What does YOUR snowman get up to at night?

Are you ready for winter? My snowmen certainly are...

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I've added a 'follow by email' box to my blog

Following some helpful feedback, I've added a 'follow by email' box to my blog.

Setting up this blog has been, and continues to be, a real challenge for me. Having spent 16 years programming computers, I thought I was fairly computer literate - but NO, it turns out there is a lot more to this than I thought!

And I still need to learn so much. Next I think I'll tackle how to set up a slideshow on my blog, but it will have to wait until another day...I can't take any more right now!

Thanks so much for dropping by, I do hope you enjoy reading my blog. Why not leave a comment to say hello so that I know you called? Feel free to link back to your own blog too.


I taught my first watercolour class today!

Teaching art to committed adults is very much one of my long term goals. Today it became one step closer.

I am a member of my local art group, we meet for two hours every Friday morning. The group has been meeting up for over 12 years, and most of the members have been with them for the whole time. They're a very friendly bunch, and when I joined in January I offered to share my skills with them. Mostly it's a free and easy format, come along and paint and chat. Really that should be chat and paint, as an awful lot of chatting and not so much painting gets done!

Once a term the club organises a demonstration, and this morning I took centre stage and taught the group how to use clingfilm and salt to create dramatic watercolours.

I began by demonstrating how to paint a tree trunk using clingfilm, and secondly how to create a canopy of leaves using the same technique. The group then went away to try it out, and I wandered around to make sure they were all coping. Some needed more help than I expected - everyone clearly doesn't find it as easy as I do! But after half an hour everyone had something resembling bark and leaves.

Next I demonstrated how to create these leaves using clingfilm, salt and negative painting. Everyone was most keen to try this, and again they all created something that they were either happy with, or were happy to work on further at home.

The fourth demo was the sea effect that I used in this lighthouse. Although using the same technique, this is definitely trickier to achieve than the previous exercises as this requires careful placement of paint, water and salt.

Finally I did a quick demonstration of how to use the clingfilm in straight lines to paint a door, using salt and water to achieve a peeling paint result. Sadly we had run out of time for them to try the door, but hopefully they will now be able to apply this technique to other objects.

The group all seemed to be happy with their morning's work - and I haven't been banned so it must have been OK! Not everyone will use the technique, but I could see the light of inspiration shining in some eyes as we left...I can't wait to see what they bring back to show next week!

Thanks so much for dropping by, I do hope you enjoy reading my blog. Why not leave a comment to say hello so that I know you called? Feel free to link back to your own blog too.


Granulation Medium

I bought some granulation medium earlier in the week, and this morning I've finally found time to have a play with it and to share my findings with you.

To make the comparison, I have used a standard 300gsm "not surfaced" paper and the following paints:

  • W&N Cotman UltraMarine - normally very flat and uniform,
  • W&N Artists French UltraMarine - naturally granulates providing an artistically uneven wash

I'm very impressed with the results. Once the granulation medium is added, it's very difficult to tell the difference between the Cotman and the Artists UltraMarines. I think the granulation medium adds depth and variety to the Cotman paint, and will be very useful when a flat wash is not required.

This photo shows the paints whilst still wet:

And this one shows the paints now dry:

The next photo shows the effect on the following colours:

  • W&N Cotman Turquoise - normally flat and uniform,
  • W&N Cotman Cerulean - normally flat and uniform,
  • W&N Cotman Alirizan Crimson - normally flat and uniform,
  • Derwent Aquafine Sap Green - naturally granulates providing an artistically uneven wash
  • W&N Cotman Burnt Umber - normally flat and uniform,
  • W&N Artists Burnt Umber - naturally granulates providing an artistically uneven wash

I hope you found this blog post useful - feel free to ask any questions in the comments box below.


The value of photographs

There are many tutorials on the use of photographs in creating art - composition, how much detail to include, colour distortion, capturing the feel and mood of the occassion etc. But one thing I have never read is that taking a photograph of your artwork-in-progress and looking at it on the computer screen can be really helpful.

I find it absoloutely fascinating that a photograph of what I think is a finished piece of artwork can show me that it is not at all finished! 

This is a watercolour of my daughter out horseriding in Cornwall

Straight away I can see what needs to be done next - I most definitely need to work on the depth. At the moment the difference between foreground and background is too great. The middle distance needs some development with mid toned greens whilst still keeping the far distance lighter to keep it further away.

When I've done the middle distance I'll take another photo and review it again. I have a feeling that perhaps the sunset will need strengthening.

If I haven't got a camera handy then I will often review my work using a mirror - I stand a little way from the mirror and look at the reflection of my painting. It gives me distance from the painting, and sometimes reversing the image can help with perspective.

Well, off I go to add in those mid-toned greens, and maybe a little more purple too.

Have a great day!

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What exactly IS an ACEO??

ACEO stands for Art Card Editions and Originals.

They can take any form of art - textile, oils, watercolour, pen, pencil - whatever you choose.

The only rule is that they must measure 2.5" x 3.5".

They can be easily displayed in a photo album, or mounted and framed, or displayed on a miniature easel.

Mine are all originals - that is, they are original works of art. It is also possible to get prints in the ACEO format - these are known as editions.

Here's one of my ACEO originals displayed on an easel, I think they are adorable displayed like this!

And here is one in a mount, ready to be framed:

If you like ACEOs you can see many more from lots of talented artists and join in with the chat on the Folksy ACEO thread - follow this link and look for the daily "ACEO and Art Thread"

Thanks so much for dropping by, I do hope you enjoy reading my blog. Why not leave a comment to say hello so that I know you called? Feel free to link back to your own blog too.


Derwent Artbars

I bought some Derwent Artbars on impulse at the Society for All Artists convention in Manchester, England, after watching 5 minutes of an hour long demonstration. It was way too hot in there, and far too many people for my liking, so I had a quick play at the try-it-out table, decided to buy the set of 24, and left.

I've been regretting the decision ever since...until yesterday.

Derwent Artbars are watersoluble-wax triangular-shaped sticks and are a fairly new product; hence there is not much guidance out there on the web about using them. I have found a few youtube clips showing techniques, but not much about creating a picture.

However, once I stopped thinking of the artbars as a set of scary sticks with not enough variety of colour, and started thinking of them as a cross between watercolour pencils and wax pastels, I got on a lot better.

I have found the best paper to use is watercolour smooth or almost smooth paper.

To begin with, I use the artbars like watercolour pencils - lay down some colour and wash it around with a little water on a brush. Beware though, unless you use the artbars very softly, your marks do still show after the water has been applied. This can be good so long as you apply it carefully and don't just scribble your colour anywhere!

The first of my pictures is a rabbit. I created him using an initial wash, and then built up layers of grass - yellow first, and then darker colours on top. Then I picked up the scraper tool and scratched off to reveal the other colours underneath - much as you would do with a child's firework picture using wax crayon and a pin. Remember those??

The next picture I created by placing colour on the page and spraying with water to achieve a softer look. I'm not so keen on this one, but here it is for you to see

The final picture I'm going to show you today is my dolphin. To begin with I put marks on the paper with the artbars, following the shape and highlights of the dolphin and the water, then I carefully washed these in using a small amount of water.

From then on I used the artbars like pastels. The key to getting them to blend well is warmth, if the atmosphere is not warm, they will not blend. This is why I found them easy to use in the hot convention room, and was struggling in my typical English Summer kitchen! Take them to Costa Coffee, where it is roasting hot, and they worked like a dream!!

I hope that this blog has been helpful to other people who, like me, are finding the artbars a challenge. I recommend you throw your inhibitions to the wind and have a go!