Sunday, 26 August 2012


It's been quite a while since my last post so I thought I'd make this one a double! Lots of garden/jungle clearing and other jobs to do around the house, so I've not been able to spend any time sketching . I've tried to capture the lovely summer greens and the feeling of the local riverside in these two scenes which I painted back at home. I hope you are all enjoying your summers wherever you are :) Many thanks to all my regular faithful followers and a big welcome to all my new followers too. Happy painting and sketching to you all!

Great Ouse in summer I, watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb Rough, 10x11", 25x28cm

Great Ouse in summer II, watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb Rough, 10x11", 25x28cm

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The wild wood

This one is inspired by recent trips I have made to the local river, in between the showers, sometimes to sketch, sometimes just to sit and look. I prefer to paint from memory rather than from a reference photograph. Everywhere is so lush and green after the rain, although the meadow grass has started to turn yellow and buff in colour. The gloomy rain-filled skies offer little light but are sometimes lightly tinged with beautiful mauves and pinks. I left out much of the foreground and the near and middle distance trees to concentrate on the distant treeline to try to create a feeling of dense woodland filled with light. I used a minimal palette of Maimeri pan paints on a smooth pressed watercolour paper. Happy painting to you all!

'The wild wood', watercolour on Derwent watercolour paper A4

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Finally ... The rain held off long enough for me to sit and paint by the river once again :) This quick sketch of the view took about ten to fifteen minutes.

"when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

River Great Ouse, Hartford, watercolour sketch

 And here it is in my sketchbook, along with a couple of other doodles, one of our garden that I did ages ago, and colour charts for both the Winsor & Newton and Daler Rowney boxes that I use for plein air work. The sketchbook is a Daler Rowney Ebony A5. They take watercolour washes really well, without falling apart as some other brands tend to! Additionally, for this latest sketch I used Kuretake Zig waterbrushes rather than my sable and sable-synthetic pocket brushes. Waterbrushes are really convenient but they are generally made from synthetic fibres and so the sharp ends of the bristles can scrub the surface of the paper and cause it to pill or, even worse, rip ... but the paper in the DR Ebony stands up to the job very well :)

Happy plein air painting my friends!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Cloudy memories

It  has been raining for most of the day ... again ... and the Met Office forecast a deluge of almost biblical proportions ... but thankfully it hasn't happened, and now it's a pleasant, dry evening here in the East of England. I painted this view of the lush green flood meadows across the river from visual memory with more than a hint of artistic license of course ;-)

Happy painting to you all!

Great Ouse and flood meadows, Huntingdon, watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb Rough, 10x11", 25x28cm

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Pier pressure

No moody monochromes this time ... just lovely rich Daler Rowney tube colour! This is based on a photo I took on our recent trip to Weymouth in Dorset on the Southwest coast. The long stone pier used by local fishermen,  that makes it way out almost to the middle of the bay, the blustery coastal sky and the distant shoreline studded with steep chalk cliffs, all help to make this a pleasing composition.
Happy painting.

Weymouth Bay, watercolour and fineliner pen on Saunders Waterford 140lb Rough, 10x11", 25x28cm

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Black as thunder (updated)

The weather here in the UK is still too poor to do much plein air work, and so I have been playing with big brushes and trying to loosen up a little with lots of rich tube colour. I tend to use pan colours mainly and so it's really freeing (and great fun too) to just slosh pigment around as though it's going out of fashion! I thought it would be nice to get the feeling of the brooding skies that we have been having a lot of here lately. This one is the best of a few of the 'moody monochromes' that I painted using only Winsor and Newton Lamp Black, a lovely warm inky black.

*** Updated ***
The original photo was a little blurred so I have retaken this using a better camera :)

'Home just in time', Monochrome watercolour on Cotman 200lb, 9x12"

Monday, 18 June 2012

Oil and water

We  took the train down to Weymouth in Dorset on the South Coast last week. I didn't get enough time to sketch while we were there, but I did manage to get a few reference photos of the area including some of the picturesque working fishing harbour, the impressive breakwaters that help to form one of the largest man-made harbours in the world, the ancient and modern wartime defences and some lovely views of the nearby Isle of Portland.

Portland is a rocky promontory that is accessible only by a causeway from the mainland. The island houses a small population, located in a handful of villages that are scattered around the undulating terrain. It is also home to three lighthouses, including the famous Portland Bill lighthouse, Pulpit Rock, a precarious looking rock formation on the southern tip of the island that is continually being beaten by the crashing waves of the English Channel far below (and with a view that is not for the fainthearted). Portland also houses a prison, which makes it a kind of British Alcatraz I guess!

Much of Portland has been quarried for its white-grey limestone, the stone being used to build many famous buildings including St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace in London and the UN headquarters in New York! This first painting is a small pochade of the view from Weymouth looking west to the dark forbidding silhouette of the Isle of Portland, painted in water mixable oils.

Portland, oil on canvas board,  6in x 8in
  I have always struggled with acrylics, never knowing whether to use them as watercolours or as a thick paste for oil techniques. For this second pochade, painted from imagination and visual memory, I treated them purely like oil paints. I even used the same brushes as I did for the first painting, after they had been thoroughly cleaned of course! I even added some water mixable oil by mistake for the distant coastline but then decided to scrape this area out and replace it with acrylic paint of a similar colour and a little white to suggest the chalk cliffs. I'll remember to put my oil tubes away to avoid any confusion next time!

Dorset chalk coastline, acrylic on canvas board,  6in x 8in

Happy painting!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Nul points

Well, I hope we get more than that tonight (go Engelbert, go) ... and I hope you give me more than zero too for yet another painting of a field of rapeseed! I used a photo for reference for this large finished painting, taken yesterday on my phone whilst speeding at about 60mph along the guided busway towards Cambridge. I was on my way to buy more watercolour paper of course.

It was a scorching hot day (for the UK), the sky was clear and appeared an almost complementary violet to the endless fields of acid yellow.

Happy painting and good luck Europe!

Liquid Gold II, watercolour and pastel pencil on Hahnemuhle Cornwall 450gsm/210lbs matt, 30 x 40 cm/11.8 x 15.7 in

Friday, 25 May 2012

Warming up

The fine weather is here at last - Yay! Apparently we could see temperatures of 27C/81F here in the East of England today, and for the next few days, so the raincoat and other previously essential warm outer layers of clothing have been left at home and there is now some space in the cycle pannier for my sketching gear!

I painted this quick watercolour sketch on my journey home from work on Wednesday, diverting through the town and along the riverside to make the most of the first day of sunshine we have had for ages. I find I it easier to do art at the end of the working day, although I generally completely reverse things when I'm on holiday and prefer to get out early before everyone else is awake so it has little or no impact on fun family stuff!

River Great Ouse, Huntingdon

 And here's my watercolour sketching kit (cleaned up and ready to pack away) on the bench where I sat and sketched the river scene.

My watercolour sketching kit

When I got home, using the sketch, and aided by visual memory and a little artistic license, I did a more 'finished' painting of the same scene. This was painted using Daler Rowney Artists tube colour in a Seawhite Artists Journal ... so I suppose it's still really a sketch ;)

River Great Ouse, Huntingdon

 While I was happily rediscovering how well the paper in the Seawhite journals handled watercolour, I did a couple of loosening up sketches, this time using Royal Talens Rembrandt watercolours:


Sailing by

Finally, I was delighted, nay chuffed, to receive a beautiful original watercolour, together with an equally beautiful  handwritten, handpainted card,  from one of my 'bestest' blogfriends Judy, to say thank you in return for the painting I had sent her recently as a well-earned PaintBytes Blogiversary prize. THANK YOU JUDY! I'm pretty sure that Judy needs no introduction from me, particularly considering most of you came to my blog from hers in the first place ... but if you haven't already seen her beautiful watercolour work yet then I suggest you pop over there .... NOW!

Judy's hand-painted thankyou card

A genuine, 100% original, Judy Barends watercolour!

Happy painting to you all ... oh and of course good luck, Englebert !

Friday, 18 May 2012

Liquid gold

I can remember the first time I saw rapeseed growing in the UK. I was travelling by train, through my home county of Cheshire, heading northwards to the Lancashire seaside coast. I gazed out of the window in amazement at the fields of shocking yellow that lay either side of the track, so different to the countryside around my hometown with its gentle buff and ochre fields of grain and lush green pastures populated by herds of mainly Friesan cattle.

Rapeseed is BIG money now in the UK and Ireland and many of the local farmers seem to be growing it in preference to all other crops. Leaving aside its visual beauty, the crop has other far less attractive impacts, as those amongst us that suffer with hayfever will tell you only too well! Additionally, after the crop is harvested. our homes and gardens are usually infested with swarms of tiny homeless insects (we call them thunderfly) that often decide to take up residence in the oddest of places; it is not unusual to see them under the cover glass of paintings and photographs and even under the seams of wallpaper!

This 10-15 minute watercolour was developed from a sketch I did in pastel pencil recently whilst on a local bus route that passes alongside fields of rapeseed. The stark yellow of the field is punctuated by the swathes of green from the growth below and heightened by the dulled ultramarine blue of a blustery Cambridgeshire sky above. The small roundish trees and hedgerow of the field boundary are dwarfed by the distant line of giant poplar trees of a neighbouring field, planted by farmers as a frail windbreak against the cold, brisk winds that blow almost totally unhindered across this flattest of lands from the North Sea.

Happy painting!

Liquid Gold, watercolour and watercolour pencil on Langton 140lb Rough, A4

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Rain, rain, go away ...

I  was hoping to get out to do some plein air sketching in the next couple of weeks, the first time in many, many months, and even though I'm feeling a lot fitter now, the weather is still pretty awful ... and the long range forecast doesn't look good either! The hills in the area around my home town in the NorthWest will be getting some snow very soon apparently - What on earth is happening, it's May!

But, despite the cold and the almost continuous rain, I did manage to get out to the summerhouse (aka garden studio) over the weekend. I decided to have a bit of a sort out and stored away anything that I thought I wouldn't need  for a while and just left out the materials I thought I would need over the next few months.

I had been working on a drawing while I was off work convalescing and I originally had the intention of adding watercolour to it. I generally don't do a lot of preparatory drawing for my watercolours, preferring instead to draw with the brush as I go along, so it all felt a little too rigid for me. It's quite a large format too to what I generally use (12in x 16in) and so I got out the biggest brush I could find - a one inch bristle wood preservative brush (!) and worked lots of lovely rich Daler Rowney tube colour over the drawing like it was going out of fashion! Well, I must admit, it looked absolutely dreadful ... and no, I didn't take a photograph of it ... way too embarassing! Not wanting to commit it to the waste paper bin, I took out my Carbothello pastel pencils and my Derwent hard pastels and set to work, covering the watercolour washes with dry opaque pigment. I quite like the result - not bad for a watercolour painter anyway :)

Happy painting to you all.

Cambridge 1, Pastel on Langton 140lb HP, 16in x 12in

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Fields of Gold

I can't believe it ... A year ago yesterday I posted my very first entry to this blog. How time flies! So, in celebration of Blogiversary No 1, I thought it would be a nice idea to run a little competition. The lucky winner will receive one of my watercolours, chosen personally by me, and framed by a local gallery. Second prize is TWO of my paintings, third prize is THREE ... Chuckle, chuckle, you get the idea ;)

So, I decided that I would keep things simple and just pick the winner based solely on Google statistics. Based on the trafffic from referring sites, made to my blog in the last year and without further prevarication, the outright winner is ......

Tah ta-ta-ta ta taaaaaah .... Judy at De Draad Aquarellen !!!

Congratulations Judy, and a special thankyou for all your support over the last year, I believe you have commented on almost every single post I have made. Of course the same thankyou goes out to everyone that has taken the trouble to follow me, to leave comments and suggestions, or to just simply 'pop by' now and then. It is all very much appreciated and so thank you again, everyone. A special thankyou also goes out to Sandra at Sandraws,  for encouraging me to start my own blog in the first place !

And last, but not least, I offer this watercolour, with fond memories of my much missed mum, Iris, who was born 85 years ago on the 17th April. 'Fields of Gold' was one of her favourite songs in her later years.

Happy painting, sketching and drawing!

Fields of Gold, watercolour and BrushPen on Cotman Cold Pressed, 25.4 x 17.8cm/10 x 7in

Monday, 16 April 2012

Rough Stuff

The two watercolours posted here were painted with Winsor &Newton Artists tube colours on 140lb/300gsm rough paper, the first on Daler Rowney Langton A4 and the second on Arches 9x12/23x31.
Hope you are all well ... Me, I'm still feeling a little rough but generally on the mend :)
Happy painting!

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Close Shave !

Yet again I have to apologise to everyone for my huge lack of posting and commenting! I have been extremely busy at work with the debugging of new software releases for two of our main products. Additionally, I am now at home for a few weeks, recovering and relaxing following surgery last Tuesday. Not wishing to go into too much graphic detail, I think the title of this post may give you enough information as to the nature and whereabouts of the operation :) Ouch ... But I feel at least 100% better now !

Shortly before I went into hospital, I managed to move my art gear out to the garden shed (aka The Summer House/Mike's studio) and although it has been a little chilly and rainy of late, it is nice to have everything in one place and to be able to get some fresh air whilst I am working on my art.

I have also had a little time to review my colour choices and I now have whittled my excessive array of tube and pan paints down to a set of sixteen single pigment colours. Before you all start shouting MINIMAL PALETTE at me, I only use about four or five pigments on each painting, but the ones I use give a fairly good coverage of most required hues. I will discuss my palette choices in a future post but for now you can see it all laid out in a Holbein palette in the photograph of my studio below. As a start, I offer two small paintings. The first was done using a black Pentel Colorbrush and water, the second using Winsor & Newton watercolours and Daler Rowney watercolour pencils ... both from imagination. Wishing you a peaceful Easter and happy painting :)

 The garden studio - at last!


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Light to Dark, Dark to Light

I think it's Ron Ranson,one of my all-time favourite artists, who suggests the use of Burnt Umber for tonal sketches. It is also nice, as in this case, to use for a complete monochrome painting. It has a superb range of tonal values that equals that of either ivory or lamp black, two other great pigments that I'm starting to use a little more. And what's to stop YOU putting black in your palette ? I know I have ! Oops, perhaps I lost a few more followers there ?!? Just in case you're worrying that I may be going through my dark period ... well don't, I'm not ... well not just yet anyway ! ... but have a chuckle at someone who I think may be going through his  .... LOL.

The Fast Show- Johnny Nice Painter

I hope you are all keeping well. Happy St Patrick's Day ... and of course happy painting too to you all :)

'And You And I', Monochrome with Burnt Umber Watercolour and BrushPens on Fabriano5 140lb HP, A5
 And to make up for my tardiness in posting and commenting, a couple more recent pieces for you, both primarily watercolours of course! The first is purely from imagination, the second is from memory.

'Slippery Slope', Watercolour and Watercolour Pencil on Fabriano5 140lb HP, A5
Hemingford Abbots, Watercolour and BrushPens on Fabriano5 140lb HP, A5

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Beneath the surface

Like the snowdrops
Beneath the surface
Below the autumn leaves
We sometimes forget
The beauty we seek
Is already there
It always was
It always will be
And will return to greet us
To blossom in the spring

(c) M Bailey 2012

For my wonderful wife Sue. A Pina Colada moment. 
 Thank you, Gorgeous ... you are my life x

'Beneath the surface', Pebeo Fine watercolour on Matt Hannemuhle Cornwall watercolour board (450gsm), 24x17cm

Common Snowdrops in Hartford, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire UK

And finally, happy St David's Day to all our Welsh friends, both at home in Cymru and across the globe. The descendants of my paternal grandmother's family appear to have moved across the border from England into Monmouthshire in Wales over a hundred years ago ... so that makes me slightly Welsh.
Yaki da !!!  Lucky Sue decided to cook leeks for the main veg last night LOL.

Happy painting and drawing (And any other arty 'ings') to you all:)
Tara !

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Seventeen come January

I forgot to mention in my last post, I recently turned seventeen ... for the third time! The stresses and strains from work related matters are quickly beginning to fade now as my company's latest product finally moves out of development and into full production. The snow has disappeared completely now and the white, snow leaden skies of late have given way to the beautiful and clear, cobalt skies of late winter. Spring is still a few weeks off, but it soon will be here, bringing forth new growth, and of course, from a personal and selfish point of view, the chance to get out there and have some plein air fun again :)

While I 'm waiting for the better weather, I have been playing around with various papers using small sets of student quality watercolour paints and pencils in an attempt to get the contents of my sketch bag whittled down to something I can physically carry LOL. I'm beginning to move away from good old cream coloured blocks of Arches, towards spiral bound pads of bright white papers like Fabriano Classico 5 HP (50% cotton rag) and gorgeous Winsor & Newton Artists CP, both of which seem to handle any wash I throw at them ... not literally of course !

Happy painting !

True blue

The willows in winter

On thin ice

You take the high road

Sunday, 5 February 2012

When the heart rules the mind

It's been a busy week at work again so I've had very little time to settle down, chill, and to get any art done. All that left brain exercise was starting to take me off course a little ... so I decided that I needed to give the right brain some 'me-time' !

I did finally get to sit down in the studio this morning (Sunday). I took out my (A4 Kraft sketchbook), a small set of Caran d'Ache Pablo coloured pencils (gorgeous if you haven't tried them yet), and tested out my new portable sketching easel. I poured a litttle Zest-It into a tin and dipped the pencil points in there to help to loosen the pigment and draw out richer colour from the oil-based dry pencils.

I really enjoyed doing this little imagination sketch and may try this method again en plein air with a real landscape or townscape ... that is when it warms up a bit! Lots of snow here in the East this morning! I really do love the stuff (and so does Louie) but it is flipping cold here ..... Good for the rosy cheeks, but not for the dry hands .... Ouch!

Happy painting and drawing to you all !

'Seasons must change', coloured pencil, 16x18cm/6.5x7in

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Refining the process

Well, hello everyone! I see you have all been very productive over the last few weeks. I haven't had the time to sit down and peruse all your work but I have watched as some of your lovely work has appeared on the feeds to Google Reader on my phone :) I hope to start catching up with you all .... soon !

I have been playing a little over the last month or so with various media:  watercolours (of course), but also Tombow brush pens, graphite (plain and watersoluble) and watercolour pencil. I tend to drift in and out of these easy to use media and although they are fun they do tend to distract me from what I really want to be doing, which is getting out there to sketch :) Hopefully the weather will start to get warmer here in the UK and I can get out there again with my watercolours and oils !

I'm also starting to play a little with oils again and have been using things like wooden sticks and paper towels to create marks and blends. This one was the result of that process. I started by squeezing a generous blob of Burnt Umber onto the palette to use as a mid-tone for a painting. I had nothing in mind at the time, but as I started to brush the paint across the canvas I decided that I would try to turn it into a painting. I suppose you could argue that it's only an underpainting but I like it just as it is, a finished monochrome painting or perhaps an exercise in learning more about values. Hope you like it.

Happy painting!

Out of the woods, Oil on canvas, 30cm/12" x 25cm/10"

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

To all of you, from me ... and him !
Happy painting and drawing :)
Back in a few days with more sketches!