Magic in the Water…

Despite living in central England I love the water….I really empathise with this quote by Loren Eiseley – ‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ (Although, I hasten to add, I also find magic in the mountains….) Whether it’s the sea, a lake, a river, stream, puddle, rivulet or ripple, there is something about water that draws me to it….

Just over 100yards from where I live is the River Soar and is a favourite place of mine to wander along, to sit awhile….

…to ponder and wonder….to such an extent that I am now reading Tristan Gooley’s book, ‘How To Read Water; Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea’..

Along with the physical properties of water, Gooley intertwines history, anthropology and his own experiences…am finding it fascinating…..

Water also plays a large part in my attempts at art….and I have spent the morning playing with my favourite Daniel Smith watercolours, lots of water, sepia ink and granulation fluid – something I had forgotten I had until Ann Blockley used it in her demo at Patchings Art Festival

I used Saunders Waterford 140lb NOT paper produced by St. Cuthbert’s Mill and Daniel Smith watercolours – Perylene Green, Lunar Blue, Blue Apatite Genuine, Moonglow and my favourite, Rich Gold Green…along with granulation fluid and a black watercolour pencil…and water!

The following three are my favourites – judiciously cropped and framed using Photoshop…

Not sure where this experimentation will lead to, if anywhere, but it’s fun…and, being a person who puts such pressure on myself to produce masterpieces every time I pick up a brush…having fun and enjoying my art is something I should concentrate on….the magic will come, hopefully!!


Six in Twenty….

My name is Carolyn Roberts and I suffer with ‘white paper syndrome’…..

Talking to friends and fellow artists…(although I still find myself feeling extremely self-conscious when I refer to myself as an artist…but that’s a subject for another post..),  I know that I am not alone…Faced with that lovely sheet of white paper, or a beautiful new sketchbook – have just bought two Seawhite ones from Jacksons Art – I feel panic setting in and at times this paralyses me…I find myself procrastinating….one of the down sides of working from home is that it is easy to be side-tracked, there’s always a job that needs doing…

I am sure all artists have ways of overcoming this ‘syndrome’….Last year I was lucky enough to attend a Jean Haines workshop and she advocates various exercises to remedy this – see her blog/books/DVDs. There’s also all the warm up exercises when you attend life-drawing classes…..non-dominant hand, continuous line drawing, not looking at the paper, holding the charcoal or pencil at arms length…

From these experiences I have developed my own little warm up exercise for me to overcome that feeling of panic every time I go into my ‘studio’ …(back bedroom)…I set myself the task of producing six images on six pieces of paper in twenty minutes…. The paper is whatever scraps I have lying around and are of varying sizes, although not too big owing to the time constraints. The medium is whatever I have to hand, be that pencil, ink, charcoal, watercolour…. I consciously try not to have to have set images in mind…I’m just concentrating on getting marks on paper, getting the creative juices flowing, overcoming the fear….




I set myself a time limit, one day it was ‘Six in Ten Minutes’ as I had lots of tiny scraps of paper, and I find this time limit stops me from ‘faffing about’…and it also removes that pressure of thinking I have to create a masterpiece every time….the marks are spontaneous….and sometimes, just sometimes, I get some images that I quite like or I think are worth developing….


img_0091How do you begin your studio sessions? How do you overcome ‘white paper syndrome?’

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!



Finding one’s own ‘style’ …blog update

I have many favourite artists ranging from JMW Turner

JMW Turnerand Degas

Ballerinas Sketch Edgar Degasthrough to Norman Ackroyd’s atmospheric prints.

ACK_333_Skellig_Rocks_County_Kerry-copyI also love the work of Beili Liu,

Beili LiuMonika Grzymala,

Monika GrzymalaRichard Long

Stone Circle Richard Longand the wonderful marks of Kitty Sabatier.

Kitty Sabatier 1I could go on – the list is endless! Covering a whole range of artistic mediums, the one thing that all these artists have in common is that they have all found – or should that be ‘developed’ – their own style. Now I realise that finding one’s own particular style doesn’t just happen overnight (unless you happen to be extremely gifted!) – it only comes after hours/years of hard work, experiments, failures, successes…….

At the moment I can’t seem to pinpoint my style – I waver between figurative drawings,

Carolyn J RobertsSilver Birch I

Auchencairn in pastelspencil and ink wash drawings,

Carolyn J Robertswatercolour washes

Carolyn J RobertsCarolyn J Robertsand a little mixed media.


I have been lucky in that I have had both figurative work and a watercolour wash piece exhibited. The difficulty arises when I am asked to describe myself/work in the dreaded artist’s statement as I don’t feel that I have a definitive style!

I would be really interested to hear how other artists (why do I still feel awkward calling myself an artist?) ‘found’ their style – let me know!

Meanwhile I will keep persevering…..