Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
I love to paint pets and botanical scenes, such as gardens.
In painting a pet portrait, I seek to find and show the character of the animal. I find it hugely satisfying recreating the detail in their coat, or the shine in their eyes or nose.
When I paint landscapes I consider my style semi-abstract and impressionistic. In all my work you'll see that colour plays a huge role.
I use mainly acrylic paints, but I also enjoy the looseness of watercolours and inks.
In 2021 I was a Wildcard on the Sky Landscape Artist of the Year programme. It was a real privilege and a fantastic experience to see behind the scenes!
The Art Studio
Isolation Flow State!
We are all doing our best to cope with the Coronovirus pandemic and its effect on the world. Fortunately, there is a vast amount of activities that creative people are posting out there to help as many people as possible in this time of anxiety, frustration and potential boredom.
From March 2020 I started to post a suggested art activity every day on my Facebook page, and here on this site. These activities can be tried by anyone, in any order and, as long as you have paper, a pencil, a biro, paints (any kind), glue and scissors, the exercises can all be tried. Occasionally I may suggest some other household material, but don’t worry if you can’t find a resource- improvise! This is all about creativity, and carrying on!
NB If you're on your mobile, scroll to the bottom of the page for all images!
'Upside Down Drawing’(one of my favourite exercises!)
It can be extremely hard to copy a picture, but if you try this ‘tip’, you’ll fool the left side of your brain (the logical side) into not seeing the final result, until you turn around your paper at the end! You will employ the more creative right side of your brain instead, and the left will not be able to challenge what you are creating- send it to sleep for a bit! You should be able to copy the original image more accurately, believe it or not. Disclaimer: this won’t produce a masterpiece, but it’s a great exercise to practise and improve at!
So, take a paper image that you like (eg a magazine page)- no bigger than the piece of paper you are going to draw on. Place it upside down in front of you and place your drawing paper between you and the image. With a pencil, pen, (piece of charcoal or chalk on black paper even), draw the contours and lines of your chosen image onto the blank piece of paper. If you run out of space and have to miss off part of the original image, it doesn’t matter. If your left side brain starts to wake up and want to know what on earth you’re drawing, try and ignore it- it should go back to sleep..
When you think you’ve drawn in all the lines, take a deep breath and turn your page around!
Extension activity: colour your finished artwork, or shade in the darker areas.
Scientific research has discovered that doodling is good for our brains- enhancing focus (while multi-tasking!), memory and relaxation. So, with that in mind, here's a wee exercise for your hand and brain:
Take a pencil or pen and fill a blank page with as many doodles as you can; overlap them too if you like. If you find it difficult to think of doodles (remember we usually doodle when our brains are focused elsewhere), then find an additional activity to do at the same time, so as to free up the more creative right side of your brain. For example, chat to someone, watch TV, listen to music or the radio.
Your brain will not be so focused on the doodles after a while, and when you later come out of your 'flow-state', you may be surprised at what you've drawn! 🙂
Extension activity: colour in the spaces that overlap, or those 'negative' spaces around your shapes, or the whole page!
Most of us- unless we're ambidextrous- have a non-dominant hand. Believe it or not, we can still draw with this hand if we give it a hand (sorry!) with our dominant hand! In this activity, you will be drawing a mirror-image, random and free-style shape on a piece of paper, with both hands.
Here's how to try it:
1. Tape the corners of your paper onto a work surface.
2. Using a pen or pencil in each hand, place them anywhere on the paper.
3. Without lifting your tools, move both hands at the same time in opposite directions to create mirror-image shapes. If your shapes aren't exactly the same, no worries- this is real brain gym, and hopefully relaxing at the same time!
How did it go?
Extension activity: you guessed it- colour or shade in the shapes you've created! Alternatively, you can shade in the background; add patterns inside or around the shapes; and/or add detail to turn your shapes into creatures! You could also try timing yourself for just a minute, or two, or slow down completely and draw as you deep-breathe.
'Blind / Contour Drawing'
Blind drawing is a great way to really 'look' at something. It's an exercise that many artists use as a warm-up, or a way of creating an initial sketch before they work into it. I always find that I get a real 'feel' for a subject doing this.
1. Take a pencil and a piece of paper. Place a still arrangement (your subject) in front of you on your work surface. Ensure it is of a size and distance away from you that when you draw it onto your piece of paper you will not have to enlarge or reduce it too much. You could start with a vase of flowers, an ornament, a bowl of fruit for example.
2. Take some time to really study your subject. Look at all the edges (contours) and perhaps any detail.
3. Choose a place on the edge of your subject to start drawing, eg the petal on a flower; the rim of a bowl.
4. Place your pencil on your paper at the spot where this edge will be and start 'tracing' what you see- with your pencil onto the paper- as you scan the edge of your subject with your eyes.
NB DO NOT look at your paper and try not to lift your pencil off the paper!! This obviously feels strange at first, and you may draw off your paper onto the work surface, but just feel your way with your finger back onto your page, and keep going until you've drawn as much of your subject as you can.
Note: The end result will not be an exact copy of your subject. However, it is a representation of it, and hopefully captures the essence of it! What you have done is really 'see' your subject, and not draw what you think it should look like. Keep practising this technique and you'll surprise yourself with some lovely artwork- honestly!
Extension activity: Modify your initial sketch by rubbing out and 'tidying' parts you're not happy with, but keep checking in with your subject. Yes- you could also colour it in too!! 😁
Some of you may have been lucky enough to visit the Royal Academy recently to see the exhibition, 'Picasso and Paper'. The gallery is now closed, but it is possible to find images of Picasso's work online, and the image I have attached here has inspired me to suggest that you get out your scissors and glue and start creating!
Find an old newspaper, magazine or any used paper and cut out random shapes, arranging them gradually on a piece of paper- no bigger than A3 size. Don't stick them on yet.
Can you make a face in the style of Picasso? What else 'emerges' from your collection of shapes? It doesn't have to be Picasso-like or even a face. Go with it... there's no limit to what you could create; most of the fun lies in cutting (very mindful) and arranging, and probably having a giggle about what you see!
You can overlap smaller pieces over larger ones; experiment with colours placed next to each other, or patterns created by any text and images on your pieces (the more detail on your pieces, the better).
Be inspired by these other collage artists:
Henri Matisse, Kurt Schwitters and Man Ray
Picasso would approve! Remember the blind contour still-life drawing on Day 3? Now, you can try the same technique with your face 😉
Take a mirror and a pencil or pen and- looking only in the mirror- 'trace' the contours and features of your face, without lifting your pen off the paper. Only look at your drawing at the end. If your tool moves off the paper, just feel your way back on and continue.
Try a couple of these. Enjoy the process; the end result should look funny- it's not a true likeness, honestly! But it is a good way of 'looking' and relaxing into an artistic process.
Extension activity: Colour in the different sections you've created within your face, using only primary or only secondary colours.
'Tribute to the Trees'
It's sunny and it's beautiful out there! Let's get out today and take a sketchbook, or just some paper on a book and pencil/charcoal/biro and enjoy the trees in the sunlight.
We can see light and dark (contrast) much more in the sunshine, so spend some time studying how shadows play on a tree's branches and bark. Look at the textures, the shapes and the buds of leaves perhaps just starting to show. Trace the contours with your eyes and then, when you're ready, draw!
No-one will know if your drawing is accurate- and it doesn't matter anyway! This is about looking, appreciating, enjoying and getting outside on this wonderful weekend.
Please, please post your results! I'll pop your drawings in the photo album, but I won't tag or name you- I'll leave that up to you.
Extension activity: if you've drawn with water-based pen (felt tip), use water and a clean paintbrush to spread the ink further into the darkest areas on your picture.
Day 8 ❤️ Mothering Sunday
To all the mums, step mums, guardian and carer-mums, Happy Mother’s’ Day 💐
Today, make sure you sniff the flowers, deep-breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on your face ☀️
Today’s activity is to find one gorgeous flower head. It could be any flower- exotic, weed, cut in a vase or out in the fields.
Take any drawing tool and use the contour-drawing technique to really ‘see’ your flower as you draw it gently onto your surface- initially as a rough outline. Then fill in the detail within the outline; start wherever you like, although I find it easier to start in the centre.
Add as much detail as you can- shapes, shadows and textures. Get to really know your flower🌷
I hope you have a wonderful day, whoever you are and wherever you are. There’s a lot of love out there today- soak it up ❤️💪
By actually scribbling your artwork, you can experience a sense of freedom when you are sketching or copying an image. This is for two reasons: 1. You are deliberately avoiding a clean line, so there is not really any opportunity to make a mistake. 2. Scribble art, as you are about to find out, frees you up to really look at your subject.
1. Take a piece of paper- any size- and a biro or pen.
2. Find an object to draw or an image to copy.
3. Literally, scribble areas of tone (depth of scribbled lines) onto your paper, building up the image you see in front of you as you go. You are not following contours here- rather the opposite: you are building up the 'body' of your image.
4. Keep scribbling while looking more often at your subject than your scribble. Try and keep your pen on the paper continuously. By doing this, you will not be critical of your work, and you will stay focused on the subject. Enjoy the process and don't worry about the mess!
5. As you build up the overall shape of your drawing, begin to go over areas of darker tones, by concentrating the scribble and making it smaller. You'll notice how the depth of tone gradually increases.
6. Keep going, until you are happy with your representation of your subject. If you are not happy, keep going!
Extension activity: Colour your whole sheet of paper first with watered down paint and let it dry. Then use the scribble technique on the coloured paper.
Try scribbling a landscape picture
Right, today we must all be feeling rather drained and defeated. It's easy to slump. Sometimes we have to go with this, as fighting it is exhausting too. So, let's go with this feeling and create art to cope with it today.
Here we go..
Breathe deeply through this, and listen to calm music if you can.
You'll need: paper (or equivalent absorbent surface), paint (any kind, but if you have watercolours- great) and water.
On a piece of flat paper, card, etc, take some slightly watered down paint- one colour- on your brush and paint a small dot or spot onto your surface- about the size of your thumb nail. See how the water holds it's shape around the edge of the circle.
Now, drop another colour inside the spot that you have just painted. See how the colours merge. Perhaps they make a new colour. Try and keep the original colours separate a little too, by not dropping too much into the original spot.
Experiment with different sized spots, and different colours within those. You could join up the spots later or keep them separate. When the paint is dry, you could take a pen and draw on detail to turn the spots into creatures!
Take care x
You may already be aware of this 'phenomenon', as it's been sweeping the schools of Britain and is used throughout the world now. It's a mindful drawing activity, first invented nine years ago by a couple called Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts (look them up!). Zentangles are intricate patterns that are supposed to be like 'yoga for the mind' when you are drawing them.
The art of 'zentangling' is now carried out as a form of therapy that is designed to boost self-esteem, confidence and focus, as well as helping people cope with anxiety and depression.
The idea is that you build up patterns with black ink and/or pencil on a roughly 9x9cm tile (paper is fine). You start with a basic design-there are lots to choose from- and then work into it, with endless lines and shapes. You are creating a unique, abstract design all of your own and you can't make any mistakes- just turn them into a new pattern.
Rather than tell you how to do it, find inspiration here: https://zentangle.com
and with the lovely Zentangles that my gorgeous friend, Julie, has sent me- posted here..
Please do send me your results too!
One of my favourite comedians, Billy Connolly, is a brilliant artist, as a funny man and musician, but also, more recently, as a visual artist. Connolly has Parkinson's disease and has ceased his stand up career, but moved into the next phase of his life. Now he creates beautiful artwork, full of the mindful quality that I wrote about in yesterday's 'Zentangle' post.
Connolly creates his work completely randomly, just letting his characters and images simply emerge as he draws. He feels an emotional link to his work- there is something quite spiritual about them- and incorporates beautiful, fine patterns within the spaces. This evidently takes time and, I imagine, probably induces a relaxed 'flow state' in the artist as he works.
Connolly has said, 'I draw from the feet up. I don’t know what it’s going to be until I’m finished.'
Today's task is to draw a random person, from the feet up (stay aware of the height of your page), doing any activity. Work with pencil first and then trace the lines in pen, then rub out your pencil lines. Draw zentangle patterns into some of the spaces within your image.
Check out Connolly's work for inspiration!
Ok, I admit, I totally stole this idea, and all the credit should go to this inspiring artist on Instagram, who is an incredible artist and teacher (no, I don't know her personally): 2art.chambers
Check her out!
She posted this image today and it caught my eye. Anyone can try it. Just get some paints or colouring pens or pencils and, if you can, quite thick paper, or card.
Use a pencil to gently draw the outline of the house and then fill it in with lovely combos of colour- nice and loose and gentle. If using pens, wash over them with a bit of water- great fun!
Let this dry and then use a pen to write in all the wonderful things that 'home'- wherever that may be- is providing at this strange time. Perhaps make a list before you start! This can be a wonderful, mindful thing to do in itself.
TIP: Vary the size of your writing; maybe even try a bit of a fancy font and thicken some lines to make them bold.
Nail polish art!
A lady on Facebook today mentioned that she didn't have any paints at home, but I had a sneaky feeling she may have a few bottles of nail polish. So, if you have a few bottles of the stuff in your house, ask an adult first, and try this fun activity!
Open the window a bit first!
Take a vessel that has deep sides, eg a bowl, a tray or an empty takeaway tub and half fill it with cold water. Pour or drop different coloured nail polish onto the surface- it will float and create an interesting effect- marbled if you stir it, or spotted if you just drip it on. Now, place a piece of paper gently onto the surface and lift off. What patterns can you create?
Experiment with different effects, and surfaces; you could try different coloured paper, submerging pebbles, bases of wine glasses, empty containers and so on!
I found the attached photo today and loved it. It made me feel free and took me out of my head for a bit!
Have a go at creating a collage, using any materials- tissue, newsprint, paper scraps, sweet wrappers, recycled foil, etc.
The main focus of your picture has to be a photo of you! Find an image of you in action, then stick it on your page first, anywhere you like. Sometimes it's easier to build around an image stuck in a random way like this, as it creates the 'story' and the rest of the picture can just 'emerge'.
I would absolutely love to see your results! I'll show you mine if you show me yours....
Have you listened to more music recently? I thought I would, but actually I haven't. I think this is probably because I've been listening more to podcasts while digging in the garden, or watching and listening to the news, or messaging and calling friends and family. All sorts of things have taken over my normal routines and I know I haven't relaxed properly.
Most of us know the importance of finding time for one's inner-self amidst the clamour of activity, yet, ironically, with all this time we suddenly have now, many of us feel busier than ever before, and unable to settle and be quiet within ourselves. We said we'd do yoga, paint, write and sleep, but it's just not that easy.
If you do one thing for yourself today, try this.
Find a quiet space, preferably alone.
Put one some music that you know relaxes you, takes you somewhere else.
Close your eyes.
Let images come into your head, let them move around and then leave again, making room for others.
Think calmly about why the music helps you to see these things; is it memories or the music itself?
Take your time; listen to several pieces of music.
Later, while still listening, draw or paint what you 'see' while listening to the music. Focus on the paper on which you're drawing, but go back to closing your eyes every now and then too.
Don't be afraid to draw anything. it may be purely abstract. No one needs to see it except you.
Wassily Kandinsky's work was inspired by music. Find out more about him here: https://artlistr.com/wassily-kandinsky-6-interesting-facts/
Isn’t this image gorgeous? It’s inspired me to suggest you get out any spare paper and scissors and start one yourselves!
I would suggest ‘pinching’ the sheet in the middle and cutting into the pinch (not your fingers!) to create the first petal, working your way round in a circle, and gradually radiating out into the rest of the paper with a combo of petal and leaf shapes. If you have a good craft knife and cutting board, use those.
Remember to not cut out the whole petal or leaf, but let them ‘sit’, and then at the very end, pull up the details so they sit proud of the paper and look like real flowers!
There are lots of great websites and Pinterest artists out there who can give you more ideas.
Tip: Put on some music and let yourself relax into your flow state, forgetting about where and when...
I'm sorry- it's been a day of Zoom teaching, navigating software, making a teaching video, checking emails and finally, singing in a 54 person choir! (Shout out to Louise at Cheltenham Singing Groups x) and I've just remembered it's also Day 18 of IFS..!
So, here's what I suggest: SING! Sing along- loudly- to your favourite songs. Do it with or without other people, but love it and feel it. And then draw or paint a picture of how you felt. Make it abstract. Use colours and take note of the attached image, either to help you choose those colours, or to see if your colours were subconsciously chosen! 🤩
NB the chart refers to rooms a lot, but it is still connected to emotions. Perhaps you could use it to plan an interiors project too?!
'Draw a Jigsaw'
I had an idea when I saw my daughter's half-finished 1000-piece the other day.. How about you don't finish it just yet, but draw an imaginary missing section? You could really go for it and draw something crazy/ funny/ serious/ realistic to complete the jigsaw. In this way, you're also extending the life of the game!
So, try and match the style of your drawing a wee bit to the original jigsaw image, but then gradually move into a different style (cartoon, sketch, black and white, Manga etc) as you move away from the jigsaw pieces.
I could only find this rather scary image to demo (I haven't started that 1000 piece again yet..) It’s actually two jigsaws. Clever though!
'Take a Walk'
One of my favourite artists, Paul Klee, famously said, 'A line is a dot that went for a walk'. He loved drawing and leading his line, quite literally, around a page. Check out his work in this short presentation:
Have a go at copying Klee's style, by drawing a walk you have made recently, without taking your line off the page. Consider as many features as possible along your walk, including buildings, trees, cars, people etc. Have a look at this image as a guide, but feel free to overlap lines or turn round and double back if you run out of space!
How far can you go on your walk?
Three weeks ago today, I was sitting in a coffee shop having brunch while I waited for two new tyres to be fitted on my car. I remember looking around the room, at various groups, couples and singles, probably all considering their fate and the future to come. That feels like a very long time ago now!
I had a dreadful premonition then, mostly for people who live alone and may already have little contact with the outside world. I had to hope that they could access support and alleviate boredom with artistic outlets on the internet. That's how I started these 'quick tips'.
I know that some people have enjoyed my ideas and their feedback has been really lovely; I've felt so happy with every image that's been posted!
So, today's art idea is to create an image- using any medium- of the most difficult or positive aspect of the last three weeks that you have experienced. Please do forward them on- it would be an amazing 'art journal' of our experiences. I will keep your images anonymous if you wish.
'Flights of Whimsy!'
If you have felt tips, this is a fun one. I have recently stumbled across the work of this young Parisian visual and musical artist, Kinrisu. Her artwork reminds me of a combo of tribal art, tattoo art and Paul Klee's whimsical symbolism.
See if you can recreate her style, by combining repeated dashes, dots, wavy and straight lines, around characters and random shapes. What emerges from your flow state today?
All About Eggs!
I’m ‘hosting’ online egg painting classes this week for my adult art groups. While preparing, I’ve broken only one egg while blowing out 5, so I’m quite pleased with myself! 😇
I still have beautiful blown eggs that my mum painted 40 years ago, and some I painted 30 years ago! Have a look at these decorated eggs from all over the world... They are truly eggstraordinary! 😝 And if you feel inspired, have a go at decorating some of your own 😊🥚
Free your spirit!
Ok, I’ve owned this book for nearly 30 years and I’ve recently rediscovered it and would like
to share SARK'S words of wisdom with you- now is as good a time as any!
'Egg roll painting'
I love this. Ok, so you may not be able to get outside and roll those hardboiled oefs down a sloping field, but not much is stopping you having a go at this:
Hardboil some eggs- a good ten minute session in a saucepan should do it- you ain't eating these beauties.
Find a tray or high-sided dish and squirt a combo of colours into it- any paint will do. You can also use nail varnish or food colouring.
Then simply roll your eggs around in the paint until they have a lovely colourful coating on them. Place them somewhere to dry- tops of narrow-opening jars or milk bottles are good options.
Make the most of the colourful tracks in the tray and press a piece of paper down on top to create a 'mono print'- peel off and voila!
Now here’s a coincidence..
I’ve just typed ‘wonderful.creativeness’ into my search engine (my post-migraine head-fog needed some inspiration, ok?!) and this is the fourth entry in Google’s list:
‘Heaton Moor Producers Market’
Now, this jumped out at me, as Heaton Moor is where I grew up. It’s a really small suburb near Stockport and, according to my mum, they have a fab local market down a small street off the main road that she likes to visit- v arty.
If I’d typed in my key words, as I intended, without the full stop, I wouldn’t have found the link.
So, tapping on the link, this is what I found.. see image. Divine inspiration!!
So, here’s your activity today. Print off this dude and colour him in. Use only the brightest, springiest colours. Don’t worry, tell everyone it was my idea. And promote the market!
I’ll be back to normal tomorrow
This is the one thing I remember from childhood at Easter. All my mates would hard boil and roll their felt-tipped eggs down hillsides, while my mum sat us down and made us paint empty, ‘blown’ eggs at the kitchen table. Thankfully, she did the messy prep bit.
I still have those eggs somewhere and I’m on a mission this weekend to find these ancient 40-year old eggs in our loft 🤞.
No, I’m not going to tell you how to blow out a egg- there’s masses of videos online. But I will say, I’ve had three very relaxing, mindful sessions of egg painting with my adult art groups this week. I’ve done so much more art while Zooming than I ever did when we were all in the same room- it’s been great!
If you’re considering trying egg-blowing, check out the awesome decorative techniques here to inspire you.. https://mymodernmet.com/egg-art/
Here’s a nice arty article for you. Folk art really appeals to me at the moment, which is why this artist’s work resonates. But it is absolutely beautiful, so I hope you enjoy it too.
Ok, I’m just about squeezing this one in today. Had a lovely, busy family day. I hope you did too, and somehow managed to see and speak to someone else, even if it was from a distance 🌈
I have always loved the work of Andy Goldsworthy, so for now I’m posting some of his artwork, and tomorrow I’ll explain how you can emulate his style yourself 😊
I’ve had fun today creating ‘land art’ in my garden, with all natural objects. This is an activity that kids love to try and I can guarantee it’ll keep the whole family busy. Check out Goldsworthy’s work- it’s so clever...
Andy Goldsworthy is a naturalist; he is inspired by only natural objects including twigs, rocks, leaves, water and ice.
Have a go at creating land art, using any natural objects you can find. Those that I can think of that are available at the moment are twigs, flowers, leaves, pebbles, stones, pine cones, feathers, shells and water. Can you find any others?
I had a play in my garden today.. photos, below.
Have a lovely time- remember, the process can be more enjoyable than the finished artwork! 🍃 🐚