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!


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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!

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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



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Trees in watercolour

Trees are crucial to our landscape paintings, so I have done a short film about painting them in watercolour.

First, here a really useful poster from The Guardian – it just goes to show trees are not green lollipops!



Now you can hop over to YouTube to see the film:

If you want more information and a really super book on landscape painting, take a look at Creating Luminous Watercolour Landscapes by Sterling Edwards, to whom I am indebted.

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Pen and wash class

I promised my weekly class to try and do an online lesson, and after a struggle with tech I’ve done it. In these odd times, I thought you might want to paint along too.


I did a pen and wash of a colourful market, from the photo below but trying to feel I was really there…..


Ive done a full length film on You Tube to show you how:

hope it helps and stay safe xx

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Layered portraits

I took a very interesting class on Domestika with a superb Spanish artist called Ale Casanova.

I like my layered portraits (see for example), working over a purple underpainting or grisaille. But, I am finding it too controlled and I like a bit more sponteneity. Then I saw Ale’s work, and it really appealed.

He uses multiple layers, working first a cool underpainting, then a warm layer. Here’s my end of course project:


The final portrait – this is Ale


This is the phthalo blue underpainting – have to say I just used the colours lurking in my palette.


This is the half way stage, I used Sienna and then quin gold to get to this point.


Sadly there is a big downside to this course. Ale is Spanish and it is subtitled – no problem with that (I can read). They are the worst subtitles ever and I would not recommend the course unless you have a bit of Spanish or a lot of experience in watercolour, so that you can take a wild guess as to what he is talking about. I have emailed Domestika, but presumably they use machine translation and doing it properly is too expensive.

Here are a few of ones I can remember and my guess as to what they should be (there were loads more):

grizzly = grisaille (this made me laugh every time – where was the bear?)

Overseas (colour) = ultramarine?

Toasted Shadow = burnt umber?

Carnations = no idea!

Cavitation of a brush = holding capacity??

Godets = pans??

So if by any chance Domestika reads this, PLEASE sort your subtitles out. There are some really good online courses, I would be interested in doing, but it seems a bit pointless at the moment.

I’m running two portrait workshops this year 15 May and 15 November in Berkshire, so do message me if you are interested.



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Dodo – catch me while you can

Hello, I’ve been quiet as in January I decided to do the Sktchy 30 faces in 30 days challenge. Delighted to say I managed to do it, but it took up a shed load of time. Then I have been writing my second book for Crowood Press and, also delighted to say, I delivered it today – 25000 words and 150 images. Phew! Painting animals in watercolour. It should be published in November, but I will keep you updated.


One chapter explores taking watercolour further through mixed media. I did a section on collage and this is one that didn’t make the book due to take of space.

I had spent a lovely day sketching at the National History Museum in Tring and had drawn a dodo. It got me thinking about how we take animals for granted and only realise too late what we are doing. We are going through the sixth mass extinction right under our noses. I thought that a dodo painting might make the point better than any lecture.

First I prepared a wooden panel with three coats of watercolour ground and once dry (at least 24 hours). I sketched out my bird.


I wanted a really rich, but aged background, so chose an embossed wallpaper. You can get samples from most big DIY stores. My local B&Q said ‘please take a sample’, so I did. Lots and lots of samples – pretty big ones too. I cut out the dodo shape and stuck down the paper with pva glue and weighted it down. I then used texture or modelling paste to build up the leg areas, put in some feather shapes on the wing and also to make the edge between the cut outline and the image less severe.


Next step was to paint the dodo with Indian ink, using some pen for the feet area too.


Once dry, I used watercolour to tint the bird.


Finally, I used gold size, which I had tinted turquoise to coat the background and applied imitation gold leaf. Because of the heavy embossing the turquoise glinted through. Now it was a matter of sealing it to stop any tarnish and popping  it into a vintage frame.


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Portrait experiments and Sktchy

Sorry to be so quiet but I have become addicted to Sktchy App. It has a huge collection of interesting portrait photos and a daily challenge. Sadly only available on iPad or iPhone. The only way to learn and get better is to practise over and over, so I’ve been trying to do a portrait a day (ish). I really want to find my own voice and given that this was a New Year’s Resolution, I am fast running out of time!

I’ve done more layering portraits:


I’ve been working in drawing inks:

Pen and wash, with pastels:

In the past couple of days I’ve been using some of the packaging which is arriving pretty regularly. I really like these portraits on corrugated card. I’ve tried collage and cutting away too. There is something very liberating painting on junk. Give it a go!

And a few straight watercolours, of course:


Let me know now what you think and if you fancy painting portraits with me next year, I’m running a few workshops.



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2020 workshops

I don’t think I’ve shared my 2020 workshop schedule, have I? They are all held in Berkshire, UK and everyone keeps telling me they are really good *blush*, so if you fancy coming along, please let me know:

  • 24 January Friday £90 (Hurst ) Painting hares
  • 8-9 February Weekend £195 (Knowl Hill ) Watercolour on canvas
  • 15 February Saturday £90 (Hurst ) More experiments on canvas
  • 28 March Saturday £90 (Knowl Hill ) Watercolour taster day
  • 29 March Sunday £90 (Knowl Hill ) Pen and wash
  • 17 April Friday £90 (Hurst ) Pet portraits in watercolour
  • 24 April Friday £90 (Hurst ) Watercolour and pastels
  • 15 May Friday £90 (Hurst ) Lively portraits
  • 13-14 June Weekend £195 (Knowl Hill ) Watercolour on canvas
  • 19 June Friday £90 (Hurst ) Capturing animals
  • 18 September Friday £90 (Hurst ) Watercolour taster day
  • 25 September Friday £90 (Hurst ) Capturing animals
  • 3-4 October Weekend £195 (Knowl Hill ) Watercolour on canvas
  • 9 October Friday £90 (Hurst ) Watercolour and pastels
  • 16 October Friday £90 (Hurst ) Pen and wash
  • 14 November Saturday £90 (Knowl Hill ) Farm animals in watercolour
  • 15 November Sunday £90 (Knowl Hill ) Lively portraits
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More layered portraits

So here is another purple underpainting, followed by yellow, red and blue. If you are interested I am running a portrait workshop on 15 May and 15 November 2020 in Berkshire. We will cover this process and a far more direct tonal one, with colour-value switching going on:

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