Bluebells at Culzean Castle painting 5

Bluebells at Culzean Castle, gouache and chalk pastel on watercolour paper

Finally, I added the bluebells with a mix of cobalt blue, white and purple.  I dulled down over zealous greens and yellows, and added final details to the tree trunks.

I use Chinese calligraphy paint brushes as well as western square tipped and pointed sables.  As I said before, when it comes to watercolour, for me, anything goes.


Culzean bluebells, work in progress 4

Culzean Bluebells, stage 4

I worked on the detail here, trying to bring light into the background through the trees as well as on the leaves of the tree on the left.  As I painted in all the foliage on the floor of the wood, I allowed the original purple that covers the paper to show through, especially on the bottom left – this helped me deepen the shadows.

Culzean bluebells, work in progress 3

Culzean Bluebells, stage 3

I love using blocks of colour, letting the types of brushes I am using dictate the shapes on the paper; I started to illustrate the trees this way and added more depth to both the foreground and background.



Bluebells at Culzean, work in progress 2


I used a variety of blues, yellows and browns, including Prussian and ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, burnt sienna and burnt umber to mix my greens, while painting more detail into the background and introducing colour and light to the foreground.

Bluebells at Culzean, WIP – 1

Stage 1

I thought I would show you a painting at a number of different stages from start to finish.  It is of a bluebell wood at Culzean Castle in Scotland, which I photographed last spring.  I tend to work in watercolour and gouache very much my own way, breaking rules right, left and centre, but it works for me.

The painting is gouache on watercolour paper, and as the painting was going to be mainly green (despite the subject being bluebells), I covered the whole of the background in a contrasting purple (my favourite colour, by the way).  I then sketched out the image using a pastel pencil and began to block in shadows, with hints of the green foliage that was yet to come.

Photographing my paintings


Square print of Fallow Fields

I’ve always taken photos of my paintings; at first for my records, then for my website and finally for printing.

I sell my paintings’ images as greetings cards and prints, but I found that the quality of my photos just isn’t good enough.  They were slightly blurred close up (which for large scale print is a no-no), the colours seemed all wrong or parts of the painting appeared over or under exposed.

Three weeks ago, I decided to address this, and now employ a professional photographer, Dean Edwards.  What a difference!  When you blow a photo up to it’s full size, everything is in focus and I can clearly see the textures in my brushwork, and where the paint is thin, I can even see the roughness of the canvas.

I could have invested in a better camera, but it seems I needed to invest in the person taking the photos.

Here’s to much better and larger prints.

Vandalism and Other Irritations


New Year’s Day, Troon, oil on canvas

One of my paintings, hanging in an exhibition, has been vandalised. Somewhat upsetting as it is gratingly obvious.

Someone just decided to pick off some of the light coloured thick paint right in the middle of the canvas revealing a hole showing  dark underpaint. It was just such a pointless thing to do, and I find it distressing. What does it say about the painting, or my work, or me as an artist? Or the vandal?

Meanwhile, I have been told that my paintings are morbid and have been asked if I could do something cheerier, like flower paintings. I was somewhat taken aback and rather upset (stoically tried not to show it) as I’ve never heard my landscapes and skyscapes described like that, certainly not to my face.

I find the criticism all the more confusing as the people doing the opining have my paintings in a corridor against dark wallpaper. The lighting is angled at the dark blue carpeted floor and not my paintings. I’m trying not to let it bother me, but I still find it unsettling even though the conditions aren’t exactly of a gallery quality.

Above, is one of the apparently morbid ones; let me know what you think.

Rannoch Moor Sketching

Blue Skies Over Rannoch Moor, oil on canvas

Rannoch Moor in Scotland is my favourite place in the world.

Quite a while back (as you may be able to tell from the painting – I like to think I have improved since then) I was sketching there on a particularly dull day. Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside was my album of choice; and I make no apologies for the music I listen to when I work.

I had a large A2 sketchbook with me and my usual supplies, a jar of water, sable brushes ranging in size, watercolours, water soluble felt pen (black), pencils and my camera.

I did a few not so great drawings and watercolours, but the star of that day was the sky. It had been a nothing grey when the clouds thinned and suddenly more and more sunbeams broke through, highlighting everything they hit. Then the clouds, now outlined in silver light, split to show bright blue cloudless sky before closing up as if nothing had happened.

It happened too quickly for me to draw the moment, but I managed to get my camera out on time. Thank heavens for photography.

These photos lead to a number of paintings. It’s amazing how a few seconds in nature can lead to inspiration that lasts years.

Running Cheetah Wildlife Painting

Running Cheetah, chalk pastel on board

I finished working on a cheetah today; I’ve even given it an inspired title – Running Cheetah – just in case you can’t guess from the painting. OK, you are welcome to argue with me on that point. I used chalk pastel on mount board.

I love pastel; it makes me feel very connected to my work because I’m hold the material directly, getting it on both my painting and me, using my fingers to move the colours about on the board.

When I finish working on one of my animals I’m always surprised that I am the one who painted it.

I tried a light background for him first but he lacked drama, and I’ve used some wonderfully sparkly whites and golds (they really do have sparkles in them) that lift his coat. I’ll have to find excuses for using these pastels again.