Carne Griffiths workshop

Playing with ink, throwing tea into the mix, the making sense of it all. What a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon.

And look at the result!

Ooops, this was the real result of three hours in a Shopkeeparty workshop with Carne Griffiths, whose work I have admired for a long time.

Starting with a tonal drawing on a full sheet of Bockingford Not 200lb, I sketched out our muse. I used a 4B and struggled with smudging.

Then we switched to ink, using fountain pens with Waterman inks. I had Inspired Blue and Absolute Brown. We drew over some of the graphite, mixing inks in areas we wanted to be dark.

The next stage came easily to me – splashing water about to activate the watersolubke inks and get them moving. We also used black tea, to introduce a unifying theme. It should have been freshly brewed, but mine was stewed.

After drying, we returned to either dip or fountain pens to effective build tone ans surface pattern with posh doodles and contour lines.

This was the end of the workshop, but I continued. I disliked the graphite, so erased most of it even through the ink washes. I got more into the doodling and it became more intuitive and finally I added touches of gold with culture Hustle gold acrylic. Gold leaf would have been nice, but it was the end of a long day.

Surface detail

Would I do this again? I like the bleeding of the inks and tea. I am not sure zen-doodling is entirely my thing, but maybe… was it fun? You bet! Thanks Carne.

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Experimenting with gold leaf

I started the year with this painting of a jay, which had been living in my head for a few months. It needed to fly free!

I like to learn more about each animal I paint. Did you know I studied zoology at university for a while? So I learnt about its acorn stashing habit and that it’s Latin name translates as ‘chattering acorn eater’. Well it obviously needed an oak tree….

My challenge was then how to introduce the oak without distracting from the bird….hmmmm.

I hit upon the idea of oak leaves glinting through the gold. I mused that I could use texture paste, but I didn’t have a have a handle stencil or stamp, so how could I do this?

I love baking, so I grabbed an icing bad and a few nozzles, filled it with texture paste (if I ever offer you a cake, check the icing carefully…). The first nozzle was too big, so I used the finest I could find and piped a leaf. It sat too proud, so I tried letting it half dry and squished it down a bit. This looked horrible, so in the end I let it dry and then sanded it right down. The leaf is so thin that even a hair shows through, so I only needed a hint of texture. If I do this again I might sand it even more, without damaging the canvas of course.

I knew the leaf would break over the raised areas, so I tinted the size blue. If it showed through it would add to the effect. And then it was simply a case of leafing the surface.

If you want to emphasise the pattern, dragging a little Indian ink over the raised areas then rubbing it back would ‘antique’ it, I reckon. Maybe next time.

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Providing a diversion – beginners’ watercolour course

Here we are in the middle of the third lockdown (if you are in England – different in Scotland and Wales) and it’s a toughie. The first we had the gorgeous spring weather, the second we had Christmas to look forward to, but this one is grey and cold and damp.

Well, I need to think positive – I need a diversion. And if I need a diversion, don’t other people? So I brought my plans forward and started working on an online beginners’ watercolour course. I had planned to do this in March, but there was no time like the present.

And it’s just gone live! You can see the introduction here: You get lifetime access, you can repeat things and can work at your own pace, when you like.

Aimed at people who say ‘ooh, I wish I could paint’ or ‘I used to like art at school’, I set out to make sure this course covers the basics of materials and techniques, but then quickly goes on to help people paint real pictures.

I want people to come away with the skills, experience and confidence to paint pictures of their own, so each exercise builds on the previous and are full of transferable skills. So the exercise might be to paint a feather, but you can use it to paint a leaf, or a bowl of fruit, or a misty landscape. You get the picture!

We cover the basic things you need to get going, then techniques and jargon – washes, dry brushing, wet in wet. I throw in a few things I wish someone had told me (paper is more important than paint, for example) and how to plan/simplify. We use masking fluid (see the cherry tree above) and really put tone through its paces (see below).

I think it’s pretty good (she says modestly). You can find out more over at If you are not a beginner, I have courses on painting animals, pen and wash etc and will add to them each month.

So if you need diverting, hop on over and I hope to see you there.

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New course added

My new courses website has only been live for a couple of weeks and it’s going great guns! I have students from the UK, Italy, Australia and France so far. What fun!

cola pen in action

I’ve fallen in love with dip pens over the past few weeks and my latest course shares this passion.

Red kite pen and wash

I’ve just added a new line and wash workshop, showing you how to make and use a cola pen. And then to use it to paint a red kite.

cola pens are brill for urban sketching

You can see the preview here: or go to

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New online courses and book available

I set myself a New Year’s resolution to launch my own online courses….for all those people who couldn’t come to workshops.

Scroll forward and COVID happened. It made online courses even more necessary, but gave me less time to develop them. Too much fire fighting!

Scroll forward and finally I have done it! To coincide with my new book (out next week). My Painting Animals in Watercolour covers all the workshop material and a bit more, and brings the book to life. You can find them at

Screen grab of

I am excited to share it with you. Take a look here: The prices of the courses varies depending on length and content from £15 to £78. Hope you enjoy them!

The first two courses….lots more to come

And I’ve also done a flip through the book here: It’s published by The Crowood Press on 16 November 2020 or thereabouts! £9.99. You can buy online or in store. Perfect for Christmas!!

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Watercolour stag

Yesterday, I lead a workshop with to paint a stag in watercolour.

Isn’t it amazing that you can be painting with people in Canada, USA, across Europe and into Australia all at the same time?

ShopKeepArty runs free taster sessions each week at 2pm GMT on a Tuesday and Thursday and also paid for workshops for artists around the world. The workshops are a 2-3 hour more in depth session.

I have to say my workshop painting is never quite up to what I would do if I were on my own in the studio! There is pressure on you and of course, articulating what you are up to tends to interrupt the flow. But I hope that everyone enjoyed it and learnt a lot.

This is where I ended up yesterday:

We also explored how colour plays with our emotions. This stag is from my new book, which will be published in November by Crowood Press. Pretty much the same view, but a totally different feel in the cool blues.

We played with textures and I showed different versions to inspire people.

My next free session is on 15 September 2020, when I will demonstrate how to make your own dip pen and then on 22 September the workshop will be all about pen and wash using that pen. You can sign up here or here: (won’t be live for a few days after I post this).

You can also buy videos of the workshops if you missed them first time round.

So, have you got a favourite out of my herd of stags??

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At last, I have started a newsletter!

About time too, you might think. If you fancy having a short update each month, please sign up via this form on my website:

All you have to do is pop in your email, and of course you can unsubscribe at anytime.

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Online masterclass 23 July 2020


On Thursday I did something new…. an online class with over 200 people. run free sessions twice a week, so I did I did one all about painting animal eyes in watercolour.

It was not without drama. Having done the tech test on Weds, I woke up to find that the telephone wire which supplies our house had snapped in the night. No phone, no internet, which was a bit of an issue. Luckily a lovely friend let me use her house, so I went armed with bleach and hand gel (if you are reading this in 2022, remember covid?). I got it all set up in time and was joined by painters from Texas, Canada, uk, Holland and Australia that I know of.

If you missed it, the whole thing is on YouTube. Search for Shopkeeparty here:

As a follow up I am doing a masterclass on 23 July and it would be fab if you could join me. It’ll last 2-3 hours and will be the nearest thing I can do to inviting you into my studio to paint with me. Well paint a colourful curios cow. Well start with the eye and work out, using wet in wet and texturing techniques. It’s £35 for the three hours, with options for individual critique afterwards.

THis is the link to book:

Any questions, just shout!


Posted in animal portraits, Art, how to, portrait, step by step, Techniques, Uncategorized, Watercolour, workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exercises to stretch your portrait drawing muscles

I’ve been busy writing a series of articles for The Leisure Painter about watercolour portraits. After all if I can paint a cow I can paint a person. Right?

The challenge is to train your hand to do what your eye wants and secondly, to learn to believe what you see.

We all have so much experience stored in our brains that we end up seeing what we think we should see and not what is actually there. Because faces are so important to us, this really kicks in when drawing portraits. So I’ve thought of some exercises to help and put a film lesson together.

1. Understand the perfect proportions. How is the ideal face put together?

2. Train your hand and eye to work together through blind continuous line drawing.

3. Cut to the chase in a timed drawing. What’s important and don’t get caught up in the eyelashes before you have drawn the head.

4. Upside down drawing. Now you will believe what you see and not see what you believe.

Here’s the film. Hope you enjoy it!

If you have any tips for achieving a likeness please share them!

Posted in Art, drawing, how to, portrait, portraits, step by step, Uncategorized, Watercolour | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Dodo II

E5F46FAD-F13C-444C-BCDA-DE9F9F7F5663I painted a dodo a while back, which is going to a new home as soon as the lockdown finishes. But then my sister piped up that she really liked it and could I do another. I’ve filmed the whole process, so if you hop over to YouTube you can see it in two parts:

preparation and painting:

applying the gold leaf:


First I prepared the panel, with a collaged background and modelling paste on its head and wing, with crackle paste on its feet. I then painted on three layers of watercolour ground:

Then I painted the bird using Indian ink and watercolour:

next I used gold size (tinted blue) to cover the background and once dry applied the gold leaf.

finally I popped it in a vintage frame, after sealing it with a spray metal lacquer.

hope you like it!D5E65066-20BC-41C6-BD74-E90D1D5BB85A



Posted in animal portraits, Art, canvas, how to, step by step, Techniques, Uncategorized, Watercolour | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment