixed with a touch of Indian Red.
    Cheers, Jem

William Jones 2 years ago. Reply

As always your paintings are beautiful Jem and I just don’t know how you do this kind of work on Bockingford, I know you say practice but I find it difficult so stick with cotton rag. But nonetheless whatever you use you have the magic touch and understand your materials and method, a true top artist! 👍👌

    Jem Bowden 2 years ago. Reply

    Hi William (G),
    Hope you are doing okay. Thanks v much for your comment.
    Well, yes, Bockingford… I do know what you mean. But the fact is, my work would be different on any other paper.
    It doesn’t preserve transparency very well, and certainly not with more than two washes. So I paint no more than two washes and if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out. Very often the case, in my view! But cotton requires a very different approach and method. In short, I don’t think it suits me as much. Bockingford works, if you get it right first time. And its (relative) affordability puts me at ease to go for it – the most important thing of all. Cheers, Jem

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