Dobro Guitars and Painting the Blues…


This week I’ve been relaxing listening to some fingerstyle and slide guitar blues played on resonator guitars.  I totally love that sound and they’re beautiful instruments to look at too.  So I thought I’d paint one.

It was quite fun because the resonator is beautifully shiny giving me a bit of a challenge painting-wise.

I started with a pencil drawing…

Then I began to paint in gouache…



Here’s the final painting…


Now I just can’t paint one of these beauties without hearing a few of them ‘sing’.  I definitely prefer the wooden body resonator guitars.  I think the tone is just so much warmer.

So here’re some examples of the good stuff…

This is ‘The Swamp Dog Blues’ played on a 1930’s Broman Resonator Guitar.  Unfotunately I don’t know who the musician is on this lovely piece.  He makes the guitar cry.  I think it’s beautiful.



I also totally love this sound (below). This is Mike Dowling playing “Blues in G“.  I love the subtlety and understated character of this one.



Finally, this one’s a bit more country than blues despite the name.  This is Greg Booth Playing Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ on a dobro.  (It’s actually a Scheerhorn L body ’09. The tuning is regular G tuning with the low G dropped to E. EBDGBD)



(Please note, all three of these YouTube videos belong to their respective owners.  They’re just examples of the music that I love the most.)



Flamingos and Change


This week I worked on a small project in my sketchbook again.  It’s the last week of term so I’m pretty tired and still struggling with my health.

I forgot to take any process pictures with this one.  So here’s the final result:

While I was working on this painting I had a big period of time when it looked bad.  I think this is quite common in art.  I had to rework the background from scratch in fact.  I painted my main subject with gouache and then tried to put a watery watercolour background in but it didn’t work so I went for a background which reflected the style of the flamingo in the end.



I am really grateful this year for the coming holidays, since my body’s a bit stressed out and unwell at the moment, but generally speaking I don’t like the summer holidays at all. I find change difficult.  I will be teaching different children next year and I will miss those I worked with this year.  I also find the change from working to holidaying quite stressful too.

I think it’s probably just the autism, my neurology seems to be very sensitive to change.  I feel like a boat afloat without an anchor or an engine when change comes.  I don’t know what I’ll be facing,  I can’t prepare for it and so I have to fight down panic when I think about it.

Comics, like Judge Dredd and Star Wars, Science Fiction and Fantasy like Harry Potter and Asimov’s Foundation series, and going fishing, these things all help.

Here’s an amazing Judge Dredd Megazine Cover by Adam Brown – all rights belong to Rebellion.

They are what is know in ASD terms as ‘special interests’.  Research has shown how an autistic’s interests help support them in times of stress and that’s certainly true for me.  They are like a safe place to go when the world is too much to cope with.


Also, for me, my faith also helps a lot, since for me,  God is always there, always loving and always the same.

Jellyfish Fun


I drew a small quick picture of a jellyfish this week in my sketchbook.

Here’s my sketch…

(22 minutes)

And here’s my painting…

(Which took about 25 minutes.)

I made a bit of a big mistake in that I didn’t use any reference.  I should have done but my pain was bad, so I drew the sketch in bed and didn’t get around to looking up reference.   I think it really shows too.  Ho hum – you live and learn.

Originally I used a deep yellow and purple colour mix but I think it looked better when I added reds and blues to it which is what you see here.

Love’s Sacrifice – Completed

This week I completed the bigger project I’ve been working on for a few weeks –  ‘Love’s Sacrifice’.


This painting meant quite a lot to me.  I think that might be why it took me so long to complete.

I know that most people nowadays don’t follow the same faith as me and that makes it difficult to talk about these things because, although it is the truth most central to my life, I have no wish to push it onto folk who don’t want it.  I feel quite strongly that faith is only real when it is freely chosen and not forced.

For me the Christian faith is simply about walking in the way of love everyday as far as I am able.  My experience of love is that when you really love another person you put them before yourself, you want what is best for them and you are willing to give of yourself for their well-being.  That’s what this picture means to me.  It’s about the cost of love and the power of love, when given, to make others whole.

Apologies to those who are not religious or who follow another religion, I’m not so good at talking about these things.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone.






My inspiration came from sunny Utah this week.  I watched ‘127 Hours’  again.  It’s  a film about a guy called Aron Ralston who went canyoneering without telling anyone where he was going or when he would be back.  He was really experienced in the outdoors but got caught out  when a large boulder shifted and trapped his arm leaving him completely stuck.

Official poster of Danny Boyle’s film ‘127 Hours’

After watching the film I was struck by the beauty of the canyonlands.  The nearest we have to this kind of thing is the Cheddar Gorge in England and because of the rain the land is very green and lush, quite unlike Utah’s harsh orange beauty.  So I looked through a lot of photos of the canyons and the mesas and decided to make a picture of them.



Watercolour under-painting…


Nearly finished – just working on the final touches…


Final colour with Winsor Newton Gouache…


I used a similar style to last time (England in the Summer) where I avoided blending and just used shapes to convey the surface of the landscape.  I like the clarity and solidity of each field of colour and because I really like that, it really helps me avoid painting every detail and instead look for the general shapes which is something I find really hard.


England in the Summer


Earlier this week I decided to have a go at painting with a less realistic look.  I decided not to allow myself to use a small brush and to make a more, what I call, ‘blobby’ painting.  My plan was to throw on some darker lower layers and then add more detail in layers and go lighter in tone as I got more detailed.  I used gouache, although oils would have been lovely for this.

Rather than painting on location I used an old photograph of a place near where I used to live.  It’s looking out from what is know locally as ‘The Bluebell Wood’ onto a local farm.

Here’s the photo…

Once I’d got the main shapes and structures down I stopped looking at the reference to avoid the temptation to make it too accurate and too close to the original.  It turned out to be a fun and easy way to paint!


I also had planned to finish my other painting but I got sick in the middle of the week.  I’m on antibiotics again.  I don’t know why I keep getting unwell so often.  My best guess is that one of two things really kicks it off.  Either I don’t get enough sleep because of the chronic pain and my immune system get’s weak because of that, or I get badly stressed about something (very frequently because of my autism) and that weakens my system too.

I have previously asked my doctor for help and advice with this and he said I need to have a ‘healthy lifestyle’.  I told him I eat a good diet, I keep my body clean, I try to get as much rest as I need, I don’t drink or smoke or take any illegal drugs.  He said I should exercise more.  This is hard because I need crutches to walk more than 10-20 metres and sometimes I end up in tears just trying to get to where my car is parked.  So I asked him how I could do that given the mobility problems I have and he just shrugged his shoulders.  I thought that was really unhelpful.

So I decided to try to manage this better on my own since he’s clearly not going to help at all.  I’m finding ways to better manage stress and allowing myself more sleep time when I miss sleep because of pain.  I’m also pushing my consumption of fruit and vegetables and topping up vitamin c.  Hopefully things will get better.  I feel so rubbish again now.



Small Art Projects

This week I worked on a few smaller fun projects, leaving my bigger painting ‘Love’s Sacrifice’ alone for a bit.  My son is doing his exams and I’ve been concentrating on being there for him.

So I began the week looking at some beautiful macro photographs of tiny animals, like this miniscule moth photographed by Johan J Ingles Le Nobel.

I’ve always loved macro photography with a passion.  So many beautiful tiny details!  Le Nobel’s work is brilliant!

I didn’t intend on sketching this picture and was just playing around in my sketchbook whilst in bed one evening when the beauty of the photograph came into my mind…

So I decided the next day to give it some colour.  I used watercolour paints with Prismacolor Pencils over the top.

Here’s the final painting…

I wish I’d got the eyes exactly the right shape as they’re the main feature of this animal’s face.  The drawing was ok but successive layers of paint slightly changed the final curve.


Next I drew an ‘Eevee’ which is a little deer Pokemon.  (Please note the design of this little guy is created and owned by the Pokemon franchise.  I just made a painting of him.)  I used gouache for the painting so I could get really bright cartoon-type colours.  It was kind of fun!

Then finally I sketched a high alititude landscape in pencil…

I think this would have been more effective if I could have created a greater tonal difference between the foreground and the background.  Part of the problem was that my scanner wouldn’t pick up very light pencil for the far mountains unless I darkened them.  There seems to be a cut off point where the scanner couldn’t see very light pencil even when it’s obvious to a person’s regular eye sight.  I could have darkened the foreground more to cater for this but I didn’t think if it at the time.

I also coloured this picture to see if adding some colour helped.  First I added three shades of green to the trees and some basic blue sky lightening towards the top.  Then I added yellow to the light areas and purple to the shadows to give the picture a warmed look.


Love’s Sacrifice #2 (still unfinished)

I’m still working on my bigger project, ‘Love’s Sacrifice’ although I’ve been struggling with my health in the last two weeks as well so I’ve only done about 2 hours of painting in that time.  I’ve completed the background, laid in some basic hair and begun to add the final colour to the body on the right hand side.  I’ve not allowed myself to extend a project beyond a week or two before and I am finding it’s lovely to take things at a more relaxed pace.  Anyway, this isn’t a finished picture, but here’s where it’s at at the moment…


My plans now are

  • to complete the body colour, adding a small soft reflected highlight on the right and the main direct highlighting on the left,
  • to finish the hair properly and then
  • to add the crown of thorns and the marks from him being scourged by the soldiers.

Autism and Trying to Paint Freely

This week I worked on trying to paint more freely with watercolours.

I have a mild form of autism.  While this is good in some ways, in that I can focus really deeply and have some cool interests and I always try to obey the law exactly, it can also be difficult too, sometimes for the same reasons!  When I’m really focussed on something I really hate to put things down unfisnished and I’m not great at listening when I’m really concentrating.  I have to have a rule with myself about my interests so I don’t go on about them continuously and become boring for others.  But the thing that’s difficult in terms of painting is, oddly, this desire to follow the rules exactly all the time.

The trouble is, with painting, following the rules translates into that childhood thing of not colouring over the lines.  Now that’s great if I’m going for a realistic or comic style look, but there’s more to art than that.  I really love looking at art which is more impressionistic and expressive where the colour doesn’t always stay within the lines.  Some of this type of art is incredibly beautiful.  But I find it almost impossible to do.  So, with some help and encouragment from Ink Flamingos and Alli Farkas , I had a go…

My first attempt was to draw a green woodpecker…

When  I began painting him I spilled the paint all over, but then immediately dabbed it up with a tissue.  Below is the best I could do to have the paint go over the lines.  I really hated it.  It made me feel like swearing.

Then I put on some blues for a background…

Again the paint was moving about and I felt quite distressed and ended up dabbing a lot of this up with some paper towel.

Then I got quite annoyed with the painting and tried to tighten it up ‘properly’.  I ended up just making a bad realistic style painting where I attempted to correct the errors…

You can see in this picture that, rather than have the movement of the ink over the lines as a part of the beauty of the picture, I corrected it and reworked it to try to get rid of it.  It doesn’t work at all.

I felt really fed up with this and I very nearly gave up on the whole adventure at this stage but then I decided to have one more try.  This time I thought I would paint the back ground very free and wild first and then paint a more standard watercolour figure over it, using limited areas of wet on wet to control the paint.

I also thought carefully about the colours I was using.  I used a deep cadmium yellow for the background with a pthalo blue over the top.  The pthalo blue is a nice transparent blue with a bit of a green tinge to it naturally.  So I thought that in the places where the yellow paint sat behind the blue it would go green and might add some more to the painting.

Again to try to make it loose, I began with a gesture drawing of a woman doing that dangling thing on some cloth which you sometimes see in a circus act…

Once I had the gesture I filled out her anatomy and gave her crazy hair…


Then I painted the background.  This was SO hard – it felt like I was deliberately spoiling the picture…

(I couldn’t help but remove the yellow that went onto the body area with a tissue.) Then I went back to painting more carefully to finish…

I know it’s really only an expressive background with a figure which maybe has some expression because she was drawn from a gesture, but it’s better than I’ve done before.  I think I might try some biological styled drawings with more expressive backgrounds like this next.


PS:  Sorry this post was late going out – I was unwell Thursday night, yesterday and this morning.  Getting better now I think!  😀