Sunday 31 May 2015


These are the five inexpensive knives that my husband bought out of curiosity from eBay as a set. I got a bit of acrylic on the handles when I used them to paint Family Circles.

This is a first-impression review. I can't tell you if they will last as well as a more expensive knife.

The build quaity is, overall, adequate. The handles are, I think, low quality soft wood (my Winsor and Newton knives look like they have hard wood handles), and are already sporting a few dings. The blades are reasonably flexible and work well, but they have a few sharp corners that I am wary of. The ferrules aren't as tidy as those on dearer knives.

This, for comparison, is a Winsor and Newton knife. It's not one of my favourites (they are at the studio and this one was loitering at home), but it does possess the superior build quality that you'd expect for a knife that cost about the same as all five of those shown above...

But that price won't break many piggy banks. This particular knife can be acquired for under £4, as can may others in the Winsor and Newton range.

It is worth shelling out for a selection of nicer knives, but the Chinese set will provide an introduction if you're feeling impoverished, and you get to play around with a few different shapes while you're at it. Filing the corners lightly might be a good idea if you do go for cheap and cheerful; it is quite possible to cut yourself, and the canvas may also be at risk...

Saturday 30 May 2015

Family Circles

This was painted mainly to try out a set of cheap Chinese panting knives that my husband bought on eBay from China. The Russian Dolls were loitering in the dining room where my daughter had left them and they presented themselves as a subject... quite an interesting subject, I thought.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Saturday 23 May 2015


Spectrum, oil on canvas, 30 x 90 cm
This is another painting made during my Open Studio hours. I revisited an image that I have used before, a photograph taken in Micheldever Woods. The older painting is shown below.

Micheldever, oil on canvas, 20 x 50 cm, SOLD
[October 2013]
Obviously, the new painting is larger, but it also seems to be a lot brighter. I don't think that it is merely a difference in lighting when taking the photograph; I do seem to be gravitating towards brighter colours lately.

I have two more days of being 'Open' before the scheme finishes on Monday 25 May. 

Friday 22 May 2015

Ding Dong (Ultramarine)

That really is the name of this place; Ding Dong engine house and mine on the moors at Penwith, Cornwall - close to Men-an-Tol.

The ultramarine is modified in places by red, but not, I think, enough to destroy the "flat" effect.

Ding Dong (Ultramarine)
Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 cm

Thursday 21 May 2015

Old John (Ultramarine)

An attempt at "flatness". Or, if you prefer, a railway poster style image. With ultramarine as the base dark.

Old John is a folly in the fabulous Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. This was painted (with brushes) from my own photo.

Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 cm

Lone Stone - SOLD

To stylise or not to stylise, that is the question. Do both!

The stone - and the tree - is at Avebury. The curly foreground vegetation isn't.

Acrylic on box canvas, 30 x 30 cm


Friday 15 May 2015

To the Lighthouse

The light that day was phenomonal. Sharp against a gloomily dramatic sky, Godrevy Light presided over St. Ives Bay and the crashing waves, and I knew there was a splendid Godrevyscape for the taking. This large canvas was painted from a photograph taken from the clifftop at Easter.

Oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Full Length (Watership Down) - SOLD

Watership Down is rather long, and that is what I tried to demonstrate in this painting, made in the studio (mainly on Sunday, but I kept spotting problems and spent an hour or so sorting them out on Monday and on Tuesday10.

The local TV and radio mast (Hannington mast, on Cottington's Hill) can just be seen to the left of Watership Down, while to the right, Ladle Hill can be seen.

The painting was based on a series of photographs with an extra bit of borrowing from Watership Down and Ladle Hill and some imaginary grasses and flowers in the foreground.

And... here's an animated gif of the in-progress shots:

Full Length (Watership Down)
Oil on box canvas, 30 x 100 cm

One-off Posters

Three of these wonkily lettered posters are on village notice boards. One remains to go up...

Saturday 9 May 2015


A flight of fancy...

Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 cm

New in the Studio...

Quick Update...

I've got some new card designs - including the stained glass trees! - and I've got some colouring-in and a little quiz for any children who visit my Open Studio with their parents this weekend.

Friday 8 May 2015

Jam Tarts

Homemade raspberry jam and lemon curd tarts. Two layers, in a tin. Painted with a brush.

Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 cm

Red Wine and Books - SOLD

Red Wine and Books (acrylic, 8 x 10 inches)
I've painted similar subjects before in oils; here, the treatment in palette-knife acrylics demonstrates the relative harshness of the quicker-drying paint. Of course, the acrylic (above) is also smaller than the oil (below), and this will have an effect on the result.
Vinho Verde (oil, 30 x 40 cm)

Tuesday 5 May 2015


The other side of my closed pocket watch
The back of the watch was used to illustrate my post Open Studios in the Mists of Time.

Open Studios in the Mists of Time

I didn't find out much about how the Open Studios concept that I am familiar with came about. I daresay that someone, or possible several discrete someones, had a good idea and quietly went about making it happen.

Or maybe my research was inadequate.

Anyway, I do know that the West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studio scheme has been around since 1987. The Web site for the county-wide Hampshire scheme doesn't acknowledge a starting year, but many others seem to have started around 2000 or later.

represented by a sketchbook drawing
of the back of a pocket watch

Divergent Open Studios

It occurred to me to wonder where the idea of Open Studios came from. I haven't really managed to find out, but I have discovered that the term doesn't always mean the same thing, even leaving aside open source software projects and plug-ins for graphics programs.

The article currently extant on Wikipedia suggests that the concept originated:
in the salons of 17th Century Paris, such as the Hôtel de Rambouillet and the gatherings of intellectuals and artists hosted by Madame de Scudéry.
and that the 20th century transmuted this to
the form of public poetry exchanges [...] the ‘happenings’ of Andy Warhol’s The Factory [...] and the experimental jamborees of the French literary group OuLiPo.
The article goes on to describe a 21st Century culmination consisting of an interactive multimedia experience that doesn't quite sound like the Open Studio I'm thinking of.
[...] the Open Studio (often taking the form of a virtual or internet location) focuses on the creative act of making and sharing, in a flexible space equipped with a range of contemporary media and multimedia. Artists and non-artists come together in a social act of collaboration, the only entry requirements being an inquisitive nature, a curiosity about new and traditional media, and a lack of inhibition about creating in a semi-public space.
Now, I'm pretty tech-savvy, but my studio isn't. It's a room in a building that was built in 1720. It doesn't have wifi. And I decided not to bother with a smart phone (I kept forgetting to charge it; I'd rather have a basic phone with a battery that stays charged for a week than a lump of fancy electronics with a flat battery).

Digital drawing of a not-very-smart mobile telephone

Monday 4 May 2015

So, what is this Open Studios thing, anyway?

So, you've spotted the signs. "Open Studio", they say, "this way". Stereotypically, they lead you a merry dance down obscure roads, winding up at someone's house, where you are invited into the garden shed and offered a cup of tea and a fairy cake...

Well, maybe. Maybe not. I, for example, don't have a trail of signs. But I'm on the main commercial street in the village, in a recognisable large (and non-residential) building that has its own car park and doorbells for each "suite". And I keep forgetting about the tea.

But what is Open Studios?

Open Studios, sometimes referred to as an Arts Trail, is a concept adopted in many places by groups of artists who live - and work - in those areas. The idea is that the artists all elect to "open" during a certain period, with information made available to the public so that know when and where to go.

Ideally, the open space should be the artist's own work space, but in practice, this isn't aways possible. So you may find a small group of artists sharing a space, or perhaps one or two borrowing or renting a space.

I'm lucky in that my studio space is very suitable for opening to the public every now and then. It is quite easy to find, on the ground floor, and it has its own car park.


I'm doing two Open Studio Schemes this year (West Berkshire and North Hampshire, in May, and Hampshire, in August), and it is evident that they are quite different in a number of ways. 


I have a theory about the names of places and their sizes. It's not entirely serious but it works fairly well for the names of villages and, it seems, for the names of Open Studio Schemes. In general, the theory is that the longer the name, the smaller the place. My theory further supposes that this is because big places are easier to locate and to describe with a name, and that more people are likely to be familiar with a larger place, so it only needs a short name.

(This is why "Kingston Upon Hull" is known as "Hull", or, in the vernacular, "'Ull".)

Have you noticed that "Hampshire" is short and snappy? It's also far larger, geographically, than the cumbersomely named West Berkshire and North Hampshire - which is still larger in area than some.


West Berkshire and North Hampshire insist on approving artists' work before letting them join. They call this process accreditation, and it is only necessary once.

Hampshire don't accredit. I think they rely on a sort of self-approval process; if you aren't confident of the value of your own work, you would be less likely to join the scheme.


There are often more formal exhibitions associated with Open Studio events. The West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios that I am part of (and which is currently happening) has several, chief among which is INSIGHT. I have two paintings there. I also have work at the Cover to Cover Sketchbook exhibition.

I'm not aware of any exhibitions associated with the Hampshire Open Studios.

Cups of Tea

One of the reasons that I am so bad at remembering to offer tea or coffee to guests is that I don't often drink either myself. I don't even like the traditionally English tea!

Coming soon (I hope) ... more about:

Poppy Pillar

This was painted yesterday, during the time that my studio was open (I painted the sides of the box canvas in flat, black acrylic, and made a design sketch on the canvas itself, on Saturday). I photographed it this morning because the light was so much better.

I decided to try a vertical format, and selected a few poppy heads, from my source photographs, that I thought would work. I quite like the central poppy stalk' curve - apat from where it goes (too neatly) around the lowest flower head. Hmm. I may yet change that...

Poppy Pillar
Oil on box canvas, 100 x 30 cm

Sunday 3 May 2015

Open and shut again... until Wednesday

The view that greets visitors as they come in to the studio.

... and in the corner ...
My first weekend of opening my studio as part of a scheme is over. Of course, there is a bank holiday tomorrow and that would, no doubt, be an excellent day to open. But I've set it aside as a family day.

During the weekend, I had just over a dozen visitors. I sold some cards and one painting and had some interesting discussions with visitors (interesting on various levels; some were about potential sales or commissions, others were more generally interesting). Two people suggested subjects (I am considering painting both), and a third made me think of another subject that would require access permission.

I also made several signs (mostly with arrows on) and carefully took them all down again at the end of each day. Along the way, I discovered that masking tape doesn't stick to brick very well; that it is inordinately useful to have railings at the front of a property (in this case, because you can easily attach board-backed signs to said railings with cable ties; they are also useful for locking bicycles to, of course).

And of course, I did some proper painting... but the light was insufficient to get a good photograph of it, and I'm not expecting to be back in the studio to rephotograph it until Wednesday, so you will just have to wait...
The photographs above were taken yesterday (the painting that sold is still in the corner shot).