The Lightning Tree

Near where we live there is a tree which has been struck by lightning – aptly named, the ‘Lightning Tree’.  I managed to get a sketch of it the other day.  It’s not the best but for me it represents a step forward as this was the first time I have been able to relax while sketching outside.

This is the sketch:

lighteningtreesketchI saw a you tube video where the artist painted a silver birch last night so I thought I’d have a go at this subject for a watercolour.

This time I did use watercolour paper.  It was done in A3 which was nice because it gave me lots of room.  Despite that I made a rooky mistake and sketched my tree a little too high on the paper but didn’t realise until after I was already painting it so I had to live with it.  This is how it turned out:

lightningtree_fin_webI got the hang of the watercolours just a little bit more doing this but I can see that, if I choose to paint a lot more in this medium it’s going to take a LOT of work.  I enjoyed the way the paint only runs on the wet patches and not on the dry which was useful for controlling the movement of the water.  I also enjoyed the sharpness you can get painting fine tree branches and fine shadow lines. I find this kind of detail harder to achieve in acrylics.  The thing I found most difficult was that you can’t get out of trouble by over-painting.  With acrylics I tend to paint my way out of a mistake.  There’s not room for that in watercolour – it just compounds the error.  I’m not sure how I feel about water colours.  They are amazing but they are difficult too.

PS:  I may not post much for the next week as I’m not feeling very well.  Hopefully I’ll be back next week.   🙂

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

Oh my goodness, watercolour is difficult!

Last night I was roaming around on You Tube thinking about having some more arty fun.  I came across some watercolour demos which were fascinating.  I was amazed by the way the painters use the water to carry the paint and how quick and subtle and skillful some of them are.  Amazing stuff!  So I thought I’d have a go.  It was a bit of a leap of faith as I am, apart from one previous poor attempt, a water colour virgin.  However, one of the reasons I’m writing this blog is to stretch myself a bit and try things which are difficult.  For me painting with acrylics is like coming home, it’s like doing something I know well and love.  With water colour it’s very different.  I feel like I’m in the deep end in foreign territory where I am suddenly a painting mute.

So, first I got some things together.  Since I’ve only got three sheets of watercolour paper I wanted to practice a bit at first so I got out some thick charcoal paper in an off-white colour and some coloured pastel paper to practice and play around on.

gettingreadytotrywatercolourI tried working on the charcoal paper first because most watercolour work I’ve seen has been on lighter paper.

It didn’t start out well…

startsnowI wanted to paint a hedgerow in early spring when there’s been a late snow and the sky and snow look blueish white and the hedgerow looks brown apart from this tree with pink blossom.  I saw it a few years back.  That was the idea anyway.    🙂

I don’t know what that blank blob is doing in the sky or why the colour is all yuck but this is how it started.  Really I should have stopped at this point but I blundered onwards…

After I did this I felt quite sick…

paintingwithfennelteaIt’s fennel tea with my paint brush in it.  Maybe that’s a clue as to why my colour was all odd?  Note to self… keep your tea cup away from your water jar Jo – it’s too easy for you to get confused.   😀

Anyway, in the end it didn’t turn out at all how I could see it in my mind.  I’ll show it here for accuracy purposes but I’m far from proud of this one.

snowandblossomAhem…moving on.

Next I wanted to use the fact that water colour is great at representing sky and sea.  I decided to paint a boat in a calm empty seashore at night. (It had to be at night becuase I was going to use dark(ish) blue paper.)

It started out OK…

…and then went pretty horrible…

boat1So I started again, with a landscape picture this time…


By this stage I was at the point of giving up on watercolours and, because of that I think, I relaxed and stopped fretting about it.  It ended up a little better…

boat2I’ll have another go tomorrow on real water colour paper and see what happens.    🙂

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

The Cathedral Fox – Finished!

I slept really well last night and was able to get back to my painting this morning.  In fact after getting my fabulous son off to school I had another snooze to try to get on top of my health again.

One of the oddest things about the mild kind of autism I have is the way that some sounds bother me intensly to the point where I can’t cope with it at all and others don’t have much effect.  For instance – we used to have a neighbour who would talk on his mobile phone out on his balcony really late at night and that bothered me really badly (the chap was a nice guy and has since moved on to a bigger home with his young family).  Yet, this morning another neighbour is having a new bathroom fitted and I found it easy to ignore her bathroom fitter using a hammer drill into an adjoining wall which is clearly a lot louder.  It’s almost like some pathways which respond to sound are coded differently to others in my head.  They say that autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that we have different brain pathways and some of us are more different from average than others.  I expect, since I have a milder, high functioning autism, my pathways are a bit different.  Whereas some friends of mine have a grandson with severe autism and I guess his pathways are very different and he consequently has many more problems of a much more severe nature.

Anyway, I got the painting finished.  Here it is in my painting workspace (on the dining room table)…


And here it is drying on the mantlepiece over the fire…

cathedralfox_FIN_WEB(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

A Sketching Tea Break…

I had a short break from painting today as I was feeling too sore.  I thought I’d put up here a couple of the daily sketches I’ve been doing.  The idea is to sketch every day and use it as a meditation / relaxation exercise because this works better for me than meditation in a more traditional sense. I just grabbed a new sketchbook (I buy them cheaply in sets of three online) and decided that all of my daily sketches will go in there. sketch365bookSo below, are a couple of the sketches so far (I’m only up to #3!!!). This is a sketch of my dog.  She wasn’t easy to draw as she didn’t feel like sitting still so every time I looked at her to draw the next bit I had to call her.  She was a bit confused that I called her when she was already near me.  (She did eventually get a biscuit after such a trying modelling session!) S365_002I brushed her beard for the drawing and the had to draw quite fast as she usually messes it up by rubbing her face along the carpet as soon as possible afterwards.  I think it might be why she also looks a bit sad in the picture. This is her with her beard how she likes it to be… Bonnie The other sketch I want to put up today is this one… S365_003On this particular day I had planned to go outside and sketch this amazing dead silver birch tree near where I live which got struck by lightening a while back.  But, as I put my trainers on the rain started coming down and while I like the rain, my sketchbook doesn’t.  So instead I drew some of the clutter on the bookshelves in front of my bed.  I was fascinated, at the time, by the line made by all the different bits and pieces on top of the sheves and how that line interacted with the mirror at the end on the right.  I still like this picture now but I don’t know why. The things on there are, from left to right, a pile of two books on top of 12 comic books, a spray deoderant can with a handcream tube right next to it, a reed diffuser, a can of hairspray (which I use as a cheap fixative for my drawings and never on my hair!), a wooden box holding my charcoals with the box set of ‘Game of Thrones’ books on top, then the mirror on the right. Back to finish the fox painting tomorrow!    🙂

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

Fox Painting in Acrylics – Almost there

I found the time to do a hour or so on this painting today and it is coming together, although it’s not as tidy as I want it to be yet.

First of all I mapped out roughly where each section of my stained glass effect would go with a pencil.  Then I spent a lot of time thinking about colour and working out how I wanted to use it.

First I put on my shadows which I’m doing in blues and purples to contrast with the yellows and reds of the lit sections.  Although my light is really coming from behind and to the right as the viewer looks I decided to shade the image of the fox more simply with shadows mainly down and left.

So this is my painting with my basic shadow colours on:


I still want the white ruff the fox has in his chest to look lighter than other shadowed parts so I went for lighter shades there.

Then I added my reds and oranges and yellows…


As you can see some of the colour needs a second coat but the overall effect is getting close to what I want.

Tomorrow or the next day I’m going to re-cover all the sections which look weak colour-wise and then draw in my eyes, nose and other main features.  I would like to do this using a brush pen with permanent ink but I’m not sure if the ink will be able to hold onto the acrylic paint.  I will have to test it.  I might need to do it with black acrylic paint.

My new home-made palette is working brilliantly still so I can choose when to finish this without wasting paint.       🙂


I’m really glad I was able to paint for a bit this afternoon.  My pain has been really bad today.  I had to go into town for an optician’s appointment this morning and my son asked me to exchange some vouchers he won at school for what he called ‘money on my Steam account’ which is an online gaming platform I think.  The optician’s were brilliant but, after going to a few places for my young man’s vouchers, I ended up having to come home with my body in melt-down.  I think I’m going to need to get a mobility scooter.  Even a really short trip puts me in a bad place physically nowadays.  I’ve been thinking about this step for a while now.  I was hoping that the doctors would be able to fix what is causing the pain but it looks like they can’t so the next step for me is to learn to deal with it and take whatever steps I need to to get myself sorted.  The only thing that worries me with this is that I might get even less able if I’m not pushing myself?

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

Fox Painting in Acrylics – Thinking Skywards

Well I worked on the painting today, using the new palette I made before.  I only spent a couple of hours on it and I worked at a much more steady pace.  The new palette was fabulous – my paint didn’t dry out at all, despite the weather being really warm and me having a fan on in the room.  On top of that, because I wasn’t worrying about wasting paint I put out plenty and was able to use as much as I needed and then save what I didn’t use for tomorrow.  This helped too.  I felt really sad and down at heart when I was struggling with painting physically, because I was afraid that my pain problem would stop me from being able to paint anymore and it has already stopped a lot of things in my life.  But I am happy now because I can see a way forward.   🙂

I like the way my painting is looking so far but, with my phone camera I can’t seem to reproduce the colours well enough to put a picture on here that actually looks like what I’ve painted.  (When I’ve finished the painting I will have to make a dedicated effort to find my Canon camera.  I think that will help a bit.)  Anyway, despite my phone’s poor colour reproduction here’s the picture so far…


I’ve gone over the sky again.  I want to try something new there.  Because of the brilliant work I saw the other day on Mish Mas Art where the sky had this amazing pattern in it (e.g. Boating on Kootenay Lake) I wanted to do somthing more than a plain sky.  The effect I decided to go with in the end is to use the general circles and swirls pattern from a number of previous paintings I did about ten years ago (these ones):

vitality fertility germination turmoil

…but do them with one of my favourite colour schemes which I’ve also used a lot before…

fire1 fire2 fire3 magma desertheat

It was nice to get the painting to a place where I could see something of what’s been in my head all week coming out on the canvas.  One of the hardest things I find about painting is that each painting has to go through several stages where it looks awful before it comes together.  I wonder if life is like that too sometimes – that sometimes things seem awful but really it’s just the next thing coming together?

Overall, I enjoyed painting much more today – I started to relax into it and get the feel of it again.  It’s like playing the piano again after a long break – it takes a bit of effort but it does come back.

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

365 Sketch Challenge, Where Has The Time Gone?

This post is reblogged from  michaelbencik’s fab blog

Michael has been doing a 365 Sketch Challenge where he draws a sketch every day.  Since I first read about it I have wondered about doing it myself. This week however I saw some doctors about my chronic neuopathic pain probelm and they said that they think I have also developed ‘post-infective fibromyalgia’ which, I think, means that, following a chest infection, the pain has spread over my whole body. They gave me a booklet about it. One of the things the booklet suggests is that meditation can help. Well if I meditate by just sitting (which is the kind of meditation I have learned before) then it seems to make the pain worse because the pain comes to the front of my mind. But when I sketch and draw it’s like magic – everything else goes away, including most of the pain, and there’s just the drawing. I think this might be a kind of meditation which I can do which might help. I think it will relax my body and give me a break from the pain so I’m going to try it. 🙂

(Thanks to Michael for sharing this idea on his blog!!!)

Sketch42315C Ok, now this post is really behind schedule. But I am so excited that I finally finished up my South East Asia portion of the blog andthat I will have time to catch up on my 365 Sketches blog.I am still drawing away, trying to keep it up to one a day. I have misplaceda few sketches, and when I find them I will add them in. Plus the scans are not very good, they are actually iPhone pictures because my scanner is not working right, and I am not going to buy a new one yet. This months drawings are from Philly, North Jersey, Germany, Amsterdam, and Ireland. Enjoy! So if you like what you see, please click follow, and feel free to share. Even more importantly, if you want to join in on the challenge, pick up your pencil and join in. I will be happy to post…

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Keeping Acrylic Paints Wet and Other Stories

I had some difficulties yesterday in keeping up with the paint physically.  The acrylics dry very quickly and I have a chronic pain condition which made it difficult for me to work hard enough and fast enough to keep up.  One of the things I think might help here is to keep my paints wet enough to be able to work them easily so there’s less stress trying to get a lot done all at one time.  I looked up online and there’s this thing called a ‘Stay Wet Pallet’ which is supposed to sort this out.  It seems like a really good idea but it’s quite expensive especially when really it’s just an airtight box with a sponge and a piece of paper. So I thought I’d try to make my own.

I used:

(1) One of a pack of cellulose kitchen sponges


(2) A tupperware-type container


And (3) some baking paper


I trimmed the sponge to fit into the lid of the tupperware box.  Like this:


Then cut out a piece of baking paper about the same size and wet the sponge and the paper really well.  I put these into the lid and then was able to use it as a palette.  Like this:


Even better, once I’ve finished for the day I can now either – throw away the baking paper with the paint on – no washing up!!!!!  Hooray!!!!!     – or just make sure there’s adequate water and put the lid on, leaving it all for the next day.



spraybottle(I also bought a water mister spray so I can wet down my canvas when I want of things are drying too fast.)

All in all I paid less than a quater of the price of a professional palette which will be really good – if it works!!!


Fox Painting in Acrylics – Getting Started

So, today I made a full-size sketch of the actual image I’m going to use on my painting.  Although when I was planning this I had just a simple coloured background, I decided that I wanted a bit more, so I skecthed in the outside of a cathedral in the background.  I didn’t want anything detailed or fancy so I left off any gargoyles or detailed architecture and just concentrated on the basic shape.  I made my own stained glass pattern across the fox figure and created strong black lines around him with an ink brush.

ActualSizeSketchThen I set up some space to paint (including covering various surfaces with some old sheets to protect them (I can be quite messy at times).

GettingReadyOnce all of this was done I got down to painting in a rough background colour scheme and then, when it was dry, drawing in my main features.

ForegroundDrawnOn My next plan was to make some swirly clouds mixing with the last of the sunlight.  This was harder than I expected because I wasn’t using any retarder with my paint (which slows the drying process down). So, in oder to blend colours I had to work really fast since it’s a warm, dry day here today.  The other thing which was difficult about this was that I didn’t have a clear enough picture of what this would look like in my head so I had to experiment a bit too.

Once I got the sky down (as a first approximation) I blocked in some basic colour for the cathedral walls – using a light cream with a hint of cherry and a light cream with a tiny bit of violet.  Since my paints were all getting low by this stage I decided to stop for the day.  So here is where I am up to:

EndOfStage3What with getting set up and then cleaning up and putting it all away again afterwards, this whole thing took me about 4 hours.  The most difficult thing for me is that I found all of this, much more physically demanding than drawing or inking or anything else and so my pain has become really bad now.  (I have a chronic neuopathic pain condition).  It’s so frustrating because I really love painting.  All I can realy do about it is to take some extra pain relief medication and rest until it lets go.  With other work, when this pain malarky becomes an issue, I just work in shorter time periods but given the amount of set-up and clearing up I need to do, a shorter time period would accomplish very little.  Hmmmm.  I’ll have to have a think about this.

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)