Finding your Joy Part 2.

I never did get back to the ‘finding your joy’ taster course. It wasn’t exactly a scam as the instructor was very upfront about this being a marketing exercise, but it felt like one. Reading the Facebook discussion which followed as she announced each practice exercise was very distressing. Lots of people became convinced they couldn’t paint as instructed, which made them feel like failures. Who wants to deliberately make an ugly painting, which is what the 2nd exercise was. However, I hung on to the bitter end as I wanted to see the last video call where Louise talked about the 10-week course. Of course, it was about money like anything these days, £895 or $1230 for an 8-week study with two catch up weeks. Last year she had more than 900 people sign up (that might be a marketing ploy, an exaggeration, but given the number of members of this group, it might be even more!). That would add up to a whooping £805,500 for eight weeks! No wonder she has managed to build a beautiful fancy studio in the few years since she started these courses. Since I did this taster course, my Facebook feed has (predictably) been filled with similar adverts, so now I wonder if it is a pyramid scheme like the make-up companies such as Younique or Fields and Rodan.
Above is just my opinion. However, I did come across someone else who felt the same way.
As I didn’t continue with that course, I worked with the Westalee rulers I have recently purchased. I signed up for a class on their University page at which featured just one ruler, the 12″ arc template. I will write a separate post about that next.

The New Year is a knocking

and although I have been working on my painting for the last week, I did not finish as I planned. I have been working on this painting off and on since October and it has been through many changes. The latest occurred today. The day I thought I would be finished but the Buddha was just not working. So I scrapped away the paint,  I start again, scrap again and again. Problem was I was just repeating my previous mistakes, so this last time I decided on a radical change and I think it might just work. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

this is how it looked at the end of the day on Saturday


this is how it looked at the end of today.

By the end of tomorrow who know where it will stand. I will not say it will be finished tomorrow but I think it’s closer than it ever has been.

This year has been much more successful than normal for me. I decided right at the beginning of the year, I would focus on painting and drawing, no bead embroidery.

I attended several life drawing classes which in the end I decided was not the direction I wanted to go. Having spend my formative years at Camberwell, I have this need for the model to be placed properly after breaks, not the haphazard way they seem to do here.  Also the room was too dark (no natural light whatsoever) and relied too much on artificial light (usually one or 2 spotlights).  That is something else I realised I need, natural light or at least good light. My work is progressing away from the purely observational stance I was trying as I realise I am not a ‘tidy’ artist, smudges abound in my drawing and paintings and to be honest, I am just not that talented in that way, much as I wish I was. However, the one thing I still need is good light as the colours just go haywire otherwise. Next year, I need to investigate into getting better light for my studio, as sometimes I do think about working up in the studio in the evening, then I go up to be confronted with the dullness and orangeness of the lighting which just saps any energy or enthusiasm I have.

I have also worked in oils, water-soluble oils and acrylics.  My favourite medium is acrylics but oils weren’t as difficult as I remembered. I am not so sure about the water-soluble oils but that might be more to with the brand I am using which seems to have a very limited colour range and very tacky to handle. I have also worked a little on my understanding on how to mix colours. That might seem like an obvious issue and how in decades of mixing colours, have I not worked that one out. Simple, I guessed and hoped for the best!

So next year, I hope to continue with the progress I have been making this year and not give into the depression I get about my work. I have no excuses but myself.

Blue Hole Park Georgetown- Plein air

I attended my 3rd session with the Austin Plein Group today at the above location.  It’s a beautiful location situated on the south fork of the San Gabriel river in Georgetown, about 15 miles north of Pflugerville.  The weather for the 2nd day of August was superb. Normally by now we are suffering from 38C/100F +  temps which means by 10am  you are in the mid 90’s. However, we are having an unusually mild summer with a couple of ‘cold’ fronts coming down from Canada, leading to cooler night and daytime temperature.  So by the time I arrived at 10 am this morning it was only in low 80’s with scattered clouds.

As normal with painting outside, I had the usual dilemma of what do I paint.  I began by looking down the river with a tree to the side. I made some tentative strokes and vaguely sketch out the tree and the point where the limestone bluff wall of the river converged in my perspective.  At this point I decided I wasn’t up to the task of this view, I have no idea how to paint a tree, especially so close up in my view.  I need to look up Cezanne a bit before feel comfortable with that . So I quickly dipped a paper towel in the turps and scrubbed it off.

I then turned my easel around and looked directly at the bluff across from where I was standing.


my camera skills are not good but this basically the scene I was painting.


full view

I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to make a nice little landscape extending along the river bank. I just concentrated on trying to interpret what I was seeing with paint. I was going to abstract what I could from a very limited view and try to get down what I was seeing.  I find it very difficult to focus on an expansive view, I get lost basically which is why I find landscape so difficult. My eye is wandering from place to place. So limiting my view, I thought, would help. It did to a degree.


8 x10  Linen Board

This is the resulting painting.  As I painted  I realised I have never painted water before. How do you paint something that can appear to be flat but have depth plus is constantly moving.  Then there was the limestone bluff, so many colours.  I could have spent many more hours there but thankfully, the crowds came to bathe in the river and it was time to pack up for the day.  For about 90 mins of actual painting time with a walk to car and a chat with the group members in 2¼ hrs I was there, I wasn’t too unhappy with the result, neither was I happy, more a blah, I could so better.

At the next meeting, I am going to try another medium. I told one of the other painters I was using oil paint after years of using acrylic paints and that I was finding it difficult not to mix the paint on the canvas when I was applying paint. She suggested using water-soluble oil paints as they dry quicker but not as much as acrylics.   The local art store was having a sale today, so I got some Lukas brand colours. I realise they aren’t up to the standard as Holbein or Windsor & Newton but it gives me a chance to try them out without too much cost associated with them.  I might try them out with my new still life setup.

Yellow figure with floral background

This is the painting I have been working on for quite a while. Most of the time was spent on drawing the floral fabric in the background. I began by thinking I could do my normal procedure of painting and drawing at the same time until I realised I would go cross-eyed and lost doing this.  As I started drawing the flowers I considered the fabric I had placed the figurine on, a green fabric, it just didn’t seem right. Searching through my fabric stash I came across this old favourite. It was a remnant from a duvet cover I had made for one of the kids years ago.

At the moment, I am considering this finished as I found I was fiddling with it and I know once I get to that stage, I will not improve what I have. I might go back to it later, once I have had time to absorb it. Now it time to go onto the next project.



I think I am beginning to identify which direction I am going.  I am going to continue to do ‘still life’ but it is not going to be fruit in a bowl or flowers. I might include those subjects eventually as fruit in particular is part of my life but not something I particularly relate to. Fabric and pattern will have a strong influence and I seem to prefer single objects to groups of objects although I have a couple of knick knack type things I like to group together.  I am not ready to move away from the arranged subject yet but I don’t discount the possibility that I will in the future.

This painting is done on a prepared 16×18 canvas, using oil paints. This is also a big change as I have used acrylics since my time at BAA so it was a bit daunting to say the least,  but as I was using fairly thin layers of paint, it should be OK.  If I continue to use oils, I will need to read up and talk to other artists on how they use them.

On the whole I was happy with this still life.  Like exercise,(another area of my life that I am trying to improve), the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel with your progress.

Per the image, the red is not quite as red as it appears, apart from that it seems from this screen to be fairly accurate.

Moving to the outside world

I have studiously avoided painting outside for most of my painting career.  When I was a Saturday morning and foundation student at Camberwell, I got into the habit of sketching people as I stood at a bus stop or sitting on a tube. Anywhere I could be fairly inconspicuous and not really be notice. Even if I was noticed, people would look, maybe make a comment and go on. Until one day in Church Market,London NW8, some woman noticed I was sketching an old man directly in front of me. Well, seemingly it was her Dad and by sketching him I was stealing his soul?  Obviously I stopped drawing him as the woman was clearly upset, so I moved on. However, that wasn’t enough for her. She then proceeded to stand/jump in the way of anything I might want to sketch. She was also becoming verbally abusive so I decided then I was finished and I have never really felt comfortable sketching outside, let alone painting outside.

Anyway,  I have decided I need to get back outside to get inspiration as I am quite a homebody.  So, this week, I did a small painting (12×12) in our back garden which is not terribly inspiring but its a start. One of the thing you have to learn to contend with in the summer in Texas, the heat. When I got up this morning it was 75F(24c) and by the time I stopped painting at 2.15pm, it was 91f (33f), so its important to use the sunscreen and wear a hat. I am not that dynamic in the morning, so for the Thurs/Fri it was about 10.30 before I got out. Today, I managed to be out by 9.30.  As is normal I was using acrylics.




This was the result for my first day as I had numerous stops and starts, scrubbing out several starts mainly due to lack of confidence. First issue was, what do I paint, what do I focus on? Fortunately I was in my garden so not a lot of options but in the brief times I have consider landscape before, that has been my biggest hurdle, where do I start?

One of my issues is to focus on a part and not the whole. By doing that I am creating more work for myself as once I finished on that part, it was at odds with the rest! So I would work on the windows and then remember, boy there is all that other space to work on as well.  As you can see I can draw a straight line to save myself. Photographic painting (which I don’t particularly like anyway) will never be my forte.  Anyway day 2 was not a lot better but at least I didn’t give up as I am apt to.





Today, I was determined that whatever the outcome, it would be the last day. I worked mainly on the windows and walls. I don’t know why but I decided I was going about the windows entirely the wrong way. I should forget about the frame and work back to the reflections. By focusing on the windows, I could see there were at least 3 if not 4 levels before I could even consider the frame. I don’t think I mastered it but it was closer than yesterday. The walls were difficult and I know I could do better. Our walls are very light coloured but obviously this is a covered area so even though they are light, they are also dark compared to the outside wall. Also how do you depict a brick wall. It’s tempting to paint in every brick but not practical. Not painting any indication of the brick would also not work. I never did solve the issue!




Finish piece. Most admit I quite enjoyed the challenge despite the heat.

Next time, I am going to try oil paints as acrylics just dry too quickly. I would mix up a colour and as I was using it, the paint was drying.I suppose I could use an extender but it’s not something I am use to doing, so I would probably forget most of the time. However, I haven’t used oils since my foundation years as basically they scare me to death as there appears to be lot of rituals involved in oil paints LOL and I hate the smell. I am sure I can get over the smell and as for the rituals, I will ignore them. Also mean using gloves as I tend to get contact dermatitis when using them, the original reason I started using acrylics

Whilst I am learning, I am going to stick to small canvases or boards. I thought  12×12 was small but really it was probably a little big for my ability or maybe I should use large board so I don’t get so stuck with the minute details?

Time limits  I think this would be a good option so I don’t get bogged down in the details.

What is the aim of all this figure and landscape work, just observation, as I have seriously stopped doing in the past 20 years. Without this simple ability, I will never move onto the next stage. What will be the next stage? Have no idea but not trying, will get me no where.

Still life – lift your heart

Is finished! Worked on this for a final day today and although I know IImage could keep going on and on, it will not necessarily get any better and might even get worse.

Kept the patterns flat as the best way to deal with this painting. I think it works.  I can see definite weak areas but on the whole I am not unhappy with the outcome.

In the past week, I have not done much creatively.  I did draw a quick drawing in pastels. A view of our back garden but then the cold weather came back with vengeance for a day. Yep, that is right a day but somehow I managed to stretch my lack activity to 3 days  (yesterday was Juniper’s day).  Today was also unusually cold with freezing rain but I was determined to finish this painting today.

Tomorrow I am going to work in pastels.

when to call it a day?


In the studio, working

So this week has not gone smoothly and my time at the easel for various reasons has been limited.  Sunday, no painting as it turned out rainy and cloudy, making the studio too dark by the time I got up there. Monday playing with Grand-daughter and her nap time is now more like an hour instead of the previous nearly 3. Got back to the easel on Tuesday and it was like starting again. Wednesday, dental surgery. so no painting.  Back on Thursday and Friday (only an hr as I work Friday pm).  Exhausted myself gardening yesterday, not painting, so back today and again it was like starting again.

In fact I have gone back, several times in the past week.  Constantly redrawing and repainting.  Deciding do I want to make it a purely decorative motif?  How do I tackle the glass?  Wine cooler still looking flat but red vase coming along.  I have finished for today but I am not happy with it. Yesterday, I thought it was coming along fine but having redone the fabric under the still life to concentrate on the pattern by scrubbing it out (including the fruit), I realise the wine cooler is not quite right.  The red jug is still OK, sigh.


As it was on Thursday 1/16/2014


today 1/19/2014

Tomorrow (no Juniper tomorrow 😦 as public holiday) will be the last day for this still life.  Whatever its problems which it will have, constantly working will only lead to discouragement.  It has shown me I need to draw more, use my eyes rather than dart all over the place or as I have tendency to do, focus on one area without relating to another.   Once the drawing is done, build up the colours rather than draw with the brush.

Tuesday I will make myself go outside and look at my garden.  Also need to do more drawing.  However, not all disenchantment, as I have still managed to continue to paint for the 3rd week in January. Now to make it month, then another and soon it will be a year. I will manage to do it this year.

still drawing

So a couple of step more forward. Today was more of dealing with the drawing, in particular the fabric under the still life. At first I was being too timid as the pattern is not a solid black. Eventually I decided I would tackle in much like I did with the stripped pattern fabric of the last painting. However this time I have put the darker colour on first. Some of the oranges were removed and repositioned as I progress. In fact you can still see the original position of the bottom right hand orange.  The margarita glass has all but disappeared at the moment as I worked on the fabric design and becoming quite abstract.  Gradually the objects are become more solid as I work with the colour. Next I have to deal with the light.  Still just using acrylic paint but tomorrow I think I will start adding in pencil and pastels (water soluble and soft)


Still life with wine bottle Jar

Yesterday as promised I started a new still life.  I like the background fabric on the last still life so much I decided to reuse it in this painting and then I coordinated the rest of the still life to complement the fabric.  I feel I am going to struggle with the base fabric as it also has a pattern on it and at the moment, I am not sure how I am going to deal with it.   It not a bold pattern and it’s not striped like the orange fabric.  The pattern is actually leaves which are textured stripes and blackish, so not solid and reflecting light.

So I managed to get the basics done on this painting before the light faded completely. As I was drawing it in I wasn’t too concerned about the light but it actually turned out to be quite a bright afternoon, after the morning fog and showers. Looks like today might be the same but I will working this afternoon so the light will be fading by the time I finish, so will probably continue tomorrow when I know the weather will be sunny.


Today I think I will try to draw something as my drawing skill definitely need brushing up. When I was Camberwell, I constantly used my sketchbook, even for the Saturday morning classes and was actually a requirement in my foundation year. I sort of kept it up at Bath but with the lack of encouragement from the staff, it wasn’t a high priority (in the painting dept anyway.), it soon became an infrequent habit. So really my sketchbook has not been a priority since I was about 20, so its time it regained its importance, if only to reinforce the habit of looking, rather than roaming with my eye.

That is one thing I was always doing in my painting, redrawing, you can sort of see it with the wine bottle as I reaslised when I was working on the background fabric, that it was much taller than I had originally drawn it.  The little red vase is also a little more squat and fatter than I have it here, so  that will be altered  as will the some of the small satsumas. Still I have plenty of time as next week the weather is returning to the normal TX sunshine so I am not going panic.

So far, I am happy with what I have on the painting board.  Materials used so far, Daler Canvas board 16×12  Golden acrylic paint and some primsacolour pencil.

Better coloured in this photo

So I looked at the original photo and this is closer to the painting.


So the last 2 days have been non painting days. Yesterday, I just had to kick in  to the filing as tax year is beckoning and much as I dislike that task, it has to be done!  Still needs to be done but half way there.

Today, was a unusal day for us, Scottish dreich weather ( dark, mild and drizzly) and by the time I had arranged the next still life, the life was way too dark. However, I will draw in the structure before I start work at 7 pm tonight (only 2 hrs) and tomorrow I will be ready for the dull weather. Will need to do it in next 2 days as the weather will be the usual winter sunny day on Saturday.  The best time for the room I am working in, is about 3 hrs after sunrise as its  east facing with only the east wall having windows. So once the sun is high enough above the horizon, the light is pretty steady until about 2 hrs before sunset.

Anyway, time to make dinner. Looking forward to starting the new painting tomorrow.

On a roll, finished

well, this one is for now. I can see areas (lots of them) for improvements but time to move on another still life.

Today, I was looking after my young grand-daughter and normally that would be an excuse not to paint. However, I determined that housework, cooking etc could be deferred whilst Juniper slept and I could work on this during that brief window of opportunity. Wow, a break through for me!  To be honest, it was not that brief as she is still at the longer nap stage at the moment.

The one thing that I had been struggling with was the stripped material the still life was sitting on.  As can be seen in the previous stages of this work I had been painting in the stronger colour and then attempting to put on the yellow/mustard colour. Totally the wrong way to do it and in sudden flash, decided to cover the red/orange completely with  a yellow pastel and using a prismacolor pencil, drew in the stripes.  I just drew them as I saw them, the perspective is all wrong I know but somehow it works.

I worked on the problem area at the top of the painting, scrubbing in white, greys, reds, blues with pastels and pencils. It looks better but it still not quite right. looking at it at the moment, it definitely the large green area to the left that is the issue, more than that area. It lacks substance, maybe that is something I could work on.

I also work on the flower arrangement itself and the material immediately below the still life. The flower arrangement is better but I could never get the shadows on the material to work. I just ended up with a rather ill-defined shape with no real body, it just float very badly.

I added a few touches to the boldly patterned material in the background but not much as it seems to work apart from the odd triangle in the far right.


Wow, looking this image on the screen and its way too bright. My camera really doesn’t capture reds well. Safe to say it’s not as bright as this image. Think I will need to invest in learning to use my husband’s DSLR. Photography is not my skill.

Anyway, tomorrow, another life to create. This one is finished (maybe work on the bottom material) as the flowers are now too dead!



progress slow

but its progress. Today I dispensed with the paint, using the pastels, Prismacolor pencils and some Derwent aquatone pencils. Not my best by any means but I’m happy as its only the 5th and I am actually painting. I will probably work on it one more day and then tried out another still life. I am even think of painting a view of the back garden as the weather is meant to improve considerably this week. Unfortunately that also means the Cedar trees will be in full pollen explosion stage. Like most people who live in this area, I am very allergic to it! At the moment it is mainly affecting my eyes, like tiny grains of sand grinding against my eyes. Hopefully that will be the full extend as I take all the allergy meds I can to fight against it.


So the painting is on  Strathmore Watercolour paper, 140  11″x15″. Acyrclic paints, Prismacolour pencils, Derwent aquatone pencils and Mungyo soft pastels.   Bit I dislike the most, the grey area at the top above the flowers and the bit I like most the orange star in left bottom, followed closely by the green patterned material in the background.

As to the comment about overwhelmed by the number of colours available for pastels yesterday. Today I realised 60 is not enough! LOL

The New year starts and the anxiety kicks in

So I have actually started a still life – on 3rd Jan.  Set up the still life in a burst of enthusiasm on 31st Dec . Set up an easel on 1st.  Then the anxiety set in and last night it got so bad I couldn’t sleep.  So I got as far as a rough sketch in pastels. They are my issue at the moment because Gordon bought me them as Christmas gift after my bout of excitement with them before the festive season started. Looking at the big box of colours, 60, I suddenly thought what do I do with them!

So today, the 4th, I abandoned the pastels and taking up the brush.  Still anxious but I know I will get over this.  Need to be quck before flowers are completely dead!!!!


Yes, I know, blue sticking tape is not going to help. Brown tape on my shopping list tomorrow.  Once I have completed the underpainting I will use the pastels again. Monday I start my new shift so most days from 9-5 I am free to do what I want, so no excuses this year but there will be.

Oil pastels and those acrylic skins

Meant to update this yesterday as 2 days later and lot is forgotten.

Arrived at the class a little late this week but fortunately nothing had been started as everyone was peeling off their acrylic skins from the freezer paper.  After that we were instructed to soak some 140lbs water paper in the sink.

Whilst that was soaking  we did a critique of the self portraits we did last week. Again a good variety of styles.

Then we retrieved our soaked watercolour paper, soaked up the excess water and then stretched it on a board.

A an elaborate still life was set up in the middle of the room but before we started we sketched a scene from outside.



quick sketch

Once we had finished out quick sketch, Linda show us how to use oil pastels overlaid with thin washes of acrylic paint and some mineral spirits to blend the oil pastels.  Our task was to combine our sketches with the intricate still life in front of us.


still life with persimmon


Linda really does manage to put some amazing still life groups together.  The colours are amazing, one day I will get that blue just right.  So this week I really managed to wrong foot myself as I completely forgot to bring any oil pastels with me.  Everything else bar the kitchen sink was in my huge bag of stuff.  So I had to borrow pastels from Linda and mineral spirits from another student.   With this in mind, (you can’t work as freely if you using another person gear) I used a smaller sheet of watercolour paper.  Then I had to think about combining my very basic sketch with this very elaborate set up in front of me.  I started with the main feature of the sketch a large branch of a tree and then the purple bottle.  Once I had established the main features I decided to tear down the sheet to even smaller space. Then it was just a matter of working into the painting.  It was actually easier to do than I imagined.  The method used reminded me of a painter I greatly admire – Mary Fedden,

As the evening went on I was wondering what we were going to do with the acrylic skins we so lovingly created last week and eventually towards the end of the session I had to ask. Basically you used them as you would any other collage material.  This is one aspect of the this class I am not enjoying.   I would rather she show us this sort of technique and then we do it at home, rather than spending half the class faffing around on something we might used the following week.  For example we were told to bring along objects like plastic fencing, netting, doilies or other things that could be imprinted (the reason I forgot the pastels as I was concentrating on these objects).  So we bring out our objects, just for us to be told to coat them in acrylic medium if they are absorbent, like the doilies.  I could and will do this at home but we had to spend 20 mins faffing around coating our objects, in the meantime it was getting darker and darker outside.

still life with acrylic skins


You can see quite clearly where I have used some of the acrylic skins on the branch of  the tree and the persimmon in the foreground. I must admit I enjoyed this exercise more than I expected.   It actually takes off the pressure of trying to do the still life as you are considering so many more aspects of the painting surface, like how do you link 2 completely different aspects on to one plane.

Next week we experiment with imprinting.