Thursday, 5 November 2015

Celtic Breeze - A Commission

Celtic Breeze. Oil on Canvas. 50cm (w) x 40cm (h)

I have been given the most wonderful commissions over the years and this was no exception. After many a secretive meeting and emails, we finally presented the birthday boy with his gift: a painting of his boat ... a passion in life. We had so much fun plotting his surprise, but his wife and I were relieved to finally hand it over in case the cat got out the bag!

I was greatly humbled by this beautifully compiled email from the owner of Celtic Breeze ....

"We’re heading back to the boat today so we had a small celebration for my birthday at the weekend when Julia gave me your wonderful oil of Celtic Breeze  opposite San Giorgio’s in Venice.
It truly is a terrific present and such complex, devious plotting that must have gone on behind the scenes to create it, only adds to its emotional value. The picture itself is a wonderful depiction of the boat and perfectly captures all that makes her a special home from home for me. The background of San Giorgio’s adds both architectural, geometric contrast and beauty as well as capturing a unique highlight of our sailing travels. The painting itself magically uses all the colours and more that are involved in such a scene; I can hear your voice extolling us inadequate pupils to greater heights of colour adventure as I look at the white hull and see the richness of the colour you have employed to depict that otherwise bland surface. Simply put, I love it and I thank you for the skill and effort you employed in a subject that was a new challenge for you and is now a treasured gift for me."

Squerryes Court - A Commission

Watercolour: 58cm (h) x 39cm (w)

I was thrilled to be given a commission to paint this beautiful estate this summer. It has been on my radar for many years ... a familiar attraction in my neighbourhood. I finally had the opportunity to visit Squerryes Court and its stunning grounds, with my client, on a warm May day with my camera and sketchbook in tow. My client's daughter was fortunate to be getting married in September and her wedding gift from her parents was to be a painting of the location of her wedding day. The overall impression was to be loose, colourful and romantic. A wonderful and fulfilling challenge.


Oil on Canvas

I put my oil students to the test by giving them this still to copy. Their brief was to paint certain objects in a restricted number of strokes. I was excited by their results! Being aware of the number of strokes they had to use, influenced their style of painting as well as the shape of the stroke and the amount of paint they deposited on the canvas. Their paintings were dynamic and very much alive. Very rewarding from a tutors point of view.

Still Life with Cherries

Watercolour, Acrylic Inks, Collage and Tissue Paper

I absolutely loved putting this painting together. The process was unpredictable and the discoveries en route were very exciting. I was inspired by the artist, Shirley Trevena, when I put the brief together for the Jacksons Art Group. I love her use of bright colours and the quirky way she puts her objects together. She is the master of her craft and there is no point trying to mimic someone like her. I did, however, draw inspiration from her books and decided to let a still life develop as the painting process developed. We incorporated tissue paper, inks, watercolour and patterns created from masking tape and cling film into the one piece of artwork. One of the group was horrified that I had felt the need to put so much into it. I had to explain, that being the tutor, I had to demonstrate all ideas and options to the group so they could decide what worked for them. The fact that I was having a blast was just a bonus!

Protea and Autumn Leaf


It has been refreshing returning to the traditional application of watercolours. Traditional certainly does not been easy, and that is why it is very important to focus on watercolour washes and brushstrokes. Artists love to push the boundaries and experiment, but the danger is that we can start to lose sight of good painting techniques and clean, clear colour mixing, and so on. The sketches above were part of a class exercise where we focused on background washes and shapes, simplification of the form, tonal values and combining variegated washes in one object ... very useful and enjoyable.