Playful Painting….

The sun is shining and lifts one’s spirits…and although Autumn is just a breath away, with its rich bounty on display…

imageimageimageI find myself recalling those long, hot summer days…so after my Jean Haines ‘no pressure’ washes…

imageI attempted more exercises from her book ‘Paint Yourself Calm’….hinting at summery meadows and hopefully, some delicate carnations…at least that’s what I had in mind….

imageimageimageimageimageimageAs you can see, clingfilm plays a big part in producing these effects..

imageAm now trying to be patient, waiting for these to dry before adding further details….but, you know, if these don’t work, no worries, I will just get another piece of scrap paper or paint on the back….I am learning to waste nothing, even the lessons of ‘not quite how I had planned’ studies…..


Small Victories….

Another day, another attempt at  Jean Haines ‘no pressure’ washes… and as before, all the pigments used are by Daniel Smith, apart from the Cadmium Yellow…


The LH wash is Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Cadmium Yellow and lots of water, resulting in the normally stubborn yellow almost disappearing. The RH wash is Perylene Red and Cascade Green with subtle clingfilm effects. I love the Cascade Green, but (and maybe this is my application…) I seem to get muddy effects from it under the clingfilm…..

The middle wash is Carbazole Violet and Quinacridone Sienna with…..salt…

image….and here is my small victory for the day…I’ve actually managed to get some half decent effects…woo hoo!!

From there, I practised some exercises from Jean’s book ‘Paint Yourself Calm’…as it has been a rather damp start here in Wales, I thought I would recall warmer days with no pressure landscapes and a loose poppy (yes, that’s what they are supposed to be!!) wash….imageimageimage

imageI am finding that Jean’s way of working up to more serious pieces is beginning to work for me…I know that my first washes are not going to be masterpieces, so immediately I don’t get anxious if things go awry…

From there, I returned to the rose wash that I am slowly building up….


The colours are darker in reality…. but I am reasonably satisfied with this… if only I had painted it on heavier paper – (it says it is Archival Quality Extra Heavy Weight Cold Press Paper 180lb) the edges have curled and there is slight buckling with the amount of water I used. However, as this was supposed to be just a study, I shouldn’t be too disappointed…

I even have another effort on the go….

imageso we will see how this progresses….



That Age Old Question….

Continuing on with my attempts to get to grips with watercolour, I began, as usual with the ‘no pressure’ washes as advocated by Jean Haines.

imageRegular readers will note that there are 4 washes today….(All the pigments are by Daniel Smith apart from the Quinacridone Gold). The LH wash is Quinacridone Pink and Ultramarine Turquoise producing a quiet wash, whilst the next one is Green Apatite Genuine and Rose of Ultramarine with clingfilm. This one hasn’t worked so well; the green produced some great effects with water, but I was determined to use clingfilm on it……resulting in a dirty wash…..lesson learnt…if something looks great…leave it!!The RH two washes are Quinacridone Gold with Ultramarine Turquoise and furthest right, with Indigo. Here I will admit to being unsuccessful with the salt effects on the Indigo wash, hence my fourth wash of the day…..this time with slightly better results…

imageimageI then continued with Jean’s exercise of positive/negative painting – imagining obstacles….


To my mind these washes look ‘bitty’, and I was not quick enough to ‘bleed away’ – to use Jean’s term – the pigment, hence the hard lines around the ‘obstacles’. But do you know, I’m not worried…. and that’s a big step forward for me!! I know where I made mistakes and I know how to fix them…

Anyhow, even though the washes weren’t great, I proceeded to add a little more to them…

imageand it seems to have lifted them a little…..

I then moved back to my rose wash…(if it seems as though I am flitting from one piece to another, remember I am trying hard to be patient and let each wash dry completely before deciding what to do next……not always successfully I may add!!)

imageAdding detail, but all the while trying to remember that this is not a piece that I thought would be successful enough to frame…..

imageslowly, slowly building up the detail….


And here’s that old age question, even if it is just a study….when to stop……I know these are supposed to be roses but I don’t know if it is clear to the viewer….but the more I add, the more I feel as if I am fiddling…perhaps it’s time to put it to one side and start another…..

Monday Musings….

Had a break from painting over the weekend, I went to visit my old stomping ground of Loughborough University. The Postgraduate Arts Degree Show was on so I thought I would have a peek. I have toyed with the idea of doing a Masters since graduating, wondering if it would provide me with the direction I feel I am lacking at the moment. ….However, I have to say I was a little disappointed in the exhibition. Remembering how, as undergraduates, we were expected to produce a ‘professional’  show, the Postgraduate Show appeared to me, to have been an afterthought, shoved in a corner (& I realise this might not be of the students doing), whilst the university gears itself up for the start of term and an open day. I realise art is subjective and I don’t know the full requirements of the course but I must admit to feeling a little underwhelmed and as undecided as ever!

And so it’s Monday and back to my 3 washes….


The LH wash is a mix of Amethyst Genuine and Rich Gold Green, the middle is Rose of Ultramarine and French Ultramarine with another attempt at salt effects, whilst the RH wash is Perinone Orange and Cascade Green and clingfilm effects. All the colours are Daniel  Smith apart from the French Ultramarine. As I said in an earlier post, I am obviously a slow learner and today is no exception, not leaving the clingfilm on until the pigment is completely dry, and that green and violet produce a muddy colour, or, as in the above example,  don’t combine at all…..

Following Jean Haines advice in her fab book, ‘Paint Yourself Calm’, I proceeded to attempt her exercise of positive, negative painting, thinking of all the obstacles I put in the way……biggest of which is my lack of confidence….

imageimageThey really feel like a case of the Wash Day Blues….. matching the weather….

So, in order to end on a positive, I started a wash of roses in Rose Of Ultramarine on a larger piece of paper……


I will add to these tomorrow whilst working on overcoming my obstacles….

Good days, bad days….

As with life, some days are good and some are not so good…and so it is with my efforts to improve my watercolour skills!!

As ever I started my session with my 3 washes (as per Jean Haines teachings..)

imageimageApart from the Violet in the top wash all the rest are Daniel Smith watercolours. Along with the Violet I used Mayan Blue to create a quiet, calm wash. The bottom left wash is Rich Green Gold combined with Cascade Green and cling film effects, whilst the remaining wash is Indigo and Perinone Orange (which didn’t combine at all well) …and the ever troublesome salt. I dropped water on top of the salt which really pushed the pigment aside…

I then decided to paint on top off one of the washes I created yesterday…

imageand initially it went well….

imageI could see flowers emerging….

imageand here, I think, the trouble started. My flower shapes became confused between sweet peas and tulips…..that will teach me to paint with no subject in front of me. I also think I was too tentative with my colour, only going in with pale washes and lots of water…. I then thought, blow it, go in bold and…..

imageBy this stage I had used so much water in so many layers that I was ruining the surface of the rough watercolour paper…. I have therefore put this attempt to one side; maybe I will look again tomorrow and see if anything can be salvaged.

Needing to finish the day on a good note I returned to the rose washes I had started…

imageI added the smallest details….which, unless you look closely, you probably won’t notice… but I realised I was ‘fiddling’ and in danger of losing the freshness of the initial wash so I …..put my paint brushes down….

imageimageEven if these don’t immediately scream ‘roses’, I am quite happy with my efforts…and feel I have a good idea where to start tomorrow!

I no longer feel so downhearted when my attempts don’t work because I now realise that good or bad, I am learning all the time…and that can only be a good thing!!

Learning to slow down & be more patient…

Following on from yesterday’s post, I am continuing to chart my progress at improving my watercolour skills following the teachings of Jean Haines. In fact, it was Jean’s suggestion that I write this here goes…

As I stated yesterday, she advocates beginning each day’s painting session by creating 3 washes using different colours and methods – putting no pressure on yourself …So here are my efforts for today….


The one on the left is made using Daniel Smith’s Mayan Blue watercolour pigment and water…I really like this effect. The one in the centre is Daniel Smith Opera Pink and Quinacridone Pink with salt. Here, I must admit to struggling a little with the salt effects, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and I’m not altogether sure why….perhaps I am too impatient, adding it too early – I will persist… The one on the right is Cadmium Yellow and Daniel Smith’s Carbazole Violet with some delicate effects created by using clingfilm. I really must remember that violet and yellow do not make the most vibrant of colours, rather a muddy brown….what can I say, I’m a slow learner…

(I must say here that discovered Daniel Smith watercolours through Jean’s recommendations..)

My next attempts were at an exercise from Jean’s excellent book ‘Paint Yourself Calm’..

imageThis really is a lovely book, and one that I needed at this time. I was putting so much pressure on myself to create masterpieces that I was in danger of losing my love of drawing and painting, making marks… Jean advocates placing no pressure on your shoulders, just enjoy playing with pigment….so I have been doing just that… Here are my attempts at an exercise from her book…. and this is where I must learn to be a little more patient….



I like the effect you get when colours run into each other but I didn’t want the Cascade Green to run quite so much into the yellow….I should have waited a little … but you know what, no matter, I enjoyed the process and have learnt something about myself in the meantime…..and that’s what Jean’s book is all about…

To end my session today, I practised painting roses in Jean’s inimitable style (although I think that’s probably an oxymoron as only Jean can create her wonderful images!!)

Below are the first washes of my two attempts….using Daniel Smith Rose of Ultramarine, a gorgeous colour that separates wonderfully…


imageI know I fiddled too much with the two roses on the right hand side of the top wash, still haven’t learnt to resist the temptation… I had another go…. Here I should add that these washes are on hot press paper, smooth, white…so I am learning how the pigment and water flow much more freely….

I’m taking my time with these studies, as in my mind’s eye I have an image for a larger painting, so want to hone my skills before committing to that big, white expanse…

To that end, I am adding the details slowly, slowly, enjoying the way the roses are appearing – well in my mind they are….


I feel relatively happy with how these are coming along…so again, following Jean’s advice, I will leave them at this point….finishing on a positive note and with something good to look forward to tomorrow!!






Learning to trust the process & enjoy the journey…


I don’t want this post to be a wallowing ‘Woe is me’ post but feel I have to fill in some of the background details so the above title becomes clear….

I have really struggled since graduating from Loughborough University to find direction in my art. Although it was stressful, I thoroughly enjoyed creating Connecting Threads, my final piece based on the canals and cotton mills of the Midlands.

Connecting Threads
Connecting Threads

A large scale installation that included sound, I found it difficult, for varying reasons, to pursue this genre of art once I had graduated. I therefore reverted to a medium which was more practical – drawing and painting; I even managed to sell two or three pieces.

Bowed But Not Broken
Bowed But Not Broken

Still, I found it difficult to define my style, subject matter and medium – I dabbled with pencil, ink, charcoal and watercolour…..nonetheless I felt lost, going from tightly drawn figurative pieces such as Bowed But Not Broken to looser interpretations of the Lincolnshire landscape and the West Wales Coast…

Fenland Memories
Fenland Memories
Cei Bach
Cei Bach

No longer in the bubble of university I felt alone, rudderless, doubting that I  would ever achieve my dreams. It’s now I have to admit to spending a lot of time on social media, procrastinating…..And it’s there that I came across the work of the self-proclaimed ‘watercolour addict’ Jean Haines. I must admit I enjoy using watercolours although I have had no formal training, which could be viewed as a good thing! Whilst I appreciate the skill of the more formal watercolour artists, I was drawn to Jean’s work because she paints in a loose manner, letting the pigment and water work together to create pieces full of life, light and energy. Suffice to say I was hooked and became a bit of a ‘Jean Haines’ addict ( or should that read stalker, in the nicest possible way I hope), reading her blog,  her books, looking at her dvds, watching her demonstrate at the Patchings Art Festival…

The icing on the cake – attending one of Jean’s workshops – came this August; an early birthday present from my very supportive husband. What is immediately evident on meeting Jean is her sheer passion for watercolour! The day was filled with brilliant demonstrations, one to one sessions, and fun and laughter all the way! Jean is a very generous teacher, spending time making everyone feel special..










imageThe above sunflower piece still requires further work, but I came away inspired…

Jean advocates starting each of your painting sessions playing with pigment to produce three individual washes to help you learn how the colours mix (or not) and I have been endeavouring to follow her advice and teachings. (I would add here, that I take no credit for the methods and subject matter – they are all Jean’s and Jean’s alone.)

imageI have practised the following exercises from her books and dvds…and posted the results, good or bad, on Twitter and Facebook..


As I said earlier, Jean is a very generous lady, and even though she is super busy and very much in demand, she always finds time to comment on my efforts, giving encouragement and suggesting ways to improve.

Initially I struggled, but gradually I have become more confident, trusting myself more and, from just being pleased when I managed to produce ‘something’, I have found myself seeing areas for improvement, and more importantly, knowing what needs to be done….

I shall endeavour to chart my progress in subsequent posts but suffice to say I am learning to trust the process and …yes I am enjoying it!