Wednesday, 4 December 2019

pyrenees lookout : painting video

One of our favourite picnic spots in the Pyrenees painted here with a stormy sky. Music "Remember" by David Walden. Materials... Lamy Safari fountain pen. EF nib. DeAtramentis Document Ink. Paper - Fabriano Artistico, cold pressed. Brushes - Escoda Perla no.10. AS Handover no.2. Paints - MaimeriBlu, Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton Colours - the list of my palette is on my blog under Tips & Techniques (above)

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

painting birds in watercolour and collage : class photos

Piwakawaka / New Zealand Fantails : student paintings

Fantastic Saturday with 8 lovely students learning to paint birds in watercolour, ink and collage. In the morning we all painted my favourite bird, the Piwakawaka. In the afternoon students chose their own bird and ventured bravely out on their own.

The finished paintings were absolutely beautiful. And the day was so much fun! Thank you wonderful people for a truly great day.

Next class will be in January 2020 ... painting flowers in ink and watercolour. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to be notified of details.

Adding watercolour to a pencil drawing

Adding watercolour to a pencil drawing 

Adding details with ink and collage

Adding details with a tiny brush

Having fun with lovely colours and soaring wings

Adding collage elements

Adding collage to a Quail's wing

Cutting out collage elements

Thursday, 14 November 2019

upcoming class : painting birds in watercolour and collage

Painting birds in watercolour and collage

In this one day workshop we'll combine watercolour with collage, ink and other fun media to create one-of-a-kind bird paintings. In the morning we'll work on a painting together, with me guiding you step by step. In the afternoon you'll work on a bird of your choice. You'll go home with 2 beautiful birds. 

$90pp. Maximum 8 people. Materials provided.

Next workshop
30 November 2019
10am - 4pm
At the Wanaka Arts Centre 

THIS CLASS IS NOW FULL. Contact me to be added to the waiting list, or follow me on Facebook or Instagram to keep up to date with painting classes in 2020 :-)

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Saturday, 2 November 2019

painting an iris in watercolour - step by step

Watercolour Dutch Iris

Spring has sprung in New Zealand and these beautiful Dutch Irises are putting on a wonderful show in my garden at the moment. Of course I needed to get my paints out before they fade as the weather gets warmer.

Ink Drawing..
After drawing the iris, the leaves and the bud in pencil I finished the drawing in waterproof ink.  When the ink was dry I erased the pencil lines and then splashed some gold acrylic ink across the page, being careful to mask the flower with a piece of paper so that I didn't get any gold ink on it.
See my Tips & Techniques page (above) if want to know about the pens and inks I use.

Pen and ink drawing of Dutch Iris

First Wash...
I paint each petal wet in wet. First I wet a single petal with clean water, then I drop in the colours carefully reserving the white areas to create highlights. I look carefully at each petal to notice where the the highlights and shadows are. I don't want any hard edges at this stage, so as the paint dries I soften with a clean, damp brush as necessary. I also use this damp brush to lift paint to create more highlights. Once one petal is complete, I move onto another petal that's not touching any damp petals, so that colours don't bleed from one petal to another.
The colours I used are MaimeriBlu Permanent Violet, Winsor & Newton Intense Blue and Daniel Smith Quinacridone Rose. The brush is an Escoda Perla No. 10.

First wash

Finishing the flower & bud
Once the first wash is completely dry I follow the same procedure for a second, third, or even a forth wash. Wetting each petal with clean water again I strengthen the dark areas and soften any edges. Finally I concentrate on the very dark areas, adding details with a mix of paint with almost no water. I also add just a few veins to the petals with an almost dry brush. I'm still using the same No.10 brush.
The yellows I used are Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Medium and Winsor & Newton Cadmium Yellow Light.

Dutch Iris flower and bud complete

Finishing the painting...
I'm sure you're getting the pattern here! I paint the leaves in exactly the same way as the petals. Wet in wet, layer after layer. The colours I used are Daniel Smith Sap Green and Hansa Yellow Medium. Still the same brush (isn't it amazing?! Highly recommend this brush.).
Finally I use a Uniball Signo white pen to add just a few little white highlights and I darken a few black lines where the shadows fall.
Sign and we're done.

Watercolour Dutch Iris

This painting is available for sale. Please contact me for details.
Update : SOLD :-)

Thursday, 11 July 2019

let's talk about : my watercolour palette

Watercolour palette, 2019

I've been hesitating to write an article listing the colours on my palette, even though folks have been asking for a long time. I didn't want to create a big shopping spree and lots of people out there with colours on their palette that they never use.

I honestly believe that it's possible to work with the paints you already have, provided that you have some good basics like a good choice of red, blue and yellow (a warm and a cool of each) and a couple of earth tones. My feeling is that it's best to experiment for quite a while with your current palette before you make new purchases. I haven't changed my palette too much over the years, and even now I sometimes have wonderful surprises with new shades I can create with paints I thought I knew inside out.

For me artist quality paper is a must. Artist quality paint doesn't make nearly as much difference. Having said that, truly cheap paints will be frustrating. And if you want lovely saturated colours then you'll find that harder to do with cheap paints. Finally, if you are selling your work, then you owe it to your clients to use paints that are not fugitive.

Artist quality paints aren't as expensive as you might think at first glance. Because they are so much more saturated, you use a lot less paint, so they last a lot longer. Some of my tubes are more than 15 years old and I paint a lot. Artist quality paints are expensive to experiment with, though, so one idea is to start with a cheaper set and as you run out of colours replace those you love with an artist quality brand. I'm still doing this.

My current palette has a mix of Winsor & Newton, MaimeriBlu and Daniel Smith paints. The first 2 mentioned are historical. They were the paints available in my little town when I first started painting in watercolours over 15 years ago. Now, as the WN paints run out I'm replacing them with DS colours. Why? The main reason is because the DS paints are vegan and I'm very keen for all my art supplies to now be ethical.

My advice would be to buy tubes paints rather than pans. These wet much easier and you can create big puddle of colour really easily. Squeeze a dollop of colour into each well on your palette, let it dry overnight and you're ready to carry it around. Just before you start painting, spritz your paints with a little water and they're ready to go.

Finally, before we get to the list you're all waiting for, you'll notice I use almost entirely transparent colours. These are the biz, I reckon. The true beauty of painting in watercolour over any other medium is in the transparency. Let the light of the paper shine through, and you'll avoid the muddy look we all shudder at!

Yip! It's messy 😉


The lists 

(see the photo at the top for the key of brands)

Paints I can't live without...
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Blue Hue
Payne's Grey
Permanent Violet
Green Gold
Sap Green
Pyrrol Orange
Quinacridone Gold
Hansa Yellow Medium
Cadmium Yellow Light
Burnt Umber
Burnt Sienna
Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

Others I use less often, but I'm very happy to have in specific situations...
Cobalt Blue Teal
Winsor Green
Crimson Lake
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Dragon's Blood
Quinacridone Gold

Others I pretty much never touch, but they're on my palette until they run out. Or I have a happy  surprise and they move up the ranks. Haha!
Ultramarine Blue
Intense Blue
Prussian Blue
Pthalo Green
Permanent Rose

You'll notice my palette has empty slots and it will probably soon have more when those last 5 paints run out. Really, you don't need that many colours to paint pretty much anything and more choice can just be confusing. Better to know a few paints well.

And, yes, I have 2 palettes. A little one for hiking and the bigger one for using in my studio or for outside sketching when I don't need to walk too far. Both are filled with dried tube paints.

Of course, the next questions are probably why I chose these hues, how I mix them, how to paint greens (every artist seems to be obsessed with that question), how I make my paintings so bright and saturated and how I avoid mud. Every blog post leads to another! So stay tuned.

Any questions, please drop them below, or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

Have a super colourful day!

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

taking my sketchbook for a walk

Little dirt road, Pineta Valley, Spanish Pyrenees

Spring! Pyrenees! The hills are alive with the sounds of pens scratching on paper and the swish of a brush in water :-)

Next to the river, Pineta Valley, Spanish Pyrenees

Tiny alpine stream, Montinier, Spanish Pyrenees

At the summit of Castello Mayor, Spanish Pyrenees

Monte Perdido, Spanish Pyrenees

Thursday, 30 May 2019

santa maria de badain - step by step

It's been a while since I interrupted by sketching to take some step by step photos! Long overdue, some would say, as I've been getting a lot of messages and comments asking me about the order I do things when I'm painting outside.

This romanesque church is in the little village of Badain in the Spanish Pyrenees. I've sketched the whole church before, so this time I decided to get much closer and concentrate on just part of the building. This would give me to opportunity to do much more detail than I could manage in my previous sketch.

I start with a very rough pencil sketch to get the perspective correct. Stairs! Always a nightmare for me. Then I ink in all the detail using my trusty Lamy's - the fine nib for all the detail, the broad nib for a few shadow lines and the dark windows. (More on my pens and ink in the Tips & Techniques section above!).

Finished ink sketch of part of the romanesque church of Badain, Spanish Pyrenees.

Next I do the first very light wash of watercolour. All wet in wet with a large round brush, dropping in shades of brown, sienna and payne's grey for the walls and stone steps.

First watercolour wash for the sky and stonework. Wet in wet.

I complete the first wash and start adding glazes of colour to strengthen areas. Wet on dry now. I add all the tiny details with a smaller round brush.

Completing the watercolour washes and adding details with a smaller brush.

Shadows! This is where it all comes together. I use a mix of Payne's Grey and Burnt Umber to add a light shadow, wet on dry. Once this is dry I use a thicker mix of Payne's Grey for the darker shadows.
While I'm waiting for this to dry, I initial and date the sketch and add the location.

Almost done - shadows added.

Final details - I use my Lamy with the fine nib to strengthen some inkwork and use a white Uniball Signo to add touches of highlights, mostly to the grass in front. Done!

Done! Santa Maria de Badain - watercolour and ink painting.

You can see other step by step tutorials in the Tips & Techniques section above, as well as info about my materials. 

Hasta luego!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

there's snow on the pyrenees

Monte Perdido, Spanish Pyrenees

Plenty of snow still on the Pyrenees. Yay! Always so lovely to see the snowy hills against a blue spring sky and fresh spring greens. Good to be back :-)

Friday, 17 May 2019

three weeks in serra de montsant

Tiny ermita on the summit ridge of Serra de Montsant

So good to be back in Spain! Our first 3 weeks we spent in the Serra de Monstant - starting back exactly where we left off last October. This region is fantastic for climbing and hiking and, as a result, I didn't do as much sketching as normal.

The light here is truly wonderful at this time of year and the deciduous trees are just starting to get new bright green leaves, including the grape vines, which seem to get leafier by the day. Such an incredible contrast to the cool autumn light we had when we left here last October.

Rock pools, Riu de Siurana

Spring vineyard, La Morera de Monstant


Rainy day, Panta de Margaleft

Old romanesque bridge

Now on to the Pyrenees where I'm hoping the snow is still on the hills.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

upcoming exhibition

I'll be joining these talented folks this Easter in Wanaka. Paintings, photography and sculpture. Opening evening is Thursday 18 April. Everyone welcome.

Friday, 29 March 2019

a special commission

Descending The Quarterdeck, Mount Aspiring National Park

All commissions are special. You get to work closely with someone to create something unique that marries your vision with theirs. But this one was extra special.

Lexi, David and I climbed Mount Aspiring together in 2012. It was a fantastic trip ... we had perfect weather, perfect snow conditions and a perfect team. When Lexi approached me recently to paint a picture from that trip in my unique style, I was pretty darn excited. I went through lots of photos we'd taken during the climb and chose a few to work from. I wanted something with both Lexi and I in it.

While my heart is in each and every painting, I've never actually put a representation of myself in one. That was such fun! To create a memory with both of us in it - well very special indeed.

The painting shows us descending The Quarterdeck (the glacier face behind us), with Mount French behind.

Big thanks to David who took lots of photos of us that I could work from. And, of course, an extra special thanks to Lexi who asked me to put something very special on paper.


Descending The Quarterdeck - me left, Lexi right

The Quarterdeck and Mount French - detail of larger painting

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

painting mt aspiring - step by step

Tititea / Mount Aspiring from Bevan Col

I thought you might be interested in seeing some step by step photos of my latest New Zealand mountain landscape - Tititea / Mount Aspiring from Bevan Col.

The painting is from a photograph I took of my husband, David, when we climbed the peak with our friend Alexis in 2012. Including my husband made the painting extra special for me, although all the mountain paintings I am doing at the moment are of scenes that hold many memories for me.

Painting details:
Ink & watercolour on Fabriano Artistico, cold press
55 x 38cm

Here are the steps...

Pencil drawing

Ink drawing

Sky and first wash on the mountain's rocks

First watercolour wash of the painting done.

Adding the first shadows

Adding the tiny details

Finished painting. Tititea / Mount Aspiring from Bevan Col.

Materials used:

  • Fabriano Artistico, traditional white, cold press, 300gsm
  • Lamy safari mechanical pencil with HB lead
  • Lamy safari fountain pens (F & B) with DeAtramentis black document ink
  • Synthetic watercolour brushes
  • Colours : 
    • Winsor & Newton - Cobalt Blue Hue, Burnt Sienna. 
    • Daniel Smith - Cerulean Blue, Quinacridone Rose, Natural Sienna, Pyrol Orange. 
    • MaimeriBlu - Paynes Grey, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Yellow Medium.

This painting has sold. But commissions are welcome. Contact me if you have special mountain you'd like me to paint for you.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

let's talk about : watercolour paper

Fabriano watercolour paper full sheet torn to required sizes

After asking about pens and inks, the most common question I get from followers and students is about the best watercolour paper to use. While the choice of paper is often a personal one, I am sure that all watercolour artists will agree that the use of good quality watercolour paper is probably the most important thing that will improve your paintings. You can struggle along with a cheap brush and possibly even cheap paints and get along pretty well, but paper will make a big difference right away.

Basically, the more you pay for paper, the better the paper will be and, most likely, the less you'll struggle with painting in watercolours. But where to start? And what do all those words on the packing mean?

This a long article with lots of info. If you just want a list of what I use, then skip to the bottom ;-)

Paper weight

Thicker paper is less likely to buckle when you paint. While I wet and tape my large sheets of paper to a board before I paint, a thin sheet will still buckle. Hollows in a painting surface are a real pain. Watercolour pools there and can create unsightly unevenness in a wash. Plus it does look too great afterwards when your finished painting looks like it's been left in the rain.
Look for paper that is 300gms (300 grams per metre squared) or thicker. The smaller the piece of paper you are painting on, the thinner you can get away with.

Paper texture

You'll see the following words on your paper somewhere ... cold pressed, rough, fine grain, hot pressed, not, satin etc. They indicate what texture the surface of the paper has, how smooth or rough it is. For the most part the main terms you're probably interested in are...

  • Rough - having a very dimpled surface. Lovely to paint on. Very forgiving. Perfect for landscapes. Paint floats on the surface, settles in the dimples and is fairly easy to remove.
  • Cold Pressed - also called Not (which is "not rough"). Less dimpled than rough. It's the paper I use the most because I like to draw lots of details in ink before I paint and a rough surface not as ideal for this. Very forgiving. Paint can be removed if you use a good quality fine art paper. 
  • Hot Pressed - a very smooth surface. Beautiful for drawing on. Lovely for tiny details. Gives very sharp edges to your washes. Tricky to control watercolour though, so not suitable for beginners. I use this for fine illustration work, for instance when I draw and paint birds or botanicals, when the drawing part is more prominent than the watercolour washes. I also use this paper for painting acrylic paintings.
The other terms like fine grain, or satin, or torchon, will probably mean either one of the above terms, so something in between these. It's always best to see the paper in person, but if you can't then ask the supplier what the paper texture would be most similar to.

Paper colour

Some manufacturers (like Fabriano) have each of the weights and the paper finishes in either a traditional white or bright white. I use both depending on the subject matter. You can see the difference in the paper colours in the photo above.

Fabriano Artistico watercolour single sheets and watercolour block

Pads / Blocks / Sheets

  • Pads have a number of cut sheets in convenient sizes with glue keeping the sheets together at the top. They are usually, but not always, of a lesser quality than the same brands single sheets. Often they would not be classed as a fine art paper. Do some research if you can.
  • Blocks (seen above with the mosaic cover), are similar, but have glue on all four sides with a tiny gap in the glue on one side where you can separate the top sheet from those underneath. This means the paper can't stretch or buckle when you apply paint. I find blocks wonderfully convenient for painting outside, because I don't need to carry tape and a separate board to attach my painting too. Alternatively, if your pad is not too big, and your paper weight very heavy, then you don't need to tape or use a board. 
  • Single sheets are usually sold in full sheet size or half sheet size (ie pretty big). I find this the most cost effective way to buy paper. You can see my favourite Fabriano paper above. I buy these packs then tear the sheets to the size I want. You can see the torn sheets in the top photo. (Notice my torn edge on the papers, plus the original deckled edge on some of the papers.) Single sheets of fine art papers also often have a light watermark from the manufacturer down one side. The Mercedes badge :-)

Paper content / sizing / brand

The best papers are 100% cotton, but paper content can include a number of other things and paper choice in this regard can be very personal. Especially if you love handmade papers.
Sizing is a protective layer that is on top of the paper, protecting it from water absorption and wear and tear.
Paper content and what the sizing is made of is what influences my choice in the brand of paper. I am very concerned with animal ethics, and since sizing is often made from gelatine (from factory farmed pigs), I choose either Fabriano or Hahnemuhle papers which are vegan.

Fabriano watercolour sketchbooks for sketching and painting outside.


One big advantage I've found of loving Fabriano paper is that I can buy it in single sheets, pads, blocks AND sketchbooks. All the same paper. I'm used to this paper. I know how the pen feels on it, how the ink dries on it, how easily my pencil marks erase and how to control my watercolour washes on it. It's a definite advantage not to have to be comfortable on a number of different papers when I paint outside or inside or do illustrations or landscapes.
My sketchbook preference is spiral bound books, because they're easier to control when balanced on my lap when I'm sitting outside, especially in a larger book. And you can tear out a masterpiece if someone would like it ;-)

Now all this Fabriano plugging probably makes you think I'm sponsored. I'm not! Here's a quick summary of other sketchbooks I've used over the years.

  • Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks: love the little pocket ones. Love the binding method which allows the book to open completely flat. They look pretty classy. But in larger sizes the paper is too thin and, for me, not a very good quality watercolour paper.
  • Stillman & Bin (Beta Series) : beautiful paper, although it's not a true watercolour paper, more of a mixed media paper. Bright white paper, which gives nice, bright watercolours. Sadly, not vegan, so I'm not using them anymore.
  • Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbooks : my new favourite pocket sketchbook for hiking or taking everywhere. (See my hiking setup here). Very lovely paper. Bright white. The pocket size has the thickest paper I could find in sketchbooks of that size, so minimal buckling with lots of water. Opens pretty flat. I'm tempted to try these in a larger size. Vegan.

Pocket Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbook for hiking and sketching


What I use...

  • Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbook, pocket size. For my tiny sketchbook which goes everywhere with me and goes hiking
  • Fabriano Artistico watercolour block, 25x36cm, (orange and black mosaic cover). For sketching outside when I don't want top paint too big, but when I'm not walking too far and can carry the extra weight.
  • Fabriano Artistico, 300gms, cold pressed, traditional white, single sheets. For almost all studio work and sometimes taped to a light board for outside work. I tear the sheets to the size I want.
  • Fabriano Artistico, 300gms, hot pressed, bright white, single sheets. For studio work, botanicals or fine detail illustrations. Also for acrylic paintings on paper. I tear the sheets to the size I want.

Until next time!
If you have any burning questions about my materials or process, please pop them in the comments below or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

My other tips and techniques are found in the top menu.