Bluebells for a friend

I friend who recently left our school asked me if I would create some icons for her to use as she starts up her own business.  I really enjoy helping people so this week I worked on that (I’ll back to the elephants soon).

I began by trying to paint some stuff digitally to get a feel for it.

But what I produced this was felt souless to me so I went back to more traditional art.

I began again using a picture I’d made for the same lady as a leaving present.  It’s got part of a famous poem on it which was written by a lady from Bristol called Minnie Haskins (1875 – 1957) and was quoted by King George VI in one of his Christmas day speeches.

I keep a scan of all the artwork I do, even if I don’t put it all up here, so I still had the scan…


Here is the banner and the icon I made using this painting…


Icon big (500 x 500)

Same icon small (50 x 50)



Then I had a go at painting some watercolour bluebells.  I painted one picture which incorporated the golden spiral (which is based on the golden ratio)…


I really liked the mixture of art and science in this but it didn’t feel right as a finished product.  So I made another watercolour painting…


(I’ve added a shadow to this painting here to make it stand out a bit. I’m not sure if it helps or hinders!)

Then I used part of this to make similar graphics…


Icon big (500 x 500)

Same icon small (50 x 50)


It all worked out fine and I think my friend was pleased.  It was a really fun thing to do.   🙂

All hands on deck!

We had a holiday this past week on the Norfolk Broads.  We were living on board a 4 berth motor cruiser, me, my son and two friends from Church.  It was incredibly relaxing.  I love being on the water, always have.

So, no art this week – just a few holiday photos – back to my elephants next week I hope!

This is the sunset south of Ludham Village.  There was really good fishing here.  I got personal bests for Perch and Roach and my first ever Rudd.  I caught twelve in 90 minutes.  It was an amazing place – utterly beautiful!


Next we have a couple of windmills – there were loads of these!


Here’s a photo of a beautiful sailing boat.  We saw many of these and gave them space and priority on the river.  They’re like silent graceful birds skimming through the water.


Lastly I photographed the reeds at the sides of the broads.  I’m not sure I can explain what I was trying to capture with this photo, but there is a vastness to the skies in that place and a barreness to the vegetation which makes you feel so alive because somehow your soul knows that you’re in the heart of the wild.  It’s an incredibly freeing feeling.


‘The Love of Elephants’ #2 – UnderPainting and Colour Study


I carried on working on my elephant oil painting this week.

Going on from my basic pencil outline on the canvas board from last week…

I added what’s called a ‘tonal ground’ – which just means a middling kind of colour, not dark or light.  I used burnt umber thinned with my solvent thinner Sansodor.  (I would have used raw umber but my set didn’t have any!)

It’s actually more even than this rather poor photo suggests.  Then I gave it a day to dry.

Next I used burnt umber again with just Sansador to sketch in some of the main dark areas of my elephants.

And again I gave it another day to dry.

My next job was to paint in either the underpainting or the first layer of the actual finished picture.  I had to read up on this before deciding which way I would go.

In the end I decided not to try to do what they call the ‘Flemmish Technique’ second time I’ve painted something in oils – it seemed too advanced.  What I wanted was something simple which worked.  I do like the idea of doing an underpainting because it helps me work more freely.  But I didn’t want it to be too much – just a guide to lights, darks and middles.  So instead of that Flemmish thing I just extended my sketch to include some lighter areas.  I used underpainting white (for a shorter drying time) mixed with some yellow ochre to give a light brown / creamy colour and then thinned it just a bit with Sansador.

So here’s my completed underpainting…

This is not the finished product – just a guide for the real work which will go on top.  (You can also see, I also got hold of some raw umber when I bought the underpainting white.  I used this for the shadow under the two animals.)

My next job was to more accurately work out what I want the final painting to look like, so I used my scanned ouline and made a quick and dirty digital painting as a guide for my final colours and tones.  I decided to mostly drop out the blues and purples and just go for set of analogous colours – reds oranges, yellows, and browns.  My thinking is that this will give the scene the peacefulness I’m after.

Here’s my digital colour study…


So now I’ve just got to paint it for real!!!

‘The Love of Elephants’ – an oil painting #1

I have been waiting and waiting to have a try at oil painting again, having only painted one previous oil painting in my life before.

So when I saw saw a set of Winsor and Newton Artist’s Oil Colours which were half price I finally bought some.  Then I spent a long time trying to work out which mediums to use.  Previously I’d been very traditional, painting with turps and linseed oil as my mum had showed me, but I can’t go back to that turps smell again.  So, after some research, and some very kind help from the technical people at Winsor and Newton, I decided to try Liquin for the first time and Sansador which is a low odour solvent.  I had some problems with my pain last week and was generally feeling unwell so I couldn’t get to the shops.  Instead I ordered them online – they should come very soon.

So what to paint?

I knew I wanted to paint an animal (my favourite painting subject) and finally settled on elephants.  I like them because they look really kind of odd in the most lovely way but at the same time they have these beautiful loving relationships between members of their family.

I made some pencil sketches in my sketchbook to begin with…





After doing these I decided to make a final sketch of a mother and her calf for my main painting.  I did this on canvas board, which was quite tricky to draw on with pencil because it’s got so much texture.

I didn’t put any shading or detail in – just enough to show my paintbrush where to go.  Here’s the final outline sketch:




Now I think I’m going to paint the elephants in purple/blue greys and soft browns but I needed a background colour and I needed to sort out my colour palette generally.  I want the final picture to have a calm restful complete feeling so I’m going to keep the colours restricted to two groups – yellow/browns and possibly grey/blue/purple (in the shadows) although this will be very muted,

Here’s a digital sketch of the colour ideas I’m working on at the moment…



My plan will be to make the greys in the above colour sketch just a little more blue/purple to show the coolness in the shade of these big animals and to complement the yellow orange of the savannah.

This is as far as I’ve got this week.  I’m still feeling a bit under the weather so I didn’t make a start but I’m quite excited to give this a go.

My health wasn’t helped by a big thunder storm last night.  I quite enjoy storms generally but my geriatric miniature schnauzer kept us both awake half the night with a new trick.  She would jump off my bed when the lightning flashed against the curtains and then jumped back on in terror when the thunder roared.  It was too hot for her to sleep really close to me which usually calms her down and, when she wasn’t jumping on and off, she kept panting and shaking from fear in the storm.  In the end I think we both got to sleep at about 3am when I put my hand over her front paws so she knew I was there but I didn’t make her too warm.  She is a silly sausage!