Thursday, 31 May 2012

Sleeping child

This simple little watercolour of a sleeping child is another example of a minimalist style I have been using.  The profile of the lower part of her face can be seen only by the shape it creates on her hand as she supports her head.  I thinks its cute.
Kept the colour range to a minimum too.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Basin Street

This one is called Basin Street.
It is a mixture of Indian Ink work done with the fork as usual, and some watercolour.   I was much heavier with my use of watercolour this time as I wanted to create a smoky atmosphere.  I used earthy tones for the most part, but if you look behind the pianist's head you may see a colourful image of him drifting into the room.  This is a mixture of the colourful music and his aura.  That's what I tried to depict anyway.
We have been to New Orleans a couple of times now and have visited Basin Street itself.  Not much there to see now except the Lafayette graveyard and the Basin Street Railroad station which is now a museum.
We did, however, visit the French Quarter and enjoyed some fantastic live music in the Bourbon Street Jazz clubs.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Silhouette cut demo

Thought I would add an early video I made of how a silhouette cut is performed.  Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 28 May 2012

O Fortuna

Another musically inspired piece.  I am a big fan of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana.    This little pen and wash sketch is my vision of the energy in that first measure of 'O Fortuna'.
This again was created with a broken plastic fork and a few light sweeps of watercolour.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sometimes a title is half the work

Rhapsody in blue.
That was the title - the rest was easy.  This little ink sketch was inspired by Gershwin's fantastic piano piece.  Two sweeps of a flat brush were enough to indicate a grand piano.  For the ink work, I used a plastic fork that I picked up at KFC's.  After breaking off three of the four prongs I used the remaining prong as a nib.  I deliberately set out to have an uncontrolled flow of ink on the paper.  I wouldn't recommend this for calligraphy, that's for sure!
I did a series of these last year - all musicians.  This one was my personal favourite.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Glance from the east

I have posted this image recently in various locations but it is a favourite of mine at the moment, so here it is again!  I began this watercolour by laying on various washes to establish the veil around her head.  I ignored the skin tones initially, but began to gradually add one or two colours from the veil onto the woman's features - including the cadium orange on the right side of her face.  Complimentary colours were to the fore again, much the same as my 'Claire' portrait from a little while back.
Plenty of juxta-positioning of warm against cool too.  It all adds up to another bold watercolour portrait.  Who said that watercolour paintings are 'wishy washy'?

Thursday, 24 May 2012


This was an exercise in minimalism once again.  Trying to play with the light and achieve the image of a couple of dancers with as few strokes as possible.  Details were kept to a minimum.  My intention was to do a whole series of this type of painting, but other projects took over.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Can you see the rat?

Like the title???  Nothing to do with the gentleman in this painting.  When I posted this on PMP  (Paint my Photo), someone commented that they could see a rat sitting on the table below the map that the guy is holding.  This is not the case of course.  The dark shape is in fact his thigh and a small part of his shorts on view.  Can't help but see the rat all the time now!
I have added a detail of his face so that this distraction is removed.  This is another study in light.  We all know that when painting with watercolour the white parts are nothing more than dry untouched paper, but there is a trick - a subtle one - but it works nicely.
Whites appear whiter when there is a bold darker colour placed next to it.  In the same way, the bold colour appears even bolder when placed next to the white.  'Sparkle' is a term I have heard often in watercolour critique - and that is what I tried to achieve here.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Toy trucks

A little boy playing with his toy trucks.  This was painted with watercolour on UK A4 white card stock.  I enjoy working on this surface.  It is not as porous as watercolour paper.  Unsure if the image will suffer some fading, but I have done a few of these paintings so I will monitor them over the coming months.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The tools of a silhouette artist

What is on display here is the basic tools of a silhouette artist.  Note that there is no pencil or pen included.  What you are looking at is a wallet sized folding card where the silhouette is mounted - a pair of surgeons scissors and a folded sheet of silhouette paper.  (there are two in the the photograph).
The silhouette paper is black on one side and white on the other.  I fold it black side in and cut the silhouette of my subject's profile on the white side.  What I am really doing is 'drawing with scissors.'  I am right handed, so much of the work is done with my left hand which is holding the folded paper.  A silhouette artist spins the paper round in his/her fingers while the right hand operates the scissors.
The whole process takes around 90 seconds on average to perform.  There are only a handful of working silhouette artists in the UK.
If you would like to learn more you can contact me at my website.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Something new

For all my followers, (and I really appreciate your support)  I thought I would add something on the blog today that has not been seen anywhere else to date.
This is a commission I was given by a friend of mine.  It is my loose watercolour version of a black & white photograph of his daughter proudly holding her infant brother.  So this is the first view of  one of my paintings.  Up until now I have been displaying old work.
I am self taught as a watercolour artist and my approach was probably all wrong.  I decided to work with the darkest tones first - quite the opposite of textbook approaches to portrait painting.  The girl's hair blended into a dark background in the original photograph, so I kept that effect.  It creates a strong diagonal composition which is echoed in the position of their features.  The bottom left portion of the painting is kept pretty simple and doesn't draw the eye down.
Hope you all enjoy this, and I hope Marc does too!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sad Eyes

Dogs are fantastic subjects to draw and paint.  This painting of a beagle is titled 'Sad Eyes'.  Easy to see why I chose that particular name.  There is no doubt where the focal point lies.  I have never owned a Beagle as a pet, but I did have a Boxer once.  Their eyes are also very expressive.
Again, this has been influenced by Jean Haines' style.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Roman Holiday

I remember this day so well.  It was Bridget's birthday and we had treated ourselves to a few days in Rome.  We wouldn't have been there at all if it hadn't been for our win on the lottery  -  5 out of 6 numbers!

So our treat was four days in Rome.  The weather was sweltering and the Pope was giving a midweek audience, so we walked the short distance from our hotel to St Peter's.  The parasols were raised all over the place as way of a welcome shade.
I did a loose watercolour from one of the photographs I took on the day.  This painting was entered into a competition on the Paint my Photo website.  I'm happy to say that Jean Haines, (the judge), picked this painting as the winner.
The prize was a signed copy of Jean's first book. A little irony here, because the loose style of the painting was very much influenced by Jean's lessons in that very same book.  It goes without saying that I already owned a copy of her book, and now I have two.  Thanks Jean.  You have been a big big influence in many of my paintings.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Canada bound

Slowly but surely getting prepared for our trip to Canada in July.  My Niece is getting married in Ajax Ontario on the 27th.  All of our family were invited, but the way things have worked out it will only be myself and my two grandaughters, Jessica & Niamh who will be going.
The silhouette is of my sister, Grace and her husband, Herve.
Looking forward to seeing them again too.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


As a working caricaturist, I am well used to exaggerating certain features on subjects.  This watercolour of a little girl called Claire is, I believe, correct in all proportions.  The colour, however, has been boldly applied and exaggerated.
The soft tones on a child's face are very subtle in their movement from warm to cool.  I decided to forget all that I had previously learned about subtle watercolour washes.  Sometimes these bold experiments work, other times they don't.  Little Claire's grandmother loves this version of her image.  I am quite fond of it too.
Again it is the eyes, (The windows of the soul) which are the focal point.  As long as they have plenty of life in them, the other features can be treated with a boldness that you would not normally use.  Even though I have used strong juxta-positioned primary colours in what was essentially, blonde hair, it doesn't detract from the focal point, which is her eyes.

More Scottish castles

I had a couple of comments about Scottish castles.  They are wonderful venues for weddings.  I couldn't find any of my old photos of Broomhall Castle nears Stirling, but I have published this photograph here, with the hope that the photograph's owner doesn't mind.
Broomhall Castle is just a fraction in size of its close neighbour, Stirling Castle.  They say that money is short in this country, but I can't begin to imagine what the cost would be to hire one of these venues for a wedding!
The grandest castle that I have worked in has got to be Edinburgh Castle.  I was working as a Silhouette Artist for a Scottish Business promotion in the castle's grand hall.  The first minister for Scotland, Alex Salmond was the host.
I remember that gig well as it began very strangely.  Edinburgh Castle, like Buckingham Palace in London, has a member of the armed forces on sentry duty at all times.  On that evening I walked all the way up to the massive front door without seeing anyone on duty.  There is a smaller access door within the main door.  I found this unlocked, so I continued into the castle itself.  It was a long walk up the cobbled road to the Grand Hall in the castle's ramparts, but no-one stopped me and asked me who I was, what I was doing and what was in my briefcase.  Very strange for a high profile event.
Anyway, the gig went well.  Alex Salmond's reaction to his silhouette cut was, 'Is that what I look like?'   Mmm - maybe he has fairground mirrors at his house.  :-)