Watercolour painting | August 2019
I'd like to share some insights into the watercolour paintings I've been creating and that you can see in the gallery.
There are many ways you can approach watercolour painting and as with oil paintings, it is one of the attractive qualities of the medium. For me, much of the process involves imagining and contemplating what I am going to paint.
From this process of visualisation, I look to build up an image on paper. It’s very much a personal thing, I think very often artists will approach painting in many different ways.
I normally think about all aspects of the subject and narrow down my intentions whilst preparing the paper and getting ready to paint. You might call it meditative. I normally think about where am I going to start and what I’m going to put down on the paper first.
When I have formed an image in my mind, I think about the sort of colours I will aim for. Normally, I think about colour in broad terms, choosing simple primaries first and then decide subtleties later.
I think the choice of colour is crucial to the outcome of the finished artwork. It can lead the painting down different pathways according to the choice of colours you start with.
One of my first decisions is to select the size and proportion of the paper. My method of stretching paper is unconventional. I staple the paper firmly to a wooden board. This developed out of a suggestion by another watercolourist that you can pin the edges of damp watercolour paper, rather than using wetted tape and letting it dry overnight.
Once the paper is ready to work on and all my materials are to hand, I continue to think about the artwork as a whole and what I want to achieve.
Then I’ll pick a certain starting point where the painting process will begin and flow from. This leads to a natural division of the whole process into smaller areas (although this doesn’t always happen). If I’m painting a seascape, for example, I tend to start with either the sky, the sea or the beach.
In terms of how I paint, I look to match my painting style and technique to the kind of light, atmosphere and movement I’m looking to produce. I might prefer to be very quick with the brush, to use more pressure, or use the edge of a brush to create textures or to express a certain atmosphere.
You also have to think about how much paint you use in each layer. Some colours react differently according to the amount of water you use. They might be transparent or opaque in quality which is another consideration when painting.
Like most artist attempting something new on paper, I often don’t know what is going to happen in the painting and rely on instinct and intuition. As watercolour is such a liquid, fast-moving medium, you are balanced on the edge of control. I still find it a challenging medium and often paintings don’t turn out the way I would like them to.
The materials I use have an impact on how the painting turns out. The paper substrate has another influence on how the painting turns out and its aesthetic. There are now a large number of paper choices for the artist.
Much of my work is done using cream paper of a smooth or medium (NOT) roughness, having experimented with rougher papers and found the surface detracts from my aesthetic aims. The finest handmade papers do improve a painting but are increasingly hard to source. Fabriano Esportazione used to be my number one choice but now Two Rivers or a machine-made paper by Arches etc. are my regular choice.
Sometimes if you use a darker toned paper and only have transparent colours, you can find you haven’t enough light in the painting. You might make it too dark overall, lack contrast or end up with the wrong atmosphere.
Sometimes when you paint too conservatively and too thinly it can lead to an insipid look to everything, which I try and avoid. Achieving a healthy-looking watercolour is somewhere between these two extremes.
The type of brush chosen can make a difference and the size and pressure used can affect the look of the painting. I don’t have any hard and fast rules for brushes and go by general principles that suggest using the largest brush you can find for the size of painting you’re going to do. You can be surprisingly accurate with a large brush.
Occasionally I draw some compositional lines as the first stage and it can be helpful when deciding what you’re going to do and how you going to approach the painting.
I don’t usually add anything to watercolour paints. I just use them straight from the tube and I look to restrict my choice of paints to those that are as permanent and lightfast as possible. Exotic colours can be limiting in this respect and earth colours are generally speaking the safest. In some paintings I like to make use of an opaque white, using water-based white gouache for this, although recently I have found the quality of white watercolour paint to be opaque enough for me.
With watercolour painting, you have to work quite quickly and there are certain times when you can’t go back as all these marks will show under the painting you subsequently do.
For me, the painting proper starts with a simple thin layer of colour over the blank paper to give an overall undertone. I like to work with a mixture of tones when creating a painting. I tend to use traditional earth colours such as yellow or orangey-red.
Once that’s fully dry, I chose a point to begin, the specific area I’m going to work on next and its relation to the whole. For example, I might think about the seascape I’ve seen in its entirety - the light, movement and atmosphere. I might start with the sky, with an eye to what the sea will be doing underneath and the whole painting. Then I will choose a painting style that reflects what I’m going to show.
For example, if I want some strong contrast and interesting shapes I will use a drier, concentrated wash of colour with a smaller brush and work a medium strength of colour into the areas using interesting brush handling to create this. Or if I’m looking to create a very atmospheric dreamy painting I might decide to use a lot more water, in lots of layers of colour on top of one another. So I might be thinking about colour interaction with this and keeping the wash nice and tidy. With more watery paint washes and I try to reserve the white in the painting for small areas.
Once I am in the flow of the painting, I’m always looking to create an overall balanced picture, with overall tones that aren’t too dark or light in value, with an interesting range of colours.
It can be very easy to forget to stop while watercolour painting. Or to go too far with a painting - It’s very easy to think oh I’ll just add another bit more here or there. I find sometimes you are unaware of it and you discover that the painting cannot be brought back to the simple immediacy it once had.
It normally takes me quite a while to do watercolour painting and it is not a fluid quick process but some of that is might be able to achieve. My approach is to not look for decorative ways of painting but to make my brushstrokes count and establish important visual qualities. It is more about the light and the movement and the beauty of nature and what I’ve seen outside. What moved me and expressing those emotions that I’ve felt.
I think, I’m fairly expressive in the way I do paintings and I like to keep things immediate and a mirror reflection of the feelings and emotions from my senses as I’ve been out on the beach.
A lot of the time when I am out on the beach looking for subjects the paint, I’m just watching the processes of nature. The way the sea rolls over the sand, the makeup of the clouds and how they are moving. The way the tide is moving, the light shimmering over the surfaces. The type of surfaces and how the air is moving.
I am trying to replicate at least some of this through my painting process, and therefore the final image needs to reflect that.
Once I feel the painting has got to a stage where it’s nearly finished, I will look to introduce some form of scale, for example, seagulls flying or to some finishing touches to the painting.
I often struggle when it comes to coping with sound distractions. It can be the strangest noises which affect me. Anything that distracts me can make it difficult to continue painting in the same way and with the same level of concentration as before. It might just be me and a personal thing but I’ll often find it hard to continue where I left off when I’ve been distracted. I am not sure if it applies to all artists. In my case, it sometimes feels like my focus and concentration goes. Sometimes you have no choice but to work through these things. I try my best to make sure that my working environment is as peaceful and calm as possible.
I don’t usually listen to music when I’m painting. I’ve tried it on the odd occasion but most of the time I prefer to paint without it. Sometimes classical music is fine but nothing too dramatic. Quite often I used to struggle to find somewhere light enough to paint indoors. It’s much better now but it used to be a problem.
Watercolour painting can give you a great sense of satisfaction especially if you create a successful artwork. It’s such a lovely and beautiful medium to use.
They have a magical watery tone look that is exquisite. It is one of my favourite mediums to use because it is so dynamic and flexible. It allows for sensitive expression and clarity. It’s also a relatively clean painting process and using water is very satisfactory. It’s closeness to drawing is also in its favour because you can also achieve some of the immediacies that drawing offers.
Once watercolours are framed and mounted they make for wonderful art statements. They are very immediate and direct expression by the artist and our personal favourite for me. I’m not sure why watercolours have interested me for so long, perhaps it allows for an effective connection between what I’m thinking, seeing and feeling and being able to express this and put it into some kind of art form.
One of the interesting things about works on paper such as a watercolour painting is that you can use different size mounts to make the finished artwork looks larger or smaller depending on where is hung. It’s therefore quite flexible as to the finished size of the artwork, how you frame it and the finished artwork size. Compare this to a work on canvas which is not traditionally framed with a card mount.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a very neat and tidy person by nature and prefer the smaller scale and neatness of watercolours. They may not offer the distinction that oil paintings can offer with their textures and rich colour but they make up for this with their delicacy and beauty.
So watercolour paintings are suitable for a wide range of interior spaces. Also, they can be hung with other works on paper such as drawings or etchings. As they have conventionally been labelled as a medium used as studies for a finished piece rather than a finished artwork in its own right, watercolour paintings are very accessible for collectors. Making for beautiful and evocative works of art.
Black and white photography | July 2019
During the summer months, I’ve been selecting a series of black and white photographs as silver gelatin prints for sale online.
I started making the current collection of photographs in 2013. I wanted to explore whether it was possible to communicate the visual qualities I show in my paintings but via the photographic medium.
Up until that point, I was interested in photography but had only seen it as a way to create a reference or sketch before starting a painting.
The earliest subject I chose was England’s longest aqueduct at Edstone in Warwickshire, close to where I was living at the time. It was a long exposure photograph and the final image is one I made during a cold misty day with snow falling.
The largest part of my collection is a sub-series of photographs of the sea at Ross sands, Lindisfarne in Northumberland. I’ve photographed the same beach during different seasons and weather conditions. I wanted to show the vast open spaces, the land, the sea and the sky but in a pure, minimal way.
I love using minimal compositions and beautiful proportions in my fine art. With photography, the framing of the lens and your position are the compositional tools.
While making the collection I have discovered that black and white photography is a lovely medium which emphasises the pure, graphic qualities of light, form and tone during moments in time.
The black and white photography prints collection
You can now choose from a select collection of seascape and landscape black and white photography prints. One size is available for sale but if you’d like a different size, please contact me.
All the prints are bespoke, so by arranging a custom size, you can select the perfect size to fit the location you have in mind. With no extra charge for a custom size, the price will only vary by size.
As I’ve chosen professional silver gelatin photography printing by Ilford, you know your print will be made to the very best quality - using a genuine photographic technique.
View the photography collection.
Oil painting Twilight seas | June 2019
Throughout June, I’ve been creating a new series of oil paintings. Having finished Over the shore, I’ve been working on a new oil on canvas board. I went through many iterations over a number of painting sessions, perhaps as many as for a larger canvas.
Twilight seas is a painting of the colours, light and movement over the seashore during late sunset (being on the east coast, the sun sets somewhat behind the beach at Ross sands).
I’ve expressed some of the intense colours found behind the setting sun. The beautiful pinkish and yellow tones. As well as cooler blues and purples, and calmer mid–tones of orangey and greeny browns.
There are traces of the painting process through trailing brushmarks – indicating the movement, dynamism and change in nature. This artwork uses pure brush–marks in a semi–abstract style. I use impasto methods, creating the finished version of the painting in a single sitting (or in my case standing).
Twilight seas is modern, minimal and brimming with dynamic movement. As the oil painting is 20.3 cm square, it offers a lot of potential for hanging in a variety of spaces. Whether you place it within a larger (possibly glazed) frame for more of a statement, or you place it in an intimate, smaller space, it will always remind you of nature and the sea.
The attraction of the open seashore is something which many of us appreciate. When you look over the coast anew, you see new forms sculpted by the light, weather and the tide.
Places which are once part of the land become part of the sea. The mood of the sea transitioning from one hue to another.
The different gradients of light, texture and colour are moving. They capture your attention in a quiet way. The seascape is unlike anything else we know and to be reminded of it regularly is something precious.
I enjoy it when I have the chance to look out over miles of space and water. Breathing in the fresh air and watching the mesmerising movement of the sea in all its forms. Often you sense the rhythms of nature in the background. The space of the shore, opening wide before you. Inviting you to take it all in.
It’s lovely to be standing on the shore, the boundary between the unknown and the familiar. The watery mirror of the sea revealing its beauty beyond the hard sandy ground we know.
When you look out to sea, nature speaks to you quietly and to your heart, like a conscience. These encounters frequently stay with me and often feed into my artwork - creative pictures of the ever-changing seas.
Sketching then painting
Looking out over the shore, you see the principle lines, structure and forms before you. Then you notice the symphony of natural movements as you look around. The repetitive and the gradual changes in one direction which forms the content of the 2D picture surface.
I usually photograph or sketch these important lines of composition. The drawings are made in a semi-abstract, dynamic way illustrating what I’ve seen. Sometimes I write descriptions of where I am. Or I write down a particular visual quality I’ve seen and want to include in the painting.
The initial sketch or photograph offers a personal record which jogs my mind when putting paint to canvas or paper. I often much prefer drawings to work from rather than photographs. They contain a lot more personal reaction and guidance. Although they do not reveal the colours, textures and detail of a photograph.
The sea is a wonderful subject to paint in an abstract way. The fresh changes brought by a new day and a new tide reveal the different qualities of nature. Looking out over the shore is a wonderfully affirming and peaceful experience. It can reconnect you to nature and the elements. It captures your attention and lets you reflect on the wild beauty of nature, making you pause and reflect upon yourself.
I’ve found over the last ten or fifteen years of painting professionally that the sea always attracts me as a subject, with so many ways in which you can express it.
There are certain physical similarities between paint and water. Paint can often be made to flow like water and its fluidity mirrors what you find in life – the same way that the tide washes over the sands, sculpting the beach. The continuous movement of the elements mirrors the gestures an artist makes with their brush or tool. It means you can paint in a very abstract way but also stay connected to a real–world subject. It is one of the attractions seascapes hold for me as an artist.
There are also the physical processes of nature, it’s patterns and rhythms which are interesting for an artist. The way wind, rain and the sea have sculpted the coast can be mirrored in the way you apply paint to the paper or canvas.
The varieties of light you find on the beach create different atmospheres and feelings which can be explored through art. The light on misty winter days compared to sunny summer days makes the coastline seem completely different. The light cast over the sea is particularly beautiful. The changing quality of light over different distances is something that inspires me to pick up my brushes and paint.
The strength of the wind also affects the coastline’s appearance. It makes it feel very different, with much more movement over the seashore. The waves and clouds appear much more active.
With so much scope for creativity, it is no wonder that the sea is a subject artist and collectors enjoy.
In my paintings, I aim to introduce minimalism and abstraction into scenes I have experienced and plan to paint, using sketches or photographs to recall the views seen out on the beach. I then choose particular brush–marks, sizes of brush and speeds of painting while I work.
I enjoy using colour a great deal. It can be quite a challenge to create a balanced painting with refined colours. Sometimes I select pigments which you do not normally expect to find out in nature and enjoy exploring the emotional qualities of them through my paintings.
I find working with colour is very rewarding but it often takes up a great deal of nervous energy. It is a necessary and fairly intense process when you are aiming to create both harmonious and contrasting colours – especially when working with the immediacy of impasto oil paint or with watercolour. Each stroke has a final and irreversible impact on the outcome of the whole painting.
For me, the sea is an important subject for my abstract oil paintings and watercolour paintings. It allows me to have a connection to the real world while grappling with the structure and colour of the painting process. It also allows me to reconnect with nature and feed my love of the sea, the beach and the coast.
Oil painting Over the shore | June 2019
Over the shore is a new oil painting inspired by the wonderful open views from the sandy beach out over the open shore. It explores some of the natural qualities of the coast at Ross beach, Lindisfarne in Northumberland.
Seeing the northern light over the sea is lovely - the way colours are muted and softened. You can see beautiful, atmospheric lights and darks are in the sea and the sky above.
Over the shore oil painting explores the light and movement found in nature through a semi-abstract painting process.
The painting has a minimal composition, with unified forms and heightened surface tension. It explores the feeling of scale, space, movement and calm when out in nature.
I’ve infused this artwork with a unified natural light throughout the canvas. Light catches the energetic, fluid movement of the clouds, under the open, calm North sea and it’s shoreline.
Unlike some of my previous paintings of the northern light, which mainly used cool colours, Over the shore also includes warmer colours like cadmium yellow, Naples yellow, Italian raw sienna and Michael Harding’s lead white replacement. As with all the contemporary oil paintings in the gallery, the final version was painted in one long session.
The painting is ready to hang on the wall as it is, or you can also frame and glaze the painting if you prefer. The canvas has primed white edges.
Over the shore is an evocative fine art reminder of nature and the open sea, and is currently available to reserve by contacting me at the fine art gallery at or telephone .
Inspired by the seashore | May 2019
I’ve been working on a number of watercolour paintings through May, inspired by the seashore at Lytham St Annes in Lancashire. They explore the light and movement over the sea through textures and mark-making in watercolour on paper.
Light out to sea, Lytham St Annes is my latest artwork, capturing the sunlight as it catches the undulating waves over the shallow shelf of the sandy shore.
You will be able to see a new oil painting on canvas (40 cm x 50 cm) I am releasing soon (it is a work-in-progress at the moment). I've given oil paintings a bit of a break recently but it is nice to return to working with this especially rich medium. More details to follow, please stay tuned!
Painting the seascape | April 2019
The attraction of the sea for someone who grew up on the coast can be very strong. If you’ve ever moved away from a particular place you have a strong connection to, you might recognise those feelings.
For me, when the beach and the sea is absent I start to feel like something is missing. So, I’ve found it’s a subject I turn to first to paint or photograph.
There is so much there to explore through my art. Nearly every visit to the beach reveals a new arrangement of sea, sand and sky. You also see the beach in different light each time. You notice the mood and configuration of the waves which suggests new forms and compositions.
With visits to the same beach, the interest for me is in exploring feelings from all the information I’ve experienced, to create a new painting. Using the colours, textures and contrast on the canvas or paper.
It is great to be reminded of the sea and the sense of open space, the colours and the movement of nature on a grand scale.
St Annes-on-sea beach paintings | April 2019
Heading into April, I’ve been working on a new range of beach paintings in watercolour. I’ve chosen to explore the light and atmosphere found at the coast at St Annes-on-sea in Lancashire. Many of these paintings are based on sunset views and my most recent being Serene twilight, St Annes-on-sea.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I love the sense of peace and calm that surrounds sunset over the sea. Since I first visited the beach as a child, it always seemed to me a magical time of day. When the sea transforms into a glistening areas of light and dark. With the white of sunlight and the full display of intense colours.
Many of my walks to the shore over the sands at St Annes-on-sea have been peppered with the sound of seabirds, usually the gull or sometimes the soft call of sanderlings.
I often include sea birds in my beach paintings as a way of suggesting scale and to offer some further focal points or changes of rhythm within the space I paint. Very often I find them flying about me when I am on the beach as a matter of course, or over our garden in St Annes.
Space, light and the beautiful colours of sunset are expressed in Serene twilight, St Annes-on-sea. Calm waves catch the golden light of sunset as they fall away to the soft sands of the shore. The density of nearer clouds reveal richer tones and colour against the high blue sky away from the horizon.
This new watercolour painting uses Daniel Smith professional paints with Winsor & Newton on Royal Watercolour Society paper. It is ready to frame and would make a lovely fine art reminder of a refreshing, serene twilight by the sea.
See Serene twilight, St Annes-on-sea watercolour painting in the gallery.
Twilight skies, Eckford | March 2019
Over recent weeks, I’ve been working on a series of watercolours based on views of the sea and also of twilight views of my local landscape.
I’ve incorporated some of the techniques Turner and others used to create their skies. With large amounts of water used in a series of layers, letting the paint bloom.
I am always amazed by the intensity of colours displayed during sunset and have tried to show this in Twilight skies, Eckford.
The painting uses a range of earthy oranges, yellows, pinks and purples. For some of these colours, I’ve used Daniel Smith watercolour paints instead of purely Winsor & Newton.
One of the main challenges of displaying artwork is that of showing colours correctly. Something which is difficult even with professional level photographic equipment. Some artworks are harder than others to photograph and this one seems to be quite tricky to get right as there are some subtle shades of red, pinks and oranges within the painting.
Evening skies, Eckford | March 2019
Into March and having focussed almost totally on creating seascape watercolours so far this year, I’ve also been working on a some new landscape watercolours.
Evening skies, Eckford is my latest artwork, inspired by a magnificently colourful and atmospheric twilight I witnessed, with some unusual skies. The hills are those which surround Eckford, along a ridge.
Evening skies, Eckford is now sold but if you’d like to see more details, please click through to take a closer look.
Watercolour Painting Additions | February 2019
Following the introduction of my sunset watercolour paintings exhibition, you can now see a new painting, Sunset out to sea, that I’ve been working on recently.
It is inspired by the soft winter light and colours of sunset out to sea from the shore at St Annes-on-sea in Lancashire, England.
It is a modest sized artwork but once framed, it would work particularly well to bring an atmospheric reminder of nature and the sea to a smaller space.
Exhibition of Sunset Watercolour Paintings | January 2019
You can now see a new collection of sunset watercolour paintings I’ve been working on since New Year.
The new watercolour paintings are filled with the light and colour of the winter sunset. They are based on observations while walking over the sands at St Annes-on-sea.
The winter months often seem to bring low tides and a long walk out over the sands. Often revealing the immense scale of the space occupied by the sea and bringing nature and the weather into focus. With your environment changing from urban to simply being land and the sea, while you face the fresh air and the sun.
The inspiration, for me, comes from the beautiful quality of light over everything during the winter. With the sun remaining low in the sky and with the cold weather, it creates a wonderful atmosphere and infinitely soft tones and colours. The light and colour can also be intense during the climax of sunset.
The new paintings capture a variety of conditions in and around sunset and would make for an atmospheric and colourful reminder of sunset over the sea.
The original paintings are all available for sale now in the gallery (unless shown otherwise) and you can view more details here.
Painting over Christmas | January 2019
Over New year, I’ve had to take an enforced break from painting after succumbing to a bug and I hope to back to form shortly.
Just before Christmas, I had a few chances to see some of the winter skies that formed over the coast.
It is always a fascinating time of year for land and seascapes. The beautiful, low sun and haziness in the atmospheric creates some lovely views.
I also spent some time finishing a couple of landscape watercolour paintings based on views of the River Tweed I started before Christmas.
Looking further ahead, I am looking forward to bringing you some exciting new paintings as we go into the year.
Have a good start to 2019!