Getting the mood right

•October 9, 2013 • 2 Comments

From a painting point of view, the last few  months have been very slow. The continuous grind of work pressures plus travelling back to SA to get our China visas renewed took the usual toll on my painting time and motivation.

I have been working on my latest assignment for London College of Art – all about creating atmosphere and mood – and it took a LONG time to achieve the right mood. Not helped by jet-lag and my general grumpiness and moodiness from work stresses, I might add. But somewhere along the way, I got into the mood of it all and I am very pleased with the results.

So here are my two moody paintings:

Simply Venice

Simply Venice

[From my own photo taken from a vaporetto on the way to Murano during my first visit to Venice in June this year]

Snowy Day Blues

Snowy Day Blues

From a lovely photo of Sint-Romboutstoren, Mechelen by ESP on PaintMyPhoto


Flying High

•August 18, 2013 • 2 Comments
Flying High

Flying High

A much looser version of a kingfisher based on a photo on PMP by ChrissyM – it was so much easier to paint more loosely with the bird in flight.

Colours; Prussian Blue, Pthalo Blue and Translucent Orange (and I think I sneaked in some Mayan Blue…)

Halcyon days

•August 13, 2013 • 5 Comments
Kingfisher (ref: Gary Jones on PMP)

Kingfisher (ref: Gary Jones on PMP)

I knew about halcyon days, but only recently found out that the term also refers to kingfishers.

1. calm; peaceful; tranquil: halcyon weather.
2. rich; wealthy; prosperous: halcyon times of peace
3. happy; joyful; carefree: halcyon days of youth.
4. of or pertaining to the halcyon or kingfisher.
5. mythical bird, usually identified with the kingfisher, said to breed about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea, and to have the power of charming winds and waves into calmness.
6. any of various kingfishers, especially of the genus Halcyon.

I love these little birds – I am sure it has a lot to do with their gorgeous colouring; that lovely contrast between bright orange and blue. I was hoping for a “looser” version, but couldn’t quite there, so he’s a little more “stiff” than I would like him to be.

I have struggled to get back into the painting zone after some time away and I seem to have lost the ability to “see” and interpret an image in a looser way. I have found that I tend to tighten up when I lose confidence. So while this little guy is not quite what I want him to be, at least he has given me the opportunity to get back on the road to “finding my stroke” again.


•July 22, 2013 • 2 Comments

What a lovely way of spelling peony – makes one think of ancient times in Olde England – with knights and castles, horse-drawn carts and meadows filled with a colourful carpet of flowers, doesn’t it?

Based on a reference photo by Nicola B on PMP – I used Rose Red and Crimson Brusho (with a dab of Yellow) and wax resist for the petal edges. This was my contribution to the monthly challenge on PMP – “A closer look at florals”.

Paeony - in the Pink

Paeony – in the Pink

I am really enjoying the Brusho experience and used the opportunity of a recent trip to the UK to stock up on a few more Brusho colours to add to the Starter Pack that I got from Brusho Secrets. At first there did not seem to be much differentiation between some of the shades of red, but the more you play with them and the larger your painting and “area of play”, the more the variation begins to unfold.

Poppy-ing out

•June 16, 2013 • 9 Comments

More Brusho experimenting…. from a reference photo by Nicola B on PMP – using techniques from Joanne Boon Thomas’ DVD – Brusho Secrets. Still learning….. In this one I have used wax to preserve the highlights but lost some of the wonderful textured by over-watering!


Brusho Poppy

Colour Explosion

•June 5, 2013 • 6 Comments

Over the last week I have dipped my toe into the colourful, unpredictable, scary, exciting and generally intriguing world of Brusho®.

Brusho® is a watercolour ink powder – “just add water” for some amazing and possibly probably definitely unexpected results. Things can, and do get messy, but for some or other reason, the capricious nature of Brusho® appeals to me. I have been sitting on the sidelines watching enviously as others ventured into this new world of colour and was delighted when Joanne Boon Thomas (together with launched a DVD with demos and a special deal on the Brusho Starter Kit (including overseas postage!)

Why these uncontrollable mediums like watercolour and Brusho® appeal to a control freak like me, I really don’t know – I am a sucker for punishment – or maybe they merely wave the flag of “I dare you” under my nose and I am incapable of resisting their allure. I love the looseness that one can achieve and the 100% guarantee that no two paintings will ever be the same  – I think the rebel/individualist in me raises a cheer at this aspect!

So ….. here is my first “on my own” painting after watching a few of the demos and spending a few hours sprinkling, spraying, splashing, creating colourful chaos…

Colour Explosion

Colour Explosion

The colours are very bright: I still need to learn how to make them speak more softly – at the moment they shout and perform across each page with total abandon and little adherence to any form of script. Fortunately these sunflowers (from a photo by Brenda M on PMP) were very obliging and lend themselves to being portrayed in an over-bright and over-colourful way. I used the “line and wash” technique – it gives the subject a little more definition and some boundaries in which to strut their stuff! Not much time spent on getting the light and shadows and tones all in the right place…. that will come … in time…(I hope!)

Here’s looking forward to more chaotic colourful creations….

Frenetic Fish

•May 18, 2013 • 4 Comments

Or maybe I am the frenetic one!



I finally reached a level of satisfaction with the second painting for my London College of Art assignment – capturing movement. This has been a long, long, LONG process with many twists and turns, and not just by the fish! I changed my mind about colours, composition, techniques, you name it – it changed! But I managed to produce a painting that I like, with vibrant colours, contrasts and a sense of movement. Yay!

The journey for this one has taken far longer than I intended, and there have been many frustrations along the way, as I am always seeking that elusive “loose, but succinct” result. After much experimentation with the order of painting the background vs foreground, I went for the loose background wash, Jean Haine’s style, and then fitted the fish in on top, adding some background splashes and texture as I went along. I played with salt and wax and sponging, but in the end I did not use any of these in the final version. Needless to say, I have learnt quite a lot in the process – mostly that I am far too impetuous and impatient!

I nearly decided to stop with the third and second to last versions, deciding that

Life is too short for a perfect painting

but I felt that after putting so much effort into trying to depict the subject in a certain way, I wanted to give it just one more go, and …. then another! And then – I got it!

In the final version – the composition is “quirky” – koi tend to cluster and mob, but here they are more isolated and I actually like the sense of space that they are enjoying.

The final colours are

  • Koi: Translucent Orange (Schmincke), Cadmium Red (Daniel Smith), Quin Gold (W&N), Hansa Yellow (DS) ; Indigo (W&N Cotman) for shading
  • Background: Perelyne Green (DS) & Sleeping Beauty Turquoise (DS); with splashes of White gouache
Trial and error

Trial and error