Hi and I hope this finds you well.
I’ve had a busy couple of months, though less with painting-related things than I would have liked. Time constantly taken too much with obstacles related to a new home/old house (/new life!) and I can see this might be ongoing indefinitely. Life changes, and more than ever it seems a matter of keeping up just to stand still. Perhaps it’s the same for you at the moment (can anyone get a plumber or electrician, or is that just my problem??) Anyway, I know I’m very fortunate still to be earning my living through teaching and selling the odd painting. And I have been able to get out plein air painting recently a few times. I’ll start with those:
A bright sunshiney day, tide coming in close. Which made me very hasty to get the paint down. Not entirely happy with the composition and I think I needed to simplify some areas more. The buildings on the right are problematic as they are. I have a plan now for when I tackle the scene again in future (a bit of artistic licence!)
A fantastic subject, but the result reflects the fact that I was chatting/explaining continually to a student throughout. Also a lovely day, lots of sunshine, from almost behind us at the beginning which made the board glaringly bright. Passing clouds were the main opportunity to actually see the palette and painting properly in terms of the tones and colours! But it was a windy day also, and at this spot we were at least sheltered from that. So lots of plein air learning and experience gleaned! Please get in touch if you are interested in one-to-one plein air tuition. I chose to paint the view with cloud shadow over St Andrews in the background and sun over the rock. I could just as easily have done the reverse, so may do that next time I’m here, as I surely will be. (Another ploy could have been to throw a cloud shadow over the immediate foreground of sand, as that would have made even clearer the fact that the rock was in full sun, and that it was a ‘scattered cloud’ kind of day.)
For this one I had to paint the light effect from memory. That’s because it disappeared as I was setting up the easel and the sun didn’t reappear at any point thereafter. The effect was the whole point – the thing that attracted me to the composition, so in the end I was fairly happy with the result, considering. But I should have picked out more of a focal point within the background.
I’ve had a few other plein air ventures, but rather failed/foiled by weather, tide and simply the challenges of my new coastal subjects. Always, only a percentage of paintings come off at all well, but you’ve got to do the ones that don’t come off in order to get the ones that do!
Dedham Hall course
My first ever course at Dedham Hall, in April, was really enjoyable. I think everyone learned a lot and there was plenty of laughter in the dining room each night. Jim and Wendy made it such a welcoming experience for me and the guests. I love the place; it is a rural idyll. The weather was mostly very good, with lots of sun, so great for plein air painting. Below are a few photos, though I didn’t think to take very many this time.
I’m very pleased to say that I’m booked here again next year. I’ve managed to get what I consider the perfect time for this area which has a lot of paintable trees. Just as they are budding up/coming into leaf, while the trees look so good and before many views are obscured by full foliage! (Also before it gets too hot in summer to paint watercolour very easily.) Please consider joining me here next Spring. Info on my Residential Courses/Painting holidays page.
Big Sky Art course, North Norfolk
I’m now looking forward to my course this June with ‘Big Sky Art‘ along the Norfolk coast, which is fully booked.
I consider myself so lucky to be teaching at what I think must surely be the best two bases for painting courses in the UK. My course here for 2023 has now been confirmed also, again in June (18th – 23rd – Full info again here) As with Dedham Hall, I’m delighted to have established a recurring slot here for this exact time of year, perfect for this area in my view. Fewer trees at these locations, more boats and water! And for avid but somewhat nervous plein air painters, we avoid the busiest (school holiday) times.
International Watercolour Masters exhibition/event
I attended this event/exhibition which I had a painting in. The event at Lilleshall in Shropshire was superb. Not only the best global exhibition of watercolours that I’ve personally ever seen, but many workshops and demonstrations by some of the most highly regarded watercolourists on the planet. I was one of six winners of the open competition to exhibit, amongst the other, invited artists. It was a pleasure to meet a lot of nice people and a privelege to be involved. I’ve not tried to enter any of these international competitions/events before, and it’s great to discover that most watercolour artists are both humble and very friendly. This is what really made the event so enjoyable and memorable.
I was also one of two of the competition winners who were invited to give a demonstration.
Streamed live on SAA TV and simultaneously on Youtube, as well as in front of a live audience, this was as nervous as I’ve been giving a demonstration. We had just 55 minutes total, which is not a lot! Some artists did a section of a painting they’d already started, or didn’t talk at all. Perhaps I should have considered this! I did my usual half-imperial size painting (of a scene at Walberswick) from start to finish, with full commentary – the idea being as with all my demos, that it is informative and hopefully even somewhat entertaining. Demos are always pretty nervewracking – for most artists – and always make me wish I painted in one of the opaque mediums, or at least not with such a high-risk, ‘one chance’ method of watercolour. As I started drawing out the composition I realised that my hand was shaking quite uncontrollably, which seriously didn’t help! I watched the demo by Alvaro Castagnet, and even he made more than one mention during his demo along the lines of ‘you must appreciate how hard this is’ and ‘this is just a demo, you know, you can’t expect a great painting’, and even ‘you should try this if you think its easy!’ That was a bit of a surprise but reassuring.
A couple pics below of my demo, courtesy of Cesc Farre. Check out Cesc’s work, by the way. I don’t know of a watercolourist who paints the sea/water better than him. A few other pics also, showing the exhibition and event. I don’t tend to take many photos at things like this, preferring to just be present at the time. But anyway, these hopefully give you a flavour of the event. Let’s hope this major feat of organisation will happen again in future years, as its a great thing for the UK (often regarded globally as the ‘home’ of watercolour) to be hosting such a thing.
ALL DEMOS from the event are currently (at time of writing) FREE to watch on Youtube, at this link:
I recommend the demo by Eudes Correia. He paints in a highly controlled and calm way, but still embracing aspects of ‘random’. He doesn’t say much, but worth watching the video especially as he gets going, if you want to see ‘masterful’ control of the medium. Be quick though, as I think these soon these will be taken off Youtube to remain available to SAA members exclusively.
Some ideas in pipeline
I have been considering a Patreon account. I’ve looked into this at some length, but Patreon doesn’t work out well for a lot of people and is a major investment of time and work. Any thoughts on this (but especially such as if you’d consider supporting me, and what you’d like me to do), I’d be really grateful if you’d let me know.
I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog but I’m probably not going to advertise this again. If you’re interested in learning from me and think it might be for you, please enquire. Each student I take on via this course I view as a substantial investment of my time and energy, so I’m leaving this for people who, after good consideration, really think that I am the person to help them develop their work. The course includes six one-to-one critique & advice sessions of 30 minute duration, via Zoom, and is based around a book-sized course text, with set assignments. It covers basics to advanced aspects of learning watercolour and is aimed at those who are fairly new to the medium but serious about making progress.
It’s been difficult to plan in recent times. Later this year I will be exhibiting eight paintings at the Pittenweem Art Festival, in a gallery space, which will be the first time I’ve done that in years. Reason being it is often barely worthwhile as a watercolourist, in my experience at least. But that’ll be nice, and interesting to see what happens.
I’m booked to teach a whole term at a local art group here in the East Neuk in Autumn. I’m looking for more ‘local’ type roles in future, as I believe we should be (and will need to be) based more locally in general as the future unfolds. I’ve also taken on a community job, part-time in a non-art capacity.
My book. I’ve been considering a ‘crowdfunding’ type thing as a way to allow me to produce this. I need dedicated time to do the job of completing it well. I’ve stalled so many times, for many reasons, but chief among them is that I don’t think the world needs the book. I’m all for what the world needs, not spending time and effort on a pointless exercise in self-indulgence, which is truly NOT what the world needs more of. Then again, actually it’s not self-indulgence as I don’t enjoy it much and it’s a lot of work! I know, inconsistencies and contradictions. I believe my book would contain content that is not ‘standard’ in the field, but basically as usual I lack the belief that seems to propel most successful people to get such things done.
The Isle of May
Finally, something a bit different and a few pics I hope you might just enjoy, of our nearby very special nature reserve.
We had a jolly bumpy ride out here (a fun/’swell’ time) and it was an absolute joy to enter as an outsider into ‘bird world’. In Autumn it’s also a major seal breeding colony (as featured on BBC Autumnwatch) but in Spring it has the world’s largest Puffin colony, of 90 thousand pairs. As well as huge numbers of other birds. When approaching the island, and on it, you are surrounded entirely and continually by amazing fly-pasts of whirring puffins, arctic terns, razorbills, guillemots, Kittiwakes and more. It felt a huge privelege and I’m glad to say it seems they don’t mind the people at all, apart from the protectively dive-bombing terns – but they are used to people visiting here for a century at least. The landscape is also terrific, and of course I hope one day to paint here. A few shots from my cheap camera then, though they don’t do it justice and the birds barely show up:
Okay, all for now. Thank you for your continued interest in my work; I really do appreciate it.
All the best til next time