Monday, 25 June 2018

Essential preparations for painting...

I prefer to paint in watercolour without a preparatory sketch to guide the paint marks, working intuitively with a palette of vibrant watercolours to bring the subject spontaneously to life without the constructions of pencil lines. 

However, this does not mean that I go straight in with the paint, without thought or preparation. One of the first things I do with my chosen subject is to do a quick (quick meaning approx five minutes max) ink sketch. There are several reasons why I do this... firstly it enables me to plan the composition, how I will place the subject on the paper. Secondly it enables me to get to know the subject more, work out what I want to include and what to leave out - essential to my expressive style of working where what I leave out is just as important as what I decide to include. The drawing gives me the confidence to go straight in with the brushes and paint, and using ink stops me from fiddling and banishes thoughts of erasing ‘mistakes’. Also, over time
I realise that my sketches also help indicate the expressive marks I will make in the finished work. 

I share this post as I prepare for my weekly watercolour club tomorrow morning, and sketch out this lovely alert hare I will demonstarate in the morning for my artist students...

By no means does the sketch accurately depict what the finished painting will turn out like, as you can see by my painting below, the point of painting for me is to allow the fluidity of the watercolour pigments the freedom to mix and flow on the paper... here is my demonstration painting... 

A half head of hare!

 I worked on keeping the information brief and suggestive, avoiding overworking and keeping the brushstrokes expressive.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Just a card? Day 2’s unexpected example...

So, on with the #justacard week challenge... what does this concept mean to me? I’ve been thinking about this all day, wondering what to write, then at about 3pm a knock on the door provided the perfect answer. The lady at the door first came to my open studio event at the end of May, having happened past, seen the sign outside and came in for a look. She didn’t have any money on her at the time, but mentioned how much she liked my work, especially the bees I’ve been doing recently. 

Anyway, today she returned and bought some cards, and also came with information about an exhibition later on this year all about bees, and would I be interested in showing my work in it? Of course I would! So, yes, the sale was #justacard (or 6), but the conversation and the possible opportunities arising from it were so much more. And now I come to think about it, I can think of several occasions where people have bought or been sent my cards, and have subsequently bought original paintings or commissioned pet portraits.

So, it’s never ‘just a card’ the small sales add up, and it means the world that people like my art enough to send them and enjoy receiving them. It’s never #justacard 

Monday, 18 June 2018

Just a card campaign...

Monday to Friday this week I am taking part in the #justacard campaign, which aims to celebrate and promote small creative people and businesses. Over the next 5 days, the @justacard team have provided daily prompts to help focus the campaign, why not search the justacard hashtag on instagram to discover new creatives who are taking part?.
Today’s prompt is to introduce myself... I’m Jenny, and I live and work in the small town of Belper in Derbyshire, which is a largely rural county in the middle of England, about as far as you can get from the sea in this country! I was bought up in Lincolnshire, much closer to the coast and I do miss it. I’m married to Steve and we have 3 kids aged between 10 and 14. We have one pet at the moment, Yellow Lab Harvey, who is in the pic below with me, and we are getting a Whippet next year. I’ve been a full time artist for 12 years now, before that working in a variety of jobs, including working with horses for a long time. I still love horses, but no longer own one 😔 maybe one day... 

Art is my passion, in particular watercolour, and my absolute favourite subject is animals, especially dogs. I teach watercolour painting in my home studio, which is a garage conversion after years of working on the dining room table! I also love to write. For many years this mainly involved the odd poem (I love haiku), but I’m branching into other areas around artincluding articles, and a possible book (eeek!). Anyway, thanks for reading, and they’ll be more tomorrow! 

Friday, 15 June 2018

When painting has to take a back seat...

One of the reasons I’ve found the time to resurrect this blog this week is because I’m spending endless hours next to the bed of my highly medicated sleeping son, as he recovers from major foot surgery, which resulted in a few complications so he’s having a slightly extended stay in the critical care unit. So as I sit waiting for the brief moments when he wakes up, I’m catching up on some inspirational reading (which incidentally is leading to me having some great ideas for the teaching side of my work) and doing online stuff on my phone, including this blog. It’s amazing what can be done on a smart phone - I can run virtually every part of the business side of things, apart from scanning and image-related stuff. 

Obviously I’m also having an enforced break from watercolour painting, which is good in some ways, as they say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and I’m all the more excited to get back in my studio and paint the new ideas I’ve got buzzing in my head. But for the time being my main creative outlet is my sketchbook. Now, I’ve always been a big believer in the use of a sketchbook and drawing to improve observational skills, etc, and I always think that being able to draw is imperative to painting. I paint without a preliminary drawing of any kind, and keen observational and drawing skills are vital to be able to confidently place the paint in the right places in order to describe the subject. When students work with me for the first time they are often panicked by going straight in with paint, without pencil lines to guide them, so I always describe the technique as ‘drawing with a brush’. Of course this way of working is far easier if you are confident in drawing, so regular sketching is the best way to quickly increase skills and confidence. 

So my sketchbook is getting some extra action at the moment - the materials are simple and quick to use - an A5 sketchbook with thick cartridge paper and a black ink pen (using an ink pen also helps increase your confidence to get the information straight down on the paper, as it can’t be erased. I’m in the middle of a project to draw 100 breeds of dog, and have a separate sketchbook on the go to keep all the sketches together in one place, so I thought I’d share some of them below.
You can also see them as they're drawn on my instagram feed HERE

Thursday, 14 June 2018

New beginnings...

After a fairly lengthy absence from blogging, I finally feel that I’ve reached the point where I’m able to share regularly what I’m up to in my artistic journey. I’m back painting the subjects which I love, animals, both wild and domestic, and can feel my passion for watercolour returning even stronger now, which is great! I am all the happier and content in my work for it. 

When I’m not feeling totally in tune with what I’m doing artistically, I don’t have anything emotional or inspirational left to share, especially on blog posts, where something more is needed. You can get away with a brief comment on in instagram, for example, but a blog post requires more effort. To me this effort extends to sharing things which are personal to my working process, sharing a little piece of my innermost self each time. And I am finally at that place. My passion is back and daily I am itching to get out and  discover new subjects with my camera and sketchbook and get into my studio with my brushes and paints. 

Hazel Soan shares the advice of always having an exhibition to work for, to keep you motivated, and with that in mind I have a few things lined up for the autumn to keep me busy painting this summer. I will share details of these in future posts on here, but today I will share with you the forthcoming Association of Animal Artists exhibition at Weston Park, Shropshire, throughout September. I rejoined the AAA last week and can’t wait to get involved again.

Here are some recent works of mine that demonstrate how excited about painting animals I am again...

'Dancing bees'
available to purchase

'Purple haze'
available to purchase


'The majesty of colour'
available to purchase

'Whisper' (whippet)
not for sale
As you can see, my paintings are as loose and expressive as ever, and long may this continue!