Cromford in the news…it’s the place to be!

The watercolour painting courses I’m running next year in August and October are based in Cromford in the Derbyshire peak.

Was interested to see in the business section of the Times last Saturday that Emma Bridgewater (creator of the lovely pottery spotted mugs and cereal bowls and smart business woman ) is a trustee of Cromford Mill and The Arkwright Society. Remember Richard Arkwright was the

man who developed the first water powered cotton spinning mill at the time of the Industrial Revolution and the impressive mill he built in Cromford is still there.
I read in the Times article that Ms Bridgewater has kept her very successful multi million pound business as a sustainable family concern and has not sold out to venture capitalists. She feels that Britain needs the stability that this sort of family business encourages. Good for her!
The Arkwright Society that Emma is supporting hopes to develop the original mill buildings into an interactive heritage visitor centre and centre for community projects. Not hard to understand as the place is already home to various art studios and craft shops and is already thriving.
So people, this is the place to be! Another reason, if you needed one, to sign on for one of my courses. I felt very fortunate already to find a venue in such an interesting and beautiful part of the world and I’m really pleased that go ahead and socially conscious people like Emma Bridgewater are involved in the area and looking towards its further development.
There are two residential courses in 2011 at Alison House Hotel and Conference Centre, Cromford. Price for three days tuition and fully inclusive AA 4 star accommodation is £395.
Course 1 22 – 25 August 2011
Course 2 3 -6 October 2011
Please email me for further information. You can find my email address by clicking on “view my complete profile” below the “About me” section on the title page of this blog.

Painting People


Sometimes you just feel inspired and today a challenge on redbubble (a photo/art sharing site) took my fancy. The brief was to paint “People”. I keep a folder of images and photos of people in various situations, some that I’ve taken myself and some cuttings from papers and magazines to provide reference material and inspiration.

I found a photo that I’d taken at Patchings Art Fair a year or two ago. I liked the way the scene was slightly backlit and set off doing a quick contour style sketch. I concentrated on the outline shapes of the people trying to forget that they were people and seeing them as shapes one in relation to another. Just drawing a continuous outline not taking my pencil off the paper makes me freer in my drawing and this tends to capture the movement/gestures in the figures.
When painting the scene I tried to concentrate on the tones and the shapes they made. I only laid paint where there was a mid or dark tone, which meant that the highlighted side of the people shapes remained without paint on them. I painted the background darker than it actually was to bring out the figure shapes.
Anyway, it took a couple of hours and it was fun for a change!

Seasons of mists….


Looking around in the hedgerows and in the garden, you can’t help but notice how Autumnal things are looking. Perhaps it’s because we’ve had such a dry summer, but there are seed heads and berries everywhere. And among them is the Honesty with its dark twigs and silvery discs.

I did this sketch the other day to get used to the Honesty shapes, colours and textures. No preliminary drawing. I just went in with sepia acrylic ink and a bit of stick sharpened to make a drawing tool. I used some watercolour in raw sienna and cobalt blue and a brush to add to the washes as well. Scroll down for more musings on hints of Autumn.

Late summer garden and hints of Autumn



Always on the lookout as I am for painting subjects, the changing seasons are ultra apparent to me. Even in my small garden, I can see the changes happening from day to day.

For instance the honesty is ready to harvest and prepare to display and paint from. I didn’t have any of this in my garden, even though I know it grows readily from seed, so I put this right this year and acquired some seed (thank you Margaret!) and bought some, and now I hope I will never be without a supply of those wonderful silvery, shot silk seed heads joined together with thin dark graphic stems that are just asking to be rendered in pen and inks. I take the outer skin of the seed heads off and leave one or two on for variety.
I haven’t got any teasels in the garden either so have just bought some seed for next year.
There are various berries starting to redden up on shrubs such as honeysuckle, hypericum and cotoneaster, and there are seed heads of nigella and poppy ripening up. It’s quite easy to collect a jug full of Autumn by just assembling a bit of each of these plants.
To get you (and me) in the mood, I have posted one or two photos of honesty. Also an Autumn painting from a while ago of a jug full of Autumn gatherings. Enjoy!

Cosmos and scabious- the bigger picture.



These two flowers are growing side by side in the garden at the moment. ( It’s such a shame that such a beautiful flower as the scabious should have a name so closely resembling a nasty disease!) It is a glorious flower in its form and colour, but not the easiest to paint in watercolour I have found.

Anyway I run the risk of you giving up on me if I don’t show you what I’ve been doing. So here are two paintings I’ve done. The smaller one is looser and more spontaneous, I suppose or just plain untidier! Anyway the pictures are my response to the garden scene. The flowers do grow all on top of one another at this time of year and intermingle in the flower bed and this is the effect I was after.
The colours I used were cerulean, cobalt blue, quinacridone gold, aureolin, indian yellow and for the darks, quin. magenta, Winsor blue and quin. gold. I masked out some of the cosmos and then put in a wet in wet wash to begin with, laying in the colours carefully so that I could bring out shapes negatively from the background with darker washes.

Painting cosmos in the studio.


I’ve been working on the cosmos the last few days. Having completely ignored my resolution about not attempting finished paintings and spending more time studying the subject using different media, etc. etc. I went and embarked straight away on a huge painting again! Well huge for me…half imperial size. And so it’s taken me ages to finish, and I’m still not completely satisfied.

In the meantime, I thought I’d show you my studio set up.
I’ve got a combination of photos, examples of the flowers in pots, my small painting of cosmos from the other day, and last but not least the computer. I always have it there for reference purposes. I have loads of my photos stored on there and often have them displayed on the screen. And I can listen to iplayer while I’m painting! And check my emails. And check on Redbubble!! And check out the weather forecast. It’s called multi tasking!