"Towards Kenbane"

"Towards Kenbane"
Spectacular Irish coastline on a stormy day

Wednesday 18 September 2013



Even though I haven't shared anything from this painting so far, I decided to post this image to show the pastel SEASCAPE which was completed yesterday:

Using mainly 'Unison' Soft Pastels and a reference photo [taken from my 'seascape library' - hundreds of digital pics taken around the local coastal area], this painting was done on an 8" x 24" canvas board.  

To prepare the board, three layers of white Acrylic Gesso were roughly scrubbed in [NOT sanding between] leaving each to dry completely. You do not have to use white - many people prefer to work on a coloured ground.

The first step is to layer in the darks:  
I chose a selection of three shades [tones] of blue, from dark grey/blue through to a light Cobalt, and the same with the greens.  

Tip:  Leave the lightest areas blank.

Select ALL the colours you intend to use and lay them out separately - this means you will not confuse them from the rest and it makes the painting process much easier.
It is important to select darks and lights of the same colour as opposed to 'lightening' a darker colour with white [which will only make your colours 'opaque' instead of keeping them 'pure/transparent'].  
There are SO MANY colours and shades/tones available in pastel - it's best to build up your collection slowly, as they are needed, otherwise you could spend a fortune!
I have been 'collecting' for years - this photo shows some of my soft pastels and how I lay them out for ease of visual selection:-

Right, getting back to the tutorial...  this type of scene turns out best if you work up the painting as a whole [rather than finish each section in isolation].  I 'blend' with my little fingers, using a REALLY soft touch [remember to clean off your finger as you go]. 

The lights in this painting are various shades of green, blue, violet, yellow, cream and finally, white.  
Once the light colours have been laid down, I 'blend' them into the dark areas [cleaning my finger on kitchen roll in between each touch] using a light touch.  

To achieve the effect of light shining through the top of the curling wave, I first used a light yellowish-green [along a 'mossy' tone] then working in the darker blue and green mix at the base of the wave, working from the bottom up.  Blend the light into the dark then overlay a pale yellow, working from the top down, blending this as well. 

I tend to work 'instinctively' rather than following any kind of formula - if you learn to look at your chosen image and 'see' the colours [without too much analysis], you will ultimately also paint 'instinctively'.
As you lay in lights and darks, adjust the work as you go... this might be simply shifting a line ever so slightly or making the foam 'holes' smaller/larger.  With each adjustment, look carefully at the painting as a whole to ensure your changes 'fit' the overall realism and don't look out of place or unbalanced.

The last marks are made with the lightest colours - these are the 'icing on the cake' and are, as such, NOT blended in.  This way they add the sparkle!

The following images are close-up's from the painting which hopefully, will help show the process a bit clearer:

I hope you have enjoyed this short tutorial?

Since I have quite a number of commissions to work through, it will be a little while till I can post another tutorial.  
Hope you will join me again and, in the meantime, HAPPY PAINTING!!!

BALLINTOY SEASCAPE - Finished Watercolour

So, here is the finished painting: 

I've added several more glazes overall, softened even more sky and wave edges and, finally, darkened the foreground even more to add further depth.

The finishing touches were to highlight the 'focal point' on the rocks with a soft wash of W&N "Burnt Sienna".

Here is another image, a close up, indicating some of the brush work:

Hope you have enjoyed following along with the painting process!
Happy painting!

"Sea Pinks" Final Phase

Well, I finally finished the watercolour painting of the "Sea Pinks" and.... I must have added at least 8 glazes to get the depth I felt it needed. There was considerable waiting and "watching paint dry" [which I'm not really good at] and, 

I have to admit, these are horrible photographs which makes it looks quite 'dull', but here it is...

As you will notice, I have 'cropped' the painting - it was just too 'heavy' on one side with all the flower detail and 'empty' on the other.  

I took all the paintings this morning to have them framed and will reserve 'final judgement' on this one until then as I'm not particularly happy with it.

Saturday 14 September 2013



 I have not had much chance to work on this watercolour, although a further glaze of warm and cool greys has been added.  
This starts to indicate rock texture on the right hand side.  The initial shadows, cast by the Sea Pinks, have also been washed in.

The 'masking' is still in place and will not be removed until further darks and rock texture have been glazed on [if the 'masking' was removed at this stage, further glazing would be extremely difficult and fussy].

I am planning to work on this painting tomorrow and will post further images to show it's progress...


Our Trip to Scotland

We have had a really great visit to Northern Scotland since my last post and, obviously, I haven't been painting for a few weeks... 

We went across for a mini-break but mainly to return our son and daughter-in-law's two dogs after a three month dog-sitting experience.  "Cody" [an adorable bouncy black Labrador] and "Rico" [a VERY large, gentle, sweet-natured black German Shepherd who we nicknamed 'Yogi Bear'] were the perfect house 'guests' and we found ourselves really sad to have to take them back home....

So, there we were, in the car with FOUR large, excited and rather talkative dogs [me, wedged into the passenger seat, practically having to sit on our luggage and our sandwiches and coffee flasks tightly packed around my knees].  As we headed towards the ferry, we hoped they wouldn't eat each other [or the car] during the 2 hour crossing!  

The car windows were constantly steamed up from our panting pooches and, initially at least, I was poised with the towel hovering beneath "Bruno's" chin - he has always had the tendency to be car-sick and, even though he was fairly 'dribbling' by the time we arrived at the ferry terminal, he wasn't actually ill [thank goodness]!  

We assume they were well-behaved below deck since there were still four [intact] dogs, no ears had been shredded, no holes chewed in seats and all seat belts appeared fully functioning.  

Let's just say, it was quite an eventful journey - taking two dogs [EACH] on their leads, to 'stretch legs' and have 'toilet breaks' along the way, is hilarious.... especially when they each head off in different directions at the same time!  Of course no one wanted any drinking water [until we were back on the road that is!]. Oh what fun we had during that 16 hour trip!

Before I start talking about the next stages in this watercolour painting, I thought I'd share a picture of my two studio companions "Mika" [our beautiful German Shepherd girl] and "Bruno" [our chocolate Labrador, now 9mths old - yes, he IS a big boy!].  

 They can be either VERY good [when they're both sleeping at my feet] OR, a real pain in the rear [when they decide it's play time] - I have had to stop several times to remove acrylic paint from various ears and noses!

... and, finally, here is a pic of "Rico" and "Cody" in the back of the car during their trip back home to Scotland:



OK, back to watercolour..... and, as you can see, I have been working on the Seascape painting 'as a whole'.  By not focusing on [and completing] one area at a time, I can ensure that the painting remains 'balanced' as it progresses.
Quite often though, and especially with still lifes and floral subjects, I do actually work each area up to completion but find that the 'overall' approach works best with seascape and landscape subjects.

I am still using Daniel Smith 'Indigo' and 'Quin.Burnt Sienna', W&N 'Sap Green', 'Winsor Blue' [green shade] and a tiny touch of 'Permanent Rose' and 'Burnt Umber' to warm up or cool off the grey tones.

As I paint, I am constantly thinking about 'directional light' and 'cast shadow' areas. This is important in order to maintain realistic tonal values and to ensure that I don't overwork the painting as a whole and, ultimately, confuse the eye of the viewer.

Today I managed to sit for quite a while [with several 'breaks' in between] and have nearly finished this piece, as shown in the next picture [which, unfortunately, was taken when the daylight had already started to fade]:

I have added drama by adding strong darks to the foreground and, by directional brush strokes, have added movement to the water.  
A glaze of cool grey has been washed over the background sea which 'pushes' that area back, leaving the foreground better focused. I can't really give you a 'recipe' of the colour used because it was just a mix of what was left on my palette!

Hard edges have also been softened here and there [clouds and main foam areas], again, to keep the most detail within the focal point.  

Tomorrow I will finally darken and add some detail to the cliffs on the left and to really 'pin down' the focal point, I will add a little warmth with a very soft glaze of "Burnt Sienna" on the lightest edges of the main rocks.

Once complete, I will post a picture of the finished piece, taken in better light.

Sunday 11 August 2013


"EBB and FLOW" - part II

Due to 'dogs', 'shopping' and just plain 'sitting', I didn't get round to painting yesterday BUT, today is another day...

Further layers and glazes have been laid down in the sea area, using watery mixes of Phthalo Blue and Sap Green.  You will notice that the brush marks are made in the direction of the water - this starts to give the painting the 'movement' that is so important.

This picture starts to show more detail as the layers are built up and will be easier to see as the work progresses:

I also softened some edges with a 'thirsty' brush as well as damp cotton wool [pop the cotton wool into clean water and make sure as much water as possible is squeezed out, otherwise you risk a 'bloom'].  The sea area in the middle has also been underpainted with a watery Verditer Blue and Phthalo Blue mix.

The composition still looks somewhat unbalanced but, as the other rocks below the surface start to appear, things will balance out to ultimately 'frame' the focal point.

The first glaze has also been added on top of the under painting, over some of the rocks.  I used a slightly stronger mix of Indigo and Sap Green and, while the paint was still wet, I dropped in some Burnt Umber mixed with Permanent Rose.  Once the 'shine' left the surface [look at it against the light], I scraped into the paint with a palette knife to start indicating the 'form' of the rocks.  If you do this too soon, the paint will simply creep back.

I have included the next two close up pictures to show the brush strokes in a little more detail.  You can also see the areas which were softened with the damp cotton wool...

TIP:  Damp cotton wool is the best 'tool' to soften edges.  If you do happen to end up with a 'bloom' [like the small one on the rock in the pic above], simply wait for it to dry completely, then soften the hard edges again... ta-da!

"SEA PINKS" - part II:

The rock surface has been glazed again with Indigo, keeping 'rock shapes' in mind.  Again, while the paint was still wet, I dropped in some stronger mixes of Yellow Ochre and Winsor Yellow to indicate where the lichen is growing.  I can see that some of these lichens are a creamy/white colour, so, rather than try and mask them out, I used [and will use again] a 'dry brush' technique.  That way when I lay in subsequent glazes, I can save some of these textured areas.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the paper I am using is 300lb Saunders Waterford NOT.  Paper is a personal choice and very much depends upon your painting style preferences - this is my 'paper of choice' [sometimes I use ROUGH] plus, I hate fiddling around stretching paper.

My brand choices of watercolour paint are Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith, Sennelier and, occasionally, M.Graham & Co.;  all are artists' quality.

Friday 9 August 2013


I have finally put brush to paper and started not one but two new watercolours. So, while the paint is drying, I decided it would be a good time to update the Blog and start sharing the painting process.

 PAINTING I "Ebb and Flow"

 This first painting is a SEASCAPE and this is the reference photo I am working with.

You will notice that the painting isn't exactly like the photo - this is because, since I know this area of the coastline so well, I can carry a lot in my head. I have also used some of that magic 'artistic license' to pick out and move around parts of the scene!

 This second pic shows Stage One of the painting process and goes some way to explain how I go about it.

I used a 2B pencil to lightly draw out a few of the key shapes [use a light touch so you do not mark the paper] and then applied a pale 'undercoat'. This was a very watery mixture of Verditer Blue for the sky, then adding Phthalo Blue and Indigo to this, I used a 'hit and miss' technique over the shadow areas of the water. As you will see [or not!], the wash has dried so pale that it is almost impossible to see in the pic!  This is because it is only the first of many glazes which will be added as the painting progresses and will actually work as one of the varied subtle colours of the deeper water and the foam.... keep watching and you will see what I mean!

The rocks were laid down with a watery Yellow Ochre. The reason I chose this as the underpainting is because there is an 'ochrey' tone shining through some of the rocks in this area.  Again, local knowledge and keen observation are key.  I haven't used any masking fluid by the way, although you can if you find that easier.

 PAINTING II "Sea Pinks"

 This second painting is taken from the same area and is of our pretty native flowers, 'Sea Pinks', which bloom during the early summer. The flowers are set against the beautiful grey blue local rocks and are interspersed with bright yellow litchens.

 In order to permit free 'washes' without having to fiddle around small areas, I used masking fluid [I personally like Pebeo Drawing Gum, applied with the tip of a plastic palette knife] to preserve the flowers, stems, grasses and a few other light marks on the rocks. The first pale wash is purely very watery Indigo Blue, and, as the 'shine' leaves the wet paint, I can safely drop in a thicker mix of the same colour to start adding depth.

Tip: do NOT shake your masking fluid before using - you will only add 'bubbles' to your painting surface which will ultimately burst, leaving a weird round masked mark once it's removed.

Both paintings have been left to dry completely overnight. Tomorrow I will continue on both and will post progress.

Monday 29 July 2013

"Discovery Art Workshop" at SeaView Gallery!

At the end of June we had a successful Art Workshop, held over two days in my studio at SeaView Gallery in Ballycastle. I had the pleasure of hosting this event for four wonderful, very talented, lovely ladies. Apart from all the laughter and dry wit, we had fun dabbling and experimenting with a fairly wide range of mediums - hence the Workshop being named "Discovery Art". The whole idea was to give everyone a chance to step outside their normal painting comfort zone and 'discover' what was possible by utilising different styles and mediums.
To the best of my knowledge, my "students" not only enjoyed the two days, but actually learned a few things along the way! Pretty amazing when you take into consideration that three of the ladies are elected members of the "Ulster Society of Women Artists" [uwa] and, all four are accomplished artists!
You know 'that' feeling when something finally works out [or not] the way you want it to!
We started Day One with a fun exercise - spending the morning painting individual interpretations of the proverbial apple, using watercolour. The end results were amazingly different, and entirely a result of four very personal painting styles. It just proves how variable the 'eye of the artist' really is! After lunch the ladies started on a painting of their own chosen subject, each with a different medium and style - we had everything from fine art realism to loose impressionism. I, of course, tried not to bore anyone with the mini demos and 'technical-type talks' in between! Day Two saw a continuation of the ladies' work, interrupted for tea/coffee/lunch and another mini acrylic seascape demo by yours truly. The Workshop ended with four really impressive paintings [not forgetting the 'apple' interpretations as well]. I wanted everyone to pose with their work so I could take a pic for the record... SO....after some pleading, encouragement [and even more hilarity] here are the results. Of course I only told everyone I was going to post their pics online, AFTER I took them!
I so enjoyed these two days and look forward to meet up with the ladies in the near future!

Sunday 3 February 2013


Well, it's been REALLY far too long since my last post and I've probably lost you [wonderful followers] as a result.  However, since I will be posting regularly from now on, I am hoping that some of you will drop by again?

It's not been particularly hectic [in the studio] since the start of the new year, but rather, it's been slow and steady as I completed several commissions.  This is why I haven't been posting...

In approximately two or three weeks, we'll be adding a new ball of fur to our family.... his name is "Bruno Bournville" [just Bruno for short] - he is the puppy at the top right in the photo above....isn't he just so cute?  Bruno and his four sisters and one brother are about 8 weeks old in this photo.  They are growing so quickly now and even a few days brings big changes.

Bruno is a chocolate labrador, the same as his Mummy and Daddy.  Every time I've been to visit, he has snuggled up under my chin and gone to sleep!  Can you imagine how utterly adorable it is to have a warm puppy curl up on your shoulder [I just wonder if he will want to do the same when he's fully grown - yikes]?!

Mika, our German Shepherd, will be over the moon when Bruno comes home - another little soul for her to follow around, play with and 'mother'.... poor pup will constantly have soggy ears because Mika is a very 'licky' dog!  On the other hand, Mugsie our Havana cat, will probably NOT be so happy to see Bruno - at nearly 17 years old I guess he's allowed to be grumpy - I anticipate he will retreat to the safety of upstairs for a while.  After our beloved black labrador, Cody, died of cancer seven years ago, Mugsie was really depressed - he wouldn't come downstairs.  It was a stand-off between us but eventually I had to take his food/water/cat litter up, and, because he wasn't exercising at all, he got SO fat that he looked like a sausage with four toothpicks stuck in it!

I am looking forward to have to work around TWO furry bodies at my feet in the studio instead of just one - how wonderful it's going to be! 

Please do come back to join me to find out how [and WHAT] Bruno, Mika and Mugsie are doing..........
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