Learning a new skill - painting on silk

A couple of weeks ago I went on a course to learn how to paint on silk. What a revelation! I absolutely loved it: the thrill of seeing those colours come together in a wonderful loose style is amazing. I was so happy I was positively skipping along the corridor inbetween the painting and drying rooms!

Once I have researched and bought some materials of my own I will be producing a tutorial or two so that I can share my new found skills.

Meanwhile, here are the framed results from my class

Dreams of Summer

Spring Bouquet

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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.


Meccano Collage Step by Step

Yesterday I started work on my Meccano painting. I wanted to create something that would appeal to a Meccano enthusiast - after all, there will be a few of them at the Maghull Frank Hornby Exhibition in May - but also something that would be suitable for a child's bedroom wall.

I also knew that I wanted to include a few pieces of Meccano, so I had to choose a surface that would be thin enough to take my Meccano screws, but be thick enough to hold shape. I decided that I would try one of the tough cardboard backings from my watercolour pad.

I began by priming the card with Acrylic Gesso, applied with a palette knife.

While the gesso was drying I began to prepare the background. I decided that Hornby data should be a feature of this work, so I printed some very old Hornby tables onto ordinary photocopier paper, and tore it into pieces ready for collaging. 

To get nice edges when tearing paper, you can draw water onto the paper using a brush

Wait for it to soak in

And then pull the paper apart along the damp line. It's very easy, and the paper tears exactly where you want it to.

Here are some of my papers, ready to go.

I wanted a yellow background, so before adding the papers I glued a sheet of yellow tissue paper to the gesso coated card using Gloss Acrylic Glaze Medium on both sides of the tissue so that the surface would still be OK to paint over with acrylics.

Using the same medium, I then glued all my papers in place, leaving some areas without papers, and then glued another piece of yellow tissue paper on top.

Then I painted some meccano models onto card and stuck these down with PVA glue.

And then I added my Meccano pieces. 

Oh doom and disaster, this was not at all the vision I had in my head.

Decidedly disgruntled, I took myself off to bed to sleep on it.

In the night I had a brainwave - I would take off the small cars and replace them with a single larger one. I sketched out a longer car onto white tissue paper and then stuck it down, again using the Gloss Acrylic Glaze Medium.

I then painted this using my Acrylics and also added a new slightly larger and brighter Meccano badge. Looking better already. I then painted a red border around the whole painting to complete the frame.

I'm very happy with this now, I just need to add a hanger on the back and I'm done. It is slightly warped so I may need to fix it to a wooden frame on the back.

I hope you found this step by step useful. If you have a go yourself, enjoy creating!

Please do not use my design for commercial gain.

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.


Acrylic Ink on Canvas Board

Today I thought I would start work on my next piece for the Frank Hornby Exhibition.

My intention was to use vibrant and translucent acrylic inks to create a painting of meccano, one of his inventions.

I spent a couple of hours this morning carefully applying acrylic ink, using salt and vinegar to create texture in the background. Vinegar repels the ink and creates some wonderful results, but you must make sure that you wash it off very thoroughly or the acid will affect the longevity of your artwork.

I very diligently took photos at each stage so that I could show you how the painting developed - so far, so good. Imagine my horror then, when the ink washed right off the board!

I ran a couple of tests, and sure enough, the acrylic ink simply wouldn't stick to the board. So I have put away my inks for now until I want to work on watercolour paper or stretched canvas, both of which I have used without problem before.

Please share your experiences in the comments box below - I'd love to know if (and how) you have been successful with acrylic inks!

Hornby Trains

In May this year it will be 150 years since the birth of Frank Hornby, the inventor of Hornby Trains and Meccano.

To celebrate, there will be a weekend extravaganza in Maghull (near Liverpool) where he used to live, and I'm delighted to have been asked to paint a couple of pictures for the exhibition.

When I get an idea in my head I have to get cracking with it before I burst with anticipation. I don't own any Hornby trains and couldn't find any Hornby photographs that I could use without infringing copyright, so I decided to begin with this: a locomotive on the West Coast Wilderness Railway in Tasmania. I found the reference photo for this painting on a wonderful website called Paint My Photo - where photographers and artists meet. This is a superb resource full of copyright-free photographs for artists to use as they wish.

In this blog post I'll show you the stages of producing my first painting for the exhibition.

I began by lightly sketching the outline of the train and track, and masked out the highlights on the train and the track. Next I added an initial light wash of green for the trees and blue for the sky. Whilst the trees were still wet I randomly sprinkled a little table salt and then pressed some cling film on top to give texture.

Next I added blues for the gravel and then sprinkled with salt.

Then I began to add colour for the train and carriage, lifting colour with a tissue to get a steamy effect around the bottom of the train.

When the paint under the cling film was dry, I removed both it and the salt and then repeated the process to strengthen areas of the trees and a bush in the foreground.

Whilst this was drying I began to more clearly define the train.

I continued to add colour and depth. It's very important to maintain a contrast between light and dark - this is what gives a painting that 3D effect.

At this stage I also began to add blues and purples to define the steam, remembering to leave a lot of white too! I used blue and purple instead of grey for interest.

Next I added definition to the areas that had been masked out, and added a touch of definition around the background - splashes of blues and greys in the gravel, grasses to the right hand side, and further definition in the steam using some negative painting and some dry brush strokes.

OK, I'm happy with the painting, now for the mount. I looked at various shades of blue, cream and white, and decided on a pale blue and a cream.

Blue helps the train to really stand out, but blue alone is too dominant.

So I added a cream, just leaving some blue to show through.

And finally, I chose a large natural wooden frame in light oak.

Finished.....or was it? Darling Husband spotted an error late last night - the lamp was not connected to the train! Here it is with the connecting piece added in.

The only thing left to decide is how much to charge for it...and to start work on my next piece!

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.


Improving an old watercolour painting

It's very easy to go back and improve on your old watercolour paintings. In this blog post I want to talk you through one that I wasn't entirely happy with.

Setting the scene

A couple of years ago I visited Nerja in Southern Spain. It's a beautiful little village with an olde-worlde feel to it, and is just an hour's drive away from Malaga.

I took this photograph of the Balcon de Europa, the heart of Nerja, with a view to painting it when I got home.

Choosing the composition and colours

We all know how the camera lies to us - the colours were much brighter in real life, and the whole scene had a blue tint to it that I really wanted to capture. It also felt very romantic to be there in the setting sun, so I tweaked the people to reflect the atmosphere.

So here was my painting, mounted (I'm sure you'll agree, they always look best with a mount):

Well I pondered, and I studied, and a year later I decided that I really wasn't happy with it. The painting lacked depth and definition.

What to do?

I began by adding some pen to give more definition. I added some outlines, being careful to have some lost and found edges. If I had simply outlined the whole thing then it would begin to look like a colouring in exercise, and the painting would lose its charm. Then I added some hatching to add depth to the darker areas.

After adding the pen, I felt that there was too much black ink and not enough colour, so I decided that I really needed to add more watercolour to enhance the depth. I also felt that the blues were not toning in very well together, so using my W&N artists watercolour paints, I added cerulean blue to all of the shadows in the building. I made sure that I had enough pigment and water on the brush to cover all the areas that I wanted to go over, to avoid hard edges. I needed to make sure that I didn't leave any puddles of paint or water, as this would surely have left those dreaded unwanted backruns and cauliflowers. Then I strengthened the blues in the shadows and foreground to add depth.

Next I added burnt sienna and crimson to the floor, and strengthened the sea, hills and sunset slightly, dampening the sunset before I added colour to keep it soft, and remembering to wait until the neighbouring pigment had dried to avoid bleeding.

At this point I was feeling relatively happy with it, so put it back into its mount.

Is it finished? I think so....

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.


Oh Yea, Oh Yea! Here comes the snow!

Oh Yea, Oh Yea!

Extra extra read all about it!

Snowman orchestra gathers in Ormskirk!

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.


My new online gallery

I'm feeling very accomplished this morning - I have spent a few hours working on my website design, getting to grips with google-sites and can finally reveal my new art gallery!

You can click on the link on my navigation bar across the top of my blog, or follow this link to have a peek

I'm still having a few problems getting some of the pictures to click through to  my shop so I have also included links underneath the images too.

The next step is to add my own shopping cart using Paypal. It looks simple enough, but all these things take time and are always far more complex than expected - the tiniest typo can cause massive headaches, so that will have to wait for another day. Hats off to all the web-developers out there! 

Please let me know what you think - all suggestions for improvements will be gratefully received.


Edit: shortly after posting this link I lost all owner-access to my new gallery. Horrified, I spent another hour trying to get it back - the solution was simple: log out and log back in again. If only I had heeded those wise words from IT help-desks all over "Have you rebooted your machine?"

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.