Art+Work+Living 5 Day Challenge

I’m still loving painting alla prima, which entails painting in oils, wet paint on wet paint. It’s quite challenging, but great fun and often means a bright, fresh painting – at least that’s what the artist aims for.


To keep the momentum up I signed up to do a five day challenge with artist Mary Gilkerson. The idea was to paint a painting every day, in less than 30 mins and ideally in less than twenty. Mary suggested that it’s easier to paint in a theme, so as I’ve been working on still-life recently, that’s what I decided to concentrate on. I needed to simplify my composition though, so I focussed on painting cakes, easier to manage in a short time that a whole set-up, but great fun too.


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The cupcakes took me longer than the other paintings. The first one was a full 30mins, the second was just under 30 and the other three were 20 mins each.

As per Mary’s advice I prepared my pallette in advance and sketched out my compostions in advance, but that is good practice for alla prima anyway.  I initally thought that painting like this would be more like a detailed sketch, but it didn’t work that way, each painting is complete in itself. My plan now is to let these dry and then see if they need any final details.

I’ve used small deep-edged canvases for these paintings, canvases that I wasn’t using otherwise. The challenge has encouraged me. I plan on continuing daily painting as often as possible over the next few months but I’ll be looking for slightly larger canvases than these ones.








New year, new medium

New genre too. I’ve been back in the studio over the last couple of days. I’m working on a couple of acrylic commissions that I can’t share right now – though more about them soon – but I’m also trying to do a painting every couple of days.


I took an online Alla Prima art course last year with Irish artist Roisin O’Farrell which made me look at my painting process in a totally different way. I’ve never really been interested in painting Still Life or Interiors before and I hadn’t painted in oils for over thirty years, so I really had a lot to learn.



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I shared a couple of my earlier paintings on this blog, and I had great fun painting them, but now I feel I’m really getting to grips with the medium again. It is, quite simply, very different from Acrylics.


I stopped painting in oils after art college because my husband is allergic to turps, which meant there was no way I could use them in my home studio. Acrylics are much more convenient, they clean up with water and dry much more quickly, which also means they can be painted over if the artist makes any mistakes.


Oil paints and the associated mediums have changed so much in the last few decades. The paints I am using are “Winton” by Winsor and Newton, they don’t need any additional medium so I’m not having to use linseed oil or “Liquin” which seems to be a favourite mixer to use with ‘artist’ quality paint. Winton paints can be used straight from the tube. I’m also using “Zest It” for the clean-up which is much nicer to use than turps.


My pallette is quite simple, I’m using Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Sap Green, Veridian Green, Cad Red, Cad Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson and white.


I’ve been painting Alla Prima, which means careful drawing and mixing colours in advance and then painting quite quickly and fairly thickly. My first painting was the oranges on the blue plate, the second was the tomatoes and then I painted the lemons and I’ve learned a lot from each one.


I love the buttery texture of the paint and the rich deep colour, thouh they are very hard to photograph as the paint is very shiny when wet, and they are not going to even be touch dry for a long time yet. I may have to find somehwhere to store them while they’re still wet.


I’m planning on painting a landscape next, but I’ll need some more paint first. I’ll let you know how I get on.





Goodbye 2017

I’ve been hoping to make a round up post since last Friday, but somehow the days just got away from me and it’s the third of January already.


2017, was a strange year. I had a bit of a crisis of confidence and a massive block for the middle part of the year, but then still managed to complete over fifty paintings, I’m really not sure how that happened! I think that being more active online and joining some online groups helped, it’s certainly what got be back to the studio in the second half of the year.




I’ve been really blessed too. I’ve sold quite a lot of work in 2017 and did quite a few commissions. I’ve had work at Skyeworks Gallery, Inchmore Gallery, Patterns of Light and of course, Lochcarron Gallery.  I was also very lucky to have work at Loch Torridon Centre. I was therefore delighted to be asked to be the featured artist in the Torridon Centre’s December Newsletter, which was then printed in the December/January An Carrannach. Hopefully the images are readable? Thanks so much to everyone at Torridon for asking me to contribute to the article



I managed to get back in the studio today for the first time this year. I already have quite a few works in progress so more on those soon.


Thanks so much to everyone who reads, follows and comments on my social media pages and here on my website. It really is much appreciated. Happy new year to everyone, I hope that 2018 brings you everything you wish for x

Busy being busy

I think I might be getting better at this blogging thing. It’s only been a month since I last posted, practically a record for me.

In November I’ve been working away on commissions and Christmas makes. I do love this time of year. Painting a commission is always a challenge, but when it works out and the person who commissioned me likes what I’ve painted it becomes a real joy.

The problem with commissions is that I can’t always share anything that I’ve painted. So here are some paintings that I did for Lochcarron Gallery for November and for the Winter exhibition:

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I’ve also been trying to keep up with my online oil painting course with Roisin O’Farrell. I’ve got so much to say about this course, it really has been thought provoking and pretty challenging too. Not so much the painting aspect, that’s been a lot of fun. However, what Roisin calls the “poetry”, that is something else. I’ll try and write a bit more about it next time, but I highly recommend Roisin’s courses if you are ever lucky enough to be able to take one.


More soon



Beating the block

I’ve mentioned the monster artistic block that I struggled with so much this summer in earlier posts, It really shook me up because it seemed to last so long and nothing I did seemed to get me through it. Then I found a Facebook page Love to paint with Roisin O’Farrell and started to get through the block. I found a really supportive group of people and lots of great, helpful suggestions. These include books to read, artists to follow online and a lot of other really thought provoking ideas.


I’ll return to some of these in future blog posts but for now I want to focus on Roisin’s course. It’s an online course and focuses on learning the basics of our craft of making art. I think I am a fairly accomplished acrylic artist and I do know the fundimentals of composition, but I’ve become a bit sloppy over the years. I found I got into the habit of skipping certain stages, like not doing anything like enough preparatory sketches. Cutting corners early in the process, which sometimes meant that the painting I was working on just didn’t seem to work. Then, because I was working on quite a large canvas, I was too invested in the process to stop or scrap the painting, which meant I was ending up with work that I didn’t want to scrap but that I just wasn’t happy with.


Roisin’s work is bright and expressive, quite different from my way of and she specialises in painting Alla Prima oils, whereas, at least in recent years I have specialised in acrylics. Check out her website here: Roisin O’Farrell 


Oil painting has moved on hugely since I was at art college, with the biggie for me being that there are several new mediums for diluting paints and clearing up which don’t involve turps. (Like Zest it for example)


So I’ve now completed three small paintings in oils, two of which were (mostly) painted with a palette knife.

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The first painting was the one of apples, the second was the wee jug and the third the chair and the dressing-table. All of them are tiny compared with my usual paintings. They are all interiors rather than landscapes and they are all painted in a much looser style than I have used previously.


It’s been fun. I find that I love painting in oils, the colours are beautifully rich and the paint is buttery and also, because I want to keep the paint clean and unmuddy I have been very careful to do more preparatory work. In addition, because each painting is so small the pressure is off.


I’ll let you know how I get on.




Sketching East Lothian

My (grown-up) kids both live in Edinburgh now, so a couple of times a year my husband and I head down to the central belt for a visit. We try and stay nearby in a cottage, Fife and East Lothian have been good recent destinations and have given me loads of inspiration for sketching.


This time we stayed at a little cottage nestled in stunning farmland  near a wee village called East Linton on the Smeaton Estate 


There are lots of gorgeous walks and I found plenty to sketch. We also took some trips to nearby villages including North Berwick and Dunbar, with lots more great sketching opportunities.

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After a couple of days in Edinburgh, where I hardly managed any sketching at all. But we did get to drive over that gorgeous new Queensferry Crossing (photo below).


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I do love sketching away from home, it’s always good to draw inspiration from a different landscape from what I am used to and it seems to help refocus me when I come home too.



To GALE and back

Earlier this year I was very excited to be invited to exhibit some art at the gorgeous GALE Centre centre in Gairloch. GALE stands for Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum. This is a community run project which helps to support a wide range of local projects and activities and which runs an absolutely lovely information centre pictured below:


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Photo curtesy of Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum


The GALE centre overlooks the stunning Strath Bay and offers visitor information, regular craft and produce markets, a lovely wee  craft shop and teas, coffees, soups and light meals and totally delicious cakes!


Loch Maree sketch
A sketch of Loch Maree


They also try and feature local artists with a small exhibition space set aside each month and in September the featured artist is me. It’s been an exhausting few weeks trying to get everything ready, but I’m so glad that I managed to get my work up and in place. The only problem is, that people might be too busy admiring the view to look at my work!

Huge thanks to Sam and to Rose who helped me set up the exhibition.  I’ll look forward to seeing you at the end of the month.



My work will be at the GALE Centre, Gairloch until 1st of October, 2017

From blocked to busy, busy, busy

So the block seems to be over, which is just as well as I have several deadlines coming up in the next few weeks. I’m not sure what finally worked for me, but I think going back to basics helped.

I mentioned that I had been following Roisin O’Farrell’s blog and her words of wisdom have certainly helped, but so did watching several other artists on You Tube. There is so much support online now, much more than when I first went back to painting again five years ago.

It was Roisin that got me started though. One of the things that she suggests is ‘learn your craft’ as an artist. So I lined up my paintings, ones that I had done a few months ago and the ones that I couldn’t seem to connect with now and tried to work out what I thought wasn’t working. I’m quite an intuative artist and I think that some of my paintings were working quite well, like the one below, which is a painting I did of Loch Ewe, back in the Spring




I was quite pleased with this one, but other work just seemed flat, colourless and lacking depth. I’ve had a look to see if I had any images of that work, but I don’t seem to have kept any. Anyway, I decided that maybe I should go back to basics. So I started with atmospheric perspective as that seemed to be working quite well in some of my work from the Spring, but not so much in others.

Atmospheric perspective is when an artist uses colour to simulate changes effected by the atmosphere on the colours of things seen in the distance of a painting. I decided that I was using too much colour and too much detail in background of the painting that I was working on. So I reworked it. I simplified my pallette and kept the stronger ‘saturated’ colours and detail for the foreground, and made the colours in the background more muted. This helped bring out the island, so that it was clearly defined – something that hadn’t been working before as the island and the background had been too close in tone. 

I also added stronger, more saturated colour in the foreground and included more details on the boats and in the seaweed and the ripples on the water – though I’m not sure how clearly that can be seen in the photograph

The finished painting is below:




I finished this painting last week and since then I have been working on another piece, also focussing on atmospheric perspective, foreground details and varying levels of saturation.

This piece was only half-finished, but I felt that the background was dominating the painting too much, luckily I did manage to find a photo of that stage of the painting, which I’ve included below. This is a view of Sand Beach in Applecross.





As you can see in the top painting, the island in the background is dominating the painting and there isn’t really and depth to the scene. I changed that by reducing the size of the island and muting or desaturating the colour. I’ve also made other changes, altering the persective of the water in the foreground so that it (hopefully) leads the viewer’s gaze into the painting, I’ve also added detail and stronger more saturated colour to the foreground and included a couple (and their dog) enjoying the view




I think that I’ve learned or maybe relearned quite a lot in these two paintings, certainly I have food for thought and something to build on in my next few pieces of work.

Something else that Roisin mentioned, was that the more paintings you produce as an artist the less you worry about each one. That really resonated with me, because I felt as if there was so much riding on each piece being prefect, but, her comments helped remind me that I’ll never achieve perfection as an artist, it’s not possible, I can only strive to produce something that I’m happy enough with and then take what I’ve learned from my latest painting and try to apply that in my next.


Meanwhile, these two paintings will be on display at Lochcarron Gallery for the next few weeks and I have more work to do for an exhibition in Gairloch next week – more about that in a day or two.


Thanks for reading.




Dealing with the dreaded creative block

It’s been a while.

A long time since I posted. But after a flurry of creativity that lasted several months, I’ve been totally and utterly blocked. I HATED everything that I did, from sketches to paintings to, well, just about everything else.

All my usual go-to creative jumpstarts failed me and I found myself listless, unable to sleep or to concentrate or relax. I don’t think I realised how much of a safety valve my art has been for me until it just wasn’t there anymore.

I spent a lot of time in my garden. I’m redesigning part of it, and, as my husband pointed out, that’s quite creative. But it’s not the same.

I did a lot of the usual stuff to try and reconnect, try and get back into the studio, but I just ended up watching endless videos on YouTube and dusting shelves and washing brushes.

Finally I found the website of Roisin O’Farrell and, so far at least, watching her videos, which offer advice to the artist on everything from creativity to pricing and her warmth and creativity are working for me. I’ve actually started sketching again and working on some bigger pieces, so thanks Roisin


Meanwhile, here’s a question for anyone who cares to comment, how do you deal with creative block? What helped you? How did you deal with that feeling that you hate everything you make or paint? Any advice is appreciated.

Meanwhile I have a small exhibition coming up soon, more about that in the next week or so, as long as I keep painting that is!



Trompe l’oeil and gardening

For the last couple of months I’ve been focussing on creating some new work for Lochcarron Gallery for Skyeworks Gallery and for a number of exhibitions. My latest work can be viewed on my Gallery page

I’ve also been painting some “Trompe L’oeil” objects. Decorating and reclaiming something that might otherwise have had no value, that might have been overlooked or thrown away. These are very different from my landscape painting in many ways. When I paint landscapes, I try to capture mood, light, tone and a general feeling of the day. When I paint Trompe L’oeil, it is all about the challenge of painting something that will make someone look twice at an object, surprise them and make them smile. It’s all about trying to paint as realistically as possible. My attempts at this can been seen below with my cat chair and fish tray:

I have also been doing some gardening. April is a perfect time to work on the garden, the weather is not too hot (or cold) and there are no midges yet, always a bonus on the West Coast.

So my lettuces, potatoes, soft fruits, peas, beans, mange tout, carrots, spinach, broccoli and onions are all planted and everything else has been given a good weeding. This year, we’ve also put in a small pond – which we managed to fill with just heavy rain last week! Hopefully the garden will provide lots of inspiration for sketching and painting later in the year