Mini canvases

It’s the Reading Guild of Artist’s exhibition at the moment and I was delighted that my little otter got sold before he got hung on the wall. So, I had to paint a replacement promptly. Given I’d done a truly dreadful demonstration of a beautiful Swaledale sheep on Friday, I thought I would try to redeem myself.


If you want to see it’s creation, here’s a short film:

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Glazing in watercolour

I love working wet-in-wet so much that I tend to forget about the fun of glazing. So I thought it might be worth revisiting it as a technique. Yesterday’s class rose to the challenge and produced some fab and varied work. Here’s a taster:


If you think about it, there are three ways of mixing colours. First of all you can pre mix in the palette. A big advantage is total control and consistency of colour; the downside being boredom! Alternatively you can mix your colours on the paper surface – using the transparent nature of watercolour to your advantage. You can mix wet in wet, so that the individual colours shine through – downside being the unpredictability (just look at that nasty hard edge!). The final way is glazing, so that you get optical mixing on the paper. The downside is the patience and planning required, while the upside is the control of the final hue and the glowing colour you can achieve.


Glazing gives a beautiful luminescence to the final picture. To keep the transparency, I would suggest sticking to no more than three layers, making sure each is totally dry before the next is applied. Apply the top layers with a light soft hand to avoid muddling the lower ones. Get in, get out, leave it alone! Select your colours carefully. Transparent non-staining colours work well, but staining or more opaque have a role to play if you are trying to perk up a dull dark area, or tone down something strident.

This was my reference photo – I am sorry but I do not know who took it, so if it is yours, please let me know so I can credit you.


It seems sensible to start with your lightest, yellow wash. You can do washes flat or variegated as you like. In this little demo, I did the background with three variegated washes: quin yellow, quin rose and French ultramarine. The paper was a scrap of Khadi, so very rough and you can see how the brush skipped areas. By varying the strength of washes I avoided green sky – phew!


Once dry I painted the far hills and trees and then the near trees were painted wet in wet. You don’t have to stick to one technique, after all!


If you were planning to paint exclusively in glazing, or even more restrictively by glazing in three primaries, you need to think like a screen printer or visualise your washes to be stained glass. Strict planning is needed. But if you mix it up, you will find it brings a new light and a glow to your paintings.

Happy glazing! And if you fancy coming on a workshop to learn different techniques, please look at

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Rolling down the river

In a couple of week’s time it is the Reading Guild of Artist’s annual exhibition, but in the week before the RGA is taking over the Reading Museum for half term. We have been asked to do a small piece that’s ‘happy’ and suitable for children. Well most of my paintings are happy, so I decided on this little otter as a warm up for a bigger piece.


I thought I would try gilding the canvas ahead of painting for once. Once gilded, I used watercolour ground to prepare the shape where the otter was to go. Next the ink went on with a brush, then used the pen to add details. Once dry the watercolour was applied and finally the piece is signed and sealed.

Here’s a  little time lapse from start to finish;

I hope you enjoy it!

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Time lapse jackalope / horned hare / lepus cornutus



Lepus cornutus is the Latin for the horned hare, a creature of mythology. People think that rabbits with a virus causing warty growths, were the foundation for these stories. in the 1930s enterprising taxidermists in America created Jackalopes for sale, founded on lumberjack stories. Jackalope comes from the jack rabbit and antelope….

I’ve been wanting to paint one for ages and here it is. I had a nice vintage frame, so I cut a board to fit and prepared it with watercolour ground, before painting it in ink, watercolour and finishing with metal leaf.

The wolpertinger is a German mythical animal, described as a horned rabbit and the Al-mi’raj is a single-horned hare from Islamic mythology – apparently carnivorous. I love symbols which appear in multiple cultures – we are united by our humanity.

I hope to display it at the Reading Museum as part of the Reading Guild of Artists annual exhibition, later in Feb 2019.

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First workshop of 2019

“Attentive and encouraging”


On Saturday, I ran the first of my 2019 workshops. It was all about pen and wash and I am delighted to say, that it went really well. I had a super group of students and the feedback I have had (so far!) has been extremely positive.

Pen and wash is fab for all subjects – you know I love animals, but we explored landscapes, architecture and florals too (I promise!!). My overall message was 2+2=5. The pen and the watercolour must both bring something to the party, so that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. We wanted to avoid colouring in a drawing or outlining a painting. So we explored the range of pens available – fibre tip fineliners, roller ball pigment ink, Elegant Writers, non-waterproof Stabilo point 88. We also played with dip pens, including homemade ones, and Indian Ink. We had a look at Fude nibs from Japan and Pilot Parallel pens. There are so many possibilities. Then we explored some exercises for loosening up the line work and different styles of producing tone. We also painted with Indian Ink to see how lively it is on the paper.

Next we moved to the colour (colour first or ink?) and finally pulling both elements together. Look at this lovely student’s bee from our planning exercise:


Then everyone worked on a subject of their own choice – here’s some work in progress – and not everyone worked on animals! We had a tractor, landscape, florals alongside a managerie of creatures:

If you fancy exploring new techniques please take a look at the programme for the rest of the year:

And finally a lovely quote from one of the students:

You have a very relaxed style of teaching. It was well organised so that you can create something great at the end.

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Paint India!

Oh my! Just had confirmation that the painting and photography holiday I am to tutor, is going ahead. October 2019 – amazing opportunity to wildlife spot and paint in stunning surroundings. They are offering 10% off until 28 Feb. Would be a holiday of a lifetime!

Liz Landing Page-1.jpg

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Top ten drawing exercises


Yesterday was my first class of the new term and I thought brushing up on drawing skills would be a good way back in. Drawing is a muscle which needs exercising to stay strong. Anyone can learn to draw – but don’t expect to be able to run a marathon if you haven’t walked to the bus stop in a while….


There are two main hurdles – hand/eye coordination and overcoming perception to see reality. We need to learn to ‘forget’ what you are drawing and instead focus on the reality of the subject.

Top Ten Exercises (use pencil, charcoal, pens….)

  1. Measuring

Decide on a unit within the subject you are drawing – it could be an apple within a still life, the length of a nose in a portrait etc. With your arm out straight and one eye closed hold your pencil and mark the length of the unit, now with your arm still locked compare it to other objects. On your paper use the same proportions to accurately represent the objects you are seeing. Keeping your arm locked means the pencil is always the same distance from your eye and will make your measuring accurate.

    2. Gesture drawing

Imagine you are describing the object to someone who doesn’t speak English – you might use your hands to describe it. Capture these expressive movements on paper. Now you could try this – you will need plenty of paper and a timer. The first drawings you only have 30 seconds to complete. Repeat. Increase the timer to a minute, but keep the drawing like when you had half the time. Be bold and forget about mistakes. Repeat. Now increase the time. You will notice your lines becoming more confident. Look at what you are drawing as much as the drawing itself and do not stop moving your hand when you look up. You can do this at a bus stop. Draw people using a small post-it pad and then you can have a great reference library of poses for future paintings or drawings.

  1. Contour drawing

It’s very likely that you’ve been drawing contour lines all along because it is the simplest form of art. A contour is a line which defines a form or edge. Essentially, it is the drawing of an outline of an object with no shading to suggest form.

  1. Continuous line drawing

Create a drawing without lifting your drawing utensil from the paper – use a pen to stop the urge to rub out mistakes. Here’s my husband reading a book on holiday, doing his best to ignore me:


  1. Blind continuous line drawing

Take it a step further and do a blind contour drawing. To stop you ‘cheating’ and looking put a hole in a paper plate and put your pen/pencil through it, hold the pen under the plate and you can’t see your drawing. You can do continuous or not, but if you take your pencil off the paper, will you be able to feel where to put it back down??  This trains your hand and eyes to work together. Here’s my husband, still ignoring me, done in about 15 seconds blind:


  1. Negative space

Negative space is the area around the main subject of the image, the shapes and spaces that define the subject and various elements within your drawing. Choose an object or scene with interesting shapes within it – I think leaves on a plant or tree are interesting. Decide on what appears to be the main area of negative space around the object and try to draw this; forget about the subject of the image and concentrate purely on the shapes and angles that make up the picture.

  1. Upside down drawing

Find a picture of a person’s face, turn it upside-down and start copying it in a drawing. The important thing is to try to forget that you are drawing a human face; instead concentrate on the shapes, lines, angles and patches of light and dark. Don’t think about the facial features, simply explore the details of the picture. When you have finished turn your drawing the right way up – you may be surprised at how accurate your copy is. This is a pretty famous exercise from the book ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain’ which uses Picasso’s Stravinsky drawing. Here’s my demo (left), which I was pretty chuffed with!


  1. Non-dominant hand drawing

Using your non-dominant hand should loosen up your drawing making it more fluid and intuitive than normal. The practice of drawing involves studying information visually, processing through the brain and controlling the hand to make marks. When we make pictures with the hand we are not normally used to drawing with the images are less controlled.

  1. Grid drawing

If you want to transfer a drawing or alter the size, gridding up can be helpful. Draw squares on the original image and squares of an appropriate size (bigger, smaller or the same) on the new piece of paper. By copying one square at a time, you can transfer the image. Pic from the newspaper of Kate Bush. Of course if the original is small it is hard to see the detail to enlarge, but you can see the principle:


  1. Drawing with a long stick

This exercise is essentially about making marks with varying amounts of control by altering the distance between your pencil point and your hand. The nearer you hold your drawing implement to the point, the more control you will have and vice versa. Start by holding the pen/pencil as if you are writing, draw your object. Then hold it at the far end. Next use an over hand grip, not a writing grip – you will draw from the elbow. Next tape a pen or pencil to a stick and put your paper on the floor – you could try different length sticks. Keep your arm straight to get maximum distance between you and the paper. Less control will produce exciting, awkward marks that have a unique gestural beauty about them. Value these qualities, and try to use them in future drawings. You could start with a long stick, then gradually get shorter, putting each drawing on top of the previous one as they get tighter…. Or use a brush taped to a stick and ink on newsprint.

Bonus: Checking accuracy

Trick your brain into seeing what is there, not what you meant to put down. You can do this by turning the picture upside down, look in a mirror, simply leave it for a while and look at it with fresh eyes, ask someone else (far easier to spot other people’s mistakes than your own), draw diagonals/verticals to see where lines cross on the actual object and if they do so on your drawing…



Above all, practise!

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