Fri, 27 Mar 2020
No Sunshine on Leith

This was completed yesterday, started the day before :


(No) Sunshine on Leith, 10x8", oil on canvas board

Named from the great Proclaimers song, Sunshine on Leith of course. This shows a big warehouse in Leith, from a photograph I took after a bike run down and around various bike/walk paths starting at Warriston. A cloudly, overcast day.

This took two afternoons because I ended up wiping off the main warehouse after messing it up. I knew I'd have some trouble painting the big building: all the windows and complicated front decoration! This sort of fine, straight-edged detail often causes me headaches when painting wet in wet using oils At least the case when I'm not wanting to use layers, let things dry, take extra care over time.

And a last point. Yet again, a huge amount of trouble getting a decent photograph. Something that looks like the actual painting. I have a Canon EOS 700D, not a bad camera at all, shooting in RAW format. I know how to set ISO, shutter speed and aperture. I use a tripod. I've taken the RAW into a RAW editor to play with (Darktable), used a photo editor (Gimp) to try adjusting and have had a lot of trouble with the results. In some cases, I think it might be glare, perhaps exacerbated with the canvas texture showing up in the light/glare. I still need to figure out a good way to do this. It's very important to get this as good as possible. I'll get there .. still diggin'


Wed, 25 Mar 2020
Two to Start

These are two small oil paintings done recently on canvas boards. Both 8x10" and completed in an afternoon. This is a photograph using my mobile phone camera :

All the rest of the photographs are from my Canon EOS 700D but using the built-in JPEG (not RAW), then slight "auto" white-balance in an image editor, then a scale and re-export ... and I'm usually unhappy with the way my paintings come across on the computer! I need to fix a workflow that makes them look more correct.

This was done on 2020-03-19 after a visit to the beach at Portobello :

Portobello Beach, Receding Rain, 8x10", oil

This was done yesterday, 2020-03-24, and is from a screenshot from a YouTube video (see below).

Cliffs in Cornwall, 8x10" oil

Thoughts on Painting

I've been watching quite a lot of the artist Tom Hughes on YouTube via his channel Thoughts on Painting. He is a Bristol based plein-air oil painter and it's been interesting watching him work, and travelling around the country. No fuss or magic, but down to earth and personable. It's made me start considering trying outdoors painting myself and buying a similar "pochade" box. The painting above was done from a screenshot taken off a video he shot in Cornwall: after finishing a painting, he panned his camera around and I thought it looked worth a go myself! I like his work: it also reminds me of work by another painter who is out and about all the time, Peter Brown. Brown's painting of George Street, Bath, in the rain was worth a big mention in a post I made in 2017.

Tom Hughes' web site is : https://www.tomhughespainting.co.uk/


Mon, 23 Mar 2020
Small Scale Art

Now I'm in Edinburgh, I have a bit more room to devote to painting in my "studio" (bedroom number two - no actual bed). This makes a big difference.

Late last year I decided to try and do more painting, and seriously sit down much more. I seem to have a lot of trouble starting anything, sitting down and actually getting going. Plenty of procrastination. I think this is a trait shared by many people. I pushed a bit harder and started a small (8x10"), quick (2-3 hours), afternoon oil painting. This turned out well so I tried to keep this up. I bought a lot of small canvas boards and thought "who cares?" if I mess up, or rip them in half afterwards! I didn't quite keep the pace of one a day up, and doing quick (what I called) "studies" requires quite a bit of adjustment. However, I managed to do quite a few small paintings over a few weeks into December 2019, until Christmas got in the way.

Some of these turned out quite well I think, and some good enough to be redone on a larger scale. This year I've painted four much bigger paintings based on four of these studies; two are the largest paintings I've done. I think they have all turned out quite well and I hope to stick them up here.

In the meantime, last week I biked down to Portobello beach early, my first time down there. Lovely place that should be beautiful in the summer (but busy I bet). Of course, it rained: a heavy shower passed over quickly but, luckily, I was sheltered. I had a few photographs and painted this the day after, showing the rain clouds moving off towards North Berwick. Quite a striking view and I'm pleased with the end result :

More to come hopefully.


Sat, 14 Apr 2018
Over the Mountain

The BBC adapted Lewis Grassic Gibbon's book Cloud Howe for the radio a year or so ago. On the web page, it used a lovely photograph of a Scottish scene: mountain, cloud and croft. I thought I'd try and paint it. The play of sunlight and shadow on the mountain and the low clouds rolling over the distant peaks really make the scene beautiful.

I think it came out quite well.


Above: Cloud Howe, Oil, 8x10" (?), 2017

Fri, 30 Jun 2017
Still Life at LARA

I spent last weekend at LARA, the London Atelier of Representational Art, in Vauxhall (a short bike ride from me) doing the Still Life Masterclass. It's quite different doing a solid few hours of painting rather than my usual 30 minutes here, 60 minutes there. I definitely learned a few things, including the first time using the sight-size method of drawing a scene. I also learned that standing around painting can give you backache after a while! Even though it can be a bit frustrating when you don't manage to produce something very decent at the day's end, I'm glad I did it.

The artist instructor was Lizet Dingemans. She was very good, offering advice and good humour. She painted the lovely small fish still life used in the class mails (see below). Coincidentally, I noticed I had taken a photograph of a piece she had on display at the Mall Galleries in January, as part of the Lot 5 Collective show: the Kettle painting.

Above: My LARA workspace.

Left: Mackerel, Lizet Dingemans,
oil on wood, 4x6"

I did have some trouble on occasion however. Something to be expected really.

I was far too literal in what I took with me, basing it off the "materials list" only, nothing else. This was a bit stupid because the course turned out to be very free and relaxed. I also bought a traditional wooden palette and only brought the paints in the list, including buying the Cobalt Blue, quite an expensive tube of paint (the "cheap" option being a Winsor&Newton at £20 for a small tube). With such a restricted set of paints, this also meant that the choice of painting a lemon was a poor one because I only had a Cadmium Yellow (a very orangey-yellow)! Luckily, I borrowed a more lemony-yellow, and brought my own the day after. I also created a terrible "colour study" and ended up using a white canvas for the final painting ...

But, I ended up OK and managed to pluck something half-decent from the wreckage I think. The "classic" orange, lemon and lime still life ...

Right: My LARA still life, oil, 8x10"

I painted around the white edges of my canvas in black when I got home and this made it look better. Overall, a very good weekend of art.


Thu, 01 Jun 2017
A Bigger Venice

This is the larger acrylic painting, completed following a recent Will Kemp tutorial video course (also see A Rough Venice a few days ago). This is the largest painting I have done, and should have been even larger. The course has a canvas at 24x24" but I used a 16x16" one, which seemed large enough to me at the time! I've been doing my painting in oils recently, so using acrylic again was a refreshing change.

Overall, I am happy with it even though I didn't really get to the end of the painting I think. I did up to the "glazing" part of the course but didn't do the palette knife work: a bit afraid I'd mess up something up that wasn't too bad at the time (I took a photograph of it before and after the glazinng anyway, just in case). I even debated stopping before the glazing work but decided to try and finish the course and I'm glad I did.

Below: Venice Sunset, acrylic, 16x16" - pre-glazing

Below: Venice Sunset, acrylic, 16x16" - post-glazing

After the glazing I think I petered out at the end and then stopped. I'm slightly tempted to go back to it but I think that's it; you move on. Painting a sunset, or Venice, can also be a dangerous thing; a sunset picture can always veer into a lurid, colourful monstrosity. Hopefully not here! On to the next work ...

The painting called for some strong cadmium orange. I had some Winsor and Newton but it never stood out like the orange I saw on Kemp's video. I bought some Golden brand and it was stronger and worked better. This is not to knock W&N (good paints) but does highlight colour range per brand and how important any one particular colour can be to the overall effect.

I had another colour problem with another painting, a copy of one by a well known artist. The background blue was of a certain shade, I only had ultramarine blue and didn't think anything of it. But you discover that you cannot mix the right shade at all. Sometimes you really can't get there from here mixing colours! I found an old W&N cerulean blue which worked nicely.


Mon, 29 May 2017
A Rough Venice

This is a small acrylic painting done following a recent Will Kemp tutorial video course. There's a larger main painting to come (which I've "completed") and I'll post that separately. This study is quick and rough but still presentable I think, even if not originally designed to be a fully finished "proper" painting.

Below: San Giorgio Maggiore, acrylic on board, 6x8"

There is a very textured surface. This is an acrylic coarse modelling paste mixed in with the ground colour used, and adds the rough texture you can see. This can make for a more interesting painting experience sometimes.


Sun, 02 Apr 2017
Peach Blossom

The British Museum has a world class collection of Chinese ceramics, the Sir Percival David Collection. Even I, almost completely ignorant of this art and craft, could see how good some of the pieces are. This vase was one small item that took my interest because of its very subtle painting and glazing. This is a Vase with ‘peach-bloom’ glaze and the museum has a page about it here. Qing dynasty, 1662-1722.

This innovative glaze was technically challenging. Potters covered the vase with a layer of clear glaze, followed by a layer of copper-rich pigment, possibly blown on, and added further layers of clear glaze on top. When fired in a reducing atmosphere, this sandwiched colour developed into soft mottled red and pink with flecks of moss-green.

I took a slightly less well composed and lit photograph of it and thought I'd try doing a painting.

Below: Peach Blossom, oil, 6x8"

Fri, 30 Dec 2016
Cat on Cup

This is a small painting done as a Christmas present, set in a fancy frame picked up in a charity shop for £1. The painting is oil, on arches paper and depicts a Jane Foster mug, something I picked up in John Lewis. The mug's small but a perfect size for an expresso, or a child.


Thu, 24 Nov 2016
Copper Pot

Above: Copper Pot, Oil on wood panel, 10x8" [larger]

This is a painting done via a Will Kemp tutorial How to Paint a Copper Pot in Acrylics. I painted it in oils instead of acrylics. Kemp's done a very nice reference photograph that's lovely to paint because it's got such beautiful and strong contrasts, both colour and light.

I got some of the pot wrong for some reason (e.g. handle shape) but that's not a problem. I made the background too blue originally as well, and thought I over-worked it to fix, but that's not a problem either and I think it looks OK. The "pot" itself is the star here and it's turned out quite well. I hesitate to add extra highlights to the surrounding metal/cooker in case it detracts, and it is all too easy to mess things up. When is a painting finished?

The painting is on a wooden panel (Ampersand artists panel) using Winsor&Newton Griffin alkyd oils (faster drying oil paints). I used white spirit as a dilutant but also some liquin later. I don't like complexity in the process, especially worrying about medium concentrations (fat,thin etc.). I think some parts of the painting have too little oil and show as matte areas: probably too much solvent (white spirit). I may investigate fixing this, or perhaps varnish will in a few months.

The photograph of the work above was taken in my kitchen under a light bulb, then white-balanced slightly, so the quality is not the highest. By eye on my monitor it seems to be fairly true however.


Sun, 06 Nov 2016
Blue Sky Building

Above: The Library Building, oil, 20x20cm

This is a painting from a photograph I took a couple of years ago of the Library Building on Clapham High Street, a (then) recently built residential block on top of a redeveloped library on the ground floor (and an NHS Surgery). A slightly different design to the usual: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm undecided about it. Having said that, I loved the bright blue sky and the single wisp of smoke ascending; a clear, sharp and modern picture I thought.


Tue, 18 Oct 2016
Pot Number Two

I've painted a new version of the Will Kemp tutorial pot but using oil paints this time. My original was acrylic (per Kemp's original).

Below: Pot Number Two, 20x20cm, oil

This version is not quite as rough and ready as the original painting, and a bit more worked. I wanted something simple to test some new Alkyd Oil paints, faster drying types of oil paint. These are the sorts of paint the artist Peter Barker used at the Mall Galleries recently, diluting with white spirit only.

I didn't think that highly of the original painting, but over the last couple of years it has grown on me. Simple but "rustic", and very basic; but sometimes a piece if art is all the better for that.


Sat, 15 Oct 2016
Purple and Green

It's been a while since I've done any painting but I've done one in acrylic for a change, wanting something that dried quickly. Also a change over oil. I'm fairly happy with it, although the usual caveats: I find it hard to take a photograph that represents the actual colours satisfactorily. A little too saturated I think.

Below: Purple and Green, Oct 2016, acrylic, 7"x5".

I bought some Winsor & Newton Griffin oil paints. These are alkyd based oil paints, so faster drying; perhaps a good compromise between standard oils and acrylics? I've already tested them, painting another version of the old pot, and am quite impressed. This new painting is a little less rough and ready: I'll post a picture I hope.


Mon, 13 Jun 2016
At the Beach

Above: A Dull Day, Sheringham Beach, Oil, 20x25cm

I am trying to keep the painting simple, but they all have their challenges.

Last September, I visited the little seaside town of Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast. It's almost my namesake, except I seem to have gained an "r" somewhere along the line. It's a lovely little place, though a little bit delapidated in places.

The painting ia based on a photograph I took, and it was a bit of a dull day so the picture reflects that somewhat. There was actually a rainbow over the sea but I was not going to include it because rainbows can make a picture look artificial (or worse). However, maybe it needs a bit of focus. So, rainbow or no rainbow? There's always the risk I ruin everything.

Sheringham Town

There's quite a bit of charm to the place, even though it has faded from its prime (a long time ago). A market on Saturday is supposed to be busy, and there seem to be a lot of places to eat and browse on the main street. Apparently a long fought battle to keep Tesco out was lost a while ago, but hopefully that doesn't mean the game's up and it's over for the town. Even without great weather, I like the seaside and the North Norfolk seaside at Sheringham is worth a visit, rainbows or not.


Sun, 15 May 2016
Cycladic Style

I love browsing around the British Museum, especially some of the old "Greek" stuff they have. Not that "Greece" existed back then and not that you could really call the people making this stuff "Greek" really. Some of the early Aegean "Cycladic" artifacts caught my eye and looked interesting enough to file away as a possible artistic reference. I actually got around to painting one this time.

The result is below. A lot easier to paint than the last one I did, and pretty quick; other than having to wait a few days for some of the jug's body to dry before finishing. I'm happy with the result anyway. As I said, a lot simpler to do than last time, and more successful I think.


Above : Cycladic Jug, 18x13cm, oil.

The museum description is :

High spouted jug with two nipples in relief and dark decoration on a white background. Middle Cycladic , 1800-1550 BC. Perhaps from Melos.

A link to the item itself and, on the right, the real thing.


Mon, 25 Apr 2016
Towards the Galleries
Mall, Towards the Galleries, Oil 20x25cm, April 2016

This painting is from a photograph I took a year or so ago: a bright sunny day on The Mall in London. This was looking towards the Mall Galleries and I liked the dappled light falling through the trees and onto the marble columns. The painting has not turned out as well as I wanted, but that might be the usual state of affairs! Maybe I bit off a bit too much. Having said that, it finished better than it looked when half completed, and I might learn to like it more, which sometimes happens.


Mon, 28 Mar 2016
Venice Light

This is a small painting I did at the weekend :


Above: Venice Light. Oil. 18x13cm. After Christopher Miers.

The above is a copy of a painting by Christopher Miers, Late Afternoon Light, Venice and is a very impressionistic piece of work. His paintings (see his web site) are often quite simple but very effective. I like them.

I saw Miers' painting at the RBA show this year and I liked its simplicity immediately. In fact, I thought it was simple enough for me to have a go myself. I only spent about 40 minutes on it, painting it in one go.

The original :


Late Afternoon Light, Venice, by Christopher Miers

Mon, 21 Mar 2016
Bowls by a Window

Above: Bowls by a Window, 20x20cm. Oil.

A new painting.

It did not turn out quite the way I wanted, but I'm fairly happy. I got the colour wrong for the bowls but decided to "fix" it once touch-dry with a glaze. Still not quite right but acceptable. There are other things wrong, but I won't dwell on it. I like the light and the wood texture.


Mon, 07 Mar 2016
Two Apples

Two Apples, Oil, 20x20cm

I was very pleased with the way this came out. It was also the first time I did some glazing. Glazing is using a transparent layer on top of a base colour and it is a way of deepening and enhancing the way the colour appears. I only needed a little for the brownish colour on the sides of the apples but it had to be quite subtle. I waited two weeks to be sure the paint was properly touch dry and took care but I think it worked very well.


Tue, 01 Mar 2016
Practice Practice ..

The Stanwick Horse Mask is on show at the National Museum of Scotland in the Celts exhibition. I saw it at the British Museum and settled on it as a subject for a test painting. I need a lot of practice ... I am happy enough with it but only so far. More practice definitely required!

Right: Stanwick Horse Mask, Oil, 178x127mm

Note that this is not really a "mask" but an ornament attached to some sort of container or bucket, perhaps for ale. It is not very big (only about 10cm tall) but has a cartoon quality, well expressing the horse with an economy of style in the copper alloy. Probably from about 50 AD and dug up in Stanwick, North Yorkshire, in 1843. Details.